Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala is the newly appointed Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). In this interview session anchored by Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, during the 8th Lagos Economic Summit, otherwise known as Ehingbeti, in Lagos on Tuesday, Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s former Minister of Finance, speaks on her new appointment at WTO, theme of the summit, women and youths empowerment and development of the African continent, among other issues.
Congratulations on your emergence as the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). As the first female and African to hold that position, we are truly excited. What has the journey been like?
Thank you so much your Excellency. It is wonderful to be with you. I am also one of your citizens; I have a place in VGC (Victoria Garden City). So, I know very much parts of Lagos State. The word is fantastic but I want to start by humbly thanking His Excellency, Mr. President (President Muhammadu Buhari), thanking all Nigerians for your support and encouragement. And I mean it sincerely, throughout the whole process, which has been very difficult, taking almost nine months of competition, waiting and uncertainty. Nigerians have been absolutely incredible, sending me messages of support, going on the Internet. Some people have been making videos and releasing them. So, I feel incredibly blessed and I am happy that it came out well and therefore we can try to show what Nigerians and Africans can do in such an international position. It is going to be very challenging but I feel ready; as everyone says, in every challenge, there is an opportunity. So, it would be important to see what can be done with all the countries around the world.
We are certain that you are going to do a great job and talking about great jobs, Africa itself has not done a great job yet; we are a work in progress. My first question to you would be, you sitting back and looking forward, what will a successful Africa look like and where do you think Lagos can sit in that context, given the fact that Lagos is today the largest megacity in Africa and it is the economic hub of Nigeria? What does a successful Africa look like in your view and where does Lagos sit in that?
Thank you so much your Excellency; this is a great question. From my point of view, one of the most important things a successful Africa should look at is the demography of Africa. When you have 60 per cent or more of your population that is 30 years old younger, then you ought to worry about job creation. So, for me, a successful Africa is Africa that is able to create jobs for its citizens. And when I say jobs, I mean what I will call decent works. Like I said in my WTO acceptance speech yesterday (Monday), that is the biggest issue the continent has to face. And similarly, Lagos State, the issue of employment of young people who are gainfully employed is important because if they are not, that would lead to so many social dislocations and unrest.
So, first and foremost a successful Africa and a successful Lagos State is the one that will create jobs for its citizens and this means two or three things. I think we have to concentrate our minds on the continent, in our country, Nigeria and Lagos State about how we will create modern decent jobs for our young people and we have a great opportunity to do that. One of the things that are very difficult for the continent, Nigeria and Lagos State now is the fact that we are still mainly a raw materials-based kind of economy. I know Lagos is a manufacturing hub but if you look at the whole of Africa, we are still mainly exporting primary products; whether it is fossil fuel like we have in Nigeria’s oil and gas, Angola and Mozambique and so on, or it is minerals like diamonds, tin, copper and other things from other countries or agricultural products like cocoa, coffee and so on.
So, we have to get from a position where we exporting raw materials to one where we are adding more value and processing. I listened to you (Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu) talking about Lagos becoming an agro-processing centre, notwithstanding the fact that its land area is the smallest in the country. So for Lagos, Nigeria and the continent, we have to ask ourselves the big question, how do we industrialize Africa? The Agenda 2063 of the African Union looks very much at how we can get there. Let me just give you one or two examples where I think opportunities can be seized. Africa imports more than 90 per cent of the pharmaceutical products that we use on the continent. So, that is a big gap and there is an opportunity for us to manufacture those products. We have a market of 1.3 billion people, equivalent to China or India and with the African Continental Free Trade Agreement that is now under implementation, actually is aiming at the common market, free borders when it actually works. What does it mean? It means Nigeria’s labours should look at how they can take advantage of such a big market, to make Nigeria not just a consumer centre where other people send goods but a big manufacturing centre that sends goods to other countries. So, that is a dream.
Apart from manufacturing, we have the creative art that you (Governor Sanwo-Olu) mentioned; services. Lagos is one of the most exciting cities, it is one of the most difficult but I love it because you never know what is around the corner. When I am in Lagos, I always discover a surprise in any part of the city; a lot to do with the art. So how can you make the creative arts, the movie industry? Part of it is centred there; create more jobs for our young people. You mentioned medical services; I want you to know that in Ghana, they are also planning to make the whole of Ghana a medical tourism hub. I was speaking to the Minister of Finance and hoping that they can link with Nigeria so they can focus on some specialties and we also focus on some. So, it is not Nigerians just going there to avail themselves of some services but Ghanaians and others also coming to Nigeria for those medical services. There are so many exciting opportunities of what Lagos State can do and what Africa can do and we have to put in mind who we are doing it for, which is our youths.
With the African Free Trades Agreement, we realised that we do less within ourselves. Statistics have shown that it is always from Europe, China and America but we do less internally and like you said it is only when we collaborate and do a lot with Africans internally that we can indeed create those jobs and opportunities for ourselves. Given the theme of the Lagos Economy Summit (Ehingbeti 2021) “For a Greater Lagos: Setting the tone for the next decade” and looking at Lagos for the next 10 years, where do you see us, what are those pitfalls that we need to avoid? What are those things that can make us a lot more competitive, more responsive and we can indeed build a Lagos that you are really proud of for the next decade? What kind of advice and input can you give us in helping Lagos to achieve that dream that we all dream about?
Thank you Your Excellency; you are asking a very good question. I listened to Mo Ibrahim (Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation) talking of the future, so I said jobs for the youths. The future is changing and it is very dynamic and so the future is artificial intelligence; it is digital economy. It is here to stay and we cannot do anything about that. So, either Nigeria, Lagos or Africa get on board or we get left behind. So, one of the things that I heard you talk about is a broadband, internet access to all households. If we can do that; this is what they have in a whole country like Korea, the whole place is wired, so everybody can be on the internet. So, when you talk about the jobs of the future, if we have broadband access that is fantastic; that is my main thing. I think the biggest challenge for Lagos State is infrastructure. If you don’t get the infrastructure right and I mean infrastructure of the future, not just roads and other things that cause bottleneck. Of course to have telecommunications infrastructure broadband, you also need electricity and energy. So, one of the things you have to make sure the state takes on board is how to have a steady and sustainable supply of electricity and in saying that, we should also be looking at how to move renewable and green, because the world is also turning green very rapidly.
I know that my brother, Aliko Dangote, is building the biggest refinery; we should have done that a long time ago, so we are glad we have it, petrochemicals in Lekki. But we also need to add to that, we should start looking green, how do we move to renewable? Those are three things, infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure for a Lagos of the future. The population is growing, if we don’t keep up with infrastructure, what we will end up with is bottlenecks. If you can really make it modern, forward looking infrastructure, that is what we need.
The world like I said is going digital; that is, e-commerce is here to stay; I mean the amount of transactions in e-commerce now that is ongoing. In the United States, it is over $500 billion with a net fix to the US of over 200 billion; that shows you the direction in which it is going. How can we tap into that digital economy? The reason I am excited about this and looking at negotiating the e-commerce agreement at WTO is because I feel that our countries and cities can benefit. We have small and medium enterprises, I would like to see many women doing this on the digital platform, and I will end by saying that we are lucky because our young people have started doing this. When you go out and you actually see what many of them are doing, you will be very proud; from e-payment system to all kinds of system on the digital platforms. All we really need to do is give them the basic infrastructure, encourage them, let us have some venture capital that invests in our own businesses. That is the problem we have. We don’t truly have the venture capital that can help encourage some of these businesses, so that they can grow. These are some of the things I think we have to watch out for.
You know that you are an icon in this country not only to the male but also to the female. You are a beacon of inspiration to everyone. What kind of advice do you have for us to have some seemingly gender balance? Talking about women and our youth, what broad advice do you have in terms of empowering them and opening up the space for our women and youths for the next decade?
I am very proud of Nigerian and African women because of the way they multitask and manage so many things; career, work, business along with their families, children and so on is amazing. But we really need to give women and youths a bigger platform. I have just written a book with a former Prime Minister of Australia. I didn’t know you will ask this question but on my table here, I have the book, it is a latest book, it came out in the United States two weeks ago. It is titled: “Women and leadership: Real life, real lessons.”
What a coincidence…
The book is a brand new book and we have been doing the book tour. The book talks about the lessons we need to learn from women leaders. We interviewed eight women leaders, from Theresa May to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to Hillary Clinton; eight very important women and we add to them lessons from our own experiences to say, what is it that women need to do to break into leadership because no matter what we say they are not yet there. I have focused on women for a moment and I will give a few statistics why we felt we have to write this book. The United Nations has 193 members and out of those 193 countries, only 57 have ever had women leaders at one time or another. As we speak, there are about 14 to 15 women leaders. People will say it is progress; they were only four in 2000, now we are 14 but at the pace of growth, it will take us decades in order to get gender parity in terms of women leadership. Everywhere you go, Nobel Prize winners, since the Nobel Prize started being awarded in the early 20th century, we have had 900 Nobel Prize winners and out of those 900, only 53 have been women. Looking at the parliaments all over the world, one in four parliamentarians globally is a woman. If you look at cabinets, 21 per cent of cabinets globally are women. If you look at different fields, engineering, 15 per cent are women. I could go on and on.
For every dollar earned by a man globally, a woman earns 63 cents. We talked about all that in the book and we say here are the lessons; there are things that women can do. But why I am saying all these things is because we are also saying it cannot happen without men. So, Your Excellency, our men have to decide to empower women because they are the ones who are holding the power and the jugs. So, unless they also agree to empower women and give a chance, we are not going to get there. So it is not only women just talking to women about issues of women empowerment or youths empowerment, we got to have dialogue with the men.
So, Your Excellency, I will start with you and ask you, how many leadership jobs are you going to open up for women? I know Lagos State has done very well, you have had female deputy governors, you have many female commissioners, you have excellent captains of industries who are women like my sister, Ibukun Awosika, the WIMBIZ women and many other women. I am very proud of them but I want you to talk to the other governors on how you are going to open up leadership positions for women because we cannot be empowered unless the men agree to empower us. Similarly for our youths, we can’t make road unless we all together create the opportunities for them to lead. So, I am bringing back the questions to you, your Excellency and before I go, I want to hear from you what you are going to do to help open up spaces for women and persuade your fellow governors to do more for women.
Thank You Madam. I will just tell you that this is very critical for us in Lagos and I dare say that we are humbled that in our cabinet, we have 35 per cent women; we have about 65 per cent women among our permanent secretaries; our judges, we have about 60 to 65 per cent that are women. In all of the critical arms in Lagos State, there are more women but we still want to do more. Women head the three critical ministries or agencies in Lagos today. A woman is the head of Works and Infrastructure, a woman is the head of LAMATA and the head of the renewal and rebuild agency. We are doing great but we also want to do more. We know that there are a lot of other opportunities that we can bring forward for our youths and women. I want to assure you that Lagos will continue to take a lead on this and we are truly excited that you have actually written a book and I want to say to you that you got great fans here that are not only women but men as well. I want to use this opportunity to say to you that we wish you all the very best on this new global stage that you are. We are convinced that you will certainly put in your very best, and putting in your very best means that you will come out of it without blemish and you will do a good job that every Nigerian, African, Lagosian will be truly proud of. I want to wish you all the very best. I want to thank you for being part of our discussion today and we want to wish you all the very best.
Thank you your Excellency and a shout out to all Nigerians as my son would say. Thank you so much. And to the women, love you all, keep it up. And governor, congratulations on doing so much.
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Twitter Board Unanimously Recommends Shareholders Approve Elon Musk’s $44 billion Takeover
In a regulatory filing on Tuesday morning, Twitter’s board urged shareholders to approve the buyout at Elon Musk’s proposed price of $54.20 per share during a special meeting later this year.
Though Musk has threatened to pull out of the merger agreement he signed on April 25, citing concerns over fake accounts, Twitter’s board has insisted that it will enforce the terms of the agreement.
A date for the shareholder vote has not yet been set, but the merger agreement includes a deadline of October 24 to consummate the deal.
Musk reiterated his desire to move forward with the acquisition last week during a virtual meeting with Twitter employees, though shares of Twitter remain far below his offering price, signaling considerable doubt that it will happen at the agreed price.
READ ALSO: Elon Musk’s Son Seeks Court’s Approval To Change Gender, Name, End Relationship With Father
On Tuesday at the Qatar Economic Forum in an interview with Bloomberg, Musk listed the approval of the deal by shareholders as one of several ‘unresolved matters’ related to the Twitter deal.
Shares of Twitter were essentially flat just before the opening bell Tuesday, and remained far short of the $54.20 per-share that Musk has offered to pay for each.
The company’s stock last reached that level on April 5 when it offered Musk a seat on the board before he had offered to buy all of Twitter.
In its filing on Tuesday, Twitter’s board of directors said in a letter to shareholders that it ‘unanimously recommends that you vote (for) the adoption of the merger agreement.’
A simple majority of shareholders would have to vote to approve Musk’s offer for the deal to take effect.
If the deal were to close now, investors in the company would pocket a profit of $15.22 above market prices for each share they own.
Twitter shares rose more than 1% following the board’s letter to shareholders, but the stock is still about $15 less per share than Musk’s offer price.
Last week, Musk told Twitter staff he wants to raise the service’s user numbers from 229 million to at least 1 billion people and said advertising would remain important for the company, despite previously saying he believes Twitter should not serve ads.
‘I think advertising is very important for Twitter,’ Musk said in an address to Twitter employees, according to audio of the meeting reported by Reuters.
‘I’m not against advertising. I would probably talk to the advertisers and say, like, ‘hey, let’s just make sure the ads are as entertaining as possible.”
Musk, who was expected to provide assurance to Twitter employees during his first meeting, didn’t offer an update on the deal closing.
He reiterated he was still trying to learn more about bot and spam accounts on Twitter, which he called his biggest concern.
In response to a question about whether he expected layoffs, Musk said there needed to be ‘some rationalization of headcount and expenses.’
‘Right now, the costs exceed the revenue,’ he said, adding ‘anyone who’s … a significant contributor should have nothing to worry about.’
Twitter’s logo is seen on the facade of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco.
Twitter’s logo is seen on the facade of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco
Analyst says Elon Musk is ‘worried’ about the economy
Twitter employees took to an internal Slack channel in droves during the session, posting memes and complaining that Musk was not providing useful answers on his vision for the business and employee compensation.
They also demanded on Slack that the moderator press Musk on his views about remote work, as Twitter currently allows employees relatively free reign to work remotely or in the office.
Musk said he believed Twitter staff should lean toward working in an office, but expressed willingness to make some exceptions. The bias should be ‘strongly towards working in person, but if somebody is exceptional, then remote work can be okay,’ he said.
The impending takeover of Twitter has been met with widespread skepticism and concern among the San Francisco-based company’s employees, some of whom have worried Musk will relax rules on certain content.
The billionaire told Twitter staff he believed users should be allowed to say ‘pretty outrageous things’ on the site as long as the content is not illegal.
Daily Mail Online
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Sanwo-Olu, Elumelu Launch Development Of New Falomo Towers
The Lagos State Governor, H.E. Babajide Sanwo-Olu and business leader and philanthropist, Tony O. Elumelu, CON, led other real estate stakeholders over the weekend in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Falomo Towers development in Ikoyi, Lagos. The project is being developed by joint venture partners, Afriland Properties Plc, investee company of the Heirs Holdings Group, and the Lagos State Development and Property Corporation (LSDPC).
Special Guest of Honour, His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, in his address, commended the JV partners for their commitment to the Nigerian real estate sector and their vision in redeveloping the iconic Lagos landmark. He praised both companies for what he believed would be an exemplary delivery of a public-private partnership.
Governor Sanwo-Olu stated that the new Falomo Towers will become a highly sought-after destination for work, life, and play. “The JV is delivering an environment that offers contemporary work and living spaces, that will further catalyse Lagos’ economic renaissance. I am delighted that Afriland Properties, one of the country’s leading institutional real estate investors, is able to partner with Lagos State, to deliver excellence.”
Chairman, Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu, in his keynote address, stated that the project was a demonstration of the governor’s commitment to private sector growth in Lagos State and the country. He emphasized the importance of the private sector in transforming Nigeria’s economy and the need for meaningful partnerships, which would unleash the potential of the country.
“We believe that the growth of our economy, will be delivered by the private sector, but for the private sector to do well, our public sector leaders must create the right environment,” he said. “The partnership we are celebrating today is a model, not just for Nigeria, but for Africa. I salute all those who have contributed to this exciting venture, not least His Excellency, whose vision we are delivering”.
The Managing Director/CEO, Afriland Properties, Uzo Oshogwe, stated: “This mixed-use development will drive sustainability, creativity, and innovation. It reinforces our promise to beautify and enhance the Lagos skyline. We are implementing our firm commitment to Africapitalism, that through our long-term investment in real estate, we will create employment, economic prosperity, and social wealth, that will transform Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria, and the African continent.
The Managing Director, LSDPC, Hon. Ayodeji Joseph stated that the partnership with Afriland Properties Plc will provide additional residential apartments, that would increase the housing stock in Lagos and provide affordable housing for the middle-class citizens and millennials, who form the core of the 21st century workforce.
Falomo Towers is a contemporary mixed used development, focused on sustainability and sustainable building practices, designed to deliver a greener environment. The project will deploy cutting-edge technology-enabled design, to create an architectural masterpiece.
Afriland Properties Plc is a property management, investment, and development company, offering end-to-end services along the real estate value chain, from management to joint-venture investments. With a portfolio size of over N10 billion and one of the largest land banks in Nigeria, Afriland is pioneering the opportunities presented by an institutional approach to real estate, serving niche markets throughout Africa.
Falomo 1: l-r: Managing Director, Lagos State Development and Property Corporation(LSDPC), Hon. Ayodeji Joseph; Group Chairman, Heirs Holdings, Mr Tony Elumelu; Executive Governor of Lagos State, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Managing Director/CEO, Afriland Properties Plc, Mrs Uzo Oshogwe, during the Sod Turning Ceremony of Falomo Towers, a joint venture project of Afriland Properties Plc(Investee company of Heirs Holdings Group) and LSDPC, held at the site in Falomo on Friday
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How JP Morgan Chase Won $1.7b Case Against Nigeria
Detailsa have emerged on how JP Morgan Chase won a $1.7 billion London High Court battle against Nigeria over its role in a disputed 2011 oilfield deals involving energy majors Shell and Eni.
Nigeria had filed a lawsuit against U.S. bank JP Morgan Chase at a London high court in February, claiming more than $1.7 billion as damages.
The trial opened with Nigeria’s lawyer Roger Masefield alleging that JP Morgan was “grossly negligent” in its decision to transfer funds paid by the energy majors into an escrow account to a company controlled by the country’s former oil minister Dan Etete instead of into government coffers.
According to Masefield, the transactions put JP Morgan in breach of its Quincecare duty, which obliges banks to disregard a customer’s instructions if following those instructions might actually facilitate a fraud against that customer.
“Under its Quincecare duty, the bank was entitled to refuse to pay for as long as it had reasonable grounds for believing its customer was being defrauded,” Masefield said.
The damages sought include cash sent to Etete’s company Malabu Oil and Gas, around $875 million paid in three instalments in 2011 and 2013, plus interest, taking the total to over $1.7 billion.
But a London High Court judge said no such breach took place in a ruling published on Tuesday.
JP Morgan’s counsel Paul Erekoro, argued that the allegations against it were “baseless and false” and denied any complicity in the case.
The bank said that it did not breach the Quincecare duty, neither did it act with gross negligence as claimed by the Nigerian government.
Erekoro said that the release of Malabu’s claims over OPL 245 was a vital part of the transaction, because without this Shell and Eni would not have been prepared to take on the block, and it would therefore have continued to languish in an unproductive state.
“The Resolution Agreements were subject to detailed scrutiny by a large number of senior ministers and officials within the FGN, most of whom are not accused of any wrongdoing
“The agreements were personally approved by President Jonathan, and represented the policy of his administration.
“JPMC agreed to provide the Depository Account for this purpose, and charged a fee of $25,000 for its services. Its role was thus intended to be discrete and limited,” the bank said.
A spokesman for the bank said in a statement on Tuesday, that the judgment “reflects our commitment to acting with high professional standards in every country we operate in, and how we are prepared to robustly defend our actions and reputation when they are called into question”.
The London case dates back to 1998 when Nigerian military ruler Sani Abacha awarded the offshore oilfield licence, OPL 245, to a company Etete owned.
The $20 million price tag – of which Etete paid about $2 million, according to court documents – was widely viewed by industry experts as too low given the block was expected to yield billions of dollars of crude, although it remains undeveloped.
Subsequent Nigerian administrations contested Etete’s rights to the field, triggering years of legal wrangling until a deal designed to end the battles was struck in 2011.
Etete’s company Malabu Oil and Gas handed the undeveloped OPL 245 back to Nigeria as part of a resolution agreement involving Shell and Eni.
To complete the deal, Shell and Eni also paid a signature bonus of about $200 million directly to the Nigerian government and then deposited $1.1 billion in the Nigerian government’s escrow account with JP Morgan, court documents showed.
A report by the anti-corruption group, Global Witness, released in November 2018, said that Shell and Eni’s deal for Nigeria’s OPL 245 oil block reduced Nigeria’s expected revenue by nearly $6 billion.
The report urged Nigeria to revoke the OPL 245 licence rather than allow the oil companies to make enormous profits from the deal.
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