Viewpoint

February 23, 2024

Beyond Price of Rice: An assessment of the Nigerian economic situation

Before you say Nigeria is bad

Dr. Ganiu Abisoye Bamgbose (Dr. GAB)

By Ganiu Bamgbose (PhD)

It is in place to state some caveats to the position of this piece. First, I admit that I am not an expert in economic discourse but you will agree too that I am entitled to my personal assessment of the economic situation of the country; after all I can think, read and write. Second, as posited by the German philosopher, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, who developed the dialectical method: for every thesis (an initial proposition), there has to be an antithesis (a conflicting proposition), and then a synthesis (a resolution or reconciliation of the two opposing ideas). It is therefore in order to challenge the position of this paper towards a better public understanding, but it will amount to argumentum ad hominem (attack that appeals to prejudice or feelings or irrelevantly impugns another person’s character instead of addressing the facts or claims made by the latter) to ignore the debate and confront the debater. Lastly, I must state clearly that I am not an exception from the class of Nigerians facing the country’s economic hardship. Beyond the last point however, my thought is presented in the subsequent paragraphs for a critical engagement.

For starters, I wish to state that at a time the whole world is battling economic crisis, the economic situation of any country cannot singularly be evaluated by the prices of rice and beans. It is a fact and not a mere speculation that as of today, the UK and Japan, among several others, fell into economic recession towards the end of 2023; a situation Nigeria is not even experiencing yet according to experts. A critical analysis of the situation around the increase in the price of cement and some other products would reveal a clear economic sabotage. Such rapid and successive increase and artificial scarcity can only be man-made if subjected to a critical appraisal.

Moving on, while Business Day Newspaper reported on April 24 2023 that Nigeria’s debt to China grew by 209 percent in the last eight years amid rising poverty across states, recent reports confirmed the repayment of loan to China, Germany and India, and the servicing of the Central Bank of Nigeria loan. The Punch Newspaper of February 6, 2024, reported that statutory allocations from the Federal Account Allocation Committee to the 36 states and 774 local government areas from July to December 2023, increased to N3.34tn post-fuel subsidy era. It stated further that figures obtained from the National Bureau of Statistics indicated an increase of N545bn or 19.5 per cent from the N2.79trn distributed to states and local government areas in the first half of the year (January-June). Premium Times of February 21 2024 reported that the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Godswill Akpabio, said an “unverified report” indicated that state governors received N30 billion each from the Federation Account to ameliorate inflation and the high cost of food in their respective states.

At state level, the governor of Lagos State remarked thus during a media parley on February 22 2024: “We want to start with our public servants, immediately from next week, Civil servants from the lower level will be working like three times a week and level 15-17 can work four times in a week.” He went further to state that his government will open Sunday Markets in at least 42 identified markets across Lagos State where citizens will be able to buy food items at a discounted price.

I should add too that I have been a beneficiary of the #35,000 palliative of the Lagos State Government for two months. Meagre right? Maybe yes. But we could not have done anything if it were not being paid.

While all of these points may appear like a personal or even sponsored feature to save the face of the government at the federal and Lagos State levels which does not matter anyway, the core of the piece is to emphasise that a critique does not have to be a one-way negative assessment of situations.

While I agree completely that the government at the different levels can or could have done better, it will also amount to pessimism and lack of patriotism to be silent on the evident move by the federal government and some state governments to ameliorate the suffering of the people in the face of global economic challenge. Attitude is a settled way of thinking or feeling about something. It is instructive for the citizens of Nigeria to also blend criticism with fairness. It is certainly in place to call out a non-performing government, while a thriving government is also deserving of motivation, if we will not call it commendation. I can recall reading many articles on the bad state of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway some seven to ten years ago and I am wondering if it is out of place for us writers to return to the media now to report that driving on the same road now seems like driving on glass. “Is it not their duty to fix roads?” Someone would say. But what were we able to do to them all along that these duties of theirs were neglected. If they now choose to come alive, nothing stops us from acknowledging such moves. Importantly, like the Yoruba proverb which says “kò sí bí àtùpà ṣe lè lágbára tó, kò lè ríran rí ìdí ara rẹ̀ (no matter how strong a lamp is, it cannot see it’s base), it is important too that we remind ourselves as citizens that we have our scenes in the movie. The fuel stations that increased price per litre before the commencement of strike, the rice seller that increases price before refilling stock, the citizens that throw plastic bottles in the drain while driving, are all of these too the doings of the government? The Punch Newspaper of February 22 2024 reported that that some P2P even have over $2 million worth of USDT in their wallet which begs the question of whether these people are truly Nigerians or probably foreigners making money from destroying the Nigerian economy. Is this also about the government being cruel to citizens?

It is important that citizens do not only support but collaborate with the government in the fight against economic hardship. This of course can come in many ways including acknowledging the effort of the government. Loving one’s country and believing it will grow is a national obligation. America is not always at her best when the citizens say “God bless America”. Critiques do not have to end in curses. If your proclamation over Nigeria manifests upon your life, how safe are you?

Therefore, on behalf of myself and other Nigerians who share my reasoning, I conclude this piece by telling government functionaries at different levels in Nigeria that we are aware that uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. While we know for sure that they can do more, we acknowledge their effort and struggle and encourage them not rest on their laurels.

(c) 2024 Ganiu Bamgbose writes from the Department of English, Lagos State University.