Plastic debris is everywhere and has grabbed the attention of environmental policy makers and regulators. When this plastic breaks up into smaller particles – less than 5mm in size – they are called microplastics. In some cases, they can only be seen under a microscope.
There are two types of microplastics: primary and secondary. Primary microplastics are manufactured to be 5mm or less in size. Examples include microbeads used in cosmetics and household products and resin pellets used in abrasive blasting.
Secondary microplastics are formed from the breakdown of larger plastic materials due to photochemical, mechanical and biological processes in the environment.
Sources of microplastics in rivers and oceans include littering, poor waste management, waste water treatment plants, storm water overflow, industrial effluents and even organic solids obtained from sewage treatment processes.
The presence of small plastic fragments in the marine environment was first highlighted in the 1970s. But with renewed interest over the past decade, microplastics are now considered a major emerging contaminant.
Microplastics pick up and transport heavy metals and organic pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. These pollutants can be toxic. They can be carcinogenic – that is, they have the potential to cause cancer – and they can also be mutagenic – they can lead to changes in the genetic makeup of organisms.
Microplastics also release plastic additives into the marine environment. These can contaminate soil, air, water and food. They can damage creatures that live in the sea by blocking their digestive tracts, changing their feeding patterns, decreasing their immune response and altering reproductive activities. They can also be transferred up the food chain to humans when they’re ingested by marine organisms.
Most studies on microplastics have been conducted outside Africa. Currently, there is little or no data on microplastics occurrence in sub-Saharan Africa.
We examined surface sediments from four beaches in Lagos for microplastics. This was the first attempt to investigate microplastic levels in the Nigerian coastal environment.
We found microplastics in all sediment samples collected from the beaches. We found that plastic fragments dominated all the samples we examined. This was followed by pellets and then fibres. The high number of fragments suggests the breakdown of larger plastic items from littering and poor waste management as the most significant source of microplastics in the beaches.
Plastic polymers confirmed were polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. These polymers are used, among other things, to produce rigid food service containers (Styrofoam containers), disposable cups, bottles, as well as plastic wrappings and bags. This study also confirms the ubiquitous nature of microplastics in the Atlantic as reported in studies from different regions and locations.
Other countries are already taking action to minimise microplastic pollution. About 127 have implemented policies to regulate plastic production and usage. Nigeria should not be an exception.
The country needs to adopt a series of policies to manage plastics.
The Nigerian government – at all levels – should encourage citizens and organisations to embrace the “new plastics economy” where plastic never becomes waste. Plastic materials with no after-use value – single-use plastics – such as Styrofoam plates and the ubiquitous water sachets should be gradually phased out.
Individuals can also take action by reducing their plastic footprint.
The Nigerian Natural Resource Charter (NNRC) has given reasons why crude oil theft is still a thriving business in the country, several years after the discovery of oil.
According to the NNRC, factors such as government and societal influences have helped to sustain oil theft in Nigeria.
It stated that poor governance of Nigeria's oil revenue as well as corruption were parts of the incentives supporting the illicit practice with the country's federal structure also serving as a buoy.
According to the NNRC, between 1999 and 2016, oil-producing states received N7.006 trillion as payment under derivation principle but delivered very little development to their communities and people.
"A 2005 World Bank report estimated 80 per cent of Nigeria's oil and gas revenues accrued to one per cent of its population, 99 per cent of the population received the remaining 20 per cent.
"Emergence of militant groups demanding for resource control and development. Kidnappings, sabotage and illegal bunkering followed. Security contracts to protect pipelines which gave direct access to the pipelines and started to steal oil again.
"Efforts to curtail this new trend was met with threats of further vandalism. (It became) cheaper to pay security fees than to repair," said the NNRC in a presentation, a copy of which was obtained by THISDAY.
It further alleged that oil companies operating in the country were source of inducement for oil theft, stating that they support the act by making sure that they inadequately implement international best practices which often lead to devastating environmental degradation.
Furthermore, the NNRC which is supported by the United Kingdom to do its works in Nigeria, stated that widespread poverty amongst Nigerians have also made oil theft lucrative. It explained that high youth unemployment resulting from the socio-economic conditions in the Niger Delta region had led young men to become oil thieves.
"Average annual income of artisanal refinery worker is N3 million. Low-level oil thieves who steal in small jerry cans claim to only partake in the activity because they need to feed their families. They normally scoop from leaking pipes," it added.
Another source of incentive for oil theft, the NNRC noted was unemployment which it stated was at a rate of 33.1 per cent as of the third quarter (Q3) of 2017 amongst the country's young population.
"Combined unemployment and underemployment rate for the entire youth labour force (15-35 years) was 52.65 per cent or 22.64 million (10.96 million unemployed and another 11.68 million underemployed). Increasing levels of unemployment are matched by increasing levels of criminal activity in the Niger Delta," it added.
Further explaining how theft of oil happens in the region, the NNRC said it often involved vandalising infrastructure to divert oil away from its intended destination.
According to it, about 12,714 kilometres (km) of oil and gas pipelines were located in the Niger Delta, adding that between 2003 and 2013, there were a total of 15,685 pipeline breaks caused by vandalism.
"In 2016, Shell reported daily losses of 5,660 bpd. Most siphoned oil are refined locally in firewood. Small ships anchor near pipelines, drill and siphon crude, which is then taken to larger oil tankers on the high sea. Process is repeated multiple times till the tanker is full.
"Multiple siphoning points with hoses up to 2km used, barges can take 3,000 to 18,500 barrels of crude.
"Tankers can take from 31,000 to 62,000 barrels of crude and crude is normally sold on the international market with proceeds used to fund local and regional election campaigns."
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo last week hosted a delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs, led by billionaire businessman and co-founder of Alibaba Group, Jack Ma, at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
Alibaba Group Holding Limited is a Chinese multinational company with investments in e-commerce, retail, Internet and technology.
Osinbajo and Ma spoke on opportunities in Nigeria's digital economy and the nation's huge population with its advantages.
The vice-president thanked Ma for honouring the invitation he extended to him to visit Nigeria when they met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland.
He said Nigeria represents incredible opportunity and potential as it will, in another two decades, become the third largest in terms of population in the world.
Osinbajo said the Alibaba group had achieved a lot in broadening the scope of business and activities for people everywhere.
'If there is anything you have achieved, for the politician, we say you have democratised business.
'It is a great achievement. I think it is something we will like to learn from and benefit from, especially as we open up government businesses and transactions and make them more efficient for the use of our people.
'This is an exciting time for us and we are very happy that you are here. A lot of businesses and entrepreneurs are looking forward to your interacting with them later today.
'I think you will find a very energetic, very creative group of young men and women and old men and women who are increasingly getting interested in entrepreneurship, especially digital entrepreneurship. I am happy to see that you have a good group of businesses from China.
'I hope it will create an opportunity to start investigating business opportunities in Nigeria and I really hope that we will be able to do something and create some opportunities here,' he said.
Osinbajo assured his guest that Nigeria has many entrepreneurs and young people who are actively engaged in digital economy.
The Vice-President said the Federal Government started a job programme for young people, called N-Power, where half a million youths were engaged.
He added that the government had to build the e-infrastructure to make the programme happen.
Osinbajo said a system was developed in which N-Power beneficiaries were paid online and online materials were put in open and accessible portals for them.
'They also have equipment which enables them to train as extension workers for farm; we train them to teach also using the open portal; and it has proved to tremendously successful.'
'We have a programme called broadband connectivity for all by 2023; which basically is to see how we can deepen connectivity across the country by 2023 and we are looking just as you said about e-government.
'That is also crucial because government tend to be viewed with a great deal of suspicion; nobody is quite sure of what government is up to all the time.
'I think that the government can benefit from the efficiency that digital economy provides,' he said.
Ma said Chinese entrepreneurs were bringing four 'Es' to Africa.
He said the first 'e' was e-infrastructure; to support internet connection to all parts of Africa as it hoped that every young people, every small business should have a mobile phone to run their businesses anywhere, anytime.
'We hope to support e-entrepreneurs; we want to make entrepreneurs the heroes of the African continent, it is the entrepreneurs that promote business development in China; government support entrepreneur with the infrastructure they need.
'If the government is on 'e', government will be very efficient, transparent and the people know what the government can do and the government know what the people want.
'The last and very important is e-education; in the next few days, we are going to have African e-entrepreneur prize; so all the African countries can apply for our awards.
'So, I am very happy to hear that four Nigerian entrepreneurs are right among the top 10; we will be in the final competition in two days and I think Nigerian entrepreneurs will have a great result.
'It is just the beginning for us; our job is to support entrepreneurs because we are all entrepreneurs; we are all founders of our own businesses in China,' he said.
Last month marked ten years since Mohammed Yusuf, founder of Boko Haram, died in police detention. His death led to the radicalisation of the sect and a declaration of Jihad against the Nigerian state.
In an earlier paper on the sect I argued that before 2009, its operations were more or less peaceful, but that it was radicalised in 2009 after a confrontation with Nigerian security agencies. The police cracked down on the group setting off an armed uprising in Bauchi State, Northern Nigeria.
Opinions differ on the reasons for the government clampdown. But some believe that the government intervened based on intelligence that the group was arming itself.
The crackdown led to an uprising that soon spread to other parts of northeastern Nigeria and 800 members of the group were killed by the Nigerian security services. Yusuf was arrested during this period but died in police detention. The police claimed that he died while trying to escape.
Yusuf’s successor, Abubakar Shekau, vowed to exact revenge on the Nigerian government. A violent campaign against the state was launched. A year later in 2010, Shekau sought to make it a Jihad against Christians.
In a message he reportedly broadcast over the Internet in July 2010, Shekau was reported as saying:
This is a message to President Goodluck Jonathan and all who represent the Christians. We are declaring a holy war! We will fight the Christians, because everyone knows what they have done to the Muslims!
It is now estimated that by 2018 Boko Haram had been linked to the deaths of over 37,000 people.
The United Nations Children’s Fund has reported that the group has kidnapped more than 1,000 children in northeastern Nigeria since 2013 to spread fear and show power. Similarly, the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre believes that over two million people have been displaced in the North East as a result of Boko Haram’s terror activities.
Boko Haram has survived thanks to its ability to reinvent itself, change tactics, and adopt different strategies. Going forward, conventional military solutions will not work on their own. Other interventions, such as de-radicalisation and rehabilitation are necessary.
Fighting the sect
The government of Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015) adopted measures to combat the group including declaring a state of emergency in the three most affected Northern states of Yobe, Borno and Adamawa. It also initiated a four-nation regional force that included Niger, Chad and Cameroon.
These measures had varying degrees of success. They would appear to work initially because Boko Haram would lay low for a while, only for it to adopt a different terror strategy.
The Jonathan government even suggested amnesty but Shekau reportedly mocked the offer, saying:
Surprisingly the Nigerian government is talking about granting us amnesty. What wrong have we done? On the contrary, it is we that should grant you pardon.
Before he issued this audio statement the military had claimed to have killed him.
Some of the factors that affected the fight against Boko Haram, especially under the Jonathan government, were pervasive conspiracy theories that played on the country’s fault lines of religion, ethnicity and regionalism.
For instance many supporters of Jonathan, a Christian from southern Nigeria, believed that Boko Haram was created by the Northern political class to undermine Jonathan’s government.
In the same vein, according to many Muslims in the North, the Jonathan government was either fighting the group halfheartedly, or propping it up in order to depopulate the North ahead of the 2015 election.
The conspiracy theories probably played a role in the Jonathan administration’s lethargic handling of the kidnapping of 276 girls from a Chibok boarding school in April 2014.
What was obvious was that Boko Haram had become a menace. By the beginning of 2015, the group reportedly controlled about 20 local government areas, a territory the size of Belgium.
In 2015, when Muhammadu Buhari, a Northern Fulani Muslim and retired Army General, defeated Jonathan in the election, he gave Nigerian military chiefs three months to defeat Boko Haram. This was probably based on a wrong assumption that fighting terrorism was just like conventional warfare.
In December of that year, his government claimed it had recovered all territories previously held by Boko Haram, saying it had “technically defeated” the group. However, there has recently been an upsurge in the sect’s activities. It is now armed with better weapons and controls four of ten zones in northern Borno state near Lake Chad.
What seems obvious is that Boko Haram has shown the capacity to reinvent itself: it has evolved from being a group fighting the Nigerian state, to targeting Christians, attacking Muslims it regards as infidels and collaborators, and now, taking the fight to the military.
For instance, in December 2018, it sacked two military bases – a naval base and a multinational joint task force post – in the fishing town of Baga after a fierce battle.
The group claims that its ultimate aim is to establish a caliphate where it can rule according to its version of Islamic law.
Meanwhile, the Buhari government continues to live in denial, maintaining its posture that it has “technically defeated” the group.
Boko Haram today
Over the years, different factions have emerged. One of the earliest splinter groups was Ansaru, which emerged in 2012 after Boko Haram attacked Kano city killing about 185 civilians, most of them Muslims.
Today, Boko Haram is believed to be made up of at least two main factions, one led by Shekau and the other, known as the Islamic State West Africa Province, led by Abu Abdullah Ibn Umar al-Barnawi who is said to be one of the sons of Boko Haram founder Mohamed Yusuf. However, there appears to be two people with the same name or aliases, one of whom is not linked to Yusuf.
It is obvious that given the nature of Boko Haram, military solutions will not work on their own. A robust programme of amnesty, de-radicalisation and rehabilitation will have to go hand-in-hand with counterinsurgency and military solutions. All told, it will not be an easy victory for the Nigerian government.
The federal government of Nigeria on Tuesday, November 5 insisted the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) must work out modalities to reduce the price of data in the interest of Nigerians.
This was the position of the minister of communications and digital economy, Dr Isa Ali Pantami.
Pantami said his office has been inundated with complaints from concerned Nigerians about the high cost of data by telecoms operators. He mandated the management of the NCC led by its board chairman, Senator Olabiyi Durojaiye, to work out the modalities with other stakeholders in the industry to address the complaints as soon as possible.
Senator Durojaiye had led members of the board on a courtesy visit to the minister.
“I am urging the management of NCC to work towards reducing the price of data in Nigeria. It is too costly and people are complaining every day,” The Nation quoted the minister as saying.
Last month, the minister had directed the NCC to bring to stem the tide of illegal deduction of the data of subscribers and work towards the downward review of the cost.
In a related development, the federal government recently the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to develop DNA replication and encoding laboratories to help in the detection and prosecution of criminals in the country.
The minister of state, science and technology, Mr. Mohammed Abdullahi, said this at the 2019 National Identity Day organised by NIMC on Monday, September 16.
He stressed the need for NIMC to look into the possibility of strategic partnerships with other government agencies to ensure new innovations are introduced to help in combating crime in the country.
About two months ago, the Nigerian government announced the closure of the country’s land borders to all goods. According to the country’s Comptroller-General of the Customs Service, Hameed Ali, this was done to stem the influx of smuggled goods, especially rice and tomatoes, into the country.
The border closure is an economic aberration as most countries don’t usually close their borders for trade-related reasons. They do so, as in the cases of Sudan, Rwanda, Eritrea and Kenya, when their security is jeopardised. They also sometimes do so during disease epidemics, such as Ebola, that have the potential to spread across borders.
So, what does Nigeria stand to gain from this unprecedented measure? Ali pointed out that the border closure has significantly increased revenue from import duties. This increase in revenue is a welcome fillip for a country struggling to close the 2019 budget deficit of a whopping 2.18 trillion Naira. This represents about 2% of the country’s 2018 nominal GDP of 127.8 trillion Naira (about US$397 billion).
In touting the gains from the border closure, however, its latent costs should not be ignored. There are reports that the closure has set the country’s inflation rate on an upward trajectory. The inflation rate, which has been declining since April 2019, rose to 11.24% in September, driven mainly by sharp increases in food prices, the highest since June.
If the closure persists and causes sustained increases in food prices, Nigeria could see more people driven into poverty. This would result in an increase in the country’s poverty rate of about 50%. The potential to disrupt the economic lifelines of many traders who depend on legitimate cross-border trade is real.
For these and other reasons, Nigeria has no choice but to address the real problems of cross-border smuggling rather than its symptoms. At the heart of the problem is a network of wealthy smuggling cartels facilitated by corrupt border officials.
Poor paying the price
Thousands of Nigerians, especially women, engage in buying and selling of consumer goods around the border areas. They buy at low prices in one country and sell at higher prices in another. Black market foreign exchange dealers thrive at border posts.
The inability of the formal sector to absorb a growing labour force, coupled with a freeze in public-sector employment under recent economic reforms, has resulted in a bloated informal sector. This is estimated to be about 65% of the country’s GDP – the largest informal sector in sub-saharan Africa.
Informal trade along the borders is carried out by hawkers of assorted goods such as textiles, footwear, alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages. There is also trade in food, fuel, transport services and foreign currencies.
The poor in Nigeria typically don’t engage in large-scale smuggling. They lack the means of acquiring, transporting and warehousing large volumes of smuggled goods. Some poor unemployed Nigerians may engage in petty and innocuous smuggling, as a means of survival. But they are paying the price for the border closure, while those responsible for the worst cases of smuggling live comfortably.
Apart from its domestic implications, the border closure is also inconsistent with the spirit of regional economic integration. Nigeria spearheaded the establishment of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) 44 years ago with the major goal of a “free trade area” among member countries.
Nigeria’s unilateral decision reinforces the general notion that the regional bloc has not been successful at freeing up the movement of goods, services and even people within the sub-region. If that were the case, Nigeria would have coordinated its efforts at curbing smuggling with other member states.
Inept customs and immigration machinery
The border closure is an implicit admission of the ineptitude and incompetence of Nigeria’s customs and immigration officers. To thwart smuggling, the country should strengthen the capacity of customs and immigration officers to administer the country’s trade policies and laws.
To combat smuggling, for instance, Hong Kong’s strategy includes profiling all goods vehicles and private cars crossing the border. Detailed inspections are only carried out on high-risk vehicles. X-ray scanners are used to detect concealed compartments of vehicles. But all this technology is of little help without a professional and incorruptible cadre of customs officials, which Nigeria lacks.
Anyone who has travelled through Nigerian land borders would be perplexed by how unprofessional the Nigerian officials are. When I travelled in a bus from Accra to Lagos a few years ago, we were stopped at Seme on the border between Nigeria and Benin Republic. After a brief inspection of the bus, customs officials accused the driver of transporting contraband goods.
The same bus had been inspected a few hours earlier by Ghanaian, Togolese and Beninoise customs officers on our way from Accra, who found no contraband. Instead of impounding the contraband, the officers instead asked the driver to “settle” the matter. Apparently, the “settlement” offered by the driver was not sufficient, and the bus was not allowed to proceed to Lagos.
While waiting for alternative transport, I saw many goods-laden lorries pass through the border uninspected by the customs officials. I was informed by a resident of the border town that the lorry owners had “settled” the customs officials in advance.
Apart from this, the country’s land borders are very porous. There are many illegal paths through which smuggled goods can be transported. No travel documents are required on these routes and there are no checks.
Without addressing the problems of an inept customs and immigration machinery, as well as the porosity of Nigerian borders, one would only be treating the symptoms of the disease. Solutions might include the recruitment of a new cadre of customs officers, who would be trained to combat smuggling and abhor corruption.
Otherwise, when the borders are eventually reopened, the government would be handing them back to the same officials who have profited for years from smuggling.
Lagos was an orderly urban environment 70 years ago. This was the case from the 1950s, when the city was a federal territory through to the 1960s when it became federal capital – a status it held until 1991.
The foundations of orderliness for any city are planning and management. Lagos had this in place in the early days. The city was governed by an elected Lagos City Council, Nigeria’s oldest, established in 1900. It was governed according to colonial legislation, particularly the 1948 Building Line regulations and the 1957 Public Health Law.
The city was much smaller and was made up of Lagos Island (Eko) which included Ikoyi and Obalende neighbourhoods. It was a beautiful environment that featured Portuguese, Brazilian, and British Victorian architecture. Its streets were clean and tree-lined. Urban crime was virtually non-existent.
Governance standards declined when political control of Lagos, and the rest of Nigeria, came under military rule between 1966 and 1979 and again from 1984 to 1999. Proximity of the two capitals – federal and state, respectively – in the Ikoyi and Ikeja neighbourhoods of the same conurbation, put more pressure on the city. In the 1970s the city expanded to link up previously distinct areas such as Ikeja, Mushin, Orile, Ojo, Oshodi and Agege.
The result was increased pollution, congestion and wear on infrastructure. This was particularly true between 1970 and 1991.
But things have changed. Efforts have been made to revitalise the city in terms of a cleaner and greener environment, improved road and water infrastructure, urban bus system and waste management, overhaul of security and consultation with citizens through town hall meetings.
Nevertheless, big challenges remain. The city still has far too many slums and squatter settlements, it lacks a functioning public transportation system, proper traffic management, efficient waste disposal, sanitation, adequate potable water supply and routine road maintenance.
Lagos also suffers because of problems that afflict the country. There isn’t regular electricity supply, and there are high rates of poverty and unemployment. And, as elsewhere in the country, many residents don’t comply with laws on building, traffic and sanitation.
Lagos was affected positively as well as negatively by Nigeria’s 1970s emergence as a major crude oil producer.
On the upside, there was investment in infrastructure. This included the building of the second bridge linking the Island, the Eko Bridge, and re-building of the first (colonial) Carter Bridge. The third and longest bridge was commissioned in 1990.
These bridges were aimed at improving accessibility between the two islands (Victoria and Lagos) and the mainland. But, uncontrolled commercial development on the islands has produced persistent traffic bottlenecks. This has been worsened by the lack of a public transport system.
Two developments added to pressures on the city. Its population burgeoned while infrastructure lagged behind. This period marked the beginning of the decline of planning for the city. The worst periods were the late 1980s and the 1990s. As architects Rem Koolhaas and Kunle Adeyemi noted in an interview, these were Lagos’ darkest times:
Lagos, in the 1990s, was the ultimate dysfunctional city and an example of what happens to a society where the state is absent. At that point the state had really withdrawn from Lagos; the city was left to its own devices, both in terms of money and services.
The city was being governed by the military. But it was not cut out for governance, had no accountability and couldn’t care less about planning and environmental issues. As a result it routinely disregarded existing regulations.
In the 1990s, for instance, the largest public park in Lagos – the old, colonial 10-hectare Victoria Park in Ikoyi – was sold as residential development land. The waterfront of the Lagos Cowrie Creek in Victoria Island was also sold for commercial development, effectively blocking direct public access to the waters and a picturesque view of Ikoyi.
The collapse of zoning all over Lagos also led to residential neighbourhoods such as Victoria Island and southwest Ikoyi being converted for commercial use. The military had no reasoned response to Lagos’ urban challenges. Instead, it took the decision in 1975 to establish a new capital in Abuja.
This move, which finally came to fruition in December 1991, left Lagos forlorn.
Positive changes have taken place.
For example, over the past 15 years the authorities succeeded in raising more taxes using money to restore basic infrastructure, expand public services and strengthen law enforcement.
Research shows that the commitment to reform the city was driven by electoral pressures as well as elite ambitions to construct an orderly megacity. The return to democracy helped to make these changes possible by enabling an elected government to work in the people’s interest.
Improvements includes public transport and the reclamation and greening of previously disused and misused spaces below Lagos’s many flyovers, bridges and interchanges. In addition, roads have been fixed and pavements built. In some parts of the city there is potable water supply and blighted residential and commercial areas have been rebuilt.
But, given decades of neglect, a great deal still needs to be done.
One of the biggest problems is the lack of coherent and integrated development .
Another major issue is flooding which Bongo Adi, a Lagos based environmental expert argues, hasn’t been decisively tackled.
Nor have improvements over the past decade impressed everyone. As Femi Akintunde argues, Lagos remains deplorable, rowdy, unsanitary, and a city of the urban poor. Akintunde is the managing editor and CEO of Financial Nigeria International Limited.
For these issues to be fixed, the standard of governance has to improve.
Who should run the city?
There are two potential authorities: Lagos state, sitting at the top, and the municipal authorities which interact with the grassroots.
The problem is that Lagos city isn’t really run by the city authorities. But effective urban governance should be “bottom-up”, making it possible for the people to take increasingly greater control over their lives.
In addition, being run from the top means that local capacity is being stunted. This has implications for sustainable change. As international fellow at International Institute for Environment and Development Jorgelina Hardoy says,
sustainable development in cities largely depends on the actions and capacity of local governments.
Whoever takes charge should recognise the necessity of getting residents’ buy-in before implementing modernisation policies. The city can’t develop by leaving its people behind.
Also, city planners should not plan for only the rich to the exclusion of the poor and disadvantaged. While accepting that slums and informal settlements have to be tackled, my research recommends a policy rethink that should involve
enabling strategies which fully address the rights of people who are illegally settled on public land.
As Nigeria celebrates 59th Independence anniversary, an indigenous company says it is intensifying efforts to begin assembling of solar cars by 2020.
Mr Moses Onaja, Chief Executive Officer, Sun Energy Community Development Initiative (SECODI), made the disclosure last week during an exhibition of solar products in Ibadan.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the exhibition was aimed at inspiring Nigerians to have access to renewable and clean energy which is environmental friendly.
"We want to promote the use of renewable energy products in Nigeria to promote a clean and healthy environment.
"What we want to do now is to start assembling solar cars in Nigeria. Let it not just be in China.
"By the special grace of God, we want to see how we can work with the government to ensure that; we are hoping that in 2020 we should have the assembly point here," he said.
Onaja said that the company discovered that some people died from diseases caused by fossil fuel, adding that it would want to bring solutions toward minimising deaths from air pollution in Nigeria.
"For over six years, we have been into solar research, and today, we have our solar car. It is a product of an imagination that has been translated into reality.
"This car can run purely on solar battery, and you don't have the issue of monthly maintenance or any kind of repair that you have to be doing regularly because it has little movable parts inside," he said.
He described the manufacture of a solar car as a breakthrough, adding that it had no accident-prone part. Onaja said that SECODI worked in partnership with some foreign companies to bring the car into reality, saying that the vehicle was built in collaboration with various technicians.
He gave the assurance that the price of the car would go down on commencement of assembling in the country.
"Even now, it is very affordable compared to what you expect of a car that doesn't run on fuel. It is actually very affordable," he said. NAN reports that the event featured presentation of a solar car to Mr Gbenga Akintoye, the Oyo State Coordinator of SECODI.
The event also featured exhibition of SECODI solar television sets and tricycles, among other products using solar energy.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ostensibly came to South Africa to boost business ties between the two countries. But he missed a golden opportunity to drum up business by skipping a forum with business leaders because he was worried about security.
President Cyril Ramaphosa attended the forum for several hours, addressing the business people and taking questions. Some of the business people who had been expecting Buhari were disappointed by his no-show, sources said.
He was billed to appear with Ramaphosa but his security people checked out the venue of the forum – the sprawling convention centre of Gallagher Estate in Midrand – and decided on the morning of the event that it was not secure enough for him to attend, according to diplomatic sources.
One said there were no hard feelings from the SA government side – who found Buhari warm and friendly – just a feeling that he had missed a good opportunity to boost commercial ties between the two countries.
These took a knock during the recent eruption of xenophobic violence in South Africa, some of it directed against Nigerians and their businesses. Nigerian mobs retaliated in Nigeria by attacking the premises of South African companies such as Shoprite and MTN.
Agreeing on measures to prevent a recurrence of this violence and building up the commercial relations between the two countries were the major focal points of Buhari’s state visit and the Binational Commission between the two countries which he and Ramaphosa co-chaired on Thursday.
Buhari’s anxiety about security appears to be related more to tensions within the Nigerian diaspora rather than any fear of attack by South Africans.
While he was meeting Ramaphosa at the Union Buildings on Thursday, Tshwane Metro Police reportedly used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse a handful of Nigerians – calling themselves Biafran nationals – who were demonstrating in front of the building. Some carried placards calling Buhari an imposter and demanding that Ramaphosa send him home.
They claim the “real Buhari” died in 2017, when Buhari was very ill and spent most of the year receiving treatment in London.
Self-styled Biafrans are calling for a separate state in southern Nigeria, trying to revive the movement which lead to the secession of several states to form the Republic of Biafra in 1967 in a region mostly inhabited by Igbo people.
That prompted a long civil war in which between 500,000 and two million Biafran civilians died before Biafra surrendered to Nigeria.
Another grievance of some expatriate Nigerians is the arrest in August this year of Omoyele Sowore, a Nigerian journalist and human rights activist. He ran against Buhari in the February presidential elections and was arrested after rejecting the election as rigged and calling for a protest tagged RevolutionNow.
When Buhari addressed the Nigerian community at a Pretoria hotel on Friday, some of his compatriots refused entry to the meeting were calling for Sowore’s release.
Rather ironically, even some members of Buhari’s own ruling APC party could not gain entry, because they were considered too radical, they told journalists.
A few Nigerians who were allowed into the meeting said Buhari spoke to them for about 10 minutes.
“Let me also call on Nigerians to be law-abiding and respect constituted authorities while you live here,” Buhari said, according to remarks tweeted by his office.
“May I also enjoin the few that sometimes give us a bad name, to desist from such misdemeanours and be our good ambassadors.”
This echoed his reply at a joint press conference with Ramaphosa after their meeting on Thursday to a South African journalist who asked him if he did not think the recent xenophobic violence in South Africa against Nigerians, among other foreign Africans, was partly prompted by the perception that they were involved in so much crime.
He said Nigerians understood the maxim that, “When in Rome do as the Romans do” and therefore obeyed the laws of their host country.
At the Pretoria hotel meeting, Buhari also assured his compatriots that he and the South African government had agreed on measures to tackle the xenophobic violence to ensure it did not recur.
Ramaphosa had told a press conference after meeting Buhari that these measures included establishing an early warning mechanism to pick up any signals of imminent xenophobic violence so steps could be taken to pre-empt it. He and Buhari also said that police and intelligence agencies in both countries would cooperate with each other, share information and raise levels of alertness to forestall such violence.
According to official sources, the Nigerian government is also concerned that Nigerian citizens in South African jails are not prevented from using their cellphones. Many of them continue to mastermind criminal activities in Nigeria from their South African cells, the Nigerians complained.
The South African government promised to look into this. It is not clear if the Nigerian government was referring, among others, to Nigerian oil militant Henry Okah who is serving a 24-year jail sentence in a South African prison after the High Court convicted him in 2013 on 13 terrorism-related charges over twin car bombings in Nigeria during the country’s Independence Day celebrations in 2010.
Ironically, given Buhari’s no-show at the business forum, he and Ramaphosa “welcomed the important role of the Business Forum which took place on the margins of the State Visit,” in a joint communiqué after their Union Building meeting.
They also welcomed the decision of the two governments to establish a Joint Ministerial Advisory Council on Industry, Trade and Investment which is expected to be critical in boosting private sector participation in the economies of both countries.
Ramaphosa said business and investment relations between the two countries were already strong and Nigeria accounted for 64% of SA’s trade with West Africa. The two governments had agreed to further strengthen economic ties by deepening their reforms to ensure their economies were more open to business and encouraging more Nigerian investment in SA.
He and Buhari noted the “significant footprint” of SA companies in Nigeria in sectors such as telecommunications, mining, aviation, banking and finance, retail, property, entertainment and fast foods.
By contrast, they also welcomed Nigerian business in SA but noted that it was mostly “small, micro or medium sized – with the exception of the big investment of Dangote Sephaku Cement.
At the press conference after their meeting, Ramaphosa said he would like to see a better balance in the investment relationship and would seek to achieve this by improving the environment for big Nigerian companies to invest here.
“We want to welcome more and more Nigerian businesses to operate in our space,” Ramaphosa said.
He added growing relations between the two countries were evidenced by the 32 cooperation agreements signed between them, covering a wide field including trade and industry, science and technology, defence, agriculture, energy, transport, arts and culture and tourism.
The two governments identified key sectors to boost investment for economic growth and development, including roads, railways, mining, manufacturing and agro-processing.
Credit: Daily Maverick
Soft power is the opposite of coercive capability or hard power, such as the use of economic and military might. Soft power involves trying to influence other countries using culture, values and policies.
South Africa is one of the African countries that has taken advantage of the opportunity that the use of soft power presents. It’s successfully hosted international summits and sporting events such as the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference and the 2010 World Cup football tournament.
I would argue that Nigeria, with its impressive soft power capabilities, has surprisingly lagged behind.
There are three key ways in which Nigeria exercises some degree of soft power. These are culture, business and foreign policy programmes that send Nigerians abroad to help with peacekeeping and skills training.
Despite having remarkable soft power resources, there’s no coordination of efforts to harness their potential. Compare this to China, that has used its soft power assets to extend influence across the world. This has included building Confucius Institutes, exporting cheap products and offering development assistance. These have shaped the preferences of other states and consequently helped it to emerge a global power.
Abuja does not manage its soft power carefully.
Nigeria’s first problem is that it has a democracy deficit. The country doesn’t score well on major indices such as the Democracy Index, The Freedom House, the Mo Ibrahim Governance Index and Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index that all measure democratic governance.
This damages Nigeria’s democracy credentials and undermines its moral authority to promote effective governance across the continent.
The influence of Nollywood
One of the most potent promoters of Nigeria’s cultural soft power is arguably Nollywood. The country’ movie industry has displaced Hollywood and Bollywood as the most important movie industry on the continent. It has also overshadowed local content across Africa and its diaspora. It’s now the world’s second largest producer of films after Bollywood.
Its increasing appeal is demonstrated by its visibility in the Americas, Europe, and the Caribbean. Among African viewers, the extent of Nollywood’s influence can be heard in mimicking the Nigerian accent, growth of Nigerian pidgin English, and Nigerian fashion.
Nigerian music has also made inroads. For example, Nigerian musicians have dominated the MTV Africa Music Awards since their inauguration in 2008. And many black British and American artists are of Nigerian origin. Some, such as Jidenna and Simon Webbe, have used their fame to promote Nigerian culture, and to challenge negative stereotypes of their ancestral home.
Both Nollywood and the music industry provide the platforms to challenge the negative portrayal of Nigeria and its 180 million citizens as purveyors of corruption, drug-trafficking, terrorism, fraud, and internet scams.
But neither has been able to shift the dial in Nigeria’s favour. Take Nollywood, it has failed to exert the same sort of influence as Hollywood in the US which not only showcases the US’s economic and military might but also its cultural hegemony. This is in no small part a consequence of the US government’s significant support to the industry.
Compare this with the small grants offered to Nollywood. These are clearly insignificant given the potential of the industry.
In the realm of foreign policy, Nigeria’s soft power is illustrated by its peacemaking and peacekeeping roles. This is most notable in countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Sudan’s Darfur region. This is addition to contributions to regional integration in West Africa and liberation struggles in southern Africa.
Nigeria’s Technical Aid Corps has served as an institutional platform to project the country’s soft power. Through this initiative, Nigeria sends volunteers to countries with a dearth of skills in fields such as architecture, engineering, law, medicine, and science.
Since its inception three decades ago, more than 4000 volunteers have been deployed to over 38 countries. Ongoing requests for these volunteers serve as proof that Nigeria’s skilled workers are in demand.
Nevertheless, the technical volunteer programme and Abuja’s overall foreign policy have failed to change anti-Nigerian sentiments fundamentally. This reflects a lack of coordinated efforts by the Nigerian government to subtly use the opportunity presented by the Technical Aid Corps.
Seizing the opportunity
Given these realities, Nigeria is, at best, a potential soft power state. While its soft power resources are greater than most other African states, its soft power influence leaves much to be desired.
To ameliorate this situation, Abuja should take advantage of the soft power resources at the country’s disposal. West Africa’s Gulliver has abundant human and material resources. Nollywood needs to reinvent itself to shape the perception of its African audiences about the country. Nigerian policymakers and academics, finally, must engage the sources and implications of Nigeria’s soft power.