CyberschuulNews Editions 486 - 490

 
 

 

 

 

Cyberschuulnews 490 

FG issues ‘Buy-Nigeria’ Guidelines on IT Products 

Nigeria’s Federal Government has issued guidelines on a procurement, enforcement, and monitoring process which confines acquisition of low-end IT products to only those that are manufactured or assembled in Nigeria and certified as standard by the National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA. It has also enforced the implementation of the NITDA Act of 2007 in relation to purchase of Made-In–Nigeria IT products. Besides, NITDA now has to pay facility visits to local manufacturers, monitor process standards and regularly report to the Minister as prescribed by the Act. 

The Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Omobola Johnson, had said at a Ministerial Platform Presentation in May 2012 that Government would patronise Made-in-Nigeria goods just as just as it would  expand the domestic market for home made IT products. She however observed after a visit to the open market that locally assembled products did not make front shelves. 

Under the guidelines, invitation to tender documents for federal contracts must bear statements which indicate that the items for bidding shall be locally manufactured or assembled brands within the category of products covered by the guidelines. 

Although the directives apply only to federal officers, ministries and departments, analysts envisage that state and local governments would make similar moves as virtually all governors and their officials have been talking positively about empowerment. 

It is not known yet how local manufacturers have reacted to these July 2012 guidelines and the extent to which they help local manufacturing but the presidency has warned that a breach of the guidelines is a consequential breach of the NITDA Act of 2007. 

 

Committee for Roadmap to Broadband in Nigeria Inaugurated  

The Presidential Committee to produce a comprehensive National Broadband Roadmap for Nigeria was inaugurated in Abuja during the week. 

It will work for three months to articulate definitions, perspectives, funding requirements, strategic and tactical approaches to ubiquitous roll out of broadband internet infrastructure for comprehensive e-solutions. 

President Goodluck Jonathan while inaugurating the 14-member Committee stressed that broadband is not just about ICT infrastructure but it is about the enablement and facilitation of national socio-economic development. 

It is being co-chaired by Engr Ernest Ndukwe and Mr Jim Ovia.

 

ESSAY
Monsters that are called Loans

by
titi omo-ettu 

It is very difficult to contribute to discussions on the implications of the loans which the Federal Government said it has been sealing in recent times. This is because loans in themselves are not the evils that are waiting to happen but our experiences are full disappointments and outrage over the management of loans taken by governments in the past for supposedly public good but which did no good and that should guide any rational analysis. 

Yes we can say politicians are preparing for elections and there must be a rash of loans that government must disburse. But what were the juntas preparing for when they were in power that made them go for wasteful loans? And what lessons must we learn from the nature of current overall management of the economy which seems so much like management of currency, regardless that we parade very senior experts in that sector? 

Maybe we really have to go to the fundamentals of a liberalised industry to make any meaningful analysis of the loans specifically for the communication technology sector. $100million is such a huge amount that officials should be  willing, infact anxious, to explain the benefits derivable to the citizens even if only to buy their goodwill. But a take-it-or-leave-it attitude is not only undemocratic, it should be unacceptable. That is where the recent $100million Chinese loan purportedly being taken for 'Galaxy Backbone Project' belongs, until it is explained. 

Lest we get caught unawares, this kind of loans are what is required to commence a reversal of the little progress that Nigeria made in telecommunications in the past two decades. In fact if government starts to directly construct telecommunication infrastructure again after all the debacle of NITEL, then it is this particular government that is bringing that policy summersault to the communication technology industry  since it was liberalised. 

THE MISSING LINK, Sir Maitland’s Report of 1985 which recommended Full Liberalisation of the telecommunications sector of developing economies as panacea for closing the gap between the poor and the rich of the world did not leave much room for incompetent implementation of its recommendations. It said emphatically that poor countries that desired to migrate into prosperity had to liberalise faithfully and competently. 

Sir Donald Maitland’s insight on the subject was recognised and exploited by ITU at a time when almost half the world’s inhabitants lived in countries with less than one telephone line per 100 people. The Report kick-started the growth of information and communication technologies (ICT) as we know them today. 

To date, all countries which migrated into prosperity, or are about to do so, are those which implemented the recommendations as prescribed by the Report (also popularly called Maitland Report). Nigeria, not being one of them, however implemented a favourable flavour of Liberalisation which allowed her to manoeuvre if and whenever the vicissitudes of corruption demanded. Nigeria is at that signpost now. By professing Liberalisation and working towards it, Nigeria moved faster than several other poor countries by doing very well in providing mobile telephony. But that is where the good story ends. 

The recommendations situate growth of telecommunication within the private sector. What it did not say is that it could also apply to other sectors of the economy because it regarded telecommunications as central to the economy and it needs no saying that a success achieved in telecommunications can be repeated for other sectors. 

It is the half hearted implementation that did not enable Nigeria to repeat what it has achieved in telecommunications industry in other sectors. And the fact of what politicians (and ‘militicians’ before them) see as the blow on corruption that makes full liberalisation detestable in the energy sector. And officials go about deceiving our people with meaningless models that they falsely call privatisation. 

Industrial growth is about world trade and economics. It is about packaging and managing loans. A bulk of these loans is usually thought out by those who offer them in un-liberalised markets while it is usually thought out by the beneficiaries in liberalised environments. It becomes bogus and monstrous when Nigeria permits other countries to determine the loans that its economy needs. 

We will not quarrel with using foreign loans for true development but not when the process is managed as if our own economic managers prefer to continue to manage our currency when their counterparts are managing the economies of their countries. 

The most stunning is that the bodies and organisations, professional and trade associations, that should be asking questions for the government to answer are not doing so. Everybody seems complacent and dumb.

 Meaning that a people, indeed, get the government they deserve. 

 

FCC reviews Old Law to favour Broadband Focus 

The United States’ Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has waived some restrictions which earlier prevented domestic cable operators from acquiring local exchange carriers. It says it is doing so in response to a request from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) which argued that mergers are now profitable to the new agenda of broadband penetration.  

The 1996 law prevented cable firms from acquiring more than 10% stake in any local exchange carriers within the cable firm’s franchise domain. 

Although the earlier law was to strengthen competition and discourage unwholesome buy overs, the Commission says it has recognised that mergers among non-dominant providers in a specific market are unlikely to raise competitive concerns. The loss of one competitor from the market, resulting from acquisition of a competing local exchange carrier is unlikely to materially decrease the amount of bottleneck facilities in the market. Such transactions often pose little risk of competitive harm and in fact increase competition with entrenched incumbent providers, and thus would likely put downward pressure on the rates offered by incumbents.  

The Commission’s direction document on the subject quotes the Chairman and Commissioners speaking in favour of the new position. One of them, Commissioner Ajit Pai, said 

‘Today we take a modest but important step towards eliminating regulatory barriers to infrastructure investment. As I noted in Pittsburgh this past July, section 652 of the Communications Act places an unnecessary hurdle to transactions between cable operators and competitive local exchange carriers. When a cable operator purchases a competitive LEC, local competition is likely to increase and more infrastructure is likely to be deployed to serve the enterprise market. Congress entrusted the Commission with forbearance authority to eliminate counterproductive regulatory schemes just like this one, and I am glad we are exercising our authority today to do just that. The end result of our deregulatory action will be more robust, facilities-based competition’.

New solutions readying for Rural Broadband 

Echostar recently launched a satellite which its sister Company Dish Network says it will commence using for satellite-based broadband service as early as the last quarter of this year. It is claimed that the satellite can support download speed of 15 mbps with capacity for 2 million internet users.

It is being presented as a solution for rural communities where wired and cellular infrastructure are either expensive or unavailable. 

Those who know more about the plan said it is being conceived to bundle internet service with TV programming packages. It is not known yet how the business plan allows for usage in poorer rural communities where other infrastructural deficiencies exist.

 

CyberschuulNews 489 

Editorial
A 'small' Loan that should be explained to Nigerians
 

One week ago the Federal Government announced that it has taken a fresh loan of $1.1billion (N176billion) from China to implement development projects in the Transport and Communication Technology sectors. $1billion for the Transport sector and $0.1billion for Information and Communication Technology, ICT sector. As it presented, the ICT component seems an afterthought because all publications on the subject did not quite say what the project is, beyond arrogating it to ‘Galaxy Backbone’ project.  

Galaxy Backbone is an Agency of Government and not a Project. The ICT component presents more like the brainchild of a Smart Alec who probably thought of just adding a figure. An insignificant figure at that. Except that the insignificant figure is a colossal $100m (N16billion). 

Baring any possible fine explanations, there are three reasons why the Loan cannot be good for Nigeria’s Communication Technology sector.  

First, Government is pretending to be an Infrastructure Construction Agency which it is not and it should not be.

Secondly, Government must be forgetting its responsibility for mobilising cheap funds for indigenous private sector players, who indeed should engage in construction and to whom the loans should rightly be availed. At a time when Federal Government should just be guaranteeing loans for indigenous industry players, which really what development is all about, it is piling up debts for the future in the name of what Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala rhetorically calls making a difference in the lives of Nigerians across socio-economic segments.  

The third point is that Nigeria has never had a relationship with China that did not favour China at the expense of Nigeria. The $200million that China provided in 2002 for a so-called Rural Telephone Project is, as we speak, a failed dreampipe as no telephone line was provided and the satellites that are both missing and wandering in space are not good stories for Nigeria to point at. 

What stands clear at this moment is that the public is yet to be told what exactly the $100m would be spent to provide and how and for almost one week after the terse announcement in the media, the Minister of Communication Technology has not considered it necessary to explain to Nigerians what this is all about. A project that seeks to, according to Ngozi ‘boost the sophistication and effectiveness of the government’s efforts to tackle security challenges and improve connectivity to modern technology, especially for Nigerian youths in underserved rural areas’ is nothing but a mere political rhetoric. 

We call on the Minister of Communication Technology to bring Nigerians to page on the subject.

 

ITU set to address ‘bill shock’ syndrome of Roaming Charges 

Phone users who roam their service across international boundaries will readily tell anybody who cares to listen that roaming charges are considered outrageous and they shock first time users of the service. So bad is the unfriendly tariff for roaming that subscribers are usually limited to officials whose bills are picked by their employers. 

The good story is that the International Telecommunications Union, ITU, has taken steps to address what is called ‘bill shock’ by coordinating a number of measures to empower consumers and encourage operators to lower tariff.

Please see back page report of the edition for ITU’s bulletin on the subject.

 

ITU World 2012 to experience Nigeria as a Connected Nation
President Jonathan to Lead Nigeria’s delegation
 

The forthcoming October 14 – 18 2012 Edition of ITU World in Dubai will witness the highest profile delegation as information from the presidency indicates that President Goodluck Jonathan will attend as Leader of the Nigerian delegation and Special Guest at the Nigerian Pavilion.  

The theme of Nigeria’s participation is ‘Nigeria Broadband – A Connected Nation’. 

Nigeria is billed to showcase investment and market opportunities for broadband whose campaign began at the last year’s forum where the Minister for Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, and EVC of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Dr Eugene Juwah, led the delegation that received commendations by the Secretary General of the ITU, Dr. Hamadoun Toure. 

Dr Juwah said in Abuja recently that “We want to tell potential investors that Nigeria remains the preferred investment destination in Africa. We will also explain to the investors the areas that still need their attention since we have sizeable progress in voice telephony.”

 

Google says 'No' to White House’s ‘Take it off’ request 

Search giant, Google, told the US government during the week that it was not going to take down from YouTube, the Film which rioters in the Middle East say is blasphemous. US Government had asked Google to consider removing the film from the web but Google argued that it has not offended the corporate guidelines on which YouTube was created to share video information around the world. It was however going to restrict access to it in some countries where there is evidence of general unacceptability. 

The Search giant says what is acceptable in one country may be offending in another arguing further that it has worked hard to create YouTube as a community everyone can enjoy and which also enables people to express different opinions. Google owns YouTube which is a video sharing website. 

So far many lives have been lost after the initial four embassy officials, including the US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, who were killed in Libya early in the crisis and given heroes' burial in USA last week. 

Bangladesh introduces ‘Per 10-seconds’ billing for Mobiles 

On August 6, 2012, the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission, BTRC, asked  all  six mobile operators to introduce the ‘per-ten-seconds’ billing cycle and that it should commence on August 15, 2012. The Commission argued that drop calls were so frequent that the existing ‘per-second’ and ‘per minute’ billing was not taking care of calls that drop no sooner than connection was established.  

Naturally, the operators objected on the ground that the technical requirements were more enormous than the Commission was able to see, and possibly allow time for. One of them actually said the demand was unrealistic and irrational and that ‘drops do not affect each and every call and the call drop nature is not the same for all providers’. 

With another extension of one month for implementation, the Commission may have broken the ranks of the operators when Teletalk, the Government owned operator went ahead to implement and Grameenphone, the market leader, accepted it would comply but not immediately. Chances are that all six operators will comply in due course. In fact some have implemented it already.

Bangladesh mobile operators include Airtel, Banglalink, Citycell, Grameenphone, Robi, and Teletalk. 

MainOne Cable Company penetrates West Africa’s Internet highway 

There are firm indications that MainOne Cable Company has made strong incursion into West Africa’s internet highway with the goal of providing seamless integration of businesses with offices in Nigeria and Ghana, thereby promoting trade relations and boosting economic growth of the sub-region.

Funke Opeke, CEO of the company confirmed at the recent Ghana-Nigeria Business Sector Conference in Lagos that the initiative is driven essentially by utter reason that Nigeria and Ghana share similar business models and are leading economies in West Africa. West Africa’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth was 6.2 percent in 2011. The growth is largely driven by Ghana and Nigeria that share similar language, culture and practice. 

“Nigeria and Ghana have similar business opportunities with great potentials for regional integration of businesses. So, we are creating awareness with our solution on how to harness these potentials for optimal growth”, Opeke stated.

Country Manager, Main One Cable Ghana, Joseph Odoi, told the conference that the firm has extended its operations to Togo by virtue of an interconnection through Ghana and is currently servicing the Republic of Benin from Nigeria. According to him, plans are already underway to extend services to landlocked areas such as Republic of Burkina Faso and Senegal.

He disclosed that the firm was currently engaging ONATEL, the national exchange carrier of Burkina Faso and SONATEL, principal telecoms provider of Senegal. This is with a view to forging strategic alliances that would enable MainOne leverage their existing terrestrial fibre backbone to move bandwidth capacity across the region.  

“The challenge has been the francophone divide. We have built strong relationships with TOGOTEL, ONATEL and SONATEL. We are committed to building a regional network that would not only assist service providers deliver higher quality services but lower the cost of data and voice communications for enterprises and businesses with regional offices”, Odoi added.

He further revealed that Main One had connected Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) in Ghana and Nigeria respectively to encourage local peering. Local peering entails allowing service providers to interconnect with the telecom network thereby enabling the exchange of internet traffic within the countries respectively. “This is very critical to reduction of communications cost.

The company’s state-of-the-art open access wholesale international connectivity and broadband capacity will ensure day to day consolidation and back-up connectivity, foster internet adoption and provide communication services to internet service providers, enterprises and government institutions in West African countries.

 

CyberschuulNews 488 

Industry Watch
Nigeria takes Chinese Loan for ICT again?
 

Premium Times (http://premiumtimesng.com/) a credible online media reported during the week that an information and Communication Technology, ICT, loan for ‘Galaxy Backbone’ amounting to $100million has been signed in Beijin China between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Export Import, EXIM, Bank of China.  The report describes the ICT project unclearly as ‘Galaxy Backbone’ but went ahead to explain correctly that Galaxy Backbone is a Federal Government initiative(sic) (agency, really)  designed to operate a unified network of ICT infrastructure platform that would take care of the technology connectivity issues of ministries, departments and agencies. 

To the extent that the actual project for which the loan is secured is unclear and incomprehensibly described in the report, it is hoped that the Minister of Communication Technology, who indeed was known to have been in China during the week, would take the initiative to explain the true content of the loan to industry players in due course.  With that, the manner of Galaxy Backbone ‘boosting government’s effectiveness in tackling security challenges and improving connectivity to modern technology, especially for Nigerian youths’, would become clearer. 

Loans under Chinese arrangement have usually been shrouded in secrecy and they have been known to be usually un-useful to Nigeria and its citizens. That explains why interest in this particular loan, if any, should be explained so that Nigerians can be carried along and all strategic interest of the country can be protected by all those playing diverse roles in its implementation. 

In 2002, a $200million Rural Telephony Project Loan was taken from China in very similar circumstances and against popular counsel of industry players and opinion leaders. While Government, as they usually would, said, unconvincingly, that the project would make a difference in the lives of Nigerians across socio-economic segments especially of rural communities of Nigeria, opinion leaders punctured the project with arguments that the loan arrangement was to make Chinese investors participate in telecommunications delivery without obtaining licenses. It also opened the project to the vagaries of building networks that would have no interconnection since it was planed in isolation of the emerging networks of licensed and private players.  

Besides the Ministry of Communications which had neither responsibility nor competence for operating telephone networks was impliedly being made an operator in an environment where private players were making steady progress and confronted with problems largely associated with government bureaucracy in providing a needed national transmission backbone. All the arguments fell on deaf ears of officials in those days.  

Today the $200million loan has become a waste with no telephone line provided for anybody but a debt for future generation to repay. 

India launches satellites in 100th space mission

Sunday, Sept. 9, 2012, India's National Space Organization marked its 100th mission by launching French and Japanese satellites from a launch pad in Sriharikota, Southern India. 

The Indian Space Research Organization said Sunday's launch of a French Observation Satellite and a Japanese Microsatellite was a success.

India has had an active space program since the 1960s and has launched scores of satellites for itself and for other countries. 

In 2008, it successfully sent a probe that detected evidence of water on the lunar surface for the first time, to the moon.  

The space agency says it plans to send a spacecraft to Mars next year.

 

CyberschuulNews 487 

Telephone Operators abhor establishment of State Police 

Chairman of the Association of Licensed Telephone Operators of Nigeria, ALTON, Mr Gbenga Adebayo, has aligned with a rejection of the call for the establishment of State Police in Nigeria. 

Mr Adebayo said in Lagos midweek that if State Governments could use their revenue collection powers to enforce operators to pay levies and charges in the manner many of them have been known for, it would become worse when they have their own police. According to him, interactions with some senior state officials on their desperation for tax and levies collection reveal that they are not driven by moral objectives of revenue collection for the common good but rather aimed at increasing their internally generated revenue to extract as much as they can extract from service providers.  

Telecom Masts suffer attack in Northern Nigeria    

Reuters reported midweek that its reporters saw 10 telecom masts, belonging to MTN and Airtel, burned to the ground in the Kano - Maiduguri axis of Nigeria.

Local newspapers also reported that the damages were confirmed by MTN whose officials said they had reported the situation to security agencies. By Friday locations such as Yobe, Gombe and Bauchi wereadded to the list of affected base stations.

All the reports give an impression that the Boko Haram insurgents were behind the destruction having put government on notice a few months ago that they would target telecom infrastructure. One account said the Boko Haram sect had admitted responsibility for the attacks.

It is not clear how the federal government has reacted to the development.  

 

Data Centre Energy Efficiency:
Green Agenda adoption is key
  

The attention of all Corporate and Co-location Data centers like banks, telcos, oil and gas, universities and many others have been drawn to how efficient energy utilization in their Data Centre can save them the agony of Downtime and failure, in a Data Centre Expert training organized by KITS technologies and delivered by Capitoline LLP of UK in Lagos recently.  

Data Centers are the engine rooms that run today’s Global Digital Economy. It houses the cloud. Data centers consume vast amounts of energy. According to reports made public, 84 major Data centre suffered failures in the past 36 months. A rough estimate shows that a data centre goes down every 2 weeks with  an average downtime of 15 hours per key incident. 27% of this Failure is due largely to power. Energy utilizations were grossly inefficient leading to astronomical rise in temperature within the data centre which eventually ground the Data Centre.  

In nearly every case, these breakdowns are avoidable with better design, specifications and processes, policies and procedures put in place. Hence, a vital strategic trust of the weeklong Certification training was aimed at reducing these likelihoods in Data centers in Nigeria. The training  adequately exposed participants from co-location data centers on how to make their Data Centre energy efficient and ensure  profitability by saving energy in a country like Nigeria where energy management is extremely crucial. In addition, Critical prerequisites that would  guarantee proper and efficient running of data centre were proffered. 

Also, the training was organized to ensure that existing Data Centre's are  run and operated successfully based on best practice and standards in operational management that would include processes, policies and procedures as an originally designed  tier 3 data centre could be run like a tier 1 data centre if proper policies and procedures are not followed in the day to day run of the data centre. 

The training was the 1st Independent, non vendor bias detailed training on Data Centre. The training drew participants from Data Centre Corporate Owners ranging from Oil and Gas, Telecom, Universities and the banks. KITS Technologies limited facilitated the training. The training emphasized that a good understanding of the Design concept, strict compliance to Tier standards, green Agenda and the metrics could seriously save most data centres in the country. In order to bridge the wide gap in Data centre knowledge acquisition, the training would be repeated in November 12th, 2012. KITS technologies is involved in Data centre design, Auditing and training. 

 

 

Government vs. GSM Operator
Dispute of Grave Dimensions
  

Published below is an August 30, 2012 letter from GSM Association, GSMA, to President Islam Karimov of the Republic of Uzbekistan, to intercede on behalf of GSMA member MTS in a protracted trade dispute between MTS Uzbekistan and the government of Uzbekistan. The GSMA has published the letter on September 5 on its website. 

Immediately following the letter is the BBC report of August 13 on the cause and effect of the dispute as at that date. 

 

Department of the Affairs of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan
5, Mustakillik Square
Tashkent 

30th August 2012 

Dear President Karimov 

I am writing to ask for your intervention in a matter that, without your direct input, I fear risks damaging the reputation of your country.  Under your leadership, Uzbekistan has made great strides in economic reform and has become an attractive market for foreign investors.  However, I believe this position may be at risk due to your government’s protracted dispute with the mobile phone operator, MTS Uzbekistan. 

The GSMA represents the interests of more than 800 mobile phone operators around the world, which invest over $300bn annually, across 200 countries and their employees.  Our organization collaborates closely with industry, governments and major international organizations, such as the World Bank and the International Telecommunications Union, to promote the open and fair treatment of investors and the spread of mobile communications infrastructure. 

The dispute between your government and MTS-Uzbekistan is attracting widespread international attention and is clearly one that could have long-term implications for investment in your country’s mobile market.  First, the mobile communications industry is a lucrative source of potential foreign investment to Uzbekistan, and other providers may be hesitant to make investments after seeing what has happened to MTS-Uzbekistan.  Second, when foreign investors consider markets for investment, the stability of the business environment, including the presence of a strong mobile communications infrastructure, is a fundamental criterion, as it supports the ease with which people can conduct daily business transactions.  Recent actions have destabilized the mobile communications networks in Uzbekistan, and this may serve to be a deterrent for those companies seeking to do business there.  Third, the detainment for extended periods of time, as well as allegations that detainees, all of whom are telecommunications professionals, are denied basic rights, makes it difficult for any business to consider investment given the responsibilities businesses have for the safety and well-being of their employees. 

For these reasons, I would respectfully ask you to consider intervening personally in this dispute, to review the situation and consider whether the treatment of MTS-Uzbekistan has been reasonable and in accordance with basic rule of law standards. 

In this regard, I would like to offer you any support you feel the GSMA might be able to provide and my personal input to your deliberations, if you believe this would be of value. 

Yours sincerely  

Anne Bouverot
Director General
GSMA

  

 TELKOM is bandwidth-full  

South Africa’s Telkom has said it would not increase its bandwidth capacity on the submarine international cables in the next two years except radical needs emerge.

CEO Nombulelo Moholi, was quoted to have said that dormant bandwidth exist as a result of past investment in SAT3, WACS and EASSy.

 

NEW: iBGStar: App that helps patients manage diabetes 

A small gadget emerged for sale this week from the stable of Sanofi Pharmaceuticals which when plugged to the base of iPhone or iPod can read blood glucose levels. It is the latest in medical technology that apps now deliver. 

It is called the iBGStar and had been previewed for about 24 months pending FDA approval. 

To use it is to prick the finger to getting blood out and press the blood sample to the meter. In a few seconds, the blood glucose result will be shown and it is email-able. 

Cyberschuulnews 486 

A Week of Sack-Firing-Resignation of a Technocrat 

It is a culture of governments in this clime to hide vital information when, once in a while, those in power are forced to deal a blow on corrupt officials. When they feel like saying anything at all, they fabricate two or three versions of the same story ‘that people can believe’ and shield the actual content.

Journalists who should normally find out avoid doing so because those who did ended up not putting body and soul together thereafter. And so they too take the borrowed stories and add one or two believable fictions to make the story commercially useful. 

The search for a good public power system has finally consumed a brilliant scientist and tossed the search for a new official of cabinet rank.

Mr. Tortoise, (remember him in Journey to PENTASCOPE?), has returned from his journey, now that he is 'thoroughly and completely finished'. 

In an opinion titled ‘Hurdles In-Plant’, Mr Titi Omo-Ettu, an engineer, regrets the fall of ‘a Bartholomew who planted mines in the field and walked himself into them’ saying the only thing the fired Minister of Power did wrong was to have found a wrong job for himself.

In another opinion by Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye, a lawyer,  titled The Case of Barth Nnaji, Two Tales of One Man, the barrister says, among other things, that what happened to Prof Barth Nnaji is yet another lesson for the Igbos. 

The two opinions are re-produced hereunder un-edited. 

 

Hurdles In-plant
A Bartholomew who planted mines in the field and walked himself into them

by
titi omo-ettu

Published on August 30, 2012
Taken from http://www.cyberschuulnews.com/telecomnews.html

 Nigeria’s internetwork of corruption, poor public power system, unemployment and insecurity has manifestly overwhelmed present leadership and the recent disengagement of a federal Minister is a reminder that all will not be well until fundamental changes are made in the polity. 

That reads like talking in parables. 

Prof Barth Nnaji is a brilliant guy.  Why he has aggressively presented himself for public office is one puzzle I have failed to resolve in all of 13 years of reading him. And that also puts to question what qualifies people for public appointment in our land. 

But before we go on, regardless that Prof Barth Nnaji has thrown in the towel, it is important we draw attention to the substantive issue of the impending waste which spending $22.5million to hire 8 persons under the MANITOBA contract for Power Transmission maintenance is  bound to land us in the same station that PENTASCOPE landed us on NITEL a few years back. Correct me if I am right. 

The first time we trained the radar on Prof Barth Nnaji was in 1999 when words sneaked out that the famous professor of robotics was scheming that President Obasanjo gave him one of either the energy sector or telecommunications sector to manage as Federal Minister. 

As we opened a dossier on him, words came also that President Obasanjo had said matter-of-factly that he would not use him. The reasons adduced by General Obasanjo were vintage the old man and it was clear he would truly not use the applicant. So we closed the book. 

All we knew after that was that the Professor returned to his base in USA only to return shortly to chair a company called Geometric Power Ltd. That gave him a chance to show Obasanjo that what he was not allowed to do for the public sector he could do in the private sector. 

In 2007 when Obasanjo vacated government, the Prof was back to Yar Adua’s handlers to tell them he was still available. This time all he wanted was to be Minister of Power so that Nigeria would end years of chaotic power supply. The information then was that President Yar Adua initially laughed him off saying his Geometric Power Ltd spent close to 8 years without producing any kilowatt of electricity for anybody anywhere. The President was however ready to do something for him in lieu of being Minister. And he did. 

Speaking to Aba Business community on June 19, 2008, Prof Barth Nnaji told them in an Enyimba Lecture that 'The Aba IPP (i.e. the Geometric Power Ltd Project) is galloping to completion. In roughly 10 months time, the entire project will be commissioned and it will herald a new era for Aba which it(sic) will have reliable electric power like any other city in the developed world'.  

It never did. 

In that same lecture, he recounted his frustration to the Aba businessmen thus: 

‘We began the journey to build a power project unlike any other in sub-Saharan Africa. It’s a project that required the construction of 188 MW power plant, over 110km overhead lines, 4 brand new substations, a 27km gas pipeline, an estate to accommodate up to 250 workers, 5 access roads to the power stations and sub stations, and a 4 story office block at the total cost of approximately $385 million or N42.6 billion. 

We cannot say that this project has been easy. We have had to contend with the challenges of being a pioneer sector power developer in Nigeria. We have had to withstand so many due diligences by lenders, some of whom did not see the value in investing in Aba. We have had to present Aba to the international community as a “diamond in the rough” and the adequate electricity supply will put a smile to this great entrepreneurial city. Many have wondered how we can mitigate the risk of building a power plant in the Niger-Delta region and we have explained that Aba is not in the Niger-Delta region. At the same time, we have had to contend with threats of youths and traditional rulers who have brought the negative aspects of the Niger-Delta conundrum to Aba. We have had to spend tremendous amount of time and resources on getting the youths and some of these traditional rulers to appreciate the fact that Geometric Power is bringing money from outside to build facilities that will add value to their business and their lives rather than the situation in the Niger-Delta where oil is exploited and taken away from the soil of the Niger-Delta region’. 

We were not really keen on him any longer since he was not considering telecommunications (our own area of interest) for his experiment. But his file left an open end which was a good document to complete even if only for posterity. Besides, power was also central to our problems in Telecommunications sector so a cursory interest in a continued profile of him might not be out of place.  

In 2008 when I was Vice-President of Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria, COREN and Chairman of the Council’s Technical Committee, the Council invited Prof Barth Nnaji to address us on his concept of a Future of Reliable Power in Nigeria. By that I mean he was to present a paper at COREN’s Annual Engineering Assembly while we would take it up from there by picking his brain and supporting him to help Nigeria with his plans. 

The three months leading to the Assembly was harrowing to get the Professor to come and talk to us. He was so ‘busy’ he did not read letters, emails, and could not be spoken to on telephone. Yet he did not answer Yes or No to our request. It was an experience in tracking down a naturally aloof personality who, strangely, also wanted to be a public servant. His Aides were particularly spectacular. It was like you needed to have the Barth Nnaji DNA in you to qualify to work around him. And all of them were homogeneously arrogant. One week to the event we had to, in frustration, step his name down for another speaker. 

Two days to the event a telephone call came from one of his assistants who wanted to know if his principal could still be our Guest Speaker and we politely turned the offer down. 

Shortly after, Dr Goodluck Jonathan became Acting President, Prof Barth Nnaji also became Special Adviser to the Acting President, and Chairman, Presidential Task Force on Power (PTFP). That was to later convert him to Minister of Power when President Goodluck Jonathan became real. 

The greatest surprise came when at his screening in the Senate mid-2011, he told those 109 distinguished Senators that it would take 4 years for any noticeable change to be felt in power supply under his watch and they went ahead to  pass him as Minister of Power. It was at that point some of us gave up hope that Nigeria would ever get it right on power under this government. 

In February 2012, the Nigerian Society of Engineers invited Prof Barth Nnaji to be the Distinguished Guest Speaker at the Inauguration of the Association’s 26th President in Abuja but the famous Professor did not show up. And no explanation was given for his absence. That did not prevent the brand new President of the nation’s body of engineers from saying the power reform in Nigeria was on course. 

All efforts to make this famous professor share his mind with industry professionals with whom he could fine-tune his thoughts and plans have, to the best of my knowledge, not yielded any result. Yet many who are familiar with the subject did not quite believe he has much valuable solution which he has used his robotic credentials to sell to many uninformed analysts, especially the media. 

His grand design for Power reform in Nigeria is largely the privatisation of operating entities of PHCN and in particular a photocopy of the PENTASCOPE Agenda which BPE used to send NITEL to sleep permanently. His concept of liberalisation is at best feeble and his model of deregulation needed substantial modification which only a listening ear can earn him. And above all, his Geometric interest (Blind Trust or not) makes the field a mine for him to implement the model which makes service providers depend on public money in any manner. Surprisingly all Nigerians are just looking like what Hubert Ogunde, of blessed memory, called ‘Won j’oko s’ile regede bi aguntan ti abore mu b’orisha odo’ meaning ‘everybody sitting in helplessness similar to the goat which the Chief Priest is about to present to the goddess of the river’. 

Public service cannot be given to those who have no nerve to tolerate the public. It is not about being brilliant but about making things work using people. You don’t do engineering management and spend all your time quarrelling with your tools. If it is not good for Geometric Power Ltd., it certainly cannot be good for the country called Nigeria. If you hire 8 persons from wherever in the world for $22.5million (N3.6billion) and you frustrate the workers who those 8 persons must use to deliver the goods, you might just not get there no matter how brilliant you might have been. BPE took us through the PENTASCOPE journey and it is again taking us through this Manitoba pilgrimage. This is a BPE whose 'track record' we know very well. 

And in any case how can the Manitoba Model solve Nigeria’s power Transmission problem except that it may at best help Geometric to reduce its burden – a gameplan which has now stalled at least temporarily, if not, very unfortunately, permanently. 

It is a pity we are passing through this moment of our life, the worst in the history of Nigeria that we have PhD’s everywhere, in every subject and yet we cannot provide electricity for our citizens. And one of our best brains has been consumed simply because we mis-deploy him. 

Who should bury his head in shame? 

All of us?, some of us?, or just one of us? Certainly not Prof Barth Nnaji.

August 30, 2012

 

The Case of Barth Nnaji, Two Tales of One Man
by
Ephraim Emeka Ugwuonye Esq.

Published on Thursday, 30 August 2012
taken from http://elombah.com/index.php/articles/ephraim-emeka-ugwuonye/12383-the-case-of-barth-nnaji-two-tales-of-one-man  

Professor Barth Nnaji was no doubt one of the most educated and accomplished of the ranking members of President Jonathan’s cabinet. This should be read equally from either of two angles. The first angle is the fact that the President’s cabinet is mostly characterized by mediocrity and the presence of men and women of little vision, people who have been demonstrably incapable of minimum achievement even in an area where Nigeria has a natural and historical advantage, like in sports. The other angle is that Nnaji is an outstanding professor of Engineering from a reputable American University prior to joining the cabinet. The choice of an angle is that of the reader to make.  

Any discerning observer would have noticed that Professor Nnaji and President Jonathan were a pair made in heaven – the Presidency seemed clueless and Nnaji seemed knowledgeable, but highly ambitious. Nnaji’s brilliant timing and calculation enabled him to understand that moment when the weak and unsure Vice President Jonathan must be supported in the most tentative political office ascendancy in Nigerian history, far more tentative than Obassanjo’s after the assassination of Muritala Mohammed, and Adulsalami Abubakar’s after the sudden death of Gen. Abacha. Nnaji was one of the first people in his situation to step forward and rally behind Vice President Jonathan as he transited from a Vice President to an Acting President and President. As a result, Nnaji was one of the motley crowd, headed by General Danjuma and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, which President Jonathan set up to advise him at that time, his first act in office as President.  

At that early stage, President Jonathan needed friends in Washington so badly and Nnaji could call on his friend, Tim Bock, formerly of The Carnegie Endowment, to help rally people around in Washington for Jonathan. At this point, Ngozi Iweala was not yet in the picture. So, the likes of Nnaji seemed invaluable to Jonathan. When Nnaji was made a special adviser on Power, it seemed a perfect union of a man in need of friends (Jonathan) and a man in need of a President in need of him (Nnaji). With such a mutuality, one would expect Nnaji’s position in Jonathan’s administration to be secure like a rock.    

For Professor Nnaji to be forced out of Jonathan’s cabinet in the manner he was, a number of familiar questions are raised immediately. Whichever way anyone may look at it, Nnaji did not resign in the sense of making the choice himself to end his tenure in the Government and to lose all the privileges that go with that. First and foremost, anyone experienced in the workings of the minds of politicians, and particularly of the Nigerian brand, would know things don’t work out like that. The last thing a Minister would do is to seek to resign in a way that may be seen as him distancing himself from the administration. If you try that, you could be punished severely. Ms. Lesley Obioha (Former unusual Minister for Mineral Resources under Obasanjo) tried to resign on her own will only for the SSS to seize her international passport for nearly a year. So, you don’t reject the administration by resigning. Nnaji would not try that for several reasons – even after leaving government, he would like to continue to run his integrated power venture in Nigeria. He needs the goodwill of the administration to breath easy under any circumstance. So, he would not repudiate the administration by resigning. That is a suicide for anybody in Nigeria.  

A more accurate practice of the Nigerian Presidents on resignation of Ministers is better understood by considering what Obasanjo did in 1999. He had all his ministers (with the exception of 3 of them) sign undated resignation letters in advance. Before you were sworn in, you would sign an undated resignation letter. That way, Obasanjo could fire his ministers any day and made it look as if they resigned. If he didn’t like the Minister, only then would he fire him and make it be seen that he fired him. The only Ministers that Obasanjo could not get to sign such resignations in advance were General Danjuma (for Defense), Adamu Chiroma (for Finance) and Bola Ige (for Power). The question is whether Jonathan did that with his own ministers, and whether Nnaji’s resignation letter was written in advance of his being sworn in as a Minister.  

None of the stories or reasons given for Nnaji’s ousting made sense at all. Conflict of interest was one. But this is pure nonsense. Nnaji’s involvement in Geometric Power was well known before he was invited to be Special Adviser on Power. Any problem with that ought to have been sorted out then. Also, any lingering conflict of interest would be perfectly consistent with Nigerian practice and standards in such matters. Every official of the Nigerian Government has some private outfit milking the Government and directly benefiting from the government institution under that official. This is their practice from President to the Principal of a high school. Nnaji’s whatever would appear normal and insignificant, and should not have been the reason for such a dramatic ousting.  

The vested interest argument: Nnaji himself has given this version as the reason for this unexpected separation. But that has not been particularly persuasive or exhaustive of the likely reasons. There is always a vested interest in every government job or political office in Nigeria. The fact was that the same interests were sufficiently vested at the time Nnaji rose to his position as the Minister of Power. If he got there notwithstanding those interests, how come he could not stay there in spite of them? Where did the President stand relative to the vested interests? Was he part of them? Or was it that he had to yield to them? If Jonathan saw Nnaji as the light to shine his path to the solution to Nigeria’s power crisis, why would the cabal against Nnaji (which also ought to be against the President’s vision) be allowed to vanquish Nnaji? Either the President wanted a solution to the power crisis and now felt that Nnaji was no longer the man to lead to that solution, or he was powerless before a cabal against his interest, or he is simply clueless and helpless as to the way forward on the matter. Neither of these theories makes a whole lot of sense.  

There must be alternative theories to Nnaji’s predicament. One such theory may have to do with the closeness Nnaji had steadily built with the current Vice President. The two men got close indeed. The VP would on many occasions send a jet to get Nnaji to spend private time with him. It would appear that there was no risk in this because it was this President that hand-picked, out of several alternatives, this Vice President, and the latter should be beholding to the former very dearly. However, over time, as some Northern elements insist that Jonathan must not have a second term as President, Jonathan’s intimate friends have begun to fear that the Vice President might have his loyalty in wrong place. They therefore view the Vice President and (and his friends) as people to watch. This could be the first political motivation for Nnaji’s fate.  

Another equally potent political reason has to do with the fact that the manner Nnaji’s affiliated firm went after the privatization bid worried President’s inner circle. In particular the consortium in question seeking to buy the Enugu and Port Harcourt based generating concerns involved a polygamy of partnership involving all the Governors of the Eastern States and Nnaji’s firm. If this was allowed to go ahead, this economic apparently marriage today could turn into a political block in 2015 and what is the guarantee that block would be loyal to Jonathan? There are probably more possibilities. One thing is clear – look for some political motivation for Nnaji’s outcome, rather than the reasons given so far. Fighting corruption, entrenching transparency and checkmating conflict of interest: none of that could be really applicable here. 

What should remain staggering or mind-bugling is not that Nnaji is no longer a part of Jonathan’s Government. Rather, it is the lesson that must be learned from these events that should occupy our thoughts. It confirmed the unpredictable nature of Nigerian politics. No one is really secure. It is like riding a tiger. The danger is always inherent. A few days ago, Nnaji was the shinning light. But today, he is a man without a clear idea what to do next. The motorcade, the 200-mobile policemen escort, etc are all gone. And if he is not lucky he will be targeted for persecution. This will explain why people in government are too careful – why, for instance, the Attorney of Nigeria does less work than a County Attorney in any US county. They are all afraid of such sudden development as we just saw with Nnaji. The Nnaji situation should be instructive for those of us in the Diaspora, who may be tempted to go home and serve. You would be promised heaven on earth, and you may experience it for a short while, but you could be ousted even before you could say Jack Robinson, no matter how good you are. 

And finally, of course, what happened to Nnaji is yet another lesson for the Igbos. I have termed this the syndrome of the Igbo man in power. No Igbo man has ever risen to a point in Nigerian public service where he could not be so easily humiliated and dispensed with. Yet, the Igbo man in power thinks, almost with a shocking equanimity that he has finally been accepted after many years of being only tolerated by the majority powers in Nigerian politics. A non-Igbo would have been treated better than Nnaji was. That false sense of security is what has remained the Achilles hills for the Igbo man in power. One recalls the humiliation of one Minister Osuji, the then Minister of Education. He was so thoroughly disgraced out of office for offering money to members of National Assembly in order for them to approve his budget. Yet, the same Obasanjo who made a public show of that, was actually known to have given billions more to some members of the National Assembly just to get them to support his Third Term pipedream.  

Nnaji’s future: Professor Nnaji is a highly intelligent man and he understands reality more than many people. At this moment, he must be engaged in  a complex balancing act of survival as key figure. He would like to remain in the power sector from the private sector. However, the forces that frustrated him out of office may still be there to make sure they frustrate any mega private business ventures he may want to pursue in that sector. I hope and pray that Nnaji survives all this and go ahead to succeed as an entrepreneur. However, I have the fear that he will remain a target even outside government. Whatever toes he had stepped on are still after him. The immediate test of Nnaji’s future may depend on his firm fares in the bid reevaluation that is underway.  

The opinion is also available at http://elombah.com/index.php/articles/ephraim-emeka-ugwuonye/12383-the-case-of-barth-nnaji-two-tales-of-one-man

 

Apple is still asking for Samsung’s jugular
Got $1.05billion in California Court, Case dismissed in Tokyo Court
 

Having got a favourable judgement in which the jurors asked Samsung to pay $1.05billion to Apple for wilfully copying Apple products, the winner is still in court with a shopping list of Samsung’s products which it wants the Court to ban outright in the USA.

The products include 

Droid Charge

Galaxy Prevail

Galaxy S 4G

Galaxy S Showcase

Galaxy S2

Galaxy S2 AT&T

Galaxy S2 Epic 4G

Galaxy S2 T-Mobile

Galaxy S III 

With such a one-sided judgement as that handed down in California it is still unclear why Judge Lucy Koh asked the two firms to settle out of court ahead of the judgement. 

Samsung is on appeal. 

However a Tokyo court last Friday dismissed Apple's charge that Samsung infringed on its patent.

It is one of the places where apple has dotted cases against Samsung worldwide.  

The Japanese court case addressed only the synchronizing technology that allows media players to share data with personal computers and was not comparable in scope to charges which Apple made in California, USA 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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