Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

Free Trade Zone Not Used?

Free Trade Zone Unused?

Zainab Usman posted on Facebook about a free trade zone in Nigeria that is now gone to waste. The Guardian News online calls it “Nigeria’s 450 million naira ‘White Elephant’.”

More than a decade ago, the free trade zone seemed like a brilliant idea. Bassey Ndem, the original head, hoped the free trade zone could revitalize the area around Calabar, in Nigeria’s southeast. Those who conceived of the plan thought it could bring tourists and prosperity.

Nigeria’s wealthy who traveled to Dubai or London to shop could purchase their luxury goods at home. The zone features a hotel, shops, a pool, and even a movie studio.

Tinapa Lakeside Hotel, Calabar

It opened in 2007. The first two years showed some success. But too few came to shop or make movies. Nor did others invest.

Ndem says the customs people did not like the idea of a free trade zone. They blocked containers from coming in.

Blame is also leveled at the government for poor infrastructure. The deep-sea port was not built, and the roads are poor.

“In the end, no big name jeweller or pret-a-porter line wanted to invest in the paradise promised by its promoters and the hotel remains desperately empty,” the article says.

But at Hotels.com, you can find Tinapa Lakeside Hotel with pictures and a phone number for booking. It even says you can book online. The picture above is from that site.

TripAdvisor also has it listed. Many amenities, including the pool and water slide are highlighted. Now I’m curious. Has anyone been there?

And After Many Days

And After Many Days, prize winner

And After Many Days, prize winner

Nigerian author Jowhor Ile’s debut novel And After Many Days, published in 2016, just won the Etisalat Prize. His website calls it, “An unforgettable debut novel about a boy who goes missing, a family that is torn apart, and a nation on the brink.” 

Taiye Selasi, author of Ghana Must Go, praises it highly. She says, “At once calm, collected, lyrical and heartbreaking, Ile’s debut is many things: an achingly tender portrait of family life, a brilliantly executed whodunnit, a searing critique of Nigerian politics, a meditation on love. I couldn’t put it down and was forever changed when I did.”

I asked on Twitter whether anyone had read it. Several people recommended it. I’ve added it to my Goodreads list of “To Read.”

First I have to finish Okey Ndibe’s latest, his memoir, Never Look an American in the Eye. I’ll be on a panel to discuss it with the author and others in June at the Yale Conference on African Literature.

Jowhor Ile, author, photo credit Zina Saro-Wiwa

Jowhor Ile, author, photo credit Zina Saro-Wiwa, from his website

Etisalat and the Prize

And I was curious about the prize. I find that, “The Etisalat Prize for Literature celebrates new writers of African citizenship whose first fiction book (over 30,000 words) was published in the last twenty four (24) months.

“Authors and their publishers can be based anywhere in the world. The winner of the Etisalat Prize for Literature receives £15,000.”

Etisalat sponsors a book tour for the winner to three African cities. Perhaps most important, the company “aims to promote the publishing industry at large and will therefore purchase 1000 copies of all shortlisted books which will be donated to various schools, book clubs and libraries across the African continent.”

Never heard of Etisalat? The company is a major player in the African telecoms industry. You can read about the prize and the company.

Another Coup? Not Possible, Right?

I taught the final session of “400 Years of Nigerian History” at the Bigelow Center for Senior Activities in Fairfield on Monday. After treating the class to reports of repeated Nigerian coups between 1966 and 1999, I told the participants that another coup in Nigeria was unlikely.

That’s what my husband said. And I concurred, with a little less certainty than he had expressed.

Recently a container of weapons was intercepted at a Nigerian port. And this was not the first.

Coup rumors, an absent president, and a stagnant economy are putting Nigeria on edge

The article in Quartz says, “While covered by Nigeria’s newspapers as an ordinary daily event, the timing of the weapon finds is particularly unnerving. Nigeria’s political and military circles have been swirling with rumors that some unknown people are discussing a military coup. How do we know? Because the military has come out to refute such allegations.”

Could it happen again? Is Buhari’s absence leading credence to this idea? By all accounts I’ve read, he was careful to delegate power to his Vice President Osinbajo. Buhari has also been reported to be working while he is on medical leave in London.

Nigeria's Vice President Osinbajo, in charge while Buhari is on medical leave

Nigeria’s Vice President Osinbajo, in charge while Buhari is on medical leave

The military has been dedicated to defeating Boko Haram. That task is enough to keep them occupied and out of trouble.

But as the article says, “Nigeria’s current political uncertainty has more to do with whether: a) Buhari is healthy enough to continue in office; b) If not, should Osinbajo stay on as president till 2019 when the next elections are due; and, most crucially of all, c) Whether Osinbajo, who hails from Ogun state in Nigeria’s southwest, would be allowed to run for president in 2019 given the unwritten political agreement not to have a southerner running then.”

Finally, the writer says, is the economy. Still mostly dependent on oil revenue, the goal of diversification has barely taken hold. The population growth rate is 2.9%. So even if the goal of growing the economy at 3% is reached, can that bring the improvement people are longing for?

Memorial Daymemorial day

If you are in the U.S. you’ll be celebrating Memorial Day on Monday.

Clem and I will return from grandson Kenechi’s Cornell graduation on Sunday, so we’ll be home for Westport’s Memorial Day parade.

Perhaps he’ll go without me.

I’ll be blogging again!

Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.

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