Enugu State is hosting a summit from 12 to 14 April. They have tagged it “Oganiru 2016”. Their website claims “Enugu is open for business”. But the summit is only open for those that are willing to part with the 26,000 naira ($125.50) registration fee.
“Oganiru” means “moving forward” or “progress” in Igbo. It is not quite clear how “progressive” a summit can be when it excludes the majority of the people of Enugu because of the prohibitive cost of attending. But the list of top government functionaries in attendance is likely to encourage those seeking to profit from government business to pay the fee.
Not deterred by such niceties, the organisers claim that “Enugu is on the move” and the summit will be addressing issues such as “improving food security”, “creating an industrial and economic powerhouse”, “building Nigeria’s manufacturing hub”, “tourism and hospitality”, and “power generation”.
The organisers clam the summit “is a platform through which the government of Enugu State seeks to collaborate with the private sector to promote enterprise and improve economic productivity”. They didn’t tell us how much organising this “platform” was costing the people of Enugu. Maybe they should have invited me to speak on the importance of transparency in investment.
The money spent hosting it would have been put to better use in providing the basics such as running water to homes in Enugu and beyond. Water is so crucial to human existence, yet a summit about investment in a state in which the majority do not have access to running water ignores this critical infrastructure. The UN estimates that dirty water kills more than war, with about 5,000 children dying a day due to waterborne diseases. The Stockholm International Water Institute claims that for every dollar invested in water supply, $3-34 would be gained in the health, agricultural and industrial sectors.
In the late 1800s, by increasing access to the public water supply system in the UK, 15 years was added to life expectancy in the country. Today life expectancy in the UK is 81.5 years, while it is 52.11 in Nigeria. Investment in water supply means a healthier population that lives longer and it also boosts a nation’s productivity because resources spent treating water-borne diseases can be diverted to more productive activities, and the time spent collecting water can be used for other purposes.
Yet, neither the Enugu State government nor the organisers of “Oganiru 2016” considered the provision of pipe-borne water to even the capital city important in a summit about industrialisation and progress!
Invited speakers include Minister for Power Babatunde Fashola, Minister for Trade and Industry Okey Enelamah, Minister for Science and Technology Ogbonnaya Onu, former Minister for Power Barth Nnaji, Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu, the Governor of Sokoto State and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal and others. Many of these people have directly and indirectly contributed to why Nigeria (including Enugu) is not an “industrial and economic powerhouse” and a “manufacturing hub”.
Fashola is currently drowning in a pool of his own incompetence as Minister for Power with poor electricity supply crippling the economy and he has been renamed the “Minister for Darkness”. What has he got to offer Enugu when he can’t offer Nigeria the basics such as electricity? Industrialisation is near impossible without stable electricity. Many manufacturers have left Nigeria due to the high cost of production involved in having to provide your own generators.
Tambuwal was a lawless lawmaker, who scaled a fence when he was locked out of the House of Reps, and is now coming to talk about “investment”. Nothing attracts investment more than law and order. The only thing Tambuwal has attracted in politics is a lot of money for himself.
Ogbonnaya Onu’s claim to infamy as Science and Technology minister was his pronouncement that Nigeria will start producing pencils in two years time. This is not exactly the stuff of which “manufacturing hubs” are made.
Barth Nnaji had to quit as Minister for Power because of a blatant conflict in interest. His energy company was going to benefit from policies he was peddling as a minister. Such sharp practices would not benefit Enugu and it is likely that Nnaji would also be peddling ideas at the summit that benefit his company.
What good has Ike Ekweremadu been for Enugu in his many years as Deputy Senate President and representing Enugu West in the Senate? He has done very well for himself, rising from a lowly assistant to then Enugu State governor Chimaroke Nnamani to a multimillionaire with a property portfolio that spans choice locations in Enugu, Abuja and London. Selfish politicians shouldn’t be talking to Enugu folks about investment when they have benefited from the misery of their people.
What has Okey Enelamah got to offer Enugu? He is the Minister for Trade and Industry in a government overwhelmed by ineptitude, in a country with 90% of its foreign trade earnings coming from oil, without an industrial strategy and with little hope of escaping from the penury of being a producer of primary commodities. He will make a good speech, but that’s as far as it goes.
This summit looks like another exercise in wasting scarce public funds and if any good comes out of it, it is more likely to be for the organisers than the long-suffering people of Enugu State. Another step forward for them, several steps backwards for Enugu State.