It's New Year Day 2013. Various stakeholders peer into the mint New Year and express significant optimism on its prospects for the Nigerian state, notwithstanding the multi-hued crises of the preceding 2012. LEADERSHIP gauges and presents a montage of positions by experts and ordinary folks.
In what appears to be a different symphony to last year's curtain raiser - subsidy removal, mass national protests and partial retreat by federal government - 2013 kicks off with high-octane intrigues by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as it chooses its board of trustees chairman.
As most final-term governors eye the senate or 'farms' ahead 2015, ambitious deputies quietly plot their ascendancy. With the PDP carefully watching, the three leading opposition political parties (Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigerian Peoples Party and the Congress for Progressive Change) secretly wooing deregistered parties are firming up their merger plans. The outcome of this strategic realignments - or lack of one - will certainly impact the outcome of 2015.
The opposition Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on New Year's eve assured Nigerians that the party would continue giving sleepless pill to the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) in its bid to make Nigeria a democratic nation in 2013.
Since the emergence of the party, the political theatre has stopped been business as usual as the party has been consistently and persistently keeping the government with the ruling party on its toes.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP yesterday, its spokesman, Lai Mohammed assured Nigerians that the party would not rest on its oars in its desire to ensure the dividends of democracy are made available to them better than the previous years.
"We would continue playing our role as the leading opposition party in the country with our robust participation in the debate of how to move this country forward. We would continue in our public watchdog role putting the ruling party on its toes advocating the ideal situation for the country, we would continue offering constructive criticism to the government and in doing so, we would refuse to be intimidated by the antics of some political jobbers.
"We would continue asking pertinent questions about where we are going, what the government is doing, where they are wrong we would not silent, we would talk to the people in the position of authorities and we would more importantly work hard with a view to taking over the mantle of leadership from the visionless PDP.
But for Senator Sunday Fajinmi, a PDP chieftain who served between 1999 and 2003, "the conspiracy of the opposition would collapse like a pack of cards. It has never worked in Nigeria right from 1960 to date and it would not work this around. They are just criticizing the PDP and the federal government in order to be relevant, when the electioneering campaign begins proper we would put them where they rightly belong. If they are as strong as they claim, there would not have been any need for their so-called merger talk."
Other key areas of expectation in the New Year include improved rapport between the presidency and National Assembly, positives from constitution review, more clarity on 2015, Federal government and governors' face-off and a more strategic response by the north to the festering security and socio-economic challenges hobbling the region.
Sports like every other sector had its fair share of challenges in the year 2012. The year 2013 will no doubt inherit some of the challenges. In football, the raging war between former NPL chairman, Chief Victor Rumson Baribote and the Nigerian Football Federation from all indication will continue this year. But the nation would be worst hit by its devastating effects.
The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) revealed it will focus more attention on the development of grassroots football. According to NFF board member, DrShehuAdamuin an interview with LEADERSHIP,"qualifying Nigeria for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil tops the priority list of NFF for 2013 even though this month Nigeria alongside 15 other African nations will be fighting for the continent's ultimate prize in football."
He said the football house will also continue in its training and retraining of coaches." With commitments and free from all forms of litigation, much is coming in terms of concentration on grassroots football development, hitch free leagues and making sure we qualify to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. We will also continue the training of Nigerian coaches and many other things. Generally, there will be an improvement over 2012 by the grace of God."
NFF president, AlhajiAminuMaigari expressed confidence that the new year (2013) will be even greater in terms of results on-field and accomplishments off it.
"The year 2012 was a happy one for Nigerian football, but I have conviction that the year 2013 would be even better. We are looking forward to great performances in a number of tournaments, and qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup among other objectives.
"It was not easy but hard work and perseverance ensured that we can look back on the year 2012 with broad smiles," Maigari said.
On the part of policy formulation for sports development, minister of sports and chairman National Sports Commission (NSC), MalamBolajiAbdullahi said the decision by the NSC, to throw subsequent National Sports Festivals open to all Nigerian athletes was to avail the country opportunity to reassess and know the exact capability of its athletes scattered all over the world when they come to prove themselves in such opportunity. Actualisation of this in 2013 will prepare grounds for its practicalisation in the next sports festival in Cross River State.
He said the NSC will kick start the National U-17 competition in 2013 to discover and nurture future talents for the country. "We are most concerned about talents discovery, and we will commence a talents discovery programme known as National U-17 competition for youth in secondary schools. Every athlete that distinguishes he or herself would be monitored and trained properly."
In basketball, the Nigerian national team will be hoping on consolidating on the 2012 London Olympics outing experience by winning the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in Cote d'Ivoire. Nigeria has never won the competition before at the men's category. On the continental rankings, Nigeria is second trailing Angola while Tunisia, Senegal and Cote d'Ivoire are third, fourth and fifth respectively. At the world scene Nigeria is ranked 17 trailing Angola and Croatia which are placed 15th and 16th respectively.
Nigeria Basketball Federation President, Tijjani Umar said told LEADERSHIP that its major priority is to win the Afro Nations Cup for keeps for a long time.
BUSINESS & ECONOMY
For many pundits, the year 2013 holds better prospect for growth in different areas of the economy despite the challenges faced by government in the last couple of years in providing adequate security, stable electricity, and tackling official corruption, job creation which stifled economic growth and affected investor confidence.
Analysts have said the year 2013 will likely resume on a nervous note. They said unless the United States economy is fixed, the Chinese economy saved from recession, and some miraculous events reverse the fortunes of the Euro crisis, Nigeria's economy in 2013 will see little growth.
In the United States, it is feared that business sentiment will suffer uncertainty regarding fiscal cliff. Major exporters to the US may suffer as its self-sufficiency in production of hydrocarbons would lead to less dependence on foreign imports.
Worse is the fact that the Euro-zone recession is expected to continue in 2013, with significant fiscal tightening expected. However, analysts are optimistic that Spain will likely ask for bailout from the European Central Bank (ECB) in 2013.
They said there is 30 per cent chance of a hard landing in China and the chances of stimulation are slim.
Doom's day analysts predict that the price of crude oil (Bonny) may crash to as low as $50 per barrel. This is because; Nigeria earns nearly 80 per cent of its revenue from crude oil.
KunleFaderon, an analyst in Lagos said there is no foreseeable circumstance that could bring oil prices down to $50. He said, in any of such circumstances, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) would pull strings to ensure survival.
The other side of the story is that the misfortune of countries in the Middle East could be a blessing for Nigeria's economy. In fact, analysts predict that crude oil prices could reach $140 per barrel with insecurityand further escalation of unrest in the region.
For instance, they say an attack on Iran by Israeli forces could be a booster to Nigeria's local economy because such a scenario will raise global crude oil demand.
Bismarck Rewane, chief executive of Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited said, he is optimistic that the extreme scenario may not apply. He believes that oil prices will remain volatile in 2013 with an average of $105 per barrel.
Wale Abe, chief executive of Financial Market Dealers Association of Nigeria (FMDA) agrees with Rewane that interest rates in 2013 will continue to be market driven.
He said MPR will likely be reduced from current level in view of lower inflationary threats in 2013.
But Rewane warned that possible removal of fuel subsidy will stall interest rate reduction due to possibility of high inflationary threat, while a partial subsidy removal will cause a rise in interest rates.
Rewane said that there is a 33 per cent probability that government will not remove subsidy, even when rising global oil price will increase subsidy cost.
From his projection, there is a greater possibility (58 percent) that government might partially remove fuel subsidy. He said government might favour this choice because it will improve public finance.
Experts also believe that the early passage of the budget by the National Assembly sends a clear signal that government is now showing more seriousness with the issue of governance.
Chief Executive Officer/Registrar, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Dr. Uju Ogubunka, said that though the Presidency is yet to assent to the budget, the National Assembly has at least, done what they are supposed to do. "That gives us hope that the government is becoming more serious. Hopefully, the Executive will go ahead starting from January 2nd to pursue the implementation of the budget as specified ensuring that focus is given to areas that would have positive multiplier effect on the economy," he said.
The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) also said the early passage of the 2013 Appropriation bill has heightened the prospect of improved budget implementation in the current year.
The NASS, December 20, passed the 2013 appropriation bill of N4.987trillion highlighting N387,976billion is for statutory transfers, N591,764 billion for debt servicing, N2,386,024,770,349 trillion is for recurrent expenditure, while capital expenditure is N1,621,455,655,252 trillion and N273 billion for subsidy reinvestment.
The budget promises to shrink the fiscal deficit, increase capital expenditure, reduce significantly the provision for domestic borrowing and introduce a N100 billion Sinking Fund to service debt obligations upon maturity.
A breakdown of the 2013 budget shows that Education got the highest figure of N428 billion followed by Defence with N348 billion, and the Police with N319 billion while the Health Sector received N279 billion.
Budget deficit/debt overhang
Another area with high expectations is for government to rein in excessive borrowing. The AIAE argued that domestic debt reduction, currently standing at $41 billion as at 30 September 2012 should be one of the major issues for the Nigerian economy in 2013.
Even the Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, NgoziOkonjo-Iweala agrees that government is also concerned about the current rise in debt.
However, she said the government has put in place a strategy for managing its local debt. "A well structured bond programme, based on need, has been put in place. Also, a sinking fund worth N100 billion has been put in place to retire bonds as they fall due. The government has also successfully slowed the borrowing flow by reducing local debt from N852 billion in 2011, to N747 billion in 2012. It is expected that it will be reduced to N727 billion in 2013."
Fitch and S&P upgraded their ratings of Nigeria, while Moody's (for the first time and without an invitation) gave a rating on Nigeria. These ratings were positive. Yield on Nigeria's euro bond has also dropped to 4.6 per cent from 6.2 per cent in January, 2012. All these improved ratings and prospects for Nigeria have taken place when the ratings for other countries were dropping.
These developments, Okonjo-Iweala stated, prove that there is growing investor confidence in Nigeria.
Nevertheless, the AIAE still believes there is more to be done. "In 2013 we will expect government to invest more resources into improving the investment climate and business environment as a basis to attract investors, particularly in those key sectors and in the feeder industries that will drive, grow and sustain the Nigerian economy going forward," it added.
Where to invest in 2013
The sector is the largest contributor to GDP at 40 per cent. Economic performance has been driven by activities in cocoa, sugar, poultry, grain and cassava production.
Huge investment opportunities exist in commodity trading, processing, equipment financing, trade finance. Policy support is expected to continue for producers and investors this year.
Rewane said rice, cocoa, and corn production will continue their strong, long-term growth performance. Expected risks are in the area of foreign exchange, interest rate movement, and global commodity decline.
The construction sector contributed an average of 2.3 per cent to GDP in 2012. With an annual growth rate of 12.51 percent, it is one of the fastest sectors in the economy, accounting for 69 per cent of fixed capital formation, implying that almost 70 per cent of the total net capital investment in Nigeria goes to the sector.
Opportunities in this sector are much because of the focus on infrastructural development by state and federal governments.
The sector contributed 2.78 per cent to GDP in 2012, with power generation hovering around 4,000 MW. But about 30 per cent is lost between generation and distribution.
Opportunity lies in large power supply gap, with power supply significantly below demand. There exists a strong policy framework and multilateral agency support for the reform process and reform of tariff structure to ensure efficient price system for power output. There is expected growth in power demand in the medium term. Power generation maintained a steady increase towards the end of 2012, rising from a generation peak of 4,321MW attained on August 31, 2012 to 4,349.7MW on December 17. It further rose from to 4,374.1MW on December 18 and peaked at 4,454.1MW on December 19 2012. An all time peak of 4,502.2MW was eventually attained on December 21, thereby surpassing the generation target of 4,500mw set for 2012.
The manufacturing sector
The national president of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Dr. Herbert AdemolaAjayi, in a chat with LEADERSHIP noted that the 2012 performance did not translate to any significant positive impact on the real sector of the economy and the citizenry.
He said for the business community, the challenges arising from unfriendly operating environment and infrastructural constraints, particularly in the areas of power and energy, and of course, security, which when summed up and added to other challenges economic and social ailments, would easily wipe out any gains or progress recorded in the manufacturing sector in 2012.
2013 ICT industry expectations
Stakeholders in the Nigerian Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry said they look forward to the fulfillment of the many promises and implementation of programmes in the new ICT National Road-map unveiled by the Ministry of Communications Technology.
These include the restructuring of the industry under the new national ICT policy which was approved in principle in August 2012 by President Goodluck Jonathan.
Other are the take-off of Mobile Number Portability (MNP), issuing of new telecom licences, implementation of a new national broadband policy, activation of the $15 million Nigerian Software Fund and Students Computer Ownership Scheme as well as the conclusion of the Simcard Registration exercise.
Chairman of Association of Licenced Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (Alton), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo said the industry expects the government to pay serious attention to security of telecommunications infrastructure with enactment of a law that will make ICT infrastructure Critical National Infrastructure as well as address multiple taxations imposed on telecom companies by federal, state and local governments.
Positioning aviation for growth
As we enter the New Year, stakeholders in the aviation industry are optimistic that the industry will witness significant growth as the government begins the implementation of some policies that seem favourable to the nation's aviation industry.
The airline industry is obviously the fundamental to the growth of the industry, and last year, the government took an important step to lessen the burden which has been weighing down the operations of indigenous airlines especially in the area of double taxation. Also, the travelling public stands to benefit in the area of passenger facilitation through the establishment of a national carrier, the actualisation of the aviation minister's Aerotropolis concept and the construction of modern terminal buildings in line with global standards.
Beginning this year, the airlines would start benefiting from the abolition of import duties and value added tax (VAT) on commercial aircraft and aircraft spares.
Though the plan by the federal government to establish a national carrier has yet to come to light, it is the expectation of industry stakeholders that this year, the industry will witness the birth of a national airline that will meet the aspiration of the travelling public.
The Aviation Minister, Princess Stella Oduah had in 2011 announced that the government would establish a national carrier in 2012.
Automation of revenue
The policy by the aviation minister to automate the revenue collection process of aviation agencies has been met with some opposition by the aviation workers unions. However, experts say it is in the interest of the industry and is the right way to go to avoid leakages and ensure accountability in revenue generation.
Captain Ibrahim Mshelia, chief executive officer of Mish Aviation said, "Automation generally is like introducing transparency and how can transparency be a bad thing? The world has changed now and automation is key to the development and sustenance of development in any nation".
Foreign investment drive
The Aviation Ministry last year embarked on a road show to some countries abroad including China, US, and Canada, an investment drive that will encourage foreign firms to invest in the nation's aviation industry. Though the trip generated a lot of controversy, with many actually stating that it was not in the nation's interest, it is believed by some that the industry will begin to reap some benefits from that venture. The ministry had last year released statements to the fact that the aviation ministry was able to sign Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with some firms in the countries visited.
The key projections for the health sector in 2013 targets improved level of political commitment to healthcare by all levels of government in Nigeria, especially by their personal patronage/utilization of public healthcare facilities in Nigeria, and improved healthcare funding/sectoral allocation to the health sector. A second is a policy restricting travels abroad (with tax payers' money) for medical care by political and public office holders, especially for medical conditions that can be readily treated in Nigeria.
For the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr Ado Mohammed, "My aspiration for the health sector in 2013 should be to improve overall health outcomes of Nigerians through provision of quality care at all levels. In specific terms, reduce medical tourism through unbundling of huge untapped potentials in in the private sector, repositioning of service delivery at state and local government levels for improved secondary and primary health services, more commitment by the last bastion of polio endemic states/LGAs to match federal determination and exemplary leadership to stop transmission of polio virus; tackling maternal health challenges through consolidation of the Midwifery Service Scheme and SURE-P funded maternal and child health project. States providing oversight on secondary and primary health care while federal government provides leadership.
Speaking also, the Director General, National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), Prof John Idoko said though the number of people on drugs has risen from 400,000 last year to 500,000 this year, he's hoping that in the next one or two years, he 'll reach half of those who are in urgent need of these drugs.
"About 1.5 million people require the drugs so we are hoping that we will reach about 750,000 in the next one year or two from contributions from PEPFAR, Global Fund and the federal government"
Similarly, he disclosed that the number of testing sites has increased. "Our goal was to test about 2 and a half million, this year may be between 20 and 24 million. We are very far from that but we are making some steady progress. This year, about 2 to 3 million people were tested and we were aiming for 5 million. But we are hoping that as we go into next year, we will improve because we have also consolidated our way of doing things. One of the areas we are likely to gain from is that from next year, PEPFAR is likely to take over all the test kits as far as donors are concerned. So Global Fund and PEPFAR will come together. We've also empowered the states to work through their plan and use the World Bank credit to buy test kits in a centralized pool so we are hoping that will raise the number of people that are tested and that is critical because if you don't know those who are positive, you cannot just be offering drugs. "
And according to the president of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), DrOsahonEnabulele: "With sustained efforts and sincere commitment by the political leaders to good governance and participatory leadership, altruistic and constructive disposition of all health professionals and transparent support by other stakeholders, coupled with the expected passage of the National Health Bill, I expect 2013 to be better than 2012.