Thursday, 06 May 2021
Business and Economy

Business and Economy (1142)

*A narrow, old bridge that connects two economically vital areas of Nigeria is a chokepoint stifling progress in Africa’s most populous nation

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

ON THE RIVER NIGER BRIDGE, Nigeria — After two hours spent in gridlocked traffic trying to cross a bridge spanning the mighty Niger River, despair kicks in. We’ve not moved an inch. I fidget in the back seat. Will we ever make it to the other side?

After being stuck three hours — time mostly spent pondering why in Nigeria, the giant of Africa, this narrow bridge is the only major connection between two economically vital southern regions — acceptance arrives: This is where we’re spending the night.

People emerge from their cars and trucks to stretch, accepting it too. Half a dozen men drift to the curbside, to sit and joke. Women lean on the trunks of their cars and chat.

A man pushing a wheelbarrow bounces past, weaving his way between tanker trucks, yellow buses and vehicles piled with mattresses. His wheelbarrow is a grill, full of hot coals, its contents illuminated by a light clipped to the side. He stops, flipping the meat with tongs.

Low on gas, we kill the engine and open our windows. The smell of suya — spiced meat — drifts in.

Below us, the Niger, Africa’s third-longest river and what gave Nigeria its name, is invisible in hot clouds of exhaust lit by red taillights, its flowing waters inaudible over the noise of idling engines.

A driver calls to the meat seller. I’m about to do the same. Absorbed by the story I’m reporting on Nigeria’s merchants of false hope who promise, for a fee, to help families find loved ones who disappeared in police custody, all we’ve eaten today are a few bananas and peanuts.

But suddenly, we’re moving. Everyone races back to their vehicles. An enormous truck bristling with baskets zooms off as fast as possible, almost grazing the wheelbarrow grill. We’re off! But only for a minute. We get about 50 yards before grinding to a halt.

For all its 56 years, this 4,600-foot steel-truss bridge over the Niger has borne a heavy load, connecting the twin cities of Onitsha, a commercial hub, and calmer Asaba, where many commuters to Onitsha live despite the daily crossing ordeal.

Over the decades, countless truckloads of timber, palm kernels and rubber have passed this way. Every imaginable consumer good — lingerie, snails, motorbikes, toilet brushes, fluorescent mosquito nets, hub caps, paraffin lamps, iPhones — also trundles through, headed to or from West Africa’s biggest commercial market, in buzzing Onitsha.

Each year, goods worth $5 billion are traded at the Onitsha market, a state government agency said in 2016. It was home to Onitsha Market Literature, Nigeria’s pulp fiction industry, and key to the success of Nollywood, Nigeria’s multibillion-dollar movie business: 51 Iweka Road, one of the three biggest movie distributor networks, is in the Onitsha market.

ImageThe market in Onitsha, Nigeria, where about $5 billion in goods is traded each year.
The market in Onitsha, Nigeria, where about $5 billion in goods is traded each year. Credit...Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

In addition to all those wares, huge numbers of Nigerian travelers also depend on the bridge. Nigeria’s population, estimated to have crossed the 200 million mark, has probably quadrupled since 1965, the year the bridge was built. (Censuses are not often taken, so it’s impossible to know for sure.)

The jam we are stuck in on this November night is no anomaly. Every day, travelers and goods arriving from all directions are funneled toward the bridge, meaning most crossings are going to take hours. The trips are further slowed by security checkpoints on the approaches to the bridge.

This chokepoint over the Niger is obstructing progress in Nigeria’s entrepreneurial southeast, one of the country’s most prosperous regions.

But the dearth of bridges — and the dilapidated or incomplete state of much of Nigeria’s infrastructure — is a broad problem holding the entire country back, analysts say.

“It impacts the cost of doing business,” said Patrick Okigbo, a policy analyst who worked with Nigeria’s last government to develop a national infrastructure plan. “It impacts lives. If they can afford it, nobody travels by road anymore. If you can’t, then you go on a prayer.”

A mile downstream from the crowded scene on the Niger Bridge, invisible in the viscous night air, may lie an answer: another bridge, half built.

The Second Niger Bridge was originally proposed in 1978, and ever since has been used as a campaign promise by national politicians seeking the support of voters in the southeast. It took more than three decades for the work to begin, but finally the company building the six-lane bridge says it will be ready by 2022.

The Second Niger Bridge as seen from Asaba. Construction started in 2018 and is projected to be complete by 2022.
The Second Niger Bridge as seen from Asaba. Construction started in 2018 and is projected to be complete by 2022.Credit...Yagazie Emezi for The New York Times

When done, it will be “a huge sigh of relief to all Easterners in this country,” says Newman Nwankwo, 33, a businessman based in Onitsha who often plans his whole day around bridge traffic. Either he tries to cross at the lunchtime lull between noon and 2 p.m., or he waits until Sunday.

He won’t even attempt the crossing unless he has at least half a tank of gas.

“If I don’t plan well and I meet traffic, I just relax here in the queue, putting my A.C. and music on,” he said.

Stalled on the bridge, I look around and imagine what all these people could be doing if their time weren’t being sucked away by these daily snarl-ups and the four-decade wait for another option across the river. Bridges cause traffic all over the world, but this one’s aging steel rivets seem to be under more pressure than any I have ever crossed.

Another hour ticks by. We move a few inches.

People pass by, selling cold water and Coke. Where there is a go-slow, as traffic jams are known in Nigeria, vendor business blossoms.

Any movement is an on-again, off-again process. At one point when traffic starts forward, the driver in front of us is asleep. No amount of honking wakes him. Someone rushes over to shake him awake.

We go for 30 seconds. We stop for 30 minutes.

At midnight we make it across. It’s taken almost six hours to do three miles.

Leaving the bridge, we pass under a large sign on the Asaba side.

“Welcome,” it reads, optimistically, “to the land of progress.”

Ruth Maclean is the West Africa bureau chief of The New York Times.


Ruth Maclean is the West Africa bureau chief for The New York Times, based in Senegal. She joined The Times in 2019 after three and a half years covering West Africa for The Guardian. @ruthmaclean

A version of this article appears in print on April 29, 2021, Section A, Page 2 of the New York edition with the headline: A Traffic Nightmare Stalling Nigeria.
Posted On Thursday, 29 April 2021 22:38 Written by

*A narrow, old bridge that connects two economically vital areas of Nigeria is a chokepoint stifling progress in Africa’s most populous nation

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do, and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

ON THE RIVER NIGER BRIDGE, Nigeria — After two hours spent in gridlocked traffic trying to cross a bridge spanning the mighty Niger River, despair kicks in. We’ve not moved an inch. I fidget in the back seat. Will we ever make it to the other side?

After being stuck three hours — time mostly spent pondering why in Nigeria, the giant of Africa, this narrow bridge is the only major connection between two economically vital southern regions — acceptance arrives: This is where we’re spending the night.

People emerge from their cars and trucks to stretch, accepting it too. Half a dozen men drift to the curbside, to sit and joke. Women lean on the trunks of their cars and chat.

A man pushing a wheelbarrow bounces past, weaving his way between tanker trucks, yellow buses and vehicles piled with mattresses. His wheelbarrow is a grill, full of hot coals, its contents illuminated by a light clipped to the side. He stops, flipping the meat with tongs.

Low on gas, we kill the engine and open our windows. The smell of suya — spiced meat — drifts in.

Below us, the Niger, Africa’s third-longest river and what gave Nigeria its name, is invisible in hot clouds of exhaust lit by red taillights, its flowing waters inaudible over the noise of idling engines.

A driver calls to the meat seller. I’m about to do the same. Absorbed by the story I’m reporting on Nigeria’s merchants of false hope who promise, for a fee, to help families find loved ones who disappeared in police custody, all we’ve eaten today are a few bananas and peanuts.

But suddenly, we’re moving. Everyone races back to their vehicles. An enormous truck bristling with baskets zooms off as fast as possible, almost grazing the wheelbarrow grill. We’re off! But only for a minute. We get about 50 yards before grinding to a halt.

For all its 56 years, this 4,600-foot steel-truss bridge over the Niger has borne a heavy load, connecting the twin cities of Onitsha, a commercial hub, and calmer Asaba, where many commuters to Onitsha live despite the daily crossing ordeal.

Over the decades, countless truckloads of timber, palm kernels and rubber have passed this way. Every imaginable consumer good — lingerie, snails, motorbikes, toilet brushes, fluorescent mosquito nets, hub caps, paraffin lamps, iPhones — also trundles through, headed to or from West Africa’s biggest commercial market, in buzzing Onitsha.

Each year, goods worth $5 billion are traded at the Onitsha market, a state government agency said in 2016. It was home to Onitsha Market Literature, Nigeria’s pulp fiction industry, and key to the success of Nollywood, Nigeria’s multibillion-dollar movie business: 51 Iweka Road, one of the three biggest movie distributor networks, is in the Onitsha market.

ImageThe market in Onitsha, Nigeria, where about $5 billion in goods is traded each year.
The market in Onitsha, Nigeria, where about $5 billion in goods is traded each year. Credit...Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters

In addition to all those wares, huge numbers of Nigerian travelers also depend on the bridge. Nigeria’s population, estimated to have crossed the 200 million mark, has probably quadrupled since 1965, the year the bridge was built. (Censuses are not often taken, so it’s impossible to know for sure.)

The jam we are stuck in on this November night is no anomaly. Every day, travelers and goods arriving from all directions are funneled toward the bridge, meaning most crossings are going to take hours. The trips are further slowed by security checkpoints on the approaches to the bridge.

This chokepoint over the Niger is obstructing progress in Nigeria’s entrepreneurial southeast, one of the country’s most prosperous regions.

But the dearth of bridges — and the dilapidated or incomplete state of much of Nigeria’s infrastructure — is a broad problem holding the entire country back, analysts say.

“It impacts the cost of doing business,” said Patrick Okigbo, a policy analyst who worked with Nigeria’s last government to develop a national infrastructure plan. “It impacts lives. If they can afford it, nobody travels by road anymore. If you can’t, then you go on a prayer.”

A mile downstream from the crowded scene on the Niger Bridge, invisible in the viscous night air, may lie an answer: another bridge, half built.

The Second Niger Bridge was originally proposed in 1978, and ever since has been used as a campaign promise by national politicians seeking the support of voters in the southeast. It took more than three decades for the work to begin, but finally the company building the six-lane bridge says it will be ready by 2022.

The Second Niger Bridge as seen from Asaba. Construction started in 2018 and is projected to be complete by 2022.
The Second Niger Bridge as seen from Asaba. Construction started in 2018 and is projected to be complete by 2022.Credit...Yagazie Emezi for The New York Times

When done, it will be “a huge sigh of relief to all Easterners in this country,” says Newman Nwankwo, 33, a businessman based in Onitsha who often plans his whole day around bridge traffic. Either he tries to cross at the lunchtime lull between noon and 2 p.m., or he waits until Sunday.

He won’t even attempt the crossing unless he has at least half a tank of gas.

“If I don’t plan well and I meet traffic, I just relax here in the queue, putting my A.C. and music on,” he said.

Stalled on the bridge, I look around and imagine what all these people could be doing if their time weren’t being sucked away by these daily snarl-ups and the four-decade wait for another option across the river. Bridges cause traffic all over the world, but this one’s aging steel rivets seem to be under more pressure than any I have ever crossed.

Another hour ticks by. We move a few inches.

People pass by, selling cold water and Coke. Where there is a go-slow, as traffic jams are known in Nigeria, vendor business blossoms.

Any movement is an on-again, off-again process. At one point when traffic starts forward, the driver in front of us is asleep. No amount of honking wakes him. Someone rushes over to shake him awake.

We go for 30 seconds. We stop for 30 minutes.

At midnight we make it across. It’s taken almost six hours to do three miles.

Leaving the bridge, we pass under a large sign on the Asaba side.

“Welcome,” it reads, optimistically, “to the land of progress.”

Ruth Maclean is the West Africa bureau chief of The New York Times.


Ruth Maclean is the West Africa bureau chief for The New York Times, based in Senegal. She joined The Times in 2019 after three and a half years covering West Africa for The Guardian. @ruthmaclean

A version of this article appears in print on April 29, 2021, Section A, Page 2 of the New York edition with the headline: A Traffic Nightmare Stalling Nigeria.
Posted On Thursday, 29 April 2021 22:38 Written by

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, says Nigeria cannot afford another civil war because it will not augur well for the country.

Osinbajo said this at an interactive forum of All Progressives Congress (APC) Anambra governorship aspirants, organised by the state chapter of APC Patriots in Abuja.

“The thing about the kind of conflict in this part of the world, developing countries, is that it is usually a war without end.

“Everyone who thinks he has some monies stored up somewhere will eventually run out of money.

“Everyone who think he can go and hide somewhere, won`t even find a place to hide, at the end, everyone will suffer.

“Even if you don’t suffer, parents, children, young and old people and relations will suffer. We cannot afford a war in this country, we can`t afford it,’’ he said.

Osinbajo said the political elite must rise up to the challenge by speaking the truth and taking actions to address the situation in the country.

“I pray that our country will never know conflict, but I know that every conflict is as a result of elite failure to speak up the truth and tell the truth to their communities.

“At the end of the day, it is the political elite that determine what happens in every society, keeping quite could lead to a more dangerous situation,” he said.

The Vice President said that the elite could make a great difference just by the words they speak.

“If we don`t speak up against disunity, if we keep quiet and remain under the radar, the enemies of peace and those who want to promote disunity will have their ways.

“And when this happens, we will find ourselves running helter skelter,’’ Osinbajo said.

He, therefore, urged political elites in the country to always speak up and stand for the interest of the country and the general public.

Osinbajo assured the APC aspirants that the leadership of the party would ensure a level playing field for them at the primary election slated for June to ensure that the best aspirant emerged as the candidate.

He, however, charged them to work in unity and commitment to the party.

“No one politician can win an election all by himself. I also want to advise you against the winner takes all syndrome,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the event was the first interactive forum of the Anambra APC governorship aspirants, aimed at preparing ground for the party’s victory at the Nov. 6 governorship poll. NAN

Posted On Wednesday, 28 April 2021 16:35 Written by

By AbdulGafar Alabelewe, Kaduna/ THE NATION

Three of the abducted students of Greenfield University, Kasarami Kaduna, have been found dead.

They were shot dead by bandits who kidnapped them.

Kaduna Commissioner for Internal Security and Home Affairs, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, who confirmed the development, said their remains were found on Friday in Kwanan Bature village, a location close to the University.

Bandits on Tuesday night kidnapped unspecified number of students at the institution located at Kasarami village off Kaduna-Abuja Road in Chikun LGA.

They contacted family members of the kidnapped students and demanded a collective ransom of N800 million.

Aruwan said the remains of the students have been evacuated to a mortuary by himself and Force Commander, Operation Thunder Strike, Lt.Col. MH Abdullahi.

According to him, “In an act of mindless evil and sheer wickedness, the armed bandits who kidnapped students of Greenfield University, have shot dead three of the abducted students.

“The remains of three students were found today (Friday), in Kwanan Bature village, a location close to the university and have been evacuated to a mortuary by the Commissioner, Internal Security and Home Affairs, and Force Commander, Operation Thunder Strike, Lt.Col. MH Abdullahi.”

Posted On Friday, 23 April 2021 21:17 Written by

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Posted On Saturday, 17 April 2021 13:21 Written by

Barely 28 years after, former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday lamented the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election, presumably won by the late philanthropist, Moshood Kashimawo Abiola. He blamed the cancellation on “bad belle”.

The election, adjudged to be most peaceful, credible and fair, was annulled by the military President, Gen. Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida.

Obasanjo said the annulment robbed Egbaland and Ogun State the rare privilege of having three of its prominent sons occupying the number one leadership position in the country at different times.

The elder statesman, who was referring to former Head of Interim National Government(ING), Chief Ernest Shonekan, himself, who governed the country first as a military Head of State and a civilian president, apparently noted that Abiola would have become the third, if the 1993 presidential poll was not annulled.

He spoke yesterday in Abeokuta after his investiture as a trustee of the Abeokuta Club, a socio-cultural organisation of Egba people of Ogun State, where Tokunbo Odebunmi, an engineer, is the president.

Obasanjo was honoured alongside the late Abiola, who was awarded a posthumous vice-patron of the club.

The former president, who noted that Abiola was his schoolmate at the Baptist Boys High School (BBHS) Abeokuta, said the late politician richly deserved the award bestowed on him by the Abeokuta Club.

Obasanjo said: “When Abeokuta Club was in the process of being birthed, things in Abeokuta were not as rosy as they are today. And the sons of Abeokuta, who were in Lagos, put their heads together in late Chief Sobo Sowemimo’s residence to think of what they could do to improve the development of Abeokuta as a city. I pay tributes to all those founding members, those who have departed this world and those who are still here.

“I want to thank the club for this honour being bestowed on me and the honour being bestowed on my school mate, MKO Abiola, which he richly deserved.

“Kabiyesi, the Alake (of Egbaland) alluded to it. Normally, when you win a cup three times, you keep that cup. Isn’t it? If not for bad belle, Abeokuta would have produced President of Nigeria three times, in which case, we should have kept it permanently.

“But be that as it may, we have a great heritage. And we should be proud of our heritage. On this note, I will say on this occasion, I thank the President, the patron and grand patron, members of Board of Trustees, the executive. I want to say this, I will continue to contribute my quota to the development and growth of this club and by extension, the development and growth of Abeokuta, of Ogun State, of Nigeria, of African and indeed the of world in whichever way I could.”

Also, Alake and paramount ruler of Egbaland, Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo, while presenting the plague to Obasanjo, described Obasanjo and MKO Abiola as proud sons of Abeokuta.

He added that some “bad blood” didn’t allow Abiola to emerge President of Nigeria.

Posted On Monday, 12 April 2021 17:32 Written by

By Moses Emorinken, Abuja/ THE NATION

The National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) has suspended its strike, which started on April 1, 2021.

President of the NARD, Dr Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told The Nation the suspension was based on some good comebacks from the negotiations with the government.

He however gave the government four weeks ultimatum to meet their sundry demands.

He said: “The strike has been suspended. The government gave us some good comebacks from our negotiations.

“We had an emergency National Executive Council (NEC) meeting an hour ago, and we decided to suspend the strike for four weeks.”

Details shortly…

Posted On Saturday, 10 April 2021 20:49 Written by

By Samuel Oamen/ The Nation

The Nigerian Correctional Service has released the names and faces of 36 of the over 1,800 inmates that escaped from the Correctional Centre in Owerri on Monday during an attack by suspected members of the proscribed Indigenious Peoples of Biafra(IPOB).

The service released the names and faces on his official twitter handle

It said: “Faces of persons who escaped from Owerri Custodial Centre, Imo State.
Please note that more photographs of the Escapees on the way and efforts are on to get clear pictures for the black spaces.”

It said efforts were on to release more names and faces of the fleeing inmates for the public to assist in their re-arrest.

Posted On Friday, 09 April 2021 16:45 Written by

By Chinyere Okoroafor/ THE NATION

The National Universities Commission (NUC) on Thursday gave provisional licences to 20 new private universities.

The private universities were established and approved by Federal Executive Council.

With these newly approved varsities the total number of universities in Nigeria is now 193.

Below are the 20 new universities that were recently given licences

1.Topfaith University Mkpatak, Akwa Ibom

2. Thomas Adewumi University, Oko-Irese, Kwara

3. Maranatha University, Mgbidi, Imo

4. Ave Maria University, Piyanko, Nasarawa

5. Al-Istiqama University, Sumaila, Kano

6. Mudiame University, Irrua, Edo

7. Havilla University, Nde-Ikom, Cross River

8. Claretian University of Nigeria, Nekede, Imo

9. NOK University, Kachia, Kaduna

10. Karl-Kumm University, Vom, Plateau

11. James Hope University, Lagos

12. Maryam Abacha American University of Nigeria, Kano

13. Capital City University, Kano

14. Ahman Pategi University, Kwara

15. University of Offa, Kwara

16. Mewar University, Masaka, Nasarawa

17. Edusoko University, Bida, Niger

18. Philomath University, Kuje, Abuja

19. Khadija University, Majia, Jigawa

20. Anan University, Kwall, Plateau

Posted On Thursday, 08 April 2021 22:42 Written by

By Adebisi Onanuga/ THE NATION

A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) Chief Mike Ozekhome on Wednesday described the appointment of the new acting Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Alkali Baba as illegal and unconstitutional.

Ozekhome contended Baba’s appointment negated provisions of Federal Character as enshrined in the 1999 constitution, as amended.

He stated this in a statement titled “Buhari’s Northernisation of Nigeria Police.”

The activist lawyer argued the President lacks the power to single handedly appoint the IGP.

He said the President can only appoint an IGP in conjunction with the Nigeria Police Council comprising Mr. President as chairman, all the 36 state governors, the chairman of the Police Service Commission and the IGP.

He argued the appointment of Baba, as the new acting IGP “is capricious, arbitrary, whimsical, unconscionable, illegal, unlawful, wrongful and unconstitutional.”

The senior advocate wondered why the President chose to ignore and disrespect the Federal Character principle enshrined in section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution.

He lamented the appointment DIG Usman Alkali Baba, a northern Muslim, as acting inspector-general of police, to replace Adamu Mohammed, another northern Muslim.

He said: “With Muhammad Maigari Dingyadi, another northern Muslim as the minister of police affairs, the circle of policing in Nigeria is complete.

“Of course, Buhari controls the police by virtues of sections 214, 215 and 216 of the 1999 Constitution. It is the same situation with the ministry of petroleum resources and NNPC, the entire security architecture of Nigeria, and other key sectors and commanding heights of the economy.

“The illogical and puerile argument is always that the president only appoints people he can trust and that such persons are qualified in any event. That argument is insulting and insensitive to the intelligence, sensibilities and plurality of Nigeria.

“Can’t President Muhammadu Buhari for once, just for once, in his opaque appointments look beyond his religion and immediate and forsake sectionalism, cronyism, prebendalism, tribalism, favouritism, and act as a true statesman?

“Is he truly saying he cannot trust any of the other over 15 million Nigerians who voted for him, or that he cannot find any of them that is qualified to be made an IGP?”

Posted On Wednesday, 07 April 2021 16:22 Written by
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