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The Task Before President-elect

The Task Before President-elect

On May 29, 2023 the President Muhammadu Buhari administration will come to an end to pave way for the incoming President. To allow a smooth democratic transition, it is expected that the new administration will build on the legacies of the past administration, finish the work left undone, and unfold its developmental blueprint. The eight years of the Buhari’s administration has had its own fair share of challenges, with twists and turns, good and bad days. In this analysis, Ugo Aliogo takes a cursory look at those activities and how they transformed the economy

Economic Growth Prospect

It will nit be a tea party for the new government given the state of the Nigerian economy. Recently, the World Bank predicted a sharp, long-lasting slowdown for developing countries in 2023 as the global economy weakens.

The bank said this in its latest ‘global economics prospects’ report released in January.

The report revealed that the 2023 global growth is expected to slow to 1.7 per cent-a downgrade from 3 per cent earlier projected in June 2022.

The World Bank warned that shocks including higher-than-expected inflation, sudden spikes in interest rates to contain price increases, or a pandemic resurgence could tip the global economy into a recession.

The report also beamed a searchlight on Nigeria’s 2023 economic growth prospect.

The World Bank noted that Nigeria’s 2023 economic growth projection to 2.9 percent from a previous projection of 3.1 per cent. This, the bank explained, is due to production challenges in the oil sector, rising insecurity, and flooding.

The Bank also stated that in Nigeria, growth is projected to decelerate to 2.9 per cent in 2023 and remain at that pace in 2024 barely above population growth.

The report said: “A growth momentum in the non-oil sector is likely to be restrained by continued weakness in the oil sector. Existing production and security challenges and a moderation in oil prices are expected to hinder a recovery in oil output. Policy uncertainty sustained high inflation, and rising incidence of violence are anticipated to temper growth. Growth in agriculture is expected to soften because of the damage from last year’s floods.”

If the economy is not fixed by the President Buhari’s economic team, and fiscal policy concerns are not addressed, the in-coming president will inherit an economy in crisis. Fixing the economy will take some amount of time probably six months or a year, depending on the economic approaches and commitment of the economic team.

Food Insecurity

Nearly 25 million Nigerians are at risk of facing hunger between June and August 2023, if urgent action is not taken, according to the October 2022 Cadre Harmonisé, a government led and UN-supported food and nutrition analysis carried out twice a year.

The report stated that this is a projected increase from the estimated 17 million people currently at risk of food insecurity. Continued conflict, climate change, inflation and rising food prices are key drivers of this alarming trend. Food access has been affected by persistent violence in the north-east states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY) and armed banditry and kidnapping in states such as Katsina, Sokoto, Kaduna, Benue and Niger.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), widespread flooding in the 2022 rainy season damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmlands, which diminished harvests and increased the risk of food insecurity for families across the country. The flooding is one of the effects of climate change and variability impacting Nigeria. More extreme weather patterns affecting food security are anticipated in the future.

Of the 17 million people who are currently food insecure, 3 million are in the northeast BAY states. Without immediate action, this figure is expected to increase to 4.4 million in the lean season. This includes highly vulnerable displaced populations and returnees who are already struggling to survive a large-scale humanitarian crisis in which 8.3 million people need assistance.

Reacting to the development, the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Nigeria, Mr. Matthias Schmale, said: “The food security and nutrition situation across Nigeria is deeply concerning. I have visited nutrition stabilization centres filled with children who are fighting to stay alive. We must act now to ensure they and others get the lifesaving support they need.”

The report argued that Children are the most vulnerable to food insecurity. Approximately 6 of the 17 million food-insecure Nigerians today are children under 5 living in Borno, Adamawa, Yobe, Sokoto, Katsina and Zamfara states. There is a serious risk of mortality among children attributed to acute malnutrition. In the BAY states alone, the number of children suffering from acute malnutrition is expected to increase from 1.74 million in 2022 to 2 million in 2023.

The report revealed that UNICEF, working with the government and partners such as MSF and ALIMA, is investing in scaling up preventive nutrition interventions, while ensuring that vulnerable children have access to life-saving nutrition services. In 2022, UNICEF with partners was able to reach approximately 650,000 children with life-saving nutrition services across the six States mentioned above.

Experts have said the agricultural sector is a critical sector because it is biggest employer of labour in the country, therefore if such sector is severely affected by insecurity, it means that it would have huge implications for food and poverty.

The issue of food insecurity presents an opportunity for the incoming president not just to reposition the sector, through prioritizing food production, but also to employ the services of more advanced techniques and technologies that would meet the needs of the 21st century farming for efficient, and robust food production, build more agricultural facilities across the country. Nigeria can be global player in food production and attain self-sufficiency.

The argument from experts is that if insecurity is tackled, the country would experience increase in agricultural output, and if output increases, prices are likely to drop, and if prices drop, affordability would increase, which would to reduce the problem of food insecurity in the country.

Extreme Terrorism

In Nigeria, the terrorist sect, Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) have shaped the image of violent extremism, despite federal government’s effort to eradicate these sects and their activities. The efforts have been viewed by some as an exercise in futility. Over the years, the sects have grown stronger and wreaked havoc on government establishments, places of worship, market, security and educational institutions, and private buildings. Since May 2022 Islamic State West Africa (ISWA) has conducted a number of attacks in Kogi, Niger, and in the Federal Capital Territory, (FCT) Abuja.

The resultant impacts of their activities have led to great humanitarian crisis in the north-east causing huge displacement of people, a crisis that the government is struggling to grapple with. Millions of people have fled the territory controlled by violent extremist groups. Migratory flows have increased both away, from, and towards the conflict zones – involving those seeking safety and those lured into the conflict as foreign terrorist fighters, further destabilizing the regions concerned.

Most attacks are conducted by Boko Haram or ISWA and occur in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in the North-east. There have also been significant attacks in other states, including Gombe, Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Bauchi and Taraba.

The fight against terrorism remains a huge monster facing the Nigerian state. For an activities that began full scale in 2009, security experts and the intelligence community feel the government cannot win the fight except there is sincerity of purpose. Despite employing different strategies and reshuffling of military and defence chiefs, victory has continued to elude the government. There is a view that some officials in the government have vested interests in the Boko Haram terrorists. However, opinions vary.

The incoming president must begin first by reviewing the various warfare approaches, and tactics employed over the years by the different Presidents, such as President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, Goodluck Jonathan, and Muhammadu Buhari, with a view to understanding why their strategies failed, what they did wrong in the implementation. The incoming president has to develop his own masterplan on how to tackle terrorism in line with conventional approaches. The in-coming president will also consider reshuffling the security architecture as one of the solutions. Therefore, he must setup a team that is ready to walk the talk and deliver on their mandate.

Rising Poverty in Nigeria

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) report issued by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), puts the number of Nigerians living in poverty at 133 million out of a population of over 200 million.

The report painted a grim picture of not only poverty but its impact on children, their health, education and nutrition. Majority of the poor in Nigeria, it showed are children, as 67.5 per cent of children under the age of 18 are poor and 70.1percent of children under 5 are poor.

The report expressed worry that children’s education is one of the most impacted by poverty with 57.8 million children of school-going age (6 to 15 years old) and 29 per cent of all school-aged children not attending school. The report said 27 percent of all school-aged children are both poor and out of school (with no significant gender disparities), making this a critical area in need of urgent investment.

The report said multi-dimensional poverty is higher in rural areas, where 72 per cent of people are poor, compared to 42percent of people in urban areas. Approximately 70percent of Nigeria’s population live in rural areas, yet these areas are home to 80percent of poor people; the intensity of rural poverty is also higher: 42percent in rural areas compared to 37percent in urban areas. Sixty-five percent of poor people 86 million live in the North, while 35percent nearly 47 million—live in the South.

Out of School Children

Nigeria now has about 20 million out-of-school children, according to the latest global data on out-of-school children by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

UNESCO, which said a new and improved methodology was used to arrive at the latest figures, also said: “There are 244 million children and youth between the ages of 6 and 18 worldwide (who) are still out of school.” According to the statistics, India, Nigeria and Pakistan have the highest figures for out-of-school children globally. The figures in Nigeria have oscillated between 10.5 million and around 15 million for more than a decade, with the situation growing worse due to the degenerating security situation in the country.

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