Leader of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and second republic Governor of Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa disagrees with the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II that the North’s 13th century interpretation of Islam and its culture are responsible for the poverty and backwardness raving the region. In this interview with IBRAHEEM MUSA, the fiery politician took on the political class and argued that its members are the problem of the north
Recently, the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II ruffled feathers by attributing the North’s poverty to its culture and its 13th century interpretation of Islam. Do you subscribe to the emir’s view?
It’s very difficult to say that the statement is correct or wrong. But when you take into account the fact that he is a leader in Nigeria, in every sense of the word, he ought to have exercised more care and caution in making this categorical statement. Historically, what he said is untrue but superficially, it is true.
It is untrue because he linked the backwardness of the North to Islam, which is wrong. Islam as a religion and as a culture is not backwards. It is only materialists that regard what he said as true. What he should know is that in every society, going by history, at anytime, there is a socio-economic, political and cultural system that controls all developments.
That system, may be Islamic, Christian, idealistic or secular. That system also creates a particular leadership suitable to it. In the context of Nigeria, there is a system controlling all development in the country. That system is not Islamic, that system is not Christian, that system is not secular.
That system is capitalist. And because it is capitalist, it is based on self interest first, public interest second or even incidental. It is this capitalist system that is controlling all developments in this country.
And the backwardness or progressiveness of Nigeria cannot be linked to Islam or Christianity.
The Emir said that it is only in the Muslim North that there are so many children that are out of school. Don’t you agree with him that the North’s own interpretation of Islam may be the source of its poverty and backwardness?
I agree with the fact that we have so many children who are out of school but that has nothing to do with Islam. It has to do with the misrepresentation of Islam. If you represent Islam correctly, it is not based on self interest. It is based on the belief in God and the service of humanity. If you understand Islam, it reflects the best form of progress known to mankind. Apart from Marxism, Socialism and Leninsm, all other systems are based on material progress unlike Islam.
The issue of Almajiris is a huge problem in the North, what steps do you advise the political leaders to take in order to curb it?
The issue is not about political leaders who are not guided by anything of value. The political leaders of today are parasites and opportunists. You can’t expect them to deal with any problem positively. They can only contribute to the degeneration of society! These leaders, with very few exceptions, are committed to the system of self interest first, public interest second or even incidental. The leaders are not leaders; they are impostors. And they cannot create any better society. They are not even worthy of being called leaders, call them thieves and the evidence is everywhere.
But if you are to advise them, what will you tell the leaders regarding the almajiri issue?
I can’t advise leaders generally in an interview like this. I can only advise individuals in an interview like this. If I were to address leaders, I will base my advice on a global and humanistic view of the situation. In other words, I will take the level of exploitation, oppression and marginalization in this country into account and the suffering of the people and lack of progress of the society and government.
I will take all these into account. I will also take into consideration, the history of the struggle of mankind, particularly the struggles of peoples and nations since the 18th century, since the beginning of the industrial revolution. I will say that the solution of the problems of Nigeria today, is socialist reconstruction of the country, starting with the leading role of the state in the economy, to ensure peace, equality, justice and progressive even development. That is the solution.
Of course there are various ways of ensuring this but that is fundamentally the solution.
When you were governor of Kaduna State in the second republic, how did you deal with the problem?
First of all, we tried to let the people know that a new era had arrived. This new era was based on the freedom of the people subject to social discipline. We tried to make people understand that progress is inevitable. Society cannot achieve peace and development without progress. We identified the greatest inhibition to the freedom and rights of the people. We believed that education is basic to social progress
The reality of the situation in the north was that it was at least 40% backwards compared to the south. And that was a hindrance to peace, progress and development. We tried to solve that problem by emulating Oyo State, which was the most developed part of Nigeria at that time. And we aimed at bridging the gap in educational development with Oyo State within 26 years.
That was our target and the first thing that we did was to make education free at every level within the old Kaduna State.
Then we said that there must be a secondary school within five miles radius in any part of the state, except highly forested and desert areas where they were no people. And the next thing we did was to establish 100 secondary schools throughout the old Kaduna State. We planned to establish industries as a means of providing employment. We planned to develop agriculture to a very high extent and we did it in various ways. All these measures were aimed at dealing with this issue of almajiri and developing the state. For example, we undertook the responsibility of establishing a small scale industry in all the then 14 local governments.
We said that the state government should devote at least N2 million every year for this project. In some cases, we established industries that were more than N2 million, for instance Daura Tannery required N32 million.
That was special. Zaria Pharmaceutical Industry and Ikara Food Processing each required more than N14 million. If it were today, we will be talking of N1 billion for Daura Tannery, N700 million for Zaria Pharmaceutical and the same amount for Ikara Food Processing. We also established three major industries in the southern part of the state. One was the Wood Industry between Sanga and Jemaa local governments. We established a confectionary in Kafanchan, we established a ginger factory at Kachia. If the government had continued, I think Kaduna State would have been the most industrialized state in Africa.
The Federal Government launched an Economic Growth and Recovery Plan last week. Have you read it? What is your opinion about the plan?
I haven’t seen, I haven’t read it and I don’t even care to read it because I consider it no different from previous political deceits! So, I didn’t find it worthwhile to read it.
But at least you should have read it so that you can give constructive criticisms…
Why waste my time!? I can devote time only when critical people like you journalists point out something to me, then I can take it on. Why should I talk to those people who can’t even listen? At that gathering, they wont even listen to the truth.
Let me give you an example. We have been saying that if northern leaders are sincere and they know what is good for the north, they should put up a demand which is greater than any other demand in the country, that will give the north equal opportunity with the rest of Nigeria.
Instead of wasting time on political power and other issues, northern leaders should demand from the Federal Government and Nigeria, free and compulsory primary and secondary education, up till post secondary education.
If you do that, you will deal with the 40-year educational gap between the north and the south and establish the basis for peace, progress and even development throughout the country. But northern leaders who are the victims of this state of affairs, won’t do so. At a national forum when I raised this issue, one of the governors in one of the most backwards northern states, said that the government can’t afford that.
I told him that, look, let’s be reasonable. It’s a question of every section of the country making its own demands according to its concerns. Oil producing states are talking about resource control. Some geo-political zones like the South- West and south east which have no oil, talk about power shift.
They say that the north has dominated power for so long and they want power shift from the north to the south. Both those asking for resource control and those asking for power shift are Nigerians and they have the right to do so. But what is the north demanding!? The north should ask for something which is even greater that power shift and resource control: ask for free and compulsory primary and secondary education and post secondary education.
This demand that you are asking the north to make is in All Progressives Congress(APC) manifesto….
(Cuts in) Don’t deceive me! What is APC!?
But the APC virtually controls the whole north apart from Taraba and Gombe states, so the governments are in a better position to implement this policy that you are proposing.
Forget about that historical accident and political low consciousness! Are the governors putting this APC manifesto in practice? Secondly, states cannot bring this about, it’s the Federal G overnment that can do so because it has the resources for free and compulsory primary and secondary education throughout the federation.
We should insist that the Federal Government should undertake this. When I advocated this, I added a proviso; that the government should stand up against this disabling corruption, stealing and wasting of resources like previous leaders did.
Until 1970, nobody could steal a kobo of public funds and get away with it, without being investigated, prosecuted and punished according to the law in an exemplary manner. And we achieved some progress. For example, in spite of the backwardness and the lack of strategic thinking by previous leaders, at least they were not thieves!
They used the resources available to achieve something. But today, we are led by thieves throughout.
But at least the stealing has somehow stopped…
(Cuts in) Please don’t deceive me! Has the stealing stopped, when it is still going on and the government is doing nothing about it? There are thieves that have stolen billions running around freely. Did you see them in 1970? Or during the colonial times and the first and second republics?
People are saying that the executive branch of government has been doing it part by arresting these so called thieves but it is our cumbersome judicial process that has not prosecuted them yet.
When we are talking about government, we are talking about the wholesome. We are not talking about just one arm. We had the executive, the legislature and the judiciary working amicable before, but today they are not working.
Take the case of the confirmation of the acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu.
It’s a very bad case and it shows poor level of political leadership. Take the time of the Sardauna, Zik, Awolowo and Osadebe. If such a problem had arisen, and the Premier wanted the confirmation of someone, and the confirming authority which is the parliament refused.
First, he will sit down with the legislators in one way or the other. If that becomes impossible, he will withdraw the candidate and send another one because he is not the only suitable candidate. He will ask the person who was rejected whether the allegation against him was true or not. His response will decide the next step of the executive.
The executive can insist on continuing nominating him. But it can choose to withdraw his candidature and nominate another person if it is not satisfied with his explanation. But has this been done?
Where will you put the blame, is it on the Department of State Security (DSS) that sent security report against Ibrahim Magu or the senate that rejected him based on the report?
Under which arm of government is the DSS? The executive. Who appointed the head of DSS? The president!
So, there seem to be lack of coordination in the presidency…
Not lack of coordination but sheer incompetence! As I told you, this couldn’t have happened under the founding fathers, in spite of their weaknesses. They would have found ways and means of not allowing the matter to reach this stage. What we are seeing today is the worst relationship between the executive and the legislature that we have ever had in the history of Nigeria.
And it is completely unnecessary. The president should have given in to the wishes of the legislature because they have given their reasons why they rejected Magu. And he needs to work with them. Why not agree for peace to reign. There should be an equally good person like Magu or even better.
People are saying that the president is insisting on Magu because he knows the history of most of these high profile cases. That if he brings a new person, the Chairman will spend close to two years studying files before he settles down, by which time the tenure of this administration would have lapsed. Do you agree with this argument?
Who knows whether or not he was part of it himself? I’m just putting this in theory. So what is this argument of him knowing the history of cases.? The worst people in Nigeria are the people who know better! The dictators, the terrorists and the big thieves in Nigeria are the most educated, the most experienced but when they are in positions, they do what they like.
Secondly, let me tell you what a Chairman of EFCC once told me. I told him that although they are doing something, but people are not inspired, Before I could say more, he told me one of his experiences. He said that he came across a serious case of fraud involving someone who was very high up in government. It became a fundamental and a national issue.
So, he wanted to discuss the issue with the then president and he booked an appointment to see him. He waited for hours to see the president. In the end, when the president came out, he as together with the person that he wanted to discuss with the president about. They came out chatting in a friendly manner. So, he held his peace and didn’t raise the issue with the president.
On another occassion, a common friend had arranged a meeting with one EFCC Chairman, so that I will advise him on what I felt, instead of taking on the commission in the media. I told the Chairman to be careful with the people who appointed him to the position because they will be the first to disappoint him. Two months later, he was removed.
Who was that sir?
No, I will not tell you. Now, if we are not a society led by thieves, why should an EFCC Chairman come out publicly and say that he is afraid of his life because he was doing his work? This has happened in Nigeria! I will not give you the name. Check your archives and find out.
What is the position of the judiciary in this fight against corruption? First of all, the judiciary in every aspect of public institution is part and parcel of this corruption. Because the socio-economic and cultural system that is controlling all development is based on self interest. So, it is inevitable to find this anomaly.
The last time we spoke, you said that several political parties have been courting your Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), are there prospects of an alliance in 2019?
It is we that are courting them. It is we who are saying that since PRP has been priced out of the political competition and we want to remain and we have reason to remain, we have to open up and bring in more people into the party.
This will reinforce the forces of liberation and social progress. And the best way to do it, is to deal with this problem of resources and intellectual capacity. And you can’t deal with these problems without opening up. So, we will allow everyone to come in, we can sift later. We have a plan for a convention where leaders will be elected in a free, fair and democratic election.
At the moment now, we have established three important organs. First of all, an organ for the registration of new members. We have also established an organ that will ensure that there is a free and fair election, leading to a executives at the ward, local government and state levels, up to the national level. This convention has to hold two years before the 2019 election, one year six months or at least one year before the next general elections.
Is it true that some APC senators and exgovernors are planning to defect to your party?
I don’t know that. What I know is that we have contacted so many of them. We are encouraging them to come and join the PRP. This process is still going on.
I saw Senator Shehu Sani here when I came, is he trying to defect to PRP?
Comrade Shehu Sani had always been in the PRP from his youth; since he was a student in Kaduna Polytechnic he has been connected with the PRP. He has never contested election on the platform of the PRP because each time he wanted to do so, PRP was not registered. So, he went to another party. So, our relationship continues even though he is in another party.
So, is he likely to come back?
It’s up to him. All I know is that he is an APC senator. He is doing his work as an APC member but that doesn’t stop us from remembering history.
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.
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