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REDEFINING NIGERIA’S POLITICAL AND SOCIOECONOMIC PROBLEMS AND REMEDIES: (PART 1)

It is no longer news that Nigeria’s political and socio-economic realities are nothing to write home about. For this reason, the country has often been described in several quarters with various demeaning terms such as: failed state, poverty capital of the world, shithole, zoo, et al. Some of the notable reasons why such demeaning terms have often been used to describe the purported ‘giant of Africa’ are not far-fetched.

Despite the enormous natural and human resources which the country has at its disposal, the poverty rate of the country has been rising astronomically with a reported more than 82 million people living on less than 1 dollar a day;  population growth outstrip economic growth with an outsized number of people living in shanties, underneath flyover bridges and in the streets; crime rate is rising at an exponential rate; several of the country’s economic indicators are showing ‘red alert’; the power sector is comatose; infrastructural facilities are in total decay; availability of basic amenities namely good drinking water, health care facilities, quality education, affordable and clean energy among others continue to elude the majority of the population; corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the society with the justice system seemingly helpless to the situation; critical institution in the country have either become compromised or moribund; and so on. This list of problems is inexhaustible. To make matters worse, the country’s economic handlers appear to be bereaved of workable ideas that could salvage these problems.

In the view of majority of its citizens, the country has reached a state of despair, and they also hold the belief that only a divine intervention could possibly salvage these unpleasant situations. How true are these notions?

Well, there is no gainsaying the fact that resolving these messy situations is definitely a herculean task that will require a great deal of willpower and sincerity of purpose from the impending ‘Messiah’, as well as following the right strategic approaches, and indulging in some forms of grand tactical manoeuvres while adhering to tactical precautions.

In fact, methinks that resolving these ugly situations should not be seen as a ‘castle in the air’ if only the right strategies are adopted in a very realistic manner. Historically, several developed nations today have somewhat gone through this same path of political and socio-economic woes in their development trajectory. Some notable examples are few of the BRICS and ASEAN countries such as People’s Republic of China, Malaysia and Brazil – just to mention a few. Even more, the famous state of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates also shares the same historical background. Four decades ago or thereabout, the political and socio-economic realities of these aforementioned countries were nothing to write home about. All thanks to the visionary and purposeful leadership that have transcended these places into economic hubs. I think it is safe to say that if these nations could achieve such great feat within quite a short interval of time, then Nigeria surmounting its present political and socioeconomic problems is not an unrealizable task.

In this treatise, effort will be made to highlight some series of critical reform strategies that can go a long way in ameliorating these problems.

Obviously, corruption lies at the heart of Nigeria’s problems. Succinctly, corruption is the bane of Nigeria’s economic growth and development. Apart from the orthodox leakages in the circular flow of income documented by Keynesian Economists, corruption constitutes the major unorthodox leakage in the circular flow of income, when looking at this concept in the Nigerian context. Through corruption, economic activities are distorted; public infrastructures decay; meritocracy is sacrificed on the altar of mediocrity and sectionalism; systemic inefficiency becomes the order of the day; vital institutions become ineffective in the discharge of their duties; and, in all, the entire society suffers. Sadly, the several years of fight against corruption in Nigeria by successive regimes that ruled the country has barely yielded the desired results.

Why hasn’t the fight against corruption achieved the desired result?

One of the silent reasons why the fight against corruption has failed is not far from the reality that the two noticeable institutions, among other institutions, saddled with the burden of battling corruption namely the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, ICPC, seem to have been overwhelmed by the endemic corruption that has permeated the society. At last count, these two institutions have insignificant staff strength and operational bases across the length and breadth of Nigeria and, thus, they appear not to have the capacity and spread to tackle corruption in every facet of the society. As a result of having insignificant staff strength and operational bases, little wonder their scope of work seems to be limited to hunting cyber fraudsters, otherwise known as ‘’Yahoo boys’’, while bigger criminals such as public fund embezzlers, money launderers and ‘’pen-robbers’’ are handled with kid gloves.

Elsewhere in civilized nations – the USA as a case study – the FBI police and the other several police agencies enforce law and order including corruption-related laws. These police agencies include City Police Departments, County Sheriff Office, State Police and federal law enforcement agencies. Taking a cue from the USA, therefore, the fight against corruption in Nigeria should be holistic and well appreciated, even at the grassroots level. Corruption fight should pass as a culture in the society, and the most appropriate institution that can appreciably champion this crusade against corruption should have been the Nigerian Police Force. Regrettably, the Nigerian Police Force has been rated as the worst and most corrupt police organization in the world by the World Internal Security and Police Index International. What a pity!

Come to think about this issue critically. With an efficient police organization in Nigeria, majority of the country’s political and socio-economic problems will naturally abate drastically. For all intents and purposes, the Nigerian Police Force, as a law enforcement agency, should be at the forefront of the fight against crimes such as bribery and corruption, indiscipline, civil unrest, armed robbery, examination malpractice, moral decadence, child trafficking and labour, systemic inefficiency, money laundering, rape, kidnapping, murder, fraud, terrorism, electoral fraud and violence, political violence, domestic violence, and so on. They should also provide quick response to matters of emergency and other threats to public safety; protect certain public facilities and infrastructures as well as maintain public order.

Consequently, the need to overhaul and transform the Nigerian Police Force into a world class police force cannot be over-emphasized. Categorically, Nigeria needs a new police force that knows the basic tenets of policing; a new police force that knows its obligations to the society; a transformed police force that will discharge its duties without fear of intimidation; a highly motivated police force; a new police force that will come to terms with the fact that policing does not entail ‘usurping the tax collectors’ job’ by mounting roadblocks on highways to collect toll fees; a new police force that will understand that policing does not entail escorting VIPs, Very Important Persons, and engaging in private policing for financial gains at the detriment of providing security for the common people; and a transformed police force with police stations that do not operate like business centers, but rather operate like professional crime-fighting centres. Until such kind of police force comes to fruition, any attempt aimed at fighting corruption and other endemic crimes ravaging the society will only amount to mere ‘chasing of shadows’.

In an article titled ‘’Nigeria Police and the need for disbandment’’, which was published on August 8, 2020, Mohammad Sanusi recommended that ‘the present corruption-infested police structure should be disbanded and replaced with a brand new one that can serve Nigerians with passion and commitment to national security and professionalism’. In his exact words: “What Nigeria presently has is a group of extortionist, bandits, rapists, and murderers in uniform”. He further concluded his article with the following submission:

“For Nigeria to be a secured and happy country, the present Nigerian police should be gradually   scrapped and replaced with a more effective and better trained than the rot at hand”

While his recommendation may look very blunt and harsh, it is not far from the truth. The Nigerian Police Force having been rated as the worst and most corrupt police organization in the world should indeed be a very valid justification for it to be disbanded and replaced with a brand new and efficient police force.

On the part of the legal system, a widely circulated report by the Nigeria’s Legal Defense and Assistance Project, NLDAP, observed that Nigeria’s judiciary often sides with the police. As the popular maxim holds: “Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are”, little wonder the country’s judiciary often dispenses justice only to the ‘highest bidder’. Without any doubt, a transformed Nigerian Police Force will, to a greater extent, translate into a transformed judiciary since the two institutions are known to work hand in hand.

Looking at the economic importance of an efficient legal system in a country, it should be noted that a sound and efficient legal system protects investors’ right and radiates investors’ confidence which enhances a friendly investment climate in the economy and ultimately fosters economic growth and development. Moreover, a legal system that adjusts quickly to reduce gaps between legal system’s capabilities and needs of the economy more efficiently enhances ‘contracting’ and economic growth and development.

At this point, it is pertinent to state that even when an efficient police force and legal system come to fruition in Nigeria, they cannot function effectively in the absence of a comprehensive and coordinated national database cum digital economy. The lack of a comprehensive and coordinated national database in the country is the greatest undoing of effective policing and legal operations in Nigeria, and by extension efficient national economic planning and national leadership. One notable, as well as worrisome, case in point is that there is no database from which past records of today’s political or public office seekers can be extracted and evaluated in order to know their suitability for the leadership positions which they aspire. Considering the perennial leadership failure bedeviling Nigeria, one can therefore argue without fear of contradiction that- “Had it been such database existed, the ‘dirty past’ of some previous and current political or public office holders in Nigeria will still be hunting them to date, and as such they would not have had the impetus and pedigree to seek leadership positions let alone piloting the affairs of the nation and its well-meaning and responsible citizens”. Regrettably, the nation had suffered in the hands of such leaders as the ‘leopard, they say, cannot change its spots’.

Thus, the existence of efficient policing and legal system, along with a comprehensive and coordinated database will ensure, inter alia, that criminals of yesterday cannot turn out to become leaders of today. More so, it will also aid in fighting the endemic crime rate in the society in a well-coordinated and professional manner.

Apart from aiding in effective policing and crime fighting, the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated national database cannot be over-stressed. Again, when all the institutions and sectors in the economy are intertwined and linked to a national database, proper national economic planning will be achievable in lieu of the endless ‘trial and error’ national economic planning models that have been in place right from the outset. In addition to that, with a robust database that captures both the demography of the country and economic activities taking place in the country, government policies and programs such as the various Social Investment Programs, job creation, income redistribution, infrastructures and basic amenities provision, revenue mobilization and allocation, wealth creation, voters registration, population control, et al, could be effectively implemented, monitored and evaluated.

Another salient area that will benefit immensely from a robust database, effective policing and efficient legal system is the real sector of the economy as  credit flow to the real sector from the financial sector, especially banks, will be conducted in a hitch-free manner. The reader should recall that the real sector of the economy is the sector that produces goods and services and, in a nutshell, it encompasses all the several businesses in the economy. The prospects for economic growth and development of every nation lie in this sector.

Today, banks in Nigeria rarely grant loans to businesses and prospective investors because of the risk of default associated with inadequate borrowers’ profiling due to the dearth of national database. The risk of default associated with inadequate borrowers’ profiling is one of the major reasons why banks sometimes charge high interest rates on loans and demand unrealistic collateral securities from prospective borrowers. This situation often scares away potential borrowers and investors thereby shutting out the real sector nay private sector. To reinforce this argument, in one of my empirical studies titled: “A review of the influence of the Nigerian banking sector evolution on the nation’s economy – an Autoregressive Distributed Lag approach to co-integration”, which was published in the European Journal of Business Research, volume 17, number 1, March 2018,  I stated one of my empirical findings as follows:

…there is no well-coordinated national database and security system that keeps track of individuals and economic activities in the private sector. We know that “credits are not granted to strangers”. Consequently, banks cannot accurately ascertain the credit history, credit worthiness, and personality trait of a prospective borrower. For this reason, they often request for collateral securities -that are equivalent or greater in value than they loan amount requested- from prospective borrowers which at most times these borrowers cannot provide, and also charge unrealistic interest rates. This scares away potential investors. Thus, a lot of work needs to be done in our national database and security system by the Federal Government to put to rest this phenomenon (Duruibe, 2018, p.16)”.

In summary, the provision of a professional police force, an efficient legal system and a comprehensive and coordinated national database will be the turning point of reforms that will herald a new and prosperous Nigeria.

In all, God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Duruibe Stanley Chigozie is an author, researcher and an economic and financial analyst. Email: duruibestan82@yahoo.co.uk

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