Thursday, January 29, 2009

29 teams for NPA Lagos International Polo Tournament

Twenty-Nine teams will participate in this year's edition of the NPA Lagos International Polo Tournament scheduled to take place at the Lagos Polo Club from Saturday to February 7.

Host Lagos will have 11 teams in the competition, Kaduna will have eight teams, Bauchi, Niger and Kano will have one team each in attendance, Katsina has five entries while Oyo State has registered two teams.

Some of the participating teams are, Kaduna, El Amin, Kaduna Kawo, Kaduna Barnawa, Katsina Danmarna, Katsina Jag, Rubicon 1, Ashbert/Good fellows, Lagos Caverton, Lagos HST, Lagos Power Horse, Ibadan Challenge, Ibadan Dream Team, Bauchi Kano Meridian, Minna Jamila Ville Farm among others.

At the press conference held yesterday to usher in the event at the Lagos Polo Club, captain/tournament director, Francis Ogboro said that Majekedunmi Cup, Open Cup, Low Cup, Dansa Cup, Independent Cup, General Hassan Cup and Stanbic IBTC Cup are the trophies that would be vied for.

Ogboro noted that the players who have proved their mettle in the game of Polo would vie for honours in the different cups and also entertain the crowd throughout the competition.

He stated that three international players, Clive Mailman, Martin Roman and Selby Williamson would light up the tournament that would also have the likes of Dantata Brother, (Sayyu and Bashir), Mohammed Babangida, and Idimu Mohammed in attendance.

The main sponsor, according to Ogboro, is Thisday Group. Others are Cowbell, Stanbic IBTC, Dansa, Chapelhill, Leadway Assurance and Mercedes.

While commending the sponsor for standing by the club, Ogboro called on other well-means organisations to partner the club to take the game to an enviable height. He said that the competition had a new main sponsor because of the better deal it got.

President of the club, Bayo Amusan stated that the club would always be in the forefront of polo development while calling on more sponsors to join the club in making the game more popular, as the game was capital intensive.

Thisday's Gboyede Shomiyiwa said his outfit was happy to be associated with polo and commended the Lagos Polo Club for its sustained drive to take the game to an enviable height while urging the club to encourage younger players to come into the game.

Carol Obekwe, Corporate Affair Manager of Leadway Assurance said it had been worthwhile identifying with the tournament and charged the organisers to give the game and sponsors more publicity.

Life returns to Lagos

CALL it Isale Eko! Name it Eko! Still, it is Lagos Island! The premier Central Business District (CBD) Nigeria ever knew. It is the home of the legendary Balogun Market and the Lagos monarch. It hosted the colonial and post- independence administrations. In fact, Nigeria's financial nerves grew from here with over six million people moving in for business daily.

In the '60s and early '70s, the environment was a beauty to behold and more like a tourist attraction with organized formal and informal markets. It hosted the headquarters of most corporate organisations in the country.

But all of a sudden, the beauty of the area was overtaken by societal nuisance that turned the city of Lagos to a jungle.

Traffic was no longer moving, commercial activities took over the roads, hoodlums, armed robbery and other criminal activities overwhelmed orderliness and decency as governance and security flew from Lagos Island.

Corporate organisations took their flight one after the other while commercial bus operators converted available spaces to parks.

Carter Bridge, which serves as major link between the Mainland and Island, was turned to market with the collaboration of hoodlums and council officials.

But today, it is a different story. The state government, as part of its determination to rid the metropolis of all traffic and commercial hindrances, recently extended its arms of sanity to Lagos Island.

Last Thursday, when an octogenarian, Pa Simeon Olatubosun visited his old-time friend who resides on the Island, he was surprised at what he saw.

For the past 20 years, he had identified the area with a high rate of crime, frustrating traffic jam caused by commercial drivers and the menace of hoodlums, popularly known as area boys.

He was amazed with the level of sanity and orderliness he saw on Carter Bridge, which used to be a haven for hoodlums, traders and commercial drivers.

On both sides of the bridge, pedestrians walked through the walkways and there was no commercial activity on the bridge.

He was also surprised that the long queue of commercial buses and the officials of National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) as well as touts were no longer visible on the bridge.

He did not see any trader or hawker on the bridge. Traffic was free, streets were neatly swept while commercial buses formed a single lane on queue.

The old man was further baffled when he peeped out of his car and was able to catch a glimpse of the Eyo Cenotaph and Clock Tower at Idumagbo, including activities going on at Idumota, right from the bridge.

"This is wonderful. Lagos Island has really changed from what it used to be in the past," he said.

Another Lagosian, Mr. Dare Ogudeko, a businessman who had made it a matter of policy to forfeit anything that would take him to Lagos Island due to the traffic nuisance and activities of hoodlums, could not contain his emotion after witnessing the level of sanity on the Island.

He told The Guardian, "Lagos Island was an abode for criminals and centre of lawlessness. With what the state government achieved in Oshodi,I deliberately drove to Lagos Island to see things after a long visit to the area.

"As a matter of fact, I lost hope of sanity returning to Lagos Island. Carter Bridge was turned to market and motor park while hoodlums and NURTW officials took charge. Heavy commercial activities went on in the middle of the road at Idumota, Bamgbose, Balogun, John Street, Nnamdi Azikwe streets among others. Motorists no longer had passage.

"The worst was the spate of organised crime and armed robbery that frequently occurred. All the walkways were converted to shops while street fights and parties further compounded the problems in the area. It got to such an extent that most corporate bodies relocated from Lagos Island.

"Monuments of significant importance were turned to criminals' abode. All hope of sanity was lost.

The few corporate organizations that stayed behind also collaborated with the informal sector to debase the area.

For instance, some of them deliberately placed their generating sets on walkways, extending their activities to the road while using part of the road as car parks.

But today, the story is different. It is possible to drive through Iddo to Carter Bridge, ascend Idumota Bridge, then proceed to Nnamdi Azikwe Street, which links Broad Street with Victoria Island without any obstruction."

Another Lagosian, Ifeanyi Ode, also noticed that the usual long traffic jam at Idumagbo Roundabout was no longer there. He also observed that the Clock Tower Monument built over 74 years ago and the Eyo Quadrangle are now renovated and manned by the CBD security agents.

Similarly, Adeniji Adele Foreshore, one of the main entrances to the CBD, that was previously occupied by shanties up to the monarch's palace, has also been cleared.

A resident, Fatai Oladele, told The Guardian that Adeniji Adele Foreshore used to be one of the most dangerous parts of Lagos Island.

The Special Adviser to Governor on CBD, Mr. Oyinlomo Danmole told The Guardian that government could not afford to allow traders and hoodlums to rubbish over N22 billion it spent on upgrading the CBD to what it is at present.

According to him, "The office has taken decisive steps to ensure that the nation's foremost business enclave inched towards becoming an acceptable international shoppers' and investors' delight. We have gone beyond improving on the precarious traffic and sanitation situation as it was in the past years, to serving as government's eye in protecting lives and property within the area".

He noted the drastic traffic reduction in petty traders along the roads and organized crime such as pickpockets, bag snatching, extortion of shoppers, and traders, bank robbery and frequent street fights among youths in the area.

Most of the ring leaders are positively engaged by CBD or routed by security forces while illegal structures and shanties used as hideout for planning and executions of crime were demolished"

He added that several streets, which Lagosians hardly knew were in existence, due to commercial activities, are now opened up for motorists. They include: Ereko; Idumagbo; John Street; Alakoro Ebute Ero ; Ejalonibu, from Obun Eko to Dosunmu by Clock Tower and from Adeniji Adele Foreshore to Ejalonibu.

"The usual traffic logjam under Apongbon Bridge has reduced. Traffic flow on Inner and Outer Marina has been enhanced with constant patrol by the CBD patrol riders and traffic officers who are stationed at major interjections, especially on Inner Marina".

However, an Estate Planner, Musthapa Abiodun, commended the state for freeing the CBD area but lamented that government still has a lot of work to do.

He also chided some corporate organizations for parking their vehicles indiscriminately along the roads.

A commercial bus driver Martins Oforie, who plies Mushin to Idumota, also commended the recent development on Lagos Island.

The Commandant General of CBD, Mr. Raimi Asunramu said the level of compliance by the informal sector was commendable.

He, however, noted that the officials of the formal sectors should endeavor to abide by the rules and regulations guiding the CBD area.

"Meanwhile not less than 16 offenders have been arrested and arraigned for environmental default ranging from street trading, indiscriminate disposal of refuse among others.

The Managing Director, Lagos Waste Management Authority (LAWMA), Mr. Ola Oresanya also added that the agency had made special arrangement for effective evacuation of refuse within the CBD arena to ensure it is clean all the time.

According to him, "LAWMA has provided over 30 static compactors for all markets within the CBD".

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sleepless and speechless in Abuja and other cities

I have just returned from Nigeria, which in itself is not news to anybody, and I also visited our capital city, Abuja. Abuja is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in sub-Saharan Africa. If we don’t want to go that far, then it is the only beautiful city in Nigeria. It has got much about everything that a modern city should have – imposing beautiful public and government buildings; private abodes with exquisite out-of-this-world architecture (most of these are actually castles or villas, and not just houses, as only the Nigerian rich can build); the roads are neat, wide and motorable; well-planned lay-outs; relatively good security; centre of Nigeria’s government, etc.
But alas, somebody forgot to include an effective, cheap public transportation system for the common man - rail, buses or any other. As a Nigerian, I am always awed and proud of it, but with mixed feelings and reservations. I am always at a loss why no Nigerian government has ever considered replicating Abuja in other state capitals around the country.
They would not, would they? Abuja is a “planned city”, as it was mainly built in the 1980s and officially became Nigeria's capital on 12 December 1991, replacing the role of the previous capital Lagos. As of the 2006 census, the Federal Capital Territory has a population of 778,567.
Abuja is known for being the best purpose
-built city in Africa as well as being one of the wealthiest and most expensive. The logic used for conceiving Abuja, by the Murtala Mohammed-Obasanjo military regime of the late 70s, was similar to Brazil building its capital Brasilia.
It is of course not my first or second time in this city built with the wealth Nigeria has gained from oil, and the sufferings of the people of the Niger Delta (Sorry to put a dampener on your sensitivities).
Indeed the residents of the real Abuja are not ordinary Nigerians.
Whenever I visit Abuja, I could not but help being overcome with mixed feelings. One, and the positive thing, is that Abuja is a testimony to Nigeria’s effort to be a modern state, and one that a Nigerian should be proud of.
The second, and definitely negative of disheartening, is that Abuja represents man’s inhumanity to man, in all its ramifications.
It is a testimony or evidence to the monstrous, contagious and murderous corruption of Nigeria.
A testimony to the debilitating effect that corruption has had on us since the military took over governance of this country. It is the evidence of greed, insincerity, mismanagement and bad governance of our country. It embodies the desire and effort of the corrupt ruling class that have enslaved their people for decades. Look at it beyond the issue of beauty and modernity.
Every time I visit this city, and talk to people, it is always the same sense of futility and pessimism, and incidentally, these are expressed by both the ordinary Nigeria on the street as well as those in various levels of the society – civil servants, politicians, private and business people.
All of them believe that the deliverance of this country is only by praying to God. They all believe, and these include those in Lagos, Ibadan, Ortukpo, Kano, Kaduna, Benin, Minna, Yola, Jalingo.
Ogbomosho, Calabar, Sokoto, Ife, Ado-Ekiti, Warri, etc, that only God can save Nigeria.
Mind you, I am a fairly religious person. At least believe in God, even if I don’t attend church regularly as my mother would have liked me to do, but I have a problem reconciling this “given-up” attitude of my countrymen that only God can deliver them from the evil cabal that is ruling them.
They do not believe that they, as a people, can and have to do it themselves. And I am talking about even the people who should not be saying such things.
I am talking about people, whose remit is to ensure the smooth running of Nigeria, either as civil servants, politician, military personnel, police, business people and the likes. One thing that comes to mind is that these same people are either being deliberately insincere with me and their countrymen and women, or they really do not know what to do.
Either way, we all know it does not bode well for the country, and explains, almost graphically, why the country is in such a mess as we find ourselves in today, and in the future too.
On the other hand, such sentiments shows us to be pessimists and a people, at least those ordinary Nigerians, who have no other choice than to live and struggle it out in Nigeria, who have given up on the country itself and are convinced that Nigeria’s salvation can only come from God.
Well, I agree that God can indeed save us, but I always ask them; have you heard of the saying that “heaven only helps those who help themselves”?
Abuja, being our capital city, is supposed to be an
embodiment of Nigeria, and Nigeria, in all ramifications – culture, politics, socio-political development, a testimony to a country rousing itself out of the ashes of civil war, religious riots and ethnic rivalries, on its way to being a modern and developed country. But no, you cannot see all these and many features of political and democratic emancipation in Abuja. What we see is a vagrant display of stolen wealth, outright oppression, arrogance of power, unchecked political, governmental and moral corruption, neglect of fellow Nigerians and all the vices that have virtually destroyed our nation, and turned the majority of Nigerians into paupers and/or crooks Well.
People tell me that the success of Abuja lays solely on ex-President Babangida, since it was him, more than any previous Head of State, who accelerated the building of Abuja and forced the civil service, the diplomatic corps, etc, to move into the partly-completed city in the 80s.
I might begrudgingly accept that, but then it is no wonder that the city is decadent like its “accelerator”.
What do we know? A lot of Nigerians made their money out of the building of Abuja, and are still making money, because the city is actually not complete and is still growing. All these to the grief of the Niger Delta people; no wonder they are aggrieved.
Can you blame them? However, it was for selfish reasons that IBB accelerated the building of Abuja.
He made that decision shortly after the Orkah coup, in which he was nearly bushwhacked and killed.
He surmised that Lagos, as the capital of Nigeria, was not safe for him, especially since he did not have plans to relinquish power for a long time, and made haste to retreat to the relative safety and proximity of Abuja to his Minna hometown as well as to the Nigerian Army facilities in the northern part of the country.
Also he could exercise better control of the armed forces from Abuja, instead of the coup-hardened soldiers based in Lagos.
Abuja typifies some of the failings in our society which, according to Tunji Lardner, has enough for everybody’s need but not enough for everybody’s greed; a society where the greed (of the elite) most often surpasses the need (of the populace).
You cannot be an ordinary citizen of Nigeria and live successfully in Abuja. The city is for rich, mostly corrupt Nigerians. All other people live on the outskirts of the city, called “satellite towns ”, and come into the city to satisfy the whim and services of the rich. The ostentatious ness and pretentiousness of the city are overwhelming.
The rotten smell and evil face of corruption are overpowering, nauseating and cannot be ignored, if you are not “one of them”.
But Nigerians seem to love it that way.
Mind you, I am not against being rich.
I would like, and work hard, to be rich too. Why not? I am just against corrupt enrichment. And that is what we have in Abuja.
Babangida, and subsequent leaders of Nigeria to date, ensured that living in Abuja is beyond the reach of the majority of Nigerians; not that I want 140 million Nigerians to crowd into Abuja, but you know what I mean. If a plot of land costs between 30 and 40 million naira, what would you build on it, for example? You had better build a castle.
The corrupt rich have cornered the real estate market. They have all the houses and the estates.
Most of these are politicians and ex- military leaders and civil servants.
Even the commercial properties are owned by them.
In fact, anything that is not government property is probably owned by these individuals.
I cannot know or list them all, but here’s an example. There is a large expanse of building called Sigma Apartments (I forgot which street it lies) and I was told it is owned by an ex-Minister for Sports.
See? That tells you why our football and other sports are spiraling downwards every day.
Several high quality hotels, guest houses, shopping complexes and plazas are owned by ex-military officers and serving politicians. And these people do not own one, but several each. In most of the “ big men’s” castles, you can count up to six exotic vehicles, while Abuja itself has no public transportation worth its name for the masses to travel in to and from work. Babangida forgot to include a mass transit or urban rail system in his master plan.
This rapacious land-grabbing and property- acquisition frenzy reminds me of Leo Tolstoy’s short story “How much land does a man need?” This was the story of a man, Pakhom who already had some land but went in search of more land, this time, freehold land, until he got to the land of the Bashkirs, where he was told he could take as much land as he could walk around in a day at the rate of a thousand rubles a day, but he must be back at his starting point everyday, by sunset. But Pakhom got greedy.

Nightlife in Lagos

The centre of Lagos comes alive in the evenings with buskers and street entertainers, and the nightlife in Lagos can compete with any holiday resort in the Algarve, with several energetic dance clubs and character-filled bars strewn through the main part of town. Of the bars most popular are Bar Amuras at the marina, the Red Eye Bar on the Rue Candido dos Reis, and Zanzibar on the Rua 25 de Abril. Most have music, darts, pool tables and Sky TV sports channels.

shopping and enjoy your holidays in Lagos

Besides an ongoing flea market that sprawls through the streets, Lagos boasts numerous fascinating shops and boutiques, especially in the pedestrianised old city. Browsing is as pleasurable as buying in the well-stocked shops that are bristling with attractive local wares, from wickerwork to filigree jewellery, copperware and leather goods to wine and pastries.

There is little need to do anything more to enjoy your holiday other than sprawl on the sandy beach with an occasional dip in the ocean, but those who need more activity can choose between dozens of pursuits like sailing, wind-surfing, fishing, para-sailing, microlight flights and scuba diving. Golf is a major attraction here as it is throughout the Algarve, with the Palmares and Alto courses nearby, offering a round with sea views. There is also the challenge of the Penina Championship Course, site of many a Portuguese Open. Those who hire a car will be well-rewarded in exploring the adjacent coastline and seeking out unspoilt villages and beaches. There are also a few sightseeing opportunities in the town, including an interesting museum.

Restaurants in Lagos

Eating out is part of the pleasure of a holiday on the Algarve, and Lagos offers the best of the best choices of establishments in which to indulge. Seafood lovers will be ecstatic, but no one, even vegetarians, will be disappointed or go hungry. A good choice at the marina is the Do Cais Bistro, which serves waterfront breakfasts, lunches and dinners seven days a week. For creative international cuisine in the town centre (including vegetarian dishes) Duquesa Restaurante is hard to beat. Truly gourmet local specialities like pork chops with figs, savoury shrimp and succulent shellfish, are enjoyed at the Don Sebastiao tavern in the old town pedestrian area. This restaurant also has the best wine cellar in town.

Lagos Travel

The city of Lagos is vibrant with many ethnic groups and their culture. Lagos is an important part of the Nigeria travel. The city constitutes of 20 towns and 24 villages. Lagos travel unfolds to the visitors its rich art and architecture definitely speaking of the expertise of the Nigeria people. Many industry giants have their base in Lagos for its natural oil reserves.

Majority of the Lagos population are employed with the service and tourism board of Nigeria. Lagos travel takes the visitors to its magnificent attractions. They comprise of the scenic beaches, museums, zoo. The nightlife of Lagos is lively and gracious, which also falls under the Lagos travel. Besides the city has innumerable hotels and resorts to cater to the tourists. The restaurants, clubs, pubs shine like little stars, situated on the hilltop giving an overview of the turquoise waters.

Attractions in Lagos

Travel to Lagos gives a taste of its rich culture displayed in the museums. The museums in Lagos shelter some of the finest replicas of African art. The art and architecture speaks of the artistic merit and architectural excellence of the Lagos people. Besides palm fringed beaches like Alpha in Lekki, whispering Palms in Badagry and so on are wonderful places to relax and sunbath amidst natural beauty.

Accommodation in Lagos

Accommodation is one of the important informations, which tops a visitor's chart while venturing into a country. Therefore some of the hotels in Lagos serving tourists with their quality service are:
  • Eko hotels and Suites
  • Sheraton Lagos Hotel and Towers
  • Protea hotel Victoria Island
  • Le Meridien Eko Hotels
Both international and domestic flights of Nigeria make Lagos travel possible and convenient. Nigeria travel remains incomplete without traveling to the vibrant city of Lagos

Lagos Guide

Lagos, Nigeria, is a giant sprawl of humanity and is not for the faint of heart. It's dirty, expensive, crime-ridden, congested, hot and humid. Lagos is, however, the largest market city in West Africa and is certainly one of the most important cities on the continent—travelers who really want to get a complete picture of Africa should schedule a day or two there to simply drink in the chaos.

On Nigeria's southern coast near the border with Benin, Lagos consists of four major islands and several mainland areas (bridges and landfills link everything). This is one city where having an escort is very important—otherwise, you'll never really get a sense of what's going on around you (or the best way to get around). If you don't know anybody in Lagos, hire a car and driver.

Sights in Lagos include the National Museum on Lagos Island (a fine but somewhat neglected collection of West African art), the Iga Idunganran (Palace of the Oba of Lagos), old Portuguese-style houses from the early 20th century and the modern National Theater.

Upscale residential neighborhoods such as Victoria Island house Lagos' best shops and restaurants, and South African-built shopping malls with cinema complexes are becoming popular, though there are lively, less-expensive markets throughout the city. The safest (and cleanest) beach around Lagos is at Tarkwa Bay. There, you can watch the many hundreds of oil tankers line up to get into Lagos Harbor.

The old slave port of Badagry is an easy day excursion from Lagos and has some interesting, though somber, museums dedicated to the slave trade. There on a sand bar is the Point of No Return—the last spot of African soil slaves stood on before being transported to the slave ships.
Day trips to Ibadan and other southwestern cities are also possible.

If you're looking for nightlife in Lagos, King Sunny Ade (the best-known performer of West Nigerian juju music) performs occasionally at the MUSON Centre when he isn't on tour. Femi Kuti, son of the late Afrobeat star Fela Kuti, carries on his father's music at the New Afrika Shrine Club. He usually plays on Sunday night when he's in Lagos and is sometimes accompanied by his 12-year-old son who can play several instruments.

On major Christian holidays—Christmas, Easter—you may see Carnival processions in the streets of Lagos. These celebrations, called fantys, are traditionally put on by descendants of freed slaves who emigrated to Nigeria from Brazil.

Tinapa as the pivot of tourism in Nigeria

From all that is gathering around Nigeria’s socio-economic atmosphere, it is quite apparent that the country is at the threshold of an important revolution and transformation in her tourism industry following the advent of Tinapa.

For the first time, Nigeria republic can now boast of a world class business resort, capable of not only changing the ugly visage of the country but also attract enormous investment; an outcome of which will skyrocket her annual GDP.

Understandably, the project was initially dismissed as impossible, unrealizable and a figment of Governor Donald Duke’s imagination owing to the fact that very little in previous administration was accomplished in transforming the tourism industry to a state of the art resort for tourist pleasures.

However, what is consoling about this is that the tourism potential of Cross Rivers State cannot be underestimated and as long as it remains, it will be the backbone of the resuscitation of the erstwhile ailing tourism industry in the state and by extension Nigeria.

Hence, the revamping of the moribund Obudu Cattle Ranch was a step in the right direction for the state. This has become a source of pride for Nigerians and not only for the Akwa Ibomites alone as it is designed to capitalize on Nigeria’s fast growing economy to put Tinapa in the mega-league of global trading centres.

The project, apart from the business aspect offers so much potential for tourism. To complement the already existing leisure and attractive areas, is the breathtaking Studio Tinapa built over an area covering over 55,000 square metres, first of its kind in the country, commissioned recently by President Olusegun Obasenjo. The Tinapa studio was built in collaboration with Dream entertainment, a United States based production and distribution outfit.

The amphi-theatre studio designed for shows and recording purposes of local and foreign productions in Nigeria for feature films, TV shows, dramas, and other related productions. The huge film studio is fitted with a fully adjustable crossover lighting grid with all the facilities of a modem theatre.

Tinapa offers an umbrella for varied economic activities. Its four giant anchor emporiums cover a vast area exceeding 40,000 square metres of trading space. It provides an enabling environment for entrepreneurial sustenance and development. The four emporiums offers profound range of opportunities such as space for banking, furniture showroom, tile show rooms, Internet Café, Telephone and Outdoor Showroom.

Ample spaces have also been allotted for vehicle showrooms, lifestyle, hardware, motor accessories, sports goods, linens and fabrics, toys, speciality and stationery. It is wide range shopping tenantries that include office equipment, Books and music shops, Supermarkets, fish market, fruits and vegetable or grocery store.

There are also shops for travel agency, pharmacy, tobacconist shop, speciality, photographic, car hire and dry cleaner. Others include courier service, optometrist, textiles, fashion, branded fashion, ladies shoes, Gents shoes, hair dressers as well as specialist fashion.

Household items that have shopping space provided for them include furniture, bedding and mattresses, lighting, home accessories, appliances and electronics, art and framing. Shops are also allotted for specialist items such as jewelry, cosmetics, children’s clothes, specialty audio, leather and luggage. Enough space has also been allotted for potential tenants to showcase computer and their accessories.

There are also line shops for boutiques, restaurant, outdoor sports, beauty therapy, and camera sports. Others are fast foods, electronics, optical, toys and hobbies, arts and curious, lingerie as well as confectioneries. In Tinapa, it appears that virtually no item that is not given consideration.

Other major attraction of the Tinapa wonder world includes its vast arrays of leisure and entertainment facilities.

These include the Tsogo Sun International Casino, and the 300-room Southern Sun Budget Hotels. There is also the Entertainment centre including eight movie theatres. Nature is brought down to earth with a fisherman’s village which consists of themed bars nightclubs, and an art craft village. The entertainment orbit is not complete without the international movie studio.

For sports facilities, there are children’s play area, tennis and volley ball courts, games arcade and ten pin bowling alley. The eatery orbit comprises world class restaurants, and food court with take away outlets. And immensely mesmerizing is the world class water world theme park.

To support the magnificent facilities in Tinapa, the outgoing Duke administration in Calabar had planned to put in place wonderful infrastructure that will make Tinapa truly world class. The Resort has been created as an exclusive environment that is totally supportive of global trading.

Another hallowed component of this stupendous infrastructure is the airport which is being upgraded to international standards to corroborate the impending flow of tourists as it translates to a business and tourism hub for the entire West Africa sub-region.

A minor-rail system which carries passengers is to connect Calabar international Airport, direct to Tinapa. It is envisaged that the excellent facilities offered by the Calabar Port which is currently being dredged will be able to accommodate large container ships, allowing tenants to easily bring goods to Tinapa.

Tinapa is also guaranteed constant supply of electricity through an Independent Power Programme. Security is guaranteed through an internal security unit, using the latest surveillance, monitoring and access control mechanisms. In Information Technology, Tinapa assures of the best of breed ICT infrastructure, including telephoning, data, POS.

Already, Tinapa has started attracting partners. MTN Nigeria Communications Ltd announced its latest strategic move to clinch up a market deal as the official Telecoms partner of the Africa’s Premier Business Resort.

As the official Telecom partner of Tinapa, it would be granted rights to provide telecoms services to the entire Tinapa business resort. It already has an ultra modern connect store.

Tinapa Business Resort is located within a unique Tax free zone offering numerous benefits to tenants. It allows retailers to import, free of duty, capital goods, consumer goods, raw materials, components and articles. It offers excellent opportunities to investors, including exemption from all federal, state and local taxes, unrestricted repatriation of both dividends and capital.

Tinapa Business Resort effortlessly combines business with high velocity leisure. To support the hotel is an array of professional services and offering amenities such as sickbay, management offices and so on.

There is a warehouse cluster with five warehouses, leisure land, water world facility, wave pool, standing wave surfing, lazy river ride, water slides, and picnic area, among others. There is accommodation for associated facilities such as lifeguard tower, kiosks, and other management offices.

Tinapa is a compendium of optimal resources to become an open reality. From the opulence of materials used and the palatial impression it sends down the spine of any tourist on a first time visit, it’s all too much to underestimate the painstaking effort of the eminent governor of the state and his people. Although, the relentless and hard work of the typical Calabar person cannot be undermined, this is the crux of their hard work and selfless dedication to the development of their potential. And have ever since internalized the principle as a way of life, thus sending positive signals to the world, and to Nigerians in diaspora.

Project Tinapa is remarkable in all respects, talking about its outlook. The design for Tinapa is breathtaking and audacious in its scope; it drew inspiration from a range of finest designs in the world.

Cross River State is certainly not the richest state in the country, it is one of the poorest in terms of available resources. It does not have the petrol dollars of the typical oil rich Niger Delta States nor the vast economic base of Lagos. Yet, it has been able to create a wonderful facility such as Tinapa which will continue to employ thousands of Cross Riverians and other Nigerians.

It is examples such as this, one wished other governments would emulate just as one fervently hopes that Governor Duke’s successor in Cross River State will continue from where he stops in Tinapa. So far only a percentage of the huge vision in Tinapa has been achieved. The dream must not die.

U.S. Justifies Nigeria Travel Advisory

Acting Assistant Secretary Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Department of State Charles Snyder, has explained that the travel warning issued on Nigeria was due to a combination of factors including U.S. government concerns about the domestic situation in Nigeria as well as links to global terrorism. He also described Africa as an 'important" but not "crucial front" in the global war against terrorism.

Responding to a question by THISDAY on whether the December 2003 travel warning update issued on Nigeria was due to the domestic situation or a global terrorist threat, Snyder replied, "It's a little bit of both", adding that Nigeria is " not currently the kind of place that somebody that's unsophisticated should go".

He had earlier explained that US Department of State was compelled to warn American citizens about traveling to Nigeria because of the general terrorist threats throughout the region, the "problems up in the western states" as well as the "unfortunate problem that has nothing to do with terrorism on one of the airlines". He, however, added that he was hopeful that the problems would be resolved.
On Africa's role in the global war on terrorism, Synder described Africa as important "but it's not a crucial front." He said: "The old camel caravan route coming down from Libya all the way through Mauritania is an area of interest and an area of trouble which extremists can use, and we're paying attention to in this global war."

Briefing on Sub-Saharan Africa, Snyder acknowledged that President Bush had fallen short in the implementation of his pledge of $15 billion over five years to fight HIV/Aids in Africa and the Caribbean.

"$15 billion divided by five should be $3 billion a year" he said adding that the $2.4 billion Congress approved for fiscal year 2004 "didn't quite get there." He, however said, that the government had "engaged that in a serious way."

He denied that the delay by the Bush administration in pushing for an extension of the African Growth and Opportunities Act (AGOA) is to Africa bank for its stance at Cancun last September, when discussions broke down over disagreements between the US and developing nations at the world trade meetings.

"What happened at Cancun is unfortunate in many ways," he said, "but AGOA legislation is not affected by that, trust me." Trade bills are always tough to negotiate, especially in an election year, so the State Department traditionally waits "until the 11th hour to spot what we like best," he said.

Snyder also said the Bush administration wants South African President Thabo Mbeki to put more pressure on Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe stressing that time was important in the peaceful resolution of what he described as "a tragedy unfolding". "We've seen South Africa step up to the plate in Burundi," he said, where a peace agreement is close to resolution "in large part due to South Africa's energetic diplomacy." The U.S. government would like to see similar movement on the Zimbabwe issue, he said. "We're still hoping that President Mbeki will step up. With a tragedy unfolding like this, time is of the essence and we're hoping that he takes a re-energized look."

Yankari National Park of Nigeria - The Best Park for Observing Wildlife

Yankari is Nigeria's best park for observing wildlife. With a bit of luck you may come across buffaloes, waterbucks, bushbucks, hyenas, leopards, plenty of baboons and the odd lion. While the park's animal population has suffered from poaching it still has some big draw cards like the 500-strong population of elephants and the bird-watching is excellent.

The best time to see animals is from late December to late April, before the rains, when the thirsty animals congregate at the Gaji River. You're permitted to drive your own vehicle if you take a guide, otherwise the park has a safari truck that takes two hour tours.

Yankari's other great attraction is the incredibly picturesque Wikki Warm Spring, near the park campsite. The crystal-clear mineral water is a constant 31°C, forming a lake 200m long and 10m wide and great for a swim.

Beaware from the Scams and Warning in Nigeria during Tour

Expect to pay bribes to police officers. It's often cheap - abut 100 naira. A request for a bribe often comes with this sentence "anything for us for the weekend". The bribe situation gets worse as you travel deeper into Nigeria and towards Benin.

Expect delays at the Seme border post (often closed because of corruption). There, requests for bribes are blatant and increase in value depending on your race and country of origin. You will be arrested several times, have a few arguments but in the end you pay the bribe to get your passport back. On the Benin side of the border things are pretty much the same - so make sure you have some CFA or naira - never flash any foreign currency like dollars - this is asking.

Nigeria Flights and Travel Guide

Its history is as diverse as its culture, but deciding on flights to Lagos Nigeria and touring one of the most varied countries in Africa is worth any price. In Nigeria, travelers will bear witness to more than 250 different traditions, languages, and sagas recalling ancestors and past affiliations.

Nigeria is located on the west coast of Africa and borders Chad, Cameroon, Benin and Niger, and sits along the Atlantic Ocean (Gulf of Guinea). Flights to Nigeria send travelers along the Nigeria coast, where the site of the Niger Delta protrudes among other smaller rivers and streams. But flying to Nigeria is only half the fun. Take a hike through one of the many rain forests or trek through Nigeria’s deserts.

While tourism remains a staple to the Nigerian economy, its main source of income comes from being Africa’s largest oil producer.

Romanic Valentine's Day break in Portugal

With the British winter showing no signs of relenting, holidaymakers are being offered the chance to head to the Western Algarve for a Valentine’s Day break with a bit more sunshine and sparkle.

Luxury apartment specialist Oceânico Resorts & Leisure is offering two-night breaks from only £49 per person over Valentine’s Day, or seven nights from £172 per person, with a choice of resorts to escape to.

Estrela da Luz and Vila Baía in Praia da Luz are both on offer, along with Jardim da Meia Praia near Lagos. Flights are not included.

Temperatures in Portugal average around 17°C in February – perfect for enjoying some of the Algarve’s more romantic activities such as dolphin watching, horse-riding and yachting, or a stroll along one of the area’s sandy beaches.

After the day’s activities, why not enjoy a relaxing evening out, with the Alloro restaurant at Vila Baía offering a special Valentine’s Day menu.

Flights to Faro are not included, allowing guests to book the most convenient flight times with airlines including Monarch, British Airways and easyJet. Car hire or taxi transfers to and from Faro airport can be arranged through Oceânico Resorts.

To book or for further information on all of the flights to Lagos nigeria .

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Return of the Godfathers

At times, members of even the best-run organisation cannot escape moments of profound crises, when they must break faith either with the team or with themselves.

These crises occur when the leadership of an institution suddenly embarks on a course of action that is incompatible with members' ethical standards or judgment. In the Action Congress (AC), it has taken about two years to arrive at this crucial point, where it has become still more difficult to reconcile some of our actions with prudence or even with sanity.

Apparently, the most abused word in today's political lexicon in Nigeria is "godfatherism". Perhaps unknown to many, there is a sociological concept, which holds that a man can change his under-wears; he can change his toothpaste, particularly in the face of the various varieties in today's market; he can change his children's schools BUT he cannot change his ancestry. In other words, we are all sons of our fathers, not by choice but by Divine arrangement. Interestingly, though, given a choice, many good children would still jump at the opportunity to be born by the same fathers that God gave them originally. After all, God makes no mistakes.

Everyone must plan and prepare for the type of life he wants for himself and his children. Failing to plan is planning to fail. It is not any different in politics, where leadership demands real preparation and apprenticeship. No one burns out his life and suddenly wakes up, wanting to become the President of the country. Rather, it is through the process of involvement in the political arena that people become identified for serious responsibilities.

Godfatherism has not always connoted evil. It has not always been viewed with sinister motives. Webster's Third New International Dictionary refers to a godfather as one primarily responsible for the care and development of someone or something. In recent times, the boldest attempt at truly defining the godfather comes from Okey Ikechukwu who in his piece titled "Thus Spoke The Sultan", makes it clear that "The godfather is your earthly guardian angel who takes trouble to ensure that the best in you is actualized for your own good and for the good of the world around you". (THISDAY, Thursday, December 11, 2008, P.72).

We agree with Ikechukwu that godfatherism in its true sense involves mentoring. And where mentoring is absent, upstarts take over the stage and, lacking paradigms and any sense of history, become the law and the state. Ikechukwu further tells us that Nigeria certainly witnessed a serious sense of political mentoring in the First and Second Republics when the founding fathers were part of a conscious sifting political process that became a veritable recruitment machine for political and other forms of leadership. At that time, the concept of political godfather was understood in its positive sense as against its present day completely negative form in which it has been hopelessly bastardized and vandalized. In Nigeria today, godfatherism has become synonymous with, and a justification for, the system where thugs, mediocres and outright nitwits have assumed full national prominence as political leaders simply because someone (now called godfather) has short-circuited the political process on his behalf. Godfatherism has now become a curse and a plague and everyone must run away from it.

This played out in a recent exercise in my home Local Government, Uhunmwode. The leaders of the Action Congress in the Local Government were asked to nominate three persons from who one would be picked as a Commissioner. The leaders went home, did a thorough groundwork and produced eminently qualified candidates, as it were, their very first eleven; candidates who could stand out on their own, anywhere, any time. The State Screening Committee was quite honest in their assessment -- they were the best and simply faultless. The only sin attached to them is that their fathers are politicians and are still alive. To give a dog a bad name in order to facilitate its hanging, the biological fathers of the two very good candidates were quickly dubbed godfathers and thenceforth, the extremely good candidates having had the plague-like status ascribed on them, lost their rating. They are still grappling with the odd idea that if having a living father is the only ground for disqualification, why the appointing authorities did not proceed to the orphanages, where orphans are surely not in short supply.

What options does this wrong application of godfatherism leave with its victims, the innocent ones growing into the world of oddities, where a bright boy would be made to regret having bright parents in just the same way that Nigeria makes her citizens to weep each time the price of its only product, crude oil, goes up? Ironies will never end.

For the parents of excellence, what option is open to their children of excellence? As soon as it becomes clear that the parents constitute a cog in their wheels of progress as far as appointment to offices is concerned, two options are readily open - either to "knock them off" completely or shield them from public view. First, do these children want government patronage by all means and at all cost? The obvious answer to this is a categorical NO.

Shall the children kill their parents as a way of earning eligibility for government patronage? God forbid! Shakespeare was essentially right, when he asserted unequivocally, "If fortune would have me king; let fortune crown me without my stir".

Secondly, what of the idea of hiding the parents of excellence? Even granting that the children could hide their parents so as to attract initial public offer, they would not even do that. Among other things, to hide such parents of excellence would be a disservice to the entire system and humanity at large. These parents tower very high and very tall and they are extremely useful to their community and the human race, even more so than those seeking to have government appointments. What would the system do without a man who is a Senator-emeritus; a man who had a successful stint in the academia; in politics and in business; a founding father of the Action Congress; and one man without who national and local politics would continually be on the sprawl? On the other hand, we are looking at another parent of excellence who has distinguished himself both locally, nationally and internationally; one man who has single-handedly prosecuted the war against oppression through his weekly columns in national and international newspapers and magazines, without counting the cost. The Action Congress cannot pretend that it is not a major beneficiary from this man's invaluable contributions to the course of the total emancipation of the people from the stronghold of the PDP. In any case, should these parents be put in a position to begin to blame themselves for investing in good education for their children? Should they also be blamed that the children have opted for practical politics instead of sticking to greener pastures in Abuja, Lagos and other world capitals where their counterparts with lesser educational attainment and other cognate experience are making waves in Banking, Commerce and Industry?

Brutus could easily have described Adams Oshiomhole, with a high degree of justification, as over-ambitious. A man agrees that "I presided over the NLC meeting where the decision was taken to form the Labour Party " but he soon jumps boat to take advantage of the AC structure since the Labour Party did not have a structure (DAILY SUN, Tuesday, December 30, 2008, P.26). If this is not over-ambition, what is?

However, the AC quickly adopts this son and by working 25 hours a day under the most difficult conditions, pilots this man through a difficult election, a more difficult Tribunal, and a most difficult Appeal Court process. Soon after that, like in the tradition of the child, who as soon as he is carried across the hill begins to cry that he must wait for the mother, Oshiomhole announces to the entire world, "I am running a Labour government". If this is not over-ambition, what is?

In the spirit of over-ambition, he must now pull the cotton wool across everybody's face. The AC must submit three names per Local Government from across the State. The 54 nominees must be screened by the highest committee ever formed in the Party. Behold, the names were thrown overboard. In their places, nominees from one of the warring factions of the PDP plagued the entire list. If this is not over-ambition, what is? But could Comrade Adams Oshiomohoel not have spared the AC the insult of having to submit and screen those nominees when he already knew what he had in mind?

If Comrade Adams Oshiomhole could wrap up the AC, seal and deliver same to a faction of the PDP, it was a grievous fault and so grievously has AC answered it. Yes, we have maintained with monotonous regularity that in politics, what people say is usually different from what they bring about. While you shout so much about the need to engage technocrats, you are facing the world with a list predominated virtually by discredited politicians and other foreign elements. While you shout so much against godfatherism, you are now one godson with a multiplicity of godfathers. This is the very stuff of which over-ambition is made.

We know the government you are not running but we do not know the government you are running. Comrade, which government are you really running, Labour or PDP? It is certainly not AC. It is also instructive that your ground floor, the third tier, is occupied exclusively by your PDP. It is perhaps too early in the day to remind you of the obvious imbalance created by a situation where the Governor, Speaker, Secretary to Government, Head of Service, all come from a single Senatorial District. In times of strict protocol, our 'middle belt' brothers could feel alienated if they have to count at a distant seventeenth position. That is hardly how to "let the people lead".

House Probes VIP Movement, Flight Delay

The House of Representatives yesterday ordered a through investigation into the circumstances leading to the three-hour delay in the landing of a Bellview aircraft at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja last Saturday.

It has, consequently, mandated its committees on aviation and internal security to investigate the cause of the delay in the flight which reportedly took off from Lagos Airport at about 12 noon and was not allowed to land at the Abuja Airport until about 3.00pm due to what the airport authorities called "VIP movements".

A flight on the said route takes about 50 minutes under normal weather conditions.

In a motion brought by Honourable Leonard Mayor Eze (PDP) and 64 others, the House in plenary was told that such incidents were becoming rampant in the nation's airports even when unnecessary delays in the air were known to have put the lives of crew members and passengers on board the planes in great danger.

Eze recalled that sometime in the recent past, a trainer aircraft was forced to land on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway at Ewekoro, Ogun State after being prevented from landing at Murtala Mohammed Airport in Lagos due to the so called VIP movement.

He said that such delays are known to create panic, frustration and even death among passengers, as the plane could run out of fuel.

Some legislators who contributed to the debate urged the House to enact a law that would ban any stoppage of landing due to VIP movement as this would force Nigerian airports to operate according to internationally acceptable standards as far as the issues was concerned.

Meanwhile, the Movement for the creation of Ijebu State stormed the National Assembly yesterday where they met with Speaker Dimeji Bankole and other key officials of the House of Representatives on the need for the proposed state to be created.

The agitators led by Awujale of Ijebuland, Oba Sikiru Adetona and Chairman of the Movement for the creation of the state, Professor Adebayo Adedeji, said that Ijebu state should be created now because all the 24 provinces that were in existence during the colonial era had become states except Ijebu.

Bankole obsereved that the issue of state creation was the responsibility of the entire parliament but assured the delegation that the House would be guided by fairness in its consideration of all the proposals submitted to it on state creation. He urged the agitators to go back and re strategise as according to him a lot more needed to be done to actualise the dream.

Task Force to Move Out 15,000 Containers of Lagos Ports

In a bid to immediately decongest the Lagos ports, the newly constituted Task Force on Port Decongestion has been given the marching order to move out over 15,000 overtime containers, including others left un-cleared at the Lagos ports.

The task force, headed by Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs, Nathaniel Iheanacho, has representatives of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Shippers' Council (NSC), the terminal operators and the police.

President Umaru Yar'Adua had given a 60-day ultimatum to the Minister of Transport, Ibrahim Bio, and Minister of Finance, Dr. Mukhtar Mansur, to ensure that the Lagos ports are cleared of congestion.

According to the National Public Relations Officer of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Wale Adeniyi, the decision to move the containers was reached after a meeting held by the NSC, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the terminal operators and other stakeholders in Lagos on Saturday. At the meeting was the acting Comptroller-General of Customs, Dr. Bernard-Shaw Nwadialor, and NPA Managing Director, Malam Abdul Salam Mohammed.

Adeniyi said the containers would be moved to the Ikorodu Terminal and other bonded terminals in Lagos where there are enough storage facilities.

There are worries that it would be difficult to move all the containers in good time because they would be moved through the already deplorable roads network.

But Adeniyi explained that all logistics had been put in place for transporting the containers hitch-free, with guarantee by NPA, adding that a special procedure that would both be shorter and faster would be adopted in moving the containers, saying that clearance would be based on the e-payment system.

The customs spokesman further said the containers would be moved amid heavy escorts and tight security by both customs officers and the police.

He, however, explained that most of the containers had discrepancies, which would be sorted out if their owners and the customs agents could come up to clear them.

Adeniyi also said government in its magnanimity had decided that rather than seizing the containers, it would give concessions to the owners to clear them.

"This is a concession that government has granted the importers to give the Lagos ports a fresh breath," he said.

Meanwhile, Managing Director of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Mazi Jetson Nwankwo, has said provision of rail networks within the ports is the only permanent solution to the recurring congestions in the country's port system.

According to Nwankwo, several stakeholders' meetings had been held and presidential committees set up over port congestions before and after concessioning of the ports, yet the problem persists.

He, therefore, said the only solution is the reactivation of the existing rail networks in all the ports and their extension to other ports.

"With this in place several containers could be moved at once to Inland Container Depots (ICDs), where customs could conduct the 100 per cent examination and other necessary documentations without delay," he said.

He recalled situations in the past when, at the Apapa and Port Harcourt port complexes, train were loaded with cargoes directly from the ships and immediately moved to their destinations in the hinterland.

According to him, the corporation still has the capacity to do the same, adding that the corporation could also make land available to concessionaires for stacking their containers.

He also warned that no ICD could function effectively without rail lines linking it to the main line.

In similar vein, Chairman, Apapa Chapter One of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), John Ofobike, recently raised alarm that many containers that had been cleared by relevant government agencies were still laying at the ports because there are no trucks to pick them.

"It is very difficult to get a truck. "Sometimes for three days you will search for truck to get one because all of them have been booked to freight empty containers," Ofobike told the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mallam Abdul Salam Mohammed, who visited APM Terminals last Friday to assess progress of work aimed at decongesting the port.

Managing Director of APM Terminals Apapa Limited, Michael Lund Hansen, also told the NPA boss that his company has sufficient equipment to discharge and position containers for customs examination.

"We position containers for examination on request from agents and customs. We position more than 500 containers everyday for customs examination, but unfortunately we have to return most of them to the stacking areas at the end of every working day," Hansen said.

He said agents were not coming forward to clear their containers, adding that APM Terminals have 9,741 containers in the port for delivery to the importers. He disclosed that there are 851 containers that had been cleared by customs, all charges paid, documentation completed, but are still not picked up by agents.

Comptroller, Apapa Area One Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Comptroller Hannatu Sulaiman, who accompanied the NPA boss, disclosed that customs personnel have been able to examine only 120 of the 500 containers that are positioned by APMT.

She said most of the containers have to be physically examined by the customs, allegedly because of the high cases of concealment and false declaration by Nigerian importers.

Nigerian stocks seen as a long-term buy

Nigeria's stock market may have slipped from being a darling of frontier investors to one of the world's worst performers but its decline should open up buying opportunities for long-term investors, analysts say.
The Nigerian all-share index has fallen more than 16 percent since the start of the year to levels not see since July 2006, extending a slide of more than 45 percent last year.
Sharp falls in the value of the naira currency, which has lost more than 20 percent of its value against the U.S. dollar since early December, makes Nigeria the world's worst performing equity market in dollar terms this year.
More than 400 billion naira ($2.7 billion) of foreign investors' money left Nigerian equities in 2008 as the global credit crisis dampened appetite for risk and falling oil prices clouded the country's economic outlook.
Brokers in the commercial capital Lagos see little immediate respite, but point out that Africa's most populous nation, with more than 140 million people, remains a huge potential market in the long term for everything from financial services to beer.
"It's a good time to enter the market for long-term investors, but if you're looking at short term gain, the market isn't really for you," said Gboyega Balogun, executive director in charge of investment banking at First City Monument Bank Plc.
Some stocks in sectors including brewing, construction, petroleum and energy have fallen below historic fair value and represent potential long-term opportunities, said Sodiq Waziri, chief research officer at brokerage LeadCapital.
"No matter the level of downturn in the economy, Nigerians will continue to patronise brewery products, while there's strong underlying capacity for growth for the local cement manufacturers," he said.
But he added a recovery in the market, the second-biggest in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa, was unlikely this year.
Lagos-based brokerage Afrinvest said in its outlook for 2009 that large corporates, particularly in traditional sectors with limited dependence on financial market stability for revenues and profit, would be among its stock picks.
Dangote Sugar Refinery, Guinness Nigeria, Nigerian Breweries , the Nigeria Bottling Company and Lafarge Cement were among its favoured names.
The country's banking sector was the main driver behind the stock market's stellar performance in 2007, when it was among the best-performing frontier markets in the world.
But concern over their exposure to the falling capital markets meant only those banks with the best disclosure levels would benefit from a flight to transparency, Afrinvest said, citing Guaranty Trust Bank as one example.

Tanker damaged in Nigeria attack

Militants from Nigeria's Niger Delta region have attacked a tanker carrying thousands of tonnes of diesel and kidnapped a Romanian crew member.

The unidentified militants blew up the ship's engine with dynamite, security sources said.

The attack happened in the major shipping lane off the Rivers State coast just within the military protection zone for vessels.

The vessel is believed to be still at sea and seriously damaged.

The MT Meredith was carrying 4,000 tonnes of diesel from Lagos to Port Harcourt, security sources said.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (Mend) said the gunmen were from an "affiliate" group.

"Mend is in touch with the group and will ensure the abducted man is released unharmed at the earliest convenience," the group said in an e-mail to journalists.


At the weekend militants attacked another tanker operated by Royal Dutch Shell.

They locked the crew in the hold and ransacked the vessel.

The BBC's Andrew Walker in Nigeria says acts of piracy in the waters off the Niger Delta are common, but attacks on tankers are unusual.

Nigerian militants tend to attack oil services boats closer to the coast, stripping them of equipment and kidnapping the foreign oil workers.

Last year, the Mend, Nigeria's most publically visible group, attacked the Bonga oil facility, an offshore oil field operated by Royal Dutch Shell.

The ship-like oil platform was 75km (46 miles) off the coast and thought to be out of militants' reach.

Some militant groups say they are fighting for a fairer distribution of wealth from Nigeria's oil.

But there are many armed groups in the Delta who make money out of extortion, kidnapping and oil theft under the direction of powerful and well-connected political figures.

The United Kingdom has promised military training to help the government combat the problem.

Oil production has been cut by a fifth in the last three years partly as a result of violence.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

No Country Pilgrim Stranded in Saudi Arabia -Nahcom

THE National Hajj Commission (NAHCOM) says no Nigerian pilgrim would be stranded in Saudi Arabia after the completion of all hajj rites in the holy land.

A statement from NAHCOM indicated that more than 65,682 pilgrims have been airlifted back home, representing 77 per cent of all pilgrims who performed this year's hajj to the holy land.

Federal hajj commissioner in charge of policy, personnel management and finance, Alhaji Liad Tella, in the statement, noted that the targeted final airlift of Nigerian pilgrims back to Nigeria is on or before January 6, 2009 under the principle of first come, first to leave. Liad stated that 164 flights had been operated on the return leg, adding that 254 flights were operated during the outbound journey.

"The number of flights might be increased due to the introduction of five additional 747 aircraft to replace the 752 used. More flights have been made to Nigeria by the airlines since last Monday while seven flights of Boeing 747 have been leaving for different airports in Nigeria daily since Saturday, December 20, 2008, "the commissioner said.

He disclosed that less than 19,318 pilgrims out of the 85,000 that performed the hajj were still in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, pointing out that efforts were on to ensure that all the pilgrims were airlifted back to Nigeria even before the January 6 deadline.NAHCOM chairman, Alhaj Mohammed Bello, had maintained that the rule of first come first to go must be obeyed and followed. "No pilgrim is bigger than the other before Allah," he said.

Meanwhile, Med-View Airlines, one of the carriers for the hajj operations, said it concluded the exercise yesterday with the arrival in Lagos of 675 pilgrims in two separate flights. The passengers, according to the company, were the last batch of pilgrims drawn from Edo, Osun and Oyo States who arrived in Boeing 747 and 757 into the waiting hands of their State Pilgrims Welfare Board officials, relations and friends gathered at the Hajj Camp of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja.

US officials to inspect Nigerian airlines, NCAA

A team of experts from the United States of America’s Federal Aviation Administration is due to arrive in Nigeria on Wednesday (tomorrow).

The US officials are coming to carry out another round of a comprehensive audit of the Nigerian aviation industry, which it started last year. They will also determine if the country qualifies to be upgraded to the coveted Category One status.

Nigeria is currently rated Category Two by the US FAA, and an upgrade means Nigerian carriers can operate direct flights to US destinations.

Only three countries in Africa – South Africa, Ethiopia and Egypt, are presently certified as Category One.

Arik, Virgin Nigeria and Bellview Airlines have been designated on US routes to reciprocate the Bilateral Open Skies Agreement signed with the US in 2000.

An American airline, Delta, is already flying into Nigeria. It was formerly two until North American Airlines pulled out last May, citing record high oil prices as its reason.

The audit, also known as the International Aviation Safety Assessment, is expected to measure the extent of Nigeria’s compliance with the safety and security standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, the global regulator, and that of the US FAA.

The US initiated the IASA programme to ensure that country’s aviation sector with which it has direct links, meet the ICAO and US safety standards.

The Media Assistant to the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Mr. Sam Adurogboye, told our correspondent on Monday that the team, this time around, would be looking at the three designated Nigerian airlines as well as the NCAA.

He explained that the US FAA officials would be examining some “eight critical elements and the corrective action plans as per identified open items.”

Adurogboye assured that that whole exercise would be over this year, and that the country was on the verge of attaining the prized status.

He said, “We are confident, we will come out shining. The NCAA is fully prepared for the audit. We have prepared the designated airlines also-Arik, Virgin Nigeria and Bellview.”

Direct flights to US and other regions should help the Murtala Mohammed International, Lagos move a step further towards becoming a regional hub and also to grow both passenger and cargo traffic.

Presently, Kenya, one of the fastest growing aviation hubs on the continent, is also putting a lot of measures in place to attain the US Category One certification.

Countries that meet up with the US FAA conditions would have met up with ICAO safety standards as the Category One is rated higher than standard.

The establishment of ICAO after the Second World War included a commitment by signatories to abide by common safety measures in international air transportation. The organisation, however, has limited powers of enforcement.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Passengers showing preference for Arik Air’s Lagos-London flights

Passengers appear to be showing preference for the new entrant into the lucrative Lagos-London route, Arik Air, a Business Day investigation has shown.
Arik Air which entered the route with a new Airbus A340-500, according our investigation, is becoming the preferred airline by holiday makers who spoke with BusinessDay in Lagos and London.
Relatively new on international flight operation, Arik Air has one of the newest aircraft on the route, according to the passengers who also applauded the airline’s in-flight service and entertainment.
Across section of air passengers who spoke with BusinessDay expressed optimism that Arik will make the country proud, declaring the airline’s arrival on the route “a welcome development”.
One of the passengers who preferred anonymity said: “We now have what we can call our own Nigerian airline. We are very proud of the development”.
In an earlier comment on the operations of Arik on the London route, director-general of the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), told aviation correspondents that the airline had become a good alternative.
The NCAA boss remarked that he was shocked at passengers’ reaction, which he described as an indication that once Nigerian airlines can get their acts together passengers are willing to fly on their aircraft.
It would be recalled that Arik Air launched its Lagos-London-Lagos route on December 15, 2008 with a daily flight, arriving London in the evening after departing Lagos between 10a.m and 12 noon.
The airline commenced operation with an Airbus A340-500 aircraft, all leather seats with good seat pitch, which has caught the attention of air passengers.
The entrance of Arik Air on the Lagos-London-Lagos route has tremendously reduced the pressure on passengers who before now usually experienced difficulties returning to their base after the yuletide.
The busy schedules of airlines during the festive season would have left many passengers stranded for a week or two as was usually the case in previous years. However, air passengers were full of praise for the airline, describing the timing of commencement of operations between Lagos and London as perfect.
Kolawole Oni, a frequent traveller, who was seeing his family off at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos said: “It was tough, as all the airlines kept on saying they were fully booked.” He disclosed that it was a friend that advised him to try Arik Air to London.
“I just wish other airlines would be like this, bring in the latest equipment and cultured crew, we will all stop using these foreign carriers”, he said.
Another passenger, Chuka Nwankwo, said “I flew Arik down to Lagos, my brother, the flight was full, and the aircraft was superb”.
Nwankwo said he would be flying the airline back to London, saying that its coming to the route is a big help to the travelling public.
Omowumi Adeola, said, “the airline has shown that Nigerians can do it if we are serious. A lot of us would have been stranded after the holidays.” The arrival of Arik Air increased the number of Nigerian airlines on the Lagos-London route to three.

BA reschedules Lagos flights

British Airways is rescheduling its flights from London Heathrow to Lagos so that they arrive in the Nigerian commercial capital before 6pm.
Travel from the international airport to Victoria Island, the city's financial centre, can take as long as four hours due to the city’s chronic traffic problem and armed robberies are common, especially during the evening.
A BA spokesman said: "British Airways will be rescheduling the arrival of BA 75 from London to 5.55pm from 9.05pm from the January 1. This is in response to concerns from its valued Nigerian customers on the late arrival time into Lagos.”

A holiday nightmare, thanks to one airline

China’s second largest city after Shanghai is Beijing, or Peking in the good old days, and is the focal point of many international flights, one of them being that of Southern China Airlines, considered the continent’s biggest carrier in terms of number of passengers.

But its number is not enough reason for an airline or its personnel to be rude, inconsiderate and insensitive to complaints of passengers claiming to have been victimized by inefficient employees, who decline giving their identification whenever they are confronted with simple questions on ticketing and boarding mistakes.

Southern China Airlines made $6.3 million from fuel-hedging last year when prices surged to a record high, although in September it abandoned its hedging activity when fares tumbled 70 percent and its passenger numbers minimally rose 5.1 percent, necessitating a slow growth and forcing the government to bail it out to the tune of $440 million.

But Southern China Airlines’ profits means little when its personnel treat badly its confirmed ticket holders.

One weary traveler who happens to be a family friend of mine has a sad story to tell about Southern China Airlines.

To take advantage of the long holiday break, he and his family—wife, two kids, their daughter-in-law and their one-year old grandson—decided to go to Beijing on a packaged tour via China Southern Airlines.

Going to Beijing, the trip went well. It was on their trip back that the nightmare took place. When they checked in at the Beijing airport, each of them was given a boarding pass—except the daughter-in-law. The reason—her name was not listed on the manifest.

The family explained that it was impossible. Being on a packaged tour, how could a round-trip ticket not have a ticket going back? And how come her companions, including the daughter-in-law’s infant son, could have a ticket while she did not have one?

A check with the manifest showed that two tickets were listed in the name of my friend’s wife, one of which could be the ticket that should belong to his daughter-in-law.

They tried to explain with the personnel but the woman was adamant into not letting the daughter-in-law in, and even told them it was not her job to help them. They asked for the name of the officer, who hid her name tag behind her uniform. The supervisor also virtually ignored them.

Finally, the manager came in. But he told them that the daughter-in-law could take the flight only if they pay $1,000 in cash. When asked for his name, the manager haughtily said it was printed on his nameplate—in Chinese characters—which the family could not read! They were able to take his identification number, though. To make matters worse, the family was practically being humiliated when some personnel made faces and sneered at them.

Realizing that no reason or help could come from the Chinese airport personnel, my friend decided to just pay for the ticket of his daughter-in-law to Manila. As a frequent traveler, my friend has deemed it wiser to pay using his credit card. But, lo and behold, he was told that they only accept cash!

Since my friend does not have that much cash at that time, the family was forced to shell out the needed fare in cash.

Writings on the wall

The writings are on the wall as far as the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey conducted between October 14 and 27 on the SWS Awareness and Trust Ratings of Selected Public Figures is concerned.

I am happy to note that Winston Garcia, president and chief executive officer of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), enjoyed a 75-percent awareness rating, although I am sad he was at the bottom of government personalities whom the survey respondents could not trust.

Nonetheless, Garcia enjoyed a 17-percent big trust rating that means there is plenty of room for people rooting for the GSIS chief to improve his image some more. It’s a perception problem and more work for him and his staff to give government workers and retirees a more satisfactory service.

Take several incidents where GSIS employees were heckled. According to our source, in a recent inter-GOCC (government-owned and -controlled corporations) athletic competition, the GSIS players were booed. The GSIS team captain/manager used the public address system to explain and defend the team. But the booing and jeering only intensified. The GSIS players were left with no choice but to walk out.

Another source said another GSIS delegation was booed in a roll call in a government summit against corruption at the PhilSports Stadium (formerly the Ultra) in Pasig City on December 9.

Fortunately for the red-faced GSIS crew, the heckling later turned to grudging cheers when Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez took the cudgels for them and admonished the crowd for their less-than-gracious welcome.

“I felt bad when I heard boos for GSIS. They are working hard to serve us, too. Let’s give the GSIS the chance to serve us,” Gutierrez said.

Scanning the packed stadium, Gutierrez called out: “Where are the GSIS people? Come on, stand up!” From the far-right corner of the gallery, the GSIS delegates responded with hearty cheers and claps. But no one dared to stand up.

Thousands of employees from several government agencies took part in the “Integrity March” in celebration of the International Anticorruption Day and the launching of the National Summit on the United Nations Convention Against Corruption.

The moderators began the program by a roll call of all participating agencies. As the offices and departments were identified, the employees cheered and clapped.

When the GSIS was called, there was momentary silence—broken only by boos that began from one corner and spread and reverberated through the entire stadium for about 10 seconds.

“We felt…left out,” said Michelle Evangelista, staff officer at the agency’s human-resources department. “It’s like the whole organization was affected but through no fault of our own,” she said.

She said most complaints against the GSIS stemmed from its delivery of services, particularly benefits to government workers. The boos were ironic because all the less than 30 GSIS delegates to the summit came from the human-resources department, which is not connected to the delivery of benefits.

Evangelista noted that the heckling was prompted by ill feelings toward GSIS services. One of her bosses, a manager, who declined to be named for not having been authorized to speak for the agency, said she was not concerned at all by the reception.

“It’s to be expected. We’re focused on improving our service. That’s our commitment. Besides, we’re all government workers. We’re on the same boat,” she said.

The human-resource department boss was right. The GSIS and other government institutions are on the same boat. But the surveys against their boss say differently. Negative survey trusts are enough for President Arroyo to rethink the GSIS policy, if not to overhaul the GSIS officialdom. The main question now is: Will she do it? I don’t think so.