From email@example.com Thu Jan 13 14:02:51 2000
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2000 21:41:09 -0600 (CST)
From: IGC News Desk '#60;firstname.lastname@example.org'#62;
Subject: POLITICS-NIGERIA: A Glimmer Of Hope
LAGOS, Jan 11 (IPS) - Oil worker, Alagbo Thomason is optimistic that Nigeria, which is recovering from 15 years of military rule, will overcome its economic woes, and play a major role in international arena.
With democracy now entrenched in Nigeria, I think we will do
better, he says.
Thomason, who works for an oil company in the troubled oil-rich Niger
Delta region, says
if the government is able to handle the
situation in the Niger Delta by appeasing the warring youths instead
of fighting them, we may have permanent peace in Nigeria.
Nigeria, which achieved independence from Britain in 1960, is the 10th largest oil producer in the world, and the most prolific oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa. It currently produces 90 million tonnes of crude per year (2 million barrels per day) most of which it sells to international traders.
The oil is the single most important sector in the country's economy, providing over 90 percent of its total exports.
In the Niger Delta, youths have attacked Western oil installations, demanding oil companies and the government to supply them with schools, better roads and political representation.
Some of the answers to Nigeria's woes may lie in foreign
But foreign investors, too, do not appear to be keen to
invest, although a number of them have visited Nigeria since the
return of democracy (in May 1999), says Thomason.
To attract them, Thomason says the
government must as a matter of
urgency tackle the unrest in the Niger Delta and revamp Nigeria's
economy and ensure that the privatisation programme is properly put in
Although experts on Nigeria predict hard times for Africa's most populous nation, no Nigerian appears under any illusion that the year 2000 will usher in prosperity, peace or pageantry.
Adesina Sambo, a political scientist, told IPS this week that:
marked the end of 16 years of military rule in Nigeria and the
restoration of democratic rule. It's been some seven months since
civilian administration took over the reins of power at different
levels of government.
The performance of these administrations could be used to project
the political outlook for Nigeria in the year 2000, says Sambo, a
senior Lecturer at the University of Lagos.
One of the highlights of parliament include the removal of Salisu Buhari, Speaker of the House of Representatives on grounds of false claims of age, while his colleague, Evans Enwerem, President of the Senate, was sacked for incompetence.
Since their removal, at least six speakers of Nigeria's 36 state parliaments have lost their positions, but not their seats, while a couple more are under threat.
While critics like Sambo may attribute Nigeria's political woes to the teething problems of a young democracy, the ordinary Nigerian appears accommodating to the government of President Obasanjo.
Nigeria's economy is still in doldrums. The Naira is weak, exchanging at 104 to the US Dollar, worse than in the dying months of the military government of Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar, which ended in May 1999. Services have been paralysed, the cost of production has gone up and unemployment has remained at an all time high of more than 10 million.
But Tayo Fakiyesi, an economist in the Nigerian commercial capital of
Lagos, told IPS this week that
there are improvements in terms of
Investors have better hope, says Fakiyesi, a senior lecturer at
the University of Lagos.
He cites the case of uncleared goods in warehouses. The Manufactures
Association of Nigeria (man) recently estimated that its members had
unsold goods worth six billion naira (about 60 million US
The uncleared inventories have vamoosed in the past few
months, Fakiyesi says.
If you have confidence in tomorrow as the manufacturers have shown,
existing resources can be utilised. That in itself creates more jobs
and a boost in the horizon, he says.
He urged the government to embark on information dissemination
will turn the focus of Nigerians from politics to the economy.
Nigerians need to see that an increase flow of consumer items will
improve production needed for growth, he says.
Until we have a complete re-orientation that the market can solve
its problems, when policy makers stop leaping before they look and
denounce the concept that government is omnipresent and omnipotent,
this country will not grow, Fakiyesi warns.
He also calls on the government to divest Nigeria's economy.
should we continue to spend dwindling resources on public sector
enterprises when the economy can be dominated by private sector
investment. No sane country believes government is everything, he
Fakiyesi calls for the privatisation of loss-making parastatals such as the Nigerian telecommunications (NITEL) and National Electric Power Authority (NEPA). Businesses have lost billions of dollars due to the inefficiency of the two government-owned companies.
Nigeria, with an external debt of some 32 billion US Dollars, has some 700,000 allocated telephone lines, a far cry from the expectations of the International Telecommunications Union for a nation of 110 million people. Rarely have these lines been functioning at all times.
Last December, President Obasanjo told senior officials of NEPA, led
by the Minister of Power and Steel, Bola Ige that:
it is tantamount
to irresponsibility if we all sit here and claim to be serving the
people and we are unable to give them electricity.
To improve the standard of living of its people, Fakiyesi argues as did Sambo that government must engage the civil society in the re-birth and rejuvenation of Nigeria in the next millennium.
He argues, for instance, that the threat by the Nigerian Labour
Congress (NLC) to call a nationwide strike if government deregulates
petroleum pricing shows that
labour does not understand the
dynamics of globalisation and that the worker will be better off in a
You must bring the civil society into the government
wavelength, Fakiyesi advises.
The civil society played a significant role in the exit of the
military from political centre-stage in Nigeria, says Sambo.
According to him, the combative posture of civil society groups during
the dark period of military rule in Nigeria should shift to reflect
the new democratic fervour.
These groups should assume roles that
are more in tune with democratic governance such as the concern with
accountability and transparency, says Sambo.
He argues that
much freedom has been in the air since the exit of
the military. The feeling is palpable and Nigerians everywhere bear
testimony to this fact, but it is freedom that has also been stretched
sometimes to its brink, inevitably putting undue strain on the
country's nascent democracy.
I allude here specifically to the spate of ethnic violence
perpetrated under the aegies of nationality groups such as the O'dua
People's Congress, Egbesu etc. Democracy had been good for the upsurge
of hitherto quiescent social forces. But the upsurge also portend
danger for Nigeria's nascent democracy, he says.
The spate of violence in the Niger Delta appears to have abated enough to allow the export of Nigeria's fourth delivery of liquefied natural gas. Tension is still rife in the region.
The unrests also call into question guarantees under the constitution,
regarding revenue allocation.
The 1999 constitution remains a
disputed document on account of its military origin, says Sambo, a
member of the 24-member committee which coordinated the debate that
gave birth to the document.
Positions vary on what to do with the document, some favouring
significant modifications of the document through amendment while not
a few favour the jettisoning of the inherited document and the
convening of a sovereign national conference to fashion out a new
constitution, he says.
Also threatening Nigerias's unity is religion which has assumed more political dimension.
Religion has been used to test aspects of the political foundation
of Nigeria, he says.
The federal basis of the country has been
invoked as the excuse for instituting Sharia as the legal order in
some states of Nigeria.
The Sharia issue is strictly speaking not a matter of legality but
politics, Nigeria's peculiar politics of brinkmanship, he says.
Sharia, a law derived from the Holy Koran, has been introduced in a number of states in the predominantly Muslim north of the country.
It is unlikely that the problems which have confronted Nigeria's
democracy in the past seven months will wither away in the coming
year, Sambo says.
Their management, however could very well be
the indicator for how Nigeria will fare.
On a brighter note, there is an unmistakable reversal in the pariah
status of Nigeria since the advent of democracy, says Sambo.
But others, hardest hit by Nigeria's ailing economy, are
Salaries still don't get paid regularly by some
government agencies, the threat of retrenchment always looms, there is
no hope of any wage increase and the quality of life has
worsened. Filth, crime and insecurity still rule the streets, says
Georgina Nwaokolo, a government employee in Lagos.
Nwaokolo, a mother of four, says:
My children resumed school today
(Jan 10). The struggle for transportation, what to eat and wear is
still very much with my family. Illness seems a crime, even at
government hospitals, where personnel still expect a tip for doing
their jobs. Medicines are not always available - frankly speaking
nothing has changed since the military left in May 1999.