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Issues concerning Nigeria

Celtel buys 65% stake in Vmobile for $1 Billion

Posted by Luminus on April 20, 2006

Nigerian Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) operator, Vmobile, may again change its name as it concludes a conditional agreement with Celtel International for Celtel to take a majority stake in the company.

Putting paid to weeks of speculations, Vmobile, in a statement endorsed by its Public Relations Manager, Mr. Emeka Opara, and released to the press in Lagos on Sunday, said the agreement, sealed on Sunday, gives a 65 per cent stake in the company to Celtel for a total consideration of around $1.005 billion (about N148 billion).

“The remaining shareholders have an option to sell their shares to Celtel at a similar valuation at a later date,” the statement said.

Major shareholders of Vmobile are Delta, Lagos and Akwa Ibom State Governments. Other shareholders are Bromley Assets Limited, Oba Otudeko, Ocean and Oil, Broad Communications and Leadway Assurance.

A pioneer mobile operator, Vmobile’s search for investment funds nearly ruined the ambition, leading to a cocktail of court cases even as it transited from Econet to Vmobile.

But lately, its fortunes have been on the rise. The company secured a hefty loan from local and international banks while pursuing an aggressive rollout programme code-named Project ROSE.

With the Nigerian mobile market exploding in terms of numbers, Celtel is one of the many companies that have made desperate attempts to partake of the pile, and is already a premier pan African mobile operator with more than nine million customers.

Celtel International is the African subsidiary of Kuwaiti telecoms giant, MTC. MTC is expected to pay the deal fee within the stipulated number of days believed to be 35 from the day the deal is struck.

Celtel’s earlier forays into Nigeria in 1998 when it was MSI Cellular Investments were unsuccessful as inconsistent policies and continuously interrupted licensing process ensured the operator could not launch operation in Nigeria

The name changed to Celtel in May 2005, when it was acquired by MTC of Kuwait for $3.4 billion. The MTC Group is a leading provider of mobile telecommunications services in the Middle East and is listed on the Kuwaiti Stock Exchange.

MTC via Celtel has been doing quite a number of buy-in in recent times one of which is the increase in its stake in Mobitel of Sudan from 39 per cent to 100 per cent.

Celtel is one of the best-known branded businesses in sub-Saharan Africa with mobile licences covering approximately one third of Africa’s population, some 270 million people.

Celtel operates mobile cellular operations in 14 countries: Burkina Faso, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Madagascar; Malawi, Niger, Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.

Vmobile Nigeria is a telecommunications company providing GSM services in Nigeria. Incorporated in 2000, the company on August 5, 2001 became the first GSM company to launch its services in Nigeria.

It currently has five million active subscribers with coverage in over 600 towns and 8000 communities across the six geopolitical zones of the country.

This smells like the beginning of a new competition with, of course, the subscribers being the major beneficiaries.

Yay! for 0802. In case you were wondering I’ve been a Vmobile subscriber since way back when they were called Econet and I can only see more reason not to switch.

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Posted in Business & Entrepreneurship, Naija Issues, Technology and Software | 2 Comments »

Are You fed Up With PHCN (NEPA)?

Posted by Luminus on March 8, 2006

Hello people,

Here’s something that came in my email. I just thought I ought to share it. Let’s show *some* sense of solidarity and help stage this peaceful protest. PHCN’s continued bungled service (or lack there of) is one of the key factors affecting development in Nigeria.

Everything requires power to run. It’s hard to bring in foreign investments when power supply is sketchy at best. Telcos can’t lower their tariffs because they have to spend a fortune running generators at mast sites (even though they still make a killing). I could go on and on but I guess you get the point.

Even though we’re not well known for our solidarity, this’d be a good opportunity to prove cynics (like me) wrong. Don’t think of it as just another meaningless rally or protest that’ll bring zero results, else, that’s just what we’ll get.

Enough with the preaching already you say? Ok, Ok, I’ll let you read in peace.

Dear Fellow Nigerians,

This is to inform you of a planned protest against the services of Power Holding Company of Nigeria (alias NEPA) billed for 15 March 2005.

The plan is for us all to come out in ALL BLACK ATTIRE on WEDNESDAY 15 MARCH 2006 to express our dissatisfaction with the services of PHCN and the rude and arbitrary attitude of their staff. We are to go about our duties on that day but WEAR ALL BLACK ATTIRE.

Nigerians are dying from exhaust fumes of generators; we are all becoming nervous wrecks from lack of good sleep at night due to the cacophony of noise from generators in all our neighbourhoods. We have had enough and we demand that the authorities do something immediate about this.

Even if you live in the few privileged neighbourhoods where you can afford sound proof generators please identify with the suffering millions of Nigerians who cannot afford a generator and yet have to put up in their hot and humid rooms/shacks and lie awake all night because of the noise of generators in their neighbourhoods.

We cannot even begin to quantify the economic loss that is brought about by PHCN’s non performance. The extra cost of fuelling generators, employees who have to go to work after a restless and noisy night and cannot perform optimally, buildings and equipment which have been burnt or destroyed by power fluctuations………

The Managing Director of PHCN should resign as he has shown total incapability to manage the affairs of the company for productivity.

Wednesday 15 March is tagged BLACK DAY to bemoan PHCN (NEPA). It is only the first in a planned series of protests against the dismal service (or lack of it) that we get from PHCN and their extortionist habit of giving fixed bills every month whether they supply light or not. PHCN revenue must be commensurate with services rendered to the people.

WE HAVE HAD ENOUGH!!!!!!!!.

Please forward this mail to all your friends in Nigeria.

Signed

Fed up with PHCN vanguard

NB: if you have had any frustrating interaction with PHCN officials; demands for bribes and request for contributions to buy transformers …… you could forward the information and names of the concerned officials to fedupwithphcn@yahoo.co.uk we shall circulate it and endeavour to send it to PHCN head office and copy EFCC.

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Posted in Naija Issues | 3 Comments »

Deadly bird flu found in Nigeria

Posted by Luminus on February 8, 2006

A “highly pathogenic” strain of the H5N1 bird flu virus has been found in poultry stocks in Nigeria — the first reported case of the disease in Africa, the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health said Wednesday.

Nigeria on Wednesday reported the outbreak among commercial, battery-cage poultry in Jaji, a village in the northern Kaduna state, according to the organization known by the acronym OIE.

They were the first cases of H5N1 reported in Africa, OIE spokeswoman Maria Zampaglione said.

A laboratory in Padova, Italy, identified “a highly pathogenic H5N1 and has further analyzed its genetic composition. Investigations are being carried out in order to define the degree of genetic homology with the currently known H5N1 strains,” the statement said.

Nigerian authorities disinfected the farm and introduced quarantine measures and controls on the movement of animals.

The OIE said it was working with U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization to “coordinate a common response to this event.”

“A team of experts will be sent to the affected area in order to assess the situation and provide technical advice,” it said.

Bird flu began ravaging poultry stocks across Asia in 2003, forcing the slaughter of 140 million birds and jumping to humans, killing dozens. It has since spread to Europe and the Middle East.

Health officials had feared a deadly bird flu virus could enter impoverished, loosely governed African regions where many people raise chickens at home for personal consumption. There had until now been no cases of bird flu documented in West Africa.

On Monday, Nigerian officials said that initial tests on chickens that mysteriously died in another state of northern Nigeria showed no sign of bird flu.

Nigerian authorities nevertheless urged farmers to monitor their flocks and report strange ailments to authorities. Kano state set up a committee of veterinary surgeons to visit farms and watch out for evidence of a bird flu outbreak.

Experts are particularly concerned that H5N1 might mutate into a form spread easily among humans, triggering a pandemic capable of killing millions.

CNN has put out a list of things you should know about bird flu, you can check that here. To find out more about Influenza, popularly known as the flu click here.

What does this mean for all of us Poultry consumers. Should we be worried? What measures can we take to prevent catching the deadly bird flu? All Comments are welcome.

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Posted in Naija Issues | 7 Comments »

Sosoliso and Chanchangi Grounded

Posted by Luminus on December 14, 2005

Stakeholders in the aviation industry, who met yesterday in Abuja over the spate of air crashes in the country yesterday gave President Olusegun Obasanjo sweeping powers to sanitise the ailing sector.

And, the President did not waste time in wielding the big stick. He immediately barred two airlines , Sosoliso and Chanchangi, from further operations until they conclude all due checks on their aircraft.

This is part of a news article culled from the Guardian Website. Read the complete article. A similar story is here. This sounds like music to my ears, firstly because amongst frequent flyers, Chanchangi Airlines has been given the nickname of “Flying Coffin”, and secondly because for some inexplicable reasons, Sosoliso continued to fly even after news of the incident on Saturday.

You’re probably wondering why Bellview Airlines was not barred from operations, well, here’s your answer

Special Assistant to the President, Mr. Femi Fani-Kayode, denied that the banning of Sosoliso and Chanchangi was on ethnic grounds. He said that the action was based on a letter written by Ekaette in December 13, 2004 but which only came to the President’s attention on Monday night.

The letter was on near mishaps recorded by the two airlines last year.

He said that though Bellview recorded a mishap on October 22, 2005, it was not included based because investigations had not been concluded on the cause of the crash of its aircraft.

Fani-Kayode told journalists at the Presidential Villa that “the grounding of Chanchangi and Sosoliso was based on a letter the President received last night (Monday). The letter clearly stated that both airlines are defective in their maintenance.”

He added: “It is unfortunate the letter written (December 13, 2004) was never presented to Mr. President. But yes, Bellview was not affected by the letter. Bellview is currently under investigations. And if in the end, they are found culpable for any negligence, the appropriate sanctions would be applied. The non-inclusion of Bellview has no tribal leaning. Sosoliso is owned by an Igbo. Chanchangi is owned by a Northerner. No, Mr. President doesn’t indulge in such petty sectional agenda.”

The letter was written by Ekaette and passed to the former Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Isa Yuguda.

Asked why the letter meant for presidential approval was not passed by Yuguda, Fani-Kayode simple said: “Ask Yuguda.”

Why anyone would insinuate that ethnicity has anything to do with this just baffles me. It amamzes me how many Nigerians see everything that happens as some sort of marginalization agenda. We’re talking about the lives of people, Citizens of Nigeria and others, not livestock, and the first thought that comes to their minds is, Oh! it’s because I’m not from the same tribe as him.

The airlines were shut down based on intelligence report that they were unfit to fly Nigeria’s airspace, the President also ordered that all aircrafts in the country must undergo a check within one week. Where’s the tribal leaning in that?
Apart from the fact that the Bellview crash is still under investigation (why that is, I wonder), Bellview airlines up until October 22, 2005 had a near perfect service record.

The Stakeholders also endorsed the following decisions, which I think are long over due, thankfully, we’re moving in he right direction.

  • All aircraft flying and operating in Nigeria’s domestic airspace will be checked out within a week and those found to be defective in any way in servicing records, age, maintenance and operational capacity, will be grounded;
  • Sosoliso and Chanchangi airlines will be grounded with immediate effect, until all their aircraft can secure clearance by the new inspection agency within one week;
  • To ensure integrity of inspections, two International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) officials have been seconded to Nigeria to join the team of inspectors. If necessary, we will ask for more of ICAO officials;
  • New classification and method of inspection is being established through International Air Transport Association (IATA) and will be in place before the end of January 2006;
  • A committee headed by Air Vice Marshal Paul Dike (Air Officer Commanding), is hereby established as a special task force to carry out urgent supplies, repairs and maintenance of all airport facilities and equipment to meet international standard. The members of the committee are Captain Roland Iyayi, chairman of FAAN board, Engineer Mohammed Danbaba, Captain Austin Okon, Architect Tunji Bolu, Tony Elumelu and the Managing Director of Virgin Nigeria; and
  • Global radar is being established for the entire country and particularly for all airports, and this will be completed by December 2006. (This has been on board and what the Minister of Aviation told me – President Obasanjo – is that Lagos will be the beginning and other airports will follow)
  • The Minister of Aviation shall effect necessary personnel disengagement and deployment across the parastatals immediately, with due process. Professionalisation of the parastatals will be enforced; and
  • The Civil Aviation Bill that will grant operational autonomy to the NCAA is before the National Assenbly (NASS) and hopefully it will be passed by March 2006.

I sincerely hope that these issues will be properly addressed, because we’ve lost way too many valuable lives to airplane crashes and if anything is not done about it, tomorrow it could be me or you or somebody we know.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that the Government does right by us and if there’s anything we as individuals or corporate organizations can do, now would be a good time to step forward.

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Another Black Saturday

Posted by Luminus on December 13, 2005

I should have put this post up yesterday but I was still too distraught to compose my thoughts and the extremely hectic day at work yesterday was a welcome distraction from the trickle of disjointed thoughts that besieged my mind.

Saturday, the 10th of December proved to be another black saturday for Nigeria and Nigerians. Just 42 days after a Bellview Airline plane flying from Lagos to Abuja crashed in the remote village of Lisa, killing 117 people, another commercial airliner, OSL 1145 belonging to the fleet of Sosoliso Airlines flying from Abuja to Port Harcourt crashed leaving 107 people dead. There were 102 passengers and 7 crew members. Here is the official manifest for the flight.
Among those on the plane were foremost televangelist and one of God’s leading ladies in Nigeria, Pastor (Mrs.) Bimbo Odukoya, the Associate Pastor and wife of the Senior Pastor of The Fountain of Life Church. She was one of the seven people who initially made it out of the plane but was said to have died later due to her injuries. There were also 52 students of the Loyola Jesuit College, Abuja who were heading home for the Christmas break.

The most painful thing for me is the fact that this was totally avoidable. First of all, according to this news article on The Punch Website, JAT Airways, the Serbian National Airline confirms that the plane is 32 years old as they bought it in February 1973 from its builders, McDonnell Douglas (which has now been a part of Boeing since 1997) and used it for 27 years and then sold it to Sosoliso Airlines along with three others in 2000.

JAT sold the ageing planes to Sosoliso because they could no longer meet most European standards due to loud noise levels produced by the jet’s two engines.

If the airline that initially owned the aircraft sold it because it was no longer considered airworthy, does that not make anyone who buys them either stupid or brain-dead? Who in their right minds would buy a 27 year old plane? These are just a few of the questions begging for answers

JAT pilots who flew some of Sosoliso’s planes and engineers who worked on them had complained about “poor safety and air control standards? in Nigeria.

This is a direct indictment of the Aviation Authorities in Nigeria. I don’t know about anyone else but I think this just stinks. I’m tired of Nigeria and Nigerians promoting and revelling in mediocrity. We condone mediocrity on practically every level, and we talk about foreign investors, what a load of bullshit.

As it is, nothing works, everything is in shambles. Let me save this endless tirade for another post and another day.

Personally, I feel that If you can’t run a particular kinda business, you should move on and do something you’re good at. If you can’t run an airline, for Pete’s sake find some other bloody line of business.

Secondly, I heard that the pilot that flew that plane into Abuja before it’s final ill-fated flight said on national TV that he couldn’t land the plane for 10 minutes due to some problems with the plane itself and not with the runway or control tower. Is that not enough of a warning signal? Sholdn’t that have triggered a maintenance check of the plane? Call me an Idiot but I still say this was totally avoidable and I put the entire incident to gross incompetence on the part of the airline.

I fully agree with one of the parents of the deceased children who said “They murdered our children”. The people that died died of severe burns, where was the Fire Service? Somebody please answer me. I’m winded from even thinking about this whole scenario. My thoughts are all jumbled up.

My heart goes out to Pastor Taiwo Odukoya and the entire Fountain family. My heart also goes out to all the Parents who lost their children in the crash. Some families lost as many as 3 children, a father said “Now, I have no one to call me daddy”. Some families are fighting over the reamains of their children as the bodies are so badly burnt that identification is a problem. My heart also goes out to any and everyone that lost someone in that crash. It’s so sad.

We need to stand up as a nation and stamp out mediocrity. We need to fight the scourge of ageing airliners flying our citizens. We need to understand the value of one human life (How on earth could Sosoliso keep flying when they were aware of the crash). We need to make the system work. I could go on and on but I’m so emotionally drained I’m not even making any sense anymore.

God Help Nigeria.

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Alamieyeseigha – Arrested at Last

Posted by Luminus on December 9, 2005

The embattled former (yes, you read that right) governor of the oild rich state of Bayelsa has been impeached and his deputy Mr Goodluck Jonathan, who has been the acting governor for a while has been sworn in as the substantive governor of the state. 17 members of the state House of Assembly who sat in Yenogoa under tight security voted for his removal.

The Bow Street Magistrate Court, yesterday issued a warrant for the arrest of Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha of Bayelsa State for failing to appear before it at the resumption of his trial over alleged money laundering. With the issuance of the international warrant of arrest, the International Police (INTERPOL), can arrest Alamieyeseigha anywhere, except in Nigeria where he has immunity as provided in section 308 of the 1999 constitution. At the resumption of the trial yesterday, the prosecuting counsel from the Crown Prosecution Services, Mr. Mark Ludcraft, told the court that Alamieyeseigha must be presumed to have jumped bail since he had not reported to the Paddington Police Station since November 18. He, therefore, asked the court to issue a warrant for his arrest.

This impeachment has voided his immunity to prosecution and as a direct consequence, police and troops, who had been besieging the governor in his office in the state capital Yenagoa, arrested him and took him to police headquarters. A government official said he was then taken away to the federal capital Abuja. Hopefully he’ll end up in the UK and get his just desserts.
Amidst the crises, Oil company officials said they were following developments in the state but were unaware of any trouble in response to Alamieyeseigha’s arrest.

Apart from this being a feather in the Anti-Corruption campaing cap of President Olusegun Obasanjo, I for one am happy that the lawmakers of Bayelsa state did not allow the shameful behaviour of the now ex-governor go unpunished. At the very least this’ll do a bit of damage control to the already battered image of our dear nation.

I’ll let y’all make your own inferences and conclusions after you read proper news articles here and here. Read those and let me hear your views.

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Alamieyeseigha – Master of Deception

Posted by Luminus on November 22, 2005

This is practically the stuff that movie scripts are made of. A man of the size (being as big as he is) and stature of Chief Diepreye Alamieyeseigha smuggled himself or was smuggled (pick whichever sounds better) out of the UK disguised as a woman and wove an intriguing web of hide and seek plus whodunnit of how he managed to evade the British Security and get into Nigeria.

There are quite a number of different versions to the story that it is hard to ascertain which is true. One says he was helped by Isreali Security operatives, another says he was helped by a certain Ijaw man who according to another story may have been arrested in the UK, yet another says the plan was hatched by at least 4 of his trusted aides who employed a British Security Outfit.

Here is a picture of what he was said to have looked like dressed up as a woman. Can you beat that. For detailed stories you could chek out this news item on the This Day website and this one on the Sun Website.

Whichever way it happened, the only things that are sure is that he is back in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Capital, he’s back in charge of the affairs of the state and the people of Bayelsa are jubilant and happy, how come? – Beats me. I would’ve thought they’d be the last people interested in seeing him after realising that he’d been pilfering their money in no small measure, but then again, what do I know, I know nothing of the intrigues and the politics behind the entire “Movie”, as I’d like to refer to the whole Alamieyeseigha Saga from inception, so I have no idea what thoughts and plots are going through the minds of bayelsans as I write this post.

All I can say is that, Bayelsa and Nigeria at large ar in God’s hands ‘cos I can’t, no, I’d rather not imagine what’ll happen in the aftermath of this. I just hope we don’t see a spate of assassinations or assassination attempts in a few weeks.

God help us.

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More on Alamieyeseigha

Posted by Luminus on November 21, 2005

Found a more detailed news item on the Reuters UK site. Apparently he came home amidst jubilation from his people. Na Wa Oh! Wonders shall never end. Here is the news item from Reuters. Here’s another story from the BBC. Stay tuned

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Alamieyeseigha Escapes – I stand corrected

Posted by Luminus on November 21, 2005

Oops… I stand corrected. I just found a story corroborating part of this post. At least I know that for real he’s back and he’s in the state house. This Day Newspaper has put up a breaking news story on their website corroborating this.

Check back for updates.

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Alamieyeseigha Escapes

Posted by Luminus on November 21, 2005

Sweet Jesus,
As at the time of this post, this story is still unconfirmed. It’s purely speculations and li’l pockets of gist that I picked up while I was at lunch today at the Brass LNG cafeteria where I had gone to sort out a minor bug that had developed with the Bespoke Software I had built for their Contracts & Procurements department.

I was sweating like crazy because for some reason, they’d had a power outage all morning and their main generator had some issues that the engineers were trying to resolve, hence there was no cold water from the dispenser, the espresso machine was off, all airconditioners were down and all printers and xerox machines were offline. T’was just the IT Generator that was working so there was power to run the PC’s and of course the Central Server.

Anyway, back to my story, as I sat savouring my three course meal of Chicken Pepper Soup and Garlic Bread for starters, Some kinda rice (I have no idea what it’s called) with sweet corn, mushrooms, beef and chicken as the main dish wiv a bottle of Sprite to boot and Vanilla Ice-Cream for desert, I heard that the embattled Bayelsa State Governor Diepreye Alamieyeseigha had escaped and was back in the country, rumour has it that he disguised and stowed away aboard a cargo ship. Rumour also has it that he has returned to Bayelsa State where he has taken over the helms of affairs and that he even addressed a news conference an hour or so ago. The major school of thought at the dining room was that it was an error for him to have been granted bail as that is what facilitated his getaway.

These are all sketchy details, as soon as I wrapped up lunch, I headed straight for the PC I had been working on to fix the problem with the software, which incidentally had been as a result of one of the members of staff deleting a record they shouldn’t have. I searched all the major news sites and search engines for news corroborating this story but came up with zilch.

If this story is true, international news organizations like CNN may not have heard about it because of the scandal it would bring to the British Security and Judicial Systems respectively and back here in Nigeria you can be sure that it’ll take a while for it to come on TV and even longer for it to appear on the Web as updates to the sites of the few news papers that have websites are often late.

I hate to wonder the kind of image that would be projected of the general nigerian public, especially if he’s allowed to finish off his tenure in office. The effects would be far reaching and it may do more to mar the already blighted image of Nigeria and Nigerians whether resident in Nigeria or in diaspora.

God help us!!!!

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