• Sunday, May 19, 2024
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Practical economics: Behold Nigeria’s thriving and emerging industries

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While everybody writes about the poor state of Nigerian economy and the trend of de-industrialisation, I have been tracking industries that have been doing very well in this economy. Some of these industries are indigenous or metamorphosed into industrial status in Nigeria and that is why they have Nigerian peculiarities. I have done this tracking for the past 30 years and in doing so, I have adopted the techniques of the school of practical and commonsense economics which is neither Marxist nor centrist, nor rightist, nor Keynesian, nor monetarist, nor mathematical.

In the early 80s [during the Shagari era], the first industry that I recognised was contractocracy. It was a political cum economic affair because it was based on government of contractors for contractors by contractors. Now, contracting did not start in Nigeria. But it is only in Nigeria that it became an industry and got aligned with politics and government [like the defence industry in USA] with clearly defined principles. These include to contract all contractible [even the supply of air or the importation of sand], do away with all forms of maintenance [so that infrastructures that would have cost N50,000 to repair would collapse and then a fresh contract awarded for N500m], regular contract variation and revaluation without any basis, upfront payments which may be up to 100 percent and even before the terms of the contract are clear, and the preferred bidder system. Contract margins can also be as high as 100 percent, such as when one collects contract monies without performing any bit of the job. There are also inbuilt revenue allocation formulas – among the contractor, the awarding department, the certifying and approving officials, those who pay, the clerk who carries the file, and the secretary to the oga!

In the 1990s, I recognised the tollgates industry. Then, I defined tollgates as fundraising [public or private] barricades along our highways that delay traffic, elongate journeys, cause accidents and create anxiety/fear among drivers. With that conceptual framework [big grammar!], I listed the active players in that industry as the FG with its 31 official tollgates as at June 1991, the police [your friend], VIO, state livestock departments, Customs, NURTW, sundry rate and tax collectors, FRSC, Win the SAP operators [boys with hoes and shovels who pretended to repair roads and collect tolls. They at times became robbers at night]. Finally, there were the ‘owners of the road’ – the armed robbers. In my genuine effort to ensure that the industry was well managed and regulated, I recommended the establishment of a National Toll-Gates Commission to regulate and regularise the operations of tollgates, conduct a census of tollgates, register/licence all operators and prepare a decree to be known as Toll Gate and Allied Matters Decree, 1991 [see ‘Need for National Tollgate Commission’, The Reporter, 6/9/91].

Another fast-growing indigenous industry which I tracked more than two decades ago was the doctorate industry. We were already used to the medical doctors: elderly foreign and indigenous and the teenage jean-wearing generation. Then, the homeopaths arrived [the NMA once told us to patronise them at our risk], and even to the village folk, every health worker was a doctor [dentists, opticians, pharmacists, male nurses]. Witches, wizards, sorcerers, native medicine-men, diviners and fetish experts soon joined the fray and insisted that they must be addressed as doctors [N.Dr]. We also have doctors of veterinary medicine and the academic doctors who are all doctors of philosophy even when they studied atomic physics.

That was confusing enough, but all hell was let loose when the honorary doctors came onboard. Initially, they were truly distinguished and came from foreign and few local universities. But with title-mania and SAP which reduced the subvention to universities, it became truly commercialised. So you had SAP-indigenous honorary degrees and SAP-foreign degrees awarded in the universities or in a beer parlour or under the bridge in Lagos. All the religious institutions also run Bible Schools and award ‘doctors’, starting with the proprietors. Then, I had recommended a Doctor Classification and Registration Commission [‘Doctor? Which doctor should we patronise?’ The Reporter, 23/3/92, p8]. Just last week, I received this mail from [email protected] : Add MBA or doctorate to your resume in 10 days: if you have knowledge or experience in your field, you are entitled to a degree without studying for it. No books, no tests! You see what I mean?

I have also studied and recognised the escort industry. Escorts are part of military and political protocols while banks escort money [but not the staff who manage the money]. But because of the number of policemen on our highways, especially between Lagos and Onitsha, and the quantum of tithe they usually demand at gunpoint [they all carry guns!] along the road, those who could afford it arrange for black-market escorts from the DPOs or military cantonments. Others readily offer lift to security men to act as escorts. This saves money, time and embarrassments and the escorts are paid and everybody is happy. The luxurious buses also had the habit of hiring police escorts until it became counter-productive. Others who engage escorts [all at the black-market] are some acting ‘big men’, politically-exposed persons and those with HKV [high kidnap value], bus drivers and loaded trailers within Lagos [to save them from the thousands of the numerous unknowable touts, and rate collectors, police and customs], as well as those smuggling vehicles from Cotonou [you know why]. I recommended a national ‘don’t-touch’ sticker by the police which would then use the proceeds to settle down the line or outsourcing the business to Muo & Muo Unlimited, which would bring private sector efficiency into the escort business [‘Escort services as an emerging industry’, BusinessDay, 10/1/07).

There are other industries that are thriving in this our dear country: corruption, faking, demolition [by governments that are not building anything] and public holidays [Nigeria probably has the highest number of public holidays in the world]. But the newest industry now is amnesty! It has been successfully [?] awarded to Niger Delta warlords [both genuine and fake] and has cost us about N200bn. Boko Haram will soon be amnestied even when they don’t want it. And others will follow suit: cultists, plagiarists, rapists, failed contractors, philanderers, pen robbers, pension and subsidy thieves. This is indeed an awesome industry and I don’t want to be left out. I am already offering consultancies with my company registered in Cayman Island: Amnesty Services Inc! Get in touch early because sooner than later, you will need an amnesty package and my services will be indispensable!

 

IK MUO

Muo is a lecturer and management consultant in the department of business administration, Olabisi Onabanjo 

University, Ago-Iwoye

[email protected]

 

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