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Dealing with Nigeria’s Development challenges

I am pained about the multi-dimensional and multi-faceted development challenges facing Nigeria today. Since independence in 1960, the country has been going round some sorts of vicious circle that tends to be leading us nowhere. More and more Nigerians are giving up on the nation and its crop of political leaders.

After the united Kingdom (UK) and other European countries scraped Nigeria’s natural resources to tumultuous levels, Brazil, Russia, China and even sadly, South Africa have even joined in the fray to economically colonise Nigeria!

The political leadership that is supposed to champion economic growth and development are currently lost in politics of acquiring state power for a few individuals and their cronies. It is issue of religion and ethnicity every day. The three majority tribes in Nigeria—Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba and Ibo do not care about one Nigeria as long as their kits and kin remain in dominating positions.

As of May 2019, Chinese companies had invested $20 billion in over 150 firms in Nigeria. The importation of Chinese-made consumable and manufactured goods to Nigeria has continued to underpin the two countries’ trading relationship as Nigeria is one of the largest and fastest-growing net importers of physical Chinese goods! Chinese and Malaysians have almost completely taken over Nigeria’s manufacturing sector, technological sector and even construction. All major construction work in Nigeria today are being undertaken by Chinese firms. From our airports, to railways and even roads. You then seat back and ask: Where are the Nigerian Engineers, COREN registered?
In the face of all of these is the issue of rising debt which the Olusegun Obasanjo administration made good effort to cure in 2005/ 2006. Rising debt and financial vulnerabilities in the developing world are fast turning into a formidable obstacle for sustainable development in general, and for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in particular. This was the conclusion of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in their recent assessment.

A note prepared by the UNCTAD Secretariat for the second session of the Intergovernmental Group of Experts (IGE) on Financing for Development which took place from 7-9 November in Geneva, Switzerland, clearly indicate a marginal increase of N560.009 billion, representing 2.3 per cent rise in the first quarter (Q1) of 2019 of debts. Nigeria’s total public debt, comprising the federal government, states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) debt stocks to N24.947 trillion or $ 81.274 billion as at March 31, 2019, according to data from the Debt Management Office (DMO). Indications are that the external debt also increased by N101.646 billion in three months. Total domestic debt also stood at $55,664.46 billion, representing 68.49 per cent. The federal government solely accounted for $42,721.68 billion or 52.56 per cent, while $12,942.77 billion (over N3.972 trillion) or 15.92 per cent of the domestic debt stock stood against the states and the FCT.

Unemployment is taking a new dimension in Nigeria. Massive unemployment across the length and breadth of the country leaves many pulsating for the future of our youths. Where and when will they get employed? Where are the businesses to employ them? Where is the enabling environment for the business to thrive giving the growing rate of insecurity occasioned also by the lack of jobs for young persons? What is happening to electricity in Nigeria? Why can we not have a 24/7 supply of electricity in Nigeria? Nigeria leaders wake up!
Nigerians are on a daily basis leaving the country in droves for several reasons. Nigeria remains a source, transit and destination country for victims of trafficking. According to several reports on this issue, human trafficking in Nigeria takes place across the borders and within.

In the case of cross border trafficking and unsafe migration, victims are trafficked to Europe through the central Mediterranean route, but also to Gulf States, the Russian Federation and West and Southern African countries for the purpose of both sexual and labour exploitation. Obviously, some were already recruited by their traffickers in the country of origin, while others might have started their migration journey voluntarily. Owing to the the absence of safe and regular migration channels, the vast majority of them fall prey to traffickers in transit countries, such as Libya, Morocco and are subject to all forms of human rights violations, including torture, rape, extortion, forced labour, sexual and labour exploitation amounting to trafficking and contemporary forms of slavery.

There is already the problem, of internal trafficking as well. Everyone wanting to take advantage of the other to survive. It is a fact that human trafficking mainly from rural to urban areas is rampant in Nigeria though often overlooked. This, mainly affects women and girls for the purpose of domestic servitude and sexual exploitation and men and boys for the purpose of child begging, and labour exploitation in street vending, mining and stone quarrying, agriculture and textile manufacturing.

These challenges notwithstanding, Nigerians must not rely on prayers and fasting alone for solution. Nigerians must move to hold elected leaders at all levels accountable in any democratic ways they deem fit. There is no country in this world that this sort of challenges can go on for several decades unchallenged.

Nigerians must rise up to the challenge because the Chinese, South Africans, Europeans and Americans will not solve our development problems. In fact, relying on them for any reasons would further compound our problems as a nation.

Nigeria must borrow a leaf from the Rwandan President, Paul Kagame. Rwandans were decimated in ethnic war between the Hutus and Tutsis which degenerated into genocide that saw the massacre of millions of Rwandese just like Nigeria was caught in the Civil War about the secession of Ibos from the rest of the country in the early 70s. Whereas our leaders are still fanning the embers of disunity and ethnicity, Paul Kagame has brought the Hutus and Tutsis together. He is turning the fortunes of a country into a shining example for other Africans to emulate.
Today, Rwandans have manufactured their own cell phones. They are not depending on China and the rest of the world for cell phones anymore. They have taken water and sanitation to an enviable level in Africa. They are self-sufficient in food production. They have 24/7 supply of electricity. Need I state more?

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Mr. Dan Owegie is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Edo State....

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