Abimbola Akosile examines some crucial factors which can make or mar overall development in Nigeria, in the second half of a watershed year
Development in the past six months in this country throws up various perspectives and viewpoints, depending on who is involved. To a layman like this reporter, Nigeria’s development process has been marked by false starts, stalls and jump-starts.
On one hand it is easy to feel elation at the federal government’s declaration of emergency on corruption in a half-year which followed the recent visit of the Chair of Transparency International, Delia Rubio to a recent high-level workshop organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre headed by Auwal Musa Ibrahim in Abuja.
But it is also sobering to discover that in 2017 Nigeria slid down 12 places on the global ranking of the Corruption Perception Index of the same anti-corruption agency (TI) with 28 marks out of a possible 100 marks, which was released earlier this year.
And while anti-corruption crusaders are busy jubilating over the recent conviction and 14-year sentences passed on two former governors who were prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for corrupt practices while in office, many citizens still believe the current administration has not totally purged itself of corrupt individuals, with some bad and corrupt eggs still operating in its uppermost ranks.
The best thing to do in the second half of this year is for the federal government to walk the talk and make the emergency declaration on corruption count by purging its ranks of corrupt individuals or those who have strong allegations of corruption hanging over their heads.
This will serve to pacify the disappointed citizens and neatly fit into the profile of PMB as a national, continental and global anti-corruption crusader.
The strident calls for the creation of State Police gathered steam in the first half of the year, mainly because of the incessant killings caused by marauding herdsmen, ritual killers and kidnappers.
Although the President directed the federal Police hierarchy to hire 10,000 new personnel, many view that as a drop in the ocean and just a temporary stop-gap measure which cannot successfully check the widespread killings and insecurity in the land.
This brings into play the need for State Police and even Community policing to complement the federal forces, which are reportedly currently less than 400,000-strong and which cannot adequately police Nigeria’s estimated population of 186 million citizens.
Incidentally, the National Assembly, especially the Upper chamber is spearheading the move for creation of State Police and they are powerful stakeholders in the quest to restore security in the country. Their efforts must not be allowed to flag in the second half, and the legislators should by supported by the Executive on this matter, for the benefit of all. That is not too hard to ask for.
The 2018 budget of N9.12 trillion was delayed for more than seven months by both the executive and legislature before the President finally signed the final copy into law in June.
The budget figure, which is the highest ever in the history of the country, has been described by the current administration as a pro-poor and people-friendly document, has a huge chunk allocated to capital expenditure and projects which are expected to benefit the general populace in a trickle-down style.
However, the ripple effect of the budget has not been fully felt by the citizens, and this second half of the year presents a golden opportunity for the federal government to put smiles on the faces of Nigerians.
Although the President initially accused the National Assembly of tampering with the budgetary allocations, he however signed the budget because, according to him, he “didn’t want to further slow down the pace of recovery of Nigeria’s economy”. He also pledged to work with the national assembly on the budget process and to bring a supplementary budget to re-capture the cuts made by the legislators during their oversight.
To the budget monitor, although the final passage of the budget was delayed, it is better late than never. The Ministry of Budget and National Planning and concerned players now have a good chance to effect some of the budgetary provisions in the second half of this year, and to finally put smiles on the faces of the long-suffering citizens. Nigerians are watching and waiting.
On the agricultural front, Nigeria has recorded landmark results in the area of local rice production and market capture, which has reportedly reduced importation of foreign rice products by more than 90 per cent, despite efforts of smugglers.
Agricultural processing has also gone up several notches in the first half of the year, with the President commissioning some huge projects and processing plants around the country, which can only bode well for the economy and help reduce unemployment in the second half of the year.
With the active involvement of giant organisations like Dangote Group, Olam Nigeria and Flour Mills Nigeria in the agricultural sector, the private sector has shown a remarkable capacity to drive investments and profitable ventures in the industry, and the ripple effect is being felt around the country.
But to effectively raise the bar to make agriculture revenue a viable alternative to oil revenue, the federal government has to lead the struggle by granting some tax holidays, concessions and incentives to players in the vital sector, and the second half of 2018 presents a good chance to boost an already important industry. In this present agricultural revival, everyone is a winner and the positive trend is a welcome development.
The first half of the year witnessed Nigeria’s emergence as the country with the highest level of extreme poverty, overtaking India in the process.
According to a report, the number of those living in extreme poverty in Nigeria is growing by six people every minute, while the May 2018 survey by the World Poverty Clock also showed that the country had an estimated 87 million people in extreme poverty; compared to India’s 75 million.
Ironically, the population of those living in extreme poverty is going down in India, which has an estimated population of over 1.3 billion, while Nigeria has an estimated population of 186 million.
The latest poverty ranking struck a blow to the federal government’s efforts to lift more citizens out of poverty, but it also presents a good opportunity for the current administration to re-jig its anti-poverty strategies in the latter part of this year.
If the number of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria can be reduced considerably through government efforts and interventions, it would be a strong point in the favour of an administration which seeks to stage a comeback to power at the general elections next year. That, to this reporter, is a valid development yardstick.
Politics and development are interwoven in the quest for good governance, and one cannot be sacrificed at the expense of the other in any country that wants to move forward.
However, the problem is that Nigeria is going through a hybrid period of political instability, which also has its ripple effect on the economy and her development process.
This year has particularly witnessed upheavals in the political space and being so close to the election year, which is just a matter of months away, the present administration has to calm the troubled political waters in the most adroit way so as not to upset the gains recorded so far in Nigeria’s relative progress.
Although carpet-crossing and horse-trading cannot cease in politics, each camp owes it to the citizens who elected them into power to maintain peace and decorum devoid of rancour and acrimony, with a ripple effect on peaceful development and harmony.
If this current administration can manage to get along with its foes in the political space through matured compromise in this volatile second half of the year, that can only bode well for the citizens and for the country’s development. That is a worthwhile goal.