Bringing Good Government To The People

Post-military national democratic leadership has been less effective than many would have wished. Nigeria’s federal system gives too little autonomy and authority to the nation’s thirty-six states, and unfairly, some say, deprives them of revenue from oil. All police forces are national, although many governors rely on quasi-legal militias. Human rights abuses, especially against women, are common, and many Nigerians fear for their personal security. The future role of the shari’a is still unsettled, and its constitutional legitimacy remains divisive and worrisome. Corruption is omnipresent, as it would be in a petro-state where the gulf between rich and poor, privileged and unprivileged is great and growing. Civil society and the press are strong, however, and there is an atmosphere favorable to accountability even if local, state, and national governments all find ways to evade responsibility.

Nigeria economy has a very narrow and weak base, depending mostly on exportation of petroleum crude oil as a major source of revenue. The agricultural base of the economy had been frustrated and largely marginalized. Coupled with this, are the lack of continuity in programmes and policy, embezzlement, inappropriate planning and the neglect of the private sector. The economy collapsed with the crash of crude petroleum price in the international market, the output fell from 2.3 million per day in 1973/74 and 2.0 million per day in 1980 to a million barrel a day in 1986. The price also fell from $40.00 per barrel in 1980 and an average of $36.50 in 1981 to $10.00 in 1986. This led to external accumulation of debts and a sizeable reduction in government expenditure.

Also, is the effect of globalization, which caught Nigeria in the era of political instability? Globalization presented more challenges to the countries and it worsens the situation of poverty as the basis of challenge and competitions were lacking. This has manifested in several ways, for instance the debt burden has been increasing from $14.28 billion dollars in 1980 to about $32nillion in the year 2000. This has led to the collapse of basic infrastructures and several amenities. Lack of good government has contributed immensely to the poor status of the economy. This has a major impact on the issue of corruption and corrupts practices in the country. The nation is currently among the worst corrupt nations in the world. The increasing cases of “white elephant projects” are deeply rooted in corruption rather than economic development of the nation.

The magnitude of poverty in Nigeria has led governments to deploying measures to address the situation and cushion the effect on the people. Based on the complexity and dimension of poverty in Nigeria, different approaches have been employed to address its different phases. For example, between 1986 and 2001, government efforts were targeted towards improving the status of infrastructures in the rural areas, the programmes implemented include, Directorate of food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFFRI), with the aim of improving rural road networks and position of basic amenities in the rural area. Also, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) was targeted towards the rural dwellers with the aim of giving them vocational training and assisting them with income generating work through procurement of facilities. The better life programme, better life for rural women and family support programmes were initiated by the office of the lady under the military government between 1986-1990s. These programmes were targeted towards improving lives of women, especially rural women by encouraging them to participate in income generating activities.

Some programmes were also initiated to boost agricultural sector, these include the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP); The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA); the National Accelerated Food Production Programme (NAFPP); and the Artisan Fisher and Small Ruminant Population Scheme. The government introduced the National Poverty Eradication Programme as a national response to gamut of rural development programme. Its main policy thrust is to enhance the capacity to produce their goods and services the programme has four cardinal schemes; Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES); Rural Infrastructure Development Scheme (RIDS); Social Welfare Services Scheme (SOWESS); and National resources Development and conservation Scheme (NRDCS). In assessing the impact of the programmes to its stated objectives and goals, a wide gap of differences exists. The poor are still poor and the number is continually increasing.

The Niger Delta is quite among the creeks, plied by dugout canoe from any nearest town, it depicts a collection of battered shacks teetering on a steadily eroding beach. Bringing to limelight village children shimmying out of their best clothes that head to a muddy puddle to collect water. Their mothers use the murky liquid to cook whatever soup they can muster from the meager catch of the day. Yet for months a pitched battle has been fought between communities that claim authority over this village and the right to control what lies beneath its watery ground: a potentially vast field of crude oil that has caught the attention of a major energy company.

The conflict leaves dozen dead and wounded, sent hundreds fleeing their homes and roiled this once quiet part of the Niger Delta. It lay bare the desperate struggle of impoverished communities to reap crumbs from the lavish banquet the oil boom has laid in this oil-rich yet grindingly poor corner of the globe. This region is synonymous with oil, but also with unbelievable poverty. That combination is an inevitable recipe for bloodshed and misery. The world depends on their oil, but for the people of the Niger Delta oil is more of a curse than a blessing. Africa is in the midst of an oil boom, with companies and governments pouring $50 billion into projects that may double the continent’s oil output in the next decade.

In the world’s thirst for oil and the United States‘ efforts to obtain it outside the troubled Middle East, African oil has become essential. Africa is expected to provide the United States with a quarter of its oil supply in the next decade, compared with about 15 percent now, and much of it will come from the Gulf of Guinea, where the Niger Delta sits. But much of that oil will come from places with a tangled and often bloody web of conflict marked by poverty and a near abdication of responsibility by government. Even though Nigeria elected a democratic government in 1999, which raised hopes for the long-suffering delta region, almost none of the enormous wealth the oil creates reaches places like this. The isolation of this area is total. With no fast boats available, the nearest health center or clinic is a day’s journey away. No telephone service exists here. Radio brings the only news of the world outside. Nothing hints that the people here live in a nation enjoying the profits of record-high oil prices.

Poverty remains widespread within the poor nations. There are two methods of assessing poverty; one involves the notion of “subsistence poverty”, which is a lack of the basic resources needed to maintain health and effective bodily functioning. The other “relative poverty”, involves assessing the gaps between the living conditions some groups and those enjoyed by the majority of a population. It is common to combine several methods in a single piece of research, using each to supplement and check on the others, a process known as “Triangulation”. Foreign investors should to attract to tap the abundant human and natural resources in the country. Micro-credits scheme for women in each family unit is desirable. This credit scheme should be without interest. Women should form thrift co-operative society. This has to be supported by the government.

Unemployment and low productivity directly affects GDP, there is generally a poor performance measurement in the public sector and this can be attributed to cases of incessant prolong strikes in the public sector. Majority of youths are grossly unemployed and the reward system is generally very poor. Demand for salary increase is becoming a usual frequent phenomenon, which in most times is accomplished by incessant strike actions. To make things worse is the high population growth rate estimated to be 2.8. This has led to the increasing rate of dependency ratio at the expense of growing population of unemployed youth income inequality and poverty have also be worsened by high incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Few public resources are devoted directly to providing social services to the poor. The problem is partly a lack of resources but also how these resources are allocated and managed. In 1990, estimated public expenditures on education and health services at all levels of government were about 15 percent of total government expenditures and 4.5 percent of GDP. Although these funds are not low compared with other developing countries, government funds have been erratic, fluctuating largely with oil revenues. More importantly resources have not been used efficiently, resulting in serious deterioration in the quantity and quality of services and minimized benefits to the poor. Tertiary services absorb disproportionately large portion of government financing both in recurrent and capital budget in health and education. Also a very high proportion of recurrent budget is absorbed by personnel costs leaving very little for much need inputs, such as drugs and books.

There is also very little transparency and accountability for the use of funds for social services at all levels of government. The roles of different levels of government in the provision of services, overlapping responsibilities and constant shifts of functions between one level of government and another have further compounded fiscal inefficiencies and make it difficult to assess total expenditures in social sectors. A successful poverty reducing strategy in Nigeria will require a strong and focused emphasis on regional aspects of economic growth, increased access to social services and adequate infrastructure and targeting. Nigeria faces three inter-related development challenges. First, it has to establish a viable and stable macro economic framework and to streamline the incentive regime. Second, it needs to establish an enabling environment in the civil society that encourages delivery of quality services to the population. This will require emphasis on accountability and transparency. Third, it needs to adapt sectoral policies and rearrange priorities in public expenditures to meet needs identified in the PPA and promote efficient economic growth, increase productivity and target the poor. These challenges point to the need for Nigeria to make a fundamental shift away from policies and institutional arrangements that compete with the private sector, and focus instead on policies, programs and institutions that promote efficient, sustainable, and broad based growth and job creation. The government needs to make a firm commitment to place poverty alleviation at the forefront of its development strategy, to provide effective resource management and policies that can support a stable and growing economy, thus enabling Nigeria to take its place in regional leadership.

The fact that people are scrabbling in the streets to collect fuel from a burst pipeline shows how Nigeria‘s awesome oil riches are still being controlled by a few, rather than benefiting the many. Multinational Corporation has been the primary target of these complaints and confrontations. Its corporate responsibility and image was entangled with the hanging by death of a Niger Delta writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and sullied in the aftermath of the international environmental awareness campaigns, afterwards. All those, and more, have combined with wonderful announcements of billion dollar contracts and deals with the multinational corporations and their Nigerian collectors and agents to raise and dash, every passing year, the tortured hopes of the same poor, dispirited folks on whose lands the oil and gas sit. Is there any wonder why they, like me sometime wonder whether oil is Nigeria‘s liquid gold or just a petro-dollar curse?

What do you think?

Written by
L.Chinedu Arizona-Ogwu
Join the discussion