OPINION: Nigeria, A Harrowing Hell

The state of the Nigerian economy in the past 10 years has been harrowing and strangulating. The current socio-economic situation is excruciating and only comparable to the ‘hell fire’ described in the Bible. Though the economy has been facing daunting challenges for decades, never has it been as bad as we have it today. Economic purchasing powers of the Nigerian people have been eroded and taken away. Social life has turned miserable, particularly in the past seven years.

The current APC-led Federal administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has not lived up to promises made to the people. It has rather compounded the socio-economic woes, unleashing anti-people and unfavorable economic policies that have impoverished Nigerians. The aloofness of the Government to citizens plight can better be compared to the jack-boot days of late General Sanni Abacha.

When the current administration was campaigning for office, it promised to build new refineries, provide security for lives and properties; employment for the growing population of unemployed youths, stable electricity to engender economic activities. But almost eight years down the line, the promises have not only turned into a mirage, but Nigerians’ experiences have been harrowing.

Insecurity, hitherto associated and limited to a section of the polity has assumed an endemic national problem. Terrorism has become the National face of Nigeria. Banditry, kidnapping, and ransom taking thus alien to our culture is the most fast-growing business in the country. The youths that the President promised to provide employment have taken to crime as vocation, all because of frustration. The youths almost three years ago vented their anger on the Nation during the #End SARS# protest. They protested police brutality and their deplorable welfare as well as injustice that have taken flight from our national psyche. Till date visible action has not been taken by the Government to address their concerns.
Scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), otherwise called petrol has been a scarce commodity in the country for almost a year. This is too bad for a country blessed with the product and ranked as the 6th oil producing nations.

In fact, this February marks a year anniversary of fuel scarcity in the FCT, the seat of Government, and so it has been nationwide. Citizens have been living hellishly without reasonable explanation from the Government as to why Nigerians must queue endlessly every day at fuel stations, wasting man-hours, yet the roadsides are lined and populated with fuel ‘black-marketers’. The pumps are dried, but fuel black marketers daily get their supplies, selling at almost1000 per cent of Government approved pump price.
The country, from the West to the South, and East to the North experience darkness due to the recurring National grid collapse, and no effort is seen to have been made to address the challenge. The resultant effect has been loss of jobs, relocation, or closure of industries, throwing hapless Nigerians into the already saturated labour market.

You must think twice before traveling within the country due to audacious exploits of the bandits, who kidnap for ransom or kill their victims when their expectations are not met. There has been no check by the Government against ruthless herdsmen who daily maraud, rampage, and maim innocent citizens and go unchecked by the security agencies. This suggests the complicity or incapability of the Government to end this menace, hence the economy is bearing the brunt.

Unfortunately, and as of today, Nigerians are daily stressed while queuing for their Permanent Voter’s Cards (PVCs) because of the sordidness of the agency saddled with the responsibility of providing PVCs and conducting elections. Motorists in the country queue for fuel because of corruption-riddled petroleum sector, and the inability of Government to fix the refineries. And now it gets worse because of queues at Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) for the redesigned Naira notes.

For the redesigned Naira notes policy which the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, is daily bashed for causing Nigerians pains, initiating such policy at this critical time is to me a misplaced hostility. Did the CBN comply with international best practice? Yes.
The time frame given to exchange the old notes for the new ones, is also within the constitutional framework of the CBN Act. And the reasons given for redesigning the Naira germane. However, what the CBN Governor and the CBN did not envisage was the opposition the action would generate.

The politicians immediately rose up in arms accusing Emefiele of political vendetta, aimed at strangulating their campaigns and electioneering expenses. They engaged the media to air their opposition to the policy.

Not satisfied, they coopted the Department of State Security Service (DSS), and declared Mr. Godwin Emefiele wanted for an allegation of sponsoring terrorism. A grave accusation ever to be made against an incumbent apex Bank Governor in the country, or even in the world. The propriety of the allegation was suspect, and it took the coalition of civil society and the Courts to restrain the agency from carrying out their obnoxious intention.

As the dust raised by the DSS saga was yet to settle, the Nigeria House of Representatives, a house full of skit makers, issued a threat to order the Inspector General of Police to arrest the CBN Governor if he fails to honour their invite to explain why he had to put Nigerians in this pain with his Naira Redesign Policy, particularly, on the eve of the 2023 general elections? But when he met them, they swallowed their fire when confronted with superior argument. The CBN Governor had extended the ultimatum by 10 days before he finally honoured their invite after securing the President’s approval.
There is a typical gene in every Nigerian’s DNA, called sabotage.

Nigerians see opportunities to sabotage every good policy of Government. The same politicians calling for Emefiele’s head were the ones bribing and colluding with bank managers to keep aside large chunk of millions of the new notes allocated to them for their customers for a fabulous gratification yet crucifying the CBN for not making the new notes available.

The Committee of Bankers are also sabotaging this policy for reasons best known to them. However, CBN had deployed its staff, even to the remotest and dreaded bandits infested areas where banks were being forced to open their vaults for hidden new notes to be fed into the ATMs for the banking public to withdraw. A particular branch in one of the Northern states who daily receives N30 million new notes refused to load them to the ATMs, keeping them for the politicians and for trading to their nefarious business partners. Another as reported was allocated N91 million but loaded only N1.2 million in the branch’s ATMs for bank customers. Same was the story in Osun State where N4.5 million given a second-tier bank’s branch was stacked in his vault while the ATMs were empty. The stories are legion countrywide. The new notes are being sprayed at parties and ceremonies, while the ATMs are dried. Politicians are stocking the new notes for inducement and vote buying yet blaming the CBN for scarcity.

In Nigerian parlance, who do us like this, and who we offend?
Political candidates are now trading and throwing tantrums at the CBN for this ‘unholy’ policy, instead of joining hands with the CBN to create and allow sanity to reign in our financial system. Are we happy that 85 percent of the total money in circulation are in private hands and bandits’ enclave rather than in the bank vaults to engender economic activities?
Is inducement and vote buying a standard electoral practice in any clime? Who do us like this, and who we offend?
No one is blaming the Government for impoverishing the citizens with its policies, but why blame the CBN? Has anyone asked, where has the fiscal authority’s presence in the economic space of Nigeria been since this administration came on board? What economic policy can one point to that has encouraged either local or foreign investment? Foreign investors have been kidnapped and ransom paid. The unlucky victims were killed.

During the destructive COVID-19 pandemic when global economy was on lockdown, it was the forward looking CBN that rescued the Nation with its targeted inventions. The Interventions were in every critical sector of the economy. The apex Bank intervened in agriculture, power, aviation, health, education, and MSMEs. If not for the Central Bank Nigeria who intervened in Agriculture with its Anchor Borrowers’ Programme (ABP), Power and Aviation with its PAIF, Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) initiated to support businesses and households during the pandemic, would the economy still be viable?

For the past eight years, the role of the CBN in the economy cannot be overemphasized. Its policies have been people-focused, apolitical, and an economic catalyst. Thus, the Bank cannot at this point be seen as an economic saboteur, terrorism financier, or pursing a political vendetta just because it was perceived that its leader made an unsuccessful foray into the murky waters of Nigeria politics.
We need to rescue Nigeria, and this is a task for everyone.

Chisom Adindu writes from Aba

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