By Abubakar ‘Abusidiq’ Usman
Shortly after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) released me from detention last week Tuesday, I said I was going to tell the story of my arrest especially against the backdrop of the claim by the anti-graft agency that I was arrested on ‘’offences bordering on cyber stalking.’’ Today, I am keeping to that pledge and stating details of all that transpired from my arrest, detention, eventual release and what lies ahead.
How It All Began
At about 7.30am on Monday, 8th August, 2016 I heard a knock on the door of my residence in Kubwa, Abuja. I was actually still in bed at the time, so my wife had to attend to the door. Moments later, she came to the bedroom to tell me that there are two men at the front door asking to see me. She also stated that she was unsettled by their disposition. As my wife and two children were in the house, I had no other option than to go to the door and see what the men wanted.
Initially, I moved to the Living Room, and attempted to speak to them through the window closest to the door. “Who are you?” and “What can I do for you?” I asked. The men responded saying that they wanted to see the documents for the Toyota Corrolla car that was parked outside my house. They claimed that there were issues with the car. At this point, I noticed that one of the men had crept to the back of the house – seemingly to ensure that I did not escape. This immediately led me to believe that this unwelcome visitation had nothing to do with the car.
Thinking about my next steps, I went back into the room, asked my wife to get the car documents, then I called my next-door neighbour to inform him of the development and the presence of the at-the-time yet-to-be identified men that were in front of my house. I asked him to please come and serve as a witness, as I did not believe their story. Unbeknownst to me, he was already observing the events, as he had noticed the men creeping around the house for quite some time. My neighbour then came out of the house, which made me feel safe enough to do the same.
It was at this point that the men revealed their identities as police officers on the trail of a stolen Toyota Corrolla car. They said a man had claimed ownership of the car, and they wanted to verify his claim. We were in the middle of this discussion when a Toyota Hilux truck with Police numbering and carrying two heavily armed policemen drove into the compound.
When my wife came out of the house with the original car papers, one of the police officers flipped through the pages, stepped aside to place a phone call to a person that he claimed was his ‘Oga’, then came back into the compound to tell me that the car owner was on his way with his own original documents. We all agreed to wait to verify which of the ‘original’ documents were in fact ‘original’.
A few minutes later, a white Bus with two armed policemen and two men in casual dressing drove into the premises and told the other officers that they could now start their work. While we were still at this, one of my neighbours informed me that there was another armed officer stationed outside the compound. It was also at this point that I got to know that some of the men present were in fact EFCC operatives who had passed the night in a nearby estate – simply to ensure that they kept a close tab on my activities. Another of the men had earlier revealed to me that they had been on my trail describing the car I drove, the clothes that I wore and the places I visited three days preceding my arrest. They actually stalked me for several days prior to my arrest.
At this point, I requested that the men formally identify themselves, and one of them told me that he was an EFCC operative with a search warrant to look around my house. He also added that I was under arrest. A basic perusal of the warrant showed that I was being arrested for ‘Offensive Publications’ against the EFCC and its staff.
Before I allowed the men to execute the search warrant, I demand that the three operatives that were elected to conduct the search were first searched – in order to ensure that they did not plan any incriminating evidence in my home.
During the search, the men turned my entire house upside down and searched every nook and cranny. All this happened in the presence of the neighbour, whom I had requested to be present. While this search was going on, the armed policemen who accompanied the EFCC operatives positioned themselves at every corner outside my house and within the premises, leaving my neighbours wondering what could have been my offence.
At the end of the search, the operatives confiscated my two phones, my laptop, my mobile internet device (mifi), the complimentary cards in my possession, and other items that were clearly unrelated to the spurious offence that they were charging me with. The operatives then took a record of all the items that they had confiscated, hauled me into the Toyota bus, and took me to the EFCC Headquarters in Wuse 2, Abuja.
My Alleged Offence
When the men first came to knock on my door, they alleged that the Toyota Corrola car which belongs to my wife was a stolen car. This changed to what they called ‘offensive publication’ as indicated in the search warrant they produced, but when they eventually released a press statement on the same day of my arrest, they said I was being held for ‘Cyber Stalking.’
It is important to note that in all these, the EFCC failed to specify who or what I was ‘stalking.’ They didn’t even explain to me the details of the ‘cyber stalking’ allegation and what the specific crimes were and till this day, nobody has said anything to me in clear terms what my offence is. It was only at the moment they showed me the search warrant that I was able to deduce that my arrest was in regards to some publications that I had made on my blog abusidiqu.com particularly about the head of the anti-graft commission. The search warrant said ‘offensive publications against EFCC and its staff, but this is clearly not true. They were Ibrahim Lamorde and Ibrahim Magu who incidentally headed or heads the EFCC.
Since 2015, long before the current chairman, Ibrahim Magu was appointed to head the commission in acting capacity, abusidiqu.com published several articles bordering on alleged corruption and complaints by EFCC staff amongst many others. This information were very much in the public space and was not peculiar to abusidiqu.com alone. The searchlight beamed on Lamorde was also beamed on Magu and according to the persons who authored the publications, they saw the need to inform the public of what was happening under the Magu-led leadership of the commission. Contrary to the erroneous impression they may have tried to create, the publications were never about EFCC as an institution neither were they against the staff of the commission. They were about Lamorde and Magu in their individual capacity as heads of the commission.
What is even of more concern is that the EFCC knows that I did not author these publications. They know and have sufficient proofs of who the authors were. I only provided them the platform as a blogger to enable them air their concerns, the same way I have done to so many others including those who have written positively about Lamorde, Magu and the EFCC. Thankfully, one of the authors has come out boldly to say that she authored the articles.
I have asked times without number why Magu feels he should be a judge in his own case by using the EFCC to want to intimidate and harass people because he heads the commission. What has the EFCC got to do with publications that is about him as an individual? At best, the EFCC’s involvement should simply have been to investigate the issues raised by the authors in the articles that I published. If the organization is supposed to be acting on information provided by whistle blowers, is this not a perfect opportunity for the EFCC to investigate Magu, not minding that he is the head the commission? If these publications were to be about a junior staff of EFCC for example, will the commission also be the one to effect arrest on behalf the junior officer? For me, this is just a clear case of using privileged position for the purpose of harassment and intimidation.
My Stay In EFCC Detention
I spent about 36 hours in the custody of the EFCC. The better part of this time was spent during interrogation. They were practically asking me questions they already have answers to. They asked to know if the publications mostly dating back to 2015 were published on abusidiqu.com. They also showed me print outs of the emails which contained the information the authors of the publications sent to me requesting for publishing space. If they already know all this, then what was my arrest for? Perhaps, they wanted something more, reason why they are still keeping all the items they confiscated from my house. As I write this, the EFCC is still holding onto my phones, laptops, internet device and other unrelated documents. They told me clearly that they are going to subject them to forensic analysis which I believe is in breach of my privacy.
From the above narration, it is clear to me that Magu’s EFCC is in clear violation of the law. Aside granting me bail, they refused to say anything else and have continued to keep possession of my properties many of which contains my private information. So I proceeded to the court for the enforcement of my Fundamental Rights which the EFCC is in clear breach of. My lawyers have informed me that the commission has been duly served and we are now awaiting the court to commence the case.
Abubakar ‘Abusidiq’ Usman
B2B e-Commerce: Fostering Sales, Distribution with Data Analytics
The informal sector is a major source of economic growth and productivity globally. According to both the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) statistics, more than 2 billion people representing 61% of the world’s employed population work in the informal sector.
Of the number, 93% are reportedly in emerging and developing countries. Around 86% of employment in Sub-Saharan Africa is in the informal sector, while 80% of household retail distribution is said to be delivered via informal retailers.
Nigeria is reputed to have a huge informal sector that makes up 50% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for over 90% of employment. The informal retail market value is estimated at US$100bn out of which the food and consumer goods retail segment is worth over $40bn.
B2B e-commerce firm Alerzo’s CEO, Adewale Opaleye, described the informal sector as a major source of economic growth, productivity and competitiveness.
Despite the importance of the sector, informal retailers face complex challenges that impede their business growth, financial and income stability and service quality. The challenges include limited inventory due to high demands, meaning the market is underserved; and limited access to funding which sometimes leads them to stock low-quality products.
The retail market is also clustered; products are often overpriced because prices are largely unregulated. Distance to market especially those in hard-to-reach locations; opportunity costs; dangers of travel; inadequate logistics such as transport to move purchased goods also impact informal retailers adversely. The unstructured nature of most retail businesses is another setback.
The challenges faced by consumers at the base of the pyramid also represent another key issue in the retail market. Often, lack of access to reliable product information, quality products and services, and low purchasing power deny consumers access to everyday essentials such as food, medicine, hygiene and household products.
The fallout of the challenges in the retail market segment is that manufacturers and distributors are often unable to track data on informal retail sales, regulate quality or access BoP customers for research, marketing or the delivery of social mission goals.
As a strategic pivot for national GDP growth, reforming Nigeria’s informal trade is a key to unlocking socio-economic prosperity for the citizens, and improving the lives of the retailers themselves including their families, and the communities in which they operate.
Hence, initiatives that remove barriers in the Factory-to-Retail distribution chain for consumer goods companies are most welcome. The role of e-Commerce, in particular tech-driven B2B e-Commerce platforms, is pivotal in this regard.
“Our mission is to empower these informal retailers through our ecosystem of digital products, so they are equipped to run profitable and sustainable businesses. We strongly believe that technology has the potential to transform the way informal retailers conduct their businesses, by using it to facilitate – with just a click of a button – fast and easy access to a wide assortment of consumer products at zero delivery cost to the retailers,” Alerzo CEO, Opaleye said.
B2B e-Commerce platforms are beneficial to manufacturers and tier one distributors as enablers of data gathering and market intelligence. By utilising an array of digital technologies to gather market intelligence and analyse data, they arm goods producers with vital information on consumer behaviour to further help them in research and product development. Distributors also use such information to scale up operational efficiency.
The use of customer data significantly fosters sales growth and enhances customer relationships. According to Statista, a 2018 survey in the United States showed that 84% of industry-wide leading firms revealed that data analytics helped to bring greater accuracy to their decision-making. That is, data utilisation and related analytics methods were reported to deliver the most value to firms by reducing expenses and creating new avenues for innovation and disruption.
Data analytics enable manufacturers and distributors to strengthen their business operations. For example, in supply chain management and customer relationship, data analytics can support the personalisation and customisation of sales and customer services to build stronger and more personal relationships with customers.
By deploying data technologies and tools, B2B e-Commerce platforms like Alerzo collect data and market intelligence to identify what customers actually expect from companies and to predict their future demands. In other words, data analytics help to create business knowledge, that is, information and understanding related to business processes and the business environment. It can additionally reveal hidden behavioural patterns.
Furthermore, B2B e-Commerce can provide manufacturers access to real-time data and instant information, creating real-time knowledge of markets, and when properly implemented, can increase sales. McKinsey’s research suggests that a healthy data culture, that is, an organisational culture that accelerates the application of data analytics, is becoming increasingly important for leading and lagging companies. Also, the deployment of data helps to provide accurate and timely information within an organisation.
B2B e-Commerce platforms by utilising their digital solutions can make the collection of data more feasible and cost-effective for manufacturers and distributors. Data analytics as one of the emerging areas in the domain of B2B marketing can even support businesses with access to big data thereby increasing access to quantitative and qualitative information beyond just transaction data such as purchase quantities.
In a nutshell, B2B e-Commerce in so many ways offers solutions that are helping to address the needs in the Factory-to-Retail distribution value chain holistically – at the supply side (manufacturers, top-tier distributors and last-mile retailers), and the consumers (demand) side.
Rising Cost of Living and Boosting Living Standards
By Timi Olubiyi, PhD
The rising cost of living is impacting globally but differently and it is clearly evident that expenses and bills continue to rise steeply. The cost of food, household consumables and other essentials has skyrocketed in recent times from Cairo to Botswana, Delhi, Shanghai, London, Houston, Mexico City, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Dublin and Manila, name it. This price hike has been on the increase as part of the consequences of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and this continues to shrink the available disposable income of the majority altogether.
In the Nigerian context, a loaf of bread that was N350 in 2020 is now about N700, a 100% increase in two years. Similar percentage increases are in the cost of flight tickets, health care, rents, diesel, cooking gas, a bag of rice, a crate of eggs, a kilo of chicken or turkey and many other essentials due to inflation, yet income has remained the same or even less. Nothing is easily affordable, and everything is out of reach of the masses.
Given the country’s current situation and that many people have not seen a growth in their income, this has resulted in reduced or no savings, increased frustration and dissatisfaction in fulfilling basic demands amongst many. There is always the possibility and anxiety of losing jobs or businesses folding up regardless of the length of service put up, experience acquired, or available connection, and these consequences may even be more severe.
Employers, in fact, are hesitant to implement any wage increases for economic reasons. Inflation continues to have a severe negative impact on man’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being, as well as on marriages and livelihoods.
Currently, even with a steady, regular salary, living has become costlier with heightened uncertainty, high inflation, and weak purchasing power, especially for the masses including civil servants, entrepreneurs, and small business owners.
As a result, one of the ways to have protection is by diversifying sources of income and having multiple streams at this time. You have multiple bills; why not have multiple streams of income to support the inadequacy.
Therefore, in addition to salary or business income, it is important to source other income avenues to satisfy the rising needs, poor business performance and inflation. Because if financial capacity is weak and daily expenses continue to rise, individuals, businesses, and even households will be threatened with sustainability. Therefore, there is a need to take action because having multiple streams of income has proven to be priceless.
According to my observations, the majority of people and homes in the country rely solely on earned income, be it salary or daily income from a business, and they are always hoping that nothing bad happens. It is critical to understand that if the salary is the sole source of income, you are on the verge of financial pressure.
With the high inflation, unemployment crisis, and unstable economy, having many sources of income may help spread the risk and guarantee that homes and businesses are stable and financially protected. We live in a world where one source of income is insufficient and becoming increasingly unsustainable. If you ask me, having multiple sources of income is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity.
To be safe, it is never rational to depend on a single income source, full-time job, or a single market. Remember, change is the only constant thing in life, and this change happens rapidly in this period and is always unpredictable. Living on paycheck-to-paycheck, can severely affect mental health, increase anxiety, depression, stress and many are unaware of the implication on their health.
Consequently, having multiple sources of income is the best way to protect yourself, your company, and your family against drastic financial change. The tools for generating these multiple streams of income are readily accessible on the internet or by engaging a professional. We have greater access than ever before to information, people, ideas, and opportunities with social media, so tap into this. If the average billionaire or millionaire has more than one way to make money, it is important for professionals and business owners to think the same way and have stable passive income streams in order to stay on top of financial and economic woes.
While active income will require your full attention and effort, like being available from 8 am to 5 pm daily, passive income is generated with no or insignificant effort and attention; it can work while you sleep. So, to complement active income, passive income such as investing can generate income through dividends, interest, and return on capital.
Depending on the market and your financial circumstances, investing in real estate might provide you with high returns and rental income. But if you cannot construct to generate rent, acquire a piece of land and protect it; no matter how far away it is, it will rise in value. If you have years of experience in your field, you can start giving consultations or guest lectures as a means to earn another stream of income from your regular job or business.
Another reliable way is by acquiring assets that can generate consistent and steady cash flow. Looking inward might just help as well, talents, abilities, and passion can be used to create potentials that can give income streams.
Clearly, research has shown that having multiple streams of income as a plan aids retirement and provides the necessary comfort in old age. Hear this: if a solid retirement plan is your goal, savings alone will be insufficient; instead, the objective should include developing numerous streams of income sufficient to replace your principal active income (salary). The main benefit or advantage of having multiple streams of income is that when one stream is challenged or things are very volatile, there is a backup for extra income to attain financial stability. That can give the necessary hedge against uncertainties in a business as well as during illness, and disability of the entrepreneur.
In conclusion, it is reasonable to live below your means to make room for savings and then investment, no matter how little it helps along with a side hustle. Relying on a salary or daily business income alone is a danger at this time. In an environment where job loss and unemployment are chronic, the decision to create multiple streams of income and secure financial stability is expedient. However, do not let your side-income streams put the primary and full-time job or business at risk unless you can survive without it. 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 and Investment (CISI), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions, reactions, and comments
Imperatives of Adopting Extra-Curricular Nation Building Approach
By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
A path-breaking study has shown that globally, governments are resource and bandwidth-constrained and hence, need to prioritize productivity-enhancing policies.
To do so requires information on the nature and magnitude of market failures on the one hand, and government capacity to redress them successfully on the other hand.
This piece, however, believes that the second responsibility (capacity to redress market failures) remains the greatest challenge in the country’s leadership discourse as it abbreviates development and breeds policy decisions that perpetuate poverty and consolidate powerlessness.
Despite these observed leadership shortfalls, which daily distort social justice and economic empowerment, my recent conversation with one well foresighted and quietly influential Nigerian based in the United States of America (USA), however, reveals that all hope for building a Nigeria of our dreams is not lost.
He argued that the holistic and sustainable solution to Nigeria’s problem is for the leaders to stop copying the people who handed over the country to us.
“We should stop copying London to have a better society,” he stated, submitting that Nigeria and Nigerians should look for practical solutions rather than reading books and following curriculum. We should be extra-curricular in our approach.
On the nation’s education sector, he stressed that the educational system is faulty just like every educational system is faulty. The United States’ educational system is faulty, but if there is no fault in any system, then, there is no improvement. What we call fault is a challenge and that is the basics of development. Now, our educational system is not faulty. Our educational system is still very sound. It is still the most applauded and encouraged all over the world because parents in Nigeria still train their children up to educational level. America doesn’t do that. Germans don’t do that. Nigeria is one of the countries where people still train their children up to the university level. So, we still have one of the best educational systems in the world.
Regardless of what the outcome is, we are being judged by the outcome, we are being judged by how many people get employment. Having worked with the medium industries in the United States, I keep employing people who have a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry as people who end up as cashiers.
I have employed many people who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in medicine or doctorate degree in Law and they were employed. So, Americans have got used to it, that is why they are pursuing their education, they can just get a job that Nigerians have not gotten because everyone that graduates in Nigeria with a bachelor’s degree in engineering wants to work in an oil company. And anyone who graduates with a bachelor’s degree in education or biology wants to teach.
That is not what they are supposed to do. Bachelor’s degree in education is just training to have the ability to listen to research. You just need your education to know where they are selling high and buying low. The truth of the matter is that our children have to know that working for multinational oil companies is not the best result for studying engineering. And they have to know that teaching is not the best result for studying education or biology. You will just have a bachelor’s degree because you will have the ability to research and your research could be knowing where palm kernel can be sold for N4,000 and knowing another place it can be sold for N10,000.
To Nigerian youths, he captures it this way; “this is what I tell the youth because I am very happy that I started as a youth. Anywhere you are in Nigeria, you can be successful. You don’t have to come to America; you don’t have to get to Lagos Agbor or Asaba. At the age of 17, I was taken to Abuja and I remember I was living in the village of Kubwa. I remember that at 17, when my brother went to work, I usually as a young boy come to the Abuja/Kaduna expressway to watch.
“And it was then I discovered that even tankers carrying petrol carried baskets of tomato as well. That is when I discovered that the South consumes so many tomatoes. And the only thing I did was to go to the Zuba market and meet with people selling tomatoes and start collecting rotten tomatoes. At 19, I told my brother I was leaving Abuja and I went back to Delta State and started farming tomatoes. And at the age of 20, 1990, I made my first million from selling tomatoes. Then that was when I decided that I wasn’t going back to Abuja. By 1992, I had made over N5 million farming/selling tomatoes.
“Then I was about 22 years old. So, if I go back to Nigeria today, I would be in my village and I would be making on average about N50 million a year.”
Away from the youth unemployment challenge to the nation’s health sector, he again queried; “do you know that to have improved healthcare in Nigeria, we don’t need doctors?”
More people, he observed, collapse when they are at a burial ceremony or at the church than when they are in the hospital. People don’t collapse in the hospital. So, why do we have to keep training doctors on cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)? We should gather some personnel and train them to revive people anytime somebody collapses, it might be in a compound and the man is the only one available. They should train every pastor, or better still, make it part of the qualification for ordaining pastors, to know how to do the cardiopulmonary resuscitation. So, if someone fails in the church, they (Pastor) will know what to do.
There are in fact, more people who have the telephone numbers of their pastors than the phone numbers of their doctors. In a similar style, he said, the government should train pastors and our local religious leaders on economic development strategies/policies. Rather than waiting for professors of economics particularly as evidence has shown that People respect their religious leaders more than professionals.
So, religious leaders have become our primary healthcare system, they have become our primary stand, our primary economy, and even our leaders.
Take, as an illustration, if some pastors tell their members to close their eyes while walking on the road, they will do so. That is the difference between America and Nigeria. The American government will call all the pastors and train them and now tell them to develop the nation. That is why you see churches in America preaching the same thing because they realized that people believe more in their pastors than in their leaders. So, you have to give the pastors more incentive to make the country develop.
Thus, what I tell the federal government as a holistic solution is that they have to understand the people who are ruling the people. Not to just understand that the law is what is guiding the people. You have to know the people in the motor park. You have to understand the pastor is running their lives and you have to train the pastors so that they can inculcate the development of the nation into the people. So, the federal government has to figure out who is ruling the people. Is it the pastors, Nollywood/movie industry or the music artists?
On the prevailing spate of ritual killing in the country, he has this to say; the truth of the matter is that our youths who are listening to prescriptions are not educated. Most of these ritual killings are prescriptions from uninformed people. And, once we increase our level of education and they understand how useful they (youths) are, they won’t be involved in ritual killings.
What the youths need to recognize is the fact that if you don’t have a job in Nigeria does not mean that nobody is looking for you in Spain. Somebody may be looking for you in Spain, Poland, or France and somebody who needs you more may be looking for you in Canada. They have not been able to exploit all the available resources. That is why they give in to the local prescription of ritual killings. That is just it. Ritual killings are a desperate attempt to gain power and success, he concluded.
I think there exist some ingrained lessons that both states and the federal government must draw and domesticate from the above admonition.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He can be reached via email@example.com/08032725374
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