State of the Nation: Insecurity and Economic Contraction All Point to State Failure.
Foundation for Environmental Rights Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a pro-democracy and rights group, again, raises alarm over the worsening state of security across Nigeria and government's failure to address same.
The whole drama playing out in the nation, FENRAD says, points to only one thing, which is that Nigeria is failing in its role as a state. No part of the country, FENRAD said, is without a non-state actor of the militia type calling the shots and threatening thereby both the legitimacy and sovereignty of the federal government. Pulling apart at the seams is Nigeria, yet government and officials of the day see wisdom in silence, in inaction even.
Kidnapping of school children - as heretofore seen with Dapchi and Chibok and elsewhere - has graduated yet to another obscene height with university students now victims. Greenfield University and Federal College of Mechanisation Afaka both in Kaduna State are latest cases in point. Till date, some of the victims have been killed with the abductors demanding millions in ransom for those still alive in captivity. Worst is that even the so-called Safe School Initiative seems to have been jettisoned long ago as the Minister of State for Education, Mr. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba alerted the nation that government cannot protect schools within the federation!
While bandits have field day in the Northwest region of the nation, unknown gunmen plague the Southeast, all indicative of the fact that the state that is Nigeria is failing in its onerous responsibility under international law and obligation to protect citizens and aliens within her territory. The word 'bandits,' it should be known, has, in recent times, become a neutral for what elsewhere would have been 'terrorists.' Aware of the UN's 2004 Panel definition of terrorism and using same model to judge, FENRAD sees the striking similarities in the activities of the bandits and the said global framework of 2004.
Boko Haram, it must be stated, had captured over 50 local communities in Niger State recently who now pay allegiance to the fundamentalist sect. While all this happened the Nigeria Air Force (NAF) after mobilising for aerial attacks on the locations of the terrorists could not show discipline and coordination required to deal with anti-terror campaign as recent operation killed over twenty personnel within the Nigerian military in what looked like an own goal. Till date, nothing has been said or heard regarding the military Alpha War Jet still 'missing' in action! All these follow the sad report of a military jet crash near Abuja in which case three personnel died. The Nigerian air force, FENRAD believes, has explanation to do to convince Nigerians it is capable of winning this war given billions that have been sunk into these war since 2009. Smart Adeyemi, a senator from Kogi State, was teary and weepy when he made case against the president's silence a few days ago at the Red Chamber.
Hostage taking of aide workers - even those with the United Nations - and nurses and even the recent taking over, by bandits, of Gashaka-Gumti National Park in Taraba/Adamawa axis all show the world where Nigeria is today in the fight against insurgency. Even so much has the call for secession heightened in virtually all the regions championed by want-away ethnic champions following the inability of the federal government to stem the tide of killings said to be mostly perpetrated by armed Fulani herders against settled population and communities in the affected regions.
After obtaining a release issued by Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA and other concerned groups, FENRAD condemns as well the killing of innocent citizens by the same military paid to safeguard these citizens and their properties at Owerri Government House Gate axis where an undergraduate of soil science, a girl, 24, and a driver were reported to have been felled by the military bullet.
Summarily, security has been much an issue too hard for the government of the day to address. Governor of Niger State raised alarm that Boko Haram had overrun some communities within his state while hoisting their flags in a town two hours away from Abuja and the FCT. Shiroro, Muya and other towns are now under the control of forces of terror while Geidam in Yobe State had been taken too. Even governors like Ortom, Zulum and Uzodinma had become victims of brazen attack by gunmen surviving only by a whisker!
Governors like Wike and Ortom had called the president's bluff while claiming that silence as the body language of the president shows smacks of complicity. The killing of seven persons at an IDP camp in Benue State has remained a nightmare so far pitching the governor against the presidency with torrential releases and hot exchange of correspondences! It never rains but pours, the Foundation says.
FENRAD recalls that it was on the grounds of fixing insecurity that the APC won the election and reelection in 2015 and 2019 respectively yet security under the party's watch seem to get worse only. While all these happen, the president and commander-in-chief who has failed to address the situation has equally failed to address his citizens and nation. FENRAD fears that should the status quo remain same, federal government may soon lose control of the entire nation. The case of Somalia after Siad Bare in the early 90s should serve Nigeria a lesson of history, FENRAD cries out.
Away from insecurity, economy which is itself another administrative pillar of the federal government prior to 2015 has contracted. Unemployment stands at 33%, inflation at 18.7% with Nigeria being declared the world poverty capital, the most miserable sub-Saharan nation and recently the third worst governed state! Crass and reckless consumption has continued even among officials within a government elected on the grounds of fighting and wining the war against corruption. Worse remains, the growing number of out-of-school children (which some sources say stands at 14 million) all which pose potential security threat to the nation and her future. Debt profile both domestic and international nears outrageous threshold the government of the day cannot defray or even service alone and yet Nigeria is seeking to borrow some more when it has the capacity to generate revenue from within and shore up the dwindling reserve.
Every other year the medium term expenditure framework and budget outlay show that while capital expenditure suffers a shortfall and sharp decline, recurrent expenditure witnesses a bloated and stronomical growth leading to budgetary deficits for which borrowing is usually needed to fund (the budget). Currently the federal government has overdrawn from the CBN to maintain governing and personnel cost leading to exceeding of the overdraft account of the former. Governance, FENRAD believes, is not run on credit but Nigeria appears to be doing so and endangering her citizens' future.
A recent release from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC showed that cash crunch will soon hit Nigeria's revenue for the months of April and May as the Corporation stated clearly that it will not, due to subsidy payments, meet her obligation of remitting into the Federal Account Allocation Committee, FAAC for the two months under mention. Though a recent release from the same Corporation seems to dismiss this, it may not be far from mere window dressing. One cannot process all this alone, any wonder the governor of Edo State, Godwin Obaseki, who is also a member of the FAAC and National Economic Council advanced that for the FAAC disbursement of March 2021, the CBN printed 50 to 60 billion naira, which in FENRAD's analysis could plunge the nation deeper into the mulky waters of hyperinflation!
Subsidy? This is where the Buhari-led federal government failed Nigerians woefully. The president who is the Commander-in-chief doubles also as the executive minister of petroleum to boot. From claiming initially there was no subsidy or that the regime has been changed to under recovery payment, the government now through minister of state for petroleum, Silva, says the subsidy is being removed. It was for this reason the federal government introduced the under recovery payment scheme where NNPC alone performs the function of marketing the product through its subsidiary company, Petroleum Product Marketing Company, PPMC, yet fuel remains scarce even at the FCT and Lagos.
The government still pays huge amount in the name of subsidy given that maritime and coastal costs for petroleum product differ upon landing. Landing costs which include charges on jetty throughput, NPA charge, lightering cost, NIMASA charge and other logistics usually taken care of by the federal government make up the subsidy payment. That even after introduction of under recovery payment Nigeria still finds it hard to address subsidy is a huge failure for the president and his petroleum industry subsector of the economy!
The worst is that foreign investor, mostly of the technological type, are leaving Nigeria for Ghana. Over the past few weeks, Twitter moved its African regional headquarters and location to Ghana preferring the nation which it said has a democratic process that allows media freedom which is consistent with the tech firm policies. One need not be told that the harvest of the so-called 'anti-social media and hate speech bills' have been reaped for is not Twitter a social media platform? Did not the Lekki youngsters of the EndSARS Protest use Twitter to message to the rest of the world the shootings (which some are convenient to call massacre) at that Toll Gate for which D J Switch earned a 'notoriety' having live streamed the events of October 20, 2020?!
Still on the continental plane, FENRAD was less worried that the African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AfCFTA also chose Ghana again as its official headquarters. Even as a late signatory to the Agreement, Nigeria for more than one year (August 2019 to December 2020) closed her borders, even that which links her to West Africa at Seme while some sources claimed that this beggar thy neighbour or protectionist policy did not fully obtain at the borders of the North. The impact was that local manufactures suffered and economy, at the end of the closure exercise, contracted more!
With 2021 a quarter spent and going to half, Nigeria still staggers economically and security wise. What FENRAD can actually say given all this is that government should reduce personnel and governance costs in the name of salaries and allowances, even per diem of elected and appointed officials; boost local production by giving incentives to local producers (and this should capture agriculture beyond the current CBN's Anchors Borrower Scheme); build critical infrastructure; make open all subjects of budgetary provisions like making known to Nigerians costs covered by the problematic statutory transfer; streamline revenue inflows by ensuring taxation transparency in the non-oil sources like the Customs, Ports Authorities, Federal Inland Revenue Service, FIRS and the rest to shore up deficits. If for example, the economy was diversified heretofore, nobody would have been worried about oil as other sources like say, transport sector (if with sound aviation and railway) alone would have helped balance the losses from oil revenue, not to talk about other sources and if the four federal refineries were optimally working subsidy wouldn't have come up, meaning NNPC wouldn't have had a single reason to say it is remitting zero naira to FAAC. These are lessons the federal government should be learning.
If the various states (thirty-six of them) across the federation do not receive FAAC allocation for the months of April and May being the first two months of the second quarter of 2021, 2021 Q2, virtually all of these states may not be able to pay salaries and run government and this may lead to hunger and widespread protests the federal and state governments can hardly contain. A 2020 report claimed that over thirty states in the federation cannot survive outside the statutory revenues, this is why FENRAD calls on federal government to do the needful, heed the call for restructuring and enthrone true fiscal federalism which allows for more financial responsibilities on the part of the constituents. Many states cannot stay afloat with their own independent revenues (IGR).
The federal government has to do more on economy and security since both are key to national growth and development or be willing to face 'the music of hard times', or even the kind of Nigeria it can never contain.