Monthly Archives: May 2017

A MAJOR RISK IN THE APPROACH TO REFORM OF NIGERIA’S ECONOMY – Strategy needed to avoid looming mass unemployment in Nigeria

Ever since the agrarian society of centuries ago, people have been the main factor of production in many societies. Even with the advent of the industrial revolution, machines that were created needed a lot of human input and control to function. That reality created lots of jobs for humans to do and the industrial revival led to many economies to close to having full emploNigeria_politicalyment status for many generations. But as we gaze deeper into the twenty-first century; things are changing radically.

Significant advances in technology are driving a lot of changes to the tapestry and architecture of a nation state in a way never seen before. With the talk of smart cities, advances in robotics and microengineering as well as the Internet of Things (IoT), we are at the cusp of a new world. The Internet of Things refers to the ever-growing network of physical objects that feature an IP address for internet connectivity, and the communication that occurs between these objects and other Internet-enabled devices and systems.

The “Internet of things” is becoming an increasingly growing topic of conversation both in the workplace and outside of it. It’s a concept that not only has the potential to impact how we live but also how we work. Broadband Internet has become more widely available, the cost of connecting is decreasing, more devices are being created with Wi-Fi capabilities and sensors built into them, technology costs are going down, and smartphone penetration is sky-rocketing.  All of these things are creating a “perfect storm” for the IoT.

internetofthings-1200x800Simply put, this is the concept of basically connecting any device with an on and off switch to the Internet (and/or to each other). This includes everything from mobile phones, coffee makers, washing machines, headphones, lamps, wearable devices and almost anything else you can think of.  This also applies to components of machines, for example, a jet engine of an aeroplane or the drill of an oil rig.

The analyst firm Gartner says that by 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices. That’s a lot of connections (some even estimate this number to be much higher, over 100 billion). The new rule for the future is going to be, “Anything that can be connected will be connected.” There are many examples of what this might look like or what the potential value might be.

Say for example you are on your way to a meeting; your car could have access to your calendar and already know the best route to take. If the traffic is heavy your car might send a text to the other party notifying them that you will be late. What if your alarm clock wakes up you at 6 a.m. and then notifies your coffee maker to start brewing coffee for you? What if your office equipment knew when it was running low on supplies and automatically re-ordered more? The possibilities are endless.IIOT-Big-Data-in-line

All the foregoing have huge implication for the role of human beings and employment rate in many societies. The traditional labour intensive job model is dying at an alarming rate and digitally-enables jobs are the key to the future. So as there is a massive curl of manual and analogue jobs; new digital and technology driven jobs will emerge.

This leads me to my concern about Nigeria. We are still in the manual labour mindset in our employment ethos as a nation. We are also failing to prepare our citizens for the future that is imminently going to be upon us. If the country is to modernise, we will have to embrace technology in all sphere of national life. This will, in turn, lead to massive unemployment as machine and technology take over previous manually executed function in our society. Business processes will be streamlined and automated in the new world we will find ourselves, yet the majority of our citizens are not being sensitised, trained and facilitated to reskill and upgrade their capacity to be able to leverage new technologies for national growth and society transformation.

Speaking to a friend in government a few days ago; he explained of technologies that can run our airports in such a way that if applied to the International Airport in Lagos will reduce staff numbers by seventy percent overnight. From, automatic invoicing and accounting systems, to robotics to handle luggage and so on. This model will create one of the most efficient airports in the world if implemented. But at what cost? Jobs. There will be massive unemployment as the staff currently in employment have not been Internet-of-Things-no-id_Section1_1920x1280equipped, trained or helped to transition to new technology jobs of the future.

If the nation is to modernise successfully; I will, therefore, advise the government of the need for a new focus on education in Nigeria. This will involve formal, informal and vocational education that will be technology focused in preparation for the future that is fast approaching. In Singapore, the government aims to make the country the first smart nation in the world. There is now a massive investment in technical education and technology training for both young and adults across that country.

The government is preparing the nation for a future that will become a reality for them in the next five to ten years. With sensors on every street corner and lampposts, lots of anonymised data is being collected in the country to inform the IoT technology that is being planned. This will automate a lot of tasks and functions in Singapore and make several current jobs redundant. Streetlights will come on not at a prescribed time but based on the weather condition. The street lamps will automatically order a new bulb for itself when it notices a burnt bulb. A lot of manual jobs will disappear but it will alsostock-photo-digital-economy-abstract-business-concept-wallpaper-background-17711158 create many new jobs that are technology driven, which is why the government is investing in the technical education of children and retraining of adults in technology and microengineering on a massive scale. Adult education classes are freely given to adults to reskill while still working in their current roles (that will soon become extinct). This will make transitioning very easy for the workers of Singapore to adapt to new jobs as they lose their current analogue jobs for digital explosion expected.

A lot of manual jobs will disappear under the new industrial dispensation but this will also create many new jobs that are more skilled, technology driven, which is why the government is investing in the technical education of children and retraining of adults in technology and microengineering on a massive scale in Singapore. Adult education classes are freely given to adults to reskill while still working in their current roles (that will soon become extinct). This will make transitioning very easy for the workers of Singapore to adapt to new jobs as they lose their current analogue jobs for digital explosion expected.

Why-the-Digital-Economy-is-important-to-our-Region-any-region-in-factThe Nigerian government is not approaching their duty in an integrated fashion. As the government role out new technologies, there will be job losses on an industrial scale. How many of these workers are going to be able to get a new job with the outdated analogue skills they possess? The inefficiency in many government operations in Nigeria is linked to the need to create jobs for people but not necessarily to deliver an efficient or optimised service. Our airports are an example; where there are too many agencies of government with duplicating functions, overlapping responsibilities thus slowing down passenger experience.

As this government tries to modernise our infrastructure and government procedures and processes; they should avoid creating a big unemployment problem as they go along. This will require a national revamp of our educational system and adult education infrastructure that is focused on technology skills that will be needed for the future. Solving one problem by creating another is not wise leadership in government.

New technical colleges may need to be created. The curriculum of state schools should be reviewed to place more emphasis on technology. Vocational and adult education facilities should be created. The government need to begin a massive exercise to reskill the working population in preparation for the inevitable changes that technology will bring.

A stitch in time saves nine the adage goes. Nigerian government need an integrated approach to development by doing a Change Impact and Job Impact analysis of every policy before implementation and put in place a national strategy to mitigate these impacts and prepare the population for the new world before it is too late.

Otherwise, Nigeria could end up in a lose-lose situation. Massive unemployment caused by technology-driven changes and also new technology platforms and initiatives that will fail due to lack of trained manpower to effectively manage it. These are both avoidable consequences if the government takes note and act now. God bless Nigeria.

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AN URGENT CASE FOR REFORM OF POLICE AND STATE SECURITY OPERATIONS IN NIGERIA

Policing Nigeria seems to be getting harder for the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) due to the misguided agendas of the politicians who seem bent on destroying whatever is left of the operational effectiveness of the police. The NPF has been under attack since the mid-70s when the military administration, removed the Special Branch out of the Force and made it a separate independent organisation. The Special Branch later became the NSO during Shagari administration and then changed its name to the SSS of today.

Although its powers and operations are defined by laws, the practical operation of theNigerian-police-1 police is affected by the political and socio-economic interests of the governing elite and political groups in Nigeria.

The 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in section 214 (1) states that:

“There shall be a Police Force for Nigeria, which shall be known as the Nigeria Police Force and subject to the provisions of this section, no other Police Force shall be established for the Federation or any part thereof”.

Section 214 (2)(a) empowers the National Assembly to produce an Act to organise and administer the details of police operations in Nigeria in ways that protects the constitutional rights of Nigerians. This is known as the Police Act. First enacted in 1943, it has been reviewed by the legislature in 1967 and 1979. A new review is being planned by the National Assembly.

This constitutional provision makes it unconstitutional for either the government of the states or even the federal government to establish a parallel police service in competition to the Nigeria police Force. This has however not stopped the Federal government from establishing additional investigatory and enforcement institutions, even though they have not called any of them ‘police’.

lagos-police-apcsnan1

Many in government agree that the Nigerian government seem to be in breach of the spirit of the constitution if not the letter of it. By not calling these parallel agencies “police” the government seem to say they have stayed within the provisions of the law. But with these agencies having powers similar to that of the police and taking over functions and duties performed by the police, it can be argued that if it looks like a dog, barks like a dog, walks like a dog, then it is a dog.

These agencies perform policing duties, hence it can be argued that they are police in practice if not in names. But nobody has yet litigated this fact by taking the government to a court of competent jurisdiction over it. Examples of these additional agencies are:

  • The Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC)
  • The Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC)
  • The Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC)
  • The National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC)
  • The Code of Conduct Bureau (CCB)
  • Vehicle Inspection Office (VIO)
  • State Security Service (SSS)
  • National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA)

For instance, the CCT has not led to accelerated hearings of misconduct cases, hence there is doubt as to its continued existence.

Most in the Police believe the plethora of agencies, many with overlapping powers, and duplicated duties have led to the weakening of the main police force as a result of talent flight to these new agencies and reduction in police funding, as funds are allocated to these additional agencies.

The main police force is then left to do the heavy lifting task of crime prevention and investigation with fewer resources to do the job. These policing related agencies consume a lot of resources and many believe overwhelmingly they are inefficient and incoherent in operational agility. These many policing agencies stretches the budget of the government to the detriment of the NPF. We are now in a situation where the Federal government only manages to pay the emoluments of the police officers and barely nothing else is available for equipment, training etc, thus the operational funding of the police now largely come from the goodwill of the respective state governments. As a result, a multi-tier police is emerging. With states like Lagos able to better support the police and others like Adamawa doing much less. If this trend continues; the federal government will lose its moral right to a federal police structure it cannot afford to fund.

From nowhere, President Obasanjo created the Civil Defence corps and put his sympathisers in it. Billions of naira were spent establishing this group to perform duties meant for the Nigeria Police constitutionally. Few people see any value this group brought to the nation. But in the meantime, Billions meant for the Police has now been diverted to another agency created by politicians.

Seal_of_the_Senate_of_Nigeria.svgGiven the foregoing, one will wonder why the National Assembly is now creating another paramilitary group called the Peace Corps. It does not make sense. That will make it the ninth agency to be created to perform a traditional police function. If this Peace Corps bill is finally passed by the National Assembly, Nigeria will now have TEN organisations performing policing duties; including the main NPF itself. This is madness.

Effective policing in most countries is made of a unified police body that has specialist units within it to focus on special areas of security interests, but all under the same command and control system and sharing unified databases for joined up intelligence-led policing. Instead of this, Nigeria seems to be creating more policing agencies and inevitable confusion of roles, duplicated responsibility; unclear hierarchy of power amongst them and financial dissipation that makes the NPF suffer under little or no funding.

With the Peace corps, we have Ten policing organisations, Ten Back-office departments and cost centres, Ten databases, ten operational procedures and intelligence systems and a massively confused citizenry who are now not sure who to call on amongst all these policing agencies. In all countries I know of if a civil servant steals; you call the police. In Nigeria, we created the ICPC. Why? With these kaleidoscope of policing organisations, you also have Ten prosecuting agencies for relatively similar crimes. This creates multiple prosecution standards and inconsistent prosecutorial decisions.

In the end, it seems the politicians are only interested in creating power bases for themselves in the security sector of the country. This is to aid their manipulation of our laws and impunity in political activities. The solution is to unify all these agencies under the NPF, strengthen our police, fund them better and demand better outcomes accordingly.

The trend globally in the security sector is to join-up activities of different agencies and reduce their number to the barest minimum. We seem to be going in the opposite direction. You can finish serving a jail sentence for robbery in Niger state and travel to Lagos the next day to join the Police. There is no national database of criminals in Nigeria. The system relies on the honesty of applicants to declare their own past convictions. In fact, there is no State-wide database of criminals in any state. All we have is a state-wide record of cases, not criminals. And this is mainly manual when it exists. So if there is no joined-up operation within the police as a result of a paucity of funds and historical neglect; how much more between the police of all these other policing organisations. It will not be a surprise if a good number of our police officers are ex-convicts and others unfit to hold such vital roles.

Historically, while the military invested and modernise themselves infrastructure wise when they were in power, the police was deliberately underfunded and neglected. So the continuing negative public perception of the role and capacity of the police is a major source of concern in a democracy. Hence the NPF remain the most misunderstood profession by the general public in Nigeria. Many expect them to work magic despite the limitations and massive constraints of their tools and service conditions. Their performance is weighed with misconception and ignorance, resulting in an out of context assessment of their activities.

Ignorance of the inner workings of the police and the penchant for secrecy by the Nigeria police had led to little public confidence in the service by Nigerians, plenty of misconception and depleted public support and cooperation with the police. These challenges are being exacerbated by the plethora of policing agencies created by the politicians. These other agencies create a capacity problem for the police and dilute the funding available to the NPF.  In my opinion; it is now time we create a unified security platform in Nigeria under the leadership of the NPF as the only constitutionally empowered civil security organisation. Train them, strengthen them, support them and see a new security landscape emerge that we all can be proud of.

The NPF as presently crafted and treated by the politicians is set up to fail. We need the leadership of the National Assembly to see the need for a joined-up security infrastructure and unified command and control. Creating the Peace Corps must be abandoned and the funds meant for it given to the NPF to strengthen its numbers and operational tools. God bless Nigeria.

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