Nigeria: 59 Years of Resilience

Nigeria, the most populous Black Country in the world, is often referred to as the creation of the then British colonial administration.

A British creature with purpose

The country came into existence in its present form via the 1914 amalgamation of Northern and Southern Protectorates by Sir Frederick Lugard.Before the amalgamation, 16 years earlier, Flora Shaw, who later married Lugard, first suggested in an article for The Times, that the several British protectorates on the Niger be called Nigeria.

Nevertheless, “On Oct. 1, 1960, in spite many difficulties, focusing mainly on the differences, among its various component groups, Nigeria became a sovereign federation.’’

Ever since it became a sovereign nation, Nigeria has demonstrated great resilience to survive as a nation.

Within the first 10 years of existence as an independent nation, there was a military take-over, the `Wild Wild West,’ a protest against electoral fraud in the then Western Region and a 30-month old civil war.

In fact, Prof. Michael Crowther, in his book, The Story of Nigeria, described the period 1960 to 1970, as A Decade of Trouble. The peaceful co-existence was threatened on Jan. 15, 1966, when some mutinous young military officers led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu and Emmanuel Ifeajuna staged a coup to upstage the democratic structures.

The young officers were irked about the high level of corruption, among others.

Many prominent Nigerians were killed, including the Prime Minister, Tafawa Balewa, while late Maj-Gen Aguiyi Ironsi became the head of state.

The first coup

The coup became the precursor that led to the 30-month civil war. Nigeria, with a population of about 60 million in 1960, and with over 300  ethnic groups, has not made the desired impact.

The apparent “crawling’’ of the country was traced to poor leadership.

Prof. Chinua Achebe captured it in his book: “The Trouble with Nigeria.” The great novelist traced Nigeria’s problem to poor and visionless leadership.

Nigeria has been described as “a giant with feet of clay,’’ no thanks to visionless leadership since independence.

Irrespective of Nigeria not making the desired impact, many world leaders still believed in the ability and capability of Nigeria to make a difference.

Largest democracy in Africa

President of the United States, Mr Donald Trump had in 2018 during the visit of President Muhammadu Buhari to White House, described Nigeria as “the largest democracy in Africa”.

Trump said: “As I conveyed to President Buhari in our discussions, the United States deeply values and appreciates Nigeria’s role as a strong, democratic leader in the region.

“The United States is currently working to expand trade and commercial ties with African nations, including Nigeria, to create jobs and wealth in all of our countries.

“We hope to be the economic partner of choice for nations across the continent and all around the world.”

Trump further said: “I especially want to thank President Buhari for Nigeria’s partnership and leadership in the fight against terrorism; he has been a real leader.

“Nigeria was one of the first African nations to join the coalition to defeat ISIS, and Nigerian forces are currently leading regional efforts against ISIS in West Africa.

“Nigeria is also leading African nations in the fight against Boko Haram, another ruthless jihadist terrorist group; you’ve been reading about them. They kidnapped young girls and young women, many of whom never are seen again,” Trump added.

Country with incredible wealth

Furthermore, Mr Colin Powel, retired general and former American Secretary of State, in his last visit to Nigeria, observed that the country is blessed with “incredible wealth and enormous potential.’’

On his part, Buhari also outlined a number of reasons why Nigeria might have under-performed as a nation.

He listed them as over dependence on oil, unsuccessful economic policies, widespread corruption and the country’s bad reputation on the international scene.

“We are making progress in the fight against corruption and recovery of stolen public funds and assets in spite vicious and stiff resistance. The shameful past practice of the brazen theft of billions of naira is no more.

“Shady oil deals and public contracts that were never delivered have become things of the past.

“Consequently, and this is very evident across the country, we have done more with less in infrastructural developments.

“Roads, railways, major bridges, schools, energy and power, air and sea ports, welfare of serving and retired personnel both civilian and military, including payment of legacy debts, such as pension arrears, have been attended to.

“There is now an enabling environment for local and foreign investment in Nigeria. We are building a rules-based system,  a level playing field that is free from fixers and intermediaries.

“This is the cornerstone to help genuine investors and honest consumers, and the platform that will allow for the real reforms that we intend to deliver over the coming years.

“We are gradually strengthening the economy with a stable naira and falling rate of inflation.

“We are building an economy that is moving away from over reliance on oil; consequently we have witnessed massive return to farms and seen bumper harvest, in spite recurrent floods across the country.

“These positive developments are the result of our collective pursuit of a common vision, through hard work and dedication.”

Notwithstanding the slow pace of development, analysts say the country has remained together in spite great threats to national cohesion.

Electoral impasse

One of the greatest threats to national existence, besides the 30-month civil war, was the annulment of the June 12 Presidential Election.

The June 12, 1993 Presidential Election, that was adjudged to be the most credible in the country’s electoral history, in which Chief MKO Abiola, was the acclaimed winner, was annulled by then Military President Ibrahim Babangida.

There were protests in many parts of the country, especially, the South-West.

The “stepping aside’’ of Babangida and handing over to the Interim National Government headed by Ernest Shonekan, did not stop the protests.

Even the death of Gen. Sani Abacha who took over power from Shonekan, did not solve the problem.

Respite came to the country, when the administration of Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar (rtd) supervised the election that produced President Olusegun Obasanjo in 1999, and other elected officers at state and local government levels.

Abdulsalam took over the mantle of leadership after the death of Abacha.

Analysts are in agreement that at 59, Nigeria ought to be walking tall, but that is not the case.

Nigeria still imports petroleum products, a country that started drilling oil on its own soil in 1956; it still imports food, though endowed with large expanse of arable land, still battling with poor road networks across the country.

In spite the snail speed of development and other challenges, they say that the ability to remain as one country is commendable. 

DMO released states profile

The Debt Management Office states that the debt stock of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) stood at about N6.8 trillion as at March 31.

According to it, the figure includes both the domestic and external debts and it bases the findings on the collations done December 2018.

Economists express worry about this and observe that critical debt burden can be a threat to the country’s economy, governance and the expected dividends of democracy, especially when the loans are not tied to viable development programmes.

For instance, an overview of debt profiles indicates that Lagos State has a domestic debt stock of N542.2 billion and external debt of 1.426 billion dollars (N513.5 billion) while Kano State has a domestic debt stock N117 billion and 63.4 million dollars as at March 31.

Similarly, Rivers owes N225.6 billion domestic loan burden and 78 million dollars external loan, FCT gets N164.2 billion (domestic) and 31.8 million dollars as external debt.

Anambra has N33.5 billion (domestic) and 107 million dollars (external) while Akwa Ibom has N197 billion as domestic debt and 46 million dollars and Ebonyi; N55.6 billion (domestic) and 66.3 million dollars (external), to mention few of the states.

DMO’s concern

The DMO also expresses concern about the debt profile across the states which economists admit that can retard the provision of capital projects.

However, analysts observe that the debts are accumulation of debts owed by successive governments of every state in the federation for which no governor has been held accountable.

Alhaji Aliyu Numan, chairman, Adamawa Transition Committee, says that it is disheartening that previous administrations had accumulated debts without anything to show for it.

He announces that the total debt burden of the state during the period stands at N115 billion and that N22.3 billion is used to settle claims to contractors whereas the reasons for the loan is to pay salary arrears, staff claims as well as gratuity, among others.

“Government at that time failed to create businesses for the state and even resorted to the sales of state-owned assets to service personal interest of few.

“Monies and allocations which should have been used to address basic services such as potable water, education, health and housing, were simply not available,’’ Numan says.

Similarly, Gombe state government says it inherits a debt burden of N119 billion, according to Malam Ismaila Misilli, the Senior Special Assistance, Media and Publicity to Gov  Inuwa Yahaya of the state.

Misilli observes that in spite of the huge debt, nobody could pin-point a single project which is people-oriented executed with the loans.

The Kaduna state government in 2016 sought a 350 million-dollar World Bank loan — about N107 billion — for infrastructural development.

But the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debt, led by Sen Shehu Sani, former Senator Representing Kaduna Central advised the senate then against approving the loan.

According to the committee, if the loan is granted, it can bring the state’s total external debt stock to 582 million dollars, a development which the committee argued will translate to huge financial burden on the state.

States lament

The Anambra government would not comment of the state’s profile. Mr C-Don Adinuba, the state Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment and Mr Mark Okoye in the Budget and Economic Planning office of the state, decline comments.

Although the Enugu state government also declines comments on the states’ debt profile, Gov. Emeka Ihedioha of Imo notes, that the state is with N106.11 billion debt without anything to show for it by the past administrations.

“Instances of suspicious withdrawing of cash from government accounts in commercial banks without due processes as well as illegal recruitment and promotion of civil servants were a common practice by past administrations.

“Unsustainable debts were incurred on behalf of the state running to more than a N100 billion without anything to show for it and consequently saddling the state with a myriad of lawsuits’’, Ihedioha says.

Mr Adelani Baderinwa, the Supervisor for the Ministry of Information and Strategy in Osun, admits that the debt profile of the state as released by NBS stands at N148 billion but a bulk of the debt has been paid in July.

Baderinwa gives an assurance that the rest of the debt will be paid by 2020 and that the loans are taken to execute developmental projects in the state.

He claims that the loans are used to revamp the education, health sectors, the rehabilitation and construction of new roads across the state.

The debt profile in Ogun is put at N90 billion (internal) and 102million dollars (external) announced by former Gov. Ibikunle Amosun of the state at the twilight of his administration in May.

Analysis of how the loan is used indicates that most of it is for the construction of Ogun Judicial Complex; the 10,000-seater capacity Amphitheatre at Oke-Ilewo, the Kampala/Adire Mall at Itoku, the Ogun Television Digital Studio and the 250-bed ultra-modern hospital at Oke-Mosan.

The incumbent Gov Dapo Abiodun has kept sealed lips over the amount of debt he inherits from the Ibikunle Amosun-led administration.

He, nonetheless, said in June at a meeting with leaders of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state that he met “an almost empty treasury’’. He noted that he had to quickly approach some banks where he got N7 billion loan to pay May salaries of workers.

“We have by far too many things to do than to begin to be bugged down by what someone did or what he did not do or what he left behind.

“I cannot begin to describe it to you. I will not because I have made up my mind that publicly and privately, I will not discuss anything about the past administration,’’ he said.

The DMO record shows that the Ondo State government has a debt of N56.9 billion as at March 2019.

A government source, who pleads anonymity, says that Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has not borrowed any sum since he came on board in 2017.

He, however, says that the governor recently sent a request to the state House of Assembly for approval to borrow N30 billion which has not been approved.

In Kano state, DMO records N117 billion (internal and 63.4 million (external) as the state’s debt profile.

An official of the state’s treasury department says the state is has more than N200 billion vouchers to pay to individuals and companies.

“The bulk of the debts are liabilities that are abandoned projects scattered across the state, including 92 abandoned road projects in the municipal area.

“Top in the list of abandoned project are the two kilometre Sabon Gari flyover, Wuju Wuju Jakara road projects, Gadon Kaya Under-pass road projects and five kilometre road construction in each of the 44 local government areas,’’ he notes.

Debts as heavy burden

Others states with worrisome debt burdens are Bauchi State N92.3 billion as domestic and 133million dollars (about N48.2 billion) as external debt, Bayelsa N130 billion as domestic debt and 56.6 million dollars as external, Benue N97.3 billion as domestic and $39.6 million (external), Borno N68.4 billion (domestic) and 21.6 million dollars (external), Cross River N168 billion (domestic) and 188.8 million dollars (external) and Delta 228.2 billion (domestic) and 63 million dollars as external.

Katsina state has N30.8 billion and 62 million dollars domestic and external respectively, Kebbi N67.4 billion and 45.6 million dollars, Kogi N85 billion and 31.5 million dollars, Kwara N59 billion and 48.6 million dollars, Nasarawa N85.5 billion and 59.1 million dollars and Niger N41.8 billion and 61.3 million dollars.

Rivers has a debt profile of N225.6 billion and 78 million dollars, Sokoto; N38.6 billion and 39.2million dollars, Taraba N61.5 billion and 21.6 million dollars, Yobe N28 billion and 27.5 million dollars and Zamfara N60 billion and 33.5million dollars.

In all these states, the complaints have been that the loans have not been utilised for the purposes they are borrowed.

Dr Uche Olowu, President and Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, however, observes that although states are bound to obtain loans, but such loans should be used for development projects.(NAN)

Culled from NAN

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