The Welcome Party for Ibori
By Simon Kolawole
Predictably, many Nigerians are disgusted with the jubilation that greeted the release of former Delta governor, Chief James Onanefe Ibori, from UK prison on Wednesday. His friends and associates were over the moon. His community rolled out the drums. There were eulogies here and there. In my estimation, the celebration was sincere and affectionate. And that exactly was what irked many Nigerians: how could people genuinely celebrate the release of a convicted money launderer and fraudster? Shouldn’t they be appalled? Shouldn’t they stone him? Shouldn’t they ostracise him? What is this world turning into? These are the questions pervading the social media.
His supporters cannot understand the outcry over their in-your-face celebrations. Are they supposed to be crying that their hero had been freed from prison? They are asking: if prison is meant to punish, and he has served the punishment, does he not deserve a second chance? We should also note that even though he had been in prison since 2010, he was effectively still in control of Delta politics, installing governors, senators, reps, house of assembly members, commissioners and boards of agencies. It is even reported that he was determining the choice of contracts and contractors. Ibori was, clearly, loved by his people.
The UNIBEN-trained economist cannot even understand the “noise”. While he was governor, he often asked journalists why he was being cast as the most corrupt politician in Nigeria. He named a number of governors who were very corrupt — and asked why the press was protecting them and casting others as devils. He believed he was a victim of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s vendetta. Ibori and other PDP governors had famously tried to stop Obasanjo from getting the party’s ticket to go for a second term in 2003. The ultimate casualty was their ally, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, whom Obasanjo stopped by all means from succeeding him in 2007.
Ibori’s supporters may well have a point, but their hero’s case is very, very complicated. He has a history. Unforgettable history. He had been convicted for credit card fraud and theft twice in the UK — in 1991 and 1992. Then in 1995, he was allegedly convicted for criminal breach of trust in Nigeria. Being an ex-convict, he was constitutionally not qualified to run for governorship in 1999, but he beat the system all the same. The 1995 conviction by an Abuja area court was a thriller. The name of the convict was James Onanefe Ibori. In 2004, he denied being the same person and court records would soon be blurred. It was certainly one of the mysteries of modern times.
The judge who passed the sentence identified him as the convict. But all the way to the Supreme Court, our judiciary ruled that it must be another James Onanefe Ibori. In yet another twist, a truck driver who called himself “James Onanefe Ochuko Ibori” materialised from the moon and claimed to be the convict in question. The drama had no equal. The then Inspector General of Police, Alhaji Tafa Balogun, finally gave Ibori a clean bill. That ended Season One, which I would call ‘The Appetiser’. That Balogun himself was later removed and convicted on corruption charges on a different matter might not be unrelated to Obasanjo’s anger at his handling of the Ibori affair.
Season Two started in 2006 — or 2007 if you will. Dr. Bukola Saraki, then governor of Kwara state, and Ibori, his pal, would play a key role in the election of Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as the president of Nigeria. Ibori reportedly claimed to have spent N50 billion on the campaign. Yar’Adua’s campaign team was filled with Ibori’s men. Indeed, Mr. David Edevbie, who would later serve as Yar’Adua’s principal private secretary, was Ibori’s commissioner for finance in Delta state. All was set for the capture of Yar’Adua and the recording of Season Two, which I call ‘The Avengers’. Their first port of call was to destroy the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Why? EFCC, under Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, was a potent instrument in the hands of Obasanjo in the anti-graft crusade. The war was unquestionably selective and vindictive — but there were no trumped-up charges. The allegations were concrete. With a certain Mr. Ibrahim Magu leading key investigations into politically exposed persons, there was a mountain of evidence against leading political actors in Yar’Adua’s government. The only workable option was to weaken the EFCC. They did it by hook and crook. Mr. Michael Aondoakaa, Yar’Adua’s attorney-general, started out by seeking to take prosecutorial powers away from the EFCC. He did not succeed.
While we were at it, EFCC started proceedings against former governors who no longer enjoyed immunity. Ibori was arrested at the Kwara state governor’s lodge in Abuja — while enjoying the company of Saraki, his bosom friend who is today the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. They had to move fast. Ribadu, who had been re-appointed EFCC chairman by Obasanjo shortly before his presidential tenure ended in 2007, was asked to go back to the senate for another confirmation screening — in the hope that he would not be confirmed (did you just fast-forward to Magu’s fate in 2016?), in the hope that his menace would end quickly.
Along the line, Yar’Adua remembered that Ribadu was promoted to the rank of AIG without having gone to the mandatory National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS). Ribadu was asked to go to Kuru immediately. He was eventually demoted from AIG to DCP, humiliated and dismissed — with Ibori publicly boasting “we are in charge”. Ibori, meanwhile, argued in court that if he stole Delta money, he should be tried in Delta. In 2009, a federal high court was quickly created and built in Asaba to try him, and he was cleared by Justice Idowu Awokulehin as the EFCC, now under Mrs. Farida Waziri (appointed to replace Ribadu, with the help of Aondoakaa), started a new era.
Season Three, I call it ‘The Journey’, started in 2010 when the government of President Goodluck Jonathan re-opened the case and Ibori, in an attempt to escape another trial, ran to Dubai — into the waiting hands of Interpol — from where he ended up in the UK and went on trial for money laundering. He quickly pleaded “guilty” to the same charges he pleaded “not guilty” to in Nigeria, perhaps knowing that the British judicial system was more difficult to fool around with. We now seem set for ‘The Return’, the Season Four of the Ibori franchise. With Magu, his investigator, still at EFCC, Ibori’s file may be dusted up. I will, thus, be shocked if senate eventually confirms Magu.
As for those who want Ibori ostracised after his release from jail, I ask: who has ever been ostracised in Nigeria for corruption? In 2002, when Mohammed Abacha was set free by the Supreme Court on fraud charges, he was received by a jubilant crowd in Kano and driven away in a convoy of luxury limousines and police vans. He later reneged on the deal to return $1.5bn Abacha loot — and almost became governor. In 2007, Bayelsa went berserk with joy when ex-governor Chief DSP Alamieyeseigha was freed after serving time for fraud. In 2011, a lavish church service was held to celebrate Chief Bode George’s release from Kirikiri.
Let me conclude. To Ibori’s supporters who think their hero is being unfairly treated, he has a history: he set himself up to be cast as a villain. His dare-devil scheming must rank among the most audacious in our history. He overplayed his hand. And as for those appalled at the welcome party, let us stop being hypocrites: we organise welcome parties for our own Iboris every day. They get front-row seats in churches. We defend them because we are of the same tribe and tongue, region and religion. Sentiments are always at play. Until we reach a national consensus on hating corruption with perfect hatred, the in-your-face welcome parties will keep rolling.
For readers who want to understand our contradictions when it comes to confronting corruption in Africa, I recommend the timeless essay, ‘Colonialism and Two Publics in Africa: A Theoretical Statement’, written by Prof. Peter Ekeh in 1975. It defines our problematic relationship with public resources in Africa. We have two sets of morals: one for the civic domain, which we see as a colonial creation, and another for the primordial domain, which is where we operated as Africans before colonialism. What we adjudge as immoral (such as stealing) in the primordial domain we see as perfectly normal in the civic domain. We think public money is nobody’s money after all!
The Exciting Relationship Between Women and Mobile Money in Africa
By Rashi Gupta
The success of mobile money in Africa is well known. If you’ve paid any attention to the continent’s financial and technology spaces over the past decade or so, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that it accounts for around 70% of the world’s $1 trillion mobile money value.
You’d probably also be unsurprised to learn that in Kenya, the country that effectively kick-started Africa’s mobile money revolution, mobile money transactions now account for 56.8% of GDP. What you might not know is that mobile money has long played (and continues to play) an important role in empowering women across Sub-Saharan Africa.
That’s important because, despite gains in representation (in 11 African countries, women hold over a third of parliamentary seats, more than in Europe), gender inequality remains stark across Africa. While there are obviously differences from country to country, women throughout the continent fare worse than their male counterparts in a number of measures, including wages, investment, access to capital, and education.
Of course, mobile money can’t fix all of those issues on its own. That requires serious investment as well as shifts in policy and societal attitudes. But it can play a significant role in making life better for women across the continent, especially when it comes to financial inclusion.
Taking care of business
That’s not just conjecture either. Research conducted on behalf of the World Bank shows just how substantial the impact has been. It notes, for example, that mobile money has enabled Kenyan women to move away from subsistence farming and towards business and retail, helping alleviate poverty in the country.
The research further notes that, for individuals and households, mobile phones can help reduce transaction costs, lower travel costs, improve welfare by smoothing unexpected income shocks, increase security, and facilitate remittances.
Perhaps the most significant impact, however, lies in what mobile money can do for female entrepreneurs.
Using mobile money leads to a 19.8% increase in the likelihood of female-led businesses receiving investments from outside sources. Given that the average capital investment by female-owned firms is more than six times lower than the average for male-owned firms in Africa, that’s especially critical.
That same World Bank research shows that such female-owned businesses are then more likely to invest that money in fixed assets and their business’s expansion, more likely to offer credit to customers, demand credit, and have better relationships with suppliers.
A state of constant evolution
It’s also worth noting that mobile money has evolved considerably since it landed on the African continent, further enhancing its ability to empower women.
Advances in interoperability, for example, mean that it’s easier than ever for people and businesses on different mobile money systems and in different countries to send and receive money. That has massive potential benefits for female entrepreneurs as it allows them to sell their products across borders without having to rely on traditional international e-commerce infrastructure that can be costly, resource intensive, and require business owners to travel away from home on a regular basis using unsafe or unreliable modes of transportation. Unlocking new markets is vital for any business’s ability to scale and grow.
In the coming years, mobile money will continue to evolve in new and innovative ways. And if history is anything to go by, then women will embrace and benefit most from those advancements.
Breaking barriers across borders
That’s because financial inclusion is the most effective way of reducing inequalities. That’s especially true for women. And few technologies have fostered that kind of inclusion as successfully as mobile money has. It has given unbanked communities and people in remote and rural areas the kind of access to financial services that would’ve taken far longer if they’d had to rely on traditional financial institutions. The fact that it’s had such a profound and lasting impact in elevating women across the continent should, therefore, never be underestimated.
Rashi Gupta is the Group Chief Operating Officer at MFS Africa
Nigeria’s Naira Redesign; Avarice Versus Envy
By Prince Charles Dickson PhD
Two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed to him to grant their hearts’ desires. Now the one was full of avarice, and the other ate up with envy.
So, to punish them both, Jupiter granted that each might have whatever he wished for himself, but only on condition that his neighbour had twice as much.
The Avaricious man prayed to have a room full of gold. No sooner said than done, but all his joy was turned to grief when he found that his neighbour had two rooms full of the precious metal. Then came the turn of the Envious man, who could not bear to think that his neighbour had any joy at all.
So, he prayed that he might have one of his own eyes put out, which meant his companion would become totally blind.
Vices are their own punishment.
How does the above relate to Nigeria—especially in these times? What constitutes a crisis worthy of leadership attention? At what point is enough really enough? I will write a few paragraphs’ gists with us. For better understanding, let me tutor us!
Nigeria has been facing a currency crisis for several years now. The country’s currency, the Naira, has been steadily losing value against major foreign currencies like the US dollar, Euro, and British pound. The following are some of the factors that have contributed to the currency crisis in Nigeria:
- Overdependence on oil exports: Nigeria is a major oil-producing country, and the economy heavily relies on oil exports for revenue. The fall in oil prices in recent years has led to a significant reduction in foreign exchange earnings, thereby putting pressure on the Naira.
- High inflation rate: Nigeria has been experiencing high inflation rates for several years. This has eroded the value of the Naira and made it more expensive to import goods and services.
- Weak economic fundamentals: Nigeria’s economy has been characterized by low productivity, weak infrastructure, and a poor business environment. This has led to a lack of investor confidence, which in turn has contributed to a weak Naira.
- Foreign exchange restrictions: The Nigerian government has put in place several foreign exchange restrictions in an attempt to conserve foreign exchange reserves. However, these restrictions have led to a scarcity of foreign exchange and have further weakened the Naira.
The currency crisis in Nigeria has had several negative impacts on the economy, including rising inflation, high unemployment, and low economic growth. The government has taken several measures to address the crisis, including devaluing the Naira and introducing foreign exchange policies aimed at stabilizing the currency. However, more needs to be done to address the root causes of the crisis and put the economy on a sustainable growth path.
In light of these, we decided on a Naira redesign. A currency swap naturally followed it in the Nigerian context. The fact of the matter was, there was no campaign to enlighten the masses. There was no form of advocacy; the ordinary man on the streets did not know what to expect and did not understand the entire process. Who we be sef? And after all, what do we know, it came with a cash crunch… the last time Nigerians experienced this was in the 1980s. Why the naira design, we still don’t have a grasp.
A nation with no sense of emergency; maybe that’s why we don’t have any natural disasters, albeit self-inflicted floods, that can and should be avoided. We are not bothered about the crisis, the Central Bank chief went ahead with his mandatory role of redesigning the Naira notes, he did not tell the minister for finance, the ministry was left in the loop, and those in economic and national planning were not aware. The national assembly was as usual, not beyond an assembly.
We all started the blame game, the apex bank chief feeling like James Bond and others went on the defence. We were told that it was targeted at politicians who wanted to buy votes for the upcoming (now concluded) elections. The politicians played their roles, went to court, government carry government go court. Nigeria is indeed a country. Governors threatened banks, banks punished citizens. And one ponders, if indeed we are 200 million Nigerians, why should we bear the brunt of the thievery of barely 1%? Abi Nigerians politicians pass 1 million?
We are a people that just do anyhow, go anyway and in the end, nothing happens. In the interim, banks were touched in parts of the country, no one was held liable, while other parts just moved on painfully. The old notes disappeared, and the new notes were nowhere to be found. If Venezuela was picturesque, Nigeria is the reality; Nigerians were buying naira with naira, and all the authorities did was, at the best rant and dramatize.
The central bank said they had destroyed the old notes, they said the new notes were not enough or were being printed. Who is printing, and why was the printing not done first? Why reduce the old notes and not make available the new notes? We just dey play! Banks are operating at the lowest capacity; electronic banking is, at best, working in babalawo mood. The more you look, the more your eyes hurt from seeing nothing. We are possibly impossible people. The governors had alleged that contrary to the CBN defence that they had destroyed the old notes, the notes were there, and months after, we know better, the old notes are appearing, after the dance of the naked at the nation’s apex court, the old notes stay till the end of the year.
However, the damage done to small businesses and the fact that Nigerians have painfully learned the difference between cash at hand and cash at the bank cannot be quantified. For a policy that ordinarily should have enhanced the security features of the currency and prevented counterfeiting because the new Naira notes were supposed to feature new designs, images, and colours, which are meant to reflect Nigeria’s diverse cultural heritage. Counterfeiting has been on the rise, with even the ordinary Nigerian not knowing anything about the new notes, as counterfeiters are producing fake notes every day.
Public confidence in our naira is at an all-time low. We are supposed to have witnessed a reduction in transaction costs for businesses that handle cash transactions. But it has rather tripled costs, many argue that the new notes are not more durable than the old ones.
This exercise has killed the economy; all the aims for which the two neighbours came before Jupiter and prayed to him to grant their hearts’ desires, have failed because we are a nation full of avarice, and the other eaten up with envy, nothing works according to the original plan, until some interests are being served, when will it change—only time will tell!
6 Ways Google and YouTube Can Help You Celebrate Ramadan
Ramadan is a holy month that is observed by Muslims all around the world. It is a time for reflection, prayer, and community. With the help of Google and YouTube, celebrating Ramadan has become even easier and more enjoyable.
From Lagos to Nairobi, Accra to Johannesburg, Africans can access a wealth of information and resources to make the most of this special time. Here are 6 ways that Google and YouTube can help you celebrate Ramadan in Africa:
Celebrate Ramadan’s Joy with Colors and Greetings: Simply search for “Ramadan 2023” in your language on Google, and you will have access to all the information related to this month, including prayer times, recipes, and more. You can also find articles on Ramadan etiquette, Ramadan recipes, and Ramadan greetings to help you navigate the holiday with ease. Additionally, you can access greeting cards online to share with your loved ones, and scroll through our Ramadan colouring book on Google Arts & Culture to engage your inner artist and colour beautiful artwork to share with family and friends.
Set Reminders for Prayer Times with Google Assistant: With Google Assistant, you can set reminders for prayer times throughout the day, making it easier to stay on track during Ramadan. Simply ask Google Assistant to set a reminder for the next prayer time, and you’ll receive a notification when it’s time to pray. You can customise the reminders to fit your schedule so you never miss a prayer. Plus, Google Assistant can provide inspirational quotes and spiritual guidance to help you stay focused and connected during the holy month.
Shop What You See with Google Lens: By using the camera on your phone, you can search for a delicious type of dessert you’ve tried at your friend’s house, or find your next favourite decoration item to buy during Ramadan. You can open the Google app on your phone, tap on the camera icon, and use Google Lens to snap a photo or screenshot. With Google Lens, you can easily find exact or similar results to shop from or explore for inspiration.
Watch Ramadan-related videos on YouTube: YouTube is a great resource for learning more about Ramadan. You can find videos on how to prepare traditional foods, tips for fasting, and spiritual practices related to Ramadan. There are also numerous Ramadan vlogs and Ramadan routines videos, where you can follow along with the daily activities and experiences of content creators during the holy month.
Use Google Maps to Find Local Mosques and Halal Restaurants: Google Maps is a valuable tool for finding local mosques and halal restaurants during Ramadan. You can search for mosques in your area or around you and get directions to join in community prayers. You can also search for halal restaurants near you to break your fast with delicious and authentic cuisine. Additionally, Google Maps can help you navigate through unfamiliar areas when you are travelling to different cities or countries during Ramadan. With Google Maps, you can plan your Ramadan activities and explore new places with ease. Plus, you can read reviews and ratings from other users to help you make informed decisions about where to go.
Browse Our Shopping Guide for Inspiration: To help you prepare for Ramadan, Google has created a Ramadan Shopping Guide that collects trending products helpful during the holiday. When we analysed search and shopping trends, we found common themes related to home decoration, like Ramadan lanterns, which grew 20% year over year. You can browse through the guide for inspiration and find new ideas for decorating your home, preparing for Iftar, or giving gifts to your loved ones during the holiday.
We hope this Ramadan brings you and your loved ones joy — and that these tools help you find the information you need to make the most of this special time of the year.
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