A NEW DECADE OF HOPE?

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Even with all the iniquities in the system, there is a glimmer of hope

Following the execution of 10 Christians and a Muslim on Christmas Day by Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), an affiliate of Boko Haram, President Muhammadu Buhari expressed his distress. The execution, coming just a day after the insurgents murdered seven villagers in a Christian community close to Chibok in Borno State, contributed to the general climate of insecurity. The tragedies are not only a challenge to our corporate existence but also to the future of a country that is fast becoming a killing field. As we therefore begin a new year and decade, we hope the authorities can rekindle hope in Nigerians that the future is bright.

Meanwhile, for the first time in more than a decade, the National Assembly has restored the January to December budget cycle. With the implementation of the budget beginning today, the country should at least be able to plan properly. But with the indictment by the Auditor-General of the Federation (AGF), Anthony Ayine, that some ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) spent N26.606 billion in 2017 without payment vouchers or requisite approvals for such expenditures, we hope all loopholes will be plugged for effective implementation. Ayine, who said a total of 140 infractions were identified in the payments made by the MDAs, listed a litany of financial indiscipline within the system.

That Nigerians are being ushered into a new year with diffidence is not in doubt given the prevalent public disillusionment occasioned by severe economic hardship. The much-touted impressive economic gains of the last couple of years have not translated into good life for a majority of the people. On the contrary, Nigerians continue to be ranked among the poorest people in the world, and with a burgeoning debt profile. Basic services such as power, education, health and other infrastructure are in a shambles, while a demographic crisis is looming large on the horizon. The unemployment rate, put at more than 23 per cent by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), is not only frightening but breeds the risk of social, economic and security turbulence.

To worsen matters, Boko Haram, the brutal insurgent group and their menacing affiliate ISWAP, still constitute a major security challenge as manifested by their impunity. The country’s internal security is threatened by other violent crimes such as kidnapping, banditry, armed robbery and cultism on a regular basis. Indeed, the country is losing the dominance of the machinery of violence to non-state actors. Death through criminality is gradually becoming a norm and constituting additional instability to a country already on fire. These are some of the problems that we have had to grapple with in the past decade.

However, even with all the criticisms, there is no doubt that the country has chalked some gains on the war against corruption. And even if the little increase in agricultural production is yet to be properly harnessed in form of industrial processing, there is a determination to push the frontiers.

While the major problem in the system today is more about the absence of good governance at all levels, we must acknowledge that we have a serious structural problem. When complemented with mechanism for improving accountability, the proposal for restructuring being pushed by many critical stakeholders has the potential for strengthening the structural design for good governance and human development in Nigeria.

As we, therefore, begin a brand new decade, we hope Nigerians will put behind them a turbulent period that was often marked by violence, angry and hate rhetoric so we can all embrace a new spirit that places emphasis on unity of purpose as we seek to advance our country for peace and prosperity.

We wish all our readers Happy New Year!