*Says Senate’s call for security summit nonsensical
*Asks Buhari to sign state police bill within 3 months
* ‘Nigeria needs a strategy to fight poverty, not programmes’
BY CHARLES KUMOLU,
Leading Public Administration scholar, Prof Ladipo Adamolekun, in this interview on the state of the nation, identifies the relationship between poverty, insecurity, education deficit, leadership failure, weak economic growth, and population explosion. The former public sector management specialist at the World Bank, among other issues, proffers solutions to the herders/farmers conflict.
Of all the problems in Nigeria at the moment, why are you so concerned about poverty?
The reason I am passionate about poverty in the country is that the projections are frightening. Something drastic should be done or rather, drastic actions should be taken. To effectively, tackle the problem of poverty, we cannot simply focus on Abuja. The states should be poles of development and places for tackling poverty. As at today, that is not the case. That is what prompted the argument that we need to move from over-centralization of powers to devolution of powers. The first point to tackle is the size of the problem. We are already the poverty capital of the world. On June 12, 2019, the President said he wants to lift 100 million people out of poverty in the next 10 years. If we are 200 million and our President is admitting that he wants to lift 100 million out of poverty, it shows the percentage of 200 million that is poor. Nigeria is also committed to the Sustainable Development Goals, SGDs. Nigeria is committed to the first goal, which seeks to end poverty in all its forms by 2030. What strategy do we have on the ground to do that? The Economist also said 94 million people are below the poverty line in Nigeria. A report by Oxfam report said it is 69 per cent. That is the magnitude of the problem. In terms of the dimension, it is obvious that it is multidimensional and any approach towards tackling it should be multidimensional. I have not heard about a poverty reduction strategy in Nigeria. What I have heard about are poverty alleviation programmes. It means that we are having programmes instead of strategy in the face of a huge problem. We need a strategy. There is a disconnect in the sense that we are facing a multidimensional problem that requires a multidimensional strategy. In my view, the dimensions of the strategy that we need should focus on our weak economic growth, insecurity of lives and property, education deficit, systemic corruption and population explosion. The summary of my message is that there is a need for an anti-poverty strategy.
You talked about the President’s promise of lifting 100 million people out of poverty in 10 years, but officials of his administration and some government agencies disputed some of the globally accepted reports that revealed the extent of poverty in the country. With that kind of posture, do you think poverty can truly be taken for what it is in Nigeria?
We don’t need to attach much importance to any attempt to downplay data unless we produce an alternative set of data. The growth rate in Nigeria is about two per cent. When Nigeria was growing at seven per cent between 2005 and 2011, it was also reported. It is not good to only accept favourable data. I also want professionals to know that denial does not take away the fact. Dangote recently explained our weak economy and I don’t think anybody has denied it. He said: “How do you have economic growth without power? No power, no growth because without power there can’t be growth. Egypt increased its electricity by 10 gigawatts which is equal to 10,000 megawatts within 18 months. In Nigeria, we have been struggling for 18 years without adding 1,000 and we have spent three times more than Egypt.” Professionals should challenge those, who downplay data with the truth. Another fact in terms of where we are as regards electricity supply is that by December 2012, the country had about 4,000 megawatts. On May 29, 2019, power generation stood at about 3,000. I think there is no economist anywhere that can deny that. This is one of the dimensions of economic direction. We are the largest economy while South Africa and Egypt are trailing us. But on the single index of electricity, they are better than us. That is why our economy is weak and it contributes to our poverty problem. Also, on our indebtedness, it is true that we have not reached the ceiling in terms of the ratio of GDP but the amount we are paying to service our debt is close to 30 per cent of our revenue. Drastic measures should be taken. When last did anybody in government mention the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP?
The strategy you talked requires political will and vision to become a reality. How do you think political will can become an aspect of governance in Nigeria?
We should use the power sector as a case study for the implementation challenges. When we look at the resources allocated to the sector and the implementation in the sector, there is a huge gap. Egypt spent less in 18 months and got more while we spent more in 20 years and got nothing. That is a good example because resources is an important aspect of implementation. In terms of the power sector, the resources were made available. That brings us to the issue of corruption. We have to admit that incompetence is playing a big role in our failure to deliver. If resources are allocated and the result is poor, it shows that the management has been done incompetently. Corruption is also partly responsible for the incompetency because I don’t know how much was utilized out of the funds released for the sector. On the economy, we have to admit that there is a huge degree of incompetence. In the electricity sector, that incompetence and corruption have been continuous from 1999 to date. In addition to the electricity crisis, I think the fuel subsidy regime is a big problem. In 2011, then Governor of Central Bank of Nigerian, CBN, and current Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi said: “In 2011, the Federal Government earned $16 billion from the oil sector, but the nation spent $8 billion on the importation of petroleum products. $8.2 billion was spent on subsidies on the same products.” When we add the figures, we would get what we earned. Has that been denied? Why has the government not done anything about it? That is where the question of political will is applicable. These are illustrations of economic mismanagement.
One of the arguments for the retention of subsidy payment is that without subsidizing the products, petrol would be expensive for the end-users. Do you consider the excuse tenable?
My implicit definition of leadership includes knowledge, vision, integrity and courage. That combination is rare and we can’t even prescribe it. It is clear that if we are fortunate to have that kind of combination, the issue of political will and other issues would not arise. To effectively tackle the oil subsidy problem, we need leadership that would combine the things I mentioned.
Before now, poverty was seen as the major cause of insecurity in Nigeria, but with the dimensions insecurity has assumed, other factors have emerged. At the point where Nigeria is now, how can the relationship between poverty and insecurity be broken?
I will address the dimensions before the nexus. According to the Global Terrorism Index, Nigeria has been the third-worst country since 2015. In 2014, we were the fourth worst country, which showed that it is a growing problem. Over a four-year period, we have not made progress because we are the third currently. Those disputing the data should give us their data. The fact is that the government is failing to protect lives and property in Nigeria today. That is one of the primary duties of government. The horrendous case of Pa Fasoranti’s daughter is one of those that gripped the nation. In that context, there is the Obasanjo letter. There is a real threat of insecurity gripping the nation in a way we have not experienced before. Boko Haram has been there since 2009. It is true that its dimensions have been reduced but they are still there. These new dimensions of criminality perpetrated by suspected herders, bandits and kidnappers are at a level we have not seen since 1999. There is no denying that. It is a daily threat and it is worrisome that the head of the military is saying the problem is reducing given what we are seeing. Citizens cannot be reassured by that kind of statement given what they have seen and what they are experiencing. I recall that the UK recently issued a warning to their citizens not to travel to 21 states because of insecurity. I want to challenge the media not to pay attention to the denials about the level of insecurity. The denials can be reported and countered.
While referring to a letter written by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on the level of insecurity in the country, President Buhari said Nigeria only experiences isolated cases of insecurity. Don’t you think such a statement amounts to official denial of the size of the problem?
I think the correct approach to that is to ignore him. He even said some are not patriotic. Many years ago, the same man said we have only one country which is Nigeria. We want a Nigeria where lives and property are safe. As of today, we can’t say we have a country of that nature. The resolution by the Senate for another security conference is nonsensical. In February 2018, the 8th National Assembly, NASS, had a conference with the executive arm of government on security. What have they implemented from the outcome of the conference? One of the decisions arrived at the conference was the need for state police. Since then, support for state police has increased exponentially. The Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, has adopted it and Buhari said he now believes in true federalism. Why has the Senate not sponsored a bill for state police? Now, they are talking about another conference. It is a joke! We are saying that insecurity is threatening lives and property, it is preventing investment, affecting educational institutions and grinding the country to a halt, yet, they are talking about another conference. If the Senate wants to be taken seriously, it should be working on how to pass the state police bill into law within three months so that Buhari can sign. The security architecture in the country is fragile and needs to be revamped. The Vice President is a very strong believer in the state police. There is no denying that Nigeria cannot be policed from Abuja. Again, it is nonsensical to say that community policing is being done from Abuja.
The question is: Do they know what it means? We need a proper understanding of indigenous languages for community policing to work. Only the states can come close to doing that. As of last year and early this year, there was a broad consensus on it, yet, the Senate is talking about another conference. What are they going to discuss there? That conference should not hold. The Senate should pass the bill into law and get the President to sign it. This is the time for action, not another conference. The security architecture of the country should be decentralised. What has changed between February last year and now is that the insecurity has increased. In terms of implementation of what was decided at the conference, nothing has happened. They are exposing Nigeria and Nigerians to ridicule. If I were an ambassador, I would be sending intelligence to my country that this is an unserious country.
Delay in the appointment of ministers
Right now, the country is being run by Permanent Secretaries. I am a student of Public Administration and I know there are limits to what Permanent Secretaries can commit their Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs, to do in the absence of ministers. It is regrettable that the President said he is still looking for the ministers that he knows.
Immediately he won the election, I assumed that he had started having the people he would appoint. The President ought to have sent his ministerial list to the NASS within a week of their resumption. Nothing stopped us from having a functioning cabinet now. After this Monday, if the cabinet is not constituted, we will regard the delay in constituting an executive that needs to deal with Nigeria’s multi-dimensional problems as unacceptable. Poverty is the central issue we are addressing but Permanent Secretaries can’t fix the power sector, oil sector and the collapse of infrastructure. It is not acceptable that there should be a further delay in appointing ministers. I do not know what time frame he has. When he said he is looking for people he knows, it was not clear how long it would take to know these people. The nature of our problems does not admit any further delay in constituting the Federal Executive Council. I am joining those telling the President that he no longer has four years but three years and 10 months. I am surprised that the list was not on the desk of NASS members on the day they resumed plenary. I am hoping that the cabinet would be constituted in a matter of days to tackle the multifaceted problems in the country. It is not in the national interest to further delay the appointment of ministers who have a role to play in tackling our problems.
In 2015, it took the President six months to appoint his ministers. Now, he said he wants to know those to employ. The implication is that Nigerians may have to wait longer and statecraft is suffering.
During the last constitution amendment exercise, the Senate prescribed a time frame for the appointment of ministers, but the President did not assent to the bill. As a Public Administration scholar, would you suggest another exercise that would prescribe a time frame for the appointment of cabinet members?
I am not dodging your question but I will go back to my definition of leadership. Knowledge, vision, integrity and courage are the major components needed in leadership. Anyone, who has a vision of what he wants to do for Nigeria and knowledgeable about governance, cannot afford to be delaying. I don’t think it is a matter of law. It is a matter of leadership. I think a leadership that has those four critical criteria would not delay the appointment of ministers. The basic for me here is the definition of leadership. For instance, Ronald Reagan didn’t have a university degree but was knowledgeable about what governance was all about and he demonstrated courage. He had a vision of what America was. Any leader, who has a vision, needs a team to carry out his vision. What is our incumbent President’s vision of Nigeria by 2023? If there is a vision, how would he get there? The delay does not tell us that there is a vision to see a better Nigeria in 2023. It is not about anybody’s comfort but national interest. When he was campaigning, one would assume that he met people during that period.
On insecurity ann Fulani herders
Lagos and Oyo States have set good examples in tackling insecurity with security trust funds. Many states should introduce that. The Police should tackle illegal arms trafficking. Its often said that the Fulani herders who come from foreign countries through our porous borders are responsible for the insecurity. Who are those patrolling the borders? Is it not the police and customs? I read about the order given to the Fulani herders by Northern Elders Forum and I don’t think it is helpful to the country. I think we should go to the root causes.
The National Livestock Transformation Programme, NLTP, cannot exist side by side with the Rural Grazing Area, RUGA. However, who are the herders or owners of the cows? We talk about the herders, who are the owners of the cows? In the final analysis, the cows in the Middle Belt may be owned by people from the Middle Belt, yet, we talk about Fulani herders. There is no enough probing of that aspect of herdsmen/farmers controversy. The NLTP is the way to go. RUGA should be scrapped. RUGA cannot coexist with the NLTP. Whenever they are implementing the NLTP, they should be able to tell us who the herders are. The owners are private citizens who are profiting from the business and their profit should not be at the expense of human lives. Focusing on herders alone would not solve the problem. Fulani herders issues should thoroughly be looked into as a matter of national emergency.
Ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo in his letter suggested a conference to know what the grievances of the Fulani herders are. Do you see that as one of the strategies that would address the crisis?
Ethnic nationalities were at the 2014 Confab where security issue was among the subjects discussed. If they are claiming the Fulani herders from across the borders are responsible, are they going to invite foreigners to the conference? President Obasanjo is a member of the National Council of State and for him to have resorted to writing letters means that the forum is dysfunctional. I don’t know the type of conference he suggested but this is the time for action, not another conference.
On education deficit and poverty
The link between education deficit and poverty is very clear. Education deficit also leads to a weak economy. I think the magnitude of the problem is that between 10 and 13 million children are out of school. The solution is in our constitution just that it is not being implemented. It is in Chapter 2, Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy, Section 18, 3. It states that government shall strive to eradicate illiteracy and as at when practicable provide free, compulsory and universal primary education, free secondary and free university education. International practices show that the benefit of education at the university level goes more to the individual than society. Primary education helps to reduce poverty and tackle insecurity. That is why the emphasis is on free primary and free secondary education. herders
I would argue that leadership failure is the primary explanatory factor for the continuing increase in the number of Nigerians living below the poverty line.
A development-oriented political leadership with knowledge, vision, integrity and courage would have arrested the rot. Normally, a development-oriented leadership would focus on a country’s progress in growing its economy, reducing poverty, assuring security, and moving towards prosperity for all its citizens. According to the development literature, good development performance is achieved through the building of institutions that ensure state capability. These are the institutions that enable the state to perform above average in carrying out the fundamental tasks of a modern state.