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The Sochi Summit and the Pride of Africa

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Business Opportunities Russia Africa

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

After nearly three decades of extremely low political, economic and cultural engagement, Russia is indeed returning to Africa. For obvious reasons, Russia’s relations with Africa turned extremely worse as some diplomatic representations were unexpectedly cut, all cultural centers closed, and many projects were suspended. Of course, relations with many foreign countries have faded into the background compared with the challenges the country had to deal with in order to preserve its statehood.

Understandably, Russia has had to struggle with its post-Soviet internal and external problems especially during the first decade, from 1991 till 2000, which has been described by policy experts as the “Lost Decade on Africa”.

Still the second decade, 2000 to 2010, saw the reawakening with decades among the Kremlin, Government officials and academic researchers debated consistently whether “Russia needs Africa or Africa needs Russia” while African leaders were already turned towards Asian and the Gulf regions especially China and often asked why wake up the “Sleeping Giant Bear”. China became the best development suitor in Africa.

During this period, Russia seems to have attained relative political and economic stability. “As we regained our statehood and control over the country, and the economy and the social sphere began to develop, Russian businesses began to look at promising projects abroad, and we began to return to Africa,” noted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov early September when he addressed students and staff of Moscow State Institute for International Relations.

This process has been ongoing for the past 15 years. The return is now taking the form of resuming a very close political dialogue, which has always been at a strategic and friendly level, and now moving to a vigorous economic cooperation.

To reflect and consolidate these trends and in order to draw up plans for expanding consolidated partnerships with the African countries, President Putin initiated the Russia-Africa Summit last year during the BRICS summit in Johannesburg. The initiative was strongly supported. This October, it will be implemented under the co-chairmanship of the heads of Russia and Egypt, since this year Egypt is heading the African Union.

Further, from my research and monitoring, it is interesting to recall here that during the BRICS summit in Durban, on March 26-27, 2013, BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) discussed, among other topics, “BRICS and Africa: Partnership for Development, Integration and Industrialization.”

The BRICS membership gives an additional competitive advantage. Firstly, none of the members of this association is tainted with a colonial past on the African continent, and second, the BRICS member countries as a matter of principle do not interfere in the internal affairs of African countries. None of the BRICS member countries spread democracy in Africa by force or impose their values with the help of expeditionary corps and air strikes.

The U.S. and the European Union (EU) monopoly in African countries is steadily coming to an end, as new players have come to the African continent, namely the BRICS countries. Russia is now the new force. Russia’s renewed interest in Africa is due to a desire to restore its previous influence and to build allies as it experiences growing criticism by Western countries.

During my long years of research has shown me that Africa is a huge continent that still requires economic development. Its active demographic growth and abundance of natural resources are creating conditions for the emergence of probably the world’s biggest market in the next few decades.

Today, Africa moves towards raising its social, economic, scientific and technological development, and is playing a significant role in international affairs. African states are strengthening mutually beneficial integration processes within the African Union (AU) and other regional and sub regional organizations across the continent.

Furthermore, African leaders keep in mind other key questions such as rising unemployment, healthcare problems and poor infrastructure development. That is, they now focus on measures toward realizing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

So, in the contemporary period, Russia and Africa have to, both at a bilateral level and in various multilateral formats, take significant new steps forward in new joint projects in extractive industries, agriculture, healthcare, and education. Besides, there are aspects of the diplomacy that really need focus, for example cultural and social spheres as well as the use of soft power. Indeed, the forthcoming Russia-Africa summit in Sochi on October 23-24 should lay the necessary foundation for improving all these for a stronger partnership.

Quite recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Lavrov assertively acknowledged “Africa is one of our priorities. Our political ties in particular are developing dynamically. But economic cooperation is not as far advanced as our political ties. We believe that we should promote joint activity in order to make broader use of the huge potential of Russian-African trade and investment cooperation.”

Political dialogue: Russia has intensified promoting political dialogue, including the exchange of visits at the top levels. Interaction between foreign ministries is expanding. Last year, 12 African foreign ministers visited Russia. According to my calculation, Sergey Lavrov and his deputy Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, have held talks with nearly 100 African politicians including ministers, deputies between January and September 2019. Bogdanov has interacted with all African ambassadors in Moscow.

Lavrov conducted bilateral dialogue with African countries at the UN in New York, between September 24 and 30, 2019. Lavrov held talks with Foreign Minister of Algeria Sabri Boukadoum, Foreign Minister of Morocco Nasser Bourita and Prime Minister of Sudan Abdallah Hamdouk among others.

During their conversation on the sidelines of the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly, all the sides discussed matters concerning the further expansion of multifaceted partnership, foreign policy collaboration in regional and international affairs.

With other questions such as the practice of democracy, Russia does support whatever regime is in power. While this makes its policy predictable, it does not encourage good governance and democratic practices in those countries that are severely challenged in these areas. Many other countries follow this practice and even countries like the United States, which often do speak out forcefully on behalf of good governance, are not always consistent.

Economic and investment cooperation: Africa truly is a continent of new opportunities and there is huge potential here for developing economic ties. Many see Africa’s growth primarily not because of aid, it is because of businesses and entrepreneurship, consistent efforts at creating wealth and employment. Africa in the 21st century does not need charity but wants to be an economic partner. African countries are not lacking the resources to boost the relationship, but the will power has always been put on hold or totally ignored.

Russia has shown strength in Africa in niche sectors such as nuclear power development, launching African satellites, and constructing energy and mining projects. It has been seeking to exploit conventional gas and oil fields in Africa; part of its long-term energy strategy is to use Russian companies to create new streams of energy supply. With regard to other economic areas, it may have to identify more sectors like this rather than compete head-to-head in a wide range of sectors with European Union countries, China, the United States, India, and others.

But U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration said recently that “Russia has bolstered its influence with increased military cooperation including donations of arms, with which it has gained access to markets and mineral extraction rights. With minimal investment, Russia leverages private military contracts, such as the Wagner Group, and in return receives political and economic influence beneficial to them.”

While Russians are aware of the equal competitive conditions in the continent, Africans on the other hand view Russia as another fairly large trading partner and, probably a stabilizing and balancing factor to other foreign players. In terms of stringency of strategic outlook and activeness on economic engagement, the country is seriously lagging behind China, U.S., EU, the Gulf States, India and Brazil.

Trade: Russian aid, trade, and investment in Africa, especially Sub-Saharan Africa, are modest. Russian exports to Africa have been growing modestly and reached $18.5 billion in 2017. Russian imports from Africa have been flat and totaled only $2.1 billion in 2017. This was well below Turkey’s trade with Africa in 2017.

Russian trade is heavily concentrated in North Africa, especially with Egypt. Noticeably, Russia’s relationship with North Africa is more significant. Nevertheless, Russia apparently wants to maximize the business relationship rather than the aid relationship. The problem is that Africa has little that Russia wants to buy.

It is, however, necessary to raise trade and economic ties to a high level of political cooperation. Russia and Africa have to show not only an exceptional commitment to long-term cooperation but also readiness for large-scale investments in the African markets taking into account possible risks and high competition.

Equally important are African businesspeople who are looking to work on the Russian market. Definitely, time is needed to solve all these issues including identifying and removing obstacles to mutual bilateral trade and investment.

Weapons and arms diplomacy: After the collapse of the Soviet era, Africa owed US$20 billion, later written off. This debt was due to weapon and arms delivery to Soviet allies including Ethiopia, Angola, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and a few other African countries. Now, Russia is the largest seller of arms to Africa and is willing to sell to any country. This gives it a certain advantage as many Western countries prohibit arms sales to a few countries.

More recently, Russia has made significant arms deals with Angola and Algeria. Egypt, Tanzania, Somalia, Mali, Sudan and Libya have also bought arms from Russia. The Russians also provide military training and support.

In Africa, Russia seeks to guarantee security. In the classical sense, security guarantees imply something different. Russia has very warm, historically developed relations since their decolonization. This forms the theme for the Sochi summit: “For Peace, Security, and Development” which organizers explained would serve as the foundation of the final joint declaration.

Soft power interplay: Experts and members of the Valdai Discussion Club noted that soft power has never been a strong side of Russian policy in the post-Soviet era. Federation Council and State Duma, both houses of legislators, enacted a law that banned foreign NGOs from operating in the Russian Federation. As a result, African NGOs that could promote people-to-people diplomacy and support cultural initiatives as well to push for good image, is non-existent.

On education and culture. Simply cultural cooperation could be described as catastrophic. With education, Russia now offers a few state scholarships. Official figures from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs pegged it at 15,000 students, only one-third of this receives Russian grants. The remaining two-thirds are fee-paying clients. The Ministry of Higher Education told me last month during interview discussions that there are nearly 21,000 African students while some in the far regions are still undocumented. This also means that African elite and the middle class pay approximately US$75 million annually to Russian educational institutions. Average tuition is US$5,000 per year.

Over the years, one of the key challenges and problems facing Russian companies and investors has been insufficient knowledge of the economic potential, on the part of Russian entrepreneurs, the needs and business opportunities of the African region. Africa needs broader coverage in Russian media. Leading Russian media agencies should release more topical news items and quality analytical articles about the continent in order to adequately collaborate with African partners and attract Russian business to Africa. The media can, and indeed must be a decisive factor in building effective ties.

After several years of consistently constructive criticisms, Russian authorities have ignored media cooperation. Russia could use its media resources available to support its foreign policy, promote its positive image, disseminate useful information about its current achievements and emerging economic opportunities especially for the African public.

Russian media resources here, which are largely not prominent in Africa, include Rossiya Sevogdnya (RIA Novosti, Voice of Russia, Sputnik News and Russia Today), Itar-Tass News Agency and Interfax Information Service. Besides, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs could use its accreditation opportunities to allow African media to work in Russia. While the Foreign Ministry has accredited foreign media from Latin America, the United States, Europe and Asian countries, none came from sub-Saharan Africa. Instead of prioritizing media cooperation with Africa, high-ranking Russian officials most often talk about the spread of anti-Russian propaganda by western and European media in Africa.

Professor Vladimir Shubin, Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies under the Russian Academy of Sciences, reiterated: “Russia is not doing enough to communicate to the broad public, particularly in Africa, true information about its domestic and foreign policies as well as the accomplishments about Russian culture, the economy, science and technology in order to form a positive perception of Russia abroad and a friendly attitude towards it as stated by the new Concept of the Foreign Policy.”

Russia-Africa Summit: Russia holds its first summit in October. Through this, Russia and Africa aim jointly at advancing relations to a fundamentally new level and a wider dimension. Of course, Africa is not fully satisfied with Russia due to its “diplomatic niceties” and largely unfulfilled pledges and promises. Russia already has a plethora of post-Soviet bilateral agreements that it is now implementing, with some degree of limitations, in various African countries. It’s clear that Russia might not make any public financial commitment as many foreign countries have done over the years. But Russia needs to demonstrate that it has a plan to engage Africa in a significantly greater way than it has in recent years.

According to my investigations, Russia would sign 23 new bilateral agreements with a number of African countries and issue a joint declaration that would lay down a comprehensive strategic roadmap for future Russia-African relations.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, while addressing the Russia-Africa Economic forum in July also added his voice for strengthening cooperation in all fronts. “We must take advantage of all things without fail. It is also important that we implement as many projects as possible, that encompass new venues and, of course, new countries,” he said.

Medvedev stressed: “It is important to have a sincere desire. Russia and African countries now have this sincere desire. We simply need to know each other better and be more open to one another. I am sure all of us will succeed if we work this way. Even if some things seem impossible, this situation persists only until it has been accomplished. It was Nelson Mandela who made this absolutely true statement.”

In July, President Vladimir Putin took part on third day of the International Parliamentarian Forum that also brought African legislators, emphasized that “the modern world needs an open and free exchange of views, confidence building and search for mutual understanding”.

Indeed, judging from the above discussions about the changing geopolitical relations, after the first Russia-Africa Summit, there has to be a well-functioning system and mutual willingness in the spirit of reciprocity to achieve a more practical and comprehensive results from the new relations between Russia and Africa.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and policy consultant on African affairs and Brics. He is the author of the Geopolitical Handbook titled “Putin’s African Dream and The New Dawn: Challenges and Emerging Opportunities” devoted to the first Russia-Africa Summit 2019.

Modupe Gbadeyanka is a fast-rising journalist with Business Post Nigeria. Her passion for journalism is amazing. She is willing to learn more with a view to becoming one of the best pen-pushers in Nigeria. Her role models are the duo of CNN's Richard Quest and Christiane Amanpour.

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Christianity, Epigenetics, Hunter-Gatherers, Fittest Survival and Evil

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forest tribes

By Nneka Okumazie

There’s a good chance that in the next century, or just beyond, most of the knowledge agreed, about whom hunter-gatherers were, or were about would have changed.

Not because scientists chose to be deliberately wrong, but because it is difficult to be certain of any measurement in retrospect.

Fossil records or whatever else may seem like incontrovertible evidence, but the measure of their dating and characteristics aren’t.

This is what we know based on what we used to check.

What we know, or think we know and agree to – changes with new measures and evidence.

So, why should what has changed – in the last few centuries, albeit in a similar direction, not be subject to change in another direction in the coming centuries?

There are other questions about hunter-gatherers, but one possible error is to think that going to some isolated village, or some Amazonian tribe is reflective – or similar to hunter-gatherers.

Most likely not, though the basic existence of people in those places is fascinating to those who watch or study them – they are not like the hunter-gatherers that “evolved” to current peoples.

With the said dominance of hunter-gatherers, it is unlikely that preference for expansion would have jumped – in what became major areas, and later development.

The life was basic enough – and satisfactory [without option] that to build something new may have been support-stricken, sabotaged, abandoned and strenuous beyond their imagination.

Their default option [or say epigenetics], though breakable, would have likely crept back – letting them stick to personal survival and not survival of development.

But say nothing is impossible, and they emerged to create advancement, today’s isolated tribes, supposed to be a reflection of them, continue to protest the encroachment of civilization – in different forms, showing that in the presence of an established option, they want their stay.

For hunter-gathers, there have been studies on their religion, culture and more.

There has also been chatter about how morality came without Christianity.

How about evil?

When did evil begin?

What were the causative factors?

Asking about evil is easier than the more complex question of languages – that even in some remote places, they have their own language – established beyond what could have been possible to string together as an invention, in those times.

When did evil start and why did evil survive?

The question of evil for hunter-gatherers – is vital, because they’d have been a perfect society if they didn’t.

Or maybe evil came as they emerged to develop.

If so, was it a good tradeoff for them?

The evil [or not] of hunter-gathers society is the question in their evolution.

For now, the ubiquity if evil – everywhere, says that the only reason evil has not taken over the world is not morality, or good always triumphs locution, but because of the Possessor of All.

There are often small and major stories of bitterness, hate, evil, wickedness, greed, lust, crime, envy, deception, etc. with some victories, but since many hearts think these, and often hurt about some disadvantage, it should have been a world – by far of evil, wiping out good.

But the Creator has not allowed – even though evil is substantially present.

So, why this world, why this suffering, why not just nothing, or care, or selfish pampering as wished?

Questioning the Creator – because no one alive has the full picture of everything – is like accepting that the laws of physics can’t just be broken, but seeking to break the laws of an immeasurable realm.

God is a spirit.

There are things in this world that just work – to conquer evil, some kind of triumph that would have made it impossible if it passed that time.

There is the Almighty – Jehovah, the force that keeps the good.

[Psalm 106:2, Who can utter the Mighty acts of the Lord? who can shew forth all His praise?]

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Russia’s Lavrov and Togo’s Dussey Share Views on Bilateral Economic Cooperation

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Mr Robert Dussey (Togo) and Mr Sergey Lavrov (Russia)

By Kester Kenn Klomegah

In order to strengthen political dialogue and promote economic relations, Professor Robert Dussey, Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Togolese Abroad, held diplomatic talks on February 16, 2021, with his Russian counterpart Minister Sergey Lavrov in St. Petersburg.

According to reports, Professor Dussey’s visit was on the invitation by Moscow, and came on exactly one year after their last meeting on February 15, 2020, in Munich, the third-largest city in Germany.

After their closed-door discussion, Lavrov told the joint news conference that there is a mutual interest in intensifying and deepening the entire scope of bilateral ties, including trade, the economy and investment, and have agreed to look for specific opportunities for joint projects in areas such as energy, natural resources, infrastructure, transport, and agriculture.

Regarding issues on the African continent, Lavrov re-emphasized that African problems (of which there are many) require African solutions.

“We strongly support the African Union, the G5 Sahel, and the sub-regional organizations in Africa, in their efforts to resolve numerous local conflicts and crises. We specifically focus on supporting the fight against terrorism, which poses a real threat, including for our friends in Togo and other coastal countries in the region of the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.

In fact and as always, Lavrov reiterated Russia’s commitment to continue to act actively in pursuing peace and, to this end, called for the peaceful settlement of all kinds of differences, and reaffirmed support for sustainable development there in Africa.

Regarding issues from the last summit held in Sochi, Lavrov stressed: “We are interested in developing the resolutions of the Russia-Africa summit. We spoke in detail about the implementation of these agreements. The coronavirus pandemic has required adjustments. Nevertheless, the results of implementing the Sochi agreements are obvious. This year we will actively continue these efforts.”

The Association for Economic Cooperation with the African States was created in Russia following the 2019 Sochi summit. It includes representatives from the related departments and major Russian companies. The Russia-Africa Partnership Forum, which is a political association, was created, its secretariat is located at the Russian Foreign Ministry. The primary tasks of the Russia-Africa Partnership Forum include the preparation and organization of the next Russia-Africa summit scheduled for 2022. The venue to be chosen by African leaders.

“We are still slightly behind other states, but trade between Russia and the African countries has been growing quite rapidly lately. I think we will soon make up for the time we lost in the years when, at the dawn of the new Russian statehood, we were too busy to maintain proper ties with Africa. A very strong foundation was laid in Soviet times, though,” Lavrov said further at the news conference about the current situation with relations between Russia and Africa.

It has always been the wish of both Russia and Africa to have an excellent quality of cooperation and partnership relations between the two regions and to diversify and deepen them as best as possible in order to provide an appreciable geopolitical influence and strategic power balance in Africa.

Russia and Togo, as with many other African countries, have had long time-tested relations over the years. The most recent high-level meetings were between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe during a sidelined bilateral meeting in October 2019, when Gnassingbe participated in the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi, and on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Johannesburg in July 2018.

With an estimated population of about 7.9 million, Togo is among the smallest countries in Africa. Its economy depends highly on agriculture. Togo pursues an active foreign policy and participates in many international organizations. Relations between Togo and neighbouring states are generally good. It is particularly active in West African regional affairs and in the African Union.

Kester Kenn Klomegah is a versatile researcher and a passionate contributor, most of his well-resourced articles are reprinted elsewhere in a number of reputable foreign media

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The UNILAG’s Post UTME Crisis

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UNILAG

By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Similar to every new invention which comes with opportunities and challenges, when candidates preparing for the University of Lagos Post UTME, got the news about the university’s management decision to allow candidates write the test from any location of their choice, it elicited two sets of reactions.

For a better understanding of the piece, UTME stands for the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME), a computer-based standardized examination for prospective undergraduates in Nigeria, designed to assess the problem-solving, critical thinking knowledge of each of the students.

For some, joy flashed on their faces. They and their parents were particularly happy because such a development will assist in saving both time and resources for the student that resides outside Lagos state.

Chiefly, It will save parents from inherent discomforts and risks associated with travelling on Nigerian roads which includes but not limited to; road mishaps, armed robbery attacks and kidnapping.

To the rest, the development was viewed with scepticism and fears. The crux of their fears is that the well thought out programme and intention will be destroyed by what they called ‘the Nigerian factor’. These worries were given a boost and further fed by arguments which bothered on lackadaisical and nonchalant attitude to work by an average Nigerian civil servant-and inability of regulators to go extra miles to ensure that the given assignments are perfectly executed.

But looking at the gamut of complaints within few days into the exercise, of how unreliable, inefficient/effective the UNILAG online portal has become as it randomly shut out students without prompting or recourse to stipulated time, coupled with highhandedness, lackadaisical and nonchalant attitude of the staff, and other instincts coming from the candidates, the fears raised earlier by some can no longer be described as unfounded but a word made flesh and now dwells among us.

For those that hitherto praised the initiative, such eulogy has like light faded, and jeer has since overtaken the cheers while hatred for the initiative, and fears about what becomes the admission fate of their children looms. They have come to the conclusion that as an unchained and uncontrolled torrent of water submerges whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so, has the UNILAG online post-UTME serves but to destroy student’s ambition, serve them with bleak admission opportunity and cause dropping spirits among parents.

As a matter of fact, each passing day at the university brings more evidence that the school is facing serious administrative emergencies-that demand immediate actions.

Out of many, this piece will accommodate ‘testimonies’ from three affected candidates to assist the university management look inward, reflect critically on their own role, and identify the ways they often advertently or inadvertently contribute to the problems and then change how they act by addressing the present debacle.

Going by their accounts, at about 11.a.m on Tuesday, February 15, 2021, one of the candidates, a male, (name withheld) arrived at a business centre located somewhere around Ketu part of Lagos. He got connected via the system to the UNILAG portal as a signal was established.

After the preliminary protocols, the system electronically generated the first subject. And he gladly and promptly attempted questions one and two. As he was expecting the number three question, what he got to his greatest surprise was a message from the portal signalling that he exited the examination page/sheet.

The experience of the second candidate was not quite different from the first. Everything started very fine but at about the 7th minute into the journey, the portal for inexplicable reason got him disconnected.

But if these accounts are considered a challenge, the experience of the third candidate is a crisis.

First, he successfully logged in to the school portal and just immediately, he got a message ordering him to remove his earpiece which he promptly complied with. And in a matter of seconds, another instruction popped at the portal directing him to remove his face cap. As he raised his right hand to comply with this second directive, the next message that followed to his greatest dismay was that he has exited the examination port. These are verifiable facts.

This discomforting accounts aside being a reality Nigeria and Nigerian must worry about, it will necessitate the posers as to; how many of the youths in Nigeria would be affected? Who will stop UNILAG from this disappointing arrangement? And who will be the judge? Or must we allow this injustice like good and evil go on together allowing our nation to reap whatever fruit that comes in the nearest future?

Certainly, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that our schools work and our children properly educated at the right time. But in this particular case, if the University of Lagos management and other concerned arms of government fail to do the needful, it will again dispatch another sign of a nation unmindful of the fact that our children enjoy the right to education as recognized by a number of international conventions, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which recognizes a compulsory primary education for all, an obligation to develop secondary education accessible to all, as well as the progressive introduction of free higher education/obligation to develop equitable access to higher education.

We must not also fail to remember that very recently, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in line with its mandate to promote and protect human rights has established the right to education as a thematic area of focus to drive its vision of having all children enrolled in school as well as to ensure that the culture of human rights is promoted and maintained in schools.

Certainly, this piece holds the opinion that they (candidates) reserve the right to hold the nation and leaders alike accountable if they (government) fail to provide this traditional but universal responsibility to the citizenry which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and the election of leaders confer on them particularly now that their future/ civilization is hanging in the balance as a result of such failures.

Another urgent reason why the school authority and of course the Federal Ministry of Education must reassess this process and address the present injustice are the threat that keeping brilliant children on the waiting list for university admission for too long could pose to the nation. Idleness could make them take to the street.

As we know, the streets are known for breeding all sorts of criminals and other social misfits who constitute the real threat such as armed robbers, thugs, drug abusers, drunkards, prostitutes and all other social ills that give a bad name to the society.

Ideally, this is not the best time to glut over the cost implication of organizing fresh examination for these candidates as no amount of investment in the education sector will be considered too much. We also need to face the fact that the traditional progressive solution to societal problems is to redouble emphasis on education.

This fact has made education an extremely valuable strategy for solving many of society’s ills. In an age where information has more economic value than ever before, it is obvious that education should have a higher national priority.

As Nigerians and the watching world await UNILAG’s decision, If we do nothing about this, it simply means our youths/nation by extension are faced with a bleak future. But then, one point to remember is that bringing a radical improvement or achieving sustainable development in a way that both protects the rights and opportunities of coming generations is overwhelmingly urgent. These teaming students are knowledge-hungry. What they innocently ask for is another opportunity for examination delivered in an environment that works.

Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via; jeromeutomi@yahoo.com/08032725374

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New EFCC Boss Abdulrasheed Bawa: A Fair and Thorough Professional

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Thorough Professional

By Sunday Adebayo

It is no longer news that Abdulrasheed Bawa is on his way to becoming the new chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFFC) as nominated by President Muhammadu Buhari, pending the Senate’s approval.

This relatively unknown young man appears to be the perfect match for the country’s fight against corruption, both in the low and high places, going by his antecedents.

This was contained in a letter by President Buhari on Tuesday, February 16 to the upper chamber of the House of Assembly, as a matter of constitutional urgency, to confirm Bawa in accordance with Paragraph 2(3) of Part 1, CAP E 1 of the EFCC Act 2004.

A lot of controversies have surrounded the office of the anti-graft agency over various tenures, from preferential treatment to not following due process, unfair judgment in its investigations, cherry-picking who to take to the slaughter, and the likes. That seems to be the very ‘vices’ Bawa has come to nip in the bud.

For the first time in history, after so much drama surrounding the sack of the immediate past chairman, Ibrahim Magu, an officer who rose through the cadet of the agency is going to be leading the war against corruption. This is vital as he already knows and understands the terrain, which is going to be key in its leadership operating style going forward.

So, age and youthfulness are not just the things that stand Bawa out in this highly revered position. Bawa, who rose from being the pioneer cadet of the commission, is a maven when it comes to financial crimes investigations, having gone through several pieces of training in the agency institution in addition to his first degree in Economics, Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy while currently pursuing another degree in Law.

Those who know him well tell tales of his bravery, dedication, fairness, and balance in his investigation expertise and well known for seeing through any case he hits with his teeth.

His thorough stand for the truth, interest in hearing both sides before taking a stand are some of the features that distinguish him in his wealth of experience in the institution.

The 40-year-old was the brave brain behind the famous Deziani crude oil swap, Atlantic Energy, and petroleum subsidy fraud investigations by the country’s formidable anti-corruption institution, recovering millions of dollars worth of properties in the UK, Switzerland, U.K., U.A.E., U.S.A., Canada including 92 of such assets in Nigeria and billions of naira, prosecuting many companies.

The former Ibadan-zonal head of the EFCC was said to have run the notorious yahoo boys in the area out of town, before moving to Port Harcourt to wage war against oil bunkers.

He has also been part of the prosecution of advance fee fraud, bank fraud, official corruption, money laundering, and other economic and financial-related crimes.

Bawa, who has been in the anti-corruption fight for about 17 years now, is also said to be putting to bed the impression that some people are untouchables as he is said to be taking the war to the house of ‘the bouillon chief’, former governor of Lagos and a chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. He is also chesting the investigations against the former governor of Niger State, Muazu Babaginda Aliyu, who is currently facing trial.

Prior to his appointment, Bawa, who is the youngest ever to lead the EFFC, the commission has been without a substantive chairman since Ibrahim Lamorde in 2015. The immediate past chairman, Ibrahim Magu, operated in an acting capacity from 2015 to 2020, after the Senate failed to confirm him and was later removed in controversial circumstances.

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Abdulrasheed Bawa: Setting the Pace in Fight Against Corruption

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Abdulrasheed Bawa

By Wole Arisekola

The appointment of 40-year-old Abdulrasheed Bawa by President Muhammadu Buhari as the head of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), no doubt ushers in new dawn at the anti-graft agency that has over the years been riddled with leadership crisis since its establishment many years ago during the second term of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The nomination of the youthful and very thorough security operative to replace the embattled and suspended former chairman, Ibrahim Magu, will obviously set a new pace for the commission, what with Bawa’s track record of inimitable achievement as a groundbreaker.

Since the laudable appointment of Bawa who is a Chief Detective Superintendent, mixed reactions have continued to trail his new office on account of those who dread what he can do if allowed to hold sway without any encumbrance.

As one of the earliest recruits into the commission at inception, without a police training and background, Bawa has assiduously worked in close contact with all the previous Chairmen of the commission, unblemished and diligently. His coming on board now as the chairman of EFCC comes with a varied wealth of experience in the fight against the hydra-headed monster of corruption and other financial vices.

Against the background that those before him as chairman of EFCC came from their privilege background as top police officers with insights into the workings of what goes on in high places viz-a-viz corruption, Bawa is coming in from a totally different and fresh background without being an appendage to anyone in the corridors of power, and may just be the breath of fresh air needed in the fight against corruption without fear or favour, a development that is giving many a reason to believe that the fight is already a win-win battle.

A trained security operative with a vast experience in investigation and prosecution of Advance Fee fraud cases, official corruption, bank fraud, money laundering and other economic and financial crimes, Bawa holds a BSc in Economics and a Masters in international affairs and Diplomacy. He is one of the pioneer EFCC cadet officers when the commission was set up in 2005. He has undergone several specialized trainings in security and investigating matters both at home and abroad.

Perhaps these sterling qualities and the very impressive and intimidating dossier is what is giving many of his traducers the jitters since his appointment as they have begun to run series of clandestine campaigns of calumny against him to frustrate him even before he hits the ground running as he is always won’t to be.

But those who know Bawa well will tell you that he can never be intimidated or arm-stronged to bow to anyone’s whims and caprices as he remains undaunted to take his job very seriously without minding whose ox is gored.

Here are 10 things to know about the incoming EFCC boss:

* He was born in Jega, Kebbi State, 40 years ago. This makes him the first person to be appointed to the EFCC job from anywhere in Nigeria other than the North-East zone.

* ️Bawa is the first career operative to head the EFCC. His appointment puts to rest agitation by “core EFCC staff” to have one of their own to head the commission.

* Bawa served under all EFCC past chairpersons, starting with Nuhu Ribadu, who recruited the first set of civilians into EFCC (including Bawa) in 2005.

* The operative started work with EFCC from its Lagos office, after his recruitment in 2005. He went on to work at the headquarters in Abuja, and for a year in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

* ️He was educated at the Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree in Economics in 2001 and Master’s in International Relations and Diplomacy in 2011.

* ️He is a Deputy Chief Detective Superintendent, a position he was promoted to in 2016.

* ️Bawa has led a number of key corruption and financial crimes investigations including the infamous case of former Petroleum Minister, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke, the case of former Niger State governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu and that of the controversial crude oil swap. He was also involved in the investigation of petroleum subsidy fraud (2012-2015).

* ️Bawa has headed EFCC zonal offices in Ibadan and Port Harcourt between June 2018 and December 2019.

* ️From Port Harcourt, Bawa was posted to Abuja as head of Capacity Development Division of the EFCC Academy, Karu.

* ️Bawa was trained by the FBI, KPMG and many other institutions in the UK, United States and Nigeria.

The coming of Bawa will definitely bring a new dawn to the long protracted fight against corruption which has defied all known measures to nip it in the bud. Bawa is set to break records if confirmed by the Nigerian Senate to lead the commission.

Wole Arisekola, a businessman, writes from Lagos

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Nano, Micro, and Small Businesses: Path to Growth with Government Services And Contracts

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Timi Olubiyi Recession and Pandemic

By Timi Olubiyi, PhD

In today’s turbulent business environment, predominantly with the economic recession, inflation, and the disruptive novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, strategy becomes the main source of competitive advantage for businesses and organisations.

However, for a strategy to be meaningful, a business must have a reliable and working business and organisational structure.

The fundamental problem that occurs in most businesses particularly the nano, micro, and small-sized enterprises in the country is that they operate informally and how to establish a successful and profitable enterprise in a way to satisfy the common and personal interest is complicated.

I am delighted to correctly inform you that this issue revolves around sound business structure planning. Hence, when a business and its activities are divided, organised, coordinated, and controlled without duplications and are hassle-free, it is said to be structured.

An organisational structure can be seen as ways in which responsibilities and power are allocated and work procedures are carried out in a business by operators and workers.

From context observation small businesses in Nigeria are rarely structured, usually, they have a small working group and face-to-face communication is frequent, this generally undermines formality, business growth, and productivity.

A point to note is that this informal arrangement is prevalent in the country and is a worrisome culture amongst start-ups and small businesses.

Thus, this piece is to share the importance of business formalisation and the need to have organisational procedures, established rules, and responsibilities assigned, regardless of the business size, employee size, revenue generation, or the range of the business function.

Having a business incorporated or registered at the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and setting up a business account in a commercial bank are only the starting points of formalisation of business, structure involves a whole lot more.

The idea of structure in a business is for efficiency and effectiveness because it affects the safety of assets, fundraising, taxation, customer experience, governance, and engagements.

The smooth continuation of any business upon ownership change or succession and the financial information of the business is also affected by the structure in the business. Business requires structure chiefly for continuity, growth, and profitability.

In my view, the efficiency of a business can be measured by how well the business is structured. Therefore, for a business either large, small, or nano to fulfil its purpose and have a mechanism constructed to achieve the purpose, a functional structure has to be in place in the business.

More importantly, functional structure affects business operations in two ways. First, it provides the foundation on which standard operating procedures and routines rest.

Second, it determines which individuals get to participate in which decision – making processes, and thus to what extent their views shape the business operations.

To substantiate the perennial issue of informality and lack of structure among businesses, a survey was conducted on MSMEs in Lagos State, the commercial nerve centre of the country – (The computer village Ikeja, Alaba International Market, and within some market associations (Auto Spare Parts and Machinery Dealers-ASPAMDA and Balogun Business Association) to get more insights.

The survey revealed that a large percentage of close to 97.4 per cent of the respondents who are business owners and SME operators have organic structure (no accountant, no operating software, no technology usage, no rules, and procedures) in their businesses.

With the survey, a high number of poorly run businesses with little or no structure were identified and this is a huge challenge to business continuity.

Some of the issues they face as a result of this informality include high employee turnover, and hiring problems, low productivity, high number of low skilled staff, lack of bookkeeping, and in most cases no accounting or customer/sales data.

However, such data could be used to gain insights into sales, profitability, patronage, and for strategy, implementation to stay ahead of the competition.

More so with such data sets (business and customers) if available, it can help to identify areas of weakness and strength of the business and also ensure no part of the business operation or customer experience is overlooked.

With good structure, businesses can provide exceptional customer service experience and audited financial statements useful for government procurements, services and public contract qualifications.

For a business to have a good structure, these components; the board, the management, business goals, vision, operations, governance, accounting, bookkeeping, human resources, and technology usage have to be defined. Because they have a significant effect on the way the organisation performs its activities and if one component does not fit, the performance of the whole business will be hindered.

For instance, improper accounting systems and bookkeeping can result in financial disaster for a small business or even cause a business failure.

In addition, governance structures and leadership is equally important because it is the frameworks that can help businesses achieve long-term success for all their stakeholders.

Significantly, to improve the structure and efficiency of a business the most central formalisation tool available is the technology and the organizational chart.

We live in an age of high technology development in various sectors and industries, this increasingly improves the adoption of automation for businesses and is, therefore, a more logical way to support business structure. Business structure with technology will reduce operational cost; provides standardized procedure, accountability, and clear reporting among others.

For several reasons, large firms may have a comparative advantage over small businesses however mainly on business and organizational structure.

Nano, micro, and small businesses are poorly structured all across the country, therefore formality and adequate structure are advised for business sustainability and growth. It is also apparent that SME operators need to adopt good governance, prepare a financial statement as at when due, and keep proper records.

It will help such small businesses take other opportunities such as taking part in government services, procurements, Public-Private Partnership (PPP) and contract exercises.

Recall, the government is the biggest procurer of goods and services, operating in the public sector space should be a target, however, it requires adequate formality and structure. If this part of your business is sorted it will be easy to identify and qualify for opportunities within the government and public space. This can provide a leverage considering the current economic realities.

Other opportunities include raising funds in the capital market, attracting foreign direct investment, seeking a loan from the bank, and so on.

Raising long-term funds with low cost through the stock exchange should not be a daunting task for small businesses if a structure and good governance are in place.

In conclusion, to stem the tides of the effect of this current reality and harsh economic climate, businesses need to innovate from an organic structure to a functional structure and divide the organisation into units, based on their function.

When a business environment changes, the organisational strategy needs to change, structure, roles, objectives, and functions should realign with the new realities.

The big question is, has your business acted? If you have a structure, have you done a performance review or done a technology upgrade? If it becomes increasingly difficult to re-engineer or structure your business where necessary, the engagement of knowledgeable professionals can make a substantial impact on your business operations and for strategy advice. Good luck!

How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?

Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is also a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: drtimiolubiyi@gmail.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments.

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