Over the last couple of years, under the watch of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), Nigeria’s macroeconomic indicators have been heading south and the economy on a free fall without anyone seriously doing anything to put a wedge to it slow down or reverse the trend. It is an economy characterised by high levels of unemployment and underemployment, a fast-depreciating naira, peak levels of inflation, a rating as the poverty capital of the world, fleeing foreign investors, reduced capital importation and a Gross Domestic Product in recession and when it grew, it grew at rates below the population growth.
How did we get to a convergence of all these negatives? What role has insecurity and Buhari’s disposition play in bringing us to this extremely precarious economic situation? This discourse seeks to throw light on the nexus between insecurity and the depreciating economy.
The Nigerian security failure has become a basket case where the state no longer has a monopoly of the deployment of force and violence. This state attribute is now shared with a lot of non-state actors, from Boko Haram to insurgents and sundry criminals. Yes, there is criminality across all nations of the world, but the difference is the lack of capacity in the Nigerian state to investigate, prosecute and punish crime, which brings perpetrators within the ambit of the law. Rather, we have reached a stage where state governments and even the Federal Government negotiate with terrorists and pay ransoms even though they come out publicly to deny such. The terrorists deploy high profile, religious men, as their speakers and public relations agents; these agents know where the terrorists are living, visit them at will to get their own version of how the Nigerian state has wronged them and later call press conferences to inform Nigerians of the position of terrorists.
These terrorists have taken steps against one of the largest contributors to our GDP, employment, and value addition. They have grounded the agriculture sector. The March 2021 Consumer Price Index Report of the National Bureau of Statistics indicates that the spiralling inflation has hit a four-year high at 18.17%. The report also indicated the spike in food inflation from 21.79% recorded in the previous month to 22.95%. Farmers have been murdered, maimed, raped, and severely dehumanised by terrorists for the offence of going to sow and reap. These terrorists are joined by persons pretending to be herdsmen to unleash violence and mayhem with or without provocation. And the President and his security team watch in amazement, confusion, paralysis, and we expect the economy to grow. A people who to a great extent were food secure are now facing food insecurity.
At the outset of this crisis in places like Benue State, what was the reaction of the President? He took sides with the attackers and killers and even his spokesperson, Femi Adesina, warned Nigerians to either be ready to die or give up their ancestral lands. Various kidnap incidents happen and when the victims are released after negotiations, the federal security agencies go to sleep and even try to take accolades for the negotiations, as against taking out the terrorists. With forests populated mainly by shrubs in most parts of the North, why is it difficult for our air force to use aircraft and drones to locate these criminals and take them out? Why do we wait until they strike before we start a discourse on how to engage them? The terrorists in the forests of Niger State who hit the headlines with their devilish acts in the last three months, who is engaging them and what are we waiting for before we take them out? Until they strike again?
No foreign or local investors will continue to pour money into an economy where the security of lives and property, which is the basic obligation of government, is not guaranteed. When investors are struggling to take out their profits from a country due to foreign exchange challenges and all the story coming out of the same country is about incessant killings, kidnap, daredevil terrorism, how would other investors who may be considering investing in the country react? Invest or flee? An economy operating with multiple exchange rates which encourage roundtripping is not a candidate for increasing investments or capital importation. When the foreign exchange crisis deepens at a time of a boost in the price of crude oil, which is our major foreign exchange earner, then there is an unexplained voodoo economic practice, understood only by the members of the minority cabal.
When governments engage terrorists and pay them hundreds of millions or even billions in ransom for kidnap and other crimes, we are sending a very wrong message to the youths and the terrorists. The message is simple: aggravated crime and terrorism pay. What manner of incentive is that? Negative or positive incentive for persons to enter or exit crime? When a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is an avowed supporter and facilitator of terrorism and the President still retains him in the cabinet, we expect economic growth and investments from societies that abhor terrorists? Yes, Isa Pantami, minister of communications and digital economy, has been a strong supporter of terrorism. This brings to question the essence of the screening of ministerial appointees in the Senate. What value does it add to our governance considering that a man with such antecedents scaled through the ministerial screening?
Who wants to invest in a country where its secret police are reported to have given a security alert to the police and other security agencies about an impending terror attack and all the agencies wait, take no mitigating or preemptive steps until the attack happened as predicted? Yes, this is what happened in Owerri, Imo State when the police headquarters, the correctional centre and other government facilities came under siege. Do we believe that investors and other world citizens operate at our level which glorifies imbecility in governance? Why has Buhari not brought any of his appointees and officials to account for the Owerri mayhem? Security and governance must be about performance based on indicators. No one should occupy a position or office and fail to perform its basic functions and still be retained in that office, especially when his dereliction of duty has led to the loss of lives and property.
Where are the investors who will invest in a country where the President, at the peak of insecurity, enters the presidential aircraft and heads to a foreign country for medical treatment without handing over power to the vice president and stays away for over two weeks? He goes for medical treatment at the public expense without Nigerians who pay the bills knowing what is wrong with him. How can we get security when the acting Inspector-General of Police is appointed through a procedure that conflicts with the requisite law regulating such appointments? Lawlessness begets and encourages lawlessness.
Buhari still has an opportunity to turn the country’s security and economy around. But who will tell him? I do not think he cares, if not, he would have heard the cry of Nigerians. It is evident that he surrounds himself with members of the Hosanna choir who tell him that all is well!