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Nigeria At A Crossroads: Moment For Lamentation And Ambivalent Reflection

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Nigeria At A Crossroads: Moment For Lamentation And Ambivalent Reflection
Prof. Samuel Zalanga

By Samuel Zalanga
Nigeria is currently facing serious challenges and concerns. While I have not retired yet, and I am not living in the African continent, there is no day that for some minutes I do not reflect on the pain and suffering that millions of people are going through on the continent. Yet in spite of all of this, one often comes across news of especially African youth and middle-aged persons’ accomplishments in spheres that are very spectacular and deserve not only recognition but affirmation. Indeed, spectacular accomplishment is metaphorically speaking like a pedagogy of hope. Without hope, given the challenges confronting many ordinary people in Africa, the people can easily end up in a state of despair. It is in this respect that any serious discussion about nation-building and human development needs to begin by among other things asking these two questions: what does it mean to be human and what do we owe each other for being human? Whatever your religion, ethnicity, or nationality, these are important questions that are foundational to building a just and fair society for all because we know very well that without identifying what constitutes our shared humanity and building our society on that philosophy, we may end up creating what some economists call the “tragedy of the commons.” The tragedy of the commons happens when each of us in pursuing his or her narrow selfish interests and totally ignoring the common good, contributes immensely to creating a social environment that becomes similar to the Hobbesian state of nature where life is nasty, brutish, and short.

I have been prompted to think deeply about Nigeria, my country of birth for several days recently, after I came across a piece of reflection written by Professor Toyin Falola, one of Nigeria’s most renowned scholars and public intellectuals in the diaspora and in Africa. In the piece of reflection that he wrote, he commended some Nigerian youth for their spectacular accomplishment in completing their doctoral studies in reputable universities in the United States and Britain and starting new chapters in their lives as professionals, who will immensely contribute to the betterment of the human condition. As part of the reflection, Professor Falola’s message went beyond congratulating the youth to address some deep issues of concern that he has been ruminating on with some degree of ambivalence and lamentation regarding the state of affairs in Nigeria today. One of his lamentations is that there are many African scholars in the diaspora who would like to retire back in Africa so as to use their golden years to give back to the continent in a special way by mentoring cohorts of the younger generation, but they are unable to pursue that for numerous reasons. For instance, at the current moment, the situation in Nigeria is so complicated and unstable that many in the diaspora find it too risky to retire back home in spite of their sincere desire to do so. This is really a painful situation in the sense that despite living abroad for so many years, there is a way in which “home is home” and it is different. Professor Falola is lamenting the state of affairs in Nigeria where the country produces “brilliant folks who cannot go back and work” in the country.

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Professor Falola’s concern about the need to contribute to nation-building and elevating the lives of those at the bottom of the Nigerian social pyramid was further extended by Bishop Kukah. Bishop Kukah commented on Professor Falola’s reflection and analysis by calling on all of us to ensure that the accomplishments of Nigerian youth “can, should and must effect a change” and that change “must happen in our lifetimes.” He further observed that “we can and must reverse this sad run of events on our continent.” While each African country has its own struggles in the area of nation-building and elevating human development, Bishop Kukah asserted that “Nigeria has become the theatre of all that is wrong with our people.”

The concerns that the two of them expressed touched my heart and soul deeply. When I was an undergraduate, even though I grew up in the social margins and periphery of the Nigerian society, I still had great hope for the progressive transformation of the country, especially when I came across the goals of Nigeria’s Second National Development Plan to build: “a united, strong and self-reliant nation; a great and dynamic economy; a just and egalitarian society; a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens; and a free and democratic society.” The two goals that I find deeply penetrating are building: “a just and egalitarian society; and “a land of bright and full opportunities for all citizens.” How things turned out to be where they are today in Nigeria really bothers me deeply given the visionary nature of the goals of the Second National Development Plan. I know that I am a mortal human being, and my time here is limited. So, I am concerned about how others and myself can make the best use of my lives to contribute and make a difference in some way for the benefit of present and future generations in the country.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Democracy And Challenges Of Nation Building

We cannot change the whole of history, because if we try to do that as Nietzsche said, we will be overwhelmed, and chances are that we will end up becoming very cynical because there are too many things that can disappoint us and maybe even feel a sense of despair. But we can do our best by creating a niche and making a difference in that area within our limited time and with our limited resources. The little we do in the chosen niche, can inspire others, and give us a relative sense of satisfaction that we have at least tried to make a difference in touching the lives of some people, especially those on the other side of history. Some economists argue that even if we cannot have a revolutionary change in society, if every day, every one of us will decide to engage in a random act of generosity to another person, the cumulative effect of that will make the world a better place. When one engages in a random act of generosity, it means he or she does not know the beneficiary of the generous act and they are not likely to ever meet again. So, the goal of the generous act is not to win a vote or create a hierarchy of power, but to make a difference in the lives of fellow humans because of our shared humanity.

When I was an undergraduate in the mid-1980s, I read one newspaper commentary in Nigeria where the late Chief Moshood Abiola and Professor Wole Soyinka celebrated their birthdays. The commentator in the newspaper made the point that the two persons come from more or less the same generation, but they interpreted their life history differently as they celebrated their birthdays then. The late Moshood Abiola celebrated the great accomplishments and achievements of his generation, but Professor Wole Soyinka according to the commentator titled his birthday speech then, “Wasted Generation.” The commentator argued that they come from the same generation, but they were using different yardsticks to evaluate their accomplishments and so they consequently arrived at different conclusions.

READ ALSO: The Nigerian Condition: The Way Out (4)

Personally, I agree with Professor Soyinka about my own generation, — I completed my undergraduate studies in 1986. I always ask myself what has my generation done to really improve the lives of the “Wretched of the Earth” in Nigeria? Many of the members of my generation in Nigeria today are occupying positions of power and authority broadly speaking and are indeed the ones looting the national treasury and creating conditions that will not allow Professor Falola and many like him to return to teach in Nigeria after retirement. I recalled how while we were undergraduates, my generation criticized the Nigerian elites/ruling classes and we went on strike several times in protest against some policies adopted and implemented by the then Federal Government of Nigeria. I do not know how other people feel, but personally, I feel too much obligation to humanity, particularly the people of Africa and Nigeria. Growing up poor in rural Bauchi State, without subsidized education using public money in Nigeria, I could not have had access to undergraduate education. On a critical note, the public money used to educate me was money that every Nigerian citizen was equally entitled to.

The economic logic that informed how the public money was used then to educate us was that the money invested to educate my generation will train and equip us to become professionals and future leaders, so that we can contribute to nation-building and the promotion of inclusive economic development that would benefit all Nigerians, including those that were denied access to the money used to educate us, even though they needed good roads, rural clinics, healthy drinking water, and good electricity supply, etc. But after being trained with public money, my generation became empowered and used its bureaucratic and institutional power to act in a predatory manner to enrich themselves, their friends, and relatives at the expense of the masses. Some of us out of despair explored ways for leaving the country and we left. The elites and ruling classes from my generation further focused more on promoting differences among ordinary Nigerian citizens instead of focusing on our shared humanity. For millions of ordinary Nigerian citizens, it was double jeopardy. White people treated Africans badly, especially during the colonial period because of their assumption of being a superior racial group, but today, my conclusion is that the problem was not simply being White or European, but something about the moral and ethical cultivation of the human heart and soul. Simply because someone is Black and African (i.e., not White, or European), if he or she has no moral and ethical cultivation, the person can be as oppressive as the Europeans were to Africans, if not worse. The naked fact is that even though I am a Black person who grew up poor, if I have power and privilege over other people, my being Black and growing up poor does not automatically immune me from abusing or oppressing other people and treating them like trash. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we totally ignore this kind of moral and ethical imperative, which calls for the need for all of us in humility and sincerity to interrogate ourselves.

As a doctoral student in the United States, I came across a book that contained the names of all people from various African countries that received a scholarship through USAID to come and study in the country. They attended prestigious universities. Their names were listed by country. Some of them graduated long before I finished my teacher’s grade three certificate studies in Bauchi State. I remember how overwhelmed I felt after going through the list of those from Nigeria who received their education in prestigious universities in the United States. I wondered then whether there was anything new I would learn and do to make a difference in Nigeria after completing my doctoral education when there was a list of these highly educated people who were back in Nigeria, but the country did not change for the better in spite of their spectacular educational accomplishments.

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From then on, I started thinking about the fact that we need more than just education to transform Nigeria, Africa, and the world. Later, I became interested in the history and evolution of Western civilization from the time of the ancient Greeks, through the Roman republic and empire, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment, modernity, postmodernity, globalization, hyper-globalization, etc. There is indeed a huge amount of erudite scholarship and wisdom that has been accumulated in the evolution of Western civilization (as in many other civilizations) during all these historical periods, notwithstanding the effort by some Afrocentric scholars to dismiss everything that is not African in origin. The conundrum is that when one looks around today, in spite of all the reservoirs of erudite scholarship and wisdom in the Western tradition, we are still dealing with a lot of “crap” in terms of human development. If people like Auguste Comte will resurrect today and see that despite all the availability of scientific knowledge and industrial-technological achievements, there are still people who go hungry even in advanced nations, he would be very disappointed and realize that creating a just and fair society requires more than just having scientific knowledge and industrial-technological accomplishments. One just needs to pay attention to the kinds of debates going on among some of the elites in the Western world with regard to how they perceive people who are not of Western ancestry as inferior beings. “De jure” racism is gone, but “de facto” racism is still used to perpetuate injustice and oppression.

All these have made me to experience pessimism of the intellect, although I try to balance that out with optimism of the heart. If knowledge per se will change the world for the better and for all, we should be in a kind of New Jerusalem by now or “Dar es Salaam,” and not be dealing with some of the issues we are dealing with such as in Nigeria where life has become nasty, brutish, and short for many innocent people. Thus, I am now at the point of asking myself, what do we need to add to knowledge (broadly speaking) as such, so as to be sure that it will create a more just and fair society, or a just and egalitarian society and a land of bountiful opportunity for all citizens? Is it wisdom, courage, sacrifice, authenticity, compassion, etc., etc., that we need to add to our knowledge? Surely, the kind of moral and ethical cultivation of a people and society is very important in this respect as they phenomenally shape the kind of social institutions that emerge in a society. Two people or societies with the same kind of excellent knowledge (scientific, religious, and technological) will use it differently depending on the kind of moral and ethical compass that informs their vision for humanity and the common good.

READ ALSO: Rebuilding Nigeria’s Broken Walls: From Emotional Patriotism To Nehemiah Complex

I know and agree that knowledge and technological-industrial resources are necessary for development, but they are obviously not sufficient; neither are they the only things that are needed to create a more just, fair, and egalitarian society for all. Moreover, the more I explore this conundrum and concern, the more I am scared, reflecting even on myself that the modern and postmodern world we are living in is built around a human conception and caricature known as “homo economicus.” In our world today, one is directly and indirectly conditioned to acquire the social orientation and personality of homo economicus as the quasi-character quality necessary for success. This homo economicus is, however, at his or her core, a kind of human being that is so self-absorbed, and even when he or she is in that state, instead of admitting such moral limitation, if not a failure in some cases, in humility and sincerity, he or she uses certain strategies, to come up with a sacred canopy that covers the self-absorption and narcissism. The self-absorption and narcissism now become sacralized through the backdoor. Thus, in many contexts, the desires, and aspirations of homo economicus have gradually gotten a seat at the inner sanctum of many government and religious institutions, where instead of scriptures or ethics interrogating life and disciplining it, crude human desires inspire a reinterpretation of scripture and social ethics to fit the Zeitgeist of homo economicus. This notwithstanding, there is an attempt to cover or hide all this with a sacred canopy as many religious teachings are used to dehumanize others and promote hatred and prejudice. Frankly, I am worried not just about Nigeria but about the fact that humanity has no clear direction or destination as Patrick Deneen says based on his discussion and analysis of liberal democracy in “Why Liberalism Failed.”

While I am committed to doing my best and working with others to make a difference in some way, I still feel terribly overwhelmed that my youthful idealism and hope for Nigeria, Africa, and the world will not be realized in some way up to the time I will die, and this is truly and sincerely painful. The ideals of pursuing and creating a more just, fair, and egalitarian society for all may not be realized, and if this happens, it is not because of a lack of knowledge or scientific and technological resources per se, but because some people have chosen to use their knowledge and power to create private pleasures, which result in public pain or plight. Even if personally, I have accomplished something, and assuming I own the tallest building in Abuja, Nigeria, I feel my generation has failed the country. I pray that the younger generation does not repeat the mistakes of my generation. I will always remember the French philosopher who said, metaphorically speaking, there is no growth without death, just as no seed will germinate, grow, and produce yields that become a great harvest without first dying. The world will not be a better place without us making some sacrifices. But what kind of mindset comes to terms with sacrifice not just for now but for future generations and for the common good? What kind of worldview and culture creates a social atmosphere among not just elites and the ruling classes but ordinary members of society also, to value and honor making sacrifices for the common good and humanity at large? This is my reflection and lamentation at this historical moment where Nigeria is again at a crossroads .

.Zalanga is Professor of Sociology,
Bethel University, Minnesota,
USA.
szalanga@bethel.edu

 

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Opinion

Professor Ayo Olukotun, My Eyuze

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Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof Tony Afejuku

 

By Tony Afejuku

My bosom friend, Professor Ayo Olukotun, a man and personage for whom I placed considerable respect, who died recently, was committed to mother earth last Friday. The ever-delightful Professor Kayode Soremekun, the immediate past Vice Chancellor of Federal University Oye-Ekiti pointed my attention to this in his tribute to Professor Ayo Olukotun symbolically captured in The Punch newspaper of Friday, 27 January, 2023. After reading his tribute on the very day Ayo Olukotun normally appeared on the back page of The Punch as a five-star columnist, I nodded my head in painful pain. Kayode Soremekun’s tribute essentially captured aspects of our friend’s public life, and I gave some long thought to our departed humanist of humanists’ hurried committal to the brown earth of Ibadan which was not near his homestead, geographically speaking, in Egbe Yoruba of Kogi State. Was an injustice done to him in his prompt burial in Ibadan of cultural and poetic seven hills?  Perhaps circumstances of his demise compelled his remains to be committed to mother earth in Ibadan of JP Clark’s “broken china in the sun.” (How my memory is failing me as a result of my emotional state!) The one who was supposed to get back to me for accurate information on and about the event did not when I was putting my words together. Another common friend and my friend’s course-mate at Obafemi Awolowo University (formerly University of Ife, Ile-Ife), did not divulge this information in his similarly public picture of my friend in his The Guardian’s roaring tribute of Tuesday, 31 January, 2023. I am of course referring to Barrister Alade Rotimi-John who was one of the early bringers of our gone hero’s demise to my poor attention. The other person was Suyi Ayodele, Tribune’s Tuesday ace columnist.

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Before Soremekun’s and Rotimi-John’s well-crafted tributes found me, Professor Olu Obafemi’s great elegiac poem of immortal diamond had galloped and gasped to me. The poem by our National Laureate, a Nigerian National Order of Merit winner, clearly made its mark on my mind. The privately circulated poem to a select audience was one in which Professor Olu Obafemi tried successfully to crowd Olukotun’s career with conquest in Olukotun’s years and years of eventful events. I never knew that Obafemi knew Olukotun until I read his afore-said poem entitled “Ayo, Omo Olukotun, Odabo!”

Professor Olukotun’s “Yagba homestead” and ancestry and scholastic biography right from “Titcombe College, Egbe in Kogi State” up to the “forest of Knowledge” in Ile-Ife and beyond as “hero of the Globe” were/are movingly and movingly rendered in the poem. But why was the dazzling adventurer “Okun, Son of Jege” committed to the red soil of Ibadan when his eyes finally and eternally closed? I tried in vain to reach Professor Obafemi, another worthy friend, and  my friend’s close kinsman, for an answer. All I got was prophetically rendered in the poem as follows: ”It is doubtful that this adventurer into/the forest of knowledge/Shall return to these shores again.” Another common friend, Professor Ademola Da Sylva, who knew Ayo in their Ife days, was similarly moved by Obafemi’s elegy.

    Professor Ayo Olukotun was no Professor Ayo Olukotun to me. He was simply to me – until he breathed his last breath Eyuze as I was to him Tone Baba. We first met in 1977 in Zaria now in Kaduna State. We were lecturing colleagues (Graduate Assistants – later Assistant Lecturers) at Ahmadu University. He was my tightest pal. Our other tight friend was the sociologist/criminologist Basil Owomero (a fellow Graduate Assistant) from Ozoro town in Isoko-land in Delta State. Basil died a pretty long time ago after earning a doctorate in Criminology. Of the three of us I am the only living one now. As I am reflecting on this confusion of thought, emotion, and vision of our then years a void stares at me pitilessly. The vastness of the then years of youthful youthfulness up to when we left Zaria at different times blurs and time becomes hollow. I am in the moment of writing remembering only one or two or three things of the happy and unhappy events we shared. 

    I remember that Eyuze Baba brought Adebayo Williams and me together. Adebayo Williams is now a Professor of Literature and a novelist and columnist of no mean repute. He and Eyuze were together as under-graduates in those years of tempestuous student unionism of patriotic patriotism when Eyuze made hay and held sway in Ife as President of the Students’ Union. But it is not this I am recalling and remembering. I am recalling and remembering… I am recalling and remembering Bayo Williams’ visits in his ever-faithful Passat to Eyuze (and then eventually to us) from Kaduna (where he was teaching at Federal Government College and at the same time working on his Master’s degree in Ife as we were doing in Zaria) when we dreamed dreams of Nigeria and our tempestuous love affair with your country my country our country. We dreamed the dreams of writing and of how to help this country to constitute ethical or moral or whatever science and knowledge of growth to shape it and humankind. Each of us endeavoured to adopt the method which would make him the peerless master of positive criticism of our country. Then we really had and held lofty dreams of enlightened patriots as young as we were with the whole world before us. Until he died Eyuze did not betray the dream and did not deviate from its anatomy.  Our man was a stammerer and stutterer in private conversations but in his public speeches and lectures he was a brilliant and very brilliant orator and analyst of acute dialectical proportions who always was an orator’s orator. He always reminded me of the late famous socialist novelist Professor Festus Iyayi of the University of Benin (who famously led the Academic Staff Union of Universities in the military era that in hindsight is hundred percent better than this civilian democratic regime of rotten rottenness). And in Professor Olukotun’s shining and shiny writings you would not notice any stammering and stuttering. Let me refrain from citing numerous examples. Eyuze was simply and more than simply audaciously brilliant and courageously courageous. He stood on a very high moral ground which his elegant writings are evidence of.

    What else am I remembering? When I was leaving Zaria finally, with my all-what-not, Eyuze accompanied me to the Mid-West. This attests to the measure of our tight friendship. We spent three days together in Sapele and Warri before we travelled back together in order for me to tidy up my disengagement from Ahmadu Bello University. I can write a treatise on the pure geometry of our healthy relationship. But it is immaterial now. Yet let me say this. In later years, in much later years, after we were fully committed to marital duties – with the vagaries of our politics and economy not helping matters – the cruel wind and breeze of boisterous Nigeria roped, wrestled, beat bare our friendship but we never ignored the generosity of our closeness through ample calls. In one of those calls I related the gloriously memorable one night I spent with him in the Lagos Daily Times estate/quarters he was staying in then as an editorial staff  member of that once famous global newspaper before he was a faculty member of University of Lagos. He enjoyed it all then. I can imagine how he and our elderly GG Darah, who is also now a Professor, cordially and graciously – and very warmly, welcomed me to the editorial office when I visited Kakawa! Or is memory failing me again? No, no, no.

    Is there anything further I want to recall about Eyuze? Of course, there are many more things to say about my kind and joyfully-minded Eyuze. But I must hold my breath here. In despair, of course. And my despair is not the vigorous pleasure of despairing. Our gone revolutionary humanist was every revolutionary’s humanist. He should not have left us now. But his time was surely up. I say this as a revolutionary mystic and peace activist – if you permit me to say so.

Afejuku can be reached via 08055213059.

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Opinion

Witch Persecution And Dream Experiences In Nigeria

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Witch Burning, Impunity And Abuses Linked to Witchcraft Beliefs In Benue State
Dr Leo Igwe

By Leo Igwe

The Advocacy for Alleged Witches welcomes the arrest of a young man, Joseph Friday, who allegedly murdered his father for witchcraft in Akwa Ibom. The development represents some of the best ways the police could help end impunity and beat back the tide of witch-hunting in the country. The suspect told the police that the father used to appear to him in a dream. He said that the father would hypnotize him before depositing a spell in his body. Mr. Friday said, “My Father used a charm on me; he appeared in my dream and hypnotized me. Whenever he appeared, something like a tortoise entered my body, and I would start to behave abnormally”.

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Akwa Ibom is one of the states in Nigeria where witch persecution is pervasive, and abuses linked to witchcraft beliefs are widespread. As in this case, many cases of witchcraft accusations are linked to dreams, mystical interpretations of dreams. It will take more than arresting suspects and perpetrators to end these savage acts.

In Akwa Ibom, people are taught to take their dream experiences seriously. They believe or are made to believe, that those who appear in dreams are witches or agents of the occult. People are taught that dream experiences are revealing; they disclose potential harm and harmers. So people believe that their dreams point to what would happen to them or their families. So, whenever a person sees someone threatening or attacking them in a dream, they confront, attack, or kill the person when they wake up. Some people have noted cases where they have seen people pursuing them with a machete, or pressing their chest in the dream. And they felt horrified upon waking up. People who see others in a dream prefer to expose and kill them before they wreak further havoc. People take the dream experiences as real-life experiences. Incidentally, this mistaken idea of dreams is real and dangerous. And as this case has illustrated, the mystical idea of dreams leads to horrific abuses.

To end witch persecution, Nigerians need to change their attitudes towards dreams. Nigerians should understand that dreams are natural, not supernatural phenomena. Dreams are a stream of images and sensations that well up in the mind whenever a person is asleep. They have nothing to do with witchcraft or magic as popularly believed. People dream because their brains are not dead. Dreams are rooted in thoughts and imaginations that the mind entertained while awake. It is grossly mistaken to attack or kill someone based on another person’s dream experiences.

Dr. Igwe is an executive director of the
Advocacy for Alleged Witches.

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Opinion

Where Did All The Money Go?

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Mike Hunder

By Mike Hunder

For eight straight years, the Buhari administration had been turning up the “no money” rhetoric.  Added to the puzzle, at a time when oil-producing countries were reaping sustained windfalls from high oil prices, at above $100 per barrel on average in 2022, following the Russia-Ukraine war, the NNPC made zero remittance to the federation account for most of the year. 

Now, a series of striking revelations have contradicted the administration’s “no money” claim, at a dramatic speed.  

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First, the Auditor General, in a 2022 letter to the Senate revealed that “a total of 17,877,705 barrels of crude oil valued at $1,020,969,281.12 (over one billion, twenty million dollars), were exported between 2016 and 2020, without proper records. This perhaps explains the non-remittance of funds by the NNPC into the federation account that characterized the administration. 

Second, things got so bad that, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, locked horns with NNPC over shortchanging the government on several occasions. In one instance, in June 2018, there was a standoff between the National Economic Council and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), when the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, pointedly accused the NNPC of short-changing the government.  She declared NNPC’s account to the federal accounts allocation committee (FAAC), “unacceptable” and asked that they render the full account of the “missing billions”!

What happened there after?  The “deep state” clipped her wings, with allegations that she forged her NYSC certificate. Three months later, she resigned, and life went on.

Another revelation came to fore on the floor of the Senate in December 2022. That about 100 federal MDAs failed to account for the sum of #1.9 trillion naira from 2017 to 2021, despite several invitations. More shocking, most of the agencies involved, report to the presidency. This included the State House, Presidential Fleet, Ministry  of Finance, the armed forces, Police, Accountant General office,  NEMA, Ministry of Defence,  Special Assistant to the President on Niger Delta Affairs and many others.

The fourth was a bigger problem than many first thought. The CBN embarked on unfettered “printing of money” for the Buhari administration since 2015, in repeated disregards of the laws. Under the CBN Act, “ways and means” facility (a code for printing money for government), should not exceed 5% of the previous year’s revenue of the government and must be paid within the financial cycle. Then again, Section 38 provides that, “ways and means”… must be refunded before the collection of another one.” Yet, the Buhari administration kept collecting “ways and means” from the CBN, without making a refund, in a zeal not seen before, hitting #23.7 trillion by December 2022.

When the Edo state governor, Godwin Obaseki, first spilled the beans about CBN’s printing of money for the federal government back in April 2021, the government denied it. Now, realizing that the “ways and means” account, cannot possibly be kept way from the public beyond May 2023, the president has sent a request to the Senate to give it a second life. Asking for a legislation to restructure it, and pass the repayment to future generations over a period of 40 years! Added to the puzzle, the request contained no records of how, when and what the #23.7 trillion was spent on.

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Until recently, the administration claimed that Nigeria does not have a debt problem, but a revenue problem. Then, it embarked on constant external borrowings, increasing external debts by 300% between June 2015 ($10 billion) and June 2022 ($40 billion), without a corresponding increase in foreign currency earnings.  Now, Patience Oniha, the director general of the Debt Management Office, when appearing before the House of Representatives to defend the 2023 budget, revealed that Nigeria does have an external debt problem. To the extent that Moody’s and Fitch downgraded Nigeria to a Category ‘B’ economy in 2021, the international market has closed its doors of borrowing against Nigeria, making it difficult for the country to borrow.

On top of this, fell the huge national debt stock, at seventy-seven trillion Naira.

Thus, an ugly spiral has developed: huge sums of money that are unaccounted for, constant external borrowings without a corresponding increase in foreign earnings – and a gigantic national debt of seventy-seven trillion Naira, completes the circle!

In the current climate, what is puzzling to people is, where did all this money go? Many who have defended the administration on financial prudence, now say they cannot go beyond this caricature. Then again, post-May 2023, things will probably get worse, before they get better. So, now comes the hangover! 

*Mike Hunder, an economist and business-training consultant based in Lagos, is a former General Manager at Union Bank Plc and Oceanic International Bank, respectively. He can be reached at: hundermike@mikehunder.com

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