By Jaye Gaskia
I will begin with my conclusion; for better or for worse, the year 2014 is going to be decisive for us as a people, as a nation, and as individuals. Not because it is the year of the centenary of the name and entity called Nigeria [for the people who now make up Nigeria, have a rich history dating back centuries]; but because of the unfolding processes in the last decade and a half [at least since return to civil rule in 1999], and the projections that can be made from the contending trends.
On this note, and with respect to unfolding processes and projections that can be made from them, let me quickly also clarify that I am no soothsayer, I am not ordained into any priesthood [whether of the Abrahamic religions or of the Africanist religions and traditions]; nor am I a seer or palm reader. And since I am not an ordained priest, I do not qualify for the recipient of the talent of discerning spirit either!
I am just an ordinary active citizen, who has taken an active, even proactive interest in following up on, and practically engaging in words and in deeds, with our unfolding history as a people.
Now that we are done with the necessary disclaimers, let us get back down to business. How have we fared as a nation and country, as well as citizens of this potentially great country, over-burdened with an inept treasury looting ruling elite? How did we fare in 2013? For as the saying goes, the indications of what every Sunday will turn out to be, will usually be found in how Saturday has unfolded! Put differently, and borrowing from the Kegites club: ‘sunkrumus iranmus’ – that is ‘taban sukun, asi manriran’ – ‘even when we cry, we still see through the film of tears’.
How did we fare in 2013? Let the figures speak for themselves!
In no order of priority here is the record; 144th out 177 ranked countries in Transparency International’s Global Corruption Index – one of the 25 most corrupt countries in the world! According to inestigations by Punch Newspapers over just two years, between July 2010 and June 2012, the country lost N5tn to reported cases of corruption; that is at a Monthly Public Theft/Treasury Looting Rate of about N220bn, bigger than the 2014 budget proposals of both Ekiti and Enugu states combined for instance!
We are one of the countries with the least friendly tax administration system globally, ranking 170th out of 189 countries profiled, dropping from 155th out of 185 countries in 2012.
Life Expectancy in Nigeria at 52years is the 17th lowest globally; while our Literacy rate at 61% ranks 184th out of 194 countries profiled! This speaks volumes of the comatose nature of the state of public education in the country. It is little wonder than in 2013 we witnessed debilitating strikes right across all categories of tertiary education for instance – COESAU, was on strike before ASUP – 3months, and ASUP before ASUU – 6 months!
Unemployment topped 24% in 2012/2013, a steep rise from 9% just 10 years earlier in 2003! Youth unemployment on the other hand topped 54% according to the latest survey [the 2012 National Youth Baseline Report] by the NBS! What this means is that more than one in two youths between age 15 and 35 are unemployed; period!
Poverty rate on the other hand rose sharply from 54% in 2004 to 69% in 2013, making Nigeria perhaps the only country in the world that met in reverse the Millennium Development Goal target of reducing extreme poverty by half by 2015! In Nigeria, rather than reduce poverty, we grew poverty instead by a factor of 50%; A very historic feat indeed by this pillaging bands of pirates rampaging through our collective homestead!
Yet in the midst of this gruesome reality for over 112 million Nigerians who live in poverty, according to government’s own official statistics; we are also the nation with one of the highest gini coefficients that is one of the widest gap between the rich and the poor in the world! We have the Richest African, who is also the 30th richest man globally as a Nigerian, as well as the richest black woman as a Nigeria1 We have a situation where the top 10% richest Nigerians own and control 41% of national wealth, while the bottom 20% only own and control 4.1% of national wealth!
With such excruciating poverty and unbearable unemployment rates, do we require rocket science to understand why crime and criminality [kidnapping, armed robbery] and armed violence [insurgencies and militancies] have become secure means of livelihoods and become rife and rampant?
On top of this as icing on the cake of ruling political elite profligacy, External Reserves dropped from$49bn in December 2012 to $43bn in December 2013; with the steepest decline of $3bn witnessed between August 14th and December 17th 2013! And this is in contrast to the projections of the Ministry of Finance in January 2013 that the external reserves will grow to $50bn by the end of 2013!
If this sounds amazingly preposterous, then what about the fate of the Excess Crude Account [ECA]? It again dropped from $9bn as at December 2012 to under $3bn in December 2013.
The combined impact meaning of this is that quite from the funds appropriated in the 2013 appropriation Act [the 2013 federal budget], a sum of about N4.8tn; additional $12bn was withdrawn from both the external reserves and the ECA and spent by all tiers of government in 2013! This $12bn in excess unappropriated funds is nearly N2tn; and yet the budget still manages to underperform with capital vote underperforming by more than 40%!
How can this be economically and scientifically explained? Even if we accept the spurious reason of shortfall in funds accruing to the Federation account, the withdrawal of N2tn from these accounts should have more than compensated for any shortfall. And let us be clear, there couldn’t have been any shortfall.
One of the reasons being given for the phantom shortfall is crude oil theft! So inspite of the combined operations of the JTF and the Joint Ex-Militant Command [JEMC], through the multibillion Naira annual pipeline security and surveillance contract; inspite of the laughable combined efforts of these joint forces, crude oil theft rate managed to double from 200,000 barrels per day [nearly the size of South Sudan’s entire national output at 245,000 barrels per day] in 2012 to 400,000 barrels of crude oil per day in 2013; leading to revenue loss in excess of $18bn in 2013, up from $9bn in 2012.
Yet inspite of this colossal loss of revenue that could potentially have improved the revenue profile of the country, even revenue from the crude oil and gas not stolen by the organised crime empires, under the protection of the JTF and JEMC, is stolen and under-declared by the state within the state, that archetype of impunity, the NNPC! The result being that the country continues to be serially bled, raped and short changed by this pre-historic monster called NNPC under the tutelage, protection, and guidance of the country’s political leadership at the highest level – the Presidency!
The sole purpose of these intensified rate of grand theft and colossal revenue seepage and treasury looting, is to enrich certain very highly connected individuals and their cronies and hangers on; as well as to prepare the war chest for the electoral battles and permutations of 2014!
Notice that we always witness steep pikes in corruption and treasury looting, on the eve of every general election. So in 2010/11 preparatory to the 2011 general elections subsidy payments sky rocketed from N300bn in 2009, N600bn in 2010 to N2,7tn in 2011 – precipitating our January Uprising of 2012!
And now preparatory to the 2014 general elections [for elections will be held 6 months before the swearing date], crude oil theft has spiked from 200,000 barrels per day in 2012 to 400,000 barrels per day in 2013!
Let us examine a few more figures before we conclude with the task that history imposes on our generation with respect to the national liberation and social emancipation of our country and people.
Although we are ranked 37th out of 187 countries with respect to GDP [still a very long way from our Vision: 20:2020 aspirations of one of the 20 largest economies in the world by 2020] by the IMF; we are nevertheless also ranked 137th out of 187 countries in the Global Business Competitiveness Index by the World Economic Forum [WEF]; and 153rd out of 187 countries profiled in the Human Development Index [HDI] by the UNDP! On top of these, we are in the bottom 20 countries on the Global Hunger Index [GHI].
And in relation to the power sector, as at November 2013, we have a combined installed generating capacity of 10,396MW [a far cry from the 40,000MW required to power an economy that can rank among the 20 largest by 2020]; Nevertheless, available capacity stood at 6,056MW, but with actually available generating capacity fluctuating between 2,000MW in 2012 and 4,200MW in 2013! And this is official! The major reason for the difference between installed capacity and actual generating capacity [that is what is responsible for the shortfall from 10,000MW to 4,000MW] is put down to gas supply problems and transmission constraint; euphemism for grossly inadequate grid transmission capacity! The last time the National Grid was enhanced and transmission capacity boosted was in 1987!
So what is the prognosis for 2014? It does seem that as the country continues to lurch from one disaster to another [it’s gravest disaster being the fact that it is saddled with a congenitally inept, historically incompetent, and monumentally corrupt and treasury looting ruling elite]; some of the observed trends in 2013 will likely worsen, not improve.
As the desperation of the grand political battles unfolds and intensifies, the rate of pillage of the treasury is also likely to increase, and along with it the impunity of public office holders.
Into the mix of the increasingly antagonistic political contestations between and among the contending factions and fractions of the ruling elite related to the general elections, will be thrown the desperate maneuvers around the National Dialogue process.
It is this mix, this potentially turbulent political terrain that will define, shape and give character to the year 2014 as it unfolds. This political turbulence will be compounded by increasingly unbearable unemployment, and intensifying intolerable poverty.
It is this mix that will provide opportunity for ordinary citizens, the subordinated and exploited classes to intrude into the historical process, and make a a grand entrance unto the political arena as they did in the January Uprising, but even more decisively than was possible with the January Uprising. It is in this sense that the uprising next time may actually unfold in 2014. It is upto us to make of the historical opportunity, much more than we were able to make of the opportunity during the January Uprising.
Our mantra and objective must be to get organised and mobilised and be ready to contend every square inch of the unfolding terrain in 2014 with the ruling class and all its factions and fractions. Our independent voice must not only be heard, our autonomous action must be part of the elemental processes that will shape the outcome of 2014.
On this note I can now wish you a very fruitful, rejuvenating, transforming and emancipatory New Year.
(Follow me on Twitter: @jayegaskia & [DPSR]protesttopower; Interact with me on FaceBook”: Jaye Gaskia & Take Back Nigeria.)