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2022: Matters Arising - What's on the table this year? 2022: Matters Arising - What's on the table this year?
by Kola King
2022-01-13 08:10:45
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The year 2021 has come and gone. 2022 has quitely rolled in with its bag and baggage. The previous year was shaped by the global pandemic. This affected many economies due to the global lockdown in 2020 and its concomitant effects which spilled over into 2021. Several economies went into recession. Indeed many economies tanked but thankfully Nigeria exited recession in the first quarter of 2021, against the forecast of the World Bank. So what's on the table this year?

Matters arising in the new year include security, economy, job creation, among others. Of course, politics is already in the air with politicians gearing up for the next elections in second half of 2023.

nig00001_400_01Still, insecurity has become a recurring decimal as many parts of the country have one security challenge or the other. This has stretched our security forces beyond limits. At the moment, the military is operating in several theatres in the northeast, northwest and northcentral. A strong security presence is also on ground in the east. The same thing applies in the Niger Delta. In addition, Nigeria's territorial waters have come under the shadow of piracy. However, the Navy is working assiduously to police the Gulf of Guinea and to keep piracy in check.

Due to growing frustration over the security situation, the Katsina State governor, Aminu Masari has called on people in his state to buy arms and defend themselves. Also, governors in the south have also set up their own security outfits namely Amotekun in the West and Ebube Agu in the East, as well as Vigilante groups in the northeast, all in the bid to check the growing insecurity.

The major challenge in 2022 remains the daunting security crisis that started in the northeast and has now metastasized spreading across the northwest and northcentral. Even the southern parts are also reeling in kidnapping and communal conflicts and farmers-herders clashes. Also in the east, the growing separatists movement had led to several clashes between security forces and members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Thus security remains on the front burner. No doubt, the armed forces have made a lot of sacrifices, but it's important for the military to come up with a surefire prescription to rout out both the bandits and the Boko Haram insurgents. The insurgency which started in the northeast in 2009 has dragged on for more than a decade and has further spread across many parts of the country. Add to this the mindless kidnapping, which is an offshoot of banditry.

Thus government must come up with adequate security measures to protect students in schools. The closure of schools as a result of banditry is a great setback for education, especially in the north. Banditry should not deter pupils from having access to education. It is government's bounden duty to ensure the safety of schools. A special force may be needed to check this growing menace to education development. The safe schools initiative should be reactivated to ensure security in schools. This way schools should be properly fenced and special anti-kidnapping forces deployed to secure the schools. Plus, technology should be deployed to curb this menace as well.

According to a UNICEF survey in 2018, Nigeria has 13.2 million out-of-school children, the highest in the world. And this has been further exacerbated by insecurity, which has further compounded the existing situation with several schools closed and thousands of pupils forced to stay at home.

Much of the security issues also stemmed from farmers-herders conflicts and clashes in most parts of the country. This situation was not helped by the federal government's inflexible and unhelpful stance on cattle routes for the herders, which has further stoked the fire of communal clashes. Generally, these clashes which shaped the narrative in 2021 would need to be addressed so that the herders can settle down in ranches to tend their cattle and also produce meat and milk in a more conducive and hygienic condition. Clearly ranching is the solution to the conflicts arising from the nomadic lifestyle of herders.

Due to urbanization, the nomadic lifestyle of herders is no longer sustainable. In some respects, rapid urbanization has led to encroachment on grazing reserves and cattle routes. To resettle herders, government should enlighten them and encourage them on the advantages of settling to a sedentary lifestyle and to see reason why they should give up their nomadic lifestyle that's not conducive for the modern society. Going forward, a ranching policy meant to change the herders old ways of living can only succeed when the herders key into this new initiative. In addition, all stakeholders should be carried along to make this policy a success.

Apart from security, soaring prices of foodstuffs have further pushed Nigerians to the brink. This has led to an increase in poverty. Inflation had reduced salaries and wages to nothing. Agriculture has been affected by banditry, driving farmers from their farmlands, and with bandits collecting taxes and levies from farmers. All this had helped drive prices of foodstuffs to the roof. Generally, banditry is a threat to food security.

Most of all, this is a critical year for the Buhari administration. Now on it's last stretch to a home run, the administration will reach its terminus in May 2023, hence the need to consolidate on all ongoing projects and to bring them to a logical conclusion. Which explains why the President has rejected the insertion of 6,576 projects into the budget by the National Assembly, while reducing monies meant for critical infrastructure.

Even though 2022 approptaiation bill has been signed by the president, he has promised to return it to the National Assembly (NA) for further amendments. This is to ensure that critical infrastructure do not suffer a setback due to reduced funding. The president is worried over the inclusion of 36.59billion Naira new schemes by the legislators, saying it negates principle of separation of powers.

Of special importance is the economy. It remains a major focus because of the need for diversification and the urgent need to create more revenue sources for government and to also create employment. It is important to encourage the digitization of the economy in order to grow e-commerce. A host of stimulus packages is required so as to grow the economy and thereby reduce the high level of unemployment currently being witnessed. There should be further consolidation in the non-oil sector, particularly ICT, solid minerals, agriculture, which has the chance to create numerous job opportunities for the youth.

As it is, the current year is a prelude to the presidential contest due in 2023. Yet the APC led administration has not resolved the core issue of restructuring which is dear to the hearts of the various ethnic nationalities that have clamoured for devolution of power to the constituent units. Many are of the view that the slow pace of development process can partly be blamed on the excessive concentration of powers in a federal behemoth.

In this connection, the security issue calls for multilevel policing which the Governor's Forum and the ethnic nationalities have jointly clamoured for. Speaking on Arise Television interview, Chairman of the Governor's Forum and Governor of Ekiti State, Dr Kayode Fayemi revealed that the states virtually run the police and also pay allowances of policemen, except for the payment of salaries. Perhaps the Buhari administration can still muster the will to revisit the issue of restructuring before its final exit.

Also this is a season of politics. Both the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are not in the best of shape. APC is still being run by an Acting Chairman, Mai Mala Buni who is also the governor of Yobe State. The party's convention has been fixed for February. On it's part, the PDP held its convention last October where Dr Iyorchia Ayu emerged as the consensus candidate for chairman after a bruising challenge for the party's leadership. Both parties riven by various factions will need to put their houses in order to prepare for the upcoming elections in 2023. Expectedly, the battle for the presidency will be a two horse race between the two mega parties. The so called Third Force has failed to fly.

On the cards are off season gubernatorial elections slated for Osun and Ekiti states. Both the APC and PDP are expected to square up in the coming elections. This will test the capacity and preparedness of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) to pull off the upcoming presidential elections in 2023.

Still on politics, there's a strong clamour for a southern president in 2023. The southern governors’ forum has already asserted that zoning should be respected since it's the turn of the south to produce the next president. However, the northern governors’ forum has responded to say zoning is not constitutional. In the southeast, there's renewed agitation by the zone for the presidency. It is the only zone that has not produced a president. The zone's argument is that if the presidency should come to the south, it should be the turn of the zone to present a candidate for president.

On the other hand, there's the need to address separatists agitations one way or another. IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu's trial will either be resolved by the courts or solved in a political fashion. This will require nimble political footwork from both the government and stakeholders in the southeast.

Nonetheless, issues that led to such separatists causes should be tabled and addressed genuinely so as to give the southeast a sense of belonging and also wean the separatists away from their chosen agenda. Also, the case of Yoruba political enforcer, Sunday Adeyemo aka Sunday Igboho who has since metamorphosed into a defender of oppressed farming communities in the southwest should be resolved amicably. A child of circumstance, Sunday Igboho has grown in stature and turned an agitator for Oduduwa Republic, due largely to the rising insecurity in the southwest. Government, by acts of omission and commission, has given both Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo a larger-than-life stature and image.

Another sticky issue is petroleum subsidy. It is like a ghost that continues to dog every administration. There are fears that petroleum subsidy may be removed in the new year to enable government concentrate on providing financing for critical infrastructure. On this, both government and labour will likely lock horns as this would further impoverish workers and reduce their purchasing power to nothingness.

The thing is removal of subsidy will translate to higher pump price of petroleum products and also lead to spiraling prices of goods. Already NLC is primed for protests in 36 states on January 27 and will round it up with a national protest in Abuja on February 1 to draw attention to the anticipated removal of subsidy on petroleum products.

Government's failure or tardiness in fixing the refineries is a minus. Essentially, the importation of fuel haemaorrages the economy and also depletes scarce foreign exchange. The sad reality is that Nigeria is the only Oil producing country that still imports refined petroleum products. Six years after it came to power, government has no excuse for the non-functioning refineries.

According to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) president, Ayuba Wabba, government has expended about $9.6 billion on refinery repairs, Greenfield Refinery projects and even public investments in private refineries since 2012, yet government has failed to manage the refineries effectively. The NLC is of the view that government is trying to pass off it's own ineptitude and crass negligence to the masses by failing to ensure that the refineries work.

Furthermore, Mr Ayuba Wabba said part of government's failure was the reported loss of 200 million barrels of crude oil in 2021 due to crude oil theft, ageing infrastructure, poor long term investment outlay, poor security of our inland waterways and challenges arising from conflicts with oil bearing communities and hosts of oil facilities.

Meanwhile, the power situation remains critical. With about 17 months for the Buhari administration to make its exit, it becomes doubtful if the current administration would be able to fix the power challenge before it bows out. Though the government has initiated some critical power projects such as the Zungeru hydropower plant, among others. To increase the power grid, federal government signed a $2.3 billion agreement between the German government and Siemens AG to provide 25,000 megawatts (MW) under the Presidential Power Initiative (PPI). Two years after, the phase one of the project that ought to raise the electricity grid to 7000 MW by December 2021 is yet to take off.

Be that as it may, government needs to revisit the issue of border closures. The idea behind it was to checkmate proliferation of arms, petroleum smuggling and general smuggling of goods. However, border closure is a negation of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement. The border closures ordered in 2019 haven't served the purpose. In fact, it is a disincentive to trade and commerce in the continent. There should be free flow of goods across the continent, without let or hindrance. Therefore, the borders should be reopened without further delay.

In many ways, 2022 promises to be an exciting year as we begin a countdown to a fresh start and a new beginning in the coming year.

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