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« Is a Drop of Oil Worth a Drop of Blood?- Part 1 | Main | America/Europe, Israel, Palestine, Hamas & Democracy »

March 27, 2006

There are Three Investment Ratings for Nigeria

by Farouk Martins, Omo Aresa --- Investment ratings are the best way to attract money to a Country, a project, or a cause. The way to grow out of poverty is through substantive investment, not promises. In an environment of relative peace and secured life, we may fit into these three investments: Paris Club ratings, Niger Delta Club ratings and Western Union Money transfer ratings.

Each of these generates foreign capitals, hard currency as we call it in Nigeria. So we should not be surprised at the celebration we witness recently in Abuja regarding FIS and S&P ratings. They were BBB or B minus, on par with a “respectable” junk bond or a little above. The celebration could have been even more but for those of us who know very little, wondering about the big deal on the previous jubilation. I did not see any celebration when we were rated the happiest people on Earth.

The best rating to attract business from another country or other parts of Nigeria is by providing safety for people’s dear lives, good roads, and good sanitation including clean water. You never know when wanton destruction of lives and property will rear its ugly head in Nigeria. We have the rating of being very religious in our back pocket, yet two foreign religions kill more in Nigeria than where these religions were imported from. Before the Slave Trade, one of the religions was used to spy and baptize us. Later to bless us as departing slaves. The other religion of Mohamed Ali from Egypt destroyed Great Sudan, while Songhai Empire was sacked by Moroccans. The killings for gold must stop.

It was a few years ago they were holding Ghana as the postal Country and Rawlings actually bragged about how far they had come only to find out that Ghana sold off its jewels in return for nothing but apologies about World Bank wrong policies in the developing Countries. Only those with extra cash or discretionary income, looted funds and money to blow would dare try this type of B rating investment portfolio even in Paris Club countries. Ghana had to ask Abacha who thumbed his nose at World Bank for loan.

Do not be fooled. Most people stay away from risky junk bonds and third world countries because of uncontrolled crime rate, unstable government, and endemic corrupt practices. In the case of Nigeria there are 419 and amenities that are taken for granted else where but are luxuries in my Country. Nevertheless, people do business in countries at war as long as the price is right. Others do business in unlikely places out of desperation. Take the case of mine workers or the night soil men who went against the activists trying to improve their working environment. There has to be real money or desperation to go to certain places for business. So Nigeria may not need BBB ratings to attract desperadoes.

According to Nuhu Ribadu when asked if he feared for his life, he said anyone living in Nigeria is taking a risk. Armed robbers can invade your space; take your life and property anytime. Our love for Nigeria is beyond comprehension. As for moi, as long as I can pump some water into the tank, fine. The best use of my car is to find water when I can not pump because of NEPA, oh PHC. Who am I anyway, what about those who are stuck or “world happiest” in Nigeria anytime? What rating from Fitch or S&P will change this?

What bothers me is the amount of effort that went into getting these ratings. We have to pay $13 billions plus commission of about $100.000.00 a month to foreign technical experts to help us navigate our way. We also have to sing, dance and wine them into favor. By the end of this wahala or rub my back I will rub your back, how much will flow into Nigeria? What dividend? You can not spend money you don’t have.

Right now we do not know the billions of dollars left from those Paris Club Countries that have forgiven the odious loan and those who still insist on payment, like Britain. Thanks to unrelenting Nigerian cries and pressure echoed on their members by religious bodies and International Non-Profit organizations. More pressure is needed because the way unmoved Nigerians leaders do business, corruption and commission of “technical experts” may eat up that difference! We are watching carefully, Ribadu please take note.

I have worked with some of the experts in Nigeria. They are a little above Peace Corps in the States or CUSO in Canada (Canadian Unemployed Shipped Overseas). Sorry Canada. Now we have them from India, China, and Russia etc. I once met one of these “technical experts” while in St. Louis, Missouri USA. He told me I could be making more money in Nigeria than wasting my time outside. He said there was money to be made in Nigeria as long as you could hold your nose. We could have been partners if I had cooperated. So I am not surprised that you can get a higher return in Nigeria than anywhere else in the world, going by recent Standard & Poor ratings. Gold diggers are still present in Nigeria!

However, our biggest and surest source of investment, Delta, gets no respect. Trillions of dollars that can never be made anywhere else has been made from that area. In order to get good ratings from Niger Delta Club, you would expect that we would sing, wine and dine our relatives there. Can they manage their 50% demand any worse than Abuja? One thing about Paris Club is that no matter what they think about our black ass, they will hold their nose and kiss it until the money runs dry. That is one of the qualities of a shrewd businessman. Somehow, we forget how we invested money and educated South Africans in our schools during the time of Apartheid, why not Boro’s and Wiwa’s Delta?

The third rating is from Nigerians performing all kinds of tasks to send money back home through Western Union and other means. They invest their money in Nigeria not because of what they can take out but because of what they can put in, the satisfaction of starting his own business. These are not JJCs who look for gira where they can get gari in Nigeria. These are Nigerians who contribute whatever they can into the Country.

All of us can not start a business, but we can still contribute in our own way. I had the opportunity to work with Dr. Adeniyi-Jones after he left international organizations. All he asked for was a small office space at UNICEF Marina, Lagos in order to contribute his expertise for the second time around.
Many Nigerians will certainly qualify as small business persons that create more jobs all over the world these days than the big corporations that are downsizing. Small business can turn as big as Microsoft, Federal Express, Google, KF Chicken, Ebony did in the US.

If you have sent money home recently to buy a land, start a foundation, send school fees, start a trade for a brother or sister, you are one of them. Others have gone further by opening repair shops, restaurants, stores, buy okada and taxi for a relative. The multiplier effects of each and every one of these are creation of jobs for some one who would buy and sell. It has now been estimated that the amount of money sent back home is more than all the foreign aids we get from Paris Club countries. Many developing countries can not survive without these transmittals. Where are their investment ratings?

You may have heard about trade fairs in Nigeria where the best foreign products are displayed and my Country has nothing to sell. Since we spend a great deal of money to attract foreign credit ratings and product, how about some of that money in the direction of Nigerians bringing their sweat equity home? Dedicated Nigerians will invest in our Country, no matter what, but we can still encourage them which will multiply the number of those doing good for their soul and their Country.

The amount of money you spend to attract business must not be more than the worth of business. Nigeria recruited farmers from East Africa to Kwara State because our talented indigenous farmers take incentives and spend it on intangibles. Lately some of the youth organizations are going into cooperative farming, like OPC farming in Kwara. There must be MASSOB, MEND, AREWA, BAKASSI BOYS cooperative farming too. Give them something to contribute instead of killing one another and watch our ratings soar!

One of the presidential candidates during the 1999 election promised to give loan/grants to those graduates who wanted to start businesses. Even if one third of them were successful, they would employ more people than all their colleagues plus many high school graduates. These are incentive that multiplies many times over.

Nigerians have to realize that it is not the money generated from the oil alone that will lift us out of poverty but what we do with our brains to invest in ourselves and trade with fellow Africans. It is only then that we can break world trade barriers. Japan and Korea are doing it. China and India are feeding their large population again.

I do not want to pretend that all these are easy; there are difficulties and road blocks on the way. I have stories about people sending money home only to become failed contracts. Some will not sell the products you bring until you leave. Even mothers would give your money to your siblings promising to pay you back if you complained too much.

Of course we have to trade with foreign companies and multinational corporations. India or China made a deal with Boeing for airplanes with stipulation for repair parts and training in the Country instead of flying them out. We have been producing oil for about half a century and we are still importing refined oil products. How much crude oil does it take to import the same amount of refined oil? African, Blackman what is wrong with us?

Posted by Administrator at March 27, 2006 02:23 AM

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