SCRAMBLE FOR NIGERIA'S PUBLIC ASSETS
Today, there is little or no doubt in the minds of profoundly analytic observers in Nigeria that the country is largely dysfunctional and is in a vastly sorry state. All hopes are not lost however because in the public service sector, there are still offices and professionals that are doing their best to lift the nation into her better self and transform it to become functional, livable, decent and comprehensively safe.
One of the very few public service offices that still have some modicum of integrity and credibility is the Nigeria’s National Bureau of statistics charged with the scientific duty to generate credible statistical data needed by government to drive the much desired anti-poverty programmes in Nigeria.
Few months back, the Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics issued a widely acceptable study aptly titled the “Nigeria’s Poverty profile of 2010”, in which startling revelations were disclosed concerning the broad issues of concern on the frightening poverty situation in the country.
Providing the background basis for the compilation of the 2010 Nigeria’s poverty profile, the National bureau of statistics affirmed that the harmonized Nigeria living standard survey is a worthwhile effort because the information gathered from the painstaking exercise would generally aid decision makers in the formulation of economic and social policies, by identifying target groups for government intervention.
Discoveries made by the National bureau of statistics included that in relative terms, the relative poverty measure showed that 69 percent or 112,470,000 of Nigerians are living in poverty. In making use of what the researchers called absolute measure of poverty which is otherwise known as food energy intake measure of poverty, it was found that the total expenditure of food and non-food produce showed a poverty incidence of 60.2 percent which if translated in figures means that about 89,096,000 Nigerians are living in poverty. The absolute measure of poverty is said to be used for poverty head count comparison across the countries.
The above reality has the implication of clearly showing that Nigeria is a nation undergoing national poverty emergency.
This is because if out of population of 140 million people based on the 2006 National Population Census and 163 million based on National population Commission’s estimates, a greater majority is absolutely poor, then Nigeria is truly sitting on kegs of gun power. But public policy statements that have emanated recently from key officials of Government showed that they have lost touch with the existential reality in Nigeria.
If you ask me, I am of the considered opinion that the Executive council of the Federation of Nigeria under President Goodluck Jonathan is obviously made up of persons who have chosen to live in denial in all aspects of life.
This is so because while general poverty, general states of anarchy, regime of impunity have all but become widespread across the country, the Minister of Information Mr. Labaran Maku told Nigerians that the nation’s economy is growing. This is even as the coordinating minister of the Economy Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala asked Nigerians to tighten their economic belts and expect harsh economic recession soon. From the same confused motley crowd that constitute the Federal government’s cabinet, the minister of Trade and Investments Mr. Olusegun Aganga in June 2012 claimed that the current administration has created 1.4 million Jobs in the last twelve months.
According to the one-year score sheet of the various agencies under the ministry, the Bank of Industry created 1,335,000 jobs; the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency, 31,122; Onne Oil and Gas Free Zone, 30,000; and other Free Trade Zones under the Nigeria Export Processing Zones Authority, 5,120. Theses give a total of 1,401,242 jobs, so says the Trade and Investment minister.
The minister also said the ministry was currently executing matching programmes for SMEs, [Small and Medium Scale Enterprises] in collaboration with state governments, to remove the bottlenecks associated with securing collaterals and make it easier for SMEs to access loans to start or expand their businesses.
Aganga was quoted as saying, “As a result of the various reforms in the different focus areas, jobs created by the ministry’s agencies in the last one year are estimated at 1,401,242 jobs as enumerated above ….”
From the above purely academic and unsubstantiated claim by the minister of Trade and Investment, we can simply deduce that there is a fundamental disconnect between what Government officials say and the reality on the ground. The question is why the minister will make such a claim that to a lot of Nigerians is false at a time when even the government funded National bureau of statistics has established clearly that there is widespread poverty and high unemployment?
However, the minister of information took the joke too far when he told bewildered Nigerians that the nation’s economy is improving.
Briefing journalists after the usual Wednesday’s ritual of Federal Executive Council meeting on June 13th 2012, Mr. Labaran Maku state that; “presently, we have no problem in terms of our finance management. There have been rumours here and there, especially because of delay payments, because of the new electronic payment system being implemented by the Federal ministry of finance… our economy is sound, our economy is growing, the fastest in the continent and we also know that our own external reserve has gone up to about $35 billion now.”
Both the ministers of Trade and Information contradicted the profoundly knowledgeable Nigeria’s poverty profile recently issued by the National Bureau of Statistics which largely reflected the reality on the ground.
Recent investigative probes at the National Assembly have uncovered huge fraud running into several billions of United States Dollars in the implementation of the petroleum subsidy program and the Police Pension Scheme. This is a clear indication that the current political elite are in the race of their life scrambling for the public assets that ought to belong to the people of Nigeria. In the last one year, I have not come across any young Nigerian University graduate that has either gained employment in the public or private sector or benefitted from the so – called financial assistance from the Government funded Bank of Industry or the small and Medium Scale Enterprises Agency, as falsely claimed in the recent report credited to the serving minister of Trade and Investments. What has become obvious is that Government officials are fast cornering public assets and resources into their private estates.
Recently, the mass media reported a legal tussle between the wife of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua, Mrs. Turai and the wife of the current President, Mrs. Patience Goodluck Jonathan, over the ownership right of some choice plots of land in Abuja and the serving minister of the Federal Capital Territory Mr. Bala Mohammed was fingered as the cause of the disaffection among these wives of the political elite scrambling for these public assets.
Since democracy returned in Nigeria in 1999, members of the political elite seem to have embarked on relentless bonanza and scramble for public assets of Nigeria similar to the notorious Berlin Conference of 1884 -1885 when Otto Von Bismarck, the first chancellor of Germany in active partnership with other Colonial imperialist warlords, formalized the scramble and partitioning of the vastly mineral rich African Continent.
Just as the participants of the Berlin Conference of 1884-1885 cornered the vast mineral and human resources of the Pre-colonial African continent to enrich their Western nations, the present day Nigerian political elite are scrambling for Nigeria’s public Assets resulting in the theft of nearly N400 Billion USD since the discovery of crude oil in Nigeria, according to the findings of the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It is either that Government officials are doing this monumental theft through monetization program of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration or through the fraudulent privatization program.
Nigerians who truly desire change must engage in series of civil actions to defeat these gangs of political elite who are in the dangerous scramble for Nigeria’s public assets. The political elite are also making a mistake of their life because if the now docile civil populace should wake up from their slumber and organize series of civil disobedience-related rallies and events, then those who now corner public assets to their private estates will be on the firing line. We look forward to the NIGERIAN SPRING/REVOLUTION.
Written By Emmanuel Onwubiko