As the year 2012 rolls to close, indications are rife that President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan still have many rivers to cross. Amid the numerous challenges that laid bare ahead of his administration were the daunting tasks of how to tackle the recorded robust economy which has failed to generate employment, his perennial frosty relationship with lawmakers, the lingering fuel crisis and its attendant subsidy imbroglio, instilling sanity in the judiciary as well as calming the nation’s troubled political waters. CHARLES ADINGUPU exhumes chain of events that make up landmarks in the year under review.
For most Nigerians the year 2012 may not be a pleasant one as it opens with fuel subsidy strike which almost crippled the economy. For them, it was a decoy by the Federal Government to systematically but gradually implement in full scale the withdrawal of subsidy from petroleum products. The labour movement, civil right groups and others embarked on a nationwide strike, ostensibly to compelled the federal government to rescind its attempt of subsidy withdrawal.
However, after almost a week of muscle flexing, the President buckled under the whims an caprice of the people. Though beyond the parity of no victor no vanguish, some tremendous success was recorded as the aftermath of the strike gave birth to series of committees inaugurated to critically examined the petroleum sector and the rots which pervade the entire system.
The fallout of the exercise opened a can of warms which caught most Nigerians by surprise. The inherent fraud perpetrated by both marketers and government officials was exposed. Those behind the dastardly deal, the mafias in the petroleum sector were all unmasked to the chagrin of the masses. At last Nigerians heave a sign of relief that wind has opened the anus of mother chicken in public.
Ironically, both those who engaged the oil racketeering as well as members of the various committees and the culprits sustained injuries. As the Farouk Lawan headed committee was left in a limbo after oil magnate, Mr. Femi Otedola alleges that the erstwhile committee chairman, Faroukd Lawan asked and collected some huge amount of money as bribe.
The economy in perspective
Over and again, the Coordinating and Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala has repeatedly echoed that the economy is growing steady yet it has failed to generate employment.
According to statistics released by the Federal Bureau of Statistics by the third quarter of the year, shows that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was pegged at 6.5% while the inflation rate currently stands at 12.3%. Also, the Bureau stated that the employment rate as at today stands at 23.9% while foreign debts still hang in the balance. Although, other indices that will translates the economy into a robust one seem to be missing in the economic permutations.
Banking sector in disarray
The hang over of the endless banking reforms embarked upon by the central bank governor, Mallam Lamido Sanusi took a different dimension in 2012 as the acclaimed Islamic economist, threw the banking sector into yet another bout of near impossible reform with the introduction of a cashless economy. This was greeted with stiff opposition from most economists and even ordinary Nigerians who saw the move as a calculated attempt to further strangulate the economy which is yet to recover from the last blows dealt on banks and bankers as well as the economy generally.
For a very long time, the argument persists as to the modus-operandi of the cashless economy. According to the critics, how can this be actualised when the necessary apparatus are yet to be put in place. At the neck of time, the CBN Governor however, said that the exercise will be introduced systematically with Lagos belling the cat.
However, at a time, it appears that the people seemed lost in the CBN Governor’s thought process of bank reform as everything in that sector seems stagnant. The unprecedented casualties recorded in that reform continues unabated as most of the banks axed continued to embark on regular retrenchment of their workforce – probably to justify Sanusi’s claim that they were moribund.
Though, for most economic analysts, the CBN Governor may not be working in tandem with the President Jonathan’s transformation agenda whose major thrust was among others, provision of employment for Nigerians. Amid the dwindling fortunes of the nation’s economy, the bank sector seems to have recorded an impressive profit margin in the year under review.
A situation, most Nigerians described as petals of ironies. Additionally, the CBN governor attempted to introduce N5,000 bill which was vehemently opposed by lawmakers as well as Nigerians. The argument was that such bill will further ignite inflation that’s growing at geometric progression. Besides, most Nigerians were of the opinion that previous experience of introduction of higher denominations did not help the economy in any way possible.
The Nigerian Stock Exchange
Though the Nigerian Stock Exchange no doubt remains the hub-nob of the economy, was reported to be in comatose with the attendant crisis that feasted on it. The question of the helmsman of the once boisterous stock market remains a subject of prolonged debate among committee members raised to examined the rot in the market in the year under review.
However, Ms. Arunma Oteh, an Amazon who has trained her fingers for war took the then committee chairman, Hermane Hembe to task as he eventually submitted himself for trial over allegation of bribery levelled against him by Ms. Oteh. Since that time, things have never been the same for the stock market woman as other lawmakers have been calling for her sack and other allegations levelled against her.
The Federal Government through its mouth piece, Dr. Okonjo-Iweala announced a relief package for some selected stockbrokers in order to stimulate the stock market once again and buoyed the entire economy.
Again, the federal government stoked the fire in the power sector when it announced complete privatisation of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN). The workers feared on their pension benefits and embarked on an industrial action.
Soldiers were deployed to man the various major power plant scattered across the nation to avoid possible vandalisation of properties. However, at the end, amicable truce was reached between the workers and the federal government. The Federal government perfected plans for a Canadian firm to take over great chunk of PHCN.
Despite the epileptic supply of electricity, consumers were forced to pay high tariff. Unfortunately, conflicting figures were reeled out on daily basis by the federal government as the megawatts of electricity available. As at today, nobody can say precisely the available megawatts generated as Nigerians and industries still groan under irregular electricity supply.
Committee upon committees
From the beginning of 2012, various committees were raised to probe the exigencies that greeted most of the sectors of the economy. At some point, the committees sitings became a theatre of the absurd as accusations and counter accusations were hurled at one another.
For most observers, committee membership became another way of the Federal Government trying to mend scores with perceived political enemies.
A politician who would not want his names in print, said that it became obvious that in 2012, most of the committees raised were overlapping one another – “there were conflicts of functions, interest and opinions were divided over the outcome of the committee reports,” he said.
There were spurious allegations that committee members mismanaged funds to the tune of billions of naira without corresponding result to show for their efforts.
The flood disaster
Nigerians also witnessed flood disaster almost analogues to that of the days of Noah. Almost every part of the country was exposed to the danger of being submerged by a ranging flood which caught the people unaware. But emergency committees were raised by both the federal and affected states government to caution the devastating effects of the flood. Lives were lost, properties running into billions of naira were destroyed and fraud were reported in various committee raised.
The monster, corruption
For most Nigerians, corruption is reported to be at its peak in the year under review. The rot in the petroleum sector with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) fingered as conduit pipe for siphoning the nation’s money with the aid of some masked mafia in the sector.
The immediate past President was quoted as describing the President Jonathan’s government as the most corrupt administration that ever was. But above all these name calling, were government officials and other Nigerians caught in the corruption web by the EFCC without conviction.
The Nigerian judicial sector recorded series of landmark crisis, in the year under review but notable among them were the sack and controversial call for the reinstatement of Justice Ayo Salami.
Also, the indictment and prosecution of former Delta State Governor, Chief James Ibori by the London Crown Court was a blanket indictment of the Nigerian judicial system which is smeared by irregularities. Additionally, President Jonathan in his bid to make good his promise of women presence in his administration, sworn in Justice Aloama Mukhtar as the Chief Justice of the Federation.
Moreso, the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA) elected a new president and at the sametime, urged the federal government to begin a cleansing exercise of the judicial system which in the year under review has raised more questions in its adjudication of justice to the Nigerian people.
The political spectrum
The year 2012 recorded unprecedented political landmarks as no fewer than seven governors were re-elected. The President made good his promise not to intervene in the political process. This led to the unquantifiable success recorded by the opposition parties in different states in the federation, thereby leaving the PDP to swallow the bitter bill of defeat.
Also, some measure of success may have been recorded in the attempt by the opposition groups to form a wholistic alliance to over-run the PDP in the 2015 general elections.
However, the year 2012 ended tragically with the sudden death of Kaduna State Governor, Patrick Yakowa in an helicopter crash alongside ex-Chief of Security Adviser to the President Patrick Azazi in Bayelsa State.
Frosty relationship with lawmakers
The President must be prepared this new year to build a lasting relationship with the lawmakers in order to move the nation forward. It’s an established fact that the cat mouse relationship between the Federal Government and the lawmakers almost paralysed the nation as passage of bills became slow and budgetary matters were not accorded the desired urgency it deserve.
In their bid to flex muscles with the executive, the legislators had sat on bills of utmost exigencies. The endorsement of the 2011 and 2012 budgets were test cases.
But the President, according to political pundits has failed to use his political will to attend to issues of national importance whenever he is being arm-twisted by the lawmakers.
At some points, some Nigerians saw the trivialities in the lawmakers’ action, especially as regards the sack of Ms. Arunma Oteh, the Stock Exchange helmsperson.
According to the legislators who felt slighted over Ms Oteh perceived recalcitrance as to how she humbled their colleague, however, hinged their settlement with President Jonathan on the sack of Ms Oteh. Beyond such mundane issues, the President must devise a more comprehensive approach in building a harmonious relationship with the lawmakers.
De-registration of political parties
Just when the political space was beginning to experience some resemblance of peace, the Professor Jega-led Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) threw spanners into works when he announced the de-registration of some political parties. For INEC, those political parties failed to meet the stipulated requirements of registered parties over the years.
According to the INEC boss, those political parties were formed by politicians to collect money from the government for their non self aggrandisement. Though available statistics showed that some of the parties so de-registered did not have offices in major states and even in Lagos. To most Nigerians, they are very unpopular.
Professor Jega’s action attracted sharp criticisms from politicians and Nigerians alike. Reacting to the development, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, a reputed politician, said political parties don’t grow overnight but grow systematically until they attain a peak.
But for Pastor Chris Okotie, former presidential aspirant, that INEC only fabricated the story to justify its action. The pastor turned politician accused INEC of only dancing to the tune of its paymaster, the PDP ahead of the 2015 general elections.
His words: “How can a political party in its own way defines the modus-operandi of its election as INEC is only gravitating towards the yearning of the PDP. Also, INEC is only trying to parochialise the nationalities of the political parties.”
Also Tunji Braithwaite, INEC has only embarked on exercise in futility as it lacks the statutory powers to de-register his party. “We don’t need INEC’s registration to participate in elections.
However, for most political observers, it will be wise for affected political parties and their members to proceed to a competent court of jurisdiction to challenge the legality of their de-registration rather than quoting one section of the constitution or the other to back their argument.
“All parties must obey the status quo until the court decides otherwise,” said a right activist who would not want his names in print.
Prof. Jega has stated that he drew his powers from the Electoral Act but luminaries were of the opinion that the Electoral Act cannot be superior to the Nigerian constitution.
However, as the year 2012 goes to roast, President Jonathan must allow the music to continue to play unhindered if meaningful progress must be achieved.