From the report of the House Committee, about 6,779 metric tons of rice was donated by the Chinese government and shipped to Nigeria by June 2017.
Government is inherently incompetent, and no matter what task it is assigned, it will do it in the most expensive and inefficient way possible
The media space is currently inundated with stories of how China donated some tons of rice worth a few million dollars to Nigeria for Internally Displaced Persons and food insecure people in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states of about 4.4 million population. With our usual reactionary nature, different stakeholders are calling for the investigation of what went wrong concerning the non-delivery of the food items because a report by the House Committee indicated that about 800 million Naira was incurred as demurrage costs at the Port.
Procedurally, before another country engages in any form of transaction of such nature, the normal process would, probably, involve the Nigerian Ambassador to China who would inform Nigeria about the gesture to be received or the Chinese Ambassador to Nigeria would notify the Nigeria government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the matter. Either way, the problem that usually ensues is that within that process, letters would be ‘missing’, lots of unreturned phone calls and unreplied letters would occur. Coupled with the culture of unproductive bureaucracy, egos and palms would have to be massaged on official matters, and most likely, tribal, political and religious considerations would still affect the decision-making process. With the paperwork done in nothing less than six months, the actual activity may begin to take place.
From the report of the House Committee, about 6,779 metric tons of rice was donated by the Chinese government and shipped to Nigeria by June 2017. That translates to about 271 trailers or approximately 162,696 bags of rice. The Ministry of Agriculture, Finance, Budget & National Planning and National Emergency Management Authority were charged with different responsibilities of receiving, clearing, storage, transportation and distribution of the consignments to the IDP’s in the North East. That are four fully taxpayer funded Federal Government agencies. However, to date, the report stated that there is no evidence that a single bag of rice has been delivered to any community within Apapa not to speak of North-East.
The reasons for non-delivery is primarily because the rice was not cleared at the Ports! This is despite the effort by the Chinese government to have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with all parties listed above and had duly notified them on the date of arrival. The MOU had adequate information and indicated the role each agency is supposed to play and the expected day the ship would berth in Lagos. The Ministry of Budget and National Planning was to provide the funding for the clearing, transportation of the rice, handling and logistic charges as agreed in the MOU signed by the Government Agencies. The Ministry of Agriculture was responsible for providing silos for the storage of the rice. The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) was saddled with the responsibility of delivering the consignments to different designated silos and to distribute all the tons of the Chinese rice to the IDPs within States in the North-East that have been affected by insurgent activities.
With time elapsing, the Chinese made an effort in notifying the Ministry of Budget and National Planning that the rice could not be evacuated for over a year at the seaport despite an import waiver that was obtained from Ministry of Finance, informing them of the delay in clearing the items.
The monetary value of producing a bag of rice in China is at least 10 US dollars. Multiplying that with 162,696 may have cost the Chinese at least $ 1,626,960 which is about N 591 million. This excludes bagging, logistics and other payments incurred. Our government paid N 800 million as demurrage to APM terminal and Maersk Line for the consignment due to delay arising from inability and negligence to clear goods of less or about the same amount! This is just the economic inefficiency of the matter. Apart from the decadence of the whole activity, there is, as usual, the corruption angle. APM Terminal provided invoices on the demurrage showing payment by Ministry of Agriculture, but NEMA testified it made the payment. NEMA could not, however, provide before the Committee evidence of payment to APM terminal but the amount reflected in their books.
By Nigerian standards of decadence, this is not surprising. It’s nothing new. What is appalling is that nothing is likely going to come out of it. Now that is something to worry about. We have, over several decades developed a culture of setting the bar so low for governance.
For the Nigerian public service, who pays for inefficiencies? Are Chief Executive Officers of public office given deliverables of which they will be measured, or it’s merely an appointment letter. What exactly does the President expect from his Ministers and appointees in terms of performance? What do Governors demand from their Commissioners? What do Heads of parastatals demand of their Department Heads? What do we ordinary citizens demand of our public officers, elected and appointed? Is there an assessment criteria in the public service that measures efficiency and penalties for non-delivery?
We have heard of people being sacked for ‘disloyalty’, whatever that means. But we have not heard someone resign or fired for failing to prevent a terrorist attack, a financial crisis, mass failure in WAEC or JAMB, increase in smuggling and trafficking in persons, increase in drug abuse, increase in rapists and paedophiles, reduction in the standard of living or failure to improve infrastructure. Which doctor has been sacked for administering wrong medication as a result of wrong diagnosis? Which teacher has been relieved due to poor performance of students? Who has been held negligent on duty for all the plane crashes or once the Accident Investigation Bureau submits a report the matter is foreclosed? There are at least three regulatory/ supervisory agencies within the aviation industry, with a supervising Ministry and I bet you no flight will take off on time tomorrow.
For the core civil service, is it only appraisal forms that are used and if so, what is the score and criteria used for all the heads of MDA’s that warrants them to still be in charge? The usual sacking is of drivers, househelps, cooks and other staff that support the luxurious life of public officers. The driver is sacked for taking Madam late to a wedding but his principal goes to work at 10am and closes by 2pm. Within those four hours, they will watch TV, have lunch,check social media sites, step out for prayers or a cigarette and respond to unproductive phone calls.
Lest we forget, not a single public official has been sacked or gone to jail from NNPC, PPPRA, NPA, Federal Ministry of Finance despite several reports factually stating that billions of dollars went missing in subsidy scandals in the last ten years in the petroleum sector. No Police, EFCC or ICPC official has been sanctioned for inability to ensure that those that steal the commonwealth have been effectively prosecuted. What you have are a bunch of unfortunate oil marketers being tossed around the courts as if they could have acted in isolation. The cycle of decadence whirls around and around.
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Umar Yakubu, Counter Fraud Center, Abuja