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The Bumpy Road Into A New Year

By Abachi Silas
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We flirted with the idea of reaching out to poor families during Christmas after it was first mooted in mid September. This is against the background of the economic nightmare that has continued to hold us by the scruff of our necks. In the wake of the ease in restriction necessitated by the pandemic, people poured out on the street hungrier and in deeper despair. And, recovery for many has remained an uphill struggle since then. Meanwhile, the exercise was carried out away from the public eye primarily to get up close and personal with the beneficiaries. Thankfully, by 21st December each family was reached amidst a cascade of emotions.

The exercise left haunting memories. It brought home the squalor, struggles and the state of neediness that many are forced to endure beneath a thin veneer of weary smiles and forlorn hopes. They contend that their desperate conditions have gone several notches higher since the outbreak of the virus. Clearly, this is representative of the situation across the country which portends real and present danger.

Subtly, poverty and hunger were important underlying factors in the orgy of violence and destruction that supplanted the peace in the #EndSARS protest. Food prices continue to go through the roof courtesy of the unexampled level of insecurity which has effectively rendered agricultural activities a walk on a thin ice disproportionately affecting the poor in a country adjudged the poverty capital of the world. Border closure until its recent opening was a contributory factor as little was achieved in spurring local food production.

Instructively, shuttering the borders with mechanization still a tall order with cost of inputs beyond the reach of the average farmer and other incentives unavailable; it is bound to make the leitmotif of the initiative counterintuitive. The 2020 Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranked Nigeria 98th out of the 107 countries with sufficient data to calculate the GHI scores. Nigeria only outperformed nine countries. The countries are in the following order -Afghanistan, Lesotho, Sierra leone, Liberia, Mozambique, Haiti, Madagascar, Timor Leste and Chad.

The opening page of the year 2020 was horror laden and of sci-fi movie proportion as mankind was blitzed by a novel virus. No doubt, the consequences on global economy and health system was monumental. Predictably, Nigeria stands precariously on the edge as a result of the economic squeeze occasioned by the loss in value of oil- its main foreign exchange earner.

In the third quarter of 2020, the country slipped into recession; the second in about four years and the worst since the 80’s. Inflation hit 14.89% as at November 2020 against 14.23 % in October of same year. The rising inflation has been a permanent fixture. Basically, we are witnessing steady growth in inflation, chronic unemploymentand foreign exchange crunch. The debt situation is scary as public debt stock is projected to hit 32.51 trillion naira by December 31, 2020 based on existing approval. Also, with a budget deficit of 5.20 trillion-naira new borrowings are expected. The proposed new borrowings will be about a third of the proposed 13.0 trillion budget for 2021.

The merchants of death continue to act with impunity as they launch attacks and kill at will. Boko haram and the bandits and sundry no less heinous crimes perpetrators continue to outdo each other in the number of deaths and abductions they routinely record. The Zabarmari violent murder and brazen abduction of 344 school boys is case in point of the degeneration. The country was placed among the least peaceful countries in the world where it occupied 40thposition out of 44 countries assessed, just 4 positions above South Sudan- the least peaceful according to the 2020 Global Peace Index report.

The many extant fissures in the country have widened into a deep gorge as mutual distrust become strong and loud calls of disintegration rent the air. The government remains under serious attack for the absence balance in reflecting the heterogenous nature of the country.

The Financial times in its editorial of the 22ndDecember, 2020 found it convenient to label the country a failed state. It described, a failed state as where the government is no longer in control. It also stated that the Nigeria will become a problem far too big for the world to ignore.

The bugbear for Nigeria as the curtain falls on 2020 is the threat of a second lockdown as the virus marks a return with vengeance. This may overshadow chances of a tepid recovery in 2021 as oil demand will be put in real jeopardy. Against this background, tougher times maybe ahead which calls for maturity and circumspection in precluding any threat to oil installations.

It is time for the leadership of the country wriggle itself out of the echo chamber and pay heed to the many diametrically opposed views however withering. Approach in the fight against insecurity needs to be re-imagined; diversification of foreign exchange source andconfidence and trust building be aggressively pursued as we march into an uncharted path-2021.

OECD stated that government ability to harness public trust as a force out of the crisis will be crucial for planning and implementing an inclusive recovery from the COVID 19 emergency. And, in answering the question on what drives public trust in government it added that government values such as high levels of integrity, fairness and openness of institutions are strong predictors. It went further that government’s competence- its responsiveness and reliability in delivering public service and anticipating needs are crucial for boosting trust.

ABACHI UNGBO
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Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Abachi Silas and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."