“Better to tell it straight.”
That was the advice in 1969 given to me by my supervisor in an Advertising Agency situated off Madison Avenue, New York City, when I was on industrial attachment for my MBA programme majoring in Marketing. I was assigned the task of writing the body copy for a new brand of toothpaste about to be launched by a small company new in the sector.
Like all novices, I submitted an essay. The supervisor, accustomed to that sort of drivel, took out his red biro and marked a few words. Then he turned to me and said. “That is what you mean to say, isn’t it? Then better to tell it straight.” I told it straight all right. “Your mouth stinks like the toilet. Use this.”
The Nigerian economy, like a boxer who ran into a stiff uppercut, was hanging on the ropes when CHANGE took place on May 29, 2015. It is now flat on its back after seven years of President Buhari’s government. Everything that can possibly go wrong has done so. The only people who don’t seem to know it are the residents of Aso Rock and the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
All the candidates are still promising to continue with Buhari’s policies. One can only hope they don’t mean what they say. They are only trying ego-massage on an old man who had done his best – even if the best has damaged the Nigerian economy almost beyond repairs.
If you think this is an exaggeration, then take a look at the table below. This is telling it as straight as can be.
WHERE WE WERE; WHERE WE ARE
A few economic and social indices – exchange rate, prices, employment, school enrollment, power supply, poverty level and homicides have been selected to serve as summary for the seven years which had gone by like a parade of mourners. As usual with us, we present the facts first; then the commentary follows. As much as possible, third party data will be used to avoid any accusation of bias by government spokesmen – whose mis-statement of facts are now legendary.
EXCHANGE RATE N199/$1 TO N422/$1.
“War is too important to be left to Generals.” Nigerians are slowly getting that into their heads. They have now understood that the same thing can be said about exchange rate; which hitherto had been left exclusively to the authorities.
Even the uneducated market traders of Nigeria have finally got wise to the fact that exchange rate management, which comes under monetary policy, and is the primary responsibility of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, is everybody’ s business. No country is safe any longer from the effects of exchange rate fluctuations.
People now have to hold their leaders to account honestly for the results – especially when they are as devastating as Nigeria’s had been in the last seven years. Below is the quick summary of our descent to where we are now and some of its consequences.
However, it is important to bear in mind that there are at least two or three exchange rates operating in the Nigerian economy. This long term policy of the CBN, long before 2015, has been partly responsible for all our economic predicaments at the present time.
For instance, the official exchange rate in 2015 was N199/US$1. But, the parallel market rate ranged from N250-80/US$1. Today, the official rate is N422/US$1, but right now, the street rate is at least N600/US$1. The prices of a few commodities will help to illustrate how the exchange rate movement has affected most Nigerians.
COMMODITY 2015 PRICE 2022 PRICE
Eggs (crate) N360 N2400
Pure water N5 N20
Titus sardine N180 N700
There is no need to list the prices of all food items for the reader to get the point. While prices in the aggregate have risen by 300 to 400 per cent since 2015, salaries and wages have remained almost static. That explains why Nigerians are now poorer in 2022 than in 2015. It is an economic fact which cannot be denied. And, as things stand right now, the situation can only get worse with a global recession about to set in on account of outbreak of war in Ukraine.
That is the first bomb ticking silently. There must be a limit to Naira devaluation without undesired consequences.
“40% OF Nigerian youths are unemployed – Dr Adesina, President African Development Bank, March, 2022.
Time bomb has been used by many experts to describe high rate of youth unemployment anywhere. Nigerians have heard it many times before too. What few people realize is the fact that the bombs of joblessness among Nigerian youth have been exploding on many fronts nationwide. The cardinal reasons will soon be disclosed.
Dr Adesina is a pro-establishment person. He does not criticize the Federal Government of any African nation, particularly Nigeria, unnecessarily. Even the data supplied above was released within the context of advice to the Buhari administration. The AfDB is not political; neither is it in opposition to the ruling party. But, Adesina has shed light on where we stand in 2022.
The Federal Government has also admitted that the trend has been downhill since 2015 – despite promises made along the way. We will mention two such unfulfilled pledges to explain how we arrived where we are today.
According to a national paper, “the aggregate rate of unemployment in 2017 was 14.4 per cent; climbed to 23.1 per cent in 2018, 27.10 per cent in 2020, and is currently 33.3 per cent.” That is bad enough news. It was also revealed that , the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, admitted that “Due to COVID pandemic, 20 per cent of full-time workers lost their jobs in 2020…which accentuates youth joblessness estimated variously at between 42.5 per cent and 55 per cent.”
That is worse; but, it is not the end of the sad story. It is not just the percentages which are going up, the actual numbers paint the worse picture. The Nigerian population continues to grow at about 3 per cent per annum; and it has now reached an estimated 210 million. Young people under the age of 40 constitute over 70 per cent of the total. The percentage increases from 14.4 per cent in 2017 to 33.3 per cent now implies a higher actual number of unemployed youth than the percentages suggest.
Since the Devil will always find employment for idle hands, millions of ostensibly jobless Nigerians have adopted survival strategies based on crime. They have resorted to all forms of crime for their livelihood —kidnapping, armed robbery, banditry, cyber crimes, rituals, Ponzi schemes, traffic robbery, hacking corporate and individual accounts and illicit drugs .
The Police, the DSS, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Nigerian Customs Service and National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, are overwhelmed with cases. There are no official estimates available, but from my own vintage point, it would appear that for every criminal caught by the law, at least three or four escape. That explains the rise in regularity of some types of crime.
It is estimated that at least 60 per cent of youths in one Local Government in Lagos State live on crime. In an article titled THE SURVIVAL OF THE UNFITTEST published in 2009 and based on research, it was estimated that only about 30 per cent of the youths in the LG lived on crime.
The increase in percentage is frightening enough. The actual numbers are almost four times higher. Indeed, virtually every young person there is either fully or partly engaged in crime. In seven years, Nigeria has nurtured over 50 million young people who have not been engaged in lawful work; and who might spend the rest of their lives living on crime.
Incidentally, in April 2017, the FG launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Programme, ERGP. Among other unfulfilled promises, the ERGP promised to create 15 million new jobs. Instead, more jobs were lost; particularly to COVID-19 pandemic. While many other countries have recovered from COVID-19, Nigeria has not; and might not as a global recession might start soon.
That is Time Bomb number two.
“Upon the education of the people of this country, the fate of this country depends.” Benjamin Disraeli, 1804-1881.
When the late British Prime Minister delivered that speech in the House of Commons on June 15, 1874, he was only restating what many others had recognized long before his time as civilizations developed. Furthermore, it was quickly realized that education is not static; continuous improvement is required to push forward the frontiers of knowledge.
The most advanced nations therefore have one thing in common. They invest most in education and make school enrollment mandatory – at least up to secondary level. The dividends are there for all of us to see around us.
It is one of the worst tragedies of our own era, that at the end of its seventh year, the Buhari administration has set back education more than any of its predecessors who also tried their best to ruin Nigeria’ s education. I was an undergraduate in an American university when two Nigerians arrived to start their Master’s Programme in Mathematics. They had no problem adjusting to their studies; in fact, they were ahead of their American classmates. Today, few Nigerian graduates can proceed to Master’s abroad without prior assistance.
The current situation with Nigerian education, under Buhari can be summarized by directing our minds to two recent statements.
UNICEF recently announced that 10 million Nigerian school age girls are out of school. Buhari’s Northwest is responsible for the largest number – with Sokoto leading the parade. Zamfara and Katsina are not far behind. There is abundant evidence to prove that if you want to educate a nation, you must start by sending the girls to school.
Educated women almost invariably encourage their kids, boys and girls, to get educated. Illiterates, on the other hand, especially those given away in marriage at an early age, seldom develop the urge for sending their children to school. You can’t give what you don’t have. Most of those 10 million girls would ordinarily not send their kids to school. But, now those who might want to do so have additional reason for being discouraged.
When Mrs Alheri Emmanuel, mother of Deborah Samuel, unhappily announced that “None of my children will go to school again”, she spoke for millions of parents in the North, especially Niger, Kaduna and Zamfara, who are just praying for a really traumatic school year to end.
Few Nigerians ever imagined that we could ever relive the Chibok experience. The school year 2021-2022 has exposed our national delusion. Several schools were invaded and students carted off into slavery; just for making the mistake of wanting to be educated in Nigeria’s North.
When this school year ends next month or so, thousands of parents with children in Northern schools will move them out; many of those who cannot will keep them at home. As one father told me on the phone “Dele, I prefer my child to be alive even if you call him illiterate than to bury him”.
Most of us have lost count of the number of times public universities – Federal and states – have gone on strike since 2015. Right now, the academic session means absolutely nothing when the first semester was not completed and most of the second semester is also gone. Final year students cannot leave; new students cannot be admitted. We run the risk of having an entire set of secondary school leavers with no place to go.
Yet, the amount in dispute with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, is far less than the amount being mis-managed on dubious School Children Feeding Programme.
That sums up the situation on education in the seventh year of our President. And that’s another time bomb ticking.
“He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.”
Confucius, 551-479 BC, Chinese philosopher.
On May 29, 2015, President Buhari declared that the 4,000MW of power distributed to Nigerians was unacceptable. We clapped in appreciation. The record since then should embarrass all of us. Power generation reached a peak of 5,008.9MW on December 7, 2021. it has dropped below 4,000MW everyday from 2015 till today.
Just before the 2019 elections, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture told Nigerians that APC has fulfilled all its promises. Obviously, Lai was suffering from his usual memory lapse. He forgot the promise to deliver more power – which remains unfulfilled even now. The average daily power supply since 2016 has been less than the 3,600MW recorded in 2015. We have laboured for seven years only to find ourselves behind the starting point.
Two pieces of third party evidence is all you need to know where we stand on poverty. They are presented below.
“In the last 40 years, the real per capita income has been inflation adjusted, and per capita income in Nigeria has not grown. What it was in 1981, 1982 is what it is now in 2021, 2022.” The Country Director, World Bank, Shubham Chaudhuri.
Report, PUNCH, April 17, 2022.
That was bad enough. Most Nigerians have never heard of Hanke’s Annual Misery Index, MI, a global socio-economic study of all nations on earth. It is published by Professor Steve Hanke of John Hopkins University, Maryland, USA. The 2021 report, just released ranked Nigeria as the eleventh worst nation on earth in which to live.
The results are based on four economic variables: interest rates, unemployment estimates, inflation and Gross Domestic Product, GDP growth. It was just as well they excluded power supply and exchange rates.
The verdict is damning. In Africa, Nigeria is only better than other hells on earth like Angola, Sudan and Zimbabwe – which has never recovered from the dead hands of old man Robert Mugabe.
Nigeria remains the poverty capital of the world and we add more people to the number every blessed day. There is no light at the end of the tunnel into which Buharinomics has driven us. Unfortunately, we have one more year of this misery to endure.
The principles of economics respect nobody whether president or pauper. The subject is also highly quantitative. Those not comfortable with Mathematics and data generally can be regarded as illiterates. One of the enduring issues in economic policy management has been alleviating poverty.
So far mankind has failed in this regard – irrespective of the type of government or the leaders in charge. Thus, when Buhari promised in 2015 to reduce the number of people living in poverty by 10 million in ten years some of us were skeptical. History does not always support such promises.
Fortunately, economics has created a short hand metric for determining whether or not poverty is being reduced in any economy. It is so simple that one must wonder why Nigerian government officials fail to understand it. Two variables are involved – population and GDP.
If the GDP grows faster than the population, then the citizens are getting richer. If the GDP grows less than the population, then poverty increases. If we apply this to the Nigerian economy under Buhari from 2016 to 2021, (2015 and 2022 are excluded because 2015 was shared by two governments, and 2022 is still in progress) this is what we get.
YEAR 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021
POP. 3% 3% 3% 3% 3% 3%
GDP -1.6 0.8 1.95 2.25 -1.8 0.1 (all %s)
“Even God cannot change the past.” Agathon, 447-401BC. That is also a cardinal principle in economics. But, last year, on the sixth anniversary of his tenure Buhari’s speech writers attempted to do just that. The Nigerian President declared to the whole world that his administration has lifted 10 million Nigerians out of poverty. He also announced that the list of the ten million lucky citizens was available. It was a disgraceful performance before a global audience for two reasons.
Given the table above, Nigeria must have written a new economic theory which runs counter to established norms. It would have been the first time in history for a country tottering annually on the brink of recession to at the same time be lifting millions out of poverty. Furthermore, nobody in that government has been able to produce the list of those rescued from poverty till today.
But, don’t worry. This review is being written without having an idea what President Buhari will announce on poverty alleviation. One thing is certain, however, he will repeat the bogus claim of 10 million Nigerians lifted from poverty. And, the world will groan again. They never expect the truth from our leaders anyway.
Seven years can be used to deliver a nation as the Biblical Joseph did in Egypt; it can also be used to deepen national misery. The challenge to this government, including Vice President Osinbajo, is for somebody to point to one aspect of our economy which has improved since 2015.
To be quite candid, electing Buhari was a colossal blunder. It will require three governments to clean up the mess he will leave behind in 2023.
Education under Buhari: One week, one trouble
By Ebele Orakpo
The roots of education are bitter but the fruit is sweet – Aristotle
Education, unarguably, is the bedrock of any society. It follows that any society that neglects the Education sector is playing with fire because without a solid and well-funded education sector, a nation will go nowhere in terms of development. Every sector of the economy depends on this sector.
Can one talk about the Agric, Health, ICT, Banking and Aviation sectors without this all-important sector? We talk of industrial revolution, Artificial Intelligence, AI, Internet of Things, IoTs; all these won’t happen without a sound education sector. The education sector builds the human capital that feeds these other sectors.
Unfortunately, with Nigeria’s education sector, it’s one week, one trouble, apologies to Prof. Anezi Okoro, Nigerian author whose 1972 novel has that title. The battle has been between the teaching and non-teaching staff of tertiary institutions and the Federal Government, with students and parents caught in the cross fire. This report takes a look at Nigeria’s Education sector under the Buhari administration from May 29, 2015 to May 2022.
So many issues have been plaguing the nation’s Education sector. According to the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, their major demands are: adequate and proper funding of the sector, welfare, approval of their own payment system, University Transparency Accountability Solution, UTAS, instead of FG’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel information system IPPIS, as well as implementation of the 2009 agreement reached with the FG.
ASUU strike from 2016 to 2022
In 2016, ASUU embarked on one week warning strike in November to press for the implementation of 2013 MoU. In 2017, they were on strike from August 13 to September 17.
From November 4, 2018 to February 7, 2019, ASUU went on strike because of poor funding of the sector and FG’s plan to increase school fees. This was followed by a nine-month strike in 2020, from
March to December. This was due to a disagreement between the union and the FG over the funding of universities and implementation of the IPPIS.
On November 17, 2021, ASUU announced its plan to embark on another strike in three weeks if the FG continued to renege on the 2020 agreement with it.
On February 14, 2022, ASUU began the current strike action which is still ongoing.
Education budget: 2016 – 2022
Stakeholders believe that education needs to be funded but it’s not all about providing funds but more important is the efficient use of available funds. Mr. Amed Demirhan, GM/Director, Barzani National Memorial & Project Co-Director, Digitalizing the Kurdish Heritage Institute, Kurdistan, in an earlier chat with Vanguard had said that although funding is very important, but it’s not all about pouring money into the system, there must be efficient management of the funds. According to Benjamin Franklin, American politician, ‘An investment in knowledge pays the best interest, so why is government not adequately funding the sector?
In 2016, out of N6.06 trillion budget, Education got N369.6bn or 6.7%.
In 2017, Education received N550bn of a total budget of N7.29 trillion; representing 7.38%.
Out of N9.2 trn budget in 2018, Education got N605. 8bn or 7.04%.
In 2019, of the N8.92 trn, budget, Education was given N620bn or 7.05%.
The year 2020, saw the sector receiving N671.07bn or 6.7% of a total budget of N10.33 trn.
In 2021, the sector got N742.52bn or 5.6% of the N13.6 trn.
For the current year, 2022, of a total budget of N17.126 trn, Education got 7.2%.
UNESCO’s recommended budgetary allocation to education in developing countries is between 15 and 20 per cent of annual budget, the Nigerian government has consistently failed to meet this target in spite of President Muhammadu Buhari’s promise at the Global Education Summit on Financing Global Partnership for Education 2021-2025 in London in 2021, to steadily increase education budget by at least 50 per cent in two years and gradually to 100 per cent by 2025.
“We commit to progressively increase our annual domestic education expenditure by 50 per cent over the next two years and up to 100 per cent by 2025 beyond the 20 per cent global benchmark,” Buhari had said.
Alternative to strike action
Some concerned citizens have called on ASUU to find another means of fighting for their rights since strike actions have not worked with successive governments. Unfortunately, these people have not been able to come up with a viable alternative. President of ASUU, Prof. Victor Osodoke had assured that ASUU will continue to down tools unless Nigerians provide them an alternative to strike action.
However, many Nigerians believe that the only way to get the Nigerian leaders to do their job is for citizens to prevail on their representatives at both the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to enact a law that forbids any office holder, both elected and appointed, from sending their children, wards, relations and friends abroad to school or for medical attention. Once this is done, they believe the education and health sectors will see the much needed change.
School feeding programme
The home grown public primary school feeding programme of this administration which actually attracted many children to school, seems to have lost steam. Some state governors alleged that their states enjoyed the programme for only three months. A story was told about some schools in Kaduna State in the early days of the feeding programme when children would go to school and as soon as they are given the food, they would use the excuse of going to drink water at home to leave school until the next day because they were not provided with drinking water. In essence, they were there for the food. Government used food to get them to school but could not keep them.
According to reports, Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world and this number has greatly increased in the last six years due to insecurity, extreme poverty, corruption etc.
Studies have shown that an uneducated, able-bodied, unemployed individual can easily be recruited by criminal groups than an educated individual with a source of livelihood. Nigeria has been fighting insurgency for about two decades and there seems to be no end in sight because the terrorists and other criminal groups have an army of illiterate, unemployed, able-bodied young people who they recruit as foot soldiers and pay them peanuts.
Pikin wey say him mama no go sleep, him sef no go sleep (A child who does not allow his mother to sleep, will not sleep either, goes a popular Nigerian adage and He who pins another to the ground, holds himself on the ground as well– Igbo proverb.
This means that as long as the Nigerian government fails to do the needful and allow the classrooms to continue to be shut with staff and millions of students out on the streets, they should not expect peace in the land or any form of progress even as crime rate increases.
Education, undoubtedly, is one of the major ways to fight insecurity in the land. A senior lecturer at the Lagos State University, LASU, Prof. Olawunmi Macaulay-Adeyelure at a symposium organised by Xtra-Teacher Initiative in conjunction with New Era Girls Secondary School Lagos Alumnae Association, NEGSSLA-A for graduating students of NEGSSS, called for proper funding of the education sector as that is the only way to turn around the nation’s situation for good.
Tagged: Beyond School Certificate: Is School a Scam?, she said that education makes the society a better place; gives one freedom and makes one able to see things from divergent views, allows for cooperation and co-existence, emancipates one from mental slavery which could be religion or tradition and helps people to understand the law and reduces lawlessness in the society.
Right now, the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, SSANU, the Non-Academic Staff Union, NASU and the National Association of Academic Technologists, NAAT as well as ASUU are all on strike. Students who are tired of staying at home have taken to the streets to press home their demands. If nothing is done quickly, some may be tempted to join one criminal group or the other as nature abhors vacuum. Now is the time to act.
Buhari’s imprint on Nigeria’s infrastructure
By Soni Daniel, Editor Northern Operations
The argument as to whether the Muhammadu Buhari administration has impacted the infrastructure terrain of Nigeria since coming to power in 2015 may be a protracted one depending on who is involved and where the commentator is coming from. The administration’s performance in this vital area of the economy is sometimes fierce, poignant and endless but the veracity of his feat in that area can be measured based on what is on the ground or not.
While those who try to shut down the administration’s voice in the infrastructure arena, are often quick to dismiss whatever has been done as nonexistent, the Buhari administration has a dossier it can proudly present to even its critics that it has changed the nation’s landscape with verifiable projects-roads, bridges, housing schemes and even the elevation of the status of federal educational institutions with paved roads.
Without mincing words, the federal government has the Second Niger Bridge, which it has so far committed at least N400 billion into, to showcase as a star project it has dedicatedly pursued with uncommon zeal and commitment to its present level of completion. The project, which had been a subject of political debate and contention, has now been primed for unveiling in October this year. As a prelude to the inauguration, the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, recently led a high-powered government delegation to inspect the state of its readiness for Buhari to flag off in October this year before handing over to his successor next year.
But that is not the only monument the government intends to bequeath to the next administration. In the same area of roads and bridges, the government has successfully completed and handed over no fewer than 941 Km of roads connecting 10 States in five geo-political zones across the country. The Minister of Works and Housing, Babatune Fashola, boasts that this feat is not mere statistics but life- defining road transport infrastructure provided by the government of Muhammadu Buhari.
The government is also happy to flaunt the Sokoto – Tambuwal -Jega – Kontagora – Makera Road phases one and two in Sokoto and Kebbi states, Vandeikya – Obudu Cattle Ranch Road phases one and two in Benue State, Nnewe – Oduma Road, sections one and two in Enugu and Ebonyi states, Kano – Maiduguri Road, Section two ( Azare – Potiskum in Bauchi and Yobe states and the Kano – Maiduguri Road, Section two (Shuwarin – Azare) with Spur from Dutse to Kwanar Huguma in Jigawa/Bauchi states as proofs of its flagship road projects.
The government is also actively pursuing other ongoing roads and infrastructure projects in other parts of the country with a view to enriching its bouquet of physical transformation when it hands over next year. Among these projects are: 850 contracts involving 796 bridges and road projects and housing projects in 34 States of the federation as well as new federal secretariats in Anambra, Nasarawa, Bayelsa , Zamfara, Osun and Ekiti states.
Beyond building new roads and bridges, the administration is also rehabilitating and maintaining old bridges that may be challenged and pose serious danger to the users. These include the Tamburawa Bridge in Kano, Nigeria/Cameroon Joint Border Bridge at Mfum/Ekok in Cross River State.
It is also working on a new bridge in Ikom also in Cross River State to increase the number of road infrastructure in the country. The government is working on the Chanchanji Bridge along Takum- Wukari Road, Takum in Taraba State, the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos State, underwater cleaning of the Murtala Muhammed Bridge, Koton Karfe In Kogi State and the Tamburawa Bridge in Kano State.
Whether these are adding the required value to the people compared to the level of decay in road infrastructure in the country is something that will be determined in the course of time.