Tasks Ahead of Sheriff Oborevwori, Delta State Governor-Elect
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
It is pedestrian information that pursuant to the provisions of Section 72(1) of the Electoral Act 2022, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday, March 29, 2023, issued a Certificate of Return to Chief Sheriff Oborevwori, the Delta State Governor-Elect. The ‘ritual’ followed his electoral victory on Saturday, March 18, during the gubernatorial poll in the state as conducted by INEC.
With the victory, Sheriff, who is the current Speaker of the Delta State House of Assembly, has clearly shown that history does matter and demonstrated that ordinary calculation could be upturned by extraordinary personalities. Most importantly, with his victory, the ancient argument as to whether circumstance or personality shapes events is settled in favour of the latter.
Aside from torrents of accolades from Deltans of goodwill, with more expected for this unique achievement, there are flashes of reasons to believe that the Governor-Elect may be laced with good public leadership qualities. Out of many, the first that comes to mind is the awareness that as the current Speaker of the Delta State of Assembly (DTHA), he ran a rancour-free house for four years.
Despite this logical, rational and practical belief, I must, on the other hand, confess that since that announcement, each time I remember this feat, fears which leave me lost in a maze of high-voltage confusion come flooding. The reasons for this confusion stem from my concern as to where the Governor-Elect will find both will-power and political will to build a diversified and self-reliant economy that will withstand the shocks occasioned by the current physical, social and economic changes that have become a recurring decimal in the state.
However, evidence, in my view, also abounds and points to the fact that if Sheriff is ready to serve and save Deltans, he may face no confusion in this mandate as he is succeeding Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, the incumbent governor of the state reputed for infrastructural development and characterized by deep-seated sustainable visions, policies and programmes.
The above description of Okowa’s administration is a product of careful analysis of available public opinions and commentaries from Deltans and visibly signposted in areas such as values, fiscal discipline, robust and continuous community engagement, effective and efficient public communication, and excellent public service delivery for the benefit of this generation and the next.
His works in this direction consist essentially of the construction of good road networks, renovation/reconstruction/construction of over 5,000 classrooms in the state, rehabilitation of technical colleges in Agbor, Sapele, Ofagbe, Utagba-Ogbe, Ogor and Issele-Uku, incubation/establishment of three additional healthy universities to cater for the academic yearnings of the people of the state among other achievements.
The above feats notwithstanding, the incoming administration will obviously have more work to do and more reforms to make as the state’s economy is still distressed, unemployment high, the infrastructure deficit intimidating, the education sector hard pressed, and palpable despair in the land.
These are challenges in the state that will ‘’greet’ Sheriff led administration in the state upon assumption of office on the 29th of May 2023 and test his desire, resolve, and preparedness to translate to action and result in the ‘expect More mantra’ promised the good people of the state.
More specifically, it is worthy of note that as the incoming governor of the state, the hope of achieving rapid infrastructural development, engendering inclusive economic growth, reduce the worrisome high level of youth unemployment and pervasive poverty while improving the general well-being of all Deltans may be impossible if Oborevwori presents self as all-knowing, selfless, more intelligent or good looking than other stakeholders.
Governor Okowa and his administration made Delta State the Best in Human Capital Development in the 2017 States Peer Review by the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria and in 2020, adjudged the Second Least Poor State, coming only after Lagos, by Nigeria’s business hub, Sheriff can as well win if he runs an all-inclusive government and execute people-focused projects.
It will be convenient to argue that the incoming governor is capped with the manifesto of his political party as well as laced with envisioned personal programmes to aid his day-to-day administration of the state. But the truth is that the time has come for you to make those codified documents less rigid in order to accommodate sincere suggestions from well-meaning Deltans.
Beginning with the education sector, the incoming administration must recognize that there are a large number of youths in the state that are knowledge/education hungry and daily project vividly and openly their potential, character, behaviour, performance skills and talent that need to be nurtured in a conducive environment and fairest fees.
Oborevwori needs to internalize the truth that any developmental plan in the state without youth education delivered in a well-structured learning environment and fair fees will amount to a mere waste of time and effort. Achieving this objective will be seamlessly made possible via progressive recognition of the right to education as a human right. In fact, it is one vital point the incoming administration in the state must not fail to remember. He must acknowledge and uphold the fact that Nigeria belongs to a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, where the right to education is paramount.
Very instructive; another reason why the incoming administration needs ample courage to fund the educational sector in the state is that without accessible and affordable education in the state, the children take to the streets where all forms of criminals and other social misfits who pose the actual threats in the forms of armed robbery thugs, drug abusers and other social ills that give bad names to the society are bred.
The plight of Deltans living in the coastal part of the state is another issue that will, in structure and context, demand urgent attention. A visit to that part of the state will reveal that they have not vanished physically but only exist in the frames.
In the riverine communities, many children, particularly the children of fishermen and women, are out of school not because they are not willing to be educated but because the cost of education is beyond the reach of their parents. For the majority of schools, no learning takes place as a greater number of public schools sited in the area are short of teachers and dotted with dilapidated buildings- On the other hand, the private schools where the environment is conducive for learning are not only far from those communities but also capital intensive.
To further support this position, I listened, a while ago, with rapt attention to King Monday Whiskey, Udurhie I, the Ovie of Iderhe Kingdom, speak on the challenges children of his kingdom need to confront to access education. King Whiskey, who spoke in Lagos, among other things, lamented that children in the Niger Delta must attain the age of 12 before starting from primary one because it is only at that age that children can be able to paddle their boat successfully to the other side of the community where their school is located.
From public affairs point of view, this piece believes that under this circumstance, the percentage of uneducated women will be very high since it is only at the age of 12 boys can be allowed to paddle boats to their schools. Readers of this piece can imagine what the fate of young girls in the community becomes. This further makes the global statistics feasible that just 39% of rural girls attend secondary school, and this is far fewer than that of rural boys, which is 45%, compared to urban girls, which is 59% and urban boys, 60%.
While this piece, therefore, calls on Oborevwori to design workable and efficient ways of bringing primary and secondary schools close to communities in the coastal/riverine communities in the state, it is equally important to add that the area is troubled but not despondent, a situation that makes it easy for them to be managed and contained.
Very key, even as the incoming administration in the state will definitely succeed in the assignment of leading the state by providing Deltans with a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being, job creation is vital as the large unemployed youth population is a threat to the security of the few that are employed.
Most importantly, the future of the state is full of promises as it is fraught with uncertainty. And the conventional leadership- the system is giving way to the one based on knowledge, and to build the Delta state of our dreams, the Oborevwori-led incoming administration must learn to be part of the knowledge-based world.
Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via email@example.com/08032725374
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Leveraging Digital Marketing Tactics to Drive e-Commerce Sales
By Tintin Imevbore
The rapid advancement of digital technologies hasn’t just dramatically changed the way businesses operate but has also allowed for real-time communication between businesses and their customers.
Although digital marketing is no different from any other type of marketing, it has become increasingly important because of the sheer scale of internet users globally and the potential to reach much bigger audiences. As of January 2023, there were 5.16 billion internet users globally.
And in Africa, where innovation in digital technology and cell phone applications have given millions of users access to products and services they never had access to before, digital marketing can help e-commerce platforms tap into the continent’s potential.
While the percentage of internet users in Africa is still well below the global average, the rising numbers show the potential. Countries such as South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria are not only some of the countries with the highest number of internet users in Africa but are also among the countries with the highest potential because of thriving tech sectors.
In order to take advantage of that growth potential, there are small steps any e-commerce business can take to leverage digital marketing strategies to widen its digital footprint and increase its sales. One of the best digital marketing strategies an e-commerce business can lean on is personalising the customer experience and delivering personalised experiences to customers throughout their e-commerce journey.
In the US, about 90% of consumers said they find personalisation either “very” or “somewhat” appealing, while more than 80% of consumers said they wanted brands they engaged with to understand them better. By providing a personalised touch, a business can create a sense of value and build long-term customer loyalty.
Optimising for mobile should be a priority for any e-commerce business wanting to increase its sales. Mobile devices play a dominant role in internet usage across Nigeria and Ghana. In Nigeria, where 52.4% of users buy something online each week using a mobile device, it is almost level with the global average of 57.6%. About a quarter of users in Ghana use a mobile device to make purchases online.
Investing in and implementing search engine optimisation (SEO) is also an essential digital marketing strategy that can help e-commerce businesses increase sales. The most important elements to consider when optimising a web page for search engines include the quality of the content, the level of user engagement, mobile-friendliness, and the number and quality of inbound links. The key is to develop engaging and informative content that resonates with the customers’ interests and needs.
Being on the right platform is vital for any of those strategies to work effectively, and partnering with a media buying agency that knows how to maximise presence. Being present on the right platforms seems obvious, but with the ever-evolving competition and evolution of algorithms, it’s simply not enough to have a presence on the likes of Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Spotify, or Snapchat because they’re the most popular platforms. You also have to ensure that you’re reaching your target audience with the right messaging to match their expectations of those platforms.
This is where the importance of selecting the right digital marketing and e-commerce experts comes in. Finding the right agency that knows your business and industry like the back of its hand will set you up for further success and peace of mind. The right advisors would not only help with better content, but they would be able to provide you with technical expertise and solutions appropriate for your needs while offering confident guidance.
E-commerce consultants can help your business reach new heights with the rapidly changing and evolving industries. They can help you and your business bridge the gaps in e-commerce strategy and technology while improving the performance of your business. If you want to ensure your investment in the right advisors and consultants is effective, you should search for the kind of advisors who match your business’s needs and requirements.
Ultimately, with the right mix of creative digital marketing strategies, resilience, adaptability, and partnering with the right digital media buying partner, any e-commerce business can succeed on the continent despite the mix of physical and digital infrastructure constraints which many African countries face.
Tintin Imevbore is the Regional West Africa Manager for Ad Dynamo by Aleph
Dangote Refinery, NNPC and Lingering Issue of Crude Supply to Local Refineries
By Jonas Kayode-Jacobs
The ceremonial inauguration of the Dangote Refinery has added a new dimension to the conversations regarding the need to rebound the hitherto declining situation of the Nigerian petroleum industry and the long-standing desire to locally refine and provide all essential commodities in the oil and gas value change.
There is no doubting the fact that the refinery project, referred to as the biggest in the world, has marked a new chapter in the evolution of Nigeria’s energy sector, signally a historical turning point and a raised expectation for expanded domestic refining capacity and decreased dependency on petroleum products importation.
It was seen as a beacon of progress and a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit driving Nigeria’s economic growth and driven mainly by private sector initiatives, of course, with an enabling environment and support provided by the government. Commencing in 2013, the refinery’s advanced technology, efficient processes, and commitment to international quality standards have garnered global recognition, positioning it as a flagship project in Africa’s energy landscape.
However, interesting questions have been raised by industry experts regarding the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation’s (NNPC) decision to provide Dangote Refinery with exclusive access to 300,000 barrels per day for a refinery that, according to some experts, has not been technically completed.
This concern arises from the seeming neglect and abandonment of other existing indigenous refineries. Many of these refineries that have been completed and producing skeletally have not received crude supplies from the NNPC to boost their operations to maximum installed capacity.
In a recent statement, the Crude Oil Refineries Owner’s Association of Nigeria (CORAN), while applauding the decision of the NNPC to supply daily 300’000 barrels of Crude Oil to Dangote Refinery, as made known by the Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPC, Mele Kyari, the association raised concerns to the effect that NNPC seem to have neglected its members.
Understandably so, the decision of the NNPC to allot 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil to the Dangote Refinery is meant to support the refinery’s start-up activities and ensure its successful operation. However, some industry watchers have said that similar special treatment should also be extended to other refinery owners. Still, instead, it has put other refinery owners in a precarious situation and at the mercy of Dangote Refinery, which will become a monopoly on the first day.
It is necessary to highlight that many refinery owners now face a more uncertain future as they struggle to deal with restricted or no access to crude oil supplies while having made considerable investments in their refining plants.
While the NNPC deserves praise for its decision, it must make sure its plan addresses the distribution of crude to other players in the market, as the majority of independent and privately owned refineries have been severely hampered by a lack of crude since they were founded.
The issue at hand is one of fairness and equitable distribution. There is no gain in saying that the existing refineries require a steady crude oil supply to operate optimally. By disproportionately allocating crude to one refinery, the NNPC risks stifling the growth and viability of these other existing facilities, which also contribute to the nation’s refining capacity and provide employment opportunities.
In every sense, there is an urgent need to provide a level playing field for all the operators and a transparent and inclusive approach to crude oil allocation. A fair and level playing field would not only foster healthy competition but also ensure that Nigeria maximizes its refining potential and benefits from a diverse range of players in the market.
In any case, the near redundant refineries only require less than 10% of the crude supply of what the Dangote refinery has been promised (300’000 pbd). Therefore, the NNPC must come to the aid of these other private refinery owners whose desire it is to contribute to refining and improving the standard of living of the nation.
The NNPC can do so by ensuring that there is equal and equitable access to crude and ensuring that there is a level playing field for all businesses in that sector. Independent Oil refineries in Nigeria, such as Walter Smith refinery, OPACrefinery, Niger Delta Petroleum refinery, and Edo Refinery, have faced numerous difficulties that have tried their resilience and hampered their ability to expand. Among these challenges, the top is the serious problem of the starving of crude oil engineered by the NNPC, which has put a shadow over their activities, impeding their ability to contribute to the nation’s refining capacity properly.
Despite the phenomenal ceremonial inauguration of the Dangote Refinery, it cannot be said to be a ‘Uhuru’ yet as, according to industry experts, the refinery may need up to another 12 months to be at full capacity. According to the report of the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulation Authority (NMDPRA), the Technical Acceptance Test (TAT) that is mandatory for any refinery to run must still be passed by the Dangote Refinery. Since this procedure takes a while, technically, the Dangote Refinery’s full operation could start in about a year. This underscores the urgent need for the NNPC and the government to put an interest in the operations of the existing and ready refineries.
While the Dangote Refinery undoubtedly holds immense promise for Nigeria’s energy independence, the aspirations of other refinery owners must not be disregarded. A collaborative approach that encourages synergy and coexistence among all refineries will ultimately benefit the nation. The NNPC’s commitment to allowing all participants to engage in the market actively will help increase the supply of critical commodities and lessen persistent scarcity in the market.
Kayode-Jacobs, a petroleum industry analyst, writes from Abuja
Dangote Refinery, Industrialization and Lessons Africans Must Learn
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
On Monday, May 22, 2023, policymakers and captains of industries from across the world converged on the Lekki axis of Lagos State for the commissioning of the world’s largest single-train 650,000 barrels-per-day petroleum refinery built by Dangote Group. Going by commentaries, the refinery, when it becomes fully operational, will give a boost to efforts by the federal government to make Nigeria self-sufficient in local refining of crude oil and save the scarce foreign exchange used in the importation of petroleum products.
Again, aside from the expert reports that the refinery can meet 100 per cent of the country’s requirement of all refined products: gasoline, 53 million litres per day; diesel, 34 million litres per day; kerosene, 10 million litres per day, and aviation jet, 2 million litres per day, with a surplus of each of these products for export, also heartening is the awareness that the refinery is ‘laced’ with the 435 MW power plant that can also meet the total power requirement of Ibadan DisCo of 860,316 MWh, covering five states, including Oyo, Ogun, Osun, Kwara, and Ekiti.
While this huge feat by Aliko Dangote and his group is being celebrated, the development, on the other hand, elicits two separate but related reactions.
Foremost, it calls on Africans that it is time to recover their moral and strategic ‘health’ to stand again for freedom, demand accountability from their leaders for poor decisions, missed judgment, lack of planning, lack of preparation and wilful denial of the obvious truth about serious and imminent threats that are facing Africans. Dangote’s current milestone is a testament that the time is ripe for Africans to reject the false and horrendous reasons being offered to them by their leaders as an explanation for why the continent is not yet industrialized or developed.
Dangote is not a public office holder on the continent but his latest feat demonstrates a man with an understanding that considering the slow-growing economy but scary unemployment levels in the continent, the only way to survive was to industrialize-that Africa as a continent will continue to find itself faced with difficulty accelerating the economic life cycle of its people until their leaders contemplate industrialization, or productive collaboration with private organizations that have surplus capital to create employment.
Take as another illustration, I noted in one of my previous interventions that one of the popular demands during the fuel subsidy removal protest in January 2012, under President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration in Nigeria, was that the federal government should take measures to strengthen corporate governance in the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) as well as in the oil and gas sector as a whole. This is because of the belief that weak structures made it possible for endemic corruption in the management of both the downstream and upstream sectors of the oil and gas industry.
On his part, President Muhammadu in 2015 promised Nigerians a fair deal. But for eight years, the three government-owned refineries in the country have not been able to function at full capacity as promised by the present administration for a myriad of reasons that revolve around corruption.
Today, if there is anything that Nigerians wish that the FG should accomplish quickly, it is getting the refineries to function optimally as well as make the NNPC more accountable to the people. What happened under President Jonathan has become child’s play when compared with the present happenings in Nigeria’s oil/gas and electricity sectors.
Broadly speaking, it is not by any standard a good commentary that after over 60 years of independence, African countries continually look up to other continents for aid. This covertly tells a story of a continent lacking in the capacity to take responsibility for its actions and initiatives for values.
As an illustration, the Chinese development aid to Africa, going by reports, totalled 47% of its total foreign assistance in 2009 alone, and from 2000 to 2012, it funded 1,666 official assistance projects in 51 African countries.
Also, rings of apprehension are the awareness that Africa is the most populated in the world with over 1.2 billion people, but sadly represents only 1.4% of the world manufacturing value added in the first quarter of 2020. This is further exacerbated by the fact that out of over 51 countries in Africa as a continent, only South Africa qualified as a member of BRICS, an acronym coined for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
This piece is not alone on the economic and industrial backwardness of Africa as a continent. A book entitled: Technology and Wealth of Nations, in like manner, chronicled the slanted and unsustainable effort different African governments made in the past to bring their nations out of the technological woods, as well as outlined the way forward.
Separate from thoughtfully and masterfully examining the inspirable relationship between technological development and the economic progress of nations, the book deftly argues with facts that the point of the sail of all economies is the introduction of the manufacturing sector or the industrial economy. The author establishes that Africa’s prolonged economic plight is centred on the two fundamental challenges of a manufacturing economy.
It traces Africa’s economic backwardness to its roots – a key problem that has kept our policymakers handicapped and our economies crippled. With documented facts on the crippling institutionalized policies and organized sequences of stagnating events of the colonial masters, the author asks: “Why is it that Europe, which hosted the industrial revolutions in the 17th and 18th centuries, did not permit technological education in Africa in about 50 years of colonization, and prefers to send aids afterwards?”
Of course, the above question, in my view, may not be lacking in merit considering the fact that Africa presently is dotted with projects built with aid from Europe, the United States of America (USA) and lately, China.
Whatever the true situation may be, I believe and still believe that there exists something troubling technologically that characterizes Africa more as a dark continent.
On the way out of the continent’s technological debacle and the current wealth disparity among nations (industrial economies), experts believe that the current wealth disparity among nations (industrial economies) represented by highly industrialized Europe, North America and Japan on the one hand and most developing (non-industrial economies) countries, in particular, those in sub-Saharan Africa, on order is primarily the difference in the technical capability and capacity to produce and manufacture modern technologies and to use the technologies to produce and manufacture globally competitive industrial goods and to sustain the commanding tasks of science and technology in the economy.
The disparity, it added, has since considerably widened and will continue to widen as long as the developing countries depend almost totally on industrial nations for the technologies and industrial inputs they need to sustain their economies.
Consequently, the only way to bridge the wealth gap is for the developing countries of the world to build their domestic endogenous capabilities and capacities to produce modern technologies and competitive industrial goods in their own economies, he concluded.
Catalysing the process will again necessitate African leaders borrowing bodies from Asian tigers in order to raise Africa’s industrial soul.
Above all, this piece holds the opinion that African leaders must, at the present moment of our existence, recognize clearly that; public order, personal and national security, economic and social programmes, and prosperity are not the natural order of things but depends on the ceaseless efforts and attentions from an honest and effective government that the people elect. They must collectively recognize also that it takes a prolonged effort to administer a country well and change the backward habits of the people.
Utomi is the Program Coordinator (Media and Policy) at Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via;firstname.lastname@example.org or 08032725374
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