By Chioma Gabriel, Editor, Special Features,
Cult activities, kidnapping and robbery are beginning to gain grounds in Nigeria. Killing and maiming of innocent people have continued unabatedly across the states. Research reveals that scores of young men and women lose their lives daily to ritualists, kidnappers and other criminals. The social media and newspapers are replete with scary stories of crime of various dimensions being committed across Nigeria.
The situation appears worse with the current economic recession in the country. Nigeria’s economy has slipped into recession and inflation is already at an eleven-year high of 16.5 per cent. Nigerians are bearing the brunt.
Hunger is ravaging the land
Not long ago, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said that about 110 million Nigerians were still living below poverty line despite the policies of past governments to improve their welfare. The Vice President stated that the policies were wrongly formulated and, as a result, did not have direct impact on the people”, he said.
“This is the main challenge. When you look at the economic and social policies, and you look at the level of illiteracy in parts of the country, some are extremely bad and some with cases of about 80% or 90% of children out of school, and other cases of unimaginable decayed infrastructure.
“Governments have not been accountable to the people, otherwise policies should have roots in the real conditions of the people.” Osinbajo pointed out that some past planning, policy formulation and budgets were not accountable to the people, stressing that, in the past, there have been “policies that don’t seem to have solutions that truly reflect the understanding of the question of poverty in Nigeria.”
An estimated 60 million unemployed persons, representing nearly one-third of the country’s population, are seriously endangered. This situation makes mockery of Nigeria’s so-called vision of becoming one of the 20 leading economies in the world by the year 2020, and also threatens national security . The nation seems to be sitting on a keg of gunpowder likely to explode at any time with devastating consequences.
The unemployment situation is worsening as thousands of graduates are churned out from tertiary institutions yearly to besiege those already hopelessly waiting for employment and roaming our streets searching for means of earning a living.
Graduates are piling upon graduates and this mortgages the nation’s future. The enormity of unemployment challenge which has become a colossal one – a socio-economic affliction of great proportions – can be illustrated most vividly when, a couple of years back, out of the 13,000 applications received by the Dangote Group of Companies for Graduate Executive Truck Drivers, there were six Ph.D, 704 masters and over 8,460 bachelor degree holders. Most astonishing was the fact that the company only needed 100 drivers but got 13,000 applications, most of them from reputable universities.
The Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity said more than 41% of Nigerian graduates are without employment after the mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC). The National Bureau of Statistics said over 50% of youths in Nigeria are jobless, while the World Bank put the figure at 56%. Considering the country’s estimated population of about 167 million and 60 million jobless, these are grim figures portending danger to economic growth and development of a nation with the largest concentration of black people on earth.
Sylvia, a graduate of banking and finance, said she did her mandatory NYSC in 2006 and now, ten years after, she has not gotten a job.
“This is distressing. I have done all kinds of odd jobs and, currently, I’m a housekeeper somewhere.It is painful because my parents trained me hoping that I will help out with family and that has not happened.”
In its recent travel advisory, the American government cautioned its citizens not to travel to visit 20 states in Nigeria, citing armed robbery, kidnapping and terrorism, among others, as reasons for the advice.
But Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, dismissed the US government’s claim when he received a delegation from the Association of Tourism Practitioners of Nigeria in Abuja, saying every state in the country was safe..
Only recently, popular Enugu Catholic priest, Rev. Father Ejike Mbaka, who runs the Adoration Ministries in the eastern capital, Enugu, sent a strong message to President Muhammadu Buhari through a sermon. Mbaka criticized the Buhari administration for the economic hardship in Nigeria and warned the president that Nigerians may vote him out in the next presidential election.
The fiery cleric, who became controversially famous after his prediction that former President Goodluck Jonathan would be swept away by the wind of change in the last presidential election, criticised Buhari for the economic hardship sweeping the country resulting from what he defined as poor leadership under the APC-led government.
The Catholic priest said that the president should know that Nigerians may vote him out in the next election, adding that people are clearly getting tired, continuing that he campaigned against Jonathan because of the extensive corruption in the last administration in the hope that Buhari’s government would be better after his avowed declaration to fight corruption.
“No nation could survive when the cankerworm of corruption eats deep into its social fabric as was witnessed in the past administration which informed his interest and desire to opt for a change”, he said.
“The change which eventually came under the leadership of Buhari is not helping matters as poverty is ‘smelling’ in Nigeria. There is hunger everywhere. Landlords are crying; tenants are lamenting, sellers are crying, buyers are lamenting – there is hunger on the streets. I can’t keep quiet when things are going wrong.
“I am telling the president to look around him and know those who are advising him rightly and those who are telling him that there is no trouble. The president should know that there is trouble. If things continue like this, in the next election, nobody will vote for him.”
The senator representing Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani, toed a similar line. Sani lamented that Nigerians are groaning under serious hunger and poverty and, therefore, unable to meet their basic needs.
Speaking during the launch of his interactive forum in Nasarawa, a suburb of Kaduna metropolis, tagged, ‘Street Parliament’ he said: “We know that Nigerians are facing hunger, no money for school fees and no jobs”.
Adding his voice, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation, Prince Bola Ajibola (SAN), said that the hardship the nation and its people are currently experiencing were both the consequences of past wrong actions and efforts of corrupt people who would do anything to make sure that the president did not succeed. He said Buhari’s anti-corruption was so hard on the corrupt people so much that it went after their ill-businesses in Nigeria and abroad and that the hardship thrown upon Nigerians because of their control was to prove to the world that taming the corruption in where they had thrived for long to the detriment of the masses of the Nigerian people was a no-go area.
He said, “For a long time, we had run our economy by only the oil. When the oil is in trouble internationally, automatically our economy would be in trouble at home in Nigeria. The best way to go is diversification which the government is doing. But will Nigerians give him the chance to do these things successfully?
“Yes, things are hard. Even a former Commonwealth Secretary-General told me that things are very hard and I know too that things are very hard. But these are expected if we must get things in proper perspective.”
Setting the stage for crime
Indeed poverty in Nigeria, like in most developing nations of Africa, is widespread and seems to be on the increase. When poverty joins high levels of economic and social aspirations, the stage is set for criminal activities – particularly official corruption, ritual killings, robbery and dealing in illegal goods and services. People who are thwarted in attaining desired social and economic goals legally may seek to obtain them illegally.
Psychologically , aggression is always a consequence of frustration while frustration leads to some form of aggression. The poor are led to violence owing to their relative deprivation and needs. This scenario agrees significantly with the current security situation in Nigeria.
Perhaps, the greatest challenge facing the economy is unemployment which has maintained rising trend over the years. The total labour force in Nigeria is made up of all persons aged 15-64years excluding students, home keepers, retired persons or those who stay at home and work or are not interested. The unemployed are people who are willing and capable but are unable to find suitable paid employment.
The classical school of thought that provided the earliest thinking on economic issues did not fail to give a central point of reflection on the undesirability of unemployment. The youths who are being churned out of the university yearly without any job are getting frustrated.
Many of these young people are duped in the quest to get employed.
John Mark, 28, said he was duped by a woman who promised to help him get a job with the Nigeria Customs Service.
“I have been jobless for years after graduating from the university. I am the first son of my father and my mother died years ago. I am like a mother to my siblings and my dad is old and retired. For eight years now, I don’t have a job. I have attended several job interviews without luck. They require experience but how do I get get experience without job?”, Mark narrated.
“So, when this girl I was dating introduced me to her aunt who seems highly connected and she promised to get me a job with the Customs, I was exhilarated. She said I needed to deposit N200,000 and I went to borrow the money which I gave her. It’s been story-story ever since. I don’t know what to do, whether to call the police on her or not.”
Everyday in Nigeria, police stations are inundated with reports of all manner of crimes involving fraudsters, missing persons many of whom end up in the hands of ritualists, etc.
Less than 10 percent of such missing persons return home. A scary percentage of them are not found and the bodies of a negligible number that are eventually seen, are dumped either on the roadsides, bush paths or inside gutters, mutilated and their vital organs removed.
Cictims of these evil doers often times board the wrong commercial bus or taxi. Many family members have been reported to have hacked one of their own to death for rituals.
Setting the stage for ritual killings
Almost on a daily basis, newspapers are awash with stories of ritual killings.
In many cities across Nigeria, there exist evil forests where suspected ritualists dismember their victims, leaving behind human parts . Usually, victims are taken to the forests and butchered for money rituals.
A recent case is Saka forest in Ibadan. On February 20, 29-year-old Sunday Abudioke was pronounced dead at Ekiti State Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti, following an attack by suspected cultists along Ado-Ilawe road.
On February 28, another victim, Sunday Afolabi, was confirmed dead after an attack by men suspected to be cultists at Irona, Ado-Ekiti. Afolabi was hacked to death in his room while his heavily pregnant wife was away to attend a ‘night vigil’ at a nearby church.
In 2013, findings by the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties& the Rule of Law showed that over 1000 citizens were murdered in Nigeria between January 1 and April 30, 2013. Their killings were traced to lawfully and unlawfully armed malicious elements within and outside the country’s security forces including the malicious personnel of the Nigeria Police, Joint Military Task Forces, Multi-national Joint Task Force; militant ethno-religious zealots such as Boko Haram armed Islamists/ malicious elements and other criminal elements such as deadly politicians and resurged armed Niger Delta militants.
The casualty figures will be grossly under-calculated if unreported cases arising from killings by armed robbers, kidnappers, ritual deaths and civil homicides are added.
If attempts are made to capture all these, then it may most likely be correct to estimate figures today in the neighbourhood of over 4000 murdered deaths since January 2013.
For instance, in the past one year in Lagos, it was reported by the state Police Command that a total of 270 civilians and 32 police personnel were murdered in the state.
Meanwhile, Buhari has reiterated that his government is poised to break all economic barriers and set Nigeria free from poverty. According to him, although some Nigerians had become disoriented and impatient, the plan to diversify the economy is still very much on the cards. The president added that th diversification of the economy has become much more than just a slogan as it has become a necessity. He said his government plans to use agriculture to save foreign exchange and pull many out of poverty and that his administration will continue to make substantial investments in human capital development.
He said economic growth cannot just be for the lucky few at the top, it has to be broad-based, for every Nigerian citizen, and a good place to start is with the agricultural sector. He said the country is facing the challenges of tackling insecurity, creating jobs, addressing the country’s balance of payments and stimulating and sustaining national economic recovery, the injustice of hunger and the need for long-term food security.