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EDITORIAL

Nigeria’s Economy Growing with People starving

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Reports that Nigeria’s economy has outstripped that of South Africa and become the largest on the continent are good news only to President Goodluck Jonathan, his ministers, top politicians, members of the House, and other wealthy people who are living large in a poverty – stricken country. But to the ‘millions’ of jobless, hapless and helpless Nigerians, struggling to make a living on less  than N200 a day – people whose hopes of enjoying their country are dashed daily in the face of missing money and stolen billions – that information means absolutely nothing. In fact, it is like pouring Iodine on a fresh, bleeding wound.

Notwithstanding, it is heartening to know that the level of economic activity in our country is higher than what it used to be and that we have a  Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $453,966.81 billion, up from $258,555.58 billion in 1990.

GDP is one of the primary indicators of a country’s economic performance. It is calculated by either adding up everyone’s income during a period or by adding the value of all final goods and services produced in a country during the year. Per capita GDP is sometimes used as an indicator of standard of living as well, with higher per capita GDP being interpreted as having a higher standard of living

According to the rebasing exercise, Nigeria’s economic growth is expanding more than that of South Africa. Yet Nigeria continues to trail South Africa in terms of GDP per capita, basic infrastructure, institutional capacity and financial market sophistication, despite its long and painful history of apartheid. This is something for our leaders to chew on. May be ashamed of.

The average Nigerian is poorer now than they were 25 years ago when the GDP was much lower. It hurts to know that we can be standing on so much economic progress, as the rebasing results show, and yet be sitting on so much poverty and deprivation.

While we do not question the validity of the results produced because we believe in the capability and professionalism of those who conducted the survey, we find it appalling that an economy so large can be producing “peanuts” in real terms – as per benefits to the people.

Another snag is that our economy is not diversified – everything is about oil. If there is a crash in oil prices, Nigeria will fall flat on its face. The rebasing figures showed a woeful decline in the share of the agricultural sector to the overall GDP, unlike in the 1990s.

Some economics and stakeholders have expressed surprises at the extent of the growing GDP – far higher than what was expected, the real shock is that Nigerians could still barely be surviving with an economy said to be growing at rocket speed. Nigerians are still among the poorest in the world, lacking basic necessities like potable water, electricity, sanitation and good roads. When you add those to Boko Haram, insecurity and unemployment, the current rebasing figures do not generate joy or any feeling of pride among a desperate and struggling people. The question is if our economy is doing so well, why are we doing so badly?

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has said that the rebasing exercise would help the Federal Government make better policies that will grow the economy and create jobs. The minister said also that the result will not make the challenges of poverty and unemployment disappear overnight but would give better understanding of the structure and changes of the economy, which would help tackle poverty and unemployment.

We hope that the results will not only help in making better policies but also to plug the holes in the economy from where all our money and economic gains leak out after we have worked so hard. We hope that it will help our policy makers think seriously about diversifying the economy and paying more attention to agriculture, as no great nation in the world is unable to feed itself.

We hope that the planners will come up with policies that will raise our standard of living, reduce cost of living, raise minimum wage, improve security and curb crime by building industries and infrastructure that will drive productivity and employ millions of our jobless and joyless youths.

Only then will a rising GDP make sense. Only then too can Nigeria think of rubbing shoulders with South Africa.

 

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Aham Nnorom

    March 5, 2016 at 3:53 pm

    In terms of access to basic amenities-especially water, food and light- life is now worse for the average Igbo than it was before the Nigerian-Biafra War. As a child I can still remember that there was regular supply of water and light in virtually all the cities in the former Eastern Nigeria before the War-in Enugu, Onitsha, PH, Owerri, Aba, Umuahia, Orlu etc.

    All that changed in the last few decades with the emergence of some of the most narcissistic and anti-Igbo community values-oriented “leaders” among the political and religious class in Igboland. Igbo priests and politicians have at least one thing in common that the average Igbo do not: They have daily supply of water and light.

    While it is understandable that the incredibly selfish and predatory behavior of most Igbo politicians is a product of their imposition on the Homeland by external and anti-Igbo interests, that is not the case of the clergy who are ordained by Igbo religious leaders to whom they owe total allegiance; yet and unfortunately, most Igbo clergy seem as uninterested as the politicians in providing water and light to the people.

    It is tragic that as Igbo governors and politicians loot financial and material resources meant for development in Igboland, the Igbo clergy have not only failed to protect the “Flock” but many have even embraced the “armed robbers.”

    Where are the Catholic diocesan Justice Development and Peace Committees and their Protestant corollaries as Igbo politicians destroy Alaigbo? Why have the churches allowed this political, economic and cultural decay to descend on the most Christian region of Nigeria?

    Given the patently anti-Igbo policies of the Nigerian government and their Igbo political agents, it is time for the Churches to rescue Igboland from these daylight “armed robbers” masquerading as leaders. Pope Francis has asked parishes to be “engines of development.” Why not start with a campaign to provide clean water to all the parishes in the various dioceses?
    Dr. Nnorom

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EDITORIAL

Increasing Fuel and Electricity Prices

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Increasing Fuel and Electricity Prices

Once again, Nigerians are digging deeper into their pockets to buy fuel. They are paying N162 per litre from N142 last month. While the five per cent or so Nigerians with deep pockets will not be bothered by the increase, the majority with shallow pockets will have to empty them to buy petrol to run their businesses or shut them down, fuel their vehicles, light their homes and pump water, among other things. Electricity bill has also gone up although the average Nigerian is still in darkness most of the time.

The Federal Government explained that the removal of fuel subsidy, froth with duplicity and corruption, was responsible for the increase. For electricity, it said only consumers who get 12 hours or more of electricity per day should pay the new rate. Electricity Distributing Companies (DISCOS) may not agree.

Vice President Osinbajo has advised Nigerians to bear the pain and not go back to the fuel subsidy regime. He said the Federal Government is aware of the suffering and working out ways to alleviate poverty. This sounds familiar. Poverty alleviation doesn’t mean much in Nigeria anymore.

Petrol is at the heart of Nigeria’s economy. It drives everything. Whenever there is an upward review, the cost of living skyrockets. For the poor masses, the present situation spells doom. Fuel subsidy was introduced to alleviate poverty but instead it became a curse, benefiting only a few.

The Buhari Government announced early in the year that it will stop the subsidy payment. It said the downstream sector of the oil industry will be fully deregulated so that prices of petroleum products will fully be determined by market forces.

We have nothing against deregulation or removal of the ‘dubious subsidy’. The question is why now? Another is, if not now when, as things seem to go from bad to worse?
By failing to flush out the criminals benefiting unduly from the fuel subsidy, the Federal Government has proven that some people are, indeed, untouchable.

What will the Federal Government do now to cushion the effect of the hike on the poor, that it has not done before and it didn’t work? Poverty alleviation without improvement in quality of life means nothing. If for example, a commercial vehicle driver buys fuel at N162 per litre but drives on good roads and has access to portable water, he would charge commuters less. It has a ripple effect and vice versa.

When the Federal Government compares the price of petrol in Nigeria with those in neighboring countries, one wonders what indices it uses? Does it consider the minimum wage and the fact that Nigeria is the seventh world oil producer?

Nigeria produces crude oil but imports petrol. If the refineries are broken down, why can’t they be repaired? It is unfortunate that from time to time billions of Naira is gulped by so-called Turn-Around Maintenance of our refineries without anything to show for it in the end.

President Buhari promised to support the creation of modular refineries. Yet those in the riverine areas are being shut down and labeled illegal. What a contradiction! Why can’t the technology used in those refineries be harnessed?

Nigeria prefers to import what it can produce locally. By that, what Government is telling people is endure poverty. Don’t try to get out of it.

Removing subsidy in the midst of poverty is bad. But policy inconsistency and double standards will do Nigeria no good.

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EDITORIAL

Security operatives, IPOB and Emene massacre

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Security operatives, IPOB and Emene massacre

The high-handedness of security operatives towards members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is truly a concern. The ruthlessness with which they deal with the unarmed youths whenever there is a clash, is worrying and unacceptable.

What happened at Emene Enugu State, last Sunday, is not an isolated case. It stirs up memories of “Operation Python Dance” Egwu Eke, and others which saw the cold-blooded murder of many Igbo youths. When Ndigbo are trying to put one incident behind them, another occurs as a reminder, making it hard to forget.

Ironically, what police insensitivity, hatred, and the proscription of IPOB, have done is win sympathy for the unarmed youths, agitating for a cause. Police brutality on IPOB increases the nostalgia for Biafra, even among those who through fear or faith oppose it. It also gives credence to those comparing Nigeria with George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” a euphemism for discrimination and corruption. This is glaring when one compares how police treat unarmed IPOB members, and the real terrorists such as armed Fulani herdsmen, the so-called bandits, Boko Haram and other hoodlums operating across the country.

Although there are conflicting reports about what took place at Emene. what is most regrettable is that lives were lost. It is also clear that the conflict started when security operatives stormed the venue of an IPOB meeting. There is no report that the youths were carrying weapons or marching somewhere to attack the police or anybody else. What happened to the tear-gas which police use to disperse unarmed group? Perhaps, life has become so cheap in Nigeria that police do not care who dies anymore.

But the killings have been widely condemned by Nigerians at home and abroad. Here in the South-East, Ohanaeze, MASSOB, Nzuko Umunna, town unions and others have called for a judicial inquiry into the incident.

The panel is expected to unravel the truth about what happened, as there are suspicions of a sinister motive. South-East governors should speak out also before things get out of hand.
Clearly, Nigeria is engulfed in countless security challenges. People are wondering why the same security agencies who have guts to murder unarmed Igbo youth have displayed helplessness in containing more vociferous security challenges, elsewhere?
Nigerians have enough experience to know that if one ethnic group keeps quiet while another unjustly suffers, soon the others will also be at the receiving end because, as they say, what goes round, comes around.

Furthermore, it beats one’s imagination that the IPOB should be labeled ‘terrorist’ while the real terrorists continue to massacre and kill and maim across the country.

We agree with many Nigerians that unarmed IPOB youths, who have not shown the cruelty and callousness of Boko Haram, Fulani herdsmen and even bandits in South Kaduna do not deserve, proscription, constant harassment and killings.

We condemn violent agitations in all forms. But when armed law enforcement agents descend on unarmed youths at their peaceful meeting, we wonder who sent them and what the motive is.

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ARTICLES

Imo as Unemployment Capital

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Imo as Unemployment Capital

Former Governor Rochas Okorocha understood clearly that Imo State needed jobs and factories. The question is what did he do about it?

Imolites are familiar with the mantra “Job, Job, Job, factory, factory, factory,” which he orchestrated in his second term. That was his way of telling Imolites what was lacking in the state. He gave the impression that his government was about to tackle unemployment, by rehabilitating moribund factories and, building new ones. Many people believed him.

Now, the National Bureau of Statistics NBS has come out with the figures stating that 23 million Nigerians are unemployed and that Imo has the lion’s share of 48.7 per cent. One wonders if the NBS report would have been released had Governor Okorocha still been in charge. The NBS report showing Imo State as Nigeria’s new unemployment capital can only be annoying to Imolites when viewed in the prism of Okorocha’s factory, factory factory, jobs, jobs, jobs.

Imolites cannot even point to one “hot” industry or employment generating project created during Okorocha’s eight years. But that is typical of our politicians. Yet, one can still ask where the factories and jobs promised by Okorocha are? Knowing Governor Okorocha, he would not deny that he promised “factories” but the problem will be telling people where they are located.

If Governor Okorocha was honest with his “factory, factory and job, job” utterance, he would have done something to stir up activities in the so-called Owerri Industrial Layout along Onitsha road Irete, which is almost a forgotten area. The industrial hub is now more of a hide out for miscreants, with all its roads in deplorable condition.

Several of the factories are overtaken by grass, as they have either been shut down in frustration or relocated. Individuals and private businesses use some of the large expanse of land to dump solid waste, including faeces.

We are not holding former Governor Rochas Okorocha solely responsible for this abysmal neglect of the Industrial Layout. Apart from the first civilian Governor of the state, Chief Sam Mbakwe, who saw wisdom in setting up several industries across the old Imo State, that extended to present day Abia and Ebonyi States, none of his successors either military or civilian did anything in that direction. The successive administrations paid mere lip service, to job creation.

It is also important to point out that previous governors remembered their promises to create jobs just when they were about to leave office.

It was only then that they created dubious and questionable jobs that run into thousands but which are practically impossible for their successors to fund.

Charity must begin at home. Any Government desiring to create jobs and kick-start manufacturing in Imo State must uplift the Industrial layout and not neglect it. No entrepreneur, investor, local or expatriates, would set up business in a place with virtually no roads, to begin with.

We only hope and pray that the present Government would be grieved by the unflattering NBS report, which ridicules Imo State and decide to take some positive steps towards developing the Industrial Layout.

We know Government cannot employ everyone. But we know also that it can create the enabling environment where virtually every eligible person can get employed.

If Governor Hope Uzodinma is touched by the ugly NBS report, he can do something about it. He can put politics and his personal interest aside and rehabilitate old factories as well as revive the Industrial Layout. Anything short of this will be another exercise in deception.

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