January 21, 2016 at 4:58 pm #31346
MASSOB Biafra-Nigeria News: When Will Nigeria Be Truly Independent?Vanguard (Lagos)2016-01-21
By Ochereome Nnanna
Let me wish you all a belated Happy New Year 2016. I have been on an abridged vacation and had the torment of watching so many things happen in our country and beyond without saying a word.
Usually, for me, the January ambience is an opportunity to reflect on how things went wrong in Nigeria. It was in January (16th, 1966) that darkness fell upon Nigeria because a group of idealistic but politically naïve junior officers in the Nigerian Army, decided to save Nigeria from a crop of corrupt, sectional political warlords who had inherited power from the colonialists and turned Nigeria into a colony of their own section of the country. They miscarried their mission and the freshly-independent nation was plunged into a civil war.
It was also on January 15th, 1970 that the attempt by the Eastern Region to form an independent republic called Biafra ended in surrender to the Federal Military Government. On Monday, I will present my January reflects for this year in an article to be entitled: A Basket Full of Crabs. In today’s write-up, I am wondering when Nigeria will truly be independent. Who will complete the assignment of freeing Nigeria from the apron-string of the White Man, the Purple Man and the Yellow Man?
Look at yourself. Look around where you are right now. How many items made in Nigeria can you spot? Can you spot two out of ten? Nigeria has been celebrating her independence for 55 years, yet you cannot spot more than two Made-in-Nigeria objects out of ten around you. Some independence!
How can a country claim to be truly independent when political leaders, political officer holders and public sector workers and officials, due mainly to corruption and lack of patriotism, are unwilling to protect Nigerian businesses and manufacturers against the predatory antics of their foreign competitors here in Nigeria? Hardly does a week pass without one complaint or the other in the media about the travails of Nigerian companies and workforce at the hands of foreign interests. These complaints mostly fall on deaf ears, and even when it seems something is being done, it usually fizzles out somewhere along line. In the process, so many indigenous businesses have collapsed and thousands of workers thrown out of jobs, thus increasing the social burdens bedeviling the system.
For instance, around August last year, it was ARCO, an indigenous oil servicing company crying its eyes out about how Agip, the Italian oil giant, was strenuously trying to push it out of a maintenance contract despite existing laws and policies that support the preference of qualified indigenous companies for such jobs. Till today, the case is still hanging, to the detriment of the Nigerian firm.
Just last week, there was this campaign in the media by a group of indigenous airline operators with the slogan: “Save the Naira, Fly Nigeria, Create Jobs”. When I saw this headline, I was very sad. Is this not what the Federal Government media organs, such as the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) should be drumming into our ears to complement a government push to return full control of the aviation sector to indigenous hands? One would have thought that with economy diversification and creation of jobs being a prime item in the President Muhammadu Buhari regime’s three-point agenda, the Federal Government would be leading the effort while we all key in.
The barefaced exploitation of Nigerians by the foreign airlines is not a new story. Way back in 2012, there was this public outcry about how the British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VA) charged outrageous, discriminatory fees on the Lagos-London route ($10,816) and Abuja-London ($10,144) while its Accra-London route (same distance as the Lagos-London) went for $4,798 for the first class return tickets. The Senate President then, David Mark, set up the Senator Hope Uzodinma Committee to probe the discriminatory charges. Nothing came of it.
Today, the local airline operators are still complaining that Nigerian passengers pay 76 per cent more in the premium class of European carriers on the West African route. For instance, these foreign carriers charge about N1.4 million on the Lagos-London route but for the Accra-London route which approximately the same distance they collect N774,000.
Even at that, the European airlines are threatening to severely cut back on their flights to Nigeria due to their $470 million trapped in Nigerian banks as a result of the Federal Government’s tough new regulation on forex transfers. According to the indigenous operators: “if ALL the Nigerian carriers had only ten per cent of the $470 million they are trying to ship off, the money will go into the improvement of airline services here in Nigeria and will help put more Nigerians to work”.
Apart from the highly exploitative and discriminatory charges the European airlines have almost zero tolerance to accommodation of Nigerian workforce: they are the last to be hired and the first to be fired. Last year, Virgin Atlantic sacked all 20 Nigerian workers in their employ. Once again, the federal lawmakers promised to wade into the issue when the aviation workers unions threatened strike, but again, nothing has come of it! Meanwhile, the much-criticised local operators that flying into major European countries have over 5,000 Nigerians in the Labour force.
The questions that beg for an answer are: why is the Federal Government refusing to come out forcefully to support our indigenous operators given the huge advantages inherent in doing so? Why are top government officials refusing to claim Nigeria’s entitlements in the Bilateral Air Services Agreement (BASA), which the foreign airlines are enjoying without reciprocating to their Nigerian counterparts in their countries? The answer is not farfetched: corruption.
These anomalies must end now. We have no choice. With end of free oil bonanza, we must look inward, fight corruption, empower our local private sector and thus reduce poverty and unemployment. Indeed, we must save the Naira, buy Nigeria and create jobs! That is the way to true independence.
Opinion – Let me wish you all a belated Happy New Year 2016. I have been on an abridged vacation and had the torment of watching so many things happen in our country and beyond without saying a word.
[See the full post at: MASSOB Biafra-Nigeria News: When Will Nigeria Be Truly Independent?]
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