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Nigeria and the Life After By Garba Shehu

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Nigeria and the Life After

By Garba Shehu

President Muhammadu Buhari

In Nigeria, my country of close to 200 million people, the COVID-19 lockdown began on March 30 in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). As with nations the world over we are following the advice of a scientifically-led national action plan to halt and then defeat the spread of the virus by staying at home to save lives.

With hindsight, it is clear there is no country anywhere on earth that was as ready as could now be hoped. But fortunately, since the election of 2015 – when for the first time in history power changed hands between an incumbent president and challenger at the ballot box – our now twice democratically elected administration has spent five years rebuilding governance after decades of political corruption under an effective one party state.

When President Buhari was first elected in April of that year, Nigeria and the world was reeling at the news that 276 mostly Christian schoolgirls had been kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram. The previous administration had done next to nothing to try to find them. The then president had even delayed for weeks before acknowledging they were missing.

We soon discovered why: tens of thousands of “ghost” soldiers on the military payroll. Many of those allegedly fighting at the front simply did not exist. The previous government claimed to be waging war against terrorists – but was in truth waging financial fraud against its own people and threatening their security through the corrupt theft of salaries of non-existent soldiers.

Today, the majority of the Chibok girls are now returned to their families. Boko Haram is fractured, desperate and in retreat. Our military is rebuilt, and previous partnerships with the British and American militaries that had seen those countries place defence equipment export bans upon previous Nigerian administrations are lifted.

In government, President Buhari has waged an effective war on corruption, with some 60 per cent of the general public personally experiencing its rapid decline – in testament to the administration’s zeal. And earlier this year some USD 300 million in funds looted under a previous regime was finally returned to Nigeria from banks in the US and the UK (Jersey Islands) and all of that money is being channeled into infrastructure financing.

In December 2017, the Federal Government signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Switzerland on the return and monitoring of the $322 million Abacha loot. This money is being used to fund the Social Investment Programmes, including the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) that began in December 2016. Under the CCT scheme the President had promised to assist one million poor and most vulnerable Nigerians with a monthly stipend of N5,000 each.

These funds are now being distributed directly to individual citizens mostly in need during the coronavirus pandemic and to allow for a three month moratorium on loan repayments by farmers and small businesses granted through government schemes.

Repatriated funds can also be used to boost our health spending – which was already expanding year-on-year for the last five years – for the purchase of test equipment, ventilators, masks and protective clothing.

This would simply not have happened under previous administrations – because all Nigerians know from our personal experiences of living under them that the levels of corruption, social strife and distrust in governance they created would have made that impossible.

The fact that it is today under a President who is a Muslim, his Vice, an evangelical Christian pastor, and their cabinet equally balanced between Christians and Muslims does not go unnoticed in Nigeria.

But it is less known externally – which is why individuals who supported previous, corrupt governments seek to use the cover of the coronavirus pandemic as their opportunity to wage a fake news war against the country at this time.

They insinuate to further their false claims that a President who writes for the Church Times and Christianity Today and enjoys a personal friendship with the Archbishop of Canterbury is anti-Christian, and that the same President who call for stronger trading alliances between Commonwealth nations and signs bilateral trade and military agreements with Britain is somehow anti Britain and the West.

They insinuate that Boko Haram’s terrorist attacks on Christians are somehow the government’s doing; that health spending is somehow declining – when it is in fact increasing after they pilfered the system for decades; and that it is this government that created corruption – when in fact the general public themselves make it clear that it is this twice-democratically elected administration that is finally addressing this stain on our governance and society.

To a large degree, many of those Nigerian names writing to conservatives in the UK and the US are just going round making money off the back of lies.

There is a difference between opinion and fact. Everyone is entitled to express the former, The latter can, of course, be questioned: but it does not then change that it is still a fact.

We can only imagine the untruths that would today be peddled to the Nigerian people and the world beyond our borders during this coronavirus pandemic had previous administrations – or those packed with their heirs – had been in charge. We can only give thanks to the wisdom of Nigerian voters that they are not.

When this worldwide health emergency is defeated, we must look to each other to rebuild the global economy – and look to strengthen partnerships that work. Nigeria is ready to take a more forthright role in the Commonwealth and global economic system as a whole. But today we can only do so because the very thing that allows us to fight the virus at all is a better government, which for the first time in Nigeria’s history is both truly representative of our country’s two great religions and shorn of the limitless corruption of our predecessors.

Garba Shehu is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity.

Abuja, April 5, 2020

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Aviation

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DEFINING A NATIONAL SELF INTEREST-LESSONS FROM A BASA AGREEMENT GONE SOUR

By Tunde Adeniji

The DG NCAA Captain Musa Nuhu recently issued a Press release, conveying the decision of the Honourable Minister of Aviation Sen. Sirika Hadi to replace the operating schedule approval for 21 frequencies/week given to Emirates airlines with 1 weekly Frequency. He had relied on the spirit and letter of the Bilateral Services Agreement (BASA) between the two countries in responding to the single slots weekly offered to Air Peace at Sharjah Airport. The DG’s letter ended with his assurance to members of the public that national interests in all Aviation matters will be jealously protected.

The Aviation Policy and Strategic group discussed the fallout from this decision exhaustively, deconstructing the issues involved, even as its erudite members put forward many good suggestions about how to proceed. The engagements have been rich and enlightening and our intention in contributing to this discourse is to focus on the need to define a National Self Interest in a robust policy framework to guide future BASA/external Aviation relations engagements.

This need is justified based on our experience as a Nation which seems to suggest that we may be haunted yet again by the many decision makers who fell into the trap described below by Jon Moen:

“People who are managing a (financial or economic) crisis are not immune from personal motivations…Sometimes the people in charge don’t know at first that their personal motivations and past experiences might not be compatible with what is best for the greater good.”

We view National Self Interest ‘’As the overriding purpose governing the state’s relationship with the outside world, it serves two purposes. It gives policy a general orientation towards the external environment. More importantly, it serves as the controlling criterion of choice in immediate situations. The dominant view of national interest, in other words, dictates the nature of a state’s long-term effort in foreign policy and governs what it does in a short-term context’’.

The concept of Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA) is the outcome of the compromise between the Open Skies advocacy of the US and the strong opposition by the UK and European countries, as a protection from their inability to compete with the formidable dominance of the US in post WW2 world. The delegates at the Chicago convention therefore agreed to a regime that allowed every country complete and exclusive sovereignty over its airspace with the provision that permissions were to be negotiated between contracting states on a bilateral basis. There are at least three different models of BASA, with varying levels of liberality, as may be agreed by the parties to it. We may therefore consider is a contract that should be mutually negotiated like any other

Slots on the other hand ‘’is the most emotive subject in civil aviation. It is the approval from an appropriate authority to take off at a particular time at one airport and land at its destination at another time. The difficulty arises in so called coordinated airports i.e., congested airports where there are severe capacity limits at certain times of the day. It subsequently dictates the difference between operating a route or not’’-D.H. Bunker

The Adam Smith model of Self-interest as the motivator of economic activity with competition as regulator to ensure the market runs efficiently without intervention, is situated below:

“It is not from the benevolence (kindness) of the government (of UAE), Its flag carrier (Emirates), or Airport (Sharjah) that we expect access to Air Peace, but from their regard to their own interest.”

It is important to state at the outset that the self-interest we advocate is (in the words of Lauren Hall) consistent with the demands of justice and becomes the germ from which virtuous, fair behaviour grows, to drive the larger economic engine of society.

In clear economic terms slots represents a barrier to entry and airlines awarded slots benefit from an economic rent. A system established to ensure stability has slowly become the property of the airlines. Slots are sold at a remarkable premium or used as a tool to exert unfair competitive pressures. It has been reported that many European countries who oppose the sale of slots, do so on the principle that, a private firm cannot benefit from a public good (Mackay 2008)

The decision to operate slot system or not remain those of the relevant airport and can be considered “its own internal cuisine‘’ just as ‘’A country’s motivation is its own concern, but the righteousness of its actions is the concern of all’’.

Nigeria like other states deliberately follow certain policies in pursuit of their national interest. The current face off with UAE, shows clearly that we have been a bit too eager to give than to receive or at least gave out before we received.

Our BASA is seemingly driven by the needs and ease of other countries. We have offered multiple entry points to countries, even where our own carriers have faced issues with slots for decades. These incongruities have never been convincingly explained to operators and other stakeholders

We have a unique opportunity to review our thinking and position in this area, especially as our slow adoption of Single African Air Transport Market (SSATM) and African Continental Free Trade Areas (AfCFTA) is totally in sharp contrast to our rush to embrace these dominant international brands

Our policies can start by ensuring that the investment by Nigerian carriers is complimented by access to the best of our facilities as no other country will ever offer them same.

A crisis, they say, is a terrible thing to waste, and so we suggest  that the minimum positive outcome from this saga should be a comprehensive policy paper that will spell out in clear terms, how Nigeria will take actions that will reduce to the barest costs and increase to maximum  benefits its engagements to further our National Aviation Interests.

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Plateau State Impeachment: Justice, not Truce

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By  ADEKUNLE ADE-ADELEYE

ON October 27, the media reported the unexpected impeachment of the Speaker of the Plateau House of Assembly, Ayuba Abok, by eight lawmakers. The state government, it was quietly hinted, saw him as antagonistic and uncooperative.

Hon Abok had been critical of Governor Simon Lalong’s handling of the insecurity crisis in the state, and had in August given the governor a two-week ultimatum to protect the people. Since he had the majority of lawmakers on his side, the harassed Speaker and his supporters reportedly met outside the assembly complex and fought back.

Soon after, however, by a police sleight of hand, his opponents led by Yakubu Sanda, who had been purportedly elected Speaker by 6am, regrouped and entered the assembly complex after Hon Abok had been escorted out by the police.

Even though the media reported that eight lawmakers were behind the impeachment, Hon Abok and his supporters believed six assembly members were involved, whom they proceeded to suspend on the same day.

Up till November 4, the media had tried unsuccessfully to get the governor’s position on the alleged impeachment. They seemed to believe that

They seemed to believe that he was not averse to the impeachment, and had been touchy about criticisms leveled against him for what his opponents termed his inexpert handling of insecurity in Plateau State. In fact, his critics see him as a stooge of the federal government which had been accused of taking sides in the conflict on the Plateau.

Mr Lalong has, however, reiterated that he is tackling insecurity in Plateau State to the best of his ability, and with utmost resolution and impartiality. The state’s lawmakers are not so sure, leading to the testy exchange between the legislature and the state government. The acrimony boiled over on October 27, and has persisted despite moves to reach a truce. But what the state needs is not truce, nor even peace, but justice to start with; for there can be no peace without justice, as Nigeria’s acrimonious national politics exemplifies.

Whether six or eight legislators, it is impossible to defend an impeachment that was inspired and executed by a minority, not to say a minority that was strikingly and flagrantly less than two-thirds. The APC has 15 members; only eight consented to the impeachment.

To support truce is to confer legitimacy on a lie and a behavior that flagrantly violates the constitution. Such violations must never be appeased, nor negotiated. It does not matter whether the governor is right in his seemingly pro-Abuja method of tackling insecurity in Plateau State, or whether he is wrong to nod and wink at the October 27 insurrectionists in the state legislature; what is important is that the law must neither be flouted nor the constitution desecrated. Mr Lalong has an obligation not just to rule the state and build schools, hospitals and bridges; he also has a far weightier and nobler obligation to protect the rule of law in the state, if necessary with his last drop of blood. To keep silent in the face of such violations is to give the impression of complicity, not the quiet and dignified contemplation many associate with leaders. And when he decides to speak out on the issue, he needs to eschew the nugatory and indecisive balance often practiced by dissembling and unprincipled leaders.

Mr Lalong must in addition ask himself whether the measures he had adumbrated to fight insecurity in Plateau State have been effective, or whether in fact the victims of massacres in the state regard him as empathetic enough. Furthermore, he must ask himself whether by his actions and statements he had not given the impression of running a federal outpost rather than a federating state. Then, finally, he must ask himself whether his position as governor does not obligate him, in line with his oaths, to protect, preserve and defend the constitution, regardless of whose ox is gored.

Does he have an idea of what is fair, equitable and just, or has he elevated politics and executive machinations above justice and lawmaking? If he is not too far committed one way or the other to outside and vested interests, as his critics insist, he should reexamine the issues raised by his critics, find ways to mollify them, and give the state he is privileged to administer a great leadership capable of protecting and entrenching his legacy.

The contrived crisis in the House of Assembly may be the governor’s chance to reorient his administration, side with the people, and rethink the principles by which he claims to rule the state. He must recall that in October 2006, under the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, eight lawmakers issued a notice of impeachment against one of his predecessors, Joshua Dariye, for various infractions, including money laundering. By November, Mr Dariye was impeached, despite the clear illegality of the process. In March 2007 and April of the same year, the Court of Appeal and Supreme Court respectively restored him. The courts faulted the process. Fifteen years later, lightning is striking the same place twice, with eight lawmakers playing mischief and violating the constitution.

Mr Lalong is at liberty to rally as much support as possible for his legislative agenda, and any other sensible agenda he might cherish; what he does not have the freedom to do is to conspire against the constitution, which his reticence seems to imply. Indeed, the governor’s ominous detachment is matched only by the artful neutrality of the police, with the former claiming that the legislative crisis is strictly the problem of lawmakers, and the latter pretending to be doing everything to prevent a breakdown of law and order

(First published in The Nation)

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Aviation

Airports for Concession, Not Privatisation

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By

John Ojikutu

The Honourable Minister of State for Aviation has recently briefed the public and industry stakeholders of government plans to concede certain airports to private investors as part of larger plans to privatise some public enterprises. Following the Honourable Minister’s briefings, there have been some emotional reactions from the public and more too from aviation stakeholders who ordinarily should be better informed of what has, over the years, been the financial travails of the sector but yet find the government plans of airport concession unacceptable.

The government probably decided on concession and privatisation or outright sale because of the failed commercialisation of most public sector services and enterprises. There were public enterprises that were fully commercialised like the NLG and the refineries which were expected to operate as profit-making commercial ventures without any subsidies from the government. These are expected to raise funds from the capital market for capital projects without a government guarantee and were expected to use private-sector procedures in running their businesses.

There were other enterprises like FAAN and NAMA which were partially commercialised and were expected to cover their operational costs from their internally generated revenues (IGR). This category of enterprises enjoyed grants from the government to finance their capital projects, just as the federal government had done in the past for them with the ₦19.5 billion aviation intervention fund in 2007, the grant of about $200 million from the BASA fund for the refurbishment of some airports, and the $500 million loan from China for the redevelopment of the major international airports.

Using the air traffic and passenger traffic statistics of 2014-15, the expected yearly revenue from FAAN in particular, whose facilities are planned for concession, is reported to be about N65 billion from both aeronautical (N61.5 billion) and non-aeronautical (N4.5 billion) sources. However, the chunks of revenue earnings generated have not substantially impacted on the airport infrastructures and services. For instance MMA alone that is reported to be generating about ₦2 billion monthly is worth more than ₦3 billion monthly or ₦36 billion ($100 million annually) in earnings from passenger service charge aircraft landing and parking, on both international and domestic traffic and various concession on non aeronautical services within and around the airport. Unfortunately, the airport does enjoy up to 5% of the revenue for the periodic maintenance of the airport infrastructure and services. If MMA is given out for concession today in the global market, it could generate conservatively about ₦110 billion ($300 milliom). Today the total IGR earnings on the twenty international airports is less than ₦70 billion ($190 million).

The problems of government enterprises in the sector are largely caused by the incessant huge debts of the domestic airline operators to the public operators and weak accountability of the regulator particularly of the NCAA, which has the critical role to play in checking the excesses of both the airlines’ operators and the public operators FAAN and NAMA.

The Nigerian aviation sector is just one of the three major means of transportation, providing air transport services to less than 10 million Nigerians, compared to the road and rail providing transportation services for over 60 million Nigerians annually. Air services enjoy government patronage the most, with various forms of intervention, grants, and guaranteed loans. All these are in addition to the huge revenues generated that have not significantly developed or improved the airports’ infrastructure and facilities for sustaining safe air operations. There has been no efficient and effective oversight by the responsible authority to ensure that the sector in the last sixteen years complied with a five-year budget plan as required by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations 2006, Part 18.10.5.

What has developed over the years in the industry is a mixed system, one of partial commercialisation, where the government injects subsidies or intervention funds into the public enterprises, and full commercialisation, where the government gives autonomy to some public enterprises in the sector. What the government plans to develop now, and what is developing worldwide, is privatisation and concession, where the government extends partnerships to private enterprises and investors to develop the sector. This is a concept that is being adopted by most developing countries whose aviation infrastructures are expanding fast but whose development funds are limited, as with our own case. Most countries are finding it a positive advantage to adopt the policies of public-private partnership (PPP), full commercialisation, and concession of public enterprises. These options offer government savings for other social sectors of the economy and reduce unnecessary costs and duplication of efforts.

Privatisation or outright sale of public enterprises to private investors in Nigeria, as articulated by a Social group in 1988 as part of Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), could be emotive and controversial “Privatisation is a means of exposing public enterprises to private investors or bringing private ownership, control and management into public enterprises. The objective is to increase productivity and efficiency, and to improving the financial health of the public enterprises with sufficient savings for the government from the suspended government subsidies.”

Broadly defined, privatisation could include concession and all forms of PPP; but if narrowly defined, it would exclude concession and could mean outright sales. However, whatever definition is being applied, the objective is securing private investors’ management and operational expertise and investment, Similar to the MM2 concession to Bi-Courtney.

It still seems to some stakeholders that the concession of MM2 was shrouded in some kind of executive secrecy. The government, therefore, needs to assure stakeholders that the planned concession is with better intentions. Generally, there are three key features of a concession. Firstly, it does not involve the sale or transfer of ownership of physical assets, only the right to use the assets and operate the enterprise. Secondly, agreements are for a limited period of time, up to or less than thirty years depending on the context, content, and sector. Thirdly, the government, the owner of the assets must retain much involvement on the oversight in the concession through regulatory agencies.

It is expected that whatever the government would give out for concession would be well defined along these three features in order to avoid the pitfalls of past attempts. The government must bear in mind existing agreements or concessions with the Chinese government on the development of the four airports of Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja, and Kano, ditto with similar agreements with Bi-Courtney. The government must also be mindful of the fact that about twelve out of about twenty federal airports are joint users with the military, these include the international airports.

The government should be very clear in its plan as to what assets or infrastructure it would give for concession without disrupting the agreements with existing private operators and joint-users arrangements with the military. The plan for airport concession now should not include those aeronautical infrastructures, facilities, and systems that are necessary and critical for the conduct of flight operations, rescue operations, emergency management services, airport security systems, and national security. These are the state’s responsibility and mandatory obligatory functions to the ICAO as contained in various annexes to the Chicago Convention, essentially on aerodrome standards, air traffic control services, and airport security and so on. All these could be fully commercialized, as they are the practices elsewhere. The concession, on the other hand, should not be different from the one between the government and Bi-Courtney, and essentially for non-aeronautical infrastructural facilities and services which includes operations and management of the passenger, cargo terminal buildings and the handling facilities; aircraft parking areas with handling facilities, car, trucks, parks and toll gates.

All aeronautical facilities that are left in FAAN’s assets after the concession of non-aeronautical facilities could be merged with NAMA assets. Runways, taxiways and their associated lighting, and emergency and rescue management systems could remain part of the universal air traffic services systems. NAMA could, therefore, be fully commercialised like the ATNS of South Africa. FAAN, on the other hand, should function as a commercial holding company to oversee the management of the airports under concession.

The government should ensure that future management of the remaining domestic airports is included in the concession plans. In other words, none of these domestic airports should be left behind; otherwise, the initial reasons for the concession would be defeated. Therefore, for every international airport terminal available for concession to a company, three to four of the domestic airports should be given along with the concession.

The concession of airports, like that of the seaports in 2006, will increase capacity, invariably increasing air, passenger, and cargo traffic. It will reduce budget allocations to airports and increase revenue generation. The ports’ concession increased the capacity by over 300%; the cargo has increased from 7 million tons to about 25 million tons, and it has reduced budget allocations but has increased port revenue generation.

In addition to all these, the government should concern itself with the designing of achievable policies and programmes that would enable it to meet contemporary visions for the industry in this twenty-first century. Such policies should ensure that the responsible aviation authority provides the baseline for implementation of the concession, and the investors provide regular business plans every five years to meet the requirements of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations, 2006, Part 18.10.5. The first-line approach is to ask: has the NCAA been ensuring that Bi-Courtney Airport Services complied regularly with the NCAR provision?

(Group Captain John Ojikutu (rtd) is an Aviation Security Consultant and Secretary General of the Aviation Safety Round Table Initiative)

This opinion article was written in May, 2016.

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