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Opinion: Leading with Less While Building for Development – Tackling Nigeria’s Infrastructure Conundrum- Oyin  Adeyemi

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By Oyin Adeyemi

The theme could not be more apt for the current times as throughout the world, following the war in Ukraine, the news is grim.

Here are some global headlines:

  • Forbes: Global Economy Headed into Recession
  • Reuters: Energy, inflation crises risk pushing big economies into recession, OECD says
  • Fortune: Economic growth could grind to a halt and spark global recession next year, OECD says
  • Risk of Global Recession in 2023 Rises Amid Simultaneous Rate Hikes – The World Bank.

 

In Nigeria,

  • The Vanguard Newspaper: Nigeria risks 3rd recession in 7yrs, NACCIMA warns FG
  • Sahara Reporters: Nigeria’s Domestic, Foreign Debts Rise to N41trillion Under Buhari, Equal N200,000 Per Nigerian
  • The Guardian: Nigeria broke, can’t fund 2023 capital projects, Ngige cries out
  • Nairametrics: Nigeria’s inflation rate surges to a 17-year high of 19.64% in July 2022

From these headlines, one thing is certain, the government has no choice but to “lead with less.” – Now, How?

 

As a business leader, political theorist and public commentator, I am always curious about how we can keep orienting and expanding our understanding of what quality/good leadership is all about.  Every society’s strength is largely determined by the calibre of its leadership. Throughout history, successful societies have been those whose leaders have been able to rise to the occasion and calm storms during crises while also advancing the course of prosperity during times of peace. Without leadership, a nation or organisation is like troops without a General, or a ship without a Captain. This is to emphasise the significance of leadership.

Simply put, we know that good leadership recognises that it cannot know everything that needs to be known and, as a result, will seek to expand knowledge as needed, as well as seek diverse perspectives to inform decision-making. Good leadership always demonstrates effective communication and listening skills; prioritises the interests of society over personal agenda; makes difficult decisions and develops long-term plans for the benefit of society as a whole.

Asue Ighodalo, Lami Adeyemi, Danladi Verheijen, Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Dr Derin Awosika & Dr Omotola Johnson

Poor leadership, on the other hand, focuses on individual agenda, is single-minded in decision-making, does not consider different ideas or perspectives, cannot take criticism, is uninformed, and does not plan beyond its tenure.   

 Irrespective of poor leadership, History teaches us that some industries have thrived in a recession, especially those in which the consumer demand is relatively stable. In this category, we have food, consumer staples, healthcare and basic transportation.

Similarly, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw tech companies that specialise in online and remote services experience a boom.

So, the good news is that it is not all doom and gloom because with recessions also come the opportunity to think differently and innovatively.

 

Infrastructure as an Engine for Economic Growth

Investment in transportation, water, buildings, electricity, education and security creates jobs and serves as the backbone of a healthy economy.

Although the World  Bank warned of the risk of a global recession in 2023, as I earlier highlighted, it is an interesting thing to note that some World Bank reports have shown the links between investments in good security, education, electricity, internet, and road infrastructure and economic development using the Horn of Africa and Lake Chad regions as case studies.

Oniru of Iruland, HRM Oba Gbolahan Lawal, Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar & Mr Tunde Folawiyo

While the focus of that research was to show the transition from agriculture to manufacturing and services, I am not suggesting that Nigeria does not need to invest in agriculture.  However, I want to paint a picture of how a region dealing with drought and terrorism – very similar challenges to those in northern Nigeria – could become more prosperous due to infrastructural development.

The World Bank report states that:

  • access to paved roads led workers to move out of low-productivity agricultural endeavours primarily into manufacturing and services in Kenya and Ethiopia. This resulted in a 6% reduction in the workforce employed in agriculture in the Horn of Africa and a 3% reduction in Lake Chad.
  • bundling road investments with access to electricity leads to a much bigger impact. The share of employment in agriculture fell by as much as 20% in the Horn of Africa and 23% in Lake Chad. In this case, workers shift mostly into manufacturing in the Horn of Africa and into the services sector in Lake Chad.

 

What if we took some of these learnings and adapted them locally?

 

Tackling Nigeria’s Infrastructure Conundrum

I would like to recommend few ways (some of which are self-explanatory) ‘to lead with less while building for development – to tackle Nigeria’s infrastructure conundrum,

  1. Nigeria must see infrastructure development as a solution and not a cost.
  • Security- a viable system to ensure safety of the people
  • Education- invest in educating the people to understand
  1. Nigeria must learn to preserve and maintain
  2. Nigeria must do away with a recency bias
  3. Nigeria must learn to build a strong and lasting system (Infrastructure & credit system)

 

  1. Seeing infrastructural development as a solution and not a cost

No doubt infrastructure development is expensive and the government has scarce resources, nonetheless, the multiplier effect is enormous. Irrespective, it is pertinent for good leadership that a government seeks to guarantee that security of its people and empower its citizens with knowledge through an adequate education system for the general growth and development of the nation.  This also impacts diverse areas of the economy. For instance, where there is adequate security and education in the agricultural sector, the quality and quantity of agricultural produce shall increase. As such, with the impact of sufficient infrastructural developments such as good roads and rail networks, farmers will largely increase their access to bigger regional markets and lead to reduced losses from perishable goods. The increased supply will also lead to price reductions for goods. This is one way to tackle food inflation.

Infrastructure connects workers to their jobs. Good infrastructure means that employees can get to and from work quicker and safer. The less time people spend in traffic, the more productive they will be. In 2021, Expert Market UK released a list of The World’s Most Productive Countries in 2020 relying on information from the OECD and World Bank dat. This work outs which countries had the most effective financial return while spending the least amount of time in the office. The cities were ranked for infrastructure, stability, culture and environment, healthcare, and education.

Luxembourg, the smallest country on the list “with almost double the productivity score than second-placed Ireland, this tiny nation paved the way in 2020 in terms of productivity thanks to its 40-hour working week, booming financial sector, minimum of 5 weeks paid annual leave, and prohibited employment on Sundays,” said Expert Market. The other countries in the top ten were; Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Iceland and Sweden. In 2022, Luxembourg, Ireland, Norway and Switzerland still made the top 10 – with Luxembourg retaining the number one position according to the World Population Review.

Interestingly, some cities from these countries were also ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) Global Liveability Index 2022 among the 10 best cities to live in around the world.   Vienna, Austria (1st); Copenhagen, Denmark (2nd); Zürich, Switzerland (3rd); Geneva, Switzerland (6th); Frankfurt, Germany (7th); and Amsterdam, Netherlands (9th).

  1. Preserving and maintaining

Over the last two weeks, the funeral ceremony of the late Queen Elizabeth  II (the Second) dominated the news. Whether or not you are interested in the British monarchy, you were inundated with the news and for the United Kingdom, it was yet another opportunity to put on display one of the country’s most marketable assets, her history and culture. This was only possible because the United Kingdom has preserved its history through documentation and maintenance of historical sites and monuments.

St James’s Palace in London, where King Charles III (the Third) was officially proclaimed King, and which a commentator described as the less popular of the palaces could very well become a tourist attraction. A story published in a UK Metro report published on 18 September states: “According to the 2019-20 annual report, a record 3,285,000 people visited the official residences, generating approximately £49,859,000.”

  1. Doing away with a recency bias

Do you know a restaurant that was once the toast of the neighbourhood until another was opened on the opposite side of the street?

We love new things but in times when we need to “lead with less,” we must do away with the recency bias. Rather than demolishing a building and rebuilding it from scratch, how about upgrading it? According to a 2017, Business Insider article, one of the world’s richest men, Warren Buffet, lives in the same house he bought in 1958. Doing away with a recency bias will help us preserve and maintain

  1. Building to last

To be able to preserve and maintain, we must also build to last. It requires Nigeria, from the outset, to invest in infrastructure that will outlive generations. There are too many sore stories of collapsed buildings, old and new. Clearing the rubble and compensating the loved ones of those who die in collapsed buildings is costly. Refurbishing roads after the rainy season also translates to economic costs. In the long run, it will be cheaper to invest in quality infrastructure.

Also, we must build a strong and lasting credit system, which gives people the hope for growth and in turn development, as more people will be empowered by the credit system to make good and lasting investments.

And in closing,  I say: “Leading with Less While Building for Development” is inevitable in today’s increasingly challenging world that is affected by poverty, climate change, war and numerous factors beyond our control. It is a leadership imperative that is binding on all of us.

Oyin Adeyemi -Chairperson/ Group Managing Director, Still Earth Holdings delivered this paper at the Dr Lateef Adegbite Memorial Series on Leadership in Lagos

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ECOWAS Court Finds FG Guilty of Violating Rights of #EndSARS Protesters

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The Community Court of Justice, ECOWAS, has ruled that the Federal Republic of Nigeria violated the human rights of Obianuju Udeh and two others.

The court found Nigeria in breach of Articles 1, 4, 6, 9, 10, and 11 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, specifically on the right to life, security of person, freedom of expression, assembly and association, prohibition of torture, the duty of the state to investigate, and the right to effective remedy.

The applicants, Obianuju Udeh, Perpetual Kamsi and Dabiraoluwa Adeyinka, alleged that these violations occurred during the peaceful protests at the Lekki Toll Gate in Lagos State on October 20 and 21, 2020.

The presiding judge, Justice Koroma Sengu, who delivered the judgment, dismissed the allegation that the right to life as guaranteed under article 4 of the ACPHR is violated.

He, however, said that the Federal Government must pay each applicant N2 million as compensation for violations of their security of person, prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, duty to investigate human rights violations, and right to effective remedy.

Additionally, he said the Federal Government must adhere to its obligations under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, investigate and prosecute its agents responsible for these violations, and report to the court within six months on the measures taken to implement this judgment.

The applicants alleged that during the peaceful protests against the SARS unit of the Nigerian Police Force at Lekki Toll Gate on October 20 and 21, 2020, the respondent committed several human rights violations.

Triggered by the alleged killing of Daniel Chibuike, the protests aimed to address police harassment and brutality.

The first applicant’s claims include that the soldiers shot protesters, resulting in deaths and injuries, which she live-streamed, subsequently receiving threatening phone calls that forced her into hiding and eventual asylum.

The second applicant, responsible for protesters’ welfare, described how soldiers began shooting after a power cut, leading to her hospitalisation due to police tear gas.

The third applicant recounted narrowly escaping being shot, observing the refusal of ambulance entry by soldiers, and later witnessing inadequate hospital care for victims.

She argued that she and her colleagues took over the victims’ care and she faced ongoing threats and surveillance, believed to be by respondent’s agents.

The applicants sought declaratory relief and compensation from the court for these violations.

The respondent denied all claims made by the applicants, asserting that the protesters unlawfully assembled at the Lekki toll gate on October 20, 2020, under the guise of protesting against SARS.

The respondent also maintained that its agents followed strict rules of engagement and did not shoot or kill protesters.

It argued that the first applicant incited the crowd by playing music and using her Instagram page to stir disaffection against law enforcement, who were targeting escapee members of Boko Haram and bandits.

The respondent contended that the second applicant’s logistics and welfare support provision indicated her support for the violent protest.

It claimed that soldiers were present to restore peace until the police arrived, denying any harm inflicted on protesters and the refusal of ambulance access.

The respondent also denied that the third applicant’s presence was peaceful, asserting it was meant to escalate violence.

It argued that the Lagos State Government managed the treatment and care of the injured and submits that the applicants have not provided credible evidence to support their claims, or the reliefs sought.

In its judgment, the court found there was no violation of the right to life.

However, the court held that the respondent breached several articles of the ACPHR which occasioned fundamental breaches of human rights violation therein.

Furthermore, the court declared that the applicants were denied the right to an effective remedy.

The court ordered that the respondent make reparations to the applicants for the violation of their fundamental human rights.

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We’re Already Preparing 2025 Budget, Pro-Wike Lawmakers Are Gone – Fubara

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The Rivers State Governor, Siminalayi Fubara, on Wednesday, said his administration has started the process of preparing the 2025 budget.

The governor also dismissed the threat by the Martin Amaewhule-led faction of the state House of Assembly that he should present the 2024 budget again, saying that having defected to the All Progressives Congress from the Peoples Democratic Party platform on which they got election, their seats remained vacant.

Fubara said this when he received on a solidarity visit, the leadership structure, critical stakeholders, opinion leaders, women and youths of Etche and Omuma Local Government Areas, led by Ogbakor Etche, the apex socio-cultural organisation of Etche Ethnic Nationality Worldwide, at the Government House, Port Harcourt.

In a statement issued by the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Nelson Chukwudi, and sent to newsmen, the governor described the recent ranting of the Amaewhule faction as noise-making from delusional folks.

He urged the “25 former lawmakers” to wake up from their slumber, adding that the ship of governance in the state was sailing smoothly.

The lawmakers loyal to the former governor and Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nyesom Wike, had been having issues with Fubara over the political control of the state.

After an unsuccessful attempt to oust the governor, resulting in the demolition of the Assembly quarters, the lawmakers announced their defection to the APC, a move the state PDP latched on to declare their seats vacant.

A Rivers State High Court sitting in Port Harcourt, the state capital, granted an interim injunction restraining the pro-Wike lawmakers from parading themselves as legislators in the state.

However, the Court of Appeal in Abuja, on July 4, affirmed Amaewhule and 24 other lawmakers as members of the Rivers State House of Assembly.

Holding a session at the state Legislative Quarters on Monday, the court-reinstated lawmakers asked Fubara to re-present the 2024 budget to the Assembly and gave him a one-week ultimatum.

The government, in a swift move, approached the court to restrain the state Chief Judge and others from recognising the Amaewhule-led Assembly, while it also appealed the judgment of the Appeal Court at the Supreme Court.

Foreclosing the idea of presenting the 2024 budget again, Fubara said his administration had commenced preparing details of the 2025 Appropriation Bill, with priority placed on education, healthcare and agriculture.

“Let me assure you that agriculture is an area that we have promised the very special and peace-loving people of Rivers State that our 2025 budget, which we have already started preparing, will address.

“Don’t bother about those people that are delusional. They think we are still sleeping. Let me tell you people so that they can hear anywhere they are.

“I wanted to help them, sincerely because I know them. And I have said it before, these are people that I have helped. I paid their children’s school fees. I paid their house rent. So, I wanted to help them.

“We all knew what happened when they crossed (defected), and how did they cross? Because of our God, for them to make that mistake, they crossed. They are gone, and they are gone. Now, let me tell you: when I wanted to help them, I accepted to help them because we are all one. We disagree to agree as it is said,” he said.

He added, “They thought they were smart. What is holding them is the declaration of their seats vacant as done on December 13, 2023. We are not doing any budget to nullify that decision. It is what will send them to their villages.

“As I am talking to you, I have started preparing my budget for 2025, which I am going to present very soon. And, in that budget, my key areas will be education, healthcare and agriculture.”

Fubara said the three priority areas would ensure that even if more roads were constructed, emphasis would be placed on quality healthcare services for the people of the state.

“Our children need to go to quality schools. Even if they can’t go to private schools, let them go to the public ones that have standards. We need to go to good health facilities owned by the government and get standard healthcare services.

“Even if we cannot afford those private hospitals, when you go to the public ones, you can get the same services with qualified professionals. That is our thinking.

“And when we get to the issue of agriculture, it will address the issue of unemployment. When we start engaging our youths, they won’t have time to be involved in crime. So, our thinking is to secure and protect our state,” he added.

He reiterated that he was fighting nobody as insinuated, adding that being loyal did not mean losing one’s liberty, sense of discretion and doing what was right.

“I want to assure you of one thing: we are not fighting anybody. We appreciate what God has used people to also do in our lives. But, we are not going to rule (govern) this state on our bent knees. We will rule standing this way I am standing.

“If it is only being on our knees to rule that is the way that they will see us as being loyal, then, I will pack my few things that I have here, and go and relax in my house comfortably, because it will be a disaster, not just to me but to everyone in the state and even my generation.

“So, I will continue to stand tall and stand on the side of the truth. Let me thank the President General (of Ogbakor Etche) for bringing your people, the great people of Etche and Omuma together to come and pay us a solidarity visit,” he said.

Fubara urged the people of Etche Nation to sustain their support for his administration because its vision was clear and encompassing to advance the well-being of all Rivers people.

He promised to work with the Nigeria Police to resolve the issue of herdsmen attacks on farmlands and farmers in the area, including the issue of illegal dredging activities.

The Punch

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Yoruba Elders Council Rejects Agitation for Yoruba Nation

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The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE) has voiced its opposition to idea of carving out Yoruba Nation from Nigeria.

The group, through a statement on Sunday, said it would rather commit to true federalism in Nigeria.

The statement read: “We have perused the document on the position of YSDM on the state of the Nation and their views for the Yoruba race to be separated from Nigeria. The Yoruba Council of Elders remains firm in its position that the entity called and known as Nigeria should remain as one Nigeria.

“Accordingly, the YCE has pooled-in all shades of thoughts, which show that majority of the Yoruba race feel cheated by the present lop-sided arrangement of the federating powers but they are solidly against going away from the Nigerian arrangement. They would rather go back to the agreement of our founding fathers when the Region administration was autonomous.

“YCE, therefore, stands firmly on the position of the founding fathers, who maintained togetherness but operated independently and contributed their quota to foster administration at the centre. To this extent, we would rather have a restructured Nigeria which will allow states to function independently as part of a whole.

“YCE wants Nigeria to remain one but, like the American arrangement, stay and function administratively devoid of interference by the centre. Let it be known that the strength of the unity lies in the socio-cultural inheritance of each section of the country and these can be deployed through education and efficiency of management. Our great country must rise again and we all will be in it together,” it added.

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