Some of the Challenges Tearing Nigerian Economy
No country survives without a sound and well managed economy the world over, Nigeria cannot be an exception. The Nigeria economy is clearly known to have been in dire straits in the last decade without recovering. In fact, it has even gone from bad to worse and that, is encapsulated in the declining rate of the national currency, Naira vis-à-vis other global currencies. The naira has become a valueless coloured paper, what the French usually refer to as a mere piece of paper—chiffon de papier! The pertinent question is what is really responsible for the terrible situation at our doorsteps? Is it lack of qualified handlers of the economy or those managing the economy are not the desirables?
At any rate, for ease of reference and possible action if need be, here are some reasons from my own perception for the collapse of the economy.
It is never in doubt that the NNPC is today riddled with unabated corruption and cases of malfeasance. The get rich syndrome is flourishing in the organization as most of those senior staff in the organization, are not better than marauding bandits if carefully assessed. They have amassed too much wealth against at public expense. A general probe of NNPC will certainly unearth other buried cases of stealing, wuru-wuru and mago-mago.
The Comptroller-General of Nigerian Customs, Colonel Hameed Ali (rtd), had once publicly challenged the NNPC to account for a third of the imported gasoline which it claimed to have been supplying daily to the motoring public in excess of what is needed while what it claimed in use was already inflated .
This is the gasoline the government claimed it used between six and nine billion dollars to subsidize annually. If the corruption in the oil importation were to be stopped, there will be no need to go cup-in-hand begging around the world for foreign loans which have to be settled by present and future generations. One would also like to ask when the refineries being overhauled at the cost of billions of dollars are likely to bounce back to full operation.
The London based news magazine, The Economist had of recent wondered why Nigeria is missing from the oil bonanza enjoyed by other OPEC members that are reaping billions of dollars from the high price of crude oil arising from the windfall caused by Russian war in Ukraine. A country like Saudi Arabia has made about $86billion since February and it is committing the proceeds to build a futuristic city in the desert while Nigeria is there very busy borrowing money from all available sources to build ordinary railway lines. Nigeria is not benefitting from the windfall because one third of its oil production is allegedly stolen by high profile thieves including some national legislators that enjoy protection from the very government that specializes in global borrowing periodically.
It is now clear that a grand larceny organized by some powerful people is squeezing life and strength out of the country’s economy. One concerned citizen, described the NNPC as one of those crime scenes in Nigeria that has to be sanitized.
The Chief of Naval Staff, publicly debunked the claim of government that crude oil is being stolen from Delta by saying that it would require hundreds of tankers and small boats to move on daily basis the hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil claimed to be stolen. That was the imagination of the Chief of Naval Staff. Government never bought that folktale. Instead, as a proof of what it claims as being stolen, awarded a yearly protection contract of oil pipelines worth N48billion to Tompolo, leader of one of the groups alleged to be blowing up oil pipelines in the Delta region and who had earlier been declared wanted by the same government that awarded him the contract. This generated a lot of brouhaha because some people are not happy with government’s abdication of its security responsibility to a private company owned by a suspected criminal while wondering what work would be left for other security agencies to do.
Moved by several outcries, the President appointed a committee to look into the situation in the oil industry of which he is the presiding minister. This is a situation of national urgency and emergency that cannot wait for a snail moving presidential committee!
The corruption in the country if judged by the situation in the NNPC alone will in the words of President Buhari “kill this country if the country fails to kill corruption”. What is the plan of government to put an end to corruption in an organization where the most important and influential topmost 20 officers are from the northern part of the country while other parts and the oil producing part is totally marginalized in administering the industry critical to their environmental survival and also critical to the nation’s economy?
The CBN has not been properly and professionally managed in the last eight years. How does one explain the governor of the apex bank purchasing fleet of exotic vehicles emblazoned with his presidential campaign logo and declaring to contest the office of the president only to tactically withdraw when the president asked all political office holders wishing to contest for any elective office to resign? It was then he hurriedly decided to put the tall ambition on hold and save his job. Was the action of Godwin Emefiele normal as Central Bank Governor anywhere? This must be one of those reasons responsible for the decline of the value of the naira because our Central Bank was dragged into partisan politics and cleverly and myopically buried in it for the selfish interest of the presiding governor.
Nigeria is perhaps the only medium income country in the world where tax avoidance is the best game in town. Few people apart from salary earners pay income taxes. That’s why the country relies more on commissions from crude oil and gas exploitation and sale of our share of joint crude oil production with foreign companies since after more than half a century, we cannot on our own produce crude oil because capable hands who could have mastered the art are routinely removed on the basis of either federal character or other criminal selfish reasons of covering flanks. The result is that we on our own cannot produce the crude oil in the bowel of our soil neither can we even authenticate how much crude oil we produce and export.
The free for all corruption in our country has eaten deep into every aspect of our national life including religious practices that the Accountant-General of the Federation could with confederates allegedly stole a humongous sum of N109billion from the nation’s treasury he was mandated to protect. This kind of unacceptable and condemnable behavior of public servants gives vent to the criminal behavior buried deep in the hearts of junior public servants in the various bureaucracies, agencies and parastatals of government in the country. In this way, the economy of the country has been destroyed and whatever political and security problems we have are directly or indirectly related to the economic hopelessness of many of our people who now seem determined to bring down the whole rotten edifice on all our heads.
The recent exposure in parliamentary hearings about corruption in the management of the country’s pension raises a fundamental question of trust. If workers cannot trust the management of their contributory pension scheme, they will therefore resort to self-help and indulge in sharp corrupt practices while in employment by stealing public money as a way of making hay while the sun shines thus worsening the corruption in government and thereby ruining the entire future of the country.
Our trading partners are fast in losing interest in us because of our unreliability as suppliers of energy at a time Europeans are in critical need because of non-supply of oil and gas from Russia. Our place as an oil producing country had slipped behind Angola and war ravaged Libya. Our relevance in the international community has therefore nosedived in relation to other countries. Our need for future Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will never be met having failed to be a useful partner to our trading partners at a time of great need because one good turn deserves another. We will now have to fight for market share not only for our hydrocarbons but for our own non-oil exports in what would be an increasingly complex and competitive world when the war in Ukraine ends.
Unrestrained and unbridled importation of all kinds of things like wines, toothpick, second-hand clothing, textile material, rice, bottle water and other unnecessary luxuries mostly from Europe, China, India, Vietnam and Indonesia by unscrupulous traders who do not seem to know that they are stabbing and shipping job opportunities abroad and therefore weakening the naira. The external trade needs to be effectively monitored and all articles of trade not adding value to our national life should be banned.
The government’s primary responsibility of protecting lives and properties of its people has unfortunately not been met in the last eight years. The rural insecurity situation has destroyed agricultural production leading to our country’s dependence on food imports which has led to dramatic diminution of our foreign exchange and consequent decline of the naira.
One believes that there is absolute need to declare a national economic emergency not only to rescue the economy from imminent collapse but to challenge all stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise to rise to the occasion and do their utmost to save the country. The country can be put on economic war basis. We can suspend the application of Habeas corpus for all economic offences and seize whatever property and resources that appears illegally acquired by people in the oil and gas sectors as well as in the military, police, other public security and para-military organizations and bureaucratic arms of government. A careful investigation into the management of the Ecological Fund under Habiba Muda Lawal will reveal nasty discoveries so also the management of the Ministry for Disaster Management and Social Intervention under Sadiya Umar Farouk.
Another cesspool of corruption is the Niger Delta Ministry where criminology is carried to the highest level and celebrated with fanfare.
Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC) is not left behind in sharp corrupt practices for quick riches. In fact, UBEC competes for either second or third position in corrupt practices with NIRSAL under Abdulhameed the sacked managing director.
We should strive to put an end to all subsidies and make payment of taxes mandatory and compulsory for citizens legally of age. We should ensure that the war launched by outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari is sustained, improved and fought in fact and indeed with absolute transparency and vigor. If all these measures are taken, the economy would bounce back, the naira will be strong again and government would be in a better position to pay living wages to all its employees including political office holders that are now left at the mercies of contracts bidding at ministries, agencies and parastatals as well as cornering constituency projects and conniving with contractors to divert or monetize constituency projects while some are connivers in oil bunkering as others operate Bureau De Change for survival.
On a final mote, from my point of view and assessment, the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari had no sincere and committed working partners. He was not served well by most of those that worked with him including members of the legislative, executive and judicial arms. I dare say the slow acting judiciary that churns out compromised judgments, from all reports in the public domain is not living above board as expected. There are glaring cases of corruption and robbery of justice for the highest bidders. As the Election Petition Tribunals are about to start business, more cases of judicial corruption would soon surface through compromised judgments!
Muhammad is a commentator on national issues.