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A rebuffed helping hand from the diaspora

By Les Leba

The impact of the IMF-inspired Structural Adjustment Programme during the Babangida regime fundamentally destabilized our economy, and ultimately altered the mobility of some of our brightest intellects in favour of a migratory urge to more clement pastures abroad.

From a trickle in the early 80s, it has become an unstoppable flood that now includes even fresh graduates from our ailing universities.  Some optimists would claim that Nigeria’s loss is the diaspora’s gain, but would assuage the sense of loss with the speculated benefits of alleged millions of dollars monthly remittances by Nigerians working abroad every month.

It is of no consequence that the moneys sent back home can only be a tiny fraction of the total loss Nigeria suffers from the forced absence of these expatriate Nigerians from their home country.

It is not unusual for these our fellow countrymen to miss their fatherland and some of them are even eager to make whatever contribution that will remediate some of our challenges.

Amongst such people are successful technocrats, bankers, engineers, computer gurus, surgeons and professors in some of the world’s best universities.  The government’s creation of an agency for the diaspora was an attempt to formally harness the intellects of this caliber of Nigerians to the service of their fatherland.

However, the impact of this agency is yet to be felt, and the unsolicited opinions of such endowed Nigerians in the diaspora are often discountenanced.

In the rest of this piece, we will relate the experience of Toyin Dawodu, one such Nigerian, who is the successful Managing Partner of Capital Investment Group in California.  He is also the CEO of Capital Energy Resources, an outfit currently testing alternative and clean energy generation for Nige

ria.

Dawodu posits in a paper titled “Stable Electricity still a decade away for Nigeria”, that “Given Nigeria’s history of underperformance and corruption, and its current lack of systems, the country would benefit from creating an environment that is more conducive to the implementation of distributive generation.”

Smart companies, Dawodu observes, “are embracing technologies that deliver power efficiently at fifty to sixty percent less than the cost of imported diesel.  Rather than rely on diesel generators, Nigerians can generate electricity at a cheaper rate on smaller micro turbines that run on clean-burning LPG that is produced in abundance locally.

“Nigeria spends 15% of it annual budget on importing diesel and Nigerians own millions of generators that are fueled every single day using the wrong fuel, a fuel that indirectly exports jobs and subsidizes other countries.  Distributive generation can save the country billions of dollars in wasted foreign exchange, diversify and grow the economy, and create millions of jobs.  The solution is to embrace technology and utilize locally- produced fuel that is mobile and cheaper”.

Dawodu is a great advocate of the huge potentials for cooperation between the United States, where he resides, and Nigeria, particularly in the area of power provision.  His 4th of July letter to President Obama “Re: Investing in Nigerian Power Supply” and President Obama’s direct reply is available on the web; in addition, he has also published a paper on “Why America Needs Nigeria”.

The following are excerpts from a couple of Dawodu’s mails to this column on the nature of the feedback or lack of feedback from eminent Nigerians in public offices.  Please read on.

“I sent a letter to Dr.  Iweala on how Nigeria can raise N3–4 trillion, and create over half a million jobs without borrowing a single kobo from the local banks or the IMF.  I sent the letter twice; one before she left the US after she was first appointed to make sure it was delivered to her at the World Bank because I cannot rely on Nigeria’s postal system.  I got no response.  I sent another one, after she became minister, to her office in Nigeria.  I did not get a response either.

“The new trade minister and the power minister like to parade, the $1.5 billion loan guaranty scheme approved by the U.S. Exim Bank for power generation as part of their handiwork.  However, when I sat down with Prof Nnaji in 2010 before he became energy minister and told him that I can get the US government to support power projects in Nigeria, his response was, “why would the US do that.”  (See my efforts to that effect. http:/amazingtoyin.blogspot.com/ ).

“Our people are not sincere and most of the time I wonder whether they are serving Nigeria or serving themselves.

“Yesterday, I saw a post on LinkedIn about business loans in U.A.E. for businesses; the rate is 2.5%.  You are right, few businesses can make money on 20% interest and 40% cost of generating electricity.  Nigerians subscribe to the illusion that unemployment is 18%.

I have been to Nigerian three times in the last six months, and every morning I walked around Surulere, and I saw hundreds of able bodied men and women on their balcony, with chewing sticks between 8 & 9 am with no where to go.  My estimate is that Nigeria has 30-50% unemployment and another 20% under employment.

“When Nigerian banks declare huge profits, are the profits from loaning money to Nigerian businesses or just manipulation of foreign exchange?

“I still don’t understand how a CBN governor can retain his job when the interest rate on loans from Nigerian banks is about 27%.

“Nigerian banks spend 40% of their revenue on diesel to power their branches.  Sanusi has been making noise for 2 years about cost of power generation for the banks, but when I sent him a mail on how we can help the banks reduce their power cost, I did not get a response.  I am of the belief that what they say and what they do are two different things.

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