PATH TO NIGERIAN GREATNESS: On the campaign trail Whither the poor under the new dispensatlon*

Continued from last week

INORDER to prevent invoice-loading, a Swiss Company is appointed as our sole agent for doing pre-shipment inspection of goods intended for export into Nigeria from any part of the world. The Swiss Company has a staff of about 900, spread all over the countries with which Nigeria has import business. The public has not been told what the remuneration of this Swiss Company is, nor have we been informed of how much we expect to save in foreign exchange by employing the services of this Swiss Company.

In the one case, a writer in the Daily Times of Nigeria has stated that the remuneration of the Swiss Company was a commission of 8 per cent on all goods inspected by them and exported to Nigeria.

This percentage has not yet, to my knowledge, been publicly corrected. Some other people have suggested 2 per cent. In the other case, it is understood that, by employing the services of the Swiss Company in determining the true value of exports to Nigeria and thereby preventing invoice-loading, we would save something of the order of N 200 million a year.

If exports to Nigeria are conservatively valued at just 6 billion a year, then at 2 per cent or 8 per cent of the remuneration of the Swiss Company would respectively be * 120 million or just 480 million! The lower remuneration does not offer much savings; the larger one is decidedly a colossal loss.

Whatever the percentage rate of remuneration, it is a grave error to base such remuneration on the value of exports to Nigeria. Unless all the 900 employees of the Swiss Company are angels, it is a clear invitation to many of them to collude ar conspire with the exporters in continuing the practice of invoice-loading. For, the higher the value of exports, the larger the remuneration. Besides, there are other sources of loss to. the economy which are not easily quantifiable.

The view is widely held that the operation of Decree No .. 36 of 1978 has considerably slowed down the flow of foreign goods into the country. Two of the immediate effects of these are that there will very Soon be a serious shortage of goods in the country, and a resort to smuggling will be on the increase.

On our accession to power, we will certainly not hesitate to terminate a system which is so manifestly, even on the face of it, incapable of attaining its object. Another system will be substituted when the problem has been fully studied in all its ramifications.

Another matter which galls a large section of our people is the recent ban on pools-betting. I understand that the aim of this ban is to promote morality among the Nigerian populace. What are we doing then about poker, betting at billiard game, speculation at the stock-exchange which is a form of sophisticated gambling? What are we doing about brothels and .night-clubs which are hat-beds of immorality?

In trying to promote morality in the country, we have chosen the weak low-income groups for immolation at the altar, rather than the big and dangerous disseminators of those evil practices which have had more pernicious, more deleterious, and more pervasive demonstration effects on our society than pools-betting. Just one last point. Far quite a long time now, the autonomy of our universities has suffered progressive erosion. The academic community which consists of same of our best intellectuals in the country cannot be trusted to elect their own Vice-Chancellor.

The National Universities commission is said to be over-bearing in its posture towards the Universities. Some of the Chairmen of Councils regard themselves as over-seers not only of the administrative affairs of the universities, but also of their academic performances. From year to year, the university authorities have to go cap-in-hand before the National Universities Commission for funds. Because of their federalisation, a Vice-Chancellor in, say Maiduguri or Ahmadu Bello, has to go all the way to Lagos for consultations. Above all, the Federal Commissioner for Education regards himself -and he is so regarded! — as the boss of the universities.

Under the Unity Party of Nigeria, the universities will have complete autonomy in the choice of their Vice-Chancellors, and in the administration of their affairs. Since under the UPN, education is tuition and textbook free at all levels, sufficient funds will always be made available to them by the Federal Government through the State Government to enable them to fulfil their objectives and programmes. With the exception of Ibadan and Lagos which for historical reasons, will remain under Federal Government auspices, every university should belong to the Government of the State in which it is situated. A highpowered body of experts, including all Vice-Chancellors, will be set up to look carefully into the present disabilities suffered by our universities and make re-commendations for guaranteeing academic freedom, and enhancing the morale of those who teach, research and work in these very important and indispensable institutions.