They gave us a dreadful Christmas, and a hopeless New Year…
By Dele Sobowale
CHRISTMAS is only two days away. And, unless you are one of the tiny minority of Nigerians who can look forward with confidence to a merry Christmas day, then you must be among the silent majority of Nigerians for whom Christmas has become a painful experience.
Since December 2015, the most fun-filled day of the year universally had turned to a dreadful day for most Nigerians. Christmas 2019 will go down in history as the worst. Banks, shops, offices and even churches which adorned their premises with Yuletide decorations did not bother.
Ever inquisitive, I asked at least 300 in Lagos, Oyo, Ogun and Niger states, as well as the Federal Capital Territory “why the CHANGE?” The answer was invariably the same everywhere. “There is no money.” So, that is The New Level.
READ ALSO:NNPC to begins full rehabilitation of refineries in January 2020 ―Kyari(Opens in a new browser tab)
Still not finished, I pressed on to ask about expectations for next year. Again, the feeling of hopelessness was unanimous. “This government cannot do anything.” So descent into despair is also part of the Next Level – despite the N10 trillion budget signed on time for December 2019.
Cynicism was also at the Next Level. In answer to the question: “What do you think the Federal Government will do with the $30 billion loan to be taken?” The answer was shocking. Nobody mentioned that jobs will be created, power supply will improve, health services will be become better, roads will cease to be death traps. No. Again, they were hundred per cent sure that “Most of it will be embezzled.” That is also a New Level for vote of no confidence in leadership.
And, you cannot blame Nigerians. The Debt Management Office and other government officials keep arguing that the Buhari administration had increased the debt ceiling by less than $26 billion. What they have failed to tell us is what has been accomplished with the loan taken – even if it is S1 billion. That is the Next Level of accountability.
We either ‘kill’ refineries or refineries will ‘kill’ us
Refineries lost N111billion in nine months – News Report
History will record that in the year 2019, the Saudi Arabian oil company, the equivalent of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, was privatised. Its shares are now available on the major global exchanges. Its IPO was over-subscribed and Saudi, already far richer than Nigeria, raked in trillions of USDollars.
Nobody would have staked a red cent on its shares if the Saudi oil company had been bleeding red ink like its Nigerian counterpart. It is doubtful if anybody will risk a kobo on NNPC shares if it were to go private.
At the core of NNPC’s woes are the four bundles of scraps called refineries. The implications of the N111bn loss in nine months are very grave. For a start, that figure extrapolated to the end of the year means that about N148bn would have gone down the drain by the end of next week on account of refineries.
Losses close to that were generated last year and the year before. In short, the Buhari administration has permitted the refineries to gulp more funds than would have been required to pay all that is owed to all the universities and teaching hospitals in the land. There would have been peace on the campuses nationwide. In the alternative, the sums thrown away on refineries, if given to Fashola, could have mended some of our major highways.
But, guess what? Buhari will keep the refineries. The refineries will lose another N150 billion. The Chinese say doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result is… Let us skip that.
Growth expectations and the increasing gap
Nigeria falls short of economic growth expectations – IMF – Report
Two growth patterns determine a country’s fate eventually – the economic growth rate and the population growth rate. It is an axiom of economics that if the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of a nation grows slower that its population increase, the people get poorer. Nigeria had been growing her economy at less than two per cent since 2016 while the population continues to grow at about three per cent. Intractable poverty will be the result. But, take a look at the 2020 Budget which was hurriedly signed just to beat the deadline. See the GDP growth projected and despair even more. Nothing in that budget reassures Nigerians that we will soon relinquish the trophy of the Poverty Capital of the World.
While the former world champion, India, is adding jobs everyday, we are shedding them or adding more graduates without jobs at every convocation. I stopped reading about the number of people graduated by universities and polytechnics because the graduates invariably join the millions who entered the job market before them – some as far back as eight years ago.
The joy of graduation gives way to the sorrow of joblessness. At least a student has some esteem in society; a jobless graduate has none. We are adding hundreds of thousands of young people with personal low esteem brought about by unemployment. Nothing in the 2020 Budget suggests that Buhari will reverse the trend. Even the $30 billion will not be spent creating jobs. Irrespective of what the President says, at least some of it will be embezzled. That level never changes and it has not changed since 2015 despite all the threats to deal with fraudsters.
Last words on labour for a while
It ain’t the things that you don’t know that cause the problem. It’s things that you think you know that ain’t so— Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882, Vanguard Book of Quotations, VBQ, p. 117.
Two weeks ago, in the article titled Labour Unions in a Fantasyland Over Minimum Wage, I led off with a statement credited to Comrade Issa Aremu who is the General Secretary of Tailors – certainly not an intellectual bunch. Aremu had declared that governors who fail to pay the minimum wage can be prosecuted and jailed.
To me, that is an example of the fantasy that labour leaders live by. I pointed out that the Nigerian constitution grants incumbent presidents, vice presidents, governors and deputy governors absolute immunity from prosecution. So, labour leaders should not use prosecution as a threat because no sitting governor will be prosecuted and jailed.
Aremu sent in a Right of Reply to refute that assertion. He trotted out the following names among governors who were prosecuted – Dariye, Nyame, Ibori, Alamesieygha and Kalu. I don’t have a lot of time to waste correcting people who refuse to learn. But, let me quickly summarise the situation with the individuals Aremu presented – starting with Kalu.
Everybody knows it was Senator Orji Kalu who was convicted recently and it was not for failure to pay salaries. Dariye was also a Senator when sentenced; Nyame was not a sitting governor neither was Alams. Ibori was never convicted in Nigeria. In fact, he was acquitted and discharged.
I know it is the habit of drowning men to grasp at anything that floats – including mere straws. Labour leaders had been deceived by Buhari who overstepped his bounds and ordered immediate implementation of the Minimum Wage Act. They told their rank and file to get ready to start receiving the jumbo pay from May. But, I told them in May that it will not happen so soon and outlined why. Here we are in December. Who is right?
NOTE: The books are available at CSS Bookshops, VANGUARD Abuja Office and MM2 as well as GATT Aviation airports in Lagos.