macroafricaintel | Nigeria – Deal with Onnoghen matter after the polls

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

In January, Walter Onnoghen, Nigeria’s chief justice, was served with charges for failing to declare certain domestic foreign currency accounts. Ordinarily, such matters would be handled by the National Judicial Council, the watchdog for judges, before further steps are taken, if at all. At least, so it was thought. Arguments have been raised since then suggesting that may not necessarily be the case when the allegations are criminal or in the judge’s personal capacity. In any case, that is a matter for the legal system to resolve.

Considering how crucial the upcoming elections are, and the important role the judiciary would likely play in them, many wonder if the beleaguered judge is not being hounded out of office to make way for someone more acceptable to the Muhammadu Buhari administration. Like the president, the next in line to the embattled chief justice is a Northern Muslim. Mr Onnoghen is a Christian southerner.

There is precedence for these concerns. The chiefs of the army, airforce, intelligence, police, customs, immigration, electoral commission, to mention a few, are Northern Muslims.

President Buhari was not quick to appoint Mr Onnoghen to the top of the judicial profession. He did so only after tremendous pressure. Recent events suggest the matter was likely never put to rest. That is even as Mr Buhari was reportedly caught unawares by the development.

To be clear, no one is above the law. The chief justice can be petitioned, charged and prosecuted. And there is an abundance of laws and process to ensure he faces the music should he be found culpable. But a development that could potentially lead to the resignation of the chief justice or his removal just a month to the polls is very suspicious indeed.

Still, it must be borne in mind that senior judges have been prosecuted in other jurisdictions. A more recent and perhaps most relevant example is the case of Philomena Mwilu, the deputy chief justice of Kenya, who is currently under prosecution for corruption. In her case, she appeared in court as scheduled in the full glare of cameras before later securing reprieve over the jurisdiction of the lower court which docked her.

Thus, there is nothing wrong with the chief justice appearing before the Code of Conduct Tribunal or any other legal venue. For the avoidance of doubt, the complications in respect of this matter relate to the timing and due-process of the law.

It is hard to justify any benefit to the polity from clearly attempting to remove the most senior judicial officer in the land, who would be a key adjudicator in election disputes, just a month to the polls. In fact, the action has the potential of heightening regional tensions.

Incidentally, the president might have been done a great disservice. The outcry by the main opposition party that he desires a dictatorship and a return of northern hegemony has been given greater credence by this recent event.

Now that the legal due-process has been put back on track, the advocacy now is that whatever action is to be taken be deferred till after the polls.

macroafricaintel | INEC has a trust problem

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

There is a raging controversy about the familial relationship between Amina Bala Zakari, a commissioner at Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and President Muhammadu Buhari. The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alleges she is a niece to Mr Buhari. Quite swiftly, the administration refuted the claim forcefully. Amidst the back and forth, INEC chief Mahmood Yakubu also waded in. In response to a question by a journalist, he wondered how the embattled commissioner could be considered a blood relation of the president if their states of origin are different. Her family also came out to declare that their daughter is not related to the president. They did not lie. But they also did not say the entire truth.

She is family
A thorough investigation by Premium Times, an online newspaper, reveals there is some affinity between Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari. True, there is no blood relationship like the PDP alleges. And clearly in this regard, the PDP exaggerated a great deal. Still, it has been established, even by the admission of the presidency, that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari are related by virtue of inter-marriage between their extended families. And at some point during Mr Buhari’s younger years, he reportedly resided with the family of the electoral commissioner. It has also been reported that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari worked together in the past. In the African context, and especially in the Northern tradition, Mrs Zakari would be considered family in Mr Buhari’s home and vice versa.

That said, it has also been revealed that the president had little or nothing to do with Mrs Zakari’s appointment to the electoral commissionership. Contrary to popular discourse, she was not recommended to the position by Mr Buhari. A respectable member of civil society revealed to a reputable television station that he was privy to the proceedings that led to her appointment. According to him, it was Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai who recommended Mrs Zakari for the commissionership and in fact personally handed her resume to him for submission to former president Goodluck Jonathan, who was head of state at the time. The same civil society luminary also insists that as far as he understood the meaning of the word “niece”, Mrs Zakari was indeed a niece to Mr Buhari via the marriage bond. In any case, the close association between Mr El-Rufai and Mr Buhari, and the history both gentlemen share with the unassuming Mrs Zakari, makes her conflicted.

But what was the cause of the initial uproar? And why now? After all, Mrs Zakari was appointed by Mr Jonathan of the then ruling PDP, which is now in opposition. Eyebrows are raised now because Mrs Zakari was recently appointed to the headship of a “collation centre committee”, supposedly tasked with ensuring that all the logistical needs of the “collation centre” for the upcoming elections are adequately taken care of. My view on hearing the news of the appointment was that it was a brazen and insensitive move. And even after the revelations and investigations that ensued, my view remains unchanged. Mrs Zakari is a controversial choice for such a potentially influential role. It is also highly unlikely that the INEC chief was caught unawares by the controversy the move generated.

Mr Yakubu, a professor of history, likely knew the implications of appointing her to what ordinarily would be a logistics function but could be misconstrued to mean more; and could in fact be more. Besides, as the commission already has a proper organisational structure which covers operations and the like, there was really no need for the creation of an adhoc “collation centre committee”. True, as the INEC chief insists, Mrs Zakari would not be involved in the process of collation itself. That job is exclusively his as the chief returning officer. But this is Nigeria. And since the experienced Nigerian academic rose through the complicated Nigerian system, he is certainly not naïve to the point of not knowing the potential interpretation and consequences of the controversial appointment.

No guarantees
It is important to point out at this point that this controversy is raging against the backdrop of Mr Buhari’s refusal to sign what has been adjudged a superb amendment to the current electoral law that would make our elections better. And while the Zakari controversy was still raging, INEC’s Yakubu revealed there would not be a full electronic transmission of results. Why? A backing in law is required. A pilot electronic collation would be done, however. As it stands right now, so much flexibility has been built into the electoral process that incumbents, should they choose to, would be able to steer the process in their favour.

Do the needful
In light of the foregoing, can INEC be trusted to deliver free and fair elections? No one can say for sure. There are a couple of things the electoral body could do to reduce fears of potential bias, however. There should probably not be a collation centre committee in the first place. It should be disbanded. As Mrs Zakari is clearly conflicted albeit largely adjudged to be competent, she should be assigned to a commissionership that would not involve direct participation in the electoral process or put her in a position to affect the outcome, if she chooses to, in a material way. Should she resign? No. And considering the commission has decided the transmission of results would not be electronic, it should do its utmost to ensure that the collation of results at each stage of the electoral process is done in the presence of all relevant stakeholders such that a parallel collation of results by non-INEC bodies would be no different from its own.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. https://businessday.ng/columnist/rafiq-raji/article/inec-has-a-trust-problem/

macroafricaintel | INEC has a trust problem

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

There is a raging controversy about the familial relationship between Amina Bala Zakari, a commissioner at Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), and President Muhammadu Buhari. The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alleges she is a niece to Mr Buhari. Quite swiftly, the administration refuted the claim forcefully. Amidst the back and forth, INEC chief Mahmood Yakubu also waded in. In response to a question by a journalist, he wondered how the embattled commissioner could be considered a blood relation of the president if their states of origin are different. Her family also came out to declare that their daughter is not related to the president. They did not lie. But they also did not say the entire truth.

She is family
A thorough investigation by Premium Times, the online newspaper that publishes this column, reveals there is some affinity between Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari. True, there is no blood relationship like the PDP alleges. And clearly in this regard, the PDP exaggerated a great deal. Still, it has been established, even by the admission of the presidency, that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari are related by virtue of inter-marriage between their extended families. And at some point during Mr Buhari’s younger years, he reportedly resided with the family of the electoral commissioner. It has also been reported that Mrs Zakari and Mr Buhari worked together in the past. In the African context, and especially in the Northern tradition, Mrs Zakari would be considered family in Mr Buhari’s home and vice versa.

That said, it has also been revealed that the president had little or nothing to do with Mrs Zakari’s appointment to the electoral commissionership. Contrary to popular discourse, she was not recommended to the position by Mr Buhari. A respectable member of civil society revealed to a reputable television station that he was privy to the proceedings that led to her appointment. According to him, it was Kaduna state governor Nasir El-Rufai who recommended Mrs Zakari for the commissionership and in fact personally handed her resume to him for submission to former president Goodluck Jonathan, who was head of state at the time. The same civil society luminary also insists that as far as he understood the meaning of the word “niece”, Mrs Zakari was indeed a niece to Mr Buhari via the marriage bond. In any case, the close association between Mr El-Rufai and Mr Buhari, and the history both gentlemen share with the unassuming Mrs Zakari, makes her conflicted.

But what was the cause of the initial uproar? And why now? After all, Mrs Zakari was appointed by Mr Jonathan of the then ruling PDP, which is now in opposition. Eyebrows are raised now because Mrs Zakari was recently appointed to the headship of a “collation centre committee”, supposedly tasked with ensuring that all the logistical needs of the “collation centre” for the upcoming elections are adequately taken care of. My view on hearing the news of the appointment was that it was a brazen and insensitive move. And even after the revelations and investigations that ensued, my view remains unchanged. Mrs Zakari is a controversial choice for such a potentially influential role. It is also highly unlikely that the INEC chief was caught unawares by the controversy the move generated.

Mr Yakubu, a professor of history, likely knew the implications of appointing her to what ordinarily would be a logistics function but could be misconstrued to mean more; and could in fact be more. Besides, as the commission already has a proper organisational structure which covers operations and the like, there was really no need for the creation of an adhoc “collation centre committee”. True, as the INEC chief insists, Mrs Zakari would not be involved in the process of collation itself. That job is exclusively his as the chief returning officer. But this is Nigeria. And since the experienced Nigerian academic rose through the complicated Nigerian system, he is certainly not naïve to the point of not knowing the potential interpretation and consequences of the controversial appointment.

No guarantees
It is important to point out at this point that this controversy is raging against the backdrop of Mr Buhari’s refusal to sign what has been adjudged a superb amendment to the current electoral law that would make our elections better. And while the Zakari controversy was still raging, INEC’s Yakubu revealed there would not be a full electronic transmission of results. Why? A backing in law is required. A pilot electronic collation would be done, however. As it stands right now, so much flexibility has been built into the electoral process that incumbents, should they choose to, would be able to steer the process in their favour.

Do the needful
In light of the foregoing, can INEC be trusted to deliver free and fair elections? No one can say for sure. There are a couple of things the electoral body could do to reduce fears of potential bias, however. There should probably not be a collation centre committee in the first place. It should be disbanded. As Mrs Zakari is clearly conflicted albeit largely adjudged to be competent, she should be assigned to a commissionership that would not involve direct participation in the electoral process or put her in a position to affect the outcome, if she chooses to, in a material way. Should she resign? No. And considering the commission has decided the transmission of results would not be electronic, it should do its utmost to ensure that the collation of results at each stage of the electoral process is done in the presence of all relevant stakeholders such that a parallel collation of results by non-INEC bodies would be no different from its own.

macroafricaintel | Shagari: Lessons for Buhari

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

In the concluding days of the year just past, former Nigerian president Shehu Shagari was put to rest in the Islamic fashion. Some fellow Muslims wondered about the filming and photographing of the humble man’s grave. They were speaking from the pedestal of what they knew. Most Islamic clerics take on the responsibility of censoring their pronouncements to avoid the risk that should the wider and bigger picture be presented as it is, there might be misinterpretation.

Broaden your understanding
To the extent of my understanding, the privacy that was the former president’s right were those rites that were not done in the public eye. A camera is analogous to a pair of eyes. The proper context is whether the rites that were filmed are allowed to be seen with the naked eye in the Islamic context. There is no argument there. The other potential misunderstanding is about the propriety of pictures. I do not subscribe to that interpretation. That which I subscribe to is whether what you are viewing is good or bad. And what you do with pictures. Besides, the sobering effect of how death equalises the high and the low epitomised by the Islamic mode of burial is of greater consideration than any other.

There is tremendous utility to be derived from the recent death of the former president. And the manner in which he was buried. Mr Shagari lived a simple life. And he was buried in the simple Islamic way. If he had lived an opulent life, as a Muslim, he would still have been buried in the same simple Islamic manner. The lesson is for our current leaders who do all sorts of despicable things to acquire and wield power. And judging from our developmental evolution thus far, they have not done so entirely for the benefit of our Commonwealth.

Unfortunately, many of them would not take the lesson. They are likely to continue their nefarious ways.

The parallel
The history that Mr Shagari and President Muhammadu Buhari share is well-known. I do not suppose there was much angst between them as is publicly perceived. The strife that leaders must endure to rise to their elevated positions grants them unusual insight and understanding not available to most people.

What Mr Shagari and Mr Buhari share is simplicity. Judging from all that is evident, Mr Shagari was clearly a man of meagre means. In other words, the pilferage of our Commonwealth that occurred under his watch in the 1980s were not likely to his benefit. But as leader, he was responsible. And I suppose this was likely a source of tremendous regret for him later in life.

Those who desire a comfortable life in the hereafter know to run away from positions of authority. This is because the likelihood that you would make heaven is tremendously diminished in the aftermath. Mr Shagari was severally investigated by the incumbent president while a military head of state. If something could be found, General Buhari would have found it. But like he probably thought, that did not vindicate him from any responsibility for the sheer malfeasance that occurred back then.

But that is history; the only benefit of which is to learn from past mistakes. Incidentally, there is a bizarre parallel between Mr Buhari’s current stint in government and Mr Shagari’s back then. True, there is relatively less corruption now. But to simply dismiss murmurings about some level of ‘business as usual’ under the current goverment would be tantamount to not learning from our past mistakes.

Make heaven
My point? Should Mr Buhari win again, he should devote all of his energy towards leaving a lasting legacy where in a Nigeria, institutions matter more than the individual, due-process is taken for granted, and anyone, low- or high-born, can aspire to the greatest heights and succeed.

macroafricaintel | The experience of female Uber drivers in Lagos

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

The odds that you would happen on a female Uber driver in Lagos are slim. Still, Nigeria is not Saudi Arabia; women are free to do whatever they like here. Well, mostly. And if you make the error of thinking they could not drive any better than their male counterparts, kindly try fighting for right of way with a woman in Lagos traffic. Needless to say, you may hesitate to do so next time. There are probably as many women as there are men on Lagos roads. Women at the wheel of public transport vehicles are not as many. It is not the norm. So even as there are many of them driving all sorts of vehicles in their private capacity, from those with little engines to the ubiquitous sport utility vehicles (SUVs), it is still a novelty to find female chauffeurs. If there are, they would certainly be reluctant to work for men. And their fellow women are not likely to hire them. Wives would certainly shudder at the thought in these parts. And even Uber itself found out all too quickly how difficult it was to secure cars from “partners” (car owners) for their few female drivers. That is, when the firm used to facilitate the connection. Now, it does not. At least, that is what Blessing Onuh, one of the ride-sharing firm’s first female drivers in Lagos says.

“I was actually the first female Uber [driver] that went for the exams…there were more than hundred guys and I was the only lady…they actually thought I was one of the officials.” A few years ago, having just arrived from Abuja, after being let go at a government job over there, Blessing took an interest in being an Uber driver after taking a ride with one. She applied, did the training and eventually got a car. That last bit did not come about easily. Many of the car owners she approached turned her down for no other reason than she was a woman. “Women have issues”, was the typical refrain. As Blessing herself admits, many potential riders would cancel their trips the moment they see her picture. When asked how she knew this, she says since she is able to tell from the app if she is the only driver in an area, if a potential rider cancels a trip persistently, there could be only one reason why. Turns out a couple of those who did choose to take a ride with her sometimes did so for mischievous reasons. One was “laughing and touching my lap” during a trip, she vouchsafes. Even as she stood firm against his advances, he persisted. Eventually, she stopped the car and confronted him. He got the message. Even then, the male rider was furious. He wondered how she could be indifferent to the “dollars” he was flashing, his long custom that day already and so on. “If you don’t want it, you say you don’t want it”, was his final remonstration. Turns out male drivers also get sexually harrassed. Some female riders, upon reaching their destinations, would instead of paying the fare, offer to pay in kind, Blessing reveals, confirming views from an earlier interview with one of her male colleagues, who says he never took anyone of them up on the offer.

But surely she must have liked some of the riders who made advances at her, and perhaps dated one? After a while, she admits to having dated one. He was not like the others who would say “come to my house!” at the slightest chance, she says with a chuckle. “That ‘come to my house’ is so annoying”, she adds. Let us just say she thought this one was a gentleman and was vindicated afterwards by how he treated her; going on interesting dates and so on. It did not last, though. What happened? “I did not have time for that relationship” On a date one time, while watching a movie at the cinema, Blessing glanced at her phone and understandably, perused an ongoing chat in the Uber group (there are many) on Whatsapp she was a member of. Something caught her attention: a driver announced he had just made a huge sum from a trip. She stood up and left for the door. “I just told him I’m coming I want to use the restroom”. She did not go to the bathroom. Blessing went back to work. Of course, she lost the gentleman. Like her male colleagues, she has mouths to feed, school fees to pay for siblings and so on. And like everybody else, her fixation on her economic goals have come at a personal cost. But how safe is it for a female Uber driver in Lagos? Has she been attacked before? “I have been harrassed, they blocked me. But they didn’t take anything because I fought back. I lost a fingernailWe got to Yaba, an isolated area, so I told him the price, 2000 something, he was likegive me your phone,’ I laughed, I thought maybe now, maybe he is trying to crack me up or scare me”. No, he was not. Her friends told her she should give up her phone next time. Blessing insists “anything that has to do with my money, I have to fight for it.”

Apart from driving for Uber, Blessing also drives clients to locations outside Lagos. Asked if she is ever worried about the risks. She takes precautions, working only with people she has known for a while or referred to by trusted acquaintances. And at the destination, she lodges at a different hotel from the client. As many females would admit, most men in Lagos would make advances at women they find attractive; especially one whose details they already have via the Uber app. Harassment is rare, however. But with their phone numbers in hand, Blessing and the other few female drivers get a barrage of calls. Solution? She keeps two phones. And for the business line, she blocks the errant male callers. Ironically, it is the female riders that tend to be more problematic. “I don’t talk to drivers”, goes one. And when making requests, some do so at the top of their voice, barely hiding their disdain. “Transferred aggression” is what Blessing calls it. Cash in hand afterwards, Blessing could care less. It is a hustle. It must be a lucrative venture, then. Not as much as before, she admits. Uber used to take a lower cut of their earnings before. But yes, it still pays the bills. In a good week, she could earn as much as 100 thousand naira. A bad week is when she earns half as much. Out of that amount, she makes a weekly payment of 30 thousand naira to fulfil her hire purchase agreement obligations. The car would be hers after she completes the payments.

Any future plans? Wouldn’t she rather do something else? Does she not want to settle down? And clearly there are not many Nigerian men, if any, that would allow her continue as an Uber driver after taking their vows. Most female Uber drivers are single or divorced with kids. She would not mind being a housewife if she finds a good husband, Blessing admits. As the retail business interests her, a supermarket might be something she would try her hands on. She could also buy cars for drivers to make payments to her, become a “partner”, that is. Does Uber provide any support for its female drivers? There is a “Woman week”, Blessing says. But she believes they could do much more.

An edited version was published by New African magazine in December 2018

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays). See link viz. https://www.businessdayonline.com/columnist/rafiq-raji/article/experience-female-uber-drivers-lagos/

macroafricaintel | The experience of female Uber drivers in Lagos

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

The odds that you would happen on a female Uber driver in Lagos are slim. Still, Nigeria is not Saudi Arabia; women are free to do whatever they like here. Well, mostly. And if you make the error of thinking they could not drive any better than their male counterparts, kindly try fighting for right of way with a woman in Lagos traffic. Needless to say, you may hesitate to do so next time. There are probably as many women as there are men on Lagos roads. Women at the wheel of public transport vehicles are not as many. It is not the norm. So even as there are many of them driving all sorts of vehicles in their private capacity, from those with little engines to the ubiquitous sport utility vehicles (SUVs), it is still a novelty to find female chauffeurs. If there are, they would certainly be reluctant to work for men. And their fellow women are not likely to hire them. Wives would certainly shudder at the thought in these parts. And even Uber itself found out all too quickly how difficult it was to secure cars from “partners” (car owners) for their few female drivers. That is, when the firm used to facilitate the connection. Now, it does not. At least, that is what Blessing Onuh, one of the ride-sharing firm’s first female drivers in Lagos says.

“I was actually the first female Uber [driver] that went for the exams…there were more than hundred guys and I was the only lady…they actually thought I was one of the officials.” A few years ago, having just arrived from Abuja, after being let go at a government job over there, Blessing took an interest in being an Uber driver after taking a ride with one. She applied, did the training and eventually got a car. That last bit did not come about easily. Many of the car owners she approached turned her down for no other reason than she was a woman. “Women have issues”, was the typical refrain. As Blessing herself admits, many potential riders would cancel their trips the moment they see her picture. When asked how she knew this, she says since she is able to tell from the app if she is the only driver in an area, if a potential rider cancels a trip persistently, there could be only one reason why. Turns out a couple of those who did choose to take a ride with her sometimes did so for mischievous reasons. One was “laughing and touching my lap” during a trip, she vouchsafes. Even as she stood firm against his advances, he persisted. Eventually, she stopped the car and confronted him. He got the message. Even then, the male rider was furious. He wondered how she could be indifferent to the “dollars” he was flashing, his long custom that day already and so on. “If you don’t want it, you say you don’t want it”, was his final remonstration. Turns out male drivers also get sexually harrassed. Some female riders, upon reaching their destinations, would instead of paying the fare, offer to pay in kind, Blessing reveals, confirming views from an earlier interview with one of her male colleagues, who says he never took anyone of them up on the offer.

But surely she must have liked some of the riders who made advances at her, and perhaps dated one? After a while, she admits to having dated one. He was not like the others who would say “come to my house!” at the slightest chance, she says with a chuckle. “That ‘come to my house’ is so annoying”, she adds. Let us just say she thought this one was a gentleman and was vindicated afterwards by how he treated her; going on interesting dates and so on. It did not last, though. What happened? “I did not have time for that relationship” On a date one time, while watching a movie at the cinema, Blessing glanced at her phone and understandably, perused an ongoing chat in the Uber group (there are many) on Whatsapp she was a member of. Something caught her attention: a driver announced he had just made a huge sum from a trip. She stood up and left for the door. “I just told him I’m coming I want to use the restroom”. She did not go to the bathroom. Blessing went back to work. Of course, she lost the gentleman. Like her male colleagues, she has mouths to feed, school fees to pay for siblings and so on. And like everybody else, her fixation on her economic goals have come at a personal cost. But how safe is it for a female Uber driver in Lagos? Has she been attacked before? “I have been harrassed, they blocked me. But they didn’t take anything because I fought back. I lost a fingernailWe got to Yaba, an isolated area, so I told him the price, 2000 something, he was likegive me your phone,’ I laughed, I thought maybe now, maybe he is trying to crack me up or scare me”. No, he was not. Her friends told her she should give up her phone next time. Blessing insists “anything that has to do with my money, I have to fight for it.”

Apart from driving for Uber, Blessing also drives clients to locations outside Lagos. Asked if she is ever worried about the risks. She takes precautions, working only with people she has known for a while or referred to by trusted acquaintances. And at the destination, she lodges at a different hotel from the client. As many females would admit, most men in Lagos would make advances at women they find attractive; especially one whose details they already have via the Uber app. Harassment is rare, however. But with their phone numbers in hand, Blessing and the other few female drivers get a barrage of calls. Solution? She keeps two phones. And for the business line, she blocks the errant male callers. Ironically, it is the female riders that tend to be more problematic. “I don’t talk to drivers”, goes one. And when making requests, some do so at the top of their voice, barely hiding their disdain. “Transferred aggression” is what Blessing calls it. Cash in hand afterwards, Blessing could care less. It is a hustle. It must be a lucrative venture, then. Not as much as before, she admits. Uber used to take a lower cut of their earnings before. But yes, it still pays the bills. In a good week, she could earn as much as 100 thousand naira. A bad week is when she earns half as much. Out of that amount, she makes a weekly payment of 30 thousand naira to fulfil her hire purchase agreement obligations. The car would be hers after she completes the payments.

Any future plans? Wouldn’t she rather do something else? Does she not want to settle down? And clearly there are not many Nigerian men, if any, that would allow her continue as an Uber driver after taking their vows. Most female Uber drivers are single or divorced with kids. She would not mind being a housewife if she finds a good husband, Blessing admits. As the retail business interests her, a supermarket might be something she would try her hands on. She could also buy cars for drivers to make payments to her, become a “partner”, that is. Does Uber provide any support for its female drivers? There is a “Woman week”, Blessing says. But she believes they could do much more.

An edited version was published by New African magazine in December 2018

macroafricaintel | Reporter’s Notebook – In support of the northeast

By Rafiq Raji, PhD
Twitter: @DrRafiqRaji

In mid-November, I covered the launch of the “Nigeria Humanitarian Fund – Private Sector Initiative” (NHF PSI) in Lagos for London-based African Business magazine. Edward Kallon, the United Nations (UN) resident/humanitarian coordinator in Nigeria, calls it a “global first” and says it “provides a blueprint for private sector engagement in humanitarian action through a country-based pooled fund set up and managed by the United Nations.” The NHF PSI is primarily aimed at funding the relief efforts in northeast Nigeria, where over 7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. Having already secured more than $70 million in contributions from 17 countries, the launch in Lagos was to get private sector actors to contribute their quota.

In attendance were representatives of numerous non-governmental organisations (NGOs) operating in the region, chief executives of banks and oil firms, ambassadors, politicians, and so on. I struck conversations with at least three of the NGO-types in the room. A major point that kept coming up was corruption. There have been quite a lot of money from donors towards helping the victims of the violence in the northeast. Not nearly enough, of course. Sadly, an ample portion of the little that there is never gets to the actual people in need.

The lower house of the federal legislature recently raised concerns about the seeming pilferage of humanitarian assistance for the northeast. Their focus was on government expenditure via the emergency agency, however. And while the motive of their investigations was likely also political, there is genuine concern. Those who have visited the internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in their camps express shock at their plight. They wonder how after so much resources were supposedly put towards assisting IDPs, they could still be in such deplorable circumstances.

There has not been similar controversy around the humanitarian efforts of NGOs, private-sector actors and multilateral organisations. What they have in transparency and efficiency, they lack in scale, however. In other words, while the NHF PSI is likely to avoid some of the problems found to be associated with the government’s efforts, it would require much more heft to have a huge impact.

Thankfully, there were generous pledges by the many deep pockets at the launch of the NHF PSI. I am also aware that the Lagos Business School Alumni Association (LBSAA), the governing council of which I am a member, plans to help out in the northeast as well. As do many other similarly-minded bodies in the country.

Still, you do not have to be wealthy to help out. Every raised voice in advocacy for more relief efforts in the region matters. And the ubiquity of social media means almost everyone can add their voice to the cause relatively cheaply.

Voices must also be raised about the welfare of our men and women in uniform. If they are not able to secure the region, there can be no meaningful humanitarian assistance to the displaced. The recent killing of soldiers by terrorists in the region should be a wake-up call to the government not to become complacent. Our soldiers should be well-equipped and kitted to perform their patriotic duty. Their salaries and welfare packages must be paid in full and on time.

Another set of people I had a chat with at the launch were some young medics. It was not long before they started bemoaning the state of the country. I was a little bemused. After all, they were employed. Naturally, they want more. And they were convinced their chances would be better abroad. England, America and Canada were top choices. Having travelled a bit myself, I tried to convince them that things are not as rosy over there as they think. Silence would have been golden.

Also published in my BusinessDay Nigeria newspaper column (Tuesdays).