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Independence Special

Nigeria At 58 : Niger Delta In The Eye Of The Storm

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As Nigeria marks 58 years of nationhood today, 58 years she gained independence and emancipation from British colonial rule, keen observers of the political development of the country would agree that it is not yet uhuru for the people of the Niger Delta.
It would be recalled that the British Union Jack was lowered in Nigeria on October 1, 1960, and the country’s green-white-green flag was hoisted in its place, thus, heralding the nation’s political independence.
Independence for the country was, indeed, a defining moment, a new beginning and a new dawn for the country and her people. This was because it came with it high hopes and great expectations, especially as the indigenous people were for the first time vested with the full authority to run the affairs of the country, and take their destinies in their own hands.
The jubilant Nigerians, both at home in the Diaspora, foresaw then, a great future ahead of them, a future of a great country, consisting of great people, with great dreams, great aspirations and potentials, a common destiny, unfettered love and unity, inspite of their diversities in language and religion. They, therefore, clinked glasses and exchanged banters gleefully. But the celebration was short-lived.
Because it did not take quite long, before cleavages, conflicts that engendered mistrust and hate, started manifesting. Resentment, discontent and disillusionment became pervasive, and ostensibly dampened the initial enthusiasm of the people for self rule. An ominous dark cloud hung in the horizon. The first test was an avoidable Civil War which lasted for almost three years and claimed thousands of lives.
As if that was not enough, the ghost of disenchantment, accentuated by bad governance and corruption continued to hover in the air. The cries of injustice, marginalization and exploitation became deafening. Nigerians across various divides caught the bug. Widespread agitations, which have continued up till this day, 58 years after independence became trenchant. The fear of domination, among the minorities by the major ethnic nationalities like the Hausa/Fulani, Igbo and Yoruba, which informed the setting up of the Willink Commission of 1957, refused to abate.
It is within this context that one can conveniently situate the Niger Delta region, the Treasure Base of the country, the home of hydrocarbon, oil and gas deposits, Nigeria’s economic mainstay.
The core Niger Delta region comprises Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta and Edo States, which are located within the South-South geo-political zone of the country. However, Abia, Imo and Ondo States were later co-opted into it as oil producing states.
The Niger Delta question is as interesting as it is intriguing, going by the important place the region occupies in the country’s historical and economic calculus. The Niger Delta encompasses about 8 percent of Nigeria’s land mass and is the largest wetlands region in the African continent. In 1956, oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Oloibiri, a sleepy community in today’s Bayelsa State.
This singular incident apparently altered the political-cum economic equation of the country to the extent that issues concerning the Niger Delta have continued to occupy the front burner of national discourse for over four decades now. The discovery of oil equally re-shaped the course of events both in the region and the country at large. There is a widely held view that the basis of Nigeria’s unity today is oil. But the bigger question is: have the people of the Niger Delta benefitted maximally from this unity? Unfortunately, the general consensus is that the discovery of oil has rather been a curse than a blessing to the people of the Niger Delta.
Nigeria, after over four decades of oil production, had by the early 1980s become almost completely economically dependent on petroleum extraction which at the time generated 25 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This rose to 60 percent as at 2008.
Despite the vast wealth created by petroleum, the benefits have been slow in trickling down to the people, who since 1960s have been forced to abandon their traditional agricultural practices. While many skilled and well-paid Nigerians have been employed by oil companies within the region, the majority of Nigerians and most especially the people of the Niger Delta States have become poorer since the 1960s.
Besides, the issue of derivation has been contentious. Whereas the derivation formula for regions that were contributing resources to the Federation Account in the First Republic was 50 percent , oil producing States in the current dispensation are given a paltry 13 percent as derivation. Though this is an improvement from the initial zero percent, one percent and later 3 percent earmarked for them, it is still seen to be grossly inadequate going by their contributions to the national coffers.
In the 1950s, before the discovery of oil in the Niger Delta, the three largest ethnic nationalities in the country provided Nigeria’s major resources. The North dominated by the Hausa/Fulani produced groundnut, hides and skin while the West populated by the Yorubas was famous for cocoa production and the East controlled by the Igbos produced palm oil and kernel.
It is worthy of note that the Niger Delta region has streadily growing population estimated at more than 30 million people in 2005 and accounts for more than 23 percent of Nigeria’s total population. The population density is also among the highest in the world, with 265 people per square kilometre, and it is expanding at a rapid rate, particularly in the oil rich Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, among other large towns and cities within the Niger Delta enclave.
Major Isaac Adaka Boro who was born in Oloibiri in 1938 was one of the early people who began the struggle for the emancipation of the Niger Delta. He challenged the exploitation and deprivation of the region, as the oil resources from the region were channeled to develop other regions of the country.
Boro declared the Niger Delta Republic on February 23, 1966 but was jailed for treason by the Federal Government under General Thomas Aguiyi Ironsi.
Having a father who was constantly being transferred from one school to another as headmaster, Boro followed his education keenly and even entered the University of Nigeria, Nsukka where he was studying Chemistry and later rose to become the Student Union President.
Being in the Eastern Region under which the Niger Delta was grouped, he was exposed first hand to what he viewed as exploitation of his people, where the oil money gotten from the Niger Delta was being enjoyed by the Federal Government and nothing was given to the Niger Delta people, who were already being subjected to various environmental hazards resulting from oil spillage.
In fact, he believed that the people of the region deserved a fairer share of proceeds of the oil wealth and therefore, formed the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, which attacked a police station in Yenagoa, raided the armoury and kidnapped some police officers.
Boro and his armed militia Ijaw brothers also blew up oil pipelines and gallantly battled the federal forces for 12 days but were finally subdued by the superior federal might. This made the Aguiyi-Ironsi regime to arrest him and his men and were tried for treason and condemned to death.
Though they were granted amnesty by the General Yakubu Gowon administration and were enlisted into the Nigerian Army, Boro died on May 16, 1968 under mysterious circumstances while fighting on the side of the Federal Government during the Civil War.
The modern day conflict in the Niger Delta first arose in the early 1990s over tensions between oil companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron and a number of minority ethnic groups in the region which felt that they were being exploited, particularly the Ogonis and the Ijaws.
Ethnic and political unrest in the Niger Delta has continued till this day though it has reduced to the barest minimum in recent times. There is no denying the fact that the people of the region are still aggrieved and agitated today. Competition for oil wealth had fuelled violence between ethnic groups, thereby causing the militarisation of nearly the entire region by ethnic militia groups, the military and the police, thus, leading to serious energy supply crisis, which culminated in the vandalisation of oil installations and facilities. This discouraged foreign investment in new power generation plants in the region.
In 2004, violence also hit the oil industry with piracy and kidnappings becoming the order of the day. This trend continued until the Federal Government under the watch of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua put in place the Presidential Amnesty Programme in 2009, which has been providing support and training for ex-militants.
When it comes to agitation for improved conditions for the people of the Niger Delta, the case of the Ogonis in Rivers State occupies a central place.
Petroleum was discovered in Ogoniland in 1957, one year after the discovery of Nigeria’s first commercial oil deposits. Incidentally, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron Corporation in particular had established their base in Ogoniland for exploration activities for over 20 years. Shell started drilling oil in Nigeria in 1956. The Ogoni people and other ethnic nationalities in the Niger Delta would agree that at that time, the government began forcing them to abandon their land for the oil companies which offered them negligible compensation for such lands.
The 1979 constitutional amendment which gave the Federal Government full ownership and rights to all Nigerian territory lent credence to the short-changing of the people. Moreover, the amendment also provided that eminent domain compensation for “seized land would be based on the value of the crops on the land at the time of its acquisition, not on the value of the land itself”.
This meant that the government had the authority to distribute the land to the oil companies as it deemed fit. This practice still applies today.
The 1970s and 1980s saw the dwindling of the benefits which the Federal Government had promised the Niger Delta people, with the Ogonis in particular, growing increasingly disenchanted, coupled with their rapidly deteriorating environmental, social and economic conditions. This led to the formation of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1992 with Ogoni playwright and author, Ken Saro-Wiwa as the pointman. MOSOP became the major organisation representing the Ogoni people in their struggle for ethnic and environmental rights.
As time went on, the conflict between the Ogonis and the oil companies rose to a level of greater intensity, resulting in MOSOP issuing an ultimatum to Shell, Chevron and NNPC, and demanded the payment of $10 million as accumulated royalties, damages and compensation.
This did not go down well with the Federal Government and so, it responded in a most rapacious manner. The murder of four prominent Ogoni sons in 1994 was apparently the excuse the government was waiting for. The Gen. Sani Abacha military junta hurriedly swung into action, arrested Ken Saro-Wiwa and several of his kinsmen, and before anyone could raise a voice, it went ahead and executed the environmentalist and eight other Ogoni sons.
In retaliation, the Ogonis, therefore, barred Shell from doing business in their territory.
The Ogoni debacle was closely followed by the Ijaw unrest. The all Ijaw Youths Conference of December, 1998 crystallized the Ijaws’s struggle for petroleum resource control with the formation of the Ijaw Youth Congress (IYC) and the issuing of the Kaima Declaration, wherein the concerns about the loss of control of the Ijaws’ homeland and their lives to the oil companies were encapsulated. In it, they made a commitment to direct action and called on the oil companies to suspend their operations and withdraw from their territory.
Again, the Federal Government saw this as an affront and a threat to the country’s economic interest, and mobilised forces against the Niger Delta people. Two war ships and about 15,000 troops were quickly deployed to Bayelsa and Delta States.
And on the morning of December 30, 2000, youths carried out a procession through Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, dressed in black, singing and dancing. Soldiers opened fire on them with rifles, machine guns and tear gas, killing in the process at least three protesters and arresting 25 of them. The soldiers also repelled the youths again who demanded during a protest march the release of those arrested and shot three more dead. The military declared a state of emergency throughout Bayelsa State, imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew, and banned meetings. The soldiers were also alleged to have molested, detained the local residents at roadblocks and also terrorised women and girls with rape at night.
On January 4, 1999, about 100 soldiers from the military base at Chevron’s Escravos facility attacked Opia and Ikiyan, two Ijaw communities in Delta State. The soliders reportedly shot several of the Ijaws including a traditional leader. Four people were found dead and 62 others were still missing months after the attack. The soldiers were also said to have set the villages ablaze, destroyed canoes and fishing equipment as well as killed livestock and destroyed churches and religious shrines.
Nonetheless, the youths’ Operation Climate Change continued, and disrupted oil supplies through much of 1999 as they turned off oil valves in Ijaw territory. It was in the course of this face-off between the Ijaws and the Federal Government that the military carried out the Odi massacre, killing scores if not hundreds of Ijaws.
The creation of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) by the President Olusegun Obansanjo administration in 2000 was intended to calm frayed nerves of the Niger Delta people and develop the oil rich region. And since its inauguration, the NDDC has focused on the development of social and physical infrastructures, ecological, environmental remediation and human development. But in all these, there are environmental and economic challenges still staring the people in the face. NDDC itself is still grappling with challenges of poor funding, mismanagement of funds and corruption.
Nonetheless, the Niger Delta region had between 2003 and 2007 witnessed the emergence of armed groups like the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF) led by Mujahid Asari-Dokubo and the Niger Delta Vigilantes (NDV) led by Ateke Tom, among others which again heightened tension in the region, particularly in Rivers State.
Subsequent violence occurred chiefly in riverine villages and in Port Harcourt, with the two groups fighting for control of bunkering routes. The conflagration spurred violent acts against the local population, resulting in numerous deaths and widespread displacement and destruction of property. Civilian life was daily disrupted, and even forcing schools and economic activities to shut down.
The activities of multinationals like Shell have caused environmental degradation of the Niger Delta. At a time, Nigeria was the world’s tenth largest oil exporter. The abundant oil reserves resulted in widespread exploitation. The negative consequences are the result of thousands of oil spills and environmental destruction.
According to a report, over one and a half million tons of oil has been discharged into farms, forests and rivers in the Niger Delta since the drilling of oil began in 1956. Hundreds of kilometres of rain forest have been destroyed by oil spills. When petroleum is discharged into the soil, the soil becomes acidic, disrupts photosynthesis and kills trees because their roots are not able to get oxygen. The fish population has also been affected negatively. The region is home to over 250 different fish species and 20 of these species are found nowhere else in the world. Experts believe that if oil spills continue at this rate, the entire species will become extinct and the entire fishing industry in the country will be decimated.
This is coupled with the fact that the region daily witnesses high incidence of piracy and kidnappings. Starting in October, 2012, Nigeria experienced a large spike in piracy off its coast and this escalated in the early 2013, as the country was rated the second most-pirated nation in Africa, after Somalia. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta was alleged to have spearheaded most of the attacks. Since October, 2012, MEND was reported to have hijacked 12 ships, kidnapped 33 sailors and killed several oil workers.
Since 2006, militant groups in the Niger Delta, especially MEND had resorted to taking foreign employees of oil companies hostage and over 200 of such foreigners have been kidnapped since 2006, though most were released unharmed.
However, in August, 2018, the Federal Government unleased a massive military crackdown on the militants in the region whereby a Joint Task Force patrolled the coastal waters, hunting for the MEND militants. It also searched all civilian boats for weapons and raided numerous militant hideouts, forcing thousands of local residents to flee their homes and villages. Hundreds of people may have died as a result of a similar offensive launched on May 15, 2009.
Pipeline attacks had become common place during the insurgency in the Niger Delta but ended after the government on June 26, 2009 announced that it would grant amnesty and an unconditional pardon to militants in the region.
The Presidential Amnesty Programme ensured that militants led their groups to surrender weapons such as rocket-propelled grenades, guns, explosives and ammunition. Even gunboats were also surrendered to the government. Over 30,000 ex-agitators signed up between October, 2009 and May 2011 in exchange for monthly payments and in some cases lucrative contracts to secure pipelines. The amnesty office has worked towards reintegrating the fighters into the society, primarily by placing and sponsoring them in vocational and higher education courses in Nigeria and abroad.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration has managed to sustain the amnesty programme as the programme has proved to be a success with violence and kidnappings including the destruction of pipelines decreasing sharply. Petroleum production and exports have increased.
However, the programme is costly, as chronic poverty and catastrophic oil pollution which fuelled the earlier rebellion remain largely unaddressed. There are threats by the militants hovering the air here and there to re-launch their attacks in the region. The Federal Government’s Operation Crocodile Smiles which left on its trail death and destruction is still fresh in our memory. Tension keeps on building up in the area from time to time. In February, 2016, an explosion ripped through a pipeline operated by Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), a Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary to the Shell Forcades export terminal and halted both production and imports. Speculations were rife that militants were behind the act. This reduced oil production by 300,000 barrels a day.
Shell again shut its Bonny oil facility on May 11, 2016 as three soldiers guarding the installation were killed in an attack. A week earlier, a bomb had closed down Chevron’s Escravos GTF facility. And on May 19, Exxon Mobil’s Qua Iboe was shut down and workers evacuated due to militant threats.
Another militant group in the Niger Delta, the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) publicly announced its existence in March, 2016, thus, fuelling anxiety and apprehension among the populace. Subsequently, the NDA attacked oil producing facilities in the region and caused the shutdown of oil terminals and a fall in Nigeria’s oil production to its lowest level in 20 years. Unfortunately, the attacks caused the country to fall behind Angola as Africa’s largest oil producer.
Though the avengers declared a ceasefire and agreed to negotiate with the Federal Government in late August, 2016, another militant group, Niger Delta Greenland Justice Mandate emerged and threatened to destroy Port Harcourt and Warri Refineries as well as a gas plant within 48 hours. The group reportedly carried out its threat by blowing up a major oil pipeline operated by the NNPC in Isoko in Delta State. It also blew up pipelines belonging to NDDC in the state, among other atrocities.
In spite of bolstering of the country’s revenue base through oil production, the Niger Delta region remains grossly undeveloped. Poor infrastructure, particularly bad road networks are still noticeable in the area. Federal roads are neglected by the Federal Government. The Oyigbo axis of the Port Harcourt-Aba Road in Rivers State is a typical example. The deplorable state of the road has given both motorists and commuters serious concern.
Apart from the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, which is currently in a terrible state of disrepair, there are no other international airports of repute in the whole region.
PHIA suffers from systemic neglect by the Federal Government today. Facilities at the airport are nothing to write home about. This is to the exent that it was recently ranked as one of the worst in the world.
Poverty occasioned by massive unemployment has become the lot of the Niger Delta people.
Democracy does not seem to have changed anything. Unaccountable politics and lack of capacity of institutions to deliver development, protect justice, ensure due process and security have resulted in collective public frustration that at times contribute to cycles of violent conflicts in the Niger Delta. The current Federal Government is a major culprit in this regard. Its policies and programmes have grossly left the Niger Delta people agitated as there are still pockets of armed robbery, kidnappings, illegal oil bunkering and other social vices here and there in the region.
The people also contend with the devastating effects of oil spills and gas flaring on a daily basis. This is a culmination of poor operating practices, weak law enforcement and an active illegal oil economy which have themselves contributed to hundreds of oil spills in the region. This environmental disaster destroys traditional livelihoods of the people and breeds mistrust and resentment among them.
Not even the intervention of the government in this direction appears to have provided a solution in sight for the people. The ongoing remediation of impacted oil sites in Ogoniland in Rivers State by the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation project (HYPREP) established for this purpose, is still slow.
The Ogoni people are eager to see tangible results and the restoration of their livelihoods beyond the current rhetorics. It is true that there are efforts to implement the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Report on Ogoniland and in other Niger Delta communities, but the people of the region want to see more commitment on the part of government, international oil companies and other stakeholders.
According to research, gas flared everyday in the Niger Delta is equivalent to the daily gas consumption in Brazil. Inspite of repeated assurances by the Federal Government to stop gas flaring in the country, the trend has continued. The multi-billion dollar waste associated with gas flaring not only leaves communities without effective energy solutions, but is also the single, biggest contributor to carbondioxide (Co2) emissions in the whole of Africa. This is despite the fact that the utilisation of waste associated gas has the potential to address Nigeria’s acute domestic energy crisis and stimulate economic diversification and growth in the Niger Delta.
Ironically, inspite of its contributions to the commonwealth, the story of the Niger Delta is the story of pain, anguish, frustration, tears and blood, occasioned by several years of exploitation, injustice and under-development. When will the narrative change? Only time will tell.

 

Donatus Ebi

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Independence Special

Nigeria’s Economy: More Pains, Less Gains

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There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria has come of age, having attained political independence for six decades. In spite of its numerous challenges ranging from socio-economic to infrastructural deficit, insecurity and endemic corruption, Nigeria remains Africa’s big brother and and an important member of the world body – the United Nations.
Beside being the largest economy in Africa and the 27th in the world in terms of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Nigeria has the 6th largest gas reserves and the 8th largest crude oil reserves in the world. It is rich in commercial quantities with about 37 types of solid mineral and has a population of over 200 million people. In addition, the debt-to-GDP ratio is 16.075 percent as of 2019.
Yet, the Nigerian economy has grossly underperformed in comparison to its enormous resource endowment and its peer nations. In the 1970s, the emerging Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, China, India and Indonesia were far behind Nigeria in terms of GDP per capital. Today, these countries have transformed their economies and are not only miles ahead of Nigeria, but are also major players in the global economy.
In April last year, Nigeria was rated the poverty capital of the world, with 91.51 million people living in extreme poverty. Only recently too, Nigeria’s Country Director of Oxfam International, Constant Tchona, revealed in Abuja that 94.48 million Nigerians live below N684 per day, meaning they are living below poverty level. This also means that 25 percent of the world’s extremely poor will be living in Nigeria by 2030. In this circumstance, it is difficult for the country to meet the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations.
This is not a good testimonial for a country that prides itself as the giant of Africa and the 27th largest economy in the world.
How Nigeria came about this ugly narrative has remained a disturbing paradox of a nation.
In the closing days of Nigeria’s independence, things seemed to be well arranged for a new country to take off. The lands and rivers were in their pristine state – virgin, lush and sumptuous, to guarantee a rich harvest for the farming and fishing population which then constituted 80 percent of the native population. The weather was generally good and the people were energetic and hardworking.
We have gold in Ilesha, cocoa in the South-West, palm oil in the East and groundnut pyramid in Jos, which sustained the economy and earned the country good revenue as a net exporter of agricultural produce. As a bonus, the nation found oil in Oloibiri, in the present-day Bayelsa State, which made the story sweeter and the future rosier.
Initially, the agricultural sector, driven by the demand for food and cash crops production was the centre of the growth process, contributing 54.7% to the GDP during the 1960s. The second decade of independence saw the emergence of the oil industry as the main driver of growth.
As the nation began to produce oil in commercial quantity, Nigeria abandoned its agrarian economy and embraced an economy driven by oil. Oil thus became the mainstay of the nation’s economy. Since then, government expenditure has become dependent on oil revenues, more or less dictating the pace of the economic growth.  Paradoxically, the oil boom turns out to be the bane of the country’s development till date.
Since independence, economic policies have not been in short supply. Successive governments have, since 1960, pursued the goal of structural changes without much success. There was the First National Development Plan between 1962 and 1968, the Second Development Plan (1970-1974), the Third Development Plan (1975-1980) and the Fourth National Development Plan (1981-1985).
We also had Operation Feed the Nation during General Olusegun Obasanjo’s military regime, Green Revolution under President Sheu Shagari, Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) under President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, the National Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (NEEDS) under President Olusegun Obasanjo, as well Nigeria’s Vision 2010 and Vision 2020. All these plans and programmes  are geared towards breathing life into the nation’s economy, by reducing dependence on oil, diversifying the economy, generating employment, and creating a globally competitive and stable economy.
The purpose of the NEEDS, for instance, was to raise the country’s standard of living through a variety of reforms, including macroeconomic stability, deregulation, liberalization, privatization, transparency and accountability.
It was also intended to create seven million new jobs, diversify the economy, boost non-energy exports, increase industrial capacity utilization, and improve agricultural productivity. The initiative was meant to be replicated at the state level known as the State Economic Empowerment Development Strategy (SEEDS). But the programme, like many others before and after it, didn’t succeed much due to various factors ranging from insincerity on the part of its drivers, policy inconsistency and somersaults and lack of continuation by successive governments.
However, the transformation in telecommunications sector stands out as the most successful reform in 60 years. Many sectors of the economy have leveraged on this transformation to make significant progress in the use of information and technology in the service sector of the economy. This has enhanced service delivery although it is prone to impairment by frauds and corruption. Sadly, the corruptive activities of fraudsters in the banking industry have made the telecoms transformation unsatisfactory. Moreover, the poor quality of service, the high cost of doing business and multiple taxation, unrest and banditry are sources of concern to investors.
Generally, the major factors accounting for the relative decline of the country’s economic fortunes in spite of these lofty policies, are easily identifiable as political instability, lack of focused and visionary leadership, economic mismanagement and corruption. Weak infrastructure and weak institutions also pose threat to the nation’s economy, just as power supply remains a major burden on businesses.
Prolonged period of military rule stifled economic and social progress, particularly in the three decades of 1970s to 1990s. However, since 1999, the country has returned to the path of civil democratic governance and has sustained uninterrupted democratic rule for a period of 21 years. But have things changed? Maybe; maybe not.
No doubt, economic growth has risen substantially over the last decade, with annual average of 7.4%. But the growth has not been inclusive, broad-based  and transformational. This implies that economic growth in Nigeria has not resulted in the desired structural changes that would make manufacturing the engine room of development and induce poverty alleviation.
Even though economic statistics shows that the non oil and gas sector accounts for 90.9 percent of the GDP while oil and gas accounts for 9.1 percent, the paradox is that the oil sector accounts for over 50 percent of the nation’s revenue more than 80 percent of its foreign exchange earnings. This reflects the imbalance in the economy since independence and also underscores the declining productivity in oil and gas for the past 60 years.
The lack of political will to restructure the oil and gas sector remains a major drawback to Nigeria’s economic growth and prosperity. It is this lack of reform, restructuring and planning that is the bane of the nation’s economic backwardness so far. It makes the Nigerian economy vulnerable to external shocks owing to its weakness in economic inclusion.
Although oil revenues contribute two-thirds of state revenues, oil only contributes about 9.1% to the GDP. This means that oil remains a small part of the country’s overall economy.
The fall in oil prices since 2015 has further weakened Nigeria’s economic base. The country experienced economic recession for the part of 2016 and 2017. The period witnessed serious devaluation of the Naira with high inflation throwing ordinary Nigerians off-balance and the private sector groaning in excruciating pain.
One sector Nigeria has failed to develop maximally over the years is agriculture.
Nigeria ranks sixth worldwide and first in Africa in farm output. The sector accounts for about 18% of GDP and almost one-third of employment.
However, the largely subsistence agricultural sector has not kept up with Nigeria’s rapid population growth. The sector suffers from extremely low productivity, reflecting reliance on antiquated methods, thus making Nigeria, once a large net exporter of food, to now import some of its food products.
However, the present administration under President Muhammadu Buhari, through prioritisation of local agricultural production and ban on importation of foreign food items, is making efforts towards making the country food sufficient again. Mechanization is now gradually leading to a resurgence in manufacturing and exporting of food products, and the move towards food sufficiency.
Other sectors which could have helped the nation’s economy such as tourism and mining suffer from the country’s poor electricity, roads and potable water.
For instance, the mining of minerals in Nigeria accounts for only 0.3% of its GDP, due to the influence of its vast oil resources. The domestic mining industry is underdeveloped, leading to Nigeria having to import minerals that it could produce domestically, such as salt or iron ore.
It will be recalled that organized mining began in 1903 when the Mineral Survey of the Northern Protectorates was created by the British colonial government. A year later, the Mineral Survey of the Southern Protectorates was founded. By the 1940s, Nigeria was a major producer of tin , columbite, and coal .
Iron and steel sector in particular, received priority attention in the 1980s. For instance, iron and steel industry was established in the nation’s bold march towards industrialisation. It will be recalled that about one billion Naira at that time was allocated to this sector in the Third National Development Plan.
Considering the increasing demand for steel, the availability of iron ore and coal in the country and the importance of steel industry to rapid industrialisation, the Federal Government established iron ore and steel plant in the country. A steel authority was also created which gave birth to three organisation – the National Steel Council, the Ajaokuta Steel Company Limited and the Associated Ores Mining Company Limited. In addition, the Delta Steel Company was established in Aladja, Warri, Delta State. Contracts were also signed for the establishment of three rolling mills at Osogbo, Jos and Katsina.
The concentration on oil resources, however, hurt the mineral extraction industries, as both government and industry began to focus on oil resources. The Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s did not help matters either as many expatriate mining experts left the country.
The Nigerian economy further suffers from an ongoing supply crisis in the power sector. Despite Nigeria’s oil and gas potentials, power supply difficulties are frequently experienced by residents.
Private sector-led economic growth remains stymied by epileptic power supply leading to the high cost of doing business in Nigeria. This is in addition to the need to duplicate essential infrastructure, the lack of effective due process, and non-transparent economic decision making, especially in government contracting.
In all of these, the ordinary Nigerian bears the brunt of economic hardship. For example, the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) which was N87 in the run-up to the 2015 general elections has increased to N160 despite the fall in oil price. The Federal Government attributed this steady increase since June this year to removal of fuel subsidy.
In the same vein, electricity tariff has jumped up by 100 percent, despite epileptic power supply in the country. Just four days ago, a nationwide strike called by the organised labour in protest against the increase in electricity tariff was averted due to the suspension of the new tariff by the Federal Government.
In all, Nigeria’s recent economic indicator showed that its GDP in real terms declined by 6.10% (year-on-year) in Q2 2020, thereby ending the three-year trend of low but positive real growth rates recorded since the 2016/17 recession.
This is according to the second quarter (Q2) GDP report, released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
According to the numbers contained in the GDP report, the performance recorded in Q2 2020 represents a drop of 8.22% points when compared to Q2 2019 (2.12%), and 7.97% points decline when compared to Q1 2020 (1.87%). Apparently, the significant drop reflects the negative impacts of the disruption caused by COVID-19 pandemic and crash in oil price on the Nigerian economy.
The latest GDP number somewhat surpassed both the IMF and World bank forecast for year 2020, which implies the nation’s economy may witness yet the biggest contraction in four decade. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) disclosed in its June outlook that the Nigerian economy would witness a deeper contraction of 5.4% as against the 3.4% it projected in April 2020.
According to the NBS, the 6.10% decline in GDP was largely attributable to significantly lower levels of both domestic and international economic activity during the quarter, which resulted from nationwide shutdown efforts aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic. The non-oil segment of the economy such as manufacturing, transport and trade were the worst hit even though the vital oil sector was also badly affected by the pandemic.
The recent labour statistics report released showed that unemployment rate in Nigeria rose to 27.1% at the end of Q2 2020, as the impact of Covid-19 pandemic is significantly being felt across critical sectors. While Nigeria has embarked on gradual easing of lockdown since Q2 2020 with a N2.3 trillion stimulus intervention, economic activities are yet to fully peak, indicating a muted outlook in the remaining quarter of the year.
Although economic activity, especially in the area of trade and services, seems to be gaining some momentum as restrictions are loosened, sentiment is still relatively downbeat and the recovery is likely to remain constrained going forward as the lingering effects of the health crisis continue to take their toll.
However, amidst high unemployment, mounting price pressures, tighter Forex liquidity and a subdued global economy that cloud the future outlook, economic experts are optimistic that the economy is expected to bounce back to growth, next year, even though it will remain modest. They project GDP to grow 2.3% by 2021, which is unchanged from last month’s estimate.
How this prediction will translate into economic fortunes for ordinary Nigerian, however, remains a puzzle only time will unravel.
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Nigeria has a bold vision of becoming one of the top 20 economies in the world by 2030. This is very achievable by virtue of its size, its vast oil wealth and human resources. But this goal can only be achieved if Nigeria makes the transition to a new economy based on knowledge, productivity, and innovation that will enable it to be competitive in a 21st century context.
According to the World Bank, there are common factors that are associated with successful development. No country has attained development outside these common denominators. These are:
Good governance: Good governance is perhaps the most important factor in development. Without good governance, every other thing is in disarray. Good governance in both public and private sectors creates an environment where contracts are enforced and markets can operate efficiently. It ensures that basic infrastructures are provided, with adequate health, education and security.
Economic growth: This has to do with poverty reduction. Experience has shown that countries that have reduced poverty substantially and in a sustained manner are the ones that grow fastest.
Vibrant private sector: It has been established that private firms, including small and medium-sized businesses play a critical role in generating employment, particularly for the youth and the poor. This is where the contribution of the micro-finance banks is needed.
Empowerment: The citizenry must be empowered to contribute to development. Accordingly, every person should be able to enjoy essential public services such as good health, education and safe water. These are critical social services that should be provided equitably.
Ownership: A nation’s development agenda must be homegrown. The country must start from the grassroots to transform the economy.
Knowledge development: Knowledge has always been central to development. The era when natural resources dominated trade has given way to an era in which knowledge resources are paramount. This has positioned countries like the US, Republic of Korea, China, and India in a better stead.
To achieve Vision 2030, Nigeria needs to move beyond the stop-start development patterns of an oil-based economy to create a stable and prosperous base for a 21st century society built on knowledge. How much is Nigeria ready for this transformation?  Only time will tell.

 

 

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Independence Special

We Have Our Indivisibility To Celebrate -Wonwu

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As Nigeria clocks 60 years of existence as a sovereign nation today, the unity and security of the country appear to be the leading concern among the plethora of issues inundating the Federal Government and the generality of the citizenry. While the view of the central administration is expressed in its chosen theme, ‘Together At 60’ for the year-long celebration, individual citizens and groups at all levels have also been speaking their minds on the momentous occasion.
In this interview with our Deputy Political Editor, Opaka Dokubo, an accomplished entrepreneur, industrialist and politician, the governorship flag bearer of the Labour Party in Rivers State in the 2019 general elections, Chief Isaac Wonwu shares his thoughts.
Excerpts:
What are your thoughts about the fact that Nigeria is 60 years old as a nation?
Well, I must congratulate this country for attaining 60 years as an independent nation and I must congratulate all of us as Nigerians, particularly, for being steadfast over time and remaining united (and) peaceful, as one nation.
I must salute the founding fathers of this independence. I must also salute the heroes of this country; our military, those that man our healthcare-the resilience of Nigerians, particularly in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Nigerians, that despite the challenges of our time, have remained with wide smiles, the Nigerians that even in the process of the hard times are resolved to move on as compared to many countries that have been enmeshed in processes of protest, demonstration, violence and other measures of expressing their frustrations in the face of the bad economy. I must commend us. Nigerians have passed through hard times and it is making us to be much better and prepared for the future.
It is my belief that the younger generation will learn lessons from our ease processes to do better for the development of this country.
How does the theme of the celebration that borders on togetherness come across to you?
Well, the unity in diversity of this country, the multi- ethnic nationalities, reality in this country is a great concern to all of us and I think that the primary objective of every leader is how to keep the country united. And for whatever economic challenges there are, the security of lives and property in the country is key. I think that the unity of Nigerians is very very important and we must celebrate the indivisibility of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
What is your assessment of the country vis-a-vis the recent warning by former President Olusegun Obasanjo that Nigeria was becoming a failed state?
We’ve actually done well in terms of unity as a country. We’ve done well in managing our diversity; we’ve done so well in being a continuous Nigeria.
No nation, no organization exists without challenges and with our population and multi-ethnic nationalities, with our diverse interests, we are bound to have some friction.
In management, with out such challenges, it means you don’t have people who can proffer solutions. It is only when you have problems that you can identify people with capacity to trouble- shoot.
I must say that the country has been doing well despite the deficit in infrastructure or mismanagement that we have actually suffered which is as a result of what I call indiscipline, and most people call it corruption.
I think that our administrators in the past should have devised ways to re- orientate our people to be able to appreciate the importance of discipline, most importantly, in our law enforcement and various agencies of government. The system has actually created more strong individuals rather than building strong institutions and our institutions are weak because our laws are weak, our Constitution is weak.
I quite agree with those who have shared their thoughts about Nigeria as a nation but in my view, any house without a strong, solid foundation is bound to vibrate. What we are suffering today is the vibration as a result of weak institutions and agencies of government. But as soon as that is straightened out, we will remain strong.
What do you think about the proposition for Nigeria to return to a parliamentary system of government?
Yes, our laws are weak, our institutions and agencies of government are weak as well but a major problem has also been that the individuals themselves who are operating the system have not been able to obey our laws, they have not been able to have regard for the agencies of government. The law enforcement agencies are also weak and Nigerians generally have been lawless. The lawlessness has brought in a level of impunity and we have grown to a very high level of impunity that has resulted to violence and what you call corruption is characterised with a high degree of non-challance and indiscipline. And until we strengthen our institutions, we may not be able to get it right.
How do we go about strengthening the institutions in your view?
The military will have to live up to its responsibilities; the judiciary must rise above board; the law enforcement agencies must rise up to their game; the civil servant must also rise up to his expectation; over politicization of institutions must stop; the politics must be limited to the political parties; and there must be a time to say the politics is over. As soon as we are able to do this and the judiciary stands firm, I’m sure Nigerians will have respect for the rule of law.
What do you think about the clamour for political power to be rotated to the South-East come 2023?
I am of a different school of thought. I subscribe to democracy, I accept democracy and I want to practise democracy and if Nigerians are to practice democracy, we must allow the democratic process to uphold itself.
I condemn the view of anybody that thinks that power must shift because power shift will more or less weaken the system, democracy must take its course and democracy must be about the will of the people and if we allow the will of the people to prevail, we may not actually mind who becomes the president. What should concern you and I is the dividends of democracy, the provision of basic amenities, the infrastructure, the education, the healthcare.
With 60 years gone, where do you see Nigeria in the next 40 years?
Unfortunately, the nation has not talked about building for tomorrow, we have only built for today and until we begin to come up with a clear vision that will be able to sustain the next generation, we’ve not actually grown. When I was growing up, I heard about Vision 2020. I was actually wondering whether I would live up to the year 2020. Here I am in the year 2020 (and ) first I was hit by the pandemic and I thank God for surviving it. But in terms of socio-economic amenities, in terms of infrastructural development, we have not done enough. So, we’re believing that the next leadership will be able to get the track right in investing in basic infrastructure that will bring the country to a pride of place among the comity of nations. The world is actually on a fast track. The world has become an environment where countries are competing vigorously and I think Nigeria also need to key in.
As a state within the region that sustains the country, would you say that Rivers State has had a fair deal within the 60 years of Nigeria’s independence?
It depends on what you call a fair deal in this country called Nigeria for a state or the Niger Delta region but I think that with the resources we have; with the infrastructure we have on the ground, even if a lot more money was given, I’m not sure we would have actually done much more than we have done. More money has been looted than has been invested into the development of the state, so even if you had pumped more money, they would have looted more. We have seen more people dabble into politics just to loot funds and what has continued to unite us as a people today is our ability to compromise in corruption.
And until this in-disciplinary act is minimized, we may not be able to justify our level of development going by the amount of resources we’ve got.
If you look at the history of the amount of money being looted in this country, you may be surprised that one Nigerian civil servant is stealing about a billion naira a day and you begin to wounder how much time he puts into service. So, we continue to hear about more billions of naira being looted and thousands being ulitised for projects. If you look at what we have on ground in the Niger Delta, it can not justify the amount of money that has come into the region. Only a few persons have carted away the resources as palliatives for themselves while the vast majority of the people are wallowing in abject poverty and dying. We have not done well if out of 10 million people only few have had something.

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Independence Special

Finding A Place For Rule Of Law

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The idea of the rule of law dates back to the ancient time. As early as 2000 B.C, the famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle averred that rule of law was better than rule of man.
Nonetheless, the rule of law is a somewhat nebulous concept. It is one of the most overused and misused concepts, the meaning of which is believed to change from place to place. It means different things to different people.
Interestingly, both the democrat and the dictator all claim abiding loyalty to the rule of law in spite of their misapplication of the concept. What then is the rule of law? Rule of law means the supremacy of the law. It is a preference for the spirit and content of the law instead of the whims and caprices of the ruler. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, rule of law is a mechanism, process, institution or norm that supports the equality of all citizens before the law and secures a none arbitrary use of power
In the 19th century, Prof. A.V Dicey, a constitutional scholar and lawyer, wrote the twin pillars of the British constitution in his classic work, Introduction to The Study of Law of Constitution; the twin pillars are the rule of law and parliamentary sovereignty.
It was he who first attempted to reduce the concept to a definite legal meaning in his lecture on English law at the University of Oxford in 1885.
Dicey’s concept of the rule of law states that no man is punishable in body or goods except for definite breach of the law and no man is above the law, the term rule of law means paramountcy of the law above government. It excludes arbitrary powers.
Though, the rule of law appears not to have a consistent meaning, the concept suggests an overriding supremacy of the law over the whims and caprices of man. Hence, there is a preference for governance through the laid down laws and regulations to that of whims and caprices of the ruler.
Under the rule of law, arbitrary powers are excluded; powers must be exercised in accordance with the law.
Again, the rule of law requires that all acts must be in accordance with the law to be valid;(b) that government activities be conducted within a framework of defined rules and regulations (c) that disputes involving the legality of government actions must be decided by courts independent of government; (d) there should be no undue privileges and discrimination to the society and (e) that no one should suffer punishment outside and authority of the law.
Where the rule of law applies, the fundamental rights of individual are expected to be guaranteed. Fundamental rights, according to natural law theorists, are the species of rights which are believed to inhere in every human person hence they are regarded as inalienable and immutable. Nobody can be denied of such rights. The fundamental rights stand above the ordinary laws of the land.
However, many citizens of Nigeria are dissatisfied with the lack of application of the rule of law.
The say present and past governments have either ignored, neglected or failed to apply the rule of law. They say the situation has left the citizens at the mercy of their leaders.
Executive recklessness has been a major setback in the nation’s democracy yet still, those who run foul of the law believe that foul is fair and fair is foul.
There is a tendency to rejoice that our fundamental rights are entrenched in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, but a tale of woes belie our day-today lives.
However, the present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, which came into power on May 29, 2015 has been accused of large scale human rights abuses and lack of respect for the rule of law.
A Port Harcourt based lawyer and human rights crusader Mr. Chijoke Agi, who spoke with The Tide in Port Harcourt on Monday, said the present administration had no respect for the rule of law.
According to him, “the removal of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) in 2018 through a method unknown to law is not only an affront to the rule of law but an utter disregard for the judiciary which is an arm of government. The removal of CJN Walter Onnoghen by President Muhammadu Buhari is the height of disrespect for the rule of law.”
The legal practitioner opined that trial of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki over corruption charges was bereft of the rule of law as security agents continued to detain him in spite of the fact that he had been granted bail by a court of competent jurisdiction. He noted that President Buhari violated court orders with impunity. This, according to him goes, against the grain.
Mr. Agi opined that the use of soldiers during the 2019 elections in spite of the Electoral Act was a blatant disrespect for the rule of law.
He pointed out that many lives were lost in Rivers State because of the use of soldiers instead of unarmed policemen as prescribed by the Electoral Act.
The legal practitioner noted that more lives had been lost within the five years of Buhari’s administration than those of his predecessors, yet nothing has been done to stem the tide.
Mr. Agi said that Amnesty International had rated the present government very low on human rights.
He said despite the much touted independence of the judiciary as granted by the present administration nothing seemed to have changed. “the judges are still doing the biddings of their appointees. It will be recalled that Amnesty international had this to say about Nigeria on 31 May, 2019,” the human rights violation such as extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, torture and other ill- treatments, enforced disappearance, violence against women and girls, restrictions on the rights to the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, mass forced evictions, environmental pollution and lack of accountability for human rights violation and buses.”
Another lawyer, Mr. Endurance Akpelu who spoke with The Tide in Port Harcourt on Monday said the rule of law had become a moonshine to the present administration. According to him, “with the crisis in the North East, the issue of rule of law is a foolish talk. Most importantly, the primary function of government is to maintain law and order and when there is a breakdown of law and order, the rule of law cannot subsist.
He said the insurgency in the Northeast, the killing of Christians in the north and the unchecked violence perpetrated by herders were all indicative of the state of the nation.
Mr. Akpelu said President Buhari was yet to purge himself of his despotic mentality.
According to him, “President Buhari exercises wide discretionary powers sometimes arising from the use of unchecked executive orders. The main plank of civilized democracy is the strict adherence to the rule of law.
This is because when wide discretionary powers are exercised it becomes difficult to differentiate between discretion and arbitrariness. There is a very thin line between the two, that is why Nigeria must adhere strictly to the rule of law instead of self-help.”
The human right lawyer expressed regret that a Nigerian journalist, Omoyele Sowore could be re-arrested by the Department of State Services in a court in Abuja.
Mr. Akpelu also cited the detention of the leader ofIslamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife and former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki as cases in point.
It will be recalled that at the aftermath of the DSS’s invasion of Abuja court room and its re-arrest of Sowore, the Punch newspaper announced that it would prefix President Muhammadu Buhari with his military rank, ‘Major General’ and refer to his administration as ‘regime’ “until they purge themselves of their insufferable contempt for the rule of law.”
The Port Harcourt lawyer, however remarked that all hopes were lost not in terms of correcting the wrongs of yesteryear as country turns 60.
He expressed hope that the country would be great if she maintained strict adherence to the rule of law and punished violators.
Also speaking, a Port Harcourt-based political scientist, Mr. Isaiah Dioku, noted that for the country to move forward there must be strict adherence to the rule of law.
Mr. Dioku pointed out that to promote the rule of law there must be a successful political culture. “In Nigeria today, there is literately a poor political culture. The ballot is nothing to write home about and our political office holders are not accountable to the people instead act as overlords,” he stated.
“It is interesting that the present administration is fighting corruption but there must be a sincerity of purpose on the part of the crusaders. A discriminatory fight against corruption will not remedy the national malaise. A genuine fight against corruption will certainly promote the rule of law. Besides, those who breach the rule of law should be punished,” Mr. Dioku stated.
He expressed regrets that despite yawning gap in the nation’s democracy, some state governors were squaring up to muzzle the media and ban the right to protest through the manipulation of state houses of assembly.
Dioku explains that the separation of powers is one of the niceties of the rule of law and points out that when the executive and legislature are fused anarchy thrives.
The political scientist, said though there must be good working relationship between the two; not fusion of powers.
He warned that the legislature should not allow itself to be used to pass oppressive laws which would occasion rule by law instead of rule of law. He says rule by law simply means rule by any law no matter how untoward that law may be, which is laid down by the authority of legislature of that nation or state. He says in rule by law, “one is not concerned about what the law is or what its purpose is, on the other hand, the rule of law connotes rule of law which is based on certain principles of law.”
Mr. Dioku said at 60, Nigeria had come of age to do things right. He said several decades of military rule and its command hierarchy had affected the psyche of Nigerians. “We don’t have true federalism but a unitary government.
There is only little devolution of powers. So much power is concentrated at centre. This cannot promote the rule of law. Every month all states of the federation gather at Abuja to share oil revenue accruing from the Niger Delta region. What other regions of the federation contribute is not known and never shared,”
He also remarked the Land Use Act is one of obnoxious laws extant laws and noted that the laws on Exclusive Economic Zone and Contiguous Zone were intended to divest revenue from riparian states in favour of landlocked regions.
The political scientist advised the Federal to repeal obnoxious in order to promote the rule of law in the Nigerian nation-state.

 

By: Chidi Enyie

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