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WAS IT THE BANKERS WHO TOOK AWAY OUR DOLLARS?

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By Segun Sanni

Nigeria is a peculiar place where those who know absolutely nothing about a topic would be making outlandish claims on the topic with supreme confidence that would make even a subject matter expert green with envy. To this nameless author that made the rounds all over the social media in the past week, 99% of bank MDs and executives are thieves and they are the ones behind the ongoing economic and currency crises bedeviling Nigeria. He obviously took his cue from a similar erroneous claim by elder statesman, Chief Bode George, to the effect that bankers were the ones behind the collapse of the Naira. He even mentioned some names to personify the object of his anger but with tremendous respect, Baba only waxed very angry and emotional, pretty much symptomatic of the current mood in the land, widespread anger at the government and at anyone perceived to either contribute to or is not/less affected by the spreading hunger and general hardship in the country. It would not occur, neither matter, to them that bankers are not exempted from the national calamity and they almost compete in number with doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals on the Japa exodus queues. But back to Baba George, he did not make ANY single valid charge against Wigwe or the other bankers that he mentioned in his diatribe, and I will try quote him verbatim:
“Emefiele, Elumelu, Adeola…all of them, stupendously wealthy now! Wigwe, who became MD of Access Bank immediately the other young man left, has now established a university. He has the temerity to be advertising that university on CNN. Wigwe University! That’s personally established by him! Where’s the money? Where’s his factory??Access Bank! What is the practice? They release dollars to them on monthly basis. They use the dollars! If it’s at 1 to 100, they will get it through the Mallam to say 1 to 200. You see that profit, what do they do with it? Who are the commercial people that really need it and get it? Most people get back to the Mallam to buy dollars. You hardly would get from the bank unless you are…Is that commercial activity?? So, what they had done to this nation, they must all be invited for discussion because the rottenness started from there, and it’s been going on for years! But it has exploded now on our faces!…”*

And let us do the analysis: a man who had a strong passion and track record for excellence came out and said he wanted to establish a world class university with international standard facilities and top notch foreign professors and university administrators to attract students from Nigeria and other African countries who ordinarily would have been targeting European and American universities. And we knew this guy to be an unbeatable go-getter who had the uncommon grace to achieve virtually all he set his sight on, where should we expect him to advertise the culmination of his dream project and to invite students? On Radio OYO or LTV Channel 8??? We’re so used to things not working around here that we forget this school could be, or could have been, a major source of pride, prestige, foreign exchange, profit and academic prowess to our country! Are we aware of how much revenue and foreign exchange British universities attract to Britain every year? Recently, I read a report that British universities made £5.4bn from overseas students in 2015-2016 academic session (one session) but the same figure had grown 71% to £9.7bn (about N20 Trillion which would equal Nigeria’s one year debt-funded budget) by the 2021-2022 academic session, amounting to 21.5% of all incomes earned by the universities in the same year. This is a huge source of income/liquidity aside the attendant spillover effects on housing, food, tourism and general aggregate demand in the economy from the influx of international students. Why do we believe we cannot replicate the same here, at least from within the African region?? Are we going to reach Africa through NTA Channel 7?
Now back to Baba’s charges: 1. That bankers make their profit from selling and round tripping foreign exchange! 2. That Nigerians don’t get dollars to buy in the banks bcs the bankers have sold the dollars to Mallams??? Haba!!! Do you know of any industry that is as strictly monitored and regulated in Nigeria as banks?? If you know one that comes close, please mention it here. The Central Bank has a whole Banking Supervision (and Examination) Department, headed by a Director and a coterie of banking experts and auditors whose jobs would also be on the line should they fail to spot and report any infractions or violations or red flags which later became an issue or got discovered after their visit. CBN is almost overbearing on the banks and is always on their backs, issuing circulars and directives with threats and actions of serious penalties and consequences should there be a violation. Some in our midst think the CBN just allocates dollars to the banks to disburse as they deem fit and the banks then take the dollars to the Mallams. But that is not how things work. Every dollar that the CBN releases to the banks is backed by an actual transaction with a customer completing and signing the forms (sometimes electronic forms) and with the funds released directly to the eligible destination depending on the nature of the transaction. Every dollar the CBN releases to the banks is tied to a customer request and can be easily traced and confirmed in the customer’s account. And the customer’s foreign exchange transactions can be traced across all the banks because the accounts are all connected to a BVN.
From the above, the allegation that Nigerians don’t get dollars from the banks is a very false and unfair allegation. There was no big problem with dollar funding for eligible transactions until our economy was grounded by serious mismanagement and dollar flows dried up in the economy. It is not the making of the banks. The banks do not print or manufacture dollars. Is there anyone here who travelled abroad three to four years ago and couldn’t buy PTA dollars from his banker and had to buy from Mallams?? Is there anyone here whose child attended school abroad up till about four years ago and didn’t get dollars/Pounds from the banks and had to buy from Mallams?? Is there anyone here whose business opened an LC up to four years ago and whose bank would not remit the FX and had to buy from Mallams?? It was only recently that the sh.t hit the fan and the utter mismanagement and complete grounding of our economy became a crisis where the system ran out of dollars. The fact is that the system ran out of dollars, and not that the bank MDs gave the money to Mallams.
The question of “where is your factory?” is a rather old fashioned, almost archaic, way to look at business and wealth in today’s world. In the years leading to the 18th to early 19th centuries, farming was the way to make money for most people and the guy who had the biggest farm and the most number of people on his farm was the wealthiest guy, and that was the main reason behind inter tribal warfare and slavery, the quest for manpower. Later on from around the 1820s, the engine was (re)invented and there resulted the Industrial Revolution. With that came the tractors, etc and the resultant less need for human hands (a tractor would do in thirty minutes what hundred men would do on a farm in a whole day). That was one of the big reasons behind the abolition of slave trade. And with the Industrial Revolution came a new need, the need for large scale raw materials to feed their factories, and that was the big basis for colonialism and the Partition of Africa.
The rich people were then the industrialists, those who owned factories. Those were the days of the Rockefellers (oil), the Carnegies (steel), the Fords (automobiles), the Vanderbilts (rail and shipping), etc. And after the World Wars and with the emergence of economic and political stability, the global population grew tremendously and the products and services to sustain the large populations were then the focus. And that is the background to the question of “where is your factory?” whenever they would investigate how people made money. The industrialists were the champions of those days, just as the plantation owners before them, but the world has evolved and the needs of the ever growing world population have also evolved. Technology (including telephony), banking and logistics have emerged very strongly and have become the dominant businesses in today’s world. As at 1990, the 20 largest global companies were:

1 General Motors
2 Ford Motor
3 Exxon Mobil
4 Intl. Business Machines (IBM)
5 General Electric (GE)
6 Mobil
7 Altria Group
8 Chrysler
9 DuPont
10 Texaco
11 ChevronTexaco
12 Amoco
13 Shell Oil
14 Procter & Gamble
15 Boeing
16 Occidental Petroleum
17 United Technologies
18 Eastman Kodak
19 Marathon Oil
20 Dow Chemical
Source: S&P 500.

But the tech companies have taken over in the past decade. Today, the tech companies are the global giants. The top ten largest companies in the world in 2020 are:

  1. Apple Inc
  2. Microsoft Corp
  3. Alphabet Inc
  4. Amazon
  5. Berkshire Hathaway Inc
  6. Facebook
  7. Ali Baba Group
  8. JP Morgan Chase
  9. Tancent Holdings Limited
  10. Visa Inc.

These are mostly new/young companies which came in and took centre stage way beyond the global players of the past.
In most countries of the world today, the largest companies are the tech companies, the phone companies, the banks and the oil companies, not the factories.
In all of history, an economic crisis always leads to mass anger, resentment and frustration with the government, the wealthy and even with many in the middle class. Baba is only expressing similar frustration but those of us who know should not join in those claims which have no foundation at all. How can anyone claim to miss the obvious and unusual entrepreneurial passion, courage and the can-do spirit bristling in and driving Herbert and Aig? How can one imagine it’s CBN’s FX that would be behind a Nigerian bank being one of the largest banks in Africa and building sizable subsidiary businesses in the UK, US and China aside its tentacles in the African continent?? Even if all of Nigeria’s meagre FX was given to Access Bank alone, how much would that amount to?? If that was how easily CBN dollars were available for banks to corner and make huge profits upon, why have we had so many bank failures in Nigerian history? Are you aware that many more banks have failed in Nigeria than survived?? Or dollars just became available in the banks when Herbert and Aig set up their bank?
Now please note, young folks are also operating and making waves in the Fintech world today, the Flutterwaves of this world. They’re filling a gap and rendering much needed payment services and are making good money, legitimately. We better get used to them and pray that our children be like them and the successful clean bankers.
I pass no judgment on the Access-Intercontinental Banks acquisition issue which has also been beaten to death in the social media since Herbert died. I have not the full details to make a fair judgement, but on this claim that it’s banks not allowing you to get dollars, I say fa…fa…fa…foul, in the voice of Pa Zebrudayah Nwogbo, alias 430. 😀😂

And if you care to know what led us to where we are, they’re three or four main things. Let me quickly summarize them:

  1. The last government borrowed huge sums of money domestically and internationally. We mostly don’t know what the loans were spent upon. Nigeria is currently spending over 50% of dollars accruing to us on servicing the debts that we cannot account for.
  2. Unprecedentedly large volumes of Nigeria’s oil was stolen between 2021 and 2023. At a point, we were losing up to 1m barrels of oil DAILY with the government not raising any alarm and with no one arrested so far. Dollars were not coming in to Nigeria bcs the remaining oil that was not stolen, NNPC took the proceeds as “petrol subsidy” recovery.
  3. From the above, the government started printing/taking illegal empty money from the CBN, money that merely expanded the monetary base and was not backed by any production. At the last count, over N25 Trillion was so printed. Our leaders apparently did not watch “The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin” in the 1970s. How can we repeat this error in today’s world??
    3a. This primarily is the source of the serious inflation that we’re experiencing in Nigeria apart from food shortages arising from weather and insecurity.
    3b. In a staggering error that begs for explanation, the CBN kept trying to tackle the inflation by raising the interest rate rather than cut the source of the problem, the illegal money being printed for the government. This raised interest rates for the productive sectors of the economy and crowded them out of the loans market.
    3c. The illegal money so printed and which expanded the monetary base (money supply) of the economy is also joining other (existing) monies to chase for fx (some even allege the politicians are using the empty money to buy FX).
  4. In continuation of the reckless borrowing and spending which defined the last government, they had also taken loans and pledged future oil production as payment source. So, much of the oil we’re producing today, the money is not coming in as it is being used to service those debts.

Numbers 1,2 and 4 above contributed to deplete our foreign reserves while number 3 led to/aggravated inflationary and fx pressures. For the first time in history, oil prices have been high in the past two years since Putin attacked Ukraine but Nigeria is broke in the period of oil boom. Unprecedented but it is what it is.
From the above, do you still think it’s the banks taking your dollars and selling them to Mallams?? Why is CBN not arresting them and flooding the market with dollars?
Please ‘hep’ me ‘on’ television make I watch Pa Zebrudayah. 😂

-Segun Sanni is an ex-banker and trouble maker in the Ibadan-Lagos axis of political and economic conversations. 😂

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Opinion

ITU and the race to fund SDGs in 2030

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By Sonny Aragba-Akpore.

 

The International Telecommunications Union,s ( ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference (PP) due for Doha,Qatar in 2026 holds very significant milestones for the global digital telecommunications body.

For one thing,it’s going to be the first of such conferences to be hosted by the Doreen Bogdan-Martins led Executive Council of the ITU.

2026 is also the year the ITU earmarked for the collation of the funds to connect the rest of the unconnected world under the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Only last month,at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS),Geneva,Switzerland,donor countries raised funds that have increased the available moneys for the SDGs to over $50billion accounting for more than 50% of the anticipated $100billion for the projects.

ITU , the UN Agency for Digital Technologies, announced on May 27,2024 a donation of a $4.8 billion in investment commitments toward global connectivity.

The announcement brings the total pledges aimed at closing the digital divide through ITU’s Partner2Connect Digital Coalition (P2C) to $50.96 billion, over half the $100 billion goal set for 2026.

The pledges to Partner2Connect, ITU’s platform to advance universal meaningful connectivity, were announced during the opening day of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+20 Forum High-Level Event in Geneva, Switzerland.
The new commitments announced at the WSIS Forum event were pledges that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance digital access, adoption and inclusion.

A visibly excited,ITU Secretary General,Bogdan-Martins told the gathering in Geneva that
“Closing the digital divide requires a team effort, and today we scored a huge win for global connectivity,” she said adding “I am thrilled to see these amazing new commitments and that we have united P2C and WSIS to break through the halfway point in our goal to help bring the benefits of digital connectivity to everyone, everywhere.”

UN documents say “the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to transform our world. These are calls to action to end poverty and inequality, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy health, justice and prosperity.”

SDGs were born at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro,Brazil in 2012. The objective was to produce a set of universal goals that meet the urgent environmental, political and economic challenges facing our world.As part of the declarations,SDG agenda took root in 2015 and will run till 2030.

SDG Digital highlights that the funding gap of over $3.7 trillion for the SDGs should focus international efforts on enablers—such as infrastructure and connectivity—as well as the pooling of resources through collaboration including the private sector and the utilization of diverse financing methods.
There are hopes on the horizon as SDG Digital received new commitments to accelerate progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.

As part of the strategy to sustain the drive for funds to bridge the digital divide,ITU,s PP 26 in Doha is expected to bring the fund raising push upto date.

In 2023, the number of people not connected to the Internet decreased to an estimated 2.6 billion or 33 per cent from the estimated 2.7 billion people offline in 2022. Only 67 per cent of the world’s population, or 5.4 billion people, were online in 2023, the ITU said.

“This improvement in connectivity is another step in the right direction, and one more step towards leaving no one behind in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals,” said Bogdan-Martin, in a statement.

“We won’t rest until we live in a world where meaningful connectivity is a lived reality for everyone, everywhere,” Bogdan-Martin added.

According to early estimates, growth in Internet connectivity remains the strongest in low-income countries where data indicate that Internet users increased by about 17 per cent over the past year. However, less than one-third of individuals are connected to the Internet in these countries.

UN assessments on the progress so far explained that half of the 169 SDG targets is either weak or insufficient at the 2030 Agenda’s halfway point. 30 % of the SDG targets have either stalled or gone in reverse.
“With digital transformation demanding joint efforts between the private sector, financial institutions, civil society, the UN, governments and young people, SDG Digital brings together experts, policy-makers and business leaders to explore the achievements, gaps and solutions on how digital technologies can support the 2030 Agenda.”

Last week ,Qatar , the host country of the next International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference (PP-26), announced the nomination of Mr.Ahmad Abdulla AlMuslemani,an engineer and President of the Communications Regulatory Authority (CRA), as Chairman-designate for the local organizing committee (LOC).

The ITU Plenipotentiary Conference (PP) is the highest decision-making body of ITU, the PP-26 will take place in Doha, Qatar, from November 9 to 27,2026.

“ITU’s next Plenipotentiary Conference in Qatar will set the stage for a digital future where human-centered technology drives progress and inclusion for everyone,”Bogdan-Martin. said adding “Under Eng. Ahmad Abdulla AlMuslemani’s leadership, I’m confident that PP-26 will make great strides in advancing ITU’s mission to connect the world meaningfully and sustainably.”

Delegates representing ITU’s 193 Member States meet every four years at the Plenipotentiary Conference to set out the organization’s strategic and financial plans. They also elect ITU’s senior management team, the Member States of the ITU Council, and the members of the Radio Regulations Board.

The decision to host PP-26 in Doha was adopted by consensus by ITU Member States in October 2022 at ITU’s Plenipotentiary Conference 2022, in Bucharest, Romania.
In its bid to host PP-26, the country noted its strong infrastructure for information and communication technologies as well as its status as a world leader in organizing and hosting major events, including high-level global and regional conferences across a variety of sectors.

As CRA President, AlMuslemani leverages over 18 years of rich experience in the information and communication technologies sector to strategically shape regulatory policies and digital infrastructure development.

His leadership plays a crucial role in aligning Qatar’s digital transformation initiatives with the National Development Strategy and Digital Agenda 2030.

AlMuslemani holds a Master’s degree in Communication Systems from the Swiss Institute of Technology and a Master’s in Management from HEC Paris in Qatar.

He also obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Ohio State University, USA. His combined technical and managerial expertise spans Big Data, the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, and notably, the deployment of 5G networks, which are pivotal in enhancing connectivity and technological access throughout Qatar. This expertise will undoubtedly add significant value to the PP-26 discussions.​​

Mr. Mohammed bin Ali Al Mannai, Qatar’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, said: “This appointment underscores Qatar’s commitment to shaping the future of global communications and ensuring equitable access to information and communication technologies for all. We are confident that AlMuslemani’s extensive experience will be instrumental in guiding the conference towards impactful resolutions and fostering a collaborative environment for the ITU member states.”

As Chair-designate, AlMuslemani will work with ITU and its Member States to prepare for PP-26, which will guide the organization’s work through 2030 in overseeing global radio spectrum allocation, creating global technical standards, and advancing sustainable development through connectivity to digital technologies.

“Qatar has a proven track record of successfully organizing and hosting major international events.

We are confident that Qatar will be an exemplary host for the ITU Plenipotentiary Conference. It will be our honor to welcome the global ICT community to Doha, where we will share our rich culture, heritage, and hospitality. This conference presents an invaluable opportunity for us to collectively advance the global ICT agenda, fostering innovation and cooperation that will shape the future of digital technologies worldwide,” said AlMuslemani.

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Opinion

NEMESIS AS SHORT DISTANCE RUNNER

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*By Tunde Olusunle*

When he flung Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, (SLS) out of the window of the Emir’s palace in Kano four years ago, Abdullahi Ganduje would have least imagined what is playing out today. Ganduje was the “Lord of the Manor” in Kano State, the all-powerful chief executive. Recall video clips of Ganduje allegedly stuffing wads and packs of crisp, mint-fresh dollar bills into the bottomless pocket of his *babanriga* ahead of the 2019 general elections. They were reportedly gifted to him by some contractor ally of the erstwhile Kano governor who was repaying a good turn. Graphic and unassailable as that short motion picture was, former President Muhammadu Buhari who rode into office on the camelback of now suspect integrity in 2015, volunteered a baffling defence for Ganduje. He swore Ganduje was most probably participating in a *Kannywood* movie, the way the film industry up North is described. Buhari who has never been known to operate a tablet, nay a notepad, suggested that advanced technology could actually simulate what we all saw in that short clip!

Ganduje was the prototype *alagbara ma m’ero* as we say in Yoruba. This interpretes as the “maximally muscular, minimally reasonable.” He fought a few other prominent Kano leaders during his heydays in Government House. Recall he carried his unabated squabbles with one of his predecessors, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso to the State House, Aso Villa, during the early weeks of the Bola Tinubu government. Told on one occasion that Kwankwaso was in a particular section of Aso Rock same time as he was in the complex, a vexed Ganduje said Kwankwaso should consider himself fortunate. He said he, Ganduje would have slapped Kwankwaso if he sighted him in the Villa! That would have caused a scene in Nigeria’s seat of power. I’m now just imagining how Tinubu would be trying to restrain Ganduje, in the forecourt of the office of the President, while Vice President Kashim Shettima will be pulling at Kwankwaso’s *agbada* in a bid to manage the situation.

Ganduje reportedly considered Sanusi too independent-minded and outspoken for a natural ruler. Sanusi was governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN), before being appointed Emir in 2014. He had always had a radical streak about him which culminated in his suspension as CBN head in 2014 for blowing the whistle on the theft of $20 Billion in accruals from crude oil sales. As Emir he considered aspects of the religious and cultural practices of his emirate repugnant. He opposed the “ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam” in some parts of northern Nigeria, which discouraged girl-child education, family planning, even inoculation against potential healthcare afflictions. He had reservations about the style of Ganduje as governor and didn’t put a veil over his dislike for the return of Ganduje to Government House in 2019.

He believed Ganduje shouldn’t have made it back if the poll was fairly and transparently conducted. March 9, 2020, Ganduje upended Sanusi. He was accused of negatively impacting the sanctity, culture, tradition, religion and prestige of the Kano emirate, and disrespecting the governor’s office. He was also alleged to have disposed of property belonging to the state and the misappropriated of the proceeds. It was a case of digging several manholes for a prey in a bid to ensure he falls into one of the several traps. He was summarily banished to Nasarawa State for effect. Sanusi sought reprieve in the courts which ruled it was an overkill to fling him to a remote community faraway from his family and more accustomed home in Lagos. Within a few days, Nasir El Rufai, Sanusi’s longstanding friend who was governor of Kaduna State, personally enforced the evacuation of Sanusi from Awe local government area in Nasarawa State.

For whatever his contributions were to the emergence of Tinubu as president after the 2023 polls, Ganduje believed he would be compensated with a ministerial slot in the former’s regime. Like Nyesom Wike, David Umahi, Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, Atiku Bagudu, Simon Lalong, former governors of Rivers, Ebonyi, Jigawa, Kebbi and Plateau states, Ganduje dusted his curriculum vitae to pitch for a slot on Tinubu’s federal executive council. His five colleagues in the “2015 – 2019- 2023 class of governors” made the cut, not Ganduje. Tinubu spontaneously made him chairman of the All Progressives Congress, (APC], the vehicle which delivered him as president. Abdullahi Adamu his predecessor and former governor of Nasarawa State was, as has become standard practice in Nigeria’s notorious political rule book, schemed out and compelled to resign from office.

If Ganduje ever thought his chairmanship of the APC was going to be a walk in the park, he was thoroughly mistaken. Indeed, he’s grossed sufficient experience in his present office to know that there are sharp differences between wholesale insulation in Government House, and the inevitable overexposure of party leadership. Last April, a faction of the APC in Ganduje’s primary “Ganduje ward” in *Dawakin Tofa* local government area of his home state, Kano, suspended him from the party. Haladu Gwanjo, legal adviser of Ganduje’s ward led some party leaders to pronounce the suspension. They advocated the return of the national chairmanship of the APC to the north central zone, where Ganduje’s predecessor, Adamu, hails from. The young Turks canvassed due process in party administration, consistent with the “renewed hope” mantra of the APC. Ganduje made a hurried recourse to the law courts for momentary reprieve.

Thursday May 23, 2024, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was reinstated as Emir of Kano by Ganduje’s successor in Kano State, Abba Yusuf. His cousin and successor, Aminu Ado-Bayero, was unceremoniously removed from office. The splinter emirates created by Ganduje in his bid to whittle down Sanusi’s authority as prime monarch in Kano, were similarly dissolved. The edifice which Ganduje built four years ago was apparently built of straw and spittle. Governor Abba Yusuf is a product of the *Kwankwasiya* political tendency in Kano politics, a creation of Rabiu Kwankwaso. Those who know a little about Nigerian politics will recall that Kwankwaso’s emergence in our politics, predates the fourth republic. He was an ardent student of the *talakawa* political orientation, pioneered by the venerable Kano-born leader, Aminu Kano. Kwankwaso was Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives of the Ibrahim Babangida political experimentation of 1992 to 1993.

Whereas the *Kwankwasiya* movement had long been entrenched, it was not until the run-up to the 2023 elections that Kwankwaso adopted a new platform, the Nigeria National People’s Party, (NNPP), on which he is espousing the populist philosophy of the *Kwankwasiya* brigade. Abba Yusuf rode to office on the back of this invention. It was the same way Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu the famous *Biafran* war lord, established the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA) in Anambra State. The party has remained a force in the politics of the state and indeed the south east. It has produced three Anambra governors in succession, notably Peter Obi, Willie Obiano and the incumbent Chukwuma Soludo.

Abba Yusuf has made no pretences about his disdain for Ganduje and everything he represents. Much as some of Yusuf’s early actions in office were generally perceived as wasteful, he nonetheless brought down as many edifices in Kano as bore the imprimatur of Ganduje. The “Kano golden jubilee roundabout” built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the creation of Kano State and structures built inside the *filin sukuwa,* (Kano race course), were hewn on Yusuf’s orders. The *hajj camp* which was reportedly bastardised by Ganduje who allegedly parcelled parts of it to his friends and associates was equally felled. There were suggestions that the value of the demolitions carried out by Yusuf could be in excess of N200Billion. Such is the anti-Ganduje sentiment in contemporary Kano State.

The way and manner the legacies of Abdullahi Ganduje are unravelling in Kano State should serve as a lesson to the shortsighted, incapable of seeing beyond the bridges of their nose. History is replete with the deconstruction of many leaders after their rulership and indeed keeps repeating itself in our sociopolitical experience. Those who are not circumspect, however, are too distracted by the allure and bliss of their immediate office, to think. They continue to drift, blunder and flounder, unmindful that time is their ultimate nemesis. Ganduje is just one year out of office, yet many of the decisions he made while in power for eight years are being unmade and thrown at his face like rotten tomatoes.

Until I joined him on the table he was seated at a wedding reception we both attended in Lagos a few weeks back, Rotimi Amaechi, governor of the oil-affluent Rivers State for eight years and Transportation Minister for another eight years was a lonely man. It turned out we flew back to Abuja on the same flight same evening after the event and sat not too far from each other. He opened the overhead locker atop his seat to bring out his luggage himself. Is anyone following the Yahaya Bello saga? He mindlessly trampled upon the hapless heads of his constituents in Kogi State for eight unbroken years? He left office last January and life has not been the same again. He has been declared wanted by at least one anti-graft agency. He will be arraigned in the rectangular, wood-panelled cubicle of the courtroom in a fortnight. A lesson for all.

*Tunde Olusunle, PhD, is a Fellow of the Association of Nigerian Authors, (FANA)*

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Opinion

Internal haemorrhage as threats to telecoms services

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By Sonny Aragba-Akpore

Without sounding a death-knell,telecommunications service companies are troubled.
Although,the big players display glamour and pictures of “all is well” what you see is
nothing but a facade as the companies are grasping for breath as a result of the internal haemorhage plaguing their service provision.
And unless government rejigs its policy on foreign exchange as a quick intervention, to cushion importation of equipment to boost services,many of the so called A grade players may go into worst shapes.
Operating Expenditure (OPEX) has more than doubled since 2021 and with dwindling foreign inflows through Foreign Direct Investments(FDIs), some telcos are now holding on to straw to survive.
The operators see their biggest challenges in their inability to provide quality of service and a result of recurrent vandalism of their infrastructure.
Every operator has become its own electricity power provider as supplies from national grid are now a pipe dream.Added to this, the spiral costs of diesel and its alleged incessant theft of same by unnamed persons creates bigger problems.
The rising cost of diesel is very worrisome as a litre that sold between 1200/1400 at pump landing at site is now as high as NGN 2000 per litre on site in some parts of the country.
Confirming the internal haemorhage,in the sector,an official who wants to be anonymous said part of the haemorrhage stems from significant high interconnect debts between players. Telcos are being owed alot of money thereby leading to terminal struggles for survival.
The telcos also list Political incursions as a major drawback hindering survival.
On the issue of Forex sources : “willing seller, willing buyer on forex, problem is bills that are being settled now due to long wait for forext transactions when Forex was at 700N =US1 and now being paid at the prevailing rate of 1,400+
High OPEX remains a major issue coupled with ⁠Low FDIs leading to concerns in industry sustainability.
They claim that the regulator is in a dilemma especially on tariff hike issues.
So Telcos are now on bent knees scrapping to provide services below cost.
And the Government looks elsewhere inspite of manifest inflation on every single item especially now that Infrastructure are experiencing decay and to replace same is slow and painful as telcos lament their inability to deliver robust Services .
To underscore a picture of this haemorrhage,
MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa (the only two telcos publicly traded) lost N479 billion to currency revaluation and recorded reduced profit margins in the first nine months of 2023.

In its financial report for Q1, 2024, for instance,MTN reported a second successive loss after declaring a loss after tax of N392.7 billion for the first quarter of 2024.

This is coming despite growing its service revenue by 32.0 per cent to N747.3 billion year-on-year, the telco recorded its second loss since it was listed on the Nigerian Exchange.

It noted that its net loss for the quarter further increased its accumulated losses and negative shareholders’ funds to N599.2 billion and N434.7 billion, respectively. It highlighted that its profit after tax adjusted for the net forex loss declined by 57.8 per cent to N47.1 billion.

“Further adjusting for the impact of the naira devaluation in OPEX, PAT would have been down by 5.3 per cent to N105.6 billion,” MTN said. The telco’s net foreign exchange loss stood at N656.37 billion.

MTN Nigeria’s chief executive officer, Karl Toriola, noted that severe macroeconomic headwinds overshadowed a solid operating performance. He said: “The operating environment in the first quarter remained very challenging, with rising inflation and continued naira depreciation off an already low base.” He stated that the naira’s devaluation and record-high inflation have impacted the operating environment for businesses in Nigeria.

The operators are agitating for tariff hikes as part of measures to sustain their operating expenditure.But that is half way through if all they get the regulator,s ,Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC)’s nod.

The operators are trying to justify the tariff increase because “Consumer prices in other sectors have seen a steep rise over the last six years as they adjust to reflect macroeconomic realities. However, telco prices have remained flat and even declined. Contrary to the price trends in other sectors, telcos have had to adjust for the macroeconomic headwinds caused by an increasing erosion of margins. Other highly regulated sectors such as power and insurance have implemented price increases over the last year. Insurance prices have risen 200 per cent with power raising prices by over 40 per cent.”

They also decry the strong macroeconomic headwinds which have occasioned tough operating conditions, leading to a decline in CAPEX (Domestic) and Foreign Direct (Capital Inflow) investments into the industry by 30.37 per cent and 46.9 per cent respectively between 2021 and 2022.

These headwinds include inability to source foreign exchange and attract foreign direct investment because investors have become uncomfortable because of the grave economic uncertainty in the country.

Without meaning to link the crisis to a flip flop economy,the operators think unless something urgent is done,providing quality of service will not be sustainable because of the multiple effects of operating costs.

Owing to the macroeconomic crisis , resulting in increased cost of operation and overheads, most telecom companies in Nigeria have been posting losses, making it difficult for them to pay their Annual Operating Levy (AOL) to the Commission as and when due.

The operators are worried about the restrictive regulatory approach which is unconducive for the highly needed innovation in this evolutionary era of newer communication technologies.

“We invite the EVC to note that the convergence of telecommunications with digital and multimedia services has greatly reduced the revenue streams from traditional telecommunications services (voice, SMS, etc.)and to survive this digital era, telecommunications operators have no choice but to quickly evolve into digital and platform service providers which enable newer and advanced means and uses of communications technology and this is only possible in a regulatory environment that enables the development of innovative products and services, with a flexible regulator that is well-informed on the latest technology developments/requisite regulatory frameworks, and an appreciation for the reverberating impact of derailing this progression.” they lamented.

In 2023,MTN declared its first loss after tax of N137 billion. and Its retained earnings and shareholders’ fund fell to negative N208.0 billion and N40.8 billion, respectively.
For Airtel, profit before taxes result for the half-year 2023 was much worse, it dropped by a staggering 97.7 per cent – from $516 million to $12 million – compared to the results from 2022.

The report showed that Airtel had consistently grown its revenue in Nigeria since Q2 2018. The only time there was a drop in revenue between quarters was in 2020 when revenue dropped from $377 million in Q1 2020 to $341 million in Q2 2020. This $36 million drop in revenue is nothing compared to the decline seen in 2023.

Its revenue for Q1 2023 was $543 million, a $2 million drop compared to the previous quarter – $545 million in Q4 2022. By Q2 2022, the drop in revenue increased by $15 million, from $543 million to $528 million.

Although figures of losses sustained by the other unquoted telcos are unavailable,there are strong indications that all is not well.
Several of them are owing interconnect fees and generally unable and or late in payment of AOL.
Consequently,the late and inability to pay AOL to the NCC tells one of the bad stories of the situation on ground.
In general terms,the sector is believed to be wobbling and In fits.
Deposit Money Banks are also part of the telcos headaches as they are believed to be indebted to the tune of about Two hundred billion naira (#200b) in unsettled Unstructured Supplementary Service Bus(USSD) services rendered by telcos to the banks.
The telcos also bemoan the fate of their equipment and infrastructure across the country.
They had canvassed for comprehensive protections for their infrastructure by suggesting to government to make telecommunications equipment Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) but government officials say this is “Work In Progress (WIP) as the telcos wait in limbo.
Apart from these,they have had to contend with multiple taxations whereby the Federal Government,states and council governments put immense pressure on telcos for various taxes at different levels.
Apart from the taxes,Right of Way is an albatross that had defied any solutions and so the telcos have had to live with it.
The telcos say that
“notwithstanding the much-touted resilience of the telecommunications sector and its commendable double-digit contribution to the GDP, we wish to strongly impress on the NCC the pressing need to avert the grave risk looming in the industry’s horizon by taking clinical and definitive action towards repositioning the industry for growth and increased investments, because ultimately , it is our considered view that a thriving telecommunications sector will have a far-reaching effect on:
o Mobile Network Operators as they will remain going concerns who can carry on sustainable operations with the overall intention of value creation and enabling connectedness;
o The maximization of consumer welfare for Nigerians who, as the the NCC rightly noted, are the most critical stakeholders in the telecommunications value chain; and
o The Government itself, given that the net effect of a sustainable communications industry is bolstered investor confidence, increased contribution to GDP and, by extension, revenue growth in the form of payment of increased direct/indirect taxes and Annual Operating Levies” in that regard.

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