The World Bank has warned that the Nigerian economy has been slipping since 1995, and this continued till 2018.
The bank, in its latest report, yesterday, on the regional economy titled, ‘Africa’s Pulse’, released the taxonomy of growth performance in sub-Saharan Africa, which focused on the macroeconomic and financial features that led to growth resilience on the continent.
According to the bank, the taxonomy is used to help identify the factors that are correlated with success or failure in economic growth performance in sub-Saharan Africa, with emphasis on macroeconomic and financial variables.
The analysis, it said, involved a series of macroeconomic variables for 44 sub-Saharan African countries from 1995 to 2018.
The key elements that determined the positions of each of the 44 sub-Saharan economies in the taxonomy, the World Bank said, included the level of income per capita of the countries; structural transformation, as captured by sectoral value-added share and sectoral employment share; and capital flows.
Others are level and composition of public sector indebtedness, as captured by the general government gross debt and its currency composition, and the outstanding external public debt.
The last of the indicators has to do with governance vis-a-vis government effectiveness, regulatory quality, control of corruption, voice and accountability, political stability, and absence of violence and rule of law.
According to the World Bank, the taxonomy compares the average annual GDP growth rates during 1995–2008 and 2015–2018 against predetermined thresholds.
It also categorised growth performance into five groups: falling behind, slipping, stuck in the middle, improved, and established. The five groups were further reclassified into three groups: Top tercile, middle tercile and bottom tercile.
The Bretton Wood Institution said, “If a country’s economic performance declined from 1995–2008 to 2015–18, the country is categorised in the bottom tercile, which includes ‘falling behind’ and ‘slipping.’ If a country’s growth rate remained invariant over time, between 3.5 and 5.4 per cent in both periods, it is categorised in the middle tercile (or stuck in the middle). If a country’s economic performance improved from 1995–2008 to 2015–18, with the growth of more than 5.4 per cent per year, the country is categorised in the top tercile, which includes the ‘improved’ and ‘established’ groups.”
Based on the above classification, the Nigerian economy was categorised alongside 18 other sub-Saharan African economies as slipping having recorded declined economic performance between 1995 and 2018.
The World Bank said, “The bottom tercile consists of 19 countries: Angola, Burundi, Botswana, the Republic of Congo, the Comoros , Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Lesotho, Mauritania, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Eswatini, Chad, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. These countries did not show any progress in their economic performance from 1995–2008 to 2015–18. For instance, their median economic growth rate decelerated, from 5.4 per cent per year in 1995–2008 to 1.2 per cent per year in 2015–18.”
The bottom performing economies, according to the World Bank, produce almost 60 per cent of the region’s total GDP, emphasising that the three largest countries in the region—Nigeria, South Africa, and Angola—and many commodity exporters are in this group.
Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal, and Tanzania made the top tercile.
The middle tercile countries are Benin, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cabo Verde, The Gambia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Niger, Sudan, Sao Tomé and Príncipe, Togo, and Uganda.
The World Bank also cut its growth forecast for sub-Saharan Africa this year to 2.8 per cent from an initial 3.3 per cent.
The commodity price slump of 2015 cut short a decade of rapid growth for the region, and the bank said growth would take longer to recover as a decline in industrial production and a trade dispute between China and the United States take their toll.
The bank’s 2019 forecast means economic growth will lag population growth for the fourth year in a row and it will remain stuck below three per cent, which it slipped to in 2015.
“The slower-than-expected overall growth reflects ongoing global uncertainty, but increasingly comes from domestic macroeconomic instability including poorly managed debt, inflation and deficits,” the bank said.
The Bretton Wood Institution equally cut Nigeria’s growth forecast by 0.1 per cent.
It said, “Growth in Nigeria is projected to rise from 1.9 per cent in 2018 to 2.1 per cent in 2019 (0.1 percentage point lower than last October’s forecast).
“This modest expansion reflects stagnant oil production, as regulatory uncertainty limits investment in the oil sector, while non-oil economic activity is held back by high inflation, policy distortions, and infrastructure constraints.
“Growth is projected to rise slightly to 2.2 per cent in 2020 and reach 2.4 per cent in 2021, as improving financing conditions help boost investment.
“In Nigeria, although the manufacturing and non-manufacturing PMIs remained above the neutral 50-point mark—which denotes expansion—they fell further in February, due to weaker rises in output and new sales orders across firms.
“Household consumption in Nigeria has remained subdued, while multiple exchange rates, foreign exchange restrictions, low private sector credit growth, and infrastructure constraints have continued to weigh on private investment.”
The Chief Economist for Africa at the bank, Albert Zeufack, said the region could boost annual growth by about nearly two percentage points if it harnessed Information Technology more effectively.
“This is a game-changer for Africa,” he added.
However, the spokesperson for the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Isaac Okorafor, said the CBN under the current governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele, had shown so much ingenuity in managing the economy.
“You know the crisis that we have faced in the past three years. The bank has shown ingenuity in managing the situation and ensuring that everything is stable.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Zainab Ahmed and the Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr Godwin Emefiele, have joined other economic experts from around the world to discuss issues affecting global economy in Washington DC, US.
The discussions are scheduled to hold between April 9 and April 14, under the auspices of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund in Washington DC.
The 2019 Spring Meetings of the IMF and the World Bank is expected to bring together central bank governors, ministers of finance, parliamentarians, private sector executives, representatives from civil society organisations and the academia.
The experts will discuss issues of global concern, including the world economic outlook, poverty eradication, economic development and aid effectiveness.
The meeting will also feature seminars, regional briefings, press conferences and many other events with focus on global economy, international development and the world’s financial system.
Nigeria attends the meeting each year because of the quantum of investments and technical support it receives from both the IMF and the World Bank.
Although Nigeria currently has zero loans with the IMF, it enjoys technical support from the organisation.
The World Bank Group, on the other hand, is helping to fight poverty and improve living standards in the country through 33 Core Knowledge Product Reports and 29 ongoing National and Regional projects.
Meanwhile, Nigeria is still struggling with recent reports that ranked the country 6th among miserable people in the world, the country has again, scored another negative point with regards to its already battered health indices.
The country has again broken another unenviable record with the number of dementia cases growing by 400 per cent.
It would be recalled that dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities.
It is an umbrella term for a set of symptoms, including impaired thinking and memory, and often associated with the cognitive decline of ageing.
In Nigeria, sadly, little or no attention is given to mental health disorders.
Dementia victims are labelled witches or mentally derailed.
The level of awareness on mental health issues is poor and fraught with lots of misconceptions.
The culture of stigma and discrimination fuels access to care as mental disorders are linked to supernatural causes, including witchcraft, demonic possession, and even punishment from gods or ancestors.
In this part of the world, in most cases, these patients are abandoned to their fate.
Currently, over seven million Nigerians suffer from depression, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) 2015 estimates.
The same report estimates that West Africa has about 4.8 million people with anxiety disorders.
These scary statistics may not be unconnected with the fact that Nigerians are becoming more stressed due to economic hardship and other stressful life events.
Nigeria is rated among top 10 countries that are over depressed and ranks among countries with the highest number of drug addicts, depression and dementia, among others.
Statistics by WHO show that an estimated 47.5 million people have dementia and there are 7.7 million new cases every year.
Developing countries like Nigeria account for 57.7 percent of the problem.
According to the Federal Ministry of Health, about 20-30 per cent of Nigerians suffer from mental illness.
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Abdulaziz Abdullahi, had at a Mental Health Action Committee and Stakeholders’ Workshop in Abuja disclosed that with a population of about 200 million, Nigeria had a high rate of mental illness.
This implies that Nigeria has about 60 million persons with mental illnesses.
However, as Nigeria battles with the mental disorders challenge with no policy on mental health in place, a study by the Journal of Global Health Reports published by the University of Edinburgh has revealed that dementia, a clinical syndrome caused by neuro-degeneration, has increased astronomically in Nigeria over the last two decades.
It is estimated that about 47.5 million people are living with dementia globally, with over two-thirds residing in Low and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs), including Africa, where there is very limited access to social protection, and relevant care, services and support.
This first national comprehensive study also revealed that several communities in Nigeria still link dementia to a normal process of ageing, with many patients stigmatised and abandoned in the belief that their condition is beyond any medical intervention.
Thus, many of those affected delay seeking medical care and endure poor outcomes.
However, the situation is exacerbated by poor mental health service access which partly results in high out-of-pocket expenses that few can afford.
It has been estimated that the number of dementia cases increased by over 400 per cent over a 20-year period, from 63,500 in 1995 to 318, 000 in 2015 among persons aged 60 years.
Prevalence was highest in North-Central; followed by North-West and South-West while the prevalence was also higher in urban settings compared to rural settings.
Alzheimer’s disease, one of the subtypes of dementia, had the highest prevalence while other dementia subtypes had prevalence rates less of than 1 per cent In the views of the Lead Researcher, the Centre for Global Health Research, University of Edinburgh, Dr. Davies Adeloye some of the factors responsible for the prevalence of this disease include genetic, cultural, and nutritional variation in the country.
He urged the government to provide comprehensive care and support institutions for people living with dementia as this was currently lacking in the country.
Adeloye advocated for a bill broadly focused on protecting the rights of individuals with mental disorders and setting standards for mental health practice in the country.
It is, therefore, important for policymakers to direct efforts at ensuring adequate infrastructure, personnel, training and research that focus on dementia, among other important mental health needs, in Nigeria.
Adeloye, who noted that 318,000 persons were affected as at 2015 regretted said to prevent the disorder there is need for Nigerians to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy, balanced diet, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, keeping alcohol to a minimum level, stopping smoking and keeping blood pressure at a healthy level.
Reacting to the findings, a Clinical Psychologist, Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Dr Juliet Ottoh, who also described dementia as a general term for a massive decline in mental ability said when is severe, it can interfere with an individual’s life activity.
She said lack of mentally stimulating activities, not exercising and not eating healthy and balanced food could predispose an individual to dementia.
Ottoh urged Nigerians to quit smoking and embrace regular medical check-up for early detection and treatment.
“There are many different mental disorders, with different presentations. They are generally characterised by a combination of abnormal thoughts, perceptions, emotions, behaviour and relationships with others.
“Mental disorders include Depression, bipolar affective disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses, dementia, intellectual disabilities and developmental disorders, including autism. Stigma is a big problem in Nigeria. It prevents people from seeking treatment; nobody wants to be seen entering a psychiatric hospital,” she counselled.
31 States Lack Insurance Cover For Workers
Thirty-one states in the federation have no insurance cover in place for workers as of March, despite the provision of the requirement in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
Figures obtained from PenCom on ‘Status of implementation of the CPS in states as at March 2021’, last Saturday, showed that only five states, including the Federal Capital Territory, have insurance in place for their workers.
Other compliant states are Lagos, Osun, Ondo and Edo, which also have pension schemes for their workers, according to PenCom.
A former President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Peter Esele, said it was not appropriate that most states lacked insurance cover for their workers.
Esele stated, “It speaks volumes to the fact that when the private sector has not shown respect for group life insurance, they are actually borrowing a leaf from the state governments.
“Ordinarily, what you should expect is that respect for our laws should be what state governments should be all about, but what they have done now is to show lack of respect for the law and their citizens because, ordinarily, it is in the best interest of not only the workers but also the management, that is, the government.
“It is so that whatever happens, the families of the people working with them are safe. For them not to have done that is sad and discomforting.”
The Director, Centre for Pension Rights Advocacy, Ivor Takor, urged state and local governments to comply fully with the regulations in the CPS.
He expressed worry that most states had yet to comply with the law.
The Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Insurance and Actuarial Matters, Hon Darlington Nwokocha, said the lawmakers were reviewing the insurance laws which would enhance the sector’s performance and assist the implementation of the compulsory insurance laws.
The Director-General, National Pension Commission, Aisha Dahir-Umar, said the commission was engaging states to ensure full compliance with the PRA.
She noted that it had continued to review the implementation of the scheme in the states.
Also, the Commissioner for Insurance, Mr Sunday Thomas, said the National Insurance Commission was seeking compliance on the compulsory insurance schemes.
Thomas stated that NAICOM had visited some of the state governors to solicit the support for compliance with insurance laws.
Also, PenCom, in a recent circular, ordered employers of labour to comply with the Group Life Insurance Policy as stipulated in the Pension Reform Act 2014.
PenCom also ordered employers to display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within the premises before the end of July 31, 2021.
It stated this in a circular to all employers and employees titled ‘Re: Compliance with PRA 2014 on Group Life Insurance Policy for employees and display of insurance certificate for 2021’.
The commission said, “In accordance with the provisions of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act 2014, every employer shall maintain a Group Life Insurance Policy in favour of all employees.
“The GLIP should be a minimum of three times the annual total emolument of the employees. Similarly, Section 5.5 of the revised guidelines on GLIP for employees provides that the employer shall display a copy of the GLIP certificate in a conspicuous place within its premises, for the information of the employees and as evidence of having taken such policy.
“Employers that have not displayed a copy of the GLIP certificate within their premises are advised to do so on or before 31 July, 2021. Failure to provide GLIP is a violation of Section 4(5) of the Pension Reform Act (PRA) 2014.”
PenCom disclosed that only 15,418 organisations got its clearance to do the business of Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government between January 4 and May 10.
It said the clearance was given to them for having pension accounts and life insurance cover for their employees.
According to the commission, the clearance enables them to do the business of the Federal Government for the 2021 financial year.
PenCom said companies that had no insurance cover for their workers would no longer be allowed to do any government business.
One In 100 Die By Suicide, WHO Alerts
The World Health Organisation (WHO), has said, suicide remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide and responsible for one in 100 deaths globally.
In its latest estimates entitled, “Suicide worldwide in 2019”, WHO noted that every year, more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide.
The latest estimates noted that in 2019, more than 700 000 people died by suicide: one in every 100 deaths, prompting the WHO to produce new guidance to help countries improve suicide prevention and care.
The WHO guidance is to help the world reach the target of reducing the suicide rate by 1/3 by 2030.
Speaking on the new estimates, Director-General of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the world cannot and must not ignore suicide.
“Each one is a tragedy. Our attention to suicide prevention is even more important now, after many months of living with the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the risk factors for suicide 6 job loss, financial stress and social isolation still very much present.”
He said the new guidance would provide a clear path for stepping up suicide prevention efforts.
“Among young people aged 15-29, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence. The rates vary, between countries, regions, and between males and females.”
The report also explained that more than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100 000 males compared with 5.4 per 100 000 females).
“Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100 000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100 000).
Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100 000), European (10.5 per 100 000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100 000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100 000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100 000).
Globally, the suicide rate is decreasing; in the Americas, it is going up. Suicide rates fell in the 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 per cent, with decreases ranging from 17 per cent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 per cent in the European Region and 49 per cent in the Western Pacific.
“But in the Americas Region, rates increased by 17 per cent in the same time period. Although some countries have placed suicide prevention high on their agendas, too many countries remain uncommitted.
“Currently only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy.
“A significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.”
However, WHO has released comprehensive guidance for implementing its LIVE LIFE approach to suicide prevention. The four strategies of this approach are: limiting access to the means of suicide, such as highly hazardous pesticides and firearms; educating the media on responsible reporting of suicide; fostering socio-emotional life skills in adolescents; and early identification, assessment, management and follow-up of anyone affected by suicidal thoughts and behaviour.
WHO further recommended the banning of the most dangerous pesticides given that pesticide poisoning is estimated to cause 20 per cent of all suicides while national bans of acutely toxic, highly hazardous pesticides have shown to be cost-effective.
Other measures recommended by WHO include restricting access to firearms, reducing the size of medication packages and installing barriers at jump sites.
On responsible reporting by the media, the guide highlighted the role the media plays in relation to suicide.
“Media reports of suicide can lead to a rise in suicide due to imitation (or copycat suicides) – especially if the report is about a celebrity or describes the method of suicide.
“The new guide advises monitoring of the reporting of suicide and suggests that media counteract reports of suicide with stories of successful recovery from mental health challenges or suicidal thoughts. It also recommends working with social media companies to increase their awareness and improve their protocols for identifying and removing harmful content.”
WHO also noted that support for adolescence (10-19 years of age) was a critical period for acquiring socio-emotional skills, particularly since half of the mental health conditions appear before 14 years of age.
“The LIVE LIFE guidance encourages actions including mental health promotion and anti-bullying programmes, links to support services and clear protocols for people working in schools and universities when a suicide risk is identified.
“Early identification, assessment, management and follow-up apply to people who have attempted suicide or are perceived to be at risk. A previous suicide attempt is one of the most important risk factors for future suicide.
“Health-care workers should be trained in early identification, assessment, management and follow-up.
“Survivors’ groups of people bereaved by suicide can complement the support provided by health services. Crisis services should also be available to provide immediate support to individuals in acute distress.
The new guidance, which includes examples of suicide prevention interventions that have been implemented across the world, in countries such as Australia, Ghana, Guyana, India, Iraq, the Republic of Korea, Sweden and the USA can be used by anyone who is interested in implementing suicide prevention activities, whether at the national or local level and in the governmental and non-governmental sectors alike.
On his part, suicide prevention expert at the World Health Organisation, Alexandra Fleischmann said, “While a comprehensive national suicide prevention strategy should be the ultimate goal for all governments, starting suicide prevention with LIVE LIFE interventions can save lives and prevent the heartbreak that follows for those left behind.”
Wike, Others Grace Prof Antonia Omehia’s Thanksgiving
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and other eminent personalities were among personalities that graced the thanksgiving ceremony in honour of Professor Antonia Celestine Omehia, yesterday.
The thanksgiving organised by former Governor of Rivers State, Sir Celestine Omehia was to mark the conferment of his wife, Professor Antonia with the rank of Professor of Library and Information Science by Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni.
Professor Antonia Omehia is a lecturer in the Library and Information Science Department of Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rivers State.
Governor Wike, his deputy, Dr. Ipalibo Harry Banigo, former Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt Hon. Austin Opara, former Presidents, Nigeria Bar Association ( NBA) Onueze C.J Okocha (SAN), and Okey Wali (SAN) were among other dignitaries who attended the thanksgiving ceremony at Omehia’s residence in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
Former Governor, Sir Celestine Omehia said his family decided to organise the thanksgiving to honour God for his wife’s unparalleled academic excellence and passion for scholarly research.
He acknowledged that it is not an easy feat to attain the rank of an academic professor. According to him, his family will remain eternally grateful to God for granting his wife the grace of academic excellence.
Former NBA President, Okocha, who spoke on behalf of Rivers’ elders, said Professor Antonia Omehia has indisputably distinguished herself in academics, because professors are scholars that are experts in their fields and teachers of the highest rank in the university.
He heaped praises on Sir Omehia for allowing his wife to soar in her academic pursuit, because most men often feel intimidated when their wives excel in life.
The legal luminary said when women excel in academics, they should be celebrated.
He commended Professor Antonia Omehia for making her husband and children proud by virtue of her unquestionable commitment to academic excellence.
”We are proud of you for honouring our brother.”
Eminent personalities that also attended the thanksgiving included: Chairman of Greater Port Harcourt Development Authority, Chief Ferdinand Anabraba, former Minister of Transportation, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Senator Mao Ohuabunwa, Senator (Dr) Bennett Birabi, Davies Ikanya among several others.
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