Monday, November 12, 2018 11:05AM / OpEd By Tope Fasua /
Image Credits: Silent Touch
While everyone else is busy pursuing Buhari’s WAEC certificate - something he clearly doesn’t have and which does not matter as much as we make it - the economy has collapsed. Everywhere I turn we see all the debris, the remains of a once promising economy. The carelessness, mismanagement and open looting has never been worse and the figures show it. Nigeria is at its tethers’ end.
I was busy trying to call attention to the severe and permanent under-provisioning by the Nigerian government for our people. There is nothing I haven’t done to open people’s eyes to the travesty that is the Nigerian society and economy. I did an analysis that showed clearly that Nigeria is the laziest country on earth in terms of leveraging its GDP.
Year on year, thinking, caring countries budget half their GDPs to reflate their economies. The velocity of government spending in those countries, is remarkable. Governments strive hard to be responsible to their people by scaling up their provisioning via their annual budgets. But in Nigeria the government prefers to go to town bragging about its large GDP and how ours is the largest economy in Africa. The USA budgets 36% of its GDP yearly on the average. South Africa budgets 30%. Ghana 26%. Tunisia 22%. Kenya 26%. Algeria 40%. Norway and Austria budget 50% of their GDP yearly.
But consistently, our dear country via its lost and wicked leaders have budgeted for us as if they were budgeting for ants. And the little they budget, they promptly embezzle. Our budgets hover consistently somewhere around 5% and 6%. As embarrassing and starkly evident as this is, even educated Nigerians don’t believe it is an important issue. Many ask me where will the government will find money for a larger budget, forgetting that the other countries I have mentioned have simply got themselves organized better in order to unleash productivity and therefore revenue.
Nigeria is an embarrassment to the concept of nationhood as is. I have never seen where a people will deliberately punch beneath their weights and where leaders will perennially and deliberately impoverish their own people. The world is watching. And I have now seen clearly, that this country is next set for self-destruction. What goes on here is unacceptable. One thing all this mediocrity does to us is to make us all weak and vulnerable, ready for the picking.
Where do we start from?
The Vice President recently tried to play a fast one on the people of Nigeria by claiming that the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has only added $10billion to our national debt. I felt sad because here is a church pastor that we all respect. I was the first to call out Amina Mohammed, Nigeria’s former Minister for the Environment - now an Undersecretary at the United Nations - when she erroneously claimed that Dr Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala took Nigeria out of debt but that the government she had served had now put us back in debt. Indeed Okonjo may have ‘taken Nigeria out’ of the $36billion we owed in 2006, but she promptly dumped us back in. Voodoo economics did the job. I still recall all the economic gobbledygook they peddle while we scream and complain that they are headed in the wrong direction. And so when she was departing for the second time, Nigeria owed $63billion. Now we owe a tidy $76billion and the debt is still climbing. How can we dig ourselves out of $76billion when we needed an amnesty to clamber out of $36billion. We are therefore certainly in a debt trap, but to make matters worse, it is impossible to tell what these borrowings have been used for. The people remain starkly poor.
Then there is the problem with workers’ wages. After 8 years on the same salary level, the workers are agitating rightly. But the government arrogantly says it has no money to pay anyone an increase. I tried to determine compounded inflation from 2010 till date and arrived at around 70%. Nigeria’s Naira has lost that much value since then. N19,800 in 2010 is barely worth N6,000 today. Poor workers are suffering. But we hear that the Revenue Mobilization Agency surreptitiously approves bi-annual salary increases for top dogs in the civil service and politicians who wield the power. Nigeria is a full mafia state. Only the top connected and those in certain clubs can get ahead here. The rest are slaves; born to suffer. The reason why governors cannot pay a farthing more to workers and are, still owing workers based on the old wages is because the economy is broken. The system is broken. Our roosters are coming home to sleep after causing much havoc all over town. The day of reckoning is here. There is no more leeway to accommodate our poor workers and pity them with a little stipend. The politicians have taken it all. The Buhari government has caused irreversible further grievous damage to an already terrible situation. From the ‘agreements’ reached on the wage increase, it’s fairly evident that there is no intention to do anything soon.
What I can see is that an underproductive, consumer economy is coming to its sad little denouement.
Most of the wealth we see in this country is not borne out of hard work or anything productive. What we have are a few lucky people put in position by this Mafioso connection and powers. If crude oil is our main sector and it is so unprofitable, opaque and corrupt, where else can we find some comfort? Indeed we don’t need any ‘main sector’ per se. If only people will be responsible to society, things will go round. But in Nigeria, people have pointedly chosen to be this way. And government condones this lethargy, simply because most of the people in government are such that take decisions based sentiments, not men of principles. They will do anything based on sentiments; tribe, religion, sexual relationships and what have you. We need leaders that stand up for principles for once.
So here are the figures that scare the living hell out of me.
We are the inequality and poverty capital of the world according to Oxfam and the World Poverty Clock. We provide the least for our people, among countries in the world. We also harbor and parade the highest number of out-of-school children, maternal and child mortality in the world. Nigeria is simply the most-misgoverned country in the world given its resources. Our comeuppance has indeed come upon us.
We have this in bold relief - $76 billion in debt. They fraudulently compare that to GDP to make it seem small. But as at the end of August 2018; we have spent only N3.4 trillion of the N9.1 trillion that the country budgeted for, instead of N6 trillion if we pro-rate the spending. And of this N3.4 trillion, N1.54 trillion was spent servicing debts, while N1.86 trillion was spent paying salaries and ‘running government’.
It is only in our debt servicing that we spent 100% of what we planned to spend for the cumulative period.
For recurrent expenditure, we spent 78%. For capital expenditure, we spent 0%. It wasn’t until October 17, 2018, that N486 billion was released. This is the same N9.1 trillion that is a budget for ants and against which I demonstrated on the streets of Abuja.
According to the same report by our planning ministry, we were only able to generate a mere 48% of our planned revenue. Our oil, non-oil and tax revenue were short of projections by far. Yet the lowest price of Brent Crude this year has been $62 per barrel. What has gone wrong? Where is the money, in spite of the bragging by our government which claim to have totally repositioned the economy?
What we can see is business-as-usual. Civil servants in privileged parastatals continue with their ways. Buhari has gone to sleep. Even Goodluck and Yaradua did put some breaks to profligacy in these places but the current president has turned a blind eye to the final winding down of the economy; its bleeding to death. I can only surmise that it’s because he and people in his circle also feel guilty. So let anyone who can, also enjoy themselves to the limit. All this while in our checkered journey, nepotism has never been as bad.
As I concluded this article, I came across a report about the new oil subsidy regime, now known as ‘under recovery’. We heard that the NNPC has spent the dividend it got from investments in the NLNG (Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Co), without authorization. They reports indicated that only two signatories know about the secret account from which this slush fund was disbursed. Our main industry, Oil; lacks transparency. What will it take for the minister of petroleum, who is also the president, to get NNPC to publish its accounts? Ibe Kachikwu as NNPC GMD actually attempted something along these lines but was promptly removed and we moved back to an era of darkness. Now, of the N8.6 trillion budgeted for 2019, N831 billion or a whole 10%, will be used in running INEC - the election umpire, while oil subsidy (which has already accrued over N1 trillion this year) will take close to 20% of that amount! By the time the civil servants - big and small - collect their salaries and pensions; there will be nothing left for everyday citizens (our poor people)….and yet again, we will resort to even more massive borrowing.
We need fresh new eyes to consider this economy. Anyone who has been near it at the controls can no longer do the job. Massive cognitive biases would have set in. We need innocent minds who can appreciate how bad things are and the urgency of the moment, and who are ready to hanker down to start fixing this woebegone society.
Nigeria has got to that Biblical era when God sent prophets to Kings, instructing them to tear their fine robes, dress in sackcloth, pour ashes over their bodies, forsake worldly possessions and be contrite else they see destruction come upon them and their charge. Nigeria has reached the Sodom and Gomorrah level where God could not find even five (5) persons who are righteous and had no choice than to destroy the cities because their sins had become unbearable.
Inequity, impunity, incredible levels of injustice and wickedness reigns in our land. There is hardly any need to start to explain at length to anyone. All we have to do is open our eyes. The nation is broken. To un-break it, extreme decisions of contrition need to be taken.
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