James Ume

Less than seven months after Audu Ogbe, Minister of Agriculture promised the nation that the government was poised to crash fertilizer price down to N6,000 or below, tangible evidence has emerged that this is a promise kept.

Last Monday. Uche Orji, the ebullient Managing Director of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority, NSIA, revealed that the Authority had put back to work 11 fertilizer blending plants across the country, adding over 6 million bags of NPK 20:10:10 to the current fertilizer production in the country.

This is cheering news for at least three reasons. The NSIA action has substantially crashed the price of fertilizer to below N6,000, something that was thought impossible earlier in the year. Second, it has also put an immediate end to the scandal-prone fertilizer subsidy and the non-accessibility of the product to farmers. Nigeria pays billions of Naira in fertilizer subsidy, yet farmers are either unable to access the product or buy far beyond the subsidized price.

Agro-dealers, in collusion with government officials have profited from a thriving fertilizer scam over the years that all efforts to reform fertilizer distribution in the country had been frustrated. Farmers, who are the end users of the product have groaned endlessly without any solution in sight. The results have been low yields and skyrocketing food prices.

Not only has middlemen been eliminated from the distribution chain, NSIA is delivering fertilizer at 30 percent below the market price without the government subsidising production. As fallout of this development, not less than 50,000 jobs had been created thereby reducing unemployment in the country.

The rehabilitation of six other moribund fertilizer blending plants across the country are at various stages of completion and are expected to become fully operational before the end of the year. By year end, this would add not less than 3 million additional bags of fertilizer to the current production level with the possibility of a further crash in the price of the product.

Directly resulting from this development is the saving of over N50 billion that would have gone into subsidy by this time of the year. The fertilizer initiative of the Authority has also assisted the government to conserve foreign exchange through the substitution of 65% components of the fertilizer with local content. This is remarkable, especially in view of the dwindling foreign reserve of the country.

The NSIA was set up to receive, manage and invest in a diversified portfolio of medium and long term, revenue of the Federal government, State government, Federal Capital Territory, Local government and Area Councils to prepare for the eventual depletion of Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources for the development of critical infrastructure in Nigeria that will attract and support foreign investment, economic diversification, growth and job creation.

The government recently committed additional $500 million to the Sovereign Wealth Fund. This was announced by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo when he inaugurated the board of the Authority recently. Osinbajo charged the board to deploy the capital into projects that are in line with the administration’s key priority areas, namely: infrastructure and agriculture in order to improve the economy.

NSIA was established in 2011 with a start-up capital of $250 million sourced from the Excess Crude Account (ECA). The mandate of the Authority’s board is essentially to increase investment in local infrastructure, touching on agriculture infrastructure, power, toll roads, second Niger bridge as well as health care. The board reports to the National Economic Council, which is the governing council of the NSIA.

Perhaps much more than many government independent government agencies, the management of NSIA has demonstrated integrity, commitment and a unique sense of duty in delivering on its mandate. It is quietly but steadily making indelible impact in key sectors of the economy. Apart from the strides in fertilizer production, it is committing action on commodities exchange-a vital component of the government’s agricultural reform.

It is also stepping into the oil and gas, and is partnering with Delta and Akwa Ibom State governments on modular refineries in the Niger Delta to solve the problem of unemployment and youth restiveness. By the time the projects are completed, it has the potential to end agitations in the region. These and many others are key projects that would unlock the economic potential of the country and get it faster out of economic recession.

But inspite of all these sterling achievements, it is almost incredulous that NSIA has failed to blow its trumpet. But this may be a function of the leadership style of Uche Orji, NSIA’s Managing Director who is said to believe more in action than words, and who is of the strong view that good work speaks for itself.

But Lai Muhammed, Minister of Information, understandably and rightly disagrees with Orji. When he visited NSIA last Monday and learnt of the things the authority had done with the sovereign wealth fund, he was pleasantly shocked, and wondered why the management kept all that to itself. While commending the Fund for its intervention in the critical sectors of the economy, the Minister said the present administration has succeeded in breaking the jinx in fertilizer supply to farmers.

“You have done three major things here. One is that you have crashed the price of fertilizer and this in itself is very significant because what we have today is that for the cost of one bag of fertilizer, you can get two bags of fertilizer.

“When you now look at the improvement in the type of fertiliser that you are now making available, it has helped us to increase yield from about 2 metric tonnes per hectare to 7 metric tonnes and I think in some areas up to 11. More remarkable to me is that we have been able to demystify the fertilizer conundrum,” he said.

Alhaji Mohammed said the intervention by the Fund has also eliminated corruption and scandals in the procurement of fertilizer, and observed that the laudable efforts of the Fund in the area of Agriculture, infrastructure and health, are ground-breaking and pledged to partner with the Fund in order to publicize its activities.

But it is not just the minister of information that recognises the achievements of NSIA, it has also received regional and global recognition as an astute sovereign wealth fund manager. It received global recognition through its admission into the International Working Group of Sovereign Wealth Funds and was awarded the “African Sovereign Wealth Fund of the Year” by the Africa Investor magazine in 2013; and only recently it was awarded the “Most Innovative Sovereign Wealth Fund’ in the world by the internationally influential European CEO magazine.

Ume wrote in through



Onwuasoanya FCC Jones

That individuals like Femi Fani-Kayode and Uche Onyeagucha could think they are verbally sparring with a colossus like Governor Rochas Okorocha is one of the prices one has to pay for submitting himself to public office. These men do not qualify to be in the lowest rungs among the personal staff of Okorocha and his Rochas Group of companies. At the time Okorocha started dining with heads of States of some of the world’s most respected countries and had heads of international and United Nations agencies at his beck and call, individuals like Onyeagucha, the jailbird and his new found ‘boyfriend’, Femi Fani-Kayode were still carrying files around government offices, looking for one lowly placed government official or the other whose shoes they may polish (with their tongues, if the need be), in order to have some money to maintain their notoriously hedonistic indulgences.

Onyeagocha, the son of a teacher and Fani-Kayode, the son of a lawyer obviously share more in common than just being failed lawyers who have not been able to argue out any notable case in court, but jumped to the seemingly easy route to wealth which they both see politics as. Both men are intellectually lousy and could have only become visible in a political system like ours, where garrulity and loutishness are seen as signs of vibrancy and most unfortunately, charisma. To them, mendacity is a talent which they are ready to consistently hone like Christiano Ronaldo is determinedly honing his dribbling and goal scoring skills in order to remain relevant in politics. Sneaky and parasitic, both men are also dependent on the goodwill of another strong politician before they can make any impact in politics. For Onyeagucha, such gamble had earned him a House of Representatives seat, when, what a majority of those who voted him knew was that they were voting for Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Party. unconfirmed reports has it that more than 80% of those who voted for APGA in Owerri Federal Constituency in the 2003 general elections had never heard the name, Uche Onyeagocha.

As at 2011, some people close to Onyeagocha alleged that he was on the verge of selling off some of the choice properties he acquired during his time in the House of Representatives in order to put food on his family’s table, but for Governor Okorocha who rescued him by appointing him into his government as a Special Adviser. Grapevine also has it that the Obinze born former lawmaker was also one of those who tried to sabotage the efforts of the Okorocha administration by failing to complete some projects awarded to them to do. Onyeagucha worked with Okorocha’s administration till the end of his first term,and hung around like a hawk waiting for something to pounce on after Okorocha’s inauguration for second term. Two years into Okorocha’s second term and it appeared to him that nothing was forthcoming, Onyeagucha turned colors and became the most virulent critic of the same administration he served for six years, and marketed to Imo people as the best thing that has happened to the State since its creation. He was always in the media granting press interviews to convince Imo voters on why a second term to Okorocha is the best thing that would happen to the State. At what point did Onyeagucha realize that Okorocha litters the State with abandoned projects? He might be thinking that some of the projects he was allegedly assigned to do under a direct labour arrangement are still abandoned. The other day, I drove to the General Hospital in Mbaitoli and found out that someone else has been assigned to complete the project, while it is suspected that another person was actually awarded the contract and paid in full, but that person allegedly made away with the money after doing a very shabby job, albeit, incompletely.

Till we are able to develop a political culture where people with traceable professional, entrepreneurial or even political background are allowed to handle political offices, we may continue to contend with leadership baggage like Femi Fani-Kayode and Uche Onyeagocha. Political offices are so sensitive and have a lot to do with the collective fate of a people that we do not allow people who see it as a platform to experiment their failed ‘guymanness’ to get close to power. It will be good to get a professional, entrepreneurial or even political dossier of either FFK or Onyeagocha before mother luck smiled on them.

Anyone whose parents can afford to pay his or her school fees and cater for other financial demands of theirs can actually become a lawyer. We can have some respect for individuals who went through tertiary education, self-sponsored.

It is easy to understand the moral poverty of individuals who came straight from been spoon fed by their parents to occupy public offices. Individuals who do not know what it means to earn a small amount of money, save part of it and at the same time pay for your rents, buy your clothes, and do other things for yourself at less than fifteen years of age without depending on parents or some relatives. Would either Onyeagucha or Fani-Kayode had gone beyond being wheelbarrow pushers in either Afor Obinze or Aiyegbanju market in Osogbo, if they had something close to the humble background from which Okorocha picked himself up and has soared to one of the tallest heights as one of Africa’s most respected leaders? The spirits of industry, creativity, courage, integrity, compassion and modesty which propelled Okorocha to the height he is in today are alien to the duo of Onyeagucha and Femi, hence, I cannot agree less with the man who thinks that loquacity is a measure of intelligence and political sagacity that he is not in the same class with Okorocha. In saner clans, Femi Fani-Kayode would hold a thanksgiving service, if he is employed in Okorocha’s house to wash cars. That is, if personal attributes are measures for success, rather than parental background.

It is instructive that at close to 57 years of age, Femi Fani-Kayode’s most highlighted column in his Curriculum Vitae is the fact that he is the son of the senior, more respectable and obviously more industrious Fani-Kayode. The next is the fact that he was pampered to attend the prestigious Cambridge University where his father also graduated top of his class as a lawyer. The question any reasonable reader would want Femi to answer is; would he have been appointed a supervisory councilor in his local council if he was not the son of Chief Victor Babaremilekun Adetokunbo Fani-Kayode? How could he want to stand shoulder to shoulder with a man whose heights and attainments in life are purely as a result of his personal efforts and God’s special anointing upon his life?

Of course, Okorocha cannot be in the same class with a man who had been by banned by the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria from holding public office as a result of the backhand deals that went on in the ministries he headed as a minister during President Obasanjo’s tenure. People like Femi Fani-Kayode are still walking free in the street because we are in Nigeria. For a man whose every chance at public office has always come under serious questions for mind bending corruption and criminal malpractices, what in this world will he have to do with Governor Okorocha, who had handled several federal government contracts, running into billions of Naira, held political offices at the highest level, contested for the presidency of this nation against the wishes of the powers that be, yet, has never been a guest of the EFCC or any anti-graft agency? Certainly, as a man known for his zero-tolerance for corruption, it is easy to understand his point of divergence with individuals of questionable public and even private records like Femi Fani-Kayode. What could a man who is known for his humanitarian services and compassion for the less privileged have to do with a man whose hands are allegedly soaked in the blood of  thousands of our brothers and sisters in the Northeast who fell to Boko Haram’s savagery because some individuals were used as conduits to siphon billions of Naira marked out for the purchase of arms for our armed forces? Certainly, Okorocha has no point of convergence with a man who has been queried by the EFCC more than Emmanule Nwude. How do we begin to explain the alleged misappropriation of over 19.5 Billion Naira which were supposed to go into the renovation and upgrading of our airports?

The worst imprisonment is the imprisonment of the conscience. When someone who has already been sentenced to a lifetime of imprisonment by his own conscience comes out to talk about prison term for another man, you can only sympathize with him and pray he frees himself from the prison term he is already serving by recanting his many cheap lies, doing some penance and returning whatever he has stolen from the people. Uche Onyeagucha is already a prisoner, but I will elect to free him from that dangerous dungeon he has put himself into by posting bail for him. This bail will come in form of reminding him of the things he already knows about the Okorocha administration, but which he requested to be told so that he can apologize to the people of Imo State.

Onyeagucha knows that I am not happy with the fact that his own people have rejected him and as a humanitarian, it will be to my joy to see him return to the warm embrace of his people. In an interview published by some tabloids, Onyeagucha lied that the Okorocha administration is notorious for littering the State with abandoned projects and queried if anything has been done by the government to build industries and provide jobs as were promised during Okorocha’s second term campaign. The reality of thousands of completed projects to the credit of Okorocha has been stated severally, and I won’t bother the people with more of such.

Without sounding apologetic, the Okorocha administration has kept to its promise of providing jobs to the populace and industrializing the State and Onyeagucha is one of those who can attest to that (I hear he tells close friends and associates that he suspects Okorocha of minting money in his house, with which he executes these projects and sustains the numerous people oriented policies and programs). Onyeagocha, by insinuating that a government must build factories for it to be deemed as pursuing an industrialization policy casts a big question mark on his educational and leadership credentials. It beats my imagination that an acclaimed leader and an activist would support that government builds and runs factories in this century, when it has been severally been proven that government is not a good administrator of businesses. What government can do and is to guarantee a conducive environment for private individuals to build, own and run their industries in such an environment. Government’s duties in ensuring the growth of industries include; ensuring adequate security of lives and properties, implementing policies and programs that ensure the growth of small and medium scale industries, making infrastructure available for the setting up of such industries, ensuring access to soft and low interest credit facilities to would be investors, etc. Governor Okorocha’s Rescue Mission administration has done these and more.

On job creation, more than 20,000 new workers have been injected into the Imo State civil service since the inception of the Okorocha administration six years ago. While a good number of these new recruits into the State civil service were employed as teachers to make up for the serious deficiency in our educational sector; primary, secondary and tertiary. In the education sector alone, the Okorocha administration has employed more than 12,000 teaching and non-teaching staff in Imo State University, Owerri, Imo State Polytechnic, Umuagwo, Eastern Palm University, Ogboko, School of Nursing, Orlu, Imo State College of Education, Ihitte-Uboma, and across primary and secondary schools in the State. As a result of the government’s business friendly policies, more than 250,000 other jobs have been created by private sector operators who continue trooping into Imo State in their numbers to invest. These workers include the regular staff of the many hospitality and tourism industries that have been built in the State within the lifetime of the present administration, the casual workers employed by the several construction companies working in the State, etc.

The Okorocha administration has also directly empowered more than 10,000 citizens of the State to build industries in the State. This includes the grant of 1,000,000 Naira non-refundable seed fund to 305 youths in the State who are already erecting small scale industries in their areas across the State, which are expected to in turn provide jobs for other youths and citizens of the State, 3,500 women have also been assisted with funds to strengthen their businesses, while thousands of others have benefited from the several skill acquisition trainings being run through the Office of the First Lady of the State and other empowerment programs the State funds for the benefit of the citizenry. Conservatively, one can say that Okorocha has built more than 3,000 cottage industries in the State. This is considering the fact that some of the youths and women who benefited from the government’s empowerment and industrialization improvement grants are into different types of manufacturing, trading and also agro business. Chief Uche Onyeagucha is aware that the most industrially advanced countries of the world like China and Japan have cottage industries to thank for their status in the present world.

Without trying to insult any of these men, who are great Nigerians in their own rights, comparing them in anyway with Okorocha is like comparing the wren with an eagle, metaphorically speaking. Obviously, the wren as one of the smallest of birds wish it could be like and fly like the eagle, the king of birds. Governor Okorocha is operating at a level that these men may only wish for. As he completes his tenure as the governor of Imo State, Okorocha stands out as the most suitable candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari should the latter decline to take another shot at the presidency come 2019. Onyeagucha and FFK can only hang around and pray for one appointment or the other to be dropped on their laps.

Onwuasoanya FCC Jones is an ordinary citizen of Imo State.



Abimbola Johnson

It is time again for Nigerians living abroad to think home. In the age of globalisation, Nigerians in the Diaspora do not have to return home to contribute to the development of their country. They can do so through several means and ways. And one of these is to subscribe to the Diaspora Bond issued by Nigeria’s Debt Management Office, DMO.

The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) on June 13, 2017, through the DMO, commenced road shows in the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland, for the country’s first Diaspora Bond of 300 million dollars.

The Director-General of the DMO, Dr. Abraham Nwankwo is leading the FGN delegation comprising representatives from the Central bank of Nigeria, Ministry of Finance to the roadshow. The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun is currently engaged with working details of the newly signed 2017 budget – hence her inability to lead the roadshow.

The nation’s debt office, DMO has already filed a registration statement for the bonds with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Documents sighted on the Diaspora Bond indicate that application would be made for the bonds to be admitted to the official list of the UK Listing Authority and the London Stock Exchange to ensure that the bonds were admitted to trading on the London Stock Exchange’s regulated market.

The document added that there would be a series of investors meetings in the UK, the U. S. and Switzerland from June 13. It further noted that pricing was expected to occur following the investor meetings and subject to market conditions. The bonds will be direct general obligations of Nigeria and will be denominated in U.S. dollars. The international Joint Lead Managers are Bank of America Merrill Lynch and The Standard Bank of South Africa Limited, while the Nigerian Joint Lead Managers are First Bank of Nigeria Limited and United Bank for Africa Plc.

So what are Diaspora Bonds? They are simply bonds issued by a country to its own citizens’ abroad (Diaspora) to tap in their wealth in the adopted developed countries. They are essentially a form of government debt that targets members of the national community abroad. Sale of the bond can be restricted solely to members of a particular nationality or opened to all buyers, with nationals receiving a preferential rate.

The bond represents an opportunity for cash-strapped developing countries to gain access to the financial resources of their citizens abroad, something that has been tried and tested by two countries with famously large and industrious diaspora populations- Israel and India. For governments that have large diaspora populations, the bonds provide an opportunity to tap into a capital market beyond international investors, foreign direct investment, or loans. It is an attractive source of funding for governments that have experienced difficulties raising money on the international market or attracting investment.

While Nigeria is not among countries unable to raise funds from the international markets or attract foreign investments, her citizens are among the largest, and perhaps the richest diaspora populations in the world. There are over 17 million Nigerians in The Diaspora who send money home annually for various reasons. The total remittances by such Nigerians ranks second to the proceeds from petroleum as foreign exchange earners.  United Kingdom and United States of America are said to have over two million Nigerians each.

According to the World Bank’s Migration and Remittances Fact book 2016, remittances from Nigerians living abroad hit $20.77 billion in 2015, making Nigeria the sixth largest recipient of remittances in the world.

The report says remittances to Nigeria rose every year over the last decade from $16.93 billion in 2006 to $20.83 billion in 2014. And in 2016, remittances by Nigerians abroad were over $35 billion. This was the highest in Africa and the third largest in the world.

The top two sources for Nigerian diaspora remittances in 2015 were the United States ($5.7 billion) and the United Kingdom ($3.7 billion).

Between 2011 and 2014, Nigerians in the Diaspora had remitted $63.17billion (N10.35trillion) into the country. Analysis of remittances showed that $11billion (N1.8trillion) was remitted in 2011, $21billion (N3.44trillion) in 2012, $20.77billion (N3.40trillion) in 2013 and $10.40billion (N1.7trillion) in the first half of 2014. The global top ten remittance recipients this year were India ($72.2bn), China ($63.9bn), the Philippines ($29.7bn), Mexico ($25.7bn), France ($24.6bn), Nigeria ($20.77bn), the Arab Republic of Egypt ($20.4bn), Pakistan ($20.1bn), Germany ($17.5bn), and Bangladesh ($15.8bn).

Nigeria tops the top ten remittance recipients in Africa with $20.77bn, followed by Ghana ($2.0bn), Senegal ($1.6bn), Kenya ($1.6bn), South Africa ($1.0bn), Uganda ($0.9bn), Mali ($0.9bn), Ethiopia ($0.6bn), Liberia ($0.5bn), and Sudan ($0.5bn).

This is a huge potential source of funding for Nigeria which has battled deficits in the national budgets in recent years. The DMO under the cerebral Dr. Abraham Nwankwo has hit another first-initiative with a potential to be a game changer. He is leading Nigeria to become the first African country to experiment with the Diaspora Bond.

It speaks to the synergy within the President Muhammadu Buhari’s cabinet that all are working together to realise the economic vision of the government. Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance, had hinted in February that the Diaspora Bond would be rolled out within the year. The National Assembly too was brought on board to support and approve it.

, Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora has also urged all Nigerians to take advantage of the first ever Diaspora offer by buying into the bond.

A statement from her office explained that the Diaspora Bond will be used to raise funds from Nigerians in the Diaspora to finance capital projects and provide an opportunity for them to participate in the development of the country.

She said her office as well as Nigerians in the Diaspora was excited as the first ever Diaspora Bond is being rolled out to the benefits of Nigerians. She noted that the issuance of the bond was a unique way of lubricating the interest of Nigerians in the Diaspora to participate in the developmental projects being carried out by the Buhari administration.


As part of measures to fund capital expenditures, the Federal Government had in February announced an offer of $1 billion Euro Bond under its newly-established $1 billion Global Medium Term Note programme. The DMO has also successfully launched a Federal Government Savings Bond (FGNSB).

Mrs. Johnson wrote in from Abuja.