Monday, November 12, 2018 10.14AM / OpEd By Tope Fasua
Nigeria’s economy hangs on a fiscal cliff, ready to tip over into eternity. The society is also on the brink like never before. Kaduna is back at war and in curfew. Jos is not easy to contemplate. Shi’ites rocked Abuja this Saturday. The entire country is tinderbox as a result of politics. The ruling party has foisted thuggery and cheating. Their ‘main contender’ operates the same template. The game is all about money. A leading state governor was seen stuffing huge wads of dollars in his many pockets; a very good example to those coming behind and a justification for them to get to political positions by all means. The country is disconnected from north to south, east to west. Many are holding their breath for the day when the final whistle will be blown; ‘game over!’. It seems this here country was created only to be looted. A parasitic country; a man-eat-man country of oppression and inequality.
In all these some of our people insist on dancing between the status quo (Buhari) and status quo ante (Atiku). As we hang on a fiscal cliff, all maxed out on debts like a junkie ($76bn and more to come), with reserves fast shrinking, and having lost almost all benefits from our crude oil (we get only 36% of the proceeds), and with poverty increasing in the land, many of our people say they want more of the same solutions of the past 19 years. The same oppressors. I know it is hard to do, but we must open the eyes of our people by all means. For one Nigeria is now the global capital, the very epicenter, ground zero, of inequality and oppression.
OXFAM said so recently in their report. Inequality grew in Nigeria than any other country in the world. It dovetails with my research around budgeting too. Nigeria makes the least provision for its people year on year, only better than DR Congo. However in terms of leveraging the size of its population and economy, Nigeria performs most woefully, having the very lowest budget to GDP ratio in the entire world. The problem we seem to have is that the oppressors of Nigeria are also holding themselves down. It is said that you cannot actually pin a man down except you stay down with him. So Nigeria’s oppressors are local champions. If they let Nigerians breathe, and thrive, even they will achieve more exploits in life and in comparison to other peoples of the world. But they are not interested.
Obasanjo/Atiku’s team put the economy in a coma. Jonathan killed it. Buhari’s team is trying hard to bury the economy. None of these guys are good for the economy or society. The only hope for the Nigerian economy is for it to be urgently wheeled into emergency where a team of patriotic, young, clear-minded paramedics and a fantastic medical team can use a defibrillator to hopefully get its heart beating again, stabilize it and commence a much needed surgery. The way we are hooked on debt, is akin to being plugged to a life support machine. We are plugged to life support with parts of the economy already in the grave. We need to take new decisions. We need sheer genius at this moment, if all of us must be rescued. Those guys who brag about working in World Bank and so, whom Atiku wants to bring along if he wins, cannot save this situation. We are hearing them already.
Atiku is being egged on by right-wing newspapers like The Economist of UK. They are propping him up. They want further devaluation of the currency. The ideas of these World Bank/Goldman Sachs type and their local collaborators are so disconnected from reality. They have deliberately maintained only a shallow understanding of the Nigerian society. They are phoney economists - their economics does not consider the sociopsychology of Nigeria. Not even the tacit and veiled apologies from the IMF and World Bank over time, for giving bad antidotes to African countries can convince these guys to be contrite. They only see Nigeria as a country to be had. I discovered while reading a book titled This Present Darkness overnight that people like Okotie-Eboh used to collect commission for bringing in Foreign Investors in the early 1960s. The ‘investors’ probably pay. No wonder some people act like corporate ‘agberos’ for foreign investors; they have convinced us that only foreign capital can save Nigeria. Very wrong. It’s just another setup.
Federal Government Further Reduces 2019 Budget Proposals
But in all of these, Nigeria is great at oppressing its people. I have put up a petition for 2019 budget to be increased to at least N15trillion, so that we can match countries like Cameroon in the per capita provision we make for our people. At the time I submitted by petition - to which I have now written a reminder having been naturally ignored - the budget proposals for 2019 was N8.9Trillion. I recently watched the Minister for Budget, Udo Udoma doing a budget briefing. They had further reduced the 2019 budget to N8.6Trillion. I was shocked. But there is no outrage among Nigerians. Maybe Nigerians know there is nothing for them in all these budgets. In the N8.6Trillion reduced budget - reduced in the face of a healthy growth in population and growing inflation which is presently at 11.24% (meaning that in real terms that budget is like N7.5Trillion) - we have to back out a budget of N831Billion for INEC alone, and another N1.2Trillion at least, for fuel subsidy (otherwise called under recovery) By the time the powerful people stretch their hands and take their cuts (including sundry allowances and perks, ghost workers, and kickbacks), there will surely be nothing in it for the people. For one, there is absolutely NO PROVISION for salary increases for long-suffering government workers in the 2019 budget. You cannot plan to increase salaries and reduce the budget at the same time, can you?
The Poor Underwrites Bad Loans And Are Ignored
Then last week we saw the list of recalcitrant, nonchallant debtors published by AMCON. I never understood the idea of a bad bank in the first place. So when Jonathan created that bank (AMCON) and transferred all the bad loans from our banks to them, while giving taxpayers money to these banks, I watched in amazement. People went to press to hail the idea but I am used to the fact that many of us middle class people are behind the problems of Nigeria.
Greed. Selfishness. Well, today there sits at least N5.4Trillion worth of taxpayers money in AMCON while Mr Fowler in FIRS says we are not paying enough taxes. That is N5.4Trillion that should have been used to construct roads and give our children better education. That is 63% of our proposed 2019 budget in the hands of 350 ‘big boys’ and they are telling us all to go to hell. We have 13.2million of such children on the streets on a daily basis; almost 10% of Nigeria’s population. Our very future is out of school and roaming around. Jonathan’s government, and by extension Buhari’s government, and by inference, right-leaning, crass capitalist Atiku whom someone described as the crown prince of crony capitalism in Nigeria, believes that this is a great way to spend taxpayers’ money. In the world of finance and economics, what Nigeria has done and keeps doing is called ‘TRANSFER OF WEALTH FROM THE POOR TO THE RICH’
It used to be that serious, humane countries and their leaders think daily how they can take a little bit more from the rich to help the poor. But not Nigeria. Here, it is the reverse. Our leaders disconnect from the people immediately they get into office, so maybe they don’t know just how terrible our people find life; 90million of them. They sleep in the open and in shanties. Millions sleep inside their own urine and feces in our hundreds of ghettos. Millions have no idea where their next meal will come from. That is why almost 15million children roam the streets from north to south, that is why 10,000 Nigerians have been deported from Libya this year alone, and why 10,000 Nigerian women escaped into Italy alone in 2016 for prostitution. That is why hundreds of our young boys languish in Asian jails and tens of thousands of Nigerians are in asylums all around the world; held in pens like animals, crying daily to be freed. How many have died crossing the Sahara desert or swimming the Mediterranean we cannot tell.
In all these, we saw in the list of bad and recalcitrant debtors that AMCON published, whose loans have been underwritten by the Nigerian taxpayer, the usual suspect. Ifeanyi Ubah’s Capital Oil is owing poor Nigerians N116Billion, Jimoh Ibrahim is owing N60Billion. Babalakin is owing N69Billion. Donald Duke’s Tinapa project is owing poor Nigerians N36Billion. Barth Nnaji is owing Nigerians N30Billion. We saw all sorts of real estate companies and oil companies who have ignored the loans insured by the sweat and blood of the Nigerians people. See here for details; https://www.thecable.ng/full-list-ifeanyi-ubah-jimoh-ibrahim-here-are-amcons-105-top-debtors.
The money that poor Nigerian people should have used for a morsel of garri, was brutally yanked from their hands, put together to ‘save’ colluding banks by the government of Jonathan, condoned by the government of Buhari, while these guys ride around in private jets. Many of them are in politics, trying to get into office in order to probably use political power to obliterate their debts and steal the country blind further. Nigeria is mafia society no doubt. But we must push back someday soon. No one runs a nation like this. One of the bad debtors, owing N4Billion, Chief Pius Akinyelure, was appointed by Buhari into the board of NNPC. These people should declare bankruptcy at least - with full consequences. How can a bad debtor be appointed into such public position. Well, Buhari continues to feign ignorance as usual. Yaradua did not have the stomach for these bankers and their friends. He gave Sanusi Lamido the authority to pick them up and traveled out of the country. That was a good man. Nigeria hates good men.
For starters Nigerians should call for full disclosure from AMCON. We want to know the names of all those whose bad loans are in AMCON. Then we should question why those published are refusing to engage with AMCON or service their loans. Not a word from most Nigerian pundits since the list was published. Indeed some ‘famous’ economists like Bismarck Rewane are asking for AMCON 2! Oh my God. The vaults of the banks are again bursting at the seams with bad loans and would want to push them down the throats of Nigerians once again. This is man inhumanity to man! Nigeria’s case must be taken to the international court of justice, human rights and public opinion. The people of this country are sort of being prepared for slaughter. Someone should please inform me what is going on.
Oil Company Staff Cooperatives Ripping-Off Poor Nigerians?
The one that drew most of my ire from the list of criminals published - because by their neglect of their loans they have defaulted against the people of Nigeria - were the staff cooperatives of Shell Producing, Mobil Producing and Chevron Producing.
These are some of our major oil companies. Their staff are some of the luckiest people ever created, to have secured great jobs and to live very soft, privileged lives. Between these three, they have N40Billion Naira worth of loans with AMCON which they have refused to service. They are also among those entities ignoring the loans and ignoring long-suffering Nigerians. I wish to inform them and their parent companies that they are irresponsible. Nigerian people, most of whom sleep in ‘houses’ made of straw, nylon bags, discarded polytene sacks or mud, and most of whom sleep in uncompleted buildings have paid for the luxury houses that these oil executives live and the various luxuries they secured with these bad loans. We must reverse that inequality and oppression immediately. We the people are instituting a class action against Mobil, Shell and Chevron and their cooperatives. We need our money. We have borne enough already in this country. Let us start from here, because staff of Shell and co
are ordinary citizens like us. They will never get away with such nonsense in any other country but here. I am aware that when banks publish bad debtors there are other cooperatives in there. ALL cooperatives must pay Nigerians back. You cannot live in houses financed by these millions of poor, luckless people, or buy yourselves luxury cars on our sweat, tears and blood. I am saying that I, Tope Fasua, am refusing to sponsor staff of some oil company while I struggle through life. Enough already!
Later we will come for the Jimoh Ibrahim, Barth Nnaji, Akinyelure, Dukes and Ifeanyi Ubah’s of this world.
I hope we see what this country is doing to its people. Nigerians, please choose wisely, wake up. You are not slaves. I stand for you to reject slavery in your own land.