Comment in the discussion chain: Data Centers and Disaster Recovery in Nigeria.

Started by moderator Christopher Odutola of the Linked in group: Cloud Computing, Virtualization and Disaster Recovery in Nigeria.

Online: http://www.linkedin.com/groups/Data-Centers-Disaster-Recovery-in-3785575.S.43550562?view=&srchtype=discussedNews&gid=3785575&item=43550562&type=member&trk=eml-anet_dig-b_pd-pmt-cn&ut=1tsF8girXdkBI1

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Thank you, all for your highly knowledgeable and astute comments in this discussion so far.  We all know that as Nijas, we have the talent and we have the skills to get things done – as you all show.  However … na conditions!!  I think 6 factors need to be addressed to some extent before the cloud can gain more credibility and traction in Nigeria, and even in Africa, and become “e-Solid”.

“E”nergy is number one.  Data centers need cooling (especially below the equator), and drives need energy to spin, access memory, and provide those virtual instances.  The idea of generators in series has merit, but I would say turbines are better – with all the natural gas we have flaring.  I always wonder why none of our unemployed Engineers have built scalable and modular mini-re refineries that can be used in the Niger Delta instead of all these open air burns; as used to feed or as combined with, modular and scalable mini-power stations.  We do have the labour, craftsmen, engineers, and natural resources.  Perhaps some of your banking and industrial contacts can be interested in seed funding.  Such machines will get plenty of interest in similarly challenged parts of the world.  It will take quite an effort to string functioning power lines everywhere, or bury them where there are already more people than spare ground.  I think localized modularity is the way to go, as opposed to regional and national power grids.

“S”ecurity has many facets.  One the one hand, it is the day to day matter of traveling to work while avoiding roadblocks, armed robbers, militants or les beaucoup-harmers, and drivers of trucks with no brakes, or of buses full of people and tankers full of petroleum or chemicals, who are not in their right minds due to some substance or other.  The 24/7 nature of IT will require people to travel back and forth at odd times,  unless you are there on 7-12 day on, and 7-12 day off shifts, or something like that.  Even then, you will have to switch-out at some point, and face the travel hazards.  The other facet of security is data security.  Are the sys-admins selling off data sniffed in transit; is the data entirely managed within Nigeria or are portions of the cloud external and therefore subjecting the data to the laws and sniffing of other jurisdictions; are Nigerians adequately protected from identity theft and loss of funds in the case of financial data transfers through the cloud?  These are all areas where Nigerian laws are pretty far behind, due to other priorities of our dear leaders – state and federal, and legislators.

“O”versight is also highly important.   There are a plethora of regulatory bodies, associations, commissions, and parastatals in Nigeria that have overlapping and complementary functions.  When people in position wake and realize that there is money to be made from taxing, regulating, and licensing the cloud, there will be a rush to assert jurisdiction.  Will it be from NCC (due to communications), CBN (due to financial transactions in the cloud), FRSC (due to data transportation on the information highway), NIMASA for the undersea telecommunications cables, each and every state government (due to data center location), EFCC (due to the potential problems within their competence), or any combination of the security agencies, due to the potential national security implications.  How easily can the Corporate Affairs Commission define which of the above types of business the CSP/CSV is engaging in, and how many lawsuits, pleas to the President, and examples public rudeness and misbehavior at the highest levels will Nigerian have to endure from those many competing regulatory interests?  I think a massive rationalization and realignment of Nigeria’s regulatory landscape is long overdue, but it may not happen while there are so many who benefit from the current alphabet soup of a conjoint twin octopus at a grand buffet, still eating to their heart’s content.  Other countries have established central fora, fusion centers, and similar councils where many bodies work together for the same goal.  In our case, that may take some time to achieve.

“L”egal is the logical follow-on, here.  There can be a self-regulatory body established for cloud service providers that enforces standards amongst peers, coordinates training and best practices, and works to lobby the government where and when needed.  Or, providers in the space can continue to work independently and accept whatever laws and regulations – no matter how contradictory, policy-somersault-laden, or otherwise non-conducive to sane and sustained business – are handed down from above.  Tips can be taken from what transpires with regard to the cloud outside Nigeria, but we should not be so fast to adopt things full force, that might not quite fit with our unique context.  We have seen many examples of this, as well as cases where countries accepted Constitutions and laws drafted by outsiders that were just plain wrong.

For example, the Warsaw Convention limits liability to air carriers in the case of a lost luggage, persons, or goods.  The Hamburg Rules perform a similar function with regard to carriage of goods by sea.  Those work well and are generally accepted for important service industries, when coupled with insurance.  Obviously, some lawyers can always be found to sue, despite the caps!  Attitudes change, however, when the protection is given to specialized industries and interests.  You have for example the Nuclear Liability Act in Canada, and the Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act, in the United States – both limiting the liability of civilian nuclear installations for any incidents.  Most recently, on top of the refusal or inability of the United States Food and Drug Administration to force the labeling of genetically modified foods and food ingredients, President Obama still signed a Monsanto Protection Act on March 28, 2013 – http://rt.com/usa/monsanto-bill-blunt-agriculture-006/.

A time may well come when the cloud industry becomes so large and all-pervasive that it will merit similar protections for all the data breach and failings we see with it in the western world – the first adopters.  However, if this happens in Nigeria before deposit insurance is taken and managed seriously (towards fewer vanishing premiums), a national identity system is firmly in place (towards fewer unusually expensive ghost workers), and business insurance and industry best practices are firmly adhered to, someone may pull a Cyprus without the government involvement.  The supposedly un-hackable Bitcoin was recently pilfered, and government should not help itself to personal bank accounts just because someone tells it to.  If the industry itself is protected, but the protection is not there or woefully inadequate for customers/consumers, some major problems could very well result.

“I”nfrastructure also needs a lot of work – whether roads and rails, buildings within which mobiles may or may not function, encryption and security of data in transit against SQL insertion and other malware exploits, and a lot more attention to such basic security as keeping programs and systems patched and up to date.  BYOD can mean both bring your own device and bring your own destruction, depending on what the device owner is knowingly or unknowingly carrying within it, or something to which the device attaches.  It is no secret that many government websites in Africa (not just Nigeria) are Trojan-laden.  This needs to be fixed, before Nations are cut-off from the outside and just go dark, due to the increasingly powerful antivirus and anti-malware programs that just block access to swathes of e-Estate, due to the real or alleged vulnerabilities that they represent.  Come on, guys and gals, we need to be able to reach you …. and there is no guarantee that VOIP will remain unaffected.  I cannot count the number of times that my system has refused to go somewhere – somewhere legitimate thank you – and then, I had to decide whether or not to disable the meguard and go there anyway.  This trend is already well-underway.  Even with all or most of the cell towers up, there should be backups in hard lines and satellites, because towers can still be taken down.  We need to get our act together and put in the kind of backup and redundancy of critical infrastructure that gives people a greater sense of confidence that things will work and continue to work when they are needed most.   With the near total absence of landlines, what happens to emergency calls when the cloud-based cellular service goes down?  Our infrastructure needs some serious work if we are to have the necessary bandwidth for greater cloud uptake (by SMBEs and conglomerates), deployment (in SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS configurations), and uptake (by the public and the powers that be); along with the other deficiencies here identified.

“D”isaster prevention, planning, response, and recovery is an obviously-ignored competence at the higher levels in Nigeria, due to the abundance of buildings and homes in flood plains – recurrently lost; the lack of an organized, national ambulance and air and water ambulance service – let alone fully-equipped, staffed, and functioning medical and dental facilities and pharmacies; poor attention to building standards, and road and rail traffic, maritime, and aviation vessel quality and facility maintenance; and the preponderant fire brigade approach with promises and prayers when things go horribly wrong.  Even where the cloud is proprietary, such as the example of your own VM instance on campus or at work, commonsense and best practices still advise the use in any combination, of off-cloud backup (such as having your digital photos both in the cloud and on a physical USB stick that can create a mirror collection with rapid and relative ease – so long as not corrupted or lost), a substitute or backup cloud (such as also storing them in another location and with another vendor,  perhaps as sent email attachments due to the current almost unlimited email storage capacity), offsite backup (on a portable hard drive at a second physical location), and perhaps physical hardcopy prints that can be laboriously scanned and uploaded, again, if and when all else fails.  Multiple redundancies are keys to data availability, reliability, and replicability, and all of the above need to be addressed before that can be more fully guaranteed with the appropriate high-uptime SLAs.

 

SUMMARY:

In summary, unless the Nigerian cloud industry members, vendors, and workers want to be misled by the kind of absentee and not quite technically competent as it is supposed to be or claims to be leadership that has characterized so much of our experience in recent memory, they (and other like-minded professional bodies tired of waiting to be disappointed, yet again), will step-up to take the lead in their own best professional and practical interests, and the interests of all Nigerians at home, abroad, and as yet unborn, to organize, strategize, and familiarize themselves with global best practices, apply only what makes most sense with regard to local idiosyncrasies, and work to build local workarounds and custom solutions to the Nigerian situation that can waylay & workaround the kind of Bigman and Bigwoman jealousy, grandstanding, and other examples of feferity and insincerity that I alluded to above; better insulating their businesses from marauders to make them e-Solid.

That’s my N 100;

I hope it helps.

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Author:

Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer, with over a decade of legal experience including business law and counseling (business formation, outsourcing, commercial leasing, healthcare privacy, Cloud applications, social media, and Cybersecurity); diverse litigation, as well as ADR; and regulatory practice (planning and zoning, environmental controls, landlord and tenant, and GRC – governance, risk, and compliance investigations, audits, and counseling) in both Canada and the United States.  He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S.A.). Please See: http://www.ogalaws.com

He is an experienced strategic and management consultant; sourcing, managing, and delivering on high stakes, strategic projects with multiple stakeholders and multidisciplinary teams.  Please See: http://www.simprime-ca.com

Backed by courses in management, organizational behaviour, and micro-organizational behaviour, Mr. George is also a writer, tweeter and blogger (as time permits), and a published author in Environmental Law and Policy (National Security aspects).

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”), in whole or in part for their content, or their accuracy, or their availability.

This article does not constitute legal advice or create any lawyer-client relationship.

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Constitutional Reform: Nigeria

September 20, 2012

On Tuesday, September 11, 2012, I attended (with my full copy of the 1999 Nigerian Constitution in hand), a “Lunch and Learn” panel where guests had the opportunity to speak with and hear from, a delegation of Nigerian lawmakers and legal experts on the topic of Nigerian Constitutional Review.  In attendance, were:

SENATORS:

Senator Ahmed Ningi Abdul (Bauchi State), Member of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution, head of the delegation, and Deputy Senate Leader;

Senator Ahmed Mohammad Makarfi (Kaduna State), Member of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and former Governor of Kaduna State;

Senator Barr. Enang Ita Solomon James (Akwa Ibom State), Member of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business;

Senator Umaru Dahiru (Sokoto State), Member of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, and Legal Matters;

Senator Barr. Lanlehin Olufemi Akinola (Oyo State), Member of the Senate Committee on Review of the 1999 Constitution and Vice-Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Planning.

STAFF:

Supporting the Senators as members of the delegation, were:

Dr. Offornze D. Amucheazi, Professor of Law, Legal Advisor to the Committee, and moderator of the panel;

Dr. Maxwell Michael Gidado, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Nassarawa State University, and Legal Advisor to the Committee;

Barr. Kenneth Ikonne, Constitutional Lawyer, and Legal Advisor to the Committee;

Barr. Peter Eze, Legal Advisor to the Committee;

Ndubuisi Nwigwe, Special Assistant to the Committee;

Mr. Innocent (I did not catch his last name), Committee Clerk.

NIGERIAN HIGH COMMISSION, Ottawa, Canada:

Appearing on behalf of the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa, were:

His Excellency, Ambassador Ojo Uma Maduekwe, Nigerian High Commissioner to Canada, Barrister-at-Law of Nigeria, and former Minister of External Affairs of the Federal Republic of Nigeria;

Mr. Amosa Umar Yusuf, Minister, Nigerian High Commission.

SPECIAL GUESTS:

Amongst attendees – including both Nigerians and non-Nigerians in equal numbers – we were graced by the presence of Her Excellency Mrs. Dato’ Hayati Ismail, Malaysian High Commissioner to Canada.

My sincerest apologies to anyone that I have missed, or shown with a truncated name, title, or honour; and it was a pleasure to see and meet everyone.

HOSTS:

The panel was graciously hosted by the Forum of Federations, a Canadian Non-governmental Organization (NGO), self-described as “the global network on federalism and multi-level governance, supports better governance through learning among practitioners and experts. Active on six continents, it runs programs in over 20 countries including established federations, as well as countries transitioning to devolved and decentralized governance options. The Forum publishes a range of information and educational materials. It is supported by the following partner countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and Switzerland.http://www.forumfed.org.

INTRODUCTIONS:

After a brief introduction of the Nigerian delegation, our hosts, and the representatives of the Nigerian High Commission in Ottawa, the members of the audience were invited to introduce themselves.  Unfortunately, things dragged-on somewhat, as a number of the introductions went deeply into substantive issues or procedural matters, such as the lack of notice given to the Nigerian community of the committee’s trip to Canada.  Senator Abdul was good enough to explain that the central purpose of this trip was to engage with the Forum of Federations, and hence the matter of notice to the community arose as a secondary matter.   However, he gave assurances that there would be proper, ample notice when it was time to engage directly with overseas Nigerians on Constitutional amendment.

ISSUES:

Many issues were raised and put to the panel by the audience, including the Boko Haram movement and its implications for the Nigerian Federation, but excluding historic and ongoing environmental damage in the Niger Delta (the latter was covered days later in a seminar at Carleton University, as presented by Dr. Paul Ugor, of the Centre for West African Studies at the University of Birmingham, U.K.: http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/staff/profiles/cwas/ugor-paul.aspx).

Some questions resulted in multiple and highly divergent responses from members of the panel; which just goes to show that we Nigerians are diverse in nature, we have independent minds and spirits, and we will speak our minds however, whenever, and wherever we possibly can, and without fear or favour.   It also shows the Herculean task of achieving meaningful constitutional reform in our Federal Republic.

FOCUS:

The delegation presented 5 (“five”) elements central to constitutional reform that were the main focus of their trip to Canada.  These were:

1. State Police (to have or not to have, and with what mandates and powers);

♦Enforcement of laws (especially environmental laws and criminal laws)

♦National Security and border control

♦Primary jurisdiction at ports and airports

♦Controlling smuggling (people, goods, cultural artifacts, and natural resources)

2. True Federalism (what is it; how do we get there);

♦Empowering the states (policing, raising taxes, education, local minimum wage rates).  For example, personal income taxes (pay as you go) might be set at 15% for the federation, and perhaps 10% for the states, as paid by the employee; and then a contribution from the employer.  With each divisible by 5, allocations would go equally to: (i) Disability, unemployment, and education funding (DUE); (ii) Health, welfare, and education funding (HWE); (iii) General revenues – as the true and unrestricted tax; (iv) Old age, retirement, and social security funding (OARS); and (v) Water, energy, air transport, roads, and rails (WEARR), or infrastructure funding.  The 5x federation portions (as set by the federation once every 5 or seven years) would be held steady at 3%, though able to go as low as 2% and as high as 5%; the 5x state portions (as set by each state once every 5 years) would range in 1/2 percentage points from 0.5 (x5 = total 2.5%) to 2.0 (x5 total = 10%), thereby allowing the states to compete – but all 5 would be the same percentage.  Finally, the matching employer contribution would be applied per region (and set by the states of that region acting together once every 3 years), without any federal input, thereby allowing the regions to compete and manage their own affairs more closely.  One half of the funds yielded would accrue to individual states of the region or a collective pool for same, and one half of the funds yielded would accrue to the federation, and all in the 5 specified categories.   The regionally-set employer matching contribution would range in 1/4 percentage points from 0.5 (x10 = 5%) to 1.5 (x10 = 15%).  The standard top federal + state income tax for an employee would therefore be 15+10 (25%), and the top employer matching portion would therefore not exceed the basic federal rate of 15%.  Reasoned fiscal policy can be used to drive an economy forwards, and the above would not only  provide additional funds for the various levels of government with leeway to compete and set their own priorities, but it would also create significant employment for accounting and allied professionals, and supporting providers of goods and services.  Its worth a thought, or two.  In addition, a minimum wage should, I think, be nationally set and enforced.  Allowing each state or region to pass its own such law would violate the constitutional tenet of being able to live and work in any place in the federation; as the laws would not provide sufficient protection and guarantees to Citizens to encourage and enable the letter and spirit of same.  Of course, provision would be made for emergency and contingency resets out of the normal time bands, but not ranges, as set above.

♦The question of an additional “Regional” level of governance; and the question of States creation – why not create 2 from 1 out of Bauchi (one northern, one central), and 2 from 1 out of Kwara (one western, one central), give Abuja State status, and round things-out to 40 States, i.e. 8 per each of the 5 Regions?

♦The question of reducing regions from 6 to 5, as in the preceding point (hence more easily divisible into 100%: Central, Northern, Eastern, Southern, Western), i.e. for equal revenue sharing.  Eliminating an entire level of regional governance and reducing the representative regional members present on all federal parastatals to 5, would yield significant cost savings!

♦Wooing expatriate Nigerians back to help re-build the Nation

♦State autonomy in agriculture, trade, and immigration v. national overall control

3. Autonomy of Local Government Areas (LGAs);

♦Ensuring that they get their allocations, in full

♦The question of empowering States to individually reduce their LGA numbers from the current roughly 774

♦The question of constitutionally converting all LGAs into “Districts” (exactly 5 per state: Central, Northern, Eastern, Southern, and Western); or ensuring that each District contained no fewer than 2 LGAs (allowing states to choose the true numbers therein), but dividing State LGA allocations into 5 parts, as in 1 part per District….thereby encouraging wise and reasoned, commonsense choices in State creation and maintenance of their LGAs.

♦Ensuring that they have the flexibility to allocate moneys as per local need

♦Mandating that they have staff with the requisite skills and abilities to do a good job of governance

♦Making local governance more transparent and accountable

4. Citizenship Rights (including indigenous v. Non-indigenous);

♦The question of Dual Citizenship

♦Mobility rights within Nigeria (settling, land rights – produce farmers v. grazing animals)

♦Women’s inheritance rights

♦Instilling a greater/more meaningful role in Nigerian governance for Traditional Rulers

♦Parental duties regarding children (education, inheritance, child and spousal support)

5. Distribution of Powers (between the Federation and the States – exclusive and concurrent lists).

♦Control of State internal boundaries and administration (LGAs/Districts)

♦Diversification of the economy from natural resources (oil and gas, solid minerals, timber)

♦The question of state autonomy over resources; and the onshore/offshore distinction

♦Internal taxation (income taxes, value-added taxes, business registration fees and taxation)

♦Government services in general (healthcare and health insurance, unemployment insurance, business registration and taxation, state driving license/I.D. v. national identification document)

I think it might be helpful if people tried to focus their thoughts and suggestions going forwards, around these numbered topics.  The above subtopics are my own suggestions.

CONCLUSION:

Many thanks to all who attended, both from Canada and Nigeria.  It was quite a worthwhile event.

I hope this brief summary proves useful for both those who were there and those who were unable to make it.  Let’s coalesce to build a better, stronger, safer Nigeria and move forwards together, as one!

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Author:

Ekundayo George is a sociologist and a lawyer, with experience in business law and counseling, diverse litigation, and regulatory practice.  He is licensed to practice law in Ontario, Canada, as well as in New York, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C., in the United States of America (U.S.A.).  See, for example: http://www.ogalaws.com.  An avid writer, blogger, and reader, Mr. George is a published author in Environmental Law and Policy (National Security aspects).

Mr. George is also an experienced strategic consultant; sourcing, managing, and delivering on large, high stakes, strategic projects with multiple stakeholders, large budgets, and multidisciplinary teams.  See, for example: http://www.simprime-ca.com.

Hyperlinks to external sites are provided to readers of this blog as a courtesy and convenience, only, and no warranty is made or responsibility assumed by either or both of George Law Offices and Strategic IMPRIME Consulting & Advisory, Inc. (“S’imprime-ça”), in whole or in part for their content, or their accuracy, or their availability.

This article does not constitute legal advice or create any lawyer-client relationship.

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