When Singer and songwriter, Bukola Elemide, known as Asa sang the fire on the mountain song at the unveiling of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited in Abuja some days back, she probably didn’t know the extent of the woe that was about to betide the entire nation in a matter of days.
Within one week, Nigeria seems to have gone upside down. The Naira has tumbled to its lowest exchanging for N707 to $1 as of Wednesday morning. It was roving around N620-$1 as of last week. In the midst of this, our minister of finance, budget and national planning, Zainab Ahmed, revealed that the nation’s debt profile is now above its revenue. In other words, Nigeria is running on deficit. Similarly, a report on Tuesday said that the balance in Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) fell significantly from $35.7 million it was as of June 2022 to $376,655.09 as of July 25, 2022. No reason was given for the steep drop of millions to thousands in one month.
As if that is not enough, the NNPC Limited, our newly unveiled company said that Nigeria’s petrol subsidy in six months surpassed oil revenue by N210bn. We were told that the NNPC Limited recorded N2.39 trillion as gross revenue from oil and gas and spent N2.6 trillion on subsidy. Interestingly, this is happening under the watchful eyes of President Muhammadu Buhari who has been Nigeria’s minister of Petroleum Resources since 2015. Don’t forget that Nigeria as one of Africa’s largest producers of oil, producing around 1.8 to 2 million barrels per day relies on oil as the mainstay of its economy. Now that we are recording a deficit from our main source of revenue, and spending more on subsidy, there is more than fire on our mountain!
Security-wise, the situation has never been this bad. Terrorists have told us to our face that they would kidnap our President. To show how far removed the president is from the state of affairs in Nigeria, he wasn’t even aware of this threat. Governor, Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State, who is also on the hitmen list, just disclosed that he was the one that informed the president of the development. The terrorists had in a viral video threatened to kidnap the president and the governor. The threat might have jolted the governor who confessed that he has been advised to be more careful. That was why he ran to Aso Rock to meet the President only to discover that the president was not even aware of any threat which could only mean that our president neither read newspapers nor listen to news. El-rufai is hoping that Nigerian soldiers and the police won’t wait until they (terrorists) strike before they respond. In an interview on Wednesday, the governor confessed, “The truth is we are worried about the security situation, but we hope the federal government will do the right thing.”
He has every reason to be worried. A few weeks ago, the president’s advanced security team was reportedly attacked by terrorists ahead of his trip to Daura for the Sallah break. Of course, the presidency downplayed the event, but two of the president’s security men were killed in that ambush. Hours after the latest threat from terrorists, gunmen attacked the 7 Guards Battalion of the Nigerian Army Presidential Guards Brigade in Abuja leaving eight personnel killed and three soldiers wounded. Two of the slain personnel were officers, including a captain and lieutenant, while the remaining were soldiers. The gunmen were on a mission to attack the Nigerian Law School in Bwari. The presidential guards Brigade were asked to ward off the attack. Bwari is about 23 kilometres to Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power, President Buhari’s place of abode.
The latest security unrest has affected the education sector significantly. At first, the Federal Government ordered the immediate closure of one of its colleges, the Federal Government College, Kwali located in Kwali Area Council of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. It also directed principals of unity colleges across the country to forestall any security breach in the government schools. Now, government has also directed the closure of all private schools in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Students of Kubwa Model Junior Secondary School, Abuja sat for 13 exams on Tuesday in order to comply with the government’s directive to shut down. They sat the exam into the night amid trauma and fear of possible bandits’ attack. That is the Nigeria that President Muhammadu Buhari, a three-star general is managing.
We are still grappling with a university system that has been paralysed by strikes. As I write, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, (ASUU), the Non-Academic Staff Union of University and Allied Institutions, (NASU,) the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, (SSANU), and the National Association of Academic Technologists, (NAAT) are all on strike. Practically, Nigeria’s federal university system has been shut down for months.
Now primary and secondary schools are closing down. Someone said the Nigerian government will soon shut down. Apart from destroying its own ventures in the education space, the Nigerian government has failed to provide an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive. VERITAS University, Bwari, Abuja, has shut down academic activities following security reports that terrorists could attack and abduct students. It has also put on hold its new academic session slated to commence in September, and suspended exams for its students indefinitely.
At last, the NLC has embarked on a two-day nationwide protest in solidarity with the ASUU and other affiliate unions on industrial action in public universities. During the protest, a branch of ASUU called for a bill to regulate how children of public officers enroll in schools outside Nigeria. The union thinks this could help Nigerian leaders to develop formidable educational institutions and improve the funding of the university system. “If they school here and their children are here they will show total support for the university system and the tertiary institutions in Nigeria,” the union argued. I doubt if our lawmakers will ever enact such a law.
Nigerian leaders are the only people I know that will never taste the stew they prepare for others to eat. They are managers who would rather opt for the products of a competitor rather than the products of their own company. Our presidents, VPs, governors, ministers, senior civil servants, etc prefer to send their children abroad for study. If our leaders think they are doing us well, they should at least allow their own children to be part of the fun here.
Honestly, Nigeria is a country of absurdities. This is a country where a President will be proud to superintend a ministry in ruins and still boasts of being a messiah in the oil sector. We have a president that lectures others on insecurity when his own country is on the verge of being taken over by terrorists.
In the same vein, we have a Speaker of the House of Representatives that flaunts pictures of leadership course at Harvard, one of the best universities in the world amid a prolonged ASUU strike in his own country. He even chose the day that the Labour was protesting the five-month -long strike by ASUU to flaunt his studentship. Could this be a case of insensitivity, omission or commission or the three combined?
Anyway, the speaker has apologised to Nigerians. He has admitted that what he did was insensitive. It is left for Nigerians to either accept or reject his apology. All over the world the parliament represents the interest of their people, they speak for the people, enact laws for the people, but here they only speak and work for themselves. Their selfishness has repercussions. That is what we are all seeing now. May Nigeria not shut down.
The Nigerian tertiary system is presently in a big mess. Many institutions are yet to start the 2021 admission. Out of the total quota of 774,411 for university admission for 2021, only 312,666 representing 40.4 per cent has so far been used leaving an unused quota of 461,745 or 59.6 per cent.
Overall, out of a total quota of 1,475,732 for admission into degree, NCE, ND and NID, only 425,410 representing 28.8% is currently being used while a total of 1,050,322 representing 71.2 % are unused due to ASUU strike.
Meanwhile, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) has held the policy meeting for 2022 admission. There is no guarantee that final year students will graduate as scheduled. There is already a backlog of students for 2021 and 2022 admissions. What happens to these students? Would they be combined? Do institutions have the carrying capacity to accommodate two sets of students at the same time? JAMB has to keep conducting its exams because the private institutions must keep operating and JAMB is the only body approved by law to conduct exam for all, so the process for admission must continue!
Nigeria has killed its public primary schools, murdered its secondary schools and now it is preparing the obituary of the public universities. Sad!
For now, one can only hope that the nationwide support protest by the NLC would yield a positive result. Till then, it’s good to keep one’s fingers crossed.
Olabisi Deji-Folutile (PhD) is the editor in chief of Franktalknow.com and a member of the Nigerian Guild of Editors. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org