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Opinions of Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Columnist: Gidado Yushau Shuaib

Is Nigeria in trouble?

The is a poser triggered by a blunt remark by Godwin Obaseki, the Edo State Governor on the state of the economy.

Obaseki was, at an event, reported as blurting: “We are in trouble!” According to him, the country is enmeshed deeply in financial quagmire. To him, Nigeria’s oil marketers should not celebrate the increase in the price of crude oil, especially in the international market, for the expected benefits could be illusional. He noted that major oil companies in Nigeria such as Shell and Chevron are no longer investing in oil exploration.

Obaseki was right. Chevron, is now one of the world’s largest investors in alternative fuels, just as Shell is gradually pulling out of Nigeria.

The governor revealed that the federal government had to (arbitrarily) print about N50bn to N60bn to augment the budget. What the governor meant was that governments world over don’t resort to arbitrary printing of money if the economy isn’t tottering beyond salvation.

He did not mince words in starkly warning the country over the rate at which it has been borrowing money. His grouse isn’t the borrowing per se, but the absence of repayment plans.

Nigerians don’t need expert analysis to glean that the economy is sick and bleak, cutting across all sectors of the economy. Even the sports sector, which normally puts smiles on the faces of many disillusioned Nigerians, by providing entertainment, fun and jobs to talented athletes, has been affected.

If not for the last-minute intervention, the ongoing ‘Edo 2020’ National Sports Festival was almost closed prematurely due to federal government’s failure to make good its promises of providing counterpart funding.

People in saner climes must have had a good laugh at Nigeria as her president, who made towering promises before assuming office, was and still is in the United Kingdom (UK) to access good healthcare, when his country’s doctors embarked on strike.

Although the doctor’s umbrella body, the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD) called off the strike few days ago, for the days it lasted it prevented poor Nigerians’ access to healthcare services.

The strike, which began on April 1, was ignited by poor remuneration and deteriorating conditions of medical facilities in the country.

Away from NARD: despite the last-minute intervention by the national leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) to halt the nationwide strike proposed by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), members of the union chose to ground court activities across the country.

JUSUN had in a notice issued by its General Secretary, I. M Adetola dated April 1, announced that it would begin a nationwide industrial action to press home its demands for the enforcement of financial autonomy in the judiciary.

True to its threat, the union has since commenced the strike across the country.

There is also the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP). Just last Tuesday, the association also declared an indefinite strike to demand the implementation of a new salary structure for polytechnic lecturers. ASUP is demanding payment of salaries and promotion allowances owed lecturers by the government.

We cannot risk not tabling the putsch in police force. It is apparently a headache for the Nigerian state. Police formations across the country are groaning under poor funding. The development has crippled the force at a time of heightened internal security challenges.

For the first quarter of this year, police commands and formations have not gotten any money to run the humongous operations under them, a Daily Trust investigation recently revealed.

The constitutional roles of the police are maintaining and enforcing law and order. Regrettably, underfunding and poor management, over the years, have rendered the police largely ineffective in carrying out their responsibilities.

Given the situations, it is vital for the government to change its strategies. The ones it has been working with have not been effective. That is how it could rebuild and regain the trust of diverse Nigerians.

In the middle of it all, the government announced its plan to rehabilitate the moribund Port Harcourt Refinery at the whopping cost of $1.5bn.

At a time, the economy is in dire straits with a litany of avoidable industrial actions, the menace of insurgency, kidnapping and banditry, who says we are not in trouble if our government deems it fit to splash such mind-boggling ‘dollars’ for a project that is nothing but white elephant?

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