Thursday, May 03, 2007


During the past few weeks, the British media (ie. FT and The Economist) has produced revealing articles on Nigeria.

Andrew Jack of Financial Times reports Nigeria's war on fake drugs.

By the turn of the millennium, Nigerians had become among the world’s most frequent victims of fake drugs.
The Economist reports, two weeks in a row, how Nigerian politicians rig elections:
In Anambra state, most people could not vote at all. They turned up at the voting stations, but often INEC's officials [that is, electoral commission officials] simply did not arrive. When a polling station did open, usually about six hours late, the officials did not have enough materials, notably a register, to let voting begin. On a tour of a dozen voting stations in the state capital, Awka, on the afternoon of polling, your correspondent did not see a single vote being cast, just angry mobs of frustrated would-be voters saying they had been “disenfranchised”. Barely any polling stations were provided with a results-sheet, on which officials and party agents are supposed to record the number of votes cast for each party; presumably these were being filled in elsewhere. ("How to steal yet another election" The Economist, 21th April, 2007)
On the day of the presidential election money-politics could be seen in action in central Kano, the dusty, dilapidated industrial capital of the north. There, in the local government area of Fagge, the PDP had budgeted 35m naira for political “mobilisation” and the main opposition party, the All Nigerian Peoples' Party (ANPP), 40m naira. In one ward, Fagge A, the PDP, according to one of its operatives, had budgeted 594,000 naira ($4,650) for 21,000 registered voters and 35 ballot boxes. Thus each “independent” presiding officer at the polling station was given 3,000 naira and his clerk 2,000 naira. Each policeman was getting 1,000 naira. That left payments of about 200 naira ($1.57) per voter—whose votes, far from being secret, were inked with a thumb on the ballot in front of party agents. Multiple voters, who will have registered several times with sympathetic election officials, might vote ten times, at a reduced bulk rate of 100 naira—still picking up a tidy 1,000 naira each. The friendly officials are paid for a variety of services, one of which is not to scrutinise the register too closely. Hasia, for example, had just voted with the registration card of her mother, who had already voted herself. Hasia had the second of her mother's two cards. She has probably not even reached the legal voting age of 18. Her card clearly identified its owner as being 60 years old, but this had not proved a problem with the right official. ("Big men, big fraud and big trouble", The Economist, 28th April 2007)
But there are pockets of the bright side as well. The war on fake drugs starts paying off.
Recent studies suggest that the proportion of fake and unregistered medicines in Nigeria has dropped to less than 20 per cent over the past six years.
Foudeh Darwish, the Lebanese managing director of Afrab-Chem, a manufacturer of antibiotics and other drugs based in Lagos, ... shows me the plans for his new ₤2m factory set to open later this year in compliance with international quality manufacturing standards. "Two years ago, this would not have been possible," he says. The investment is a sign both of new demand within Nigeria for high-quality medicines, and a reduced threat that genuine regulated products will be undermined by fake alternatives.("Lethal Doses", FT Magazine, 7 April, 2007)
Cross Rivers, one of the 36 states of Nigeria, has a good state governor:
In the state capital, Calabar, the streets have no pot-holes. According to the state government, every village is connected to the national grid and everyone has access to clean water. ... Cross Rivers has no oil wealth. [State Governor Donald Duke] has achieved all this on a fraction of the money available to his neighbours. Instead, he has frozen official salaries, cleverly exploited existing resources and taken on debt. In partnership with private investors, he is also responsible for Tinapa, the largest retail and business development in west Africa. It contains several new giant studios to grab a large slice of the $200m-300m a year "Nollywood" film industry, which churns out, by some estimates, more films than either of its rivals in Los Angeles or Bombay.
You've never heard about Nollywood? The Economist already reported it last July:
IT ALL started by accident in 1992, when Kenneth Nnebue, a Nigerian trader based in Onitsha, was trying to sell a large stock of blank videocassettes he had bought from Taiwan. He decided that they would sell better with something recorded on them, so he shot a film called "Living in Bondage" about a man who achieves power and wealth by killing his wife in a ritualistic murder, only to repent later when she haunts him. The film sold more than 750,000 copies, and prompted legions of imitators. Nollywood, as Nigeria's film industry is known, now makes over 2,000 low-budget films a year, about two-thirds of them in English. ("Nollywood dreams", The Economist, 27th July 2006)
I'm rather impressed by Nigeria's potential both in the right and wrong directions.

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