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EXPOSING NIGERIA’S CORRUPTION MACHINERY AND LEADERSHIP ECONOMIC FALLACY

A famous quote states that in life, “dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things, but the absence of vision”. This to me captures the situation in Nigeria. While attending the University of Lagos in the 80s, I wrote a paper on the features of economic planning in Nigeria from 1960 to 1985. One of the main elements I can still remember is the flagrant lack of continuity from one regime to another. A regime will come to power with a ten year plan; but is replaced by a new regime three years later. The new regime rather than continue with the ten year plan; produces its own fresh ten year plan that has no coherence or correlation with the previous plan. Then another regime comes to power and the cycle of confusing and visionless leadership continued. Theft2

So for almost thirty years, economic planning in Nigeria lacked continuity, coherence and durability. I am not sure much have changed in the past twenty years. President Yar’adua came in with his seven point agenda only for President Jonathan to abandon it three years later for his own “agenda”. These series of short-term focused leadership has been a major feeder of corruption in the nation and a consequential cause of underdevelopment. It seems each government wants to invest only in projects that can be completed during its term of four years; rather than any long term strategic investment in the needs of the nation and its people. This is reflected at both the national and state level. Allow me to state with the states.

To illustrate my point at the state level; I will contrast two states, Katsina and Lagos. It has been reported that Lagos state alone is responsible for 25% of the debts of all the states in Nigeria combined. That is over N1Trillion. The great grandchildren our generation will still be paying off this debt in Lagos. But why such a huge debt? It is my opinion that Lagos state under Tinubu and Fashola started too many infrastructure and other projects all at the same time. These projects could not have been paid for under the State’s normal budgetary bandwidth. So borrowing was inevitable. And they binged on borrowing to a reckless abandon. After all, each contract is opportunity for graft and to steal our common wealth through bribes and over inflated contracts. Hence, the more the number of contracts initiated, the more money the politicians make and able to steal from the State.

I once heard a commissioner in Lagos stating that the easiest way to steal money untraceable in Lagos is through road constructions and dredging. His logic is that these are complicated projects that it is difficult to easily monitor quantity andTheft3 there are too many variants and profile of projects to be precise. A one kilometre road in the dry land of Ikeja is not same as one kilometre road in swampy Lekki. These understandable variations makes award of contracts difficult to pin down; hence you will notice the same pattern too many simultaneous infrastructure projects in many APC states. It is their tried and tested stealing system. It is contracts galore. The difficulty that Aregbesola faces in Osun today, is exactly the same. He started too many projects that the current income profile of the state cannot support. Hence the state is broke. So what does he do; borrow of course.

This is in contrast with Katsina, a state that is living within its means and developing at a rate its income can sustain. Yar’adua laid a good foundation of prudence in his state that the current governor seem to be continuing. That is why the state is virtually debt free today. Why start twenty road projects when your income can only sustain five of them. Why not start the five; complete it and then start another five and so on. Any household run like these reckless states would have been bankrupt long time ago. Infrastructure development is good, but at what cost and will it be affordable by the people. There is nothing wrong in pacing the development of a state; afterall Rome was not built in a day. True development must be sustainable. Why do state governors not develop a twenty or even thirty year plan for their state and then start the little they can and allow future governments to continue and complete these projects. Why the rush of build-up debts for generations to come? This greed and graft induced urgency will only lead to abandoned projects or infrastructure in the future when subsequent administrations cannot find the money to complete or sustain what they inherited.

theftAs for the Federal government, well that is even worse. Funding from borrowing underpins a lot of what the federal government has been doing in the past few years. That is why a nation that was virtually debt free at the end of the Obasanjo regime is now Billions of dollars in debt again in a few years since. Our politicians seem concerned only about what happens while they are in office and will sell the nation into slavery if needed to make the point. Great leader focus on making live better for the future generations but bad leaders are only interested in what happens to themselves here and now.

The lack of strategic vision for national transformation is apparent in this current government as with many before it. There is little evidence of joined up thinking. But we cannot change the past; hence our criticism has to be directly at the current leadership as that is what we can influence and hope for a change of approach. The UK government has just started a high speed rail project that will be fully completed in 2030; and we are just in 2014. Why? Because they need to spread the cost over that many years to live within their means. If they had been prepared to borrow heavily to fund the project; it could have been finished in a fraction of that timeline.

Good governments do not mortgage the future of generations to come. But with greed as the main motivation; many politicians in Nigeria are only interested in what will pay them now even if the future generations suffer the consequence. Such selfish and visionless leadership is what the nation is encumbered with at all levels. While there are governments like that in Katsina; there is still hope that the tide will turn eventually. The Greeks gave the world the system called democracy. But it was also a common Greek saying that “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”. We pray for such leadership in our nation.

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LAGOS NEW TRAFFIC LAW: 11 MORE VITAL THINGS YOU MUST KNOW

I wrote an article on the seven vital things you must know about the Lagos new traffic law a couple of days ago.  Since then, I have been besieged by people asking for more clarifications and analysis of other areas of the law. So I decided to add eleven more key issues worthy of note to you as a driver on Lagos roads. There is clearly no substitute to reading the over 80 pages of the law yourself, but I will try and highlight eleven more salient things you must know about this well intentioned but badly drafted law.

  1. Smoking is prohibited while driving. Schedule 1, item 10 make you liable to a N20K fine for a first offence of smoking while driving. So you have to suspend the habit until you arrive your destination if you are not to infringe the law.
  2. There are lots of new restrictions on motorcycles in the new law. A typical example is item 21 of schedule 1 that makes it an offence to use a horn designed for a car on a motorcycle. So all motorcycle riders should read this law in full or obtain legal advise on its provisions. It has a lot of new liabilities for motorcycle riders in the state.
  3. Tailgating an emergency vehicle is now an offence based on item 24 in schedule 1. So think twice before trying to sneak behind an ambulance when you are stuck in traffic. You could be N20K worse of for a first offence.
  4. You are liable to pay N50,000 fine if your car breaks down on Lagos roads and causes obstruction. In addition item 36 of schedule 1 also make you liable for the cost of then towing your car away from where it breaks down; and this starts from N10,000.  While I can understand the need to pay for the towing away of a broken down vehicle; I cannot understand why Lagosians must now pay N50K as fine for a broken down car. By nature many broken down cars cause traffic obstruction. That is because they are unexpected and unplanned incidents. But it is now a traffic offence in Lagos for your car to break down. This will be used to exploit the people and must be repealed in my opinion.
  5. In addition to 4 above, Failure to display reflective warning sign at the car breakdown point attract an additional N20K fine. This is stated in item 42 of schedule 1. It seems drivers of old vehicles are now in trouble in Lagos. But get yourself a reflective warning sign (Triangle) if you want to avoid this penalty.
  6. It is now an offence to drive a Right Hand vehicle on Lagos road. Schedule 3, item 28 prohibits driving of right hand vehicles in Lagos; without giving any exemption. So I wonder how you get your imported right hand car to the mechanic village to have it converted without breaking the law. I guess you may need to tow the car from the port. So importers beware.
  7. It is now an offence to drive without a Spare Tyre.  Item 36 of Schedule 3 makes it an offence to drive without a spare tyre in your car. SO beware; otherwise you are liable to a fine of N20,000 for a first offence.
  8. Any staff of Lagos State Ministry of Transport can technically enforce any of the provisions of this law including arrest and impound of car. The law defines Authorised Officer very broadly indeed as including LASTMA, State Vehicle Inspection Service officials and any staff of the Ministry of Transportation. This is a recipe for abuse and confusion and a mischief charter. So beware.
  9. Contradiction exists on the issue of production of drivers licence on demand. Schedule IV section 15(p) states that a driver will have 24hrs to produce his licence at a designated office in Lagos. But this contradicts other sections of the law. With this contradiction in place, I will carry my licence around if I were you. Implementation will depend on the quality of LASTMA official you get.
  10. There is no explicit prohibition of eating or drinking while driving in my reading of the law. But Schedule 1, item 40 makes it an offence to “count money or otherwise engage in other activities when driving”. What exactly are other activities we are not told? So this is another broad provision that can be interpreted at the discretion of Lagos state official involve. Who draft laws like this? With so many vague provisions and broad interpretation of possible infringement. It is the worst legal drafting I have ever seen.
  11. Every private vehicle 5yrs old (from date of manufacture); must submit to an annual roadworthy test and obtain MOT certificate from Lagos Ministry of Transport. This certificate must be carried in the car at all times as failure to produce it will be an offence under Schedule IV section 11. No exemption is stated for visitors to Lagos from other states.

It is quite apparent that there are many good provisions in this law; but its bad drafting and poor use of language (added to an overzealous LASTMA) means it is going to be hell for many drivers in Lagos. But I reserve my greatest pity for visitors to Lagos from other states in Nigeria; given that many of these restrictions apply only in Lagos out of 36 states.

Lessons have not been learnt by the state government from the problems besetting the poor implementations of previous legislations, like the Tax laws; yet more are being created. There is little independent adjudication available and the officials are always reluctant to use the established dispute resolution afforded by the courts in their quest for speedy collection and meet their targets.

If Governor Fashola focuses purely on revenue targets being met and not on how they are making it happen; then he is burying his head in the sand. And as for LASTMA and its shenanigans; a whole book can be written about the atrocities of its officials. This is made more petrifying when you realise that many of the LASTMA officials were the Area Boys and Thugs of yesterday who got the job purely on the basis of political patronage; without much training and clearly without paradigm re-orientation. LASTMA Officers covering road signs indicating one way road limitation and then hiding behind trees to catch unsuspecting motorists. Lagosians whose cars breakdown on the road only to have unsympathetic LASTMA officials tow the car to their impound for obstruction. The list goes on and on. And the stipulated fines in some of these legislations for road offences are iniquitous. When a law imposes a fine of N20,000 and above (which is more than basic monthly salary) for simple road contravention; it is an invitation to corruption for the officialdom and penury for the people. The implementation realities are just wrong; regardless of the intentions of the government.

The state government should stop enacting any new legislation (in these areas) for a period (except there is an emergency) and focus its attention on getting the implementation of existing statutes right.  Independent Tribunals should be established if need be to facilitate an independent oversight of disputes on the road traffic and on tax and planning matters. People should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. They should be accorded the respect they deserve in a democratic society. And definitely more officials should be brought to book for acting beyond their powers and abuse of their office.

The state government need to win the hearts and minds of Lagosians if it is to succeed in its noble dream of transforming the state. So simply reeling out more laws will not succeed if proper implementation is not the focus of executive attention by the governor.

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IMPLEMENTATION, IMPLEMENTATION!

The key to Transformation of Lagos State

I wrote a recent blog on  the danger of Lagos state government speeding ahead and leaving the rest of the nation behind in progressive developments and proactive legal framework. I am a supporter of majority of the new laws Governor Fashola’s administration has enacted.  But I also feel the key to the achievement of the desired outcomes is Implementation. The confusion created by the false murder accusation by LASTMA against Mrs Yinka Johnson in August 2012 speaks to my concern about how the doctor administering the medicine can kill the patient very easily.  A good law that is badly implemented will lead to unintended consequences that will portend danger for the state’s continued prosperity.

Take the tax policies in Lagos as another example. There is an aggressive tax collection posture in Lagos state, which in my view is in danger of becoming counter productive; not because the law is faulty; but it is being badly implemented. A friend of mine had a factory in Lagos and was given a tax bill of N20Million, which he vigorously disputed through his accountant and lawyer as inflated and unreasonable. He made a case that his additional tax liability is only N4Million which he then promptly paid. But Lagos tax collecting machinery rejected his position; so my friend expected that he will be taken to court for a judicial decision on the matter. Alas, a week later his factory was invaded by a team of gun-carrying Policemen and Lagos state government officials. They literally broke down the gate and locked up the premises, closing the factory. He was told that unless he paid their original tax assessment; his business will remain closed. Lagos state officials became the judge, jury and executional all in one go. He had to go and borrow money from the bank to pay the bill for his factory to be opened a week later. This kind of extra judicial and improper activities happens weekly all over Lagos I am told.

My friend promptly relocated his factory to Ogun state after this incident to avoid future occurrence. So Lagos lost a factory employing directly 120 Lagosians  (and about 80 more jobs in the supply chain) due to bad implementation of a tax collection policy.  Speaking to many businesses in Lagos you will hear similar stories of harassment by tax officials, planning officials and environmental officials. Surely the end cannot justify the means here. If Governor Fashola focuses purely on revenue targets being met and not on how they are making it happen; then he is burying his head in the sand. Many more businesses will relocated out of Lagos if this continues and the tax revenue will ultimately plummets as there will not be the businesses to harass for payment.

And as for LASTMA and its shenanigans; a whole book can be written about the atrocities of its officials. This is made more petrifying when you realise that many of the LASTMA officials were the Area Boys and Thugs of yesterday who got the job purely on the basis of political patronage; without much training and clearly without paradigm re-orientation. LASTMA Officers covering signs indicating one way road limitation and then hiding behind trees to catch unsuspecting motorists. Lagosians whose cars breakdown on the road only to have unsympathetic LASTMA officials tow the car to their impound for obstruction. The list goes on and on. And the stipulated fines in some of these legislations for road offences are iniquitous. When a law imposes a fine of N20,000 and above (which is more than basic monthly salary) for simple road contravention; it is an invitation to corruption for the officialdom and penury for the people. The implementation is just wrong; regardless of the intentions of the government.

In August 2012; The Governor signed into law; loads of new laws regulating driving in Lagos. I can already see the overzealous LASTMA officials and police making life impossible for Lagosians that run foul of these laws and the cases of non-residents; visiting Lagos will even be worse. Lessons have not been learnt by the state government from the problems besetting the implementations of previous legislations; yet more are being created. There is little independent adjudication and the officials are always reluctant to use the established dispute resolution afforded by the courts in their quest for speedy collection and meet their targets.

The state government should stop enacting any new legislation (in these areas) for a period (except there is an emergency) and focus its attention on getting the implementation of existing statutes right.  Independent Tribunals should be established if need be to facilitate an independent oversight of disputes on the road traffic and on tax and planning matters. People should be treated as innocent until proven guilty. They should be accorded the respect they deserve in a democratic society. And definitely more officials should be brought to book for acting beyond their powers and abuse of their office.

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DANGERS OF THE EMERGING REPUBLIC OF LAGOS

A common constitutional argument in Nigeria is the fact that as a Federal Republic; the states should be the strongest tier of government with a weak centre giving the states power and room to assert their individuality. This is the case with most Federations in the world from USA, Germany to Australia and so on.  It is therefore considered as odd; the super strength of the centralised Nigerian Federal governmental status quo which has consequently emasculated the states  and its ability to carve out unique identities and  exercise  esoteric powers in the interest of the peoples of each state. This has led to repeated cry for decentralisation of the Police and many federalised institutions in Nigeria as an example.

The counter argument against the perceived foregoing purist stance by many “pragmatists” is that the states in Nigeria are not mature enough and cannot be trusted to acts in the interest of Nigerians (as one nation) were they to be left fully to their own devices. That the governors of these states will become mini emperors exercising total powers for self-interest at the expense of opposition actors and could endanger the existential reality of a united Nigeria nation.

There are clearly signs that the fears of the pragmatists are not imaginary. Many will recall the effect of the declaration of Sharia in many Northern states during Obasanjo regime and how that has affected not only the Muslims must non-Muslims in those states; thus making some of these northern states a no-go area for some Nigerians or at least a place where they now lead cautious existence compared to when they are in non-sharia states. By the way this is not a Boko Haram phenomenon although that has exacerbated the problem. But these are not my focus primarily in this article.

The fundamental principle of a federal republic is that citizens can travel and live freely anywhere in that country without being made to feel like a foreigner in their own fatherland. So an Hausa man can move from Kano and reside in Lagos (or travel through it) without any problem at all and more importantly; without having to feel he is in another country completely and vice versa. This is where Lagos and its government need to be careful not to create a de facto immigration border on the Lagos end of the expressway for Nigerians coming into Lagos.

Many (including myself) have commended the progressive stance of the Fashola Administration in Lagos. But I am beginning to feel that a primordial case of a national Tale of two Cities seem to be emerging and getting worse by many of the new  legislations coming into effect in Lagos. In the past few years; Lagos have enacted many new laws that makes demand not just of Lagos residents; but all that pass through Lagos territories, even for just one day. Like I said earlier many of the key state institutions in Nigeria are centralised with the Federal government, allegedly to help create a commonality across the nation. For instance; the FRSC issues Drivers Licence. This allows you to drive anywhere in Nigeria; just like a Lawyer certified after finishing Law School can practice in any state within Nigeria.

But with many local legislations coming from Lagos state covering many of these same areas; there is emerging not just a regulatory duplication but added burden to operate in Lagos compared to other parts of the nation. For instance; Lagos state enacted a law making it mandatory for all commercial and official drivers driving within the state’s territory to be certified by the State’s driving agency. This on the face of it looks good. But if you are a commercial driver based in Rivers state and coming to Lagos for just one day on business; what are you going to do? Will you be expected to go through the process of certification first before you can drive within Lagos even though you are not a Lagos resident?

Now there are new laws making it illegal to eat, make a phone call etc while driving in Lagos. While this is a good and progressive stance; but that will criminalise in Lagos what is perfectly legal in the other 35states of  Nigeria. So a non-Lagos driver coming from Kano will now have to behave substantially differently only in Lagos. Accordingly you will have to rush and finish that meat pie you are eating as you approach Berger bridge into Lagos.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying there is anything iniquitous with many of the forward-looking statutes that have been enacted in Lagos. But I am sounding a warning that this could create unwittingly a Republic of Lagos within the Nigerian nation state. A state where Nigerians will have to behave significantly differently from all other states. I am also warning that it could become counter productive for Lagos residents if other states in Nigeria decide to enact an anti Lagos legislations. For instance; what if each state decides to do exactly what Lagos is doing. That will mean a Lagos resident will need to obtain certifications from ten different states before he can drive from Lagos to Kano. What if other states decide to bring laws that prescribe what you can and cannot do while driving in their states. That will mean a driver from Lagos will have to adjust his behaviour markedly at the border of each state or risk arrest.

While I agree there is need for Lagos to set the pace for others as it has a unique capacity and means to do so; a Yoruba adage should inform their speed and pace of transformation. That is; a rich man in the family of ten poor men is ultimately the eleventh poor man. That is because the needs and demands of the ten poor men will impoverish the one rich man. So it is in the interest of the one rich man to help others to be wealthy more speedily. Lagos cannot isolate itself from the realities of the Nigerian existence. And in most federal countries where powers are fully devolved to the states; things work on the basis of reciprocity. That is; all states will recognise the instruments issued by one another without imposing any additional demands. Also (while some differences may still exist), most states have tried to harmonise much of their public requirements in order to minimise the burden on new state residents. For instance in the USA; Drivers Licence are issued only by the State governments. But a Licence obtained from New York is fully recognised by all other states in America. So you can drive through any state in the union with your New York licence without any problem.

Hence as Lagos is part of a federation it is in its interest to carry other states along or risk possible reprisals against its own residents by other states. Such development portends badly for the spirit of one Nigeria.  Lagos should try to minimise the plethora of new legislation it is churning out or at least create some exemptions for non-residents of the state. Nigerians should not be made to feel they need a visa (and legal training) to travel to Lagos from other parts of the nation; a perception that will be further entrenched by any new legislation peculiar only to the state. Lagos needs to show leadership by helping to spread best practice to other states as much as possible.

I accept the inherent contradictions in my desire to encourage the emergence of Lagos as a global mega city and the need to avoid a two-tier country where Lagos is thousands of kilometres ahead of all other states in ways that can create unnecessary envy and cause a possible backlash from other states. Truth is; all other states can make life difficult for Lagosians  should they want to. Can you imagine Ogun state requiring all drivers on its road to buy a special permit for instance? That will mean you cannot travel out of Lagos easily without buying an additional permit to do so. It will become like buying a visa to be able to leave Lagos and another one on your way back. So as you can see, States working together in a collaborative manner and working on the basis of reciprocity (fuelled by consultation with each other) will allow Lagos to move ahead as it is doing but on the basis of an agreed national consensus with its partners; rather than the current we can do what we like approach of the state at the moment.

So my advise to Fashola will be for him to try and find ways of making his laws work for the benefit of all. This can easily be done through the implementation procedures  and policies adopted by its officials. For instance many years ago; I travelled to Orlando in Florida with my then four year old daughter. I was a resident of the UK at that time. I was allowed to drive in Florida on my UK licence for the duration of the vacation. One day I was stopped by the Florida police and was going to be given a fine for not having a special booster car seat for my daughter. I explained that I was not a Florida resident (by showing them my UK licence) and that in the UK (at that time) there was no law against what I was doing. The police officer immediately reversed his decision and apologised telling me that as I was not a resident and unaware of the requirement he was using his discretion to allow me to go. And that as I was leaving Florida the following day, he said there was no need to buy a car seat that will not be required in the UK. Now that is an example of how a state specific law can be implemented but in a way that still allows non-residents to not feel victimised. Clearly if I was going to be in Florida for six months for instance; I would have needed to buy the car seat. Hence there should be a human face to the implementation of many of the Lagos legislations. Officials should be well trained and informed (as well as monitored) to use their discretion when dealing with Nigerians just passing through Lagos compared to a Lagos resident driving a Lagos coloured public transport for instance.

The dangers of an emerging republic of Lagos are many; not just for Lagos government and residents; but for Nigeria as a Federal Republic. If these implementation discretion is not in place as suggested; new economic traffic could be diverted away from Lagos; thus delivering a blow to the economic growth of the state that would otherwise have been the case. So, well done Fashola for many of the legislations to modernise Lagos; but remember the Yoruba adage that says if you send a slave to go and deliver a message; he does not have to deliver the message like a slave. Lagos can only truly develop in the spirit on one Nigeria.

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August 16, 2012 · 2:48 pm