Hon. Abubakar Kannaike Garba represents Ilorin East/Ilorin South Federal Constituency of Kwara State and is the Deputy Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Works. In this interview with PHILIP NYAM, he speaks on a wide range of issues including the delay in the passage of budget, the problem associated with credit facilities for farmers and SME’s and the use of card reader and electronic voting system in the country
The issue of late passage of the budget has remained an albatross in the country and the 2017 Appropriation Bill is no different. This has also led to the extension of the financial year to May 4. How do we come out of this vicious circle?
I think from experience we have an idea of the number of months it takes the National Assembly to process the Appropriation Bill. I don’t think it is anything less than threefour months and sometimes within these months, there are breaks and holidays. I think to be on the safe side, it is better to come out early. I think the real adjustment has to be an early preparation and presentation of the budget. I believe if we want to conform from the beginning of the calendar year to the end of the calendar year but then, that is not what the constitution says.
The constitution says 12 calendar months. So, if we start in May, that is if we decide to adopt May as our budgetary year. I don’t see anything wrong with that. But if we want to correct that anomaly and we want our budget to start from the beginning of the year to end of that fiscal year then, the right thing to do is, we should be submitting our budgetary proposals sometimes in July while the running budget of the year is going on. So what it means is that assuming we pass this budget in April and it commences in June, since this current year budget elapses 31st of May the new budget commences June 1.
So, if that is the case, for us to correct the anomaly, we should be presenting a budget proposal from June and when we do that, we do it with the view to ensure that the budget will be ready for assent in December.
But that will now mean that this current year’s budget will be superseded by the new budget and that is the time we will correct the anomaly and we will make it a practice subsequently. It is a lot of work to correct that anomaly. The other consideration is just to continue the way it is and see that averagely it will be from one May to the other. Personally, if we can consistently run it that way, I don’t see anything wrong with that.
Another knotty issue is the lack of proper implementation of budgets. Would you say the late passage of the budget is responsible for the poor implementation?
Yes, it is because we are used to the budget starting in January and ending in December but to me, it is not sacrosanct. It is not unconstitutional and that is why we are able to do it-to start the budget to kick off in June and elapse next year may. If that is what is convenient, to me it is even better. When you talk of budget implementation let us see what happens usually.
In December the president presents the Appropriation Bill, and you should know this is a democracy. But I think the problem is when we moved from the military era to a democracy where the legislature plays a prominent role in the budget, we did not really factor in the time needed for the legislature to do proper consideration of the budget and interface with the MDAs before the budget is passed. That, in my opinion is the major cause of this overlapping of the budget beyond the time we anticipate. Before now when the military head of state reads the budget, nobody has the opportunity to process it.
They don’t interface with the MDAs, they don’t debate it but it is different now. So in my opinion, if we see that may or June is a good time to start the budget, we can do so and finish it 31 of May the following year. And if you look at implementation and you look at our weather system. For instance, I will narrow it down to construction works. We are a country that is still trying to develop infrastructure so we are doing a lot of construction.
And we know what our raining season is, because what happens is by the time budget is passed, before you say you want to implement the rainy season has kicked in and you find that contractors are not able to go to site until after the rains. In a way, naturally, if it starts in June, it is probably a better time the rains are going to be going down gradually so by August, the deep rains that can stop construction are over and people can move to construction site and drive their projects.
So in a way, the anomaly is a little bit more convenient for our weather conditions. The important thing is not just the timing it’s the implementation of the budget. Now that we are shifting to May, it gives us an opportunity to release another tranch of funding for the budget. So, I see this year, we are going to have a higher percentage of implementation than the previous years.
Because performance has always hovered around fifty, fifty-five percent but I can comfortably tell you for most MDAs now they are on eighty percent based on releases that have been given to them. So, if that ensures that we better implement, I don’t see any problem with it. All we need do is to look at our policy and see whether we should just retain it as it is provided we are not faulting any issues of constitution.
Why does the National Assembly have to compel the executive to implement the budget and release fund even after passing the budget?
A budget is what it is. It is a financial projection of your expenditure and revenue. By the time you do your MTEF which is a precursor to the appropriation processing, you would have determined what your anticipation of income and revenue is. We know the major source of our revenue is crude oil, we would have determined the anticipatory value per barrel in USD, what your production is likely going to be.
When you get those parameters is what is going to be used to prepare the budget. When the budget is prepared, you still need to benchmark it against your income sources and the major problem with the implementation of the budget is not that the MDAs do not sometimes want to implement the budget, sometimes the funds to implement it are not there. I think that is the major issue.
We have been running a deficit budget in Nigeria for quite a while because our expenditure projection has always surpassed our projection on income and we have always identified where we will get the variation, deficit from. Sometimes it is from internal loans and sometimes from foreign loans. Now, if you match it together assuming something is not properly done, I don’t think that there is any country that achieves a hundred percent of budget implementation but at least a safe zone is eighty percent and is a pass mark anywhere.
So, what I think we should do is first and foremost being more realistic in our budget. If we know that this is our income projection let us try and plan based on our sincere and feasible projection and income. If you have a bogus budget that you know that you cannot match when income comes, it doesn’t make any sense.
You know what your oil revenue and non-oil revenue projections are you have to be pragmatic about it. The pragmaticism is a pre-condition to making implementation more feasible but sometime if you blow your budget and you do that against the backdrop of a shaky income base you won’t be able to provide money. So when the time comes to provide funds there will be stories.
To even talk about budget implementation to a sizable percentage, we need to talk about being more feasible and pragmatic in the budgetary process.
When we are more realistic in our budget, you’ll see that implementation will be better. The problem is yes, we have it in the budget but we do not have the resources to implement the budget. Then another thing is as the legislature, in our oversight, we need to track the budget. We need to do continuous interfacing with MDAs- if in the first quarter this was released, what are your priority projects?
Have you done them? How do we go about doing them? What makes them priority over others? What do we do in the second quarter? All these amounts to tracking and are important.
They are some climes where implementation of budget is time-lined. By the time you are doing the budget, you rate and quantify the timing so you can say this will be done at these times. I see a situation where if we say we need to be really better structured, at some point in time, when budgets are passed, the ministry that is responsible for the implementation can come out with a narration on implementation and prioritize. You look at the time of the year, what is feasible or urgent to the people, what should be delivered first.
A prioritization of the budget is the first thing in my opinion that the executive should do first. That gives you an idea that you are a structured ministry and you are planning.
Yes, it is an Act by the National Assembly but the parliament cannot time it because we do not understand the daily rudiments and challenges of MDAs. But when it is passed by the president and given to you as a working paper, the minister should sit with his team because they understand the challenge and more conversant with what is on ground.
They should now look at it and time the implementation. It is still a proposal at that phase based on what the ministry of finance is able to give to them but because you can jiggle it like that as an ministry, you’ll find out that you appropriate money rightly for the right things and that helps to shore up your budgetary achievements and you have more impact to the populace.
Recently, the House passed an amendment of the Electoral Act through second reading and two of the amendments generated a lot of controversies especially the electronic card reader. Almost all PDP members were against it. Are their fears justified?
I will just base my thoughts on our experience as Nigerians on the card reader. The level of credibility we have in our elections, the single factor that made the elections quite credible is the use of the card reader.
But let me point out that people are mixing the issue of card reader with the electronic voting system. To me, as a nation, I have my reservation on whether we are truly ready, whether we have the technology for electronic voting. However, the first phase that we need to optimize in my opinion, is the card reader. Because even though the card reader is a preliminary of the voting process, it is also what authenticates the number of people who have the right to vote at that instance based on the fact that they are registered.
It is the sanitizer, and a check for the serious cases of rigging that we used to have in the past. The difference between past elections and this one that was seen to credible globally is the card reader. So, I cannot understand why anyone will want us to jettison the use of the card reader.
The fact that we had one or two problems in the operations or efficacy of the card reader as demonstrated sometimes that it did not recognize the card or read, is what happens with electronics even human lives sometimes have their own challenges talk more of electronics that are made by humans. But I don’t see why anybody should have anything against the card reader.
It is what has brought credibility to our elections; we must continue to retain it. In fact, we should improve the technology of the use of the card reader. The other thing is that the electronic voting is more complex than the card reader. I would probably prefer a situation where we will record more milestones in our power issues as a nation before we consider the use of electronic voting.
But we can also experiment. Everything in my opinion should be done step wise. It is safer; you learn from experiences and improve upon them. If for instance, you have a local government election, you can try and provide backup electricity or bring solar-powered electronic voting systems and test-run them and we can learn from that experience and know what to do better next time. To me, when you take this subtle test you can learn from them.
The other aspect of that amendment is the issue of Diaspora voting. This House has consistently rejected it since 2007 and INEC on its own has also been very skeptical. Now, in the amendment the Diaspora voting was approved. Do you think Nigeria as it is today, is prepared for such an experiment?
That is the challenge, but sometimes, in life, you do not consider your current incapacity as a draw back against what you should do and where you should be. It is true that those of us in Nigeria do not even have a proper census, proper data capture system, we don’t even know the number of Nigerians which is a major problem. We don’t know the actual number of Nigerians of voting age.
We are battling with our national identity, we don’t have a databank on our identity as Nigerians and that is a major problem but while we are struggling with that, on the flipside, most of these people who are living outside this country in most cases are living in societies where there is appropriate data capture, where people can easily be identified.
I see that as a test to take Nigeria where we should be in properly identifying Nigerians. I will rather we look at it as a challenge to upscale our approach as identifying ourselves as a people because the population outside this country is just a small fraction compared to the population of those living at home.
If we have just 10 per cent of our current population outside this country, it must be huge. But that 10 per cent is something you can test run and easily manage and tap into competences that domicile in countries where they reside to prove a point that properly identifying Nigerians and having a databank is the way to go. So let us use that as a template.
Let’s take up the challenge we know we don’t have that capacity but does that stop us from taking up the challenge, my answer is no. Let us find out from our embassies Nigerians that are legally residing in these countries.
Let’s challenge them to come up with their numbers and also find out if there are technologies that domicile in these countries that can properly articulate these people and let’s look at the best way we can get them to register and vote.
We might even experiment the electronic voting where technology domiciled in some counties and they can also use the card reader as part of what the bill is seeking. We will be able to know them and know they are genuine Nigerians.
Let’s see how it works and we see the results that it has impacted then maybe that will challenge us to capture Nigerians properly. Most economies in the world are creditdriven. It is only in Nigeria you must have your money before you can build a house or buy a car. What is the underlining factor and limitation? It is because we still have this fear that as a Nigerian, if you collect money you can still just disappear from the radar and nobody can track you.
I know in other climes, even if you don’t pay your rent somewhere, they blacklist you anywhere you go to get another house, you pop up and they will tell you that your credit is already questioned and ask that you go and settle before they can give you a house. So, that way, we can tap into a lot of things. Once you have an income and your income can match with what you are trying to get on credit.
So truly beyond even elections, as a nation we are suffering because we have not properly identified ourselves. There are a lot of milestone in economy and in security that we can benefit from but because of the databank that has not been properly established. We are not keying into the global trend.
The House a week ago passed a motion sponsored by you urging the CBN to use its credit guidelines and compel commercial and merchant banks to fund minimum startups for small and medium scale businesses. Some of these facilities exist but they do not get to the target beneficiaries. Do you think your proposal is workable?
You see, it still boils down to being able to identify ourselves as a people and properly profile ourselves. Now, who are the farmers? Are they properly structured? Do they have an organisation? I sponsored a bill on the Nigerian agricultural associations bill were we are saying that all associations must be properly structured and they should be organized and supervised by government. if you say you are a farmer you should belong to a registered agricultural association.
To be a legitimate member, you must have paid dues for some months or years. Everybody knows you as a rice farmer, fish farmer and all. If people are properly identified, under the umbrella of that association, you can key into that. In other climes they even make sure the people of that association are guarantors to people that are qualified for credit and what happens is that if some fish farmers want credit, they use that association as the collateral and security for those members to access the funding.
So, that check encumbers morally because if don’t pay back, you are the one making it impossible for your members of your association to access the same credit. And because they have the same operational hub, when the man who collects credit for fish farming goes to buy a new machine or a car, they start wondering how this came about given that he has not started selling fish. That means he is already diverting funds, they will check him, they will bring it to the attention of the association and even leak it to the bank.
As a people we need to be better structured. If we are not properly structured in whatever we do, we cannot make progress.
These associations can help separate actual farmers from political farmers.
That will solve the problem of diversion of funds meant for farmers; because the bank will know who to talk to.
They will talk to those associations and consider those who are ready and qualified to benefit from the loan within the association and even if they do not have collateral, you can use members of the association their collateral. It is practiced in India.
That is the best way they have driven small and medium scale farming operations and enterprises in India.
So, everybody has the moral justification to pay his loan and make it perform so that other people can also benefit. It’s a two edged benefit; it doesn’t go to the man who doesn’t have a farm and in case the man that even has a farm doesn’t have collateral, he can hide under the umbrella of the association as security.
These are the easy ways that banks will be comfortable to lend money to those that deserve it.
Mass production of local products’ll curb smuggling’
Mr. Ralph Osayameh is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of GF Investment Group. In this interview with BAYO AKOMOLAFE, Osayameh insists that mass production of local products will reduce cases of smuggling in the country, stressing that economy diversification into agriculture and mineral resources hold the ace for economic recovery, among other sundry issues.
What is your take on the Federal Government’s Export Expansion Grant (EEG)’s modification?
It is a good step in the right direction. We need to stimulate export. From the way it is being executed now, both Nigerians and foreigners can benefit from it and don’t forget that the creation of the free zones are intended to leverage on the perception of government as well. I think it is a step in the right direction.
Nigeria is an import-driven country. We even import fuel when we have the crude to be refined. Government is making efforts to stop importation of rice and other products and it has not deemed it necessary to stop fuel importation by focusing on local refining. And we need to ask ourselves: why has it been impossible to refine fuel locally? It is one of the unfortunate developments in our political system. I read recently the amount of money being voted for the usual turnaround of the three refineries, which have refused to perform. Sell these so-called gigantic national assets and diversify. You can even do quite manageable refinery at less cost with less problem. But part of what government has done, which is quite possible, is what they have done to Dangote. The Dangote refinery will do quite a lot in this direction.
Has Nigeria come out of recession as claimed by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)?
Technically, yes. We have got out of the economic recession with a very small margin. But in practice and with regard to what we have and the potential of what we have to do for the future, we are really not far from where we were before. It is a very slim margin and many economists are worried that these indices that you are flagging do not support the fact that we can be out of the woods for a very long time. We are still on mono product economy, we have a much-bloated expenditure profile and the projection does not even support the indices.
If the current economic level cannot be sustained, what other ways would you suggest for us to overcome this fragile economy?
Let me state clearly that the projection for 2018 budget tends to stipulate that we are going to have oil output of 2.3 million barrels. That is not sustainable, given the kind of oil cut that is now predominant in oil market and other oil climes. But having said that, the agricultural sector that we have been drumming support for over the years, which can take us out of the doldrums, is not being vigorously pursued. I must commend the present minister of agriculture, who said we are going to be self-sufficient in area of rice production in the future. But we need to do a lot more in the area of mineral resources for which this country is so richly blessed and which can re-order our pattern in revenue profile. We have not done much in that direction. What are we doing with limestone? What are we doing with gold? What are we doing with many other mineral deposits we have in this country? The truth is that we haven’t done much at all and these are being left to ordinary artisans. I think we need to articulate this better and until we re-direct the economy from the current apathy towards major products, I don’t think it is not sustainable.
How do you think government can suppress smuggling of rice in order to attain self-sufficiency?
By the time we over-supply, based on the abundance of evidence that we have, we can then crash the prices and smuggling will become unattractive. By the time the strategy is formalised in the next two to three years, Nigeria will become net exporter of rice and even if we don’t become net exporter, we will satisfy our local demand and consumption. Then, tell me what will be the urge to bring some quantity of rice through smuggling. That is not to suggest that even if we produced adequately for our use, we should create a situation whereby we manage all these influx of things that are not desirable. Now that people are eating local rice – the Ofada rice – then, the foreign taste will go down. Some of us are now patronising local fabric. If we do that, the message will be clear that this is a new initiative. Patronise what is Nigeria and, at the same time, boycott foreign products. I am not concerned about smuggling. You cannot even eliminate smuggling totally. By the time you have increased internal production, you will totally wipe off external products.
How has the policy of Single Treasury Account (TSA) and foreign currency restriction on certain imported items helped to grow the Nigerian economy?
Well, if there is any sector that has done well, it is the banking sector, particularly the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). We are totally dependent on import and that is why the exchange rate went beyond the roof to almost N550 to the dollar. But because of so many cries and exercises, we have been able to get it back to normal.
The Treasury Single Account (TSA) has done very well also because a lot of leakages came up. One government agency will have as many as 200 bank accounts without any control. Now, they have been able to centralise these, to a large extent, not totally. So, wastages have been controlled. Also, you can have complete control of what is available by way of disposable revenue in a more transparent manner, unlike what it was before whereby accounts were kept all over the place and with the TSA, a lot of money had been earned.
Don’t forget the Bank Verification Number (BVN), whereby CBN limits cash flow by way of ‘corruption money’. If anybody has to open an account now in three to four different places, the BVN can now do a summary of all of them. So, it limits corruption and if it is sustained, it will be better for us. So, with the exchange rate management, foreign exchange will no longer be granted for certain import items. The effective implementation of BVN and TSA in the country will be better for us all.
So, why are people evading tax in Nigeria?
Well, my own submission on this is that there is nothing good in moving money from your own domain to a place where you can avoid tax. If you legitimately move money for investment purpose from one area to another, based on universality of money, there is nothing bad in it. But for you to move money from one area to another, just because you want to hide it or because you don’t want people to know about it because you want to avoid tax, I don’t think there is anything good about it. But, unfortunately, it has become a universal phenomenon. The rich will always be richer and they discuss among themselves to find out how to avoid tax. It is the ordinary man who cannot hide his income that bears the brunt. One thing is that whatever is not desirable is not desirable.
I am not against free flow of fund all over the world. It is universal; money can flow. After all, we were talking of direct foreign investment. If money can flow in to do business here, why not? Legitimately, they bring it in; it is recorded at CBN that foreign money had flown in. If they want to repatriate, they can, if they want to have dividend, they can repatriate it. That is good money. But it is bad if it is for the purpose of avoiding tax and laundering. This can be termed as corruption in another way.
The banks today are declaring jumbo profits even when they have mountain of bad debts, which should ordinarily eat up their profit going by the prevailing financial reporting standards. Despite their huge profit, their interest rate is high. Some experts have accused them of window dressing.
Do you think Nigeria has capacity to address economic challenges?
It is a question of perception. There is an economic team led by the vice president and they are doing a good job. It was very visible during the regime of Obasanjo because we had a dominant president and a dominant minister of finance who doubled as chairperson of the economic team, which was Okonjo Iweala. You know the vice president has brought intellectualism into governance. They are doing a lot of things quietly. Everything cannot be fixed in one day. The only thing I want them to do really is that they should be consistent and they should find solution to the problem of power supply.
Permanent solution to the problem of power supply is a major variant in any development programme for any country. If we cannot even have supply within the economic sector; particularly the manufacturing sector, that is not good for business. No foreign investor would want to start investing in generators to power his or her business. I remember that somebody said some time ago when he was making sarcastic comment that Nigeria is the best economy in Africa and one of the best in the world. For a generator-based economy to be one of the best, then something must be wrong. We must find a common solution to the power problem. There are so many opportunities these days. We can have a modern system that is solar-based; we can have organisations that are within some geographical location that can have something like that. I think it is one of the issues that government must look into. State governments don’t need to spend money to get power supply into the grid and if any state government can do it, let them do it and let them face competition for the survival of the fittest.
You said the vice-president and his economic team are doing fairly well when we have not witnessed inflow of foreign direct investment through the campaign for the ease of doing business in Nigeria. How will you justify your comment about the economic team?
You saw the classification of Nigeria some time ago. From about 120 rating, the country has moved 24 points within two years circle. If this is sustained, it means that even by projection, in another five years or 10, we are going to move by 50 points. This country is still a very fertile ground for investors to come in. In which country in the world do you think you can have a return on investment of about five to 10 per cent? In the developed economy, you will be lucky to have modicum of investment return. But here, you can have five to 10 per cent returns. Despite all the challenges such as lack of power supply, poor infrastructure, the investors are still willing to come because they know this is a fertile ground. But we must put our house in order. This is a regime that started well. If they can continue like this in another five years’ time, the story will be quite different. So, we are on the right track and I suggest that if it is maintained, we can get better.
Olateru: There’s no reason for aircraft accident probe delay beyond 1 year
Akin Olateru is Nigerian, United Kingdom and United States licensed aircraft maintenance engineer. In this interview with WOLE SHADARE, he speaks on factors that have elongated the release of accident reports, plan by his agency to release six more crash reports before the end of February and the turn around of AIB to meet challenges of modern accident
The recently concluded accident investigation report writing course is an eye opener and critical aspect of accident reporting, what is the essence of the summit to aviation investigation?
This is end of the training session for accident investigation report writing and this has been conducted by (Banjul Accord Group Accident Investigation Agency (BAGAIA). BAGAIA is Africa’s accord group represented by seven countries. The whole idea is training of accident investigators to make sure we develop regionally and that is the whole essence.
This is why the commissioners from BAGAIA; the CEO for BAGAIA Caj Frostell, is the one that took this training on accident report writing. Report writing is very important. When I came in 2017, we found out that more than half our investigators had not been trained and training is one of the key pillars of my administration. It is training training and training. You can’t have it better. The essence of report writing is if you are speaking and the other person does not understand, it means you are not communicating.
To ensure that we communicate, you ensure that reports cannot be faulted anywhere in the world. This is why we strengthen our capacity in terms of report writing. Because you investigate accidents, you come up with your safety recommendations and you present your report to the world.
Our reports can be assessed anywhere in the world. Since November last year; even on your phone, you can download our AIB App, you can see or download reports of accident investigation and this is the essence of it and also we make sure we extend this course to other stakeholders.
Nigeria Air force is represented, Nigeria Navy, DSS are represented in this training because when there is a crash and it is a breach of Annexe 17, which deals with aviation security, the practice is that we involve the Directorate of State Service (DSS). DSS are our own Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and this is purposely to join us in investigating accidents that have elements of breach of Annexe 17.
This is the first time in the history of AIB that the DSS is engaged in this type of training. It is very important for them to understand what we do for them to be able to marry it to their mandate. It is not when there are issues, that we start informing them. They need to be informed. I look forward to bigger and better coordination within all security agencies and AIB to the benefit of mankind and to the entire aviation industry.
What other benefits are there for Nigeria?
For Nigeria, we just had a team of accident investigators – about 18 of them. They have not had a five day training course since they were engaged in 2013. It is a very good way to move forward. They have not been trained on the basic function accident investigation in accordance with Annexe 13. The five day course that happened about two months ago, ICAO came to train us. Now we have gotten BAGAIA to train on report writing, which is a very important component of accident investigation.
Report writing is a very important function because normally, it is the sync of the accident investigation’s basic training and for people who investigate, they become very good investigators. The objective of the whole accident investigation is prevention of accidents and incidents to prevent more and the need to have safety recommendations and then you need to take safety actions to correct those deficiencies .
The safety recommendations, that is the whole objective of the investigation because those are the ones that leads to safety actions. So, how do you write effectively so that deficiencies are clearly known and proper actions are taken? The essential part is the report writing. You see, at times when you do a proper investigation, the report writing is lacking with the problem not being understood.
How do you ensure that accident reports are well written and fast/tracked and ensure that investigations are concluded in good time?
There are guidelines. Major investigations ideally should be concluded within a year. Sometimes, there are technical reasons that may make it take long. But ideally, it is within a year but for smaller accidents, it should be within six months. The international regulatory material is very clear. It states that reports should be made public and publicly made available.
The right way to do that is to post it on the website of the investigation agency so that anybody who so wishes can see the final reports download them for the information and use.
You talked about the laboratories that government has given approval for speedy completion. Could you let us into that project?
Thank you very much. The laboratory is called flight safety laboratory. We started the process in 2008 but the completion of the project was done in 2012, that was about five years ago. You can imagine you started this in 2008, a lot has happened. Aviation is a very highly dynamic industry. Things change by the day. Take for instance, aviation security.
Prior to 2000, the way we travelled was different. There was nothing like body scanners, nobody searches, you just go. Since 2002, things have changed. So, when you talk of aviation security in 2018, it is a complete ball game.
It is the same with accident investigation; a lot have changed. I will give you a few examples. Because of most incidents that happened, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has ruled that all aircraft must have Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and we need to upgrade the equipment we use in download to tell us the story. In the Dana accident case for instance, everybody died. In the Police Helicopter crash, everybody died.
There was nobody to tell us the story. It was only the CVR and Flight Data Recorder (VDR) that can tell us what happened as regards the conversation between the pilot and controller. This is why it is very important. Laboratory is very key to what we do. It is about the heart of our investigative activities. It is very important to us. Another benefit of the upgrade is to lead the region.
The flight safety laboratory as you aware, we have two laboratories.
The material science laboratory and the flight safety laboratory; It is where we have FDR and the CVR downloads. This contract was executed 2012. They started it in 2008 and finally executed due to whatever reason in 2012. By that time, as at today, look at it very well, the software is obsolete.
If you buy your computer in 2008 and compare it with what we have in 2018, you need to upgrade the software. There must be some upgrade. It is just to upgrade what we have and to incorporate very important component. which is the training side of it.
This is part of this contract, to continuously train people on how to use the equipment and the analysis of the data is the one that is most critical and you can’t train an expert in one week. It is an ongoing thing and that is the whole essence of the upgrade. Thank God for the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the upgrade was approved penultimate Wednesday for us to do proper accident investigation.
Just recently, your organisation was asked to investigate a crash in Sao Tome. Does that show that Nigeria has come of age in accident investigation?
Most countries in BAGAIA look up to us. We have already taken that leadership decision. We currently investigated Sao Tome accident. For the first time in the history of AIB, we were elected to investigate the Sao Tome crash. That was what happened last year. That accident report has been concluded. Prior to this training, we just concluded the final review of accident investigation.
For the first time in the history of AIB, accident investigations are concluded in six months. This has never happened before. We had accidents that happened in 2009 and are still investigating. Under my watch, accidents will be investigated and concluded within one year.
You have just spent one year in office, from the basis of this training, what is your projection going forward into 2018? How would you look back in the last one year as the CEO of AIB so far?
One year to me to the glory of God was an excellent year. I came in January 13, 2017. I did a review. We had 27 pending accident reports when I came in. Some dates back to 2005 and we were in 2017. I was wondering what really went wrong. Just like the Commissioner BAGAIA said, accident investigation should be concluded within a year.
We set everything in motion. Funding was another problem. In carrying out accident investigation, you need a lot of resources; manpower and finance. We pushed everything in motion and through the support of the Minister of State for Aviation, he gave us maximum support for that and we did what we were supposed to do.
To the glory of God, we released 11 reports by December 2017. One year, 10 final reports and one safety bulletin are some of the things we did last year. By the end of first quarter this year, we will be releasing another six and that will make it 16 out of the 27 we inherited.
That is how far we have done. Now, we simplify our processes. Now, you can download our app, AIB Nigeria app where you can report accidents. You don’t have to come to our office to file paper. We try to eliminate all these bottlenecks in reporting accidents. We were invited by BAGAIA to investigate the accident in Sao Tome. As I speak today, the final review of that accident report has been concluded. That means that we have concluded that accident investigation in six months. That is the first ever in the history of AIB to have started and concluded accident investigation within six months.
This is what it should be. If people are up and doing, this is what it is supposed to be. You can’t have an accident and then it dragged for years and years. There is no explanation for it. Because the whole purpose of accident investigation is to come up with safety recommendations to prevent future occurrence. There must be lessons learnt.
If you don’t investigate and come up with safety recommendations, how would people learn to prevent future occurrence. This is why it is very important. Accident investigation is a very serious business and we should all support it and make sure it is a serious agent of government in ensuring that our airspace is safe.
Aliyu: Nigeria should command respect in global auto market
With Nigeria’s quest to develop the local automobile sector gaining momentum and receiving heightened attention from the Federal Government, the Director General, National Automotive Design and Development Council (NADDC), Mr. Jelani Aliyu, in this interview speaks on the immediate challenges and way forward. SUNDAY OJEME reports
What are the major challenges you have had to contend with since coming on board?
Well, as you are aware, this administration is very different in terms of its intensive commitment to moving the nation forward, not just a part of the nation, but from the Atlantic shoreline in the south, to the grasslands of the middle belt all the way to the northern part of the country, this administration is committed to making people’s lives better. And that is what it is all about. You talk about diversification from oil, you talk about industrialisation, you talk about better education, and you ask yourself, what are all these about? It is all about making people’s lives happier and better. Being able to make the life of that little girl or boy happier, being able to give that little one an opportunity to have a smile on his or her face, it all boils down to that; that core human aspect of us to enhance what makes us human.
So, the overall challenges in the automotive sector are similar to other challenges we face in Nigeria. I always said the problem with this country is not lack of resources, it is not the lack of human capacity or intelligence and it is not corruption. It is just that we tend to forget who we are and what we can do.
And I think that once as Nigerians we realise that each person is essential to the whole development of the nation and we all wake up and play our roles together, magic will begin to happen.
Apart from the issue of adequate skills, what other challenges are responsible for major automobile manufacturers not having plants in Nigeria?
These companies cannot justify why they are not here, and we have discussed this with them when we met in the global coalition for automotive conference in South Africa, and some of the challenges that they envisages are very real.
We have insufficient power. To run a very successful and sustainable auto industry, you need electricity continuously, because if you rely on personal power generation or local power generation, cost will just escalate. So, that’s a challenge that needs to be addressed.
The market is still here, but they are also skeptical on the protection of local production in the country. Nigeria is one of the countries that are moving forward to protect its local production. In the National Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP), there is a part that protects the local automotive sector, and protects vehicles manufactured within the country.
The development of the automotive sector must be a two-pronged approach. Yes, we have companies like Peugeot that are already here, Volkswagen, Innoson, and now we are talking to BMW, Volkswagen and Toyota to come into Nigeria and produce vehicles, that’s one aspect.
But we must not forget it has to be ground up, we must commit to producing utilitarian type vehicles that we would use in our villages, our hamlets to get people to provide healthcare and education.
So we will do that, we will work with more both established companies that are global, and then we will also support Nigerians and other stakeholders that are providing these very low cost vehicles that will make a direct impact to people living in the most remote areas. This is important so we can approach it from both ends.
Another challenge is that in a lot of established markets, vehicles are not bought with a hundred per cent down payment. There is usually an automotive finance scheme and we are working with all the relevant stakeholders to see how we can make that happen, so, that Nigerians will be able to go lease a vehicle and put a little down, then pay over time or pay for the amount of time they use the vehicles. So, some of the instruments that are available in other developed markets, we are going to see how we can bring those instruments here in terms of vehicles sales and financing.
Where can Nigerians really feature in all of these?
When you look at these auto companies such as GM, Ford, they produce cars and sell them across the world everywhere. But when they develop a vehicle for China, for instance, they hire the Chinese to design and help them develop those vehicles. When they sell a car in Europe, they hire Europeans to design and develop those vehicles. So, Nigeria with a 180 million people should command enough presence in the market.
If for instance, our major income earner should come from vehicles, then they need to hire Nigerians to design and develop their vehicles for them. They should be able to hire Nigerians to design and develop the vehicles that are sold here. This is just one part. The other parts are that these young talented Nigerians that we are grooming, when they come out, they can team with other investors and start a whole new Nigerian automotive company.
Why has the scheme not been long implemented considering that is what is obtainable in other countries?
I wouldn’t know that, but now that we are here, we are committed to doing it. You must also understand that when you look at Africa, there have always been challenges that are counter to development. But when you have new technology, new solutions that help you leapfrog and achieve what you were unable to achieve in the past, sometimes, it happens quickly. I think that’s what’s happening. We now have the technology that we can leverage, but we must have the commitment to leverage them. At NADDC, we now have and acknowledge these technologies, new solutions, and we will now use them to attain our objectives.
In what ways would you want the government and other stakeholders to assist or partner with the council?
As a people, we are all blessed. Every individual has something inside of him, and everybody needs to know what that is to bring it out. We can only move this country forward if we come together as one nation; each person knowing exactly what is good and what to bring to the table.
For the other institutions that make up the Federal Government, I think the momentum is already gathering. I think the momentum is now there that we are looking long term and the momentum is now there where different parts of government are working together. It will take more than NADDC to make this work; it will take the financial institutions, those in charge of the land borders, those in charge of the environment, all coming together to know that we are working for the long term interest of Nigeria. There will be challenges, but that does not mean it for today or tomorrow, let’s look at what’s best for our children, our grandchildren and us.
What is your take on vehicle smuggling and illegal importation?
There are lots of substandard vehicles around and more are also being brought into the country, and that’s just not fair for the Nigerian market and people. So we have a good relationship with Customs, even though we are trying to make that relationship even closer so that issue of local production will be a priority.
There are a number of substandard vehicles being brought into the country that are unsafe, so we must find a way to stop that, and then also give incentives to local manufacturers to produce their vehicles in the country. But we really cannot overlook infrastructures. We cannot overlook the influx of substandard vehicles. We need to find a way around that, but then, I believe when a company really understands the potential in Nigeria, they can see how big the market is. The potential are enormous.
How has the experience been since coming on board as the director general?
It has been a very exciting and interesting experience. First and most important, is that it is a great opportunity to really play a role in moving Nigeria forward, and specifically in helping grow the automotive sector in Nigeria in terms of local production that is geared towards creating more jobs and obviously providing those products within the borders of Nigeria. Then secondly, it is very exciting to have a team on the ground at NADDC dedicated to this cause
As you are aware, Nigeria has a huge population, and any country with a population of over 180 million is huge and big business, because transportation, automotive, airways are all crucial to the development of any nation because people have to move and goods have to be transported from one location to another.
The role the automotive sector plays in the social fabric of any nation is immeasurable, so it is really a great honour and opportunity to be able to play a role in the development of this sector. There are a few challenges as it will exist in any situation, but I believe the commitment is there personally; the commitment is there with my team at NADDC to move forward and solve these problems and moving the sector forward.
What particular plans do you have for youths who are skilled and have some level of expertise that the automotive sector can develop and build upon?
NADDC has lots of initiatives on-going. The very first one we are working on is the automotive design and innovation competition. This will be opened to all Nigerians, especially the youths and all those creative Nigerians out there. We will have two categories, depending on the person’s interests and strength to choose a category and design certain vehicles, and these vehicles we will ask them to design during the competition will not be sports cars or luxury cars. We have identified two types of transportation solutions that are basic, rudimentary and very appropriate to human and economic development in Nigeria.
So, we will have the competition out there and the winners will be chosen from all the six geo political zones of the country. And then we will also have national winners. We will take these winners to our Zaria office; give them all the necessary support needed, bring in professionals from Nigeria and from outside and take that winning concept all the way to a functional prototype.
Once we get to that prototype phase, then it will be ready for production and we will either license it up, or go into a joint venture with the private sector. Once we get to that stage, it becomes a private sector-driven initiative. So, this competition will go a long way in identifying these talented kids out there, and give them an opportunity to showcase what they could do. That is one.
The second one is in the near future; we are looking at a dedicated automotive design and development institute very similar to the type of school I went to in the United States. But again, the emphasis on the school will be for applicable automotive solutions that are needed in Nigeria and Africa. Vehicles that is particular to us, our terrain, climate, our environment.
The reason for this is because if you look at many of the vehicles that are now being brought into our country, they have been designed and developed in the developed world. They have been developed for the streets of Tokyo or for Australia… somewhere. We need vehicles that understand us, that are in tune with our culture, climate and terrain. It is only by developing our own innovators and designers that we can achieve that.
News23 hours ago
If Buhari re-contests, Nigeria will sink –Primate Ayodele
Features24 hours ago
’Grasscutter farming has made me a multi-millionaire’
News24 hours ago
2019: Buhari’s re-election will mark end of Nigeria –Ohanugo
News23 hours ago
Oyegun, chieftains, govs, legislators shun APC rally in Niger
News23 hours ago
Twenty-four govs endorse Buhari’s re-election
News23 hours ago
Zamfara killings: APC’s incapable of protecting Nigerians –PDP
News23 hours ago
Crash averted as cows take over runway
News23 hours ago
Reconciliation: Tinubu in Sokoto, meets Tambuwal, Wamakko