May 24, 2015

NEPA Was Better

Saturday May 23th, I was at home, and it was quiet and eerie; there was no electricity. When I opened the main door, a folded sheet of paper fell off from the slit between the door frame and the shutter where it had been stuck. I picked and opened it to realize it was my first electricity bill, the connection being recent.

There were a number of disturbing issues with the bill. First, the name I gave was far from the name on the bill. It took my number to believe the bill was meant for me. The quality of the paper and the print on it lacked any glint of attraction. Everything was just basic. Somewhere in my head, there is the belief that “anyone who doesn’t exude quality in minor issues would not deliver quality in the primary services he provides. The image of any individual, group or organization is always seen in its correspondences. From the bill, I came to the conclusion that what the Federal Government had done on the power sector wasn’t privatization, but legalization of criminality.

 There was a fix charge of N775.00 to be paid with or without electricity consumed. The implication is that if one should travel out of town for months and switches off the supply to the house, on return, he would still pay this amount, multiplied by the number of months he has been away. Besides the cheating, the implication is that the power situation would never improve. Since there would be money to be made, with or without the provision of service, and the service provider could go to sleep. And sleeping is what the power authorities had been doing since the privatization.

There was the actual bill which amounted to N1993.25. This, also, is a bill for service not provided. Throughout the month of April, whose bill the figure represented, electricity came once in a while and when it does, it hardly lasts for more than an hour and half. To me, the figure represented the highest level of institutionalized criminality. Since there was no meter on which the reading was based, how did they come about the fraction of a naira (0.25), when they should have given a round figure? It means that somebody sat and wrote the figure, adding that fraction to make it look real. Just imagine the hangdog look on the face of the staffer at the time of writing the figure.

Then there was VAT charges of N94.92 that brought the total to N2, 863.17.

Since the electricity hardly lasted for more than an hour and half, I would try to do many things within the short period I knew it was going to last, like typing my manuscripts, ironing my clothes, charging my phone, etc. In the many days in-between the power supply, I would have to go around, looking for where to type, charge, hot-iron my wears, etc. It is usually my worst moment: going to bear parlors, barbing salons, or houses with NESCO electricity supply to use their sources of power supply.

The result of the electric power situation is the reason why I end up losing browsing data in my modem, TV subs I had paid for, buying fuel for my electric power generator … These are, actually, loses that should be paid for by the power authorities, but we all know the situation.

There are rumors that during the privatization exercise government officials had actually sold out the companies to themselves, friends, and family members. There is every reason to believe this. Nobody protects a client he intends to exploit.

Sixteen years, “reforming” the power sector without any progress, but regression, is very disturbing. The incoming government must look into this issue and ensure there is sanity in the sector.  

May 20, 2015

Muhammadu Buhari and the Other Jobs

Muhammadu Buhari

During his political campaign, General Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) promised Nigerians jobs, among other things. He believes the most dire of the challenges that face Nigeria can be directly, or indirectly, traced to a dearth of jobs. The General means well for Nigeria, and Nigerians believes he truly means well, judging by his idiosyncrasy. The General had cited mining and agriculture as the areas where he thinks there are lots of potential for job creation.

Besides mining and agriculture, however, there is another area with a huge prospect and in which young Nigerians have a lot of zeal. Since the general did not mention it, it leaves Nigerians in fear. The fear stems from the fact that, in the past, governments have often cared less about this sphere of professional life and, also, from knowing that if the sector is not heeded and exploited, the General (and Nigeria) may not be able to achieve the job target, satisfactorily.

 This article aims to call the attention of the new leader to this portfolio. It is a folder that has always been left in the cold by successive governments in Nigeria. It is the art portfolio and includes the movie, music, and publishing industries, just to mention the immediate units that easily come to mind when The Art is mentioned in Nigeria.

It is often boring having to cite the United States of America each time one requires a good example of a place where good things are happening. Sadly, however, the US remains the best, and one must always look towards it when in need of cases in point. The US is a country where The Arts played an astonishing role towards its prosperity. According to Statista, the American movie industry (Box Office) generated total revenue of $38 billion in 2014. The projection is that it will generate up to $ 46 billion in 2018. From the same source, Statista, the music industry generated $16.5 billion in 2011. The books and journal publishing industry generated $27.01 billion in 2013.

Despite the potential there is in The Arts in Nigeria, we are yet to make the most of it. Our inability to make the most of it comes from piracy, the racket of people reaping from the sweat of others and going Scot free.  Nigeria is a country where the law do not seem to be aware that it is its responsibility to protect the intellectual right of individuals (that is if the Nigerian law accepts there is essence in something called intellectual property). There are instances in which members of the Performing Musicians Association of Nigeria, PMAN, go into the markets to seize pirated copies of works of their members out of frustration that the law is not handling the issue.

Knowing the dormancy of the law with regard to The Arts, some individuals have made a profession by duplicating and selling millions of copies of books, music and video CDs other individuals have spent their intellect, time and energy to produce.

How does piracy kill the industry? If a young man or woman, with talent, knows the result of his hard work would not be protected, and others will reap from it as a result, he will not be encouraged to venture into a profession. Thus, the job he would have created for himself and others, and the revenue the state would have earned from his venture would never materialize.

In the US, recently, there was a high profile court ruling relating to violation of intellectual property right. A jury ruled that Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams stole the melody of a song, Got to Give it Up, recorded by Marvin Gaye in 1977. The song by Thicke and Williams, Blurred Lines, generated up to $16.67 million in profits for the duo in 2013, when it was recorded. Of this profit, the jury ruled that Thicke and Williams must pay Marvin Gaye III, the son of the late singer, the sum of $7.6 million (45.6 %.)

In this case, Thicke and Williams did not simply duplicate a CD of Gaye’s music. Rather, they got a hint from the song, a hint that helped them to produce Blurred Lines. To Nigeria, this story is important as it underlines the inviolability of intellectual property rights.

In addition to encouraging young men and women to invest their talents to create, for themselves and others, jobs, fighting piracy would end that feeling that anything goes, and instill sanity in the industry and Nigeria, as a whole. Furthermore, it will help towards laundering the image of the country and restore confidence in foreigners who may want to put their money into the Nigerian art portfolio.

Given the scale of piracy in Nigeria, we cannot remember a single case of piracy-related conviction. This gives credence to the notion that the judiciary does not see any essence in the idea of intellectual property. Thus, fighting piracy in Nigeria would involve sensitizing the judiciary to see essence in the expression: “intellectual property” and, thus, the need for protecting such rights.

Finangwai Dreams Big for Plateau State

Dr Hosea Finangwai. Source Dr Finangwai There is that saying that “the things that people desperately seek are always with them.” If ...