Friday, July 12, 2013

Performance Appraisal for Adamawa MPs in the National Assembly

These days, the major issues pre-occupying the minds of political pundits in Adamawa State is the lingering People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) internal crisis and the impact of the state of emergency rule declared on the state by President Goodluck Jonathan. Preoccupied by this,political observers are paying less attention to the activities of elected public office holders in the state, especially Members of Parliament at both the red and the green chambers; who are apparently having a field day.

Time is right for a performance appraisal for the parliamentarians. However, the big question is, by what parameters will they be appraised? Based on the ‘Nigerian’ way of politics and the MPs campaign promises; the following parameters can be used: first, the type of issues raised and quality of debate, the number of projects they influenced to their constituency; their public-friendliness and current ratingby the people in their constituency.

Senator Bello Tukur is representing Adamawa Central, he is one of the astute politicians among the Adamawa MPs, but he appears to be seat warmer in the red chambers. Tukur’s accessibility and interaction with his constituency is very poor. Observers say he is more concern with the politics of 2015 than his constituency.  There are rumours that he is eyeing the governorship position in Adamawa. Tukur is a ‘smart’ politician; he has already pitched his tent with the Bamanga Tukur camp. The Nyako camp described him as a gold digger, stating they are not intimidated. The Senator was once deputy to former Governor Boni Haruna when Atiku group was in control, then he jumped to Jibril Aminu’s camp, later to Nyako’s and now to Bamanga’s. The way things are, if Tukur decides to re-contest for a second term, he may have a smooth ride.

Senator Ahmed Barata is representing Adamawa South. He is the most experienced among the three senators in terms of legislative knowledge. He was a two term member in the House of Representatives. He is sharp when it comes to politicking and winning elections- most of the public positions he held were elective offices. Despite his public office experience, it was surprising to many observers that his performance in the Senate is still below average.
Senator Bindawa Jibrilla represents Adamawa North; he is the youngest among the three senators representing the state, but the least experienced among them.  He came to the Senate riding on the strong support from the youths and his father’s esteem. Bindawa’s performance is below average in terms of quality of issues raised and project he influenced to his constituency. He recently donated motorcycles, grinding machines, and other such items to his constituency. Pundits maintain that such schemes are outdated in the 21st century. Being very young, Bindawa’s political future is bright, if he can redefine his engagement with his constituency. 
42-year-old Aisha Ahmed Dahiru is representing the complex and most cosmopolitan of all the eight federal constituencies in Adamawa state- Yola North, Yola South and Girei. No one has ever won re-election in the constituency. The people of her constituency are known for their insistence on first rate performance from their MPs. Aisha’s performance in terms of friendliness and interaction with her constituency is excellent, but her contribution to national and constituency issues on the floor of the green chambers is below average.  She enjoys an unprecedented strong support from women and youths in her constituency, but she is not acting ‘smart’ - she is still a loyalist of the Gov. Nyako camps, despite that it is now obvious the camp has lost the control of her party, the PDP. Her supporters are pushing her to contest for the Senate, but when it comes to Adamawa central senatorial district’s politics, she is a ‘toddler’. Contesting for the senate would be a serious political miscalculation from her.
Hon. Abubakar Mahmud Wambai, Madawakin Mubi, who started his career as a Grade III teacher, is representing Mubi North/Mubi South/Maiha constituency, he was a member in the 6th National Assembly on the platform of the PDP when he rode on the support of Gov. Nyako.  He won a seat in the 7th National Assembly on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), riding on the popularity of Gen. Muhammad Buhari. Despite Wambai’s good performance on the ballot papers, his performance in the House is poor. There is already a wide disconnection between him and his constituency. He might find it hard winning a re-election.
Hon. Aminu Hamman Ribadu, representing Fufore/Song constituency, is not new in politics, he was the chairman of Fufore Local Government and also Senior Special Adviser to former Gov. Boni Haruna. His critics say his performance is very poor in all the parameters we are using to appraise the MPs. His critics also say, the number of words the 62 year old lawmaker uttered in the green chambers, since 2011, can be counted.
Demsa, Numan & Lamurde constituency is represented by a former Permanent Secretary in Adamawa State Government, Hon. Anthony Madwatte. Political pundits described him as a politician that has never gone through real political stress-test. This is because of the Numan-axis political style that operates in one direction- once you get the support of the bigwigs, victory is assured. Hon. Madwatte has been an MP since 2003. His critics described his performance as below average. But he is still very strong in his constituency.
Hon Titsi Kwaga Ganama is a first time member in the House of Representatives, he represents Madagali/Michika constituency.  He is not new to politics- was once a commissioner in Adamawa state. He won his election on the platform of the ACN, though observers say; he is a beneficiary of former Governor Boni’s strong grassroots base in the Madagali/Michika/Mubi axis. 56 years old Hon. Ganama appears to be a seat warmer in the House, despite his intimidating educational and work experience. His connection with his constituency has nose-dived.  If people like Boni Haruna give him support, he might return to the House.
Hon. Haske Francis Hananiya is representing Gombi/Hong constituency,  he is a member of the ACN. His election to the House can be best described as the handwork of his blood-brother, General Haldu Hananiya. One interesting thing about Hon. Haske’s political future is, his brother and god-father, Gen. Haldu is now a strong stakeholder in the Adamawa PDP. Haske’s performance in the House in terms of his quality of debate on national issues and accessibility to his local people is not impressive. His return to the House would highly depend on rigorous political calculations, not by him, but by the big-shots. One interesting thing is, all the PDP MPs came to National Assembly through the support of Governor Murtala Nyako at the time the Governor called-the-shots. Now Nyako has lost control of the party. Any of the MP’s that desire a second term ticket must abandon the Nyako camp and join Bamanga’s. However, the Bamanga  camp may take a different direction.
Gibson Kauda Nathaniel is among the old men in the green chambers. He would be 66 years by 2015.  He is well- experienced in public office; he was a one-time local council chair and a member in the Adamawa State House of Assembly. He said his target is to achieve infrastructural growth in his constituency. But, Hon. Kauda’s grade is in the same class with his colleagues- 3/10.

Ahmed Fons Nwangubi- a retired school principal turned-politician is representing Governor Nyako, Bamanga Tukur and Atiku Abubakar’s constituency– Mayo Belwa/Jada/Ganye/Toungo. Though, Fons is also an experienced politician; being a former local government chairman and member of State House of Assembly, the current internal crisis in his party the PDP would have an impact of his political future. Hon Ahmed has not performed to his constituency’s expectations.

In a nut-shell, none of the MPs from Adamawa in the National Assembly has a sterling performance in terms of contribution to national issues and on issues that would impact their constituencies. During the 5th and 6th Assembly, Adamawa people witnessed an above average performance from people like Senators Silas Zwingina, Iya Abubakar, Jibril Amin and Hon. Awwal Tukur. However, the present MPs still have ample time to beat that performance, especially in the areas of quality of debates on national issues, and those that affect their constituencies, including constant interaction with the people that voted them.
Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Between Kerosene and Cooking Gas

Nigeria has over 30 million households; 9 out of 10 of these households cook at least once everyday with dirty fuels- kerosene, firewood, animal dung etc. If these households can switch from ‘dirty’ fuels, especially kerosene to Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) for cooking, the benefits to the nation’s health and environment would be enormous. Apart from that, LPG being a deregulated petroleum product, with huge potentials in the Nigerian market, would be a big money-spinner for LPG marketers and also help the government reduce the heavy burden of funding the subsidy on petroleum products.

Though always quick to point out the many benefits of deregulation, the downstream oil and gas players are yet to design an excellent marketing model to exploit the apparent market potentials of cooking gas, which is deregulated, in Nigeria. Hence the poor patronage of LPG as a source of domestic energy in the country.

Nevertheless, we must admit that the LPG market in Nigeria has array of challenges affecting its market growth. The greatest of it being the consumers’ general belief. Most Nigerians perceive cooking gas as a rich man’s and a dangerous fuel. Despite the fact that, such perception is deeply rooted in the minds of many Nigerians, cooking gas is still more economical for households use compared to kerosene. Kerosene is subsidized by the government at a retail price of N50 per litre, but most kerosene users in Nigeria buy the product at around N150 per litre. If an average family would use 30 litres of kerosene a month, the cost would be around N4,500. Some studies have indicated that the usage of one litre of kerosene equates to 0.39kg LPG. So, if same family would use 12kg of cooking gas in a month, it costs only N3,000.

Apart from the inadequate excellent marketing initiative by LPG marketers to win the hearts of consumers to switch to cooking gas, other problems facing the LPG market are: price is the major differentiator- the product is same. Over reliance on import, with volatile international prices and high freight cost which translated to high downstream retail price. Moreover LPG equipment and accessories needed for cooking gas usage are also imported with high tariffs. Although, the easy money downstream sector players get from subsidies on regulated products (PMS and DPK) is the major factor that has contributed to the lack of depth in the LPG market. In fact, the non-liberalization of the downstream oil and gas sector as a whole has hampered innovation in the sector. Thus, most downstream oil and gas companies do not have effective R& D department. 

What can be done by LPG marketers and indeed the government to increase Nigeria’s LPG per capita consumption and, at least achieve a remarkable market penetration? Nigeria‘s per capita consumption is abysmally 0.5kg, compared to West African regional average of 5kg per capita. Three solutions are needed: massive consumer education and advocacy by all stakeholders, government intervention and local capacity building.

A major intervention by the government is the major solution that would bring about a nationwide embrace of cooking gas. The Nigerian government and all the stakeholders in the oil and gas industry should as a matter of urgency initiate a flexible conversion program from kerosene to LPG. Nigerian can learn and copy from the Indonesian success story. According to one case study by World LP Gas Association, Indonesia was facing serious problem on subsidy on white products. Between 2001 and 2008 the cost of subsidies ranged from 9% to 18% of total state expenditures, the subsidy for kerosene was 57% of the state’s total petroleum product subsidy. In 2007 Indonesia undertook a massive energy program to convert its primary cooking fuel from kerosene to LP Gas in more than 50 million households within five years. Following a study and one-month market test, the conversion program was launched in 2007. The Indonesian government distributed free starter kits, which included a 3 kg cylinder, one burner stove, hose and regulator, and free first gas fill, to citizens meeting the program requirements. There were a few initial challenges including citizen demonstrations, illegal resale of kerosene from unconverted areas to converted areas, and the rise of LP Gas prices during the kerosene withdrawal period. However, a total of 8.2 million kiloliters of kerosene was withdrawn and replaced with 3.2 million metric tonne of LP Gas. This has translated to a gross subsidy savings of more than 6.9 billion US dollars for the government of Indonesia. If a similar program is introduced in Nigeria, certainly, the country would see a major switch from dirty fuel to LPG. To this regard, we must commend one of the six major players in the downstream petroleum industry; the company is currently operating a scheme that provides Nigerian low income households with affordable and accessible clean cooking fuels through low weight Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) cylinders with integrated cooking ring. The initiative is built on two parallel value propositions - sell the integrated stove/cylinder with product and also provide financing for the initial purchase of the stove via a microfinance fund. The scheme would make a massive impact if the government actively participates. 

With hardship encountered on long queues to buy kerosene at its subsidized rate when available or its exorbitant price at black-markets, a feasible and corruption- free scheme would easily convert most Nigerian households to the use of LPG for cooking. This writer was part of a team that conducted a research on LPG consumption in Lagos and the results were interesting. Part of the findings from the research show that a large percentage of Lagosians are willing to own a gas cylinder if the opportunity is there. This is an indication of willingness among most Nigerians.And it indicates the huge benefits for players in the gas sector as an average family in Nigeria would use at least 12.5kg of LPG a month. However, lack of basic starter kits and low awareness and education remain major stumbling blocks in converting Nigerians to LPG users. May be the Indonesian model is the solution.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980.