Every day I've got to hear about unemployment and people starving (Jonathan Davis)
Being out of a job can erode people's confidence and their sense of possibility (James Surowiecki)
Working lives are for the state to influence. Unemployment makes people unhappy. So does instability (Polly Toynbee)
Continued from Part 1
ifty three years after the so called independence, we still have major problems in Nigeria, and life is in the least normal there. Things like rampant corruption, high rate of unemployment, which the youth are suffering from, and the high inflation rate are some of the chronic conditions we have to solve immediately, to make life meaningful for the majority of the citizens. The country can’t meet its budget projections, we got unbearable unemployment and a federal government that is out of control, and unfortunately, Nigerians still can’t take back their country from the misrulers. For this writer, there are no other greater enemies of Nigeria but corruption, insecurity, unemployment, excessive debt, economic stagnation and other things which keep our country in these critical conditions. Today, after 53 years of independence, millions of Nigerians increasingly suffer from unemployment, poverty, hunger, disease and the destruction of their families at a rate never experienced before in our history. In Nigeria, using the words of Jonathan Sacks (1948), “A perfect storm is in the making: financial uncertainty, economic downturn, rising unemployment and a future that looks less clear the more we try to fathom it”. And still, many find a reason to celebrate a fake independence! No doubt, government at all levels in Nigeria are too free with our money.
Indubitably, this crisis of high rate of unemployment is having a profoundly damaging impact on the lives of those bearing the brunt of it. For those unfortunate enough to experience it, unemployment is a tragedy. And, for the Nigerian society as a whole, the productive capacity of a significant portion of the labour force is unutilized. It’s unfortunate that at 53, Nigeria stands at the crossroads of leadership failure, corruption with impunity, crushing national debt, rampant cases of armed robbery, threat to life and property by hoodlums, and sometimes, high handed security personnel, insane business regulations, lack of infrastructure and staggering national unemployment, and all these are pushing the nation to the brink. In Nigeria, using the words of Dennis Kucinich (1946), “We have weapons of mass destruction we have to address here at home. Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Unemployment is a weapon of mass destruction”.
Our leaders can claim whatever they want, as their reason for seeking political power, but, Nigerians are not hearing what they want to hear from them at all levels. From the president down to the local government chairmen, Nigerians want to hear our leaders say, and meaning it, in the words of King Abdullah II of Jordan (1962), that “What keeps me up at night is poverty and unemployment”, and, in the words of Nicolas Sarkozy (1955), when he was the French President, that “I want to wage war against illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, unfair competition, communitarianism, delinquency”. Things are worse that there’s now a recriminative feeling in the land; in that the senators, who are parts of Nigeria’s problems because of the jumbo pay they receive for doing nothing for Nigeria and its people, condemned the Nigerian ruling class, that they also belong to, for the problems of Nigeria. The Citizen of September 27, 2013, wrote that “The Senate yesterday (Sept. 26) berated both past and present leaders for failing to alleviate all the woes bedeviling the nation. Most of the Senators who spoke while contributing to a motion entitled: “Congratulations to Nigeria and Nigerians on her 53rd Independence Anniversary” lamented on the poor living conditions of many Nigerians and decay in infrastructure. Many of the Senators attributed the slow pace of development to sentimental and parochial inclination of the nation’s leaders both past and present, while others blamed the nation’s lack of development on corruption. The Senate President, David Mark, urged leaders to look inwards to ensure a nation where unemployment, suppression and underdevelopment would be history. Mark called for a return to the Old National Anthem, saying it represents a way forward for the country. The Senate President said: But here we are today worried about our dear country. We are genuinely worried and concerned. This cuts across party. It has nothing to do with party at all. Because we are Nigerians who are interested in the development of our country! If you go back memory lane and you recall our old National Anthem, “though tribe and tongue may differ, in brotherhood we stand. The question to ask is: Do we stand in brotherhood today? Or we have completely changed. Are we our brothers’ keeper? Because if we are our brother’s keepers, we would not do some of the things that we do in this country. If we are our brothers’ keepers then we would love our neighbours as we love ourself. There is none of us here, nobody, no Nigerian, no human being that would hurt himself. But we do those things that hurt other Nigerians. Some on different scale, some on large scale and some on small scale!
Senator Ita Enang said there can be no true independence when the nation still imports every product including tooth picks and refined petroleum products.
Senator Gbenga Ashafa lamented that both the abundant human and material resources have been mismanaged over the years by both past and present leaders.
Senator Mohammed Magoro noted the military were invited by politicians to intervene in governance. According to him, now that civilians are in charge, we should be seen to do more and better. He lamented that Nigeria at 53 can barely provide 3,000 megawatts of electricity.
Senator Edobor Uzamere said the country can only be great if individual ambitions for greatness give way to genuine desire for national greatness”.
The different bands of morons in governments at all levels are pernicious to Nigeria; they’re only interested in what enters their pockets, and not how Nigeria can survive and prosper as a nation. Imagine what Nigeria has earned from oil since 1957, when the exploration and exportation of oil started. Cross-check the amount earned and what’s obtainable on the ground. Everything seems incompatible! What’s wrong with Nigerian leaders? Why don’t they have morals? What have they put down for the future generations? Norway saves 40 percent of its oil wealth for the future generations; the mid-eastern countries have judiciously invested their oil wealth to benefit their present and future generations. Nigeria leaders seem to be having the conscience of a crocodile and the morals of a pig; they are not better than the armed robbers and kidnappers combined. Now, Nigeria can’t fulfil its budgetary obligations due to price dips, sabotage and oil theft, because, our leaders, through the years, have been plan-less, thoughtless and careless. Oil accounts for more than 85% of Nigeria's export earnings. Why is it so in a country that's blessed abundantly? Nigeria is in trouble, as the Punch wrote that The Nigerian government's gross revenue dropped 42% month-on-month to N497.98 billion ($3.1 billion) in July, because of disruption to oil production caused by thieves hacking into pipelines. An online financial website, Platts McGraw Hill Financial, stated this in its report: "The gross revenue of N497.98 billion received for the month (of July) was lower than the Naira 863.02 billion received in the previous month. This was due to continuous theft of crude oil, leakages, pipeline breaks at various terminals, high-pressure compressor failures and repair work. Africa's top oil producer was forced to withdraw N115 billion from its oil windfall savings account to provide money shared out between Nigeria's 36 states to pay public workers and finance capital projects for July. Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (1954), said in July that Africa's top oil producer's revenues were dwindling due to the loss of about 400,000 b/d of its oil production to pipeline sabotage, illegal bunkering and large-scale theft. Data released by Nigeria's central bank so far this year, has shown that oil production has been lower than the 2.53 million b/d assumption used by the government for the purpose of revenue calculation in the 2013 budget. Oil theft, known in Nigeria as illegal bunkering, is a major reason the country has been unable to produce anywhere near its installed capacity of around 3.2 million barrels per day”.
Nobody knows the quantum of crude oil we produce per day in Nigeria. Also, the problem with our oil export is that nobody knows the quantity of oil we export everyday; nobody keeps the record of who lifts our oil on daily basis. Tell me why a country that started exporting oil since 1957 can’t keep statistical records of its oil export in this modern century? Nigerian oil has made so many individuals, including foreigners, rich, while majority of the citizens, including the owners of the land from where the oil is gushing out, are living in abject poverty. For instance: this writer is from Abia State, a littoral state (oil producing state), and sees the Owaza and Afam flaring stations, on clear nights, from his home, but, haven’t gained anything from Nigeria.
Just as Thomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote that "There are two distinct classes of men in the nation, those who pay taxes, and those who receive and live upon the taxes", this writer still wonders why the states and local governments of Nigeria are folding their hands waiting for the allocation from the federation accounts instead of diversifying their economic bases, as the African Examiners of Tuesday, September 24th, 2013, wrote that:
There was a mild drama today (Sept. 23) at the venue of federation account allocation committee meeting in Abuja as finance commissioners across the states protested the non-appearance of minister of state for finance, Ngama Yerima, who is also the chairman of the committee. The finance commissioners from the 36 states of the federation have converged on the invitation of the minister of state for finance to clear the backlog of all outstanding allocations. The atmosphere became tensed when the accountant general of the federation, Jonah Otunla, told finance commissioners that the minister was not in the country and there was no fund to share to the states and local governments. Speaking with Journalists, the chairman of finance commissioners forum, who is also the Ebonyi State commissioner for finance, Timothy Odah, said they have met for the second time within the month of September and the meeting has been stalemated, while states and local governments interest have suffers set back because of the lack of funds. Odah explained that the way out of the impending economy crisis in the country is payment of all outstanding allocations to states of the federation and local governments. Meanwhile, as a result of stalemate of the Federation Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) meeting on Monday, the federal government released N548.393 billion as the Statutory Revenue for the three tiers of government for the month of August. According to a statement from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) the disbursements is an improvement over the figure of N497.984 billion as made available at the Federation Accounts Allocation (FAAC) meeting in August for the month of July allocation.
How can Nigerian leaders at all levels create the needed jobs if they don’t diversify the economy? The oil sector can only offer limited job opportunities, mostly professional jobs, and oil is not everywhere in Nigeria to serve as a dependable source for large employment opportunities (offering employment to different people in different places in Nigeria). Another problem with the oil sector, in the words of Evo Morales (1959), the President of Bolivia, is that “Globalization creates economic policies where the transnationals lord over us, and the result is misery and unemployment”. Foreign countries are gaining more from Nigerian oil, than the owners of the oil, through their multi-nationals operating in the sector in Nigeria such as Shell, Mobil, Chevron, Agip, Elf, Total etc. (more on oil in succeeding parts of this article). Although many states and local governments can’t diversify their economic base to help in creating jobs for their respective citizens, and still, they can’t even afford to pay their workers regularly. What good is it that someone is working, but, can’t fulfil his or her basic financial responsibilities, because, their employer doesn’t pay them as at when due. When asked recently why is it that states find it difficult to pay salaries each time the Federation Account Allocation Committee fails to meet to share money? Delta State Governor, Emmanuel Uduaghan, answered by concurring that “Our economy is still oil-dependent and that is why some of us are saying look, let us build our economy beyond oil. Because most states depend on this allocation to be able to pay salaries - don't forget that even the Federal Government is an arm in this revenue sharing issue - they all have challenges of paying salaries. I am not sure the Federal Government has paid salaries for this month (September) now, because no sharing has been done. Many states have been unable to pay salaries because for the past three months, what is being given to them is not enough. That is where the challenge of paying salaries is coming from as far as the states are concerned. As regards the position today, the Federation Account Allocation Committee meeting, especially for this month is suspended indefinitely. At least no meeting has been fixed. Why and what is the problem? The problem is that there is not enough money available on the table to be shared. I think the pressure should be on the agencies that are collecting money on behalf of the federating states; the NNPC being one of them that is collecting revenue. Of course, we have others like the Federal Inland Revenue Services, the customs and the rest. So, Nigerians should be asking that these monies that are being collected by these various organs, where are they?”
In the words of Michael Nutter (1957), the Mayor of Philadelphia, (only in other climes, but, unfortunately, not in Nigeria) “What the mayors (local government chairmen) care about is, 'How can I get money to invest in the infrastructure in my city? How do we put people back to work, lower the unemployment rate, provide for job training programs? How do we make class sizes smaller and make investments in our children from an education standpoint?” The government at all levels in Nigeria stifle economic development that can help private individuals and companies create jobs. When the officials at all levels embezzle the money they should have used in developing their areas of authority, then the private sector will not be empowered to create the needed jobs . When the roads are bad, when the electric power supply is erratic or epileptic, when the officials allow the importation of everything, even the ones which can be produced in Nigeria, then, the business men will not be encouraged to establish companies, even small scale ones, which can employ people. As in the words of Eamon de Valera (1882 –1975), “Unemployment is due to the large import of goods from other countries. The Government haven't used the powers which they have for the benefit of the country”. When goods imported are cheaper than the ones produced locally, then, what’s the sense of producing them in Nigeria? A fact is that Nigerians love anything foreign, so if the imported goods, even of inferior quality, are cheaper than the ones produced locally, they will rush to buy the imported ones, and that’s put a lot of companies out of business.
Just as Guy Kawasaki (1954) wrote that “It's easy to say that entrepreneurs will create jobs and big companies will create employment, but this is simplistic. The real question is who will innovate (them)” The government at all levels make no efforts to aid struggling local industries so that they can thrive and expand, thereby creating more jobs. Governments (at all levels) don’t give grants and tax breaks to some of the struggling or ailing industries to make it possible for them to stay in business, rather, the government officials tend to stifle those industries out of existence by sending their personnel there to collect one levy or another everytime. Dick Cheney (1941) was right, for once, when he said that “If you're going to increase taxes on small businesses, you're going to slow down the extent to which we're able to reduce unemployment. So I think it's a serious mistake; the wrong time to raise taxes”. Just an instance: According to the Guardian: The face-off between the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) and airline operators over the imposition of new tariff by the aviation regulatory body has deepened, as the airlines are planning to take their services out of the country in a bid to remain in business. Some of the operators described the fresh imposition of $4, 000 and $300, 000 by the NCAA for foreign registered and Nigerian carrier per trip as not in tandem with global practice and challenged the agency to name countries where such taxes exist. They accused the NCAA of scaring people away from investing in the country and described the fresh fees as "outrageous, multiple taxation and illegal."
If the airlines leave Nigeria; they leave with so many jobs to other countries. Then, who will suffer it all?
To be continued!
THE THANX IS ALL YOURS!!!
Continued from Part 1