By Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi
It is no longer news that the Delta State Government recently addressed the media on the multi-billion naira contract for the construction of the Ayakoromo Bridge in the Burutu Local Government Area of the state, stating that it has cancelled the contract for the bridge due to poor performance by the contractor.
At first glance, the latest action for me depicts Delta State government as an administration that is internally directed, people-focused, externally open and above all, a right step taken in the right direction, particularly as such action is long overdue.
However, as an author that has in the past supported and will continue to support good intentions coming from the present administration in the state, particularly when such actions are directed towards uplifting the life chances of the people, the truth must be told to the effect that in the present circumstance, the newest action by the state government only confirm as true the words of Winston Churchill, a onetime Prime Minister of Great Britain, that ‘there is no worse mistake in public leadership than to hold out false hopes soon to be swept away.
For a very long time, the state government has given false hopes to the people of the Ayakromo community and Deltans as a whole about the true condition of the bridge.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa persistently failed to reveal the true bill of the contractor’s technical health/know-how even when it was glaringly obvious to Deltans with critical minds that the contractor was technically-challenged. Most brazenly, Okowa’s administration failed to remember that, as a general rule, the first step to solving a problem is to admit that one exists. But instead of going by this rule, the state government told Deltans that the bridge was 60% near completion, even when the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) pointed otherwise.
Take, for instance, when the administration learnt in January 2020 that the Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative and Ayakoromo youths planned a protest against the ‘abandonment’ of the bridge, the Okowa-led administration, through the Commissioner for Information, Charles Aniagwu, in a statement in Asaba, stated that the state leadership was committed to the completion of road projects it has embarked on.
He added that the Ayakoromo bridge project had not been abandoned and urged the groups to shun their planned protest. The statement also noted that the state government had already made provisions for the completion of the bridge in the 2020 budget and was desirous to complete the project.
Again, six months after that statement, precisely in June 2020, the Delta State Government, in a similar style, assured that the Ayakoromo Bridge would be vigorously executed as a top priority project. This time around, the Commissioner for Works, Chief James Aguoye, made the disclosure in Ayakoromo while speaking to newsmen.
Aguoye, according to media reports, said that the project had a budgetary provision of N1 billion in the 2020 budget. The Commissioner added that the project would be up-scaled in 2021.
In January 2022, after the first executive council meeting, which was presided over by Governor Okowa, the Commissioner for Information, Mr Charles Aniagwu, announced that the Delta State government has recently approved an upward review of the contract cost of the Ayakoromo Bridge project from N6 billion to N10.5 billion, noting that the review was necessary as a result of present economic realities in the country.
Even government supporters were not left out in the now-ended season of lies and blind support.
For instance, when I did a piece titled Ayakromo Bridge, One Abandonment too many, the referenced piece, among other concerns, expressed/underlined the urgency of having the contractor sacked. And in his place, have a new contractor appointed backed with adequate funds, superior technical skills and experience to replace the current contractor, who obviously lacks the wherewithal to complete the bridge.
The reactions that trailed this objective submission by the piece could be seen better than imagined.
Some commentators argued that even in a democracy, the government is at liberty to take or discard advice and public opinion in the interest of the greater good for the greater number.
Public opinion, in their view, does not always provide clear-cut policy guidance, and even when it is clearly in favour of a certain course of government action, the authorities may decide otherwise-particularly when they realize how uninformed, superficial, and changeable most opinions really are. To others, the government may also reject people’s opinions as a result of its convictions, the recommendations of the public service, or the pressure of advocacy groups
To the rest, whenever the government fails to follow a clear-cut preference among the public opinion, they may actually be relying on a deeper understanding of the issue, the greater information at their disposal, a more sophisticated analysis of its implications, a concern for minority groups’ rights, or a less prejudicial attitude.
Now that the season of denial and argument has ended, the question that is as important as the piece itself is; what is the fate of Ayakromo Bridge? Will it still be completed by the present administration, or has to be handed to the incoming administration? Would it be considered a good commentary that the Governor inherited from his predecessor a bridge under construction that is far less than one kilometre yet could not complete in eight years?
While answers to the above questions are being anticipated, I must quickly add that the underlying objective of this piece is not to chastise any individual or group but to draw the attention of the Okowa-led government to this mess in ways that will assist him in performing the traditional but universal responsibility of provision of economic and infrastructural succour to the citizenry, which the instrumentality of participatory democracy and election of leaders confers on him.
The government must give the desired new lease of life and satisfactory service/governance to the community’s people. Above all, the state government must design more creative and development-focused ways to serve and save Deltans holistically.
Finally, as noted in my previous intervention on this topic, the state government must not fail to remember that the Bobougbene community and its environs in Burutu LGA are reputed for producing palm oil in commercial quantity and supply of same to Warri metropolis and Okwumagbe markets in Ughelli-South LGA. The bridge, when completed, will provide easy access to these markets. This is a very important reason why the state must pay disciplined attention to that project. It must not, for any reason, be abandoned.
Jerome-Mario Chijioke Utomi of Social and Economic Justice Advocacy writes from Lagos; 08032725374
RCCG: Measuring Pastor Adeboye’s Contribution to Nigeria’s Problems
Business Location: Does it Matter in Tough Economic Times for Small, Medium or Large Firms?
Dipo Olowookere is a journalist based in Nigeria that has passion for reporting business news stories. At his leisure time, he watches football and supports 3SC of Ibadan. Mr Olowookere can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Ayakoromo Bridge and Okowa’s Infrastructural Development
By Nneka Okumazie
What should the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, have done differently that alone would have brought about development in Nigeria or improved the current situation of the country?
In what Nigeria has become, what is his exact share of the problem? What particular problem in Nigeria is just because of Pastor Adeboye, and without him, would not have existed?
Anything that worked in Nigeria did because there were several other factors involved, whatever failed in Nigeria did because there are countless other factors.
The country has been perennially disorganised and mostly taken advantage of by military leaders, political parties, banks, foreigners, accountants, telecoms, religions, entertainers, contractors, journalists, etc.
There is no shortage of people who criticise the government. Government criticism is a religion of its own, with leaders and followers. Some do, then join the government to do worse than before. There are some who do to have influence or stay relevant. There are some who do it in public but dine with them in private. There are some who do because of bias. Others use it to misguide people to think all a nation needs to develop is good governance. There may be a few who genuinely do, but it is never continuous or total because there is a limit to what the government can do in a country where the attitude of the majority is against development.
Though influential, there is no policy role Adeboye plays in government or key responsibility he has besides civic duties, which directly or indirectly he probably carries out well, including the overall addition of his church to the GDP and GNP of the country.
He often tells his followers people to vote, and obey the law. He does not incite violence, and it seems he tries to reduce his share of contribution to problems of society, for the most part.
What has anyone blamed Adeboye for or recommended he does that, if he alone had, would have made Nigeria somewhat better? Some say at least do something or say something, but in what category of problem would that action or speech be especially effective?
Some often say he should blame politicians and attack them, but there is no evidence that because of a pastor, a politician would do anything significantly different.
Even if it were possible they did something a little differently because of a pastor, they won’t give credit, which is not necessary, but would instead subject him to political attacks depending on what political side he hits the most.
Some have praised others for courage but blamed him for lack of courage, that is unfair. The way to rate someone for courage is first on a primary job, not another. Then to see if it is done at all, or the effectiveness, necessity, etc. A surgeon is not a courageous plumber is a bad argument, even if the surgeon had to do something in an emergency at home. A pastor is not a courageous government critic along that line.
Doing what some expect of him in the way they expect of him looks bad on those people because it has to be their way to be right.
His private conversations with politicians may or may not be cordial, but blaming him for not speaking the Nigerian truth to them is a diversion that would not have made the country better.
The pastor leads an organisation that is his primary mission and vision. His focus is continuous growth, which is the same as other organisations and nations. There is no evidence that the church directly stands in the way of anything that would have made the country a better place.
The church is massive. There are things he would have instructed against or not like in the church that he would have said over and over, but for some reason, some within the church may not remember, know, or adhere to. It may reflect badly on him, but his responsibility in that case, in fairness, is low. However, arguments can be made about excessive monitoring, which is also debatable for a Kingdom where spirit and truth are not optional.
Pastor Adeboye is not responsible for any politician, no matter what seems like a relationship they have or regularity in the church.
If a politician is not courageous, passionate or has nothing to offer on the job, it is the responsibility of the politician, regardless of administration or position.
Adeboye also does not necessarily deserve credit for whatever any politician does because it comes down to the adult doing things as they choose.
The pastor often says pray for the country, as his own faith in what works applying to a complex problem. Some disagree but as bad as the country is, some things still work, at least to some extent, telecoms, electricity, roads, schools, etc.
This says that what does not work, including within those and others, have not gotten to a threshold of great ideas or enough courage, passion, sincerity, fairness, etc. to make them work.
There are, of course, learned people, exposed, well-to-do, who are in private and public positions, but what it means to hold that position for societal change is meaningless.
Praying, as what the pastor believes, work adds something that increases the chances for a change, whether anyone agrees or disagrees. And what does it hurt, whatever else, for good, anyone is doing?
There is a limit to what a government can do if a private company decides not to give an effective product or service. There is a limit to what a citizen can do if a local office of a government service demands a kickback or nothing. Even if there are investigations, there are ways they game things to ensure the rot continues.
So, the layers of problems in the country are much beyond just government, officials or companies, though that does not mean they can’t do damage or make things worse.
Although supremacy of the law and the rule of law works, most of what keeps many things in society functional is doing things in good faith or goodwill, for good of society, without force, reward or where no one might know.
Enforcement is powerful, but there are limits. Some are looking for whom to force them to do what they should do or who would try so they can play evasive. Some are already experts at deception, with nothing true about what they say or do, except for what they want.
To criticise is easy; some people involved in crimes abandon their responsibility and, worse, would speak up since it is what should be done to be accepted.
Adeboye is not Nigeria’s problem except for those who have created a problem they decided to fit him into.
For everyone who says Adeboye is a problem, there are at least 10 or more personal failures they each have to what the country is facing.
There are many things that used to be thought that if this changed in the country, or if this was done, things would be different, many have been tried, but they have either failed or become meaningless.
In the market, there are people who strive to get customers to their business or to those of others; that individual way is how a nation strives to develop as a people.
There are those whose personal environment or dressing is clean; that kind of seriousness is what people do to improve their society.
There are those who pursue personal improvement for better job prospects that is the kind of thing people do to grow their present and future.
It is not what anything is, where or who, but what drives it or the kind of action and character that is involved.
There are many diversions to what would make the country better than in reality are false. There are some people in the business sector who have a direct power to make things better, with little risk to themselves of fortune, but they would not.
Outside the Kingdom or scriptures, Pastor Adeboye may have used some anecdotes that were not good examples, and critics say oh, hear what he said, or that some misunderstood and acted on it, but that Adeboye is responsible for Nigeria’s problems is like blaming the Nigerian critic for not speaking a foreign language and the critic defending against that.
[Proverbs 19:22, The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.]
By Timi Olubiyi, PhD
Businesses in emerging economies, large, small, and micro, continue to bear the brunt of inflation, high energy costs (diesel or electricity), and, more broadly, global economic turbulence, which has snowballed into a slew of challenges that increasingly threaten the survival of many enterprises across all sectors.
Attention to businesses, particularly small businesses, continues to heightened because of the increasingly difficult times and widespread uncertainty in many countries due to post-pandemic consequences.
Therefore, more and more businesses are looking for ways to fight back against the harsh economy and hostile environments. Based on the author’s observation, one of the ways widely considered is the change of business location to reduce the cost of doing business, particularly for a rent reduction.
Lately, it has been observed that more businesses with headquarters and main base of operations or offices in a choice location, where they have established connections and network with customers, continue to relocate to neighbouring states and remote areas.
This trend has been increasing in all sectors and industries post-pandemic. The probing question is, why? According to a survey conducted in Lagos State, Nigeria’s economic capital, the most common reason given by many business operators why relocation of businesses is receiving high consideration was that it is a way to minimise the high rising cost of doing business and remaining in business seems to be a top business priority for many of them.
The view is that location or relocation factor in a business should be more on overall business gains, that is, to maximise income, access to a competent workforce, and be closer to customers and business resources, amongst others.
Many are unaware that these key variables adequately and effectively give a competitive advantage to businesses. Location or relocation should not just be determined as the root cost of doing business. It can be concluded that financial factors typically drive location decisions at this time.
However, such linear decisions can have serious consequences on non-financial factors such as customer retention, sales or market share growth, proximity to resources, or, more broadly, long sustainability of the businesses.
Let the truth be told, the choice of a business location is an economic decision and should only be considered strategically with thorough evaluation rather than just for financial reasons, that is, reducing operating costs or on mere sentiments, because such sharp decision can influence the conditions in which the business activity is subsequently conducted. If a business selects the wrong location, it may have an adverse effect on access to customers, competent workers, good transportation, access to resources, and so on. Consequently, it should be done with caution and strategically because location plays a significant role in overall business success,
The criteria dictating the location of businesses in the past were, for example, access to raw materials, low labour force, transport, and production costs or benefits from the government, amongst others. But presently, in Lagos State, the cost of doing business is what drives business location. Whereas, globalization and technology have been the most important factors in industrialised countries, where remote work and digital adoption have been on the rise.
A location strategy is especially critical now in the post-COVID economy, and it is especially crucial for these small businesses since the location can determine the going concern and earnings to support the business.
Where a business is set up can have a significant impact on its success; a poor choice can jeopardise potential income, dissuade existing customers, increase delivery costs, and compromise future business growth and related supporting industries.
When examining the role of location, it suffices to mention that some start-ups and small businesses may just require a website and a presence on the internet. That can offer better proximity to customers than a physical location where the cost of running the business is high. For businesses in retail, traditional stores may be complemented with technology and an online presence, reducing the number of outlets or branches.
The new normal has clearly demonstrated that technology and digital adoption can provide a competitive advantage while also lowering the cost of doing business, particularly the cost of running a business activity (rent, electricity, remuneration, local taxes and fees). The COVID-19 crisis has rapidly changed how businesses in all sectors and regions conduct their operations.
Largely, the COVID-19 crisis has removed the technology barrier in business, and the introduction of many applications to improve operations and globalisation are now available. Adopting digitization and using technology to improve customer and supply-chain interactions are increasing globally.
Some businesses have even re-strategized and moved part of their business operations online, implementing more than 60% of their business operations on the internet. This is also a location for a business to stay competitive and reduce the cost of doing business in a hostile environment, not just physical change or relocation.
Many businesses are currently struggling as a result of their adherence to the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar business model, even though the new normal has been established through the effective use of technology and digital channels.
The important thing to note is that new strategies, business models, and practices are required for businesses to stay profitable and stem the tide of high inflation, harsh environmental conditions, and weak consumer spending.
Technology’s strategic importance has to be recognised in business dealings going forward and as a critical component of the business. It can provide a source of business cost efficiencies and also global accessibility.
Research has shown that the location of a business is one of its most important factors for success, and online is also a location. Perhaps, across sectors, businesses may need to refocus their offerings, fill the technology gaps by adopting digital channels, increase their online presence and develop digital products. This may just be the strategic location businesses must consider now. Good luck!
How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?
Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, author, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email at email@example.com for any questions, reactions, and comments. The opinions expressed in this article are that of the author- Dr Timi Olubiyi, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of others.
Ask any staunch modernist, and you’ll hear them say that the last 100 years have far outpaced the previous 1,000 in terms of human invention. They will say that to define modernity is to acknowledge recent advancements in technological innovation, urbanisation, and globalisation and how they have accelerated financial exchange through fintech and other inventions.
We live in a time where the same generations who are always ready to whip out their cheque books and those who grew up completely digital bank with the same service provider or shop at the same retailer. So while we see today’s innovations across the retail, technology, banking, and travel sectors, for example, it begs the question of whether today’s innovations compete with traditionality.
When UNCTAD released its findings on e-commerce sales earlier this year, it described the growth of online sales as having increased “markedly in value”. At the same time, 46% of respondents in Raydiants 2022 Consumer Behaviour Report said that given the choice, they still prefer to shop in-store.
Like in online retail and in-store shopping, the biggest difference between traditional forms of payment or traditional banking and online banking is physical presence. As it goes, the same consumers who prefer shopping in physical stores likely still prefer the human interaction that goes with traditional banking.
That said, not everyone has access to a personal bank or financial advisor who can help with savings and investment decisions. However, data released by mobile industry insights company Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA) shows that smartphone adoption stands at 64 per cent in Sub-Saharan Africa, and is expected to grow to 75 per cent by 2025. The report also reflects that $155 billion of economic value added will be generated by mobile technologies and services by 2025. In 2020, transactions on mobile money platforms reached $490 billion.
“It’s not surprising that we have seen a proliferation of established players in mobile banking and payments. We expect these mobile solutions to extend to savings options, with the emergence of platforms that will make it easier for anyone with access to a smartphone to explore various investment and saving options,” says Tony Mallam, managing director of upnup, a micro-savings and investment platform.
There are, of course, still businesses and consumers that prefer using cash. And for consumers who prefer making payments using bank notes, the old saying of ‘nothing is more powerful than habit’ remains king. Eventually, as a home services marketplace, SweepSouth’s co-founder Alen Ribic comments market forces and market demand will be the deciding factors behind the financial behaviour of businesses and consumers.
“Our offering has always been a case of creating products according to customer needs and what the market demands. We don’t assume to know a customer and then launch new products or offerings based on that,” notes Ribic. “We know that a different market will add new variables into the equation and using a combination of market data with local, on the ground, team presence we assess what is in demand and what would be a suitable additional offering for our customers.
In fact, the very way that brands and consumers interact and learn with each other has changed. Today, most consumers will have researched a product online before making a purchase. More brands are using customer data gained from online behaviour and purchases to dictate their offerings.
Salesforce reports that while 66% of customers expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, only 32% of retail executive respondents say their organisations have the full ability to turn data into personalised prices, offers, and products in real-time across channels and touchpoints.
Head of Marketing and Communications at online travel booking platform Jurni, Tshepo Matlou.says, “Innovations are coming in thick and fast but the key is to meet your suppliers and customer base where they are. Each generation has their own way of approaching business, but to stay on the pulse – you have to meet them where they are most comfortable.”
Google’s Travel Insights portal notes that destination popularity can change in an instant. For the most current information on those changes, travel businesses should rely on travel data to determine service offerings. Today this type of trend analysis is far more useful than gauging the number of customers physically visiting travel agencies to pick up travel brochures.
Weighing up the benefits of traditional versus digital should not be seen as a war of which is better, but rather pose the question of how businesses can leverage mixed customer demand for services. Business owners should use data to educate themselves on trends and preferences for the generational mix of consumers with purchasing power that we see today. Whether you choose to be exclusively online or to satisfy various markets, there’s no doubt that, for now at least, both traditionality and modernity are here to stay.
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