When an Economy Fails…


We heard in the news that APC governors visited President-elect Buhari last Tuesday to tell him he would inherit an empty treasury on May 29. They talked about the inability of state governments to pay workers’ salaries on account of reduced allocations. No magic would help, said their leader Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State. About the same time, however, the same governors and other officeholders were receiving “severance” allowance for “serving” us for four years. Each governor, I have learned, is taking between N300million and N500million, apart from other perks they will enjoy for life, and the billions they have received from fronts that did multi-billion-naira contracts.

I guess their excellences did not disclose all they discussed with Buhari in private. They could have warned him of the possibility of the Nigerian economy collapsing within three months. But that is not even the whole truth. In plain language, I say that this nation’s economy has since collapsed; it has been tied to a thin oil cord, which has sustained only the few that have access to petrodollars. For now, civil servants complain about delay in salary payment; soon they won’t get anything after waiting for months. A state like Kogi appears wise: it has reduced salaries by 40 per cent.

The best indicator of an economy’s collapse is joblessness. The rate of unemployment (especially among the youth) in Nigeria now is 70-80 per cent, not 24 or 40 per cent quoted by certain authorities. It is no mystery that most people, including those that are supposed to be employers, are seeking political appointments at the federal or state level.

It has been a long night in Nigeria, really. I didn’t believe the economy would survive up until this time, what with the ceaseless haemorrhaging we have witnessed in the last 28 years. Common sense should have told anyone that the day of reckoning was not far away.

The politicians don’t seem to have got the message anyway. That’s why the House of Representatives moved against removal of “fuel subsidy” last week. My guess is that the thieves – fuel importers and their sponsors in government – passed some Ghana-must-go bags around. They were the same people that sponsored the public protests of January 2012. All they are asking for is an opportunity to continue looting public funds in the name of “fuel subsidy”. In 2011 alone, 123 private jets that entered this country were all traceable to the subsidy thieves.

Time and again, we have proved that no subsidy exists. It couldn’t have existed when a barrel of crude was $147 and also when it was $50. And how many Nigerians buy the commodity at the official pump price? Only in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt did motorists pay N97 or N87. Now everyone buys it at N200 or more. Kerosene? I don’t know where it has ever been sold at the advertised N50.

Buhari would do well to not pay anybody a dime as subsidy. Let them import fuel and fix any price. We either buy or refuse to buy at high prices. Fuel won’t be more expensive then than it is now.

We also hear that foreign reserves can’t sustain more than three months of imports. Good! By then, the dollar might exchange with N500 and the prices of imported goods would hit the roof. Salaries would be further devalued, as a result.

I pity those who have no money and no access to farmlands during this rainy season. The city poor should consider relocating to their home villages. I have always said that villagers live more happily than poor city dwellers. Unemployment hits city dwellers harder, just as lack of electricity supply affects them more.

There would be only one way of rescuing the Nigerian economy at this time: seizing the proceeds of corruption and other crimes. Were I the president-elect, the first bill I would send to the National Assembly would seek the forfeiture of all assets whose sources their owners can’t explain. All private jets, for instance, ought to be seized until each owner shows us the tree in his compound that grows dollar or naira notes. [An average private jet costs N8billion.] The recovered stolen funds would then be invested in power. Constant power supply would create more jobs than agriculture.

Only in Nigeria would government buy cooking stoves worth N10billion and a minister spend N10billion on chartered jet travels. Only in Nigeria does $20billion get missing mysteriously. Only in Nigeria do idle lawmakers earn N22million per month – an amount other compatriots could get only if they worked for 100 years.

What Nigeria needs are good people, not good looters. It needs workers, not loafers. It needs action, not gospel. Thirty years ago, the Buhari-Idiagbon government pointed us to the right direction. So did Murtala Muhammed almost 40 years ago.

Should we expect a repeat performance from Buhari? The job will be more difficult this time because of so many useless institutions that have been created to retard our progress. But when an economy has failed, there is nothing to expect but a revolution.

Both incoming and outgoing officeholders have been lamenting the rise of recurrent expenditure. What to do? Left to me, the money received by legislators (for doing nothing other than shouting “aye” or “nay” once a week) would be the first to be eliminated. In Nigeria, lawmakers are of little use, really. And the civil service? It is grossly unproductive and needs to be changed. Political officeholders should earn stipends, not jumbo pay. That way, we would know those who wanted to serve and those who wanted to be served.

Thank You, Soldiers for Peace

Where is “Abubakar Shekau”, king of Boko Haram caliphate? The last three months have been particularly heart-rending for the insurgents that have killed close to 20, 000 people and rendered almost 2million homeless in Nigeria. Gallant troops from Nigeria, Cameroon, Niger and, mercifully, Chad have joined forces and have been bombarding the terrorists’ hideouts and killing hundreds of them. The notorious Sambisa Forest is being cleared of the insurgents. Over 1, 000 captives have been freed. From Mafa, Baga to Gwoza, from Chibok to Hawul, and from Kaga to Maiduguri, relief is returning to traumatised residents.

Had the momentum been maintained like this, the insurgency would have since ended. By May 29, there would be relative peace in the troubled north-east. To our gallant troops, congratulations!


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