May 6, 2021


AfricaTopForum – News Around Africa

Assessing Nigeria from within and without

5 min read

By Niyi Akinnaso


Nigeria is losing it. The country is heading in the wrong direction. That’s what Nigerians themselves are saying within and without the country. And that’s what the international community is saying as revealed in several international assessments of the country’s situation and the quality of governance. There has never been such a convergence of calls from the immediate stakeholders and international observers for urgent solutions the country’s multiple problems. The fears are palpable that a major disaster is imminent if nothing is done to address these problems.

What Nigerians are saying

Recent and ongoing discussions about the country centre on the security situation, because nothing much could be achieved without peace. Unfortunately, peace has eluded the President Muhammadu Buhari administration from inception. Even his own political party was fractionalized under his eyes, beginning with the division within the National Assembly during his first month in office in 2015. Division has since enveloped the whole party, which had to be placed under a Caretaker Committee.

However, what concerns the citizens the most right now is the widespread insecurity in the land, from Boko Haram terrorists to Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits, and robbers. The Global Terrorism Index lists Nigeria as the third country most impacted by terrorism, with Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen pinpointed as the first and second deadliest groups in the country. The Nigerian situation is so dire that the Global Terrorism Index classified the country as being in “a state of war” along with four other war-torn countries, namely, Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, and Yemen.

There really is no sector of national life that is exempted from trauma. Roads are inadequate, while existing ones are in disrepair. Those under repair, such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, have taken forever. Electricity, water, and housing are in short supply. Educational institutions and hospitals are underfunded. The country’s poverty rate is the highest in the world-about 90 million people in the country live in severe poverty.

The country’s unemployment rate is equally alarming, being the second highest in the world. According to Bloomberg’s recent global survey, Nigeria is approaching the unenviable status of the unemployment capital of the word: “Unemployment for people aged 15 to 24 stood at 53.4% in the fourth quarter (of 2020), and at 37.2% for people aged 25 to 34. The jobless rate for women was 35.2% compared with 31.8% for men.

This is a looming disaster for a country where more than 60% of the working-age population is younger than 34. The disaster is accentuated by the lack of appropriate education for today’s job market and the lack of transferable skills for self employment. This high unemployment rate is evident everywhere-at bus stops, motor parks, urban streets, shopping malls, and major social gatherings (birthday and funeral parties), where able-bodied youths roam aimlessly, begging for one thing or the other, pilfering or stealing.

To worsen the situation, prices have gone up across the board simultaneously with rising inflation and the falling value of the Naira. Banditry in the North and herdsmen-farmers clashes in the South and the Middle Belt have resulted in low farm harvests, further driving up food prices.

The view from the international community

Nigeria ranks poorly on all international indices: The country is perceived to be highly corrupt. Human development is poor. Governance is very poor. The state is fragile. This summary points to a state in distress, heading for possible collapse.

Nigeria scored 25 out of 100 possible points on the Corruption Perception Index released in January 2021. This is the worst score the country has had since the inception of the global evaluation in 2012, except in 2013, when it also scored 25. The recent score puts the country right in the middle of the bottom pile of countries perceived to be highly corrupt.

With President Buhari receding more and more to the background, his fight against corruption seems to have taken a back seat. The result is a free-for-all season of corruption in high and low places. It even enveloped the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Magu. The consequences of corruption are evident everywhere, especially in politicians and public officers living large, while the vast majority of the population lives in squalour.

It is no wonder then that Nigeria ranks very low at 161 in the world in the recent Human Development Index ranking, released in December 2020. The health indicators are disappointing, with average life expectancy of 54.7 (female 55.6; male 53.8). The country also ranks low on other indices of human development, including education, human security, inequality, gender, environmental sustainability, income, and poverty eradication.

One of the reasons for the country’s poor performance on international rankings is poor governance. This is revealed in the recent Chandler Good Government Index (2021). Nigeria ranks poorly on the seven pillars of good governance measured, namely, (1) leadership and foresight; (2) robust laws and policies; (3) strong institutions; (4) financial stewardship; (5) attractive marketplace; (6) global influence and reputation; and (7) helping people rise. In particular, Nigeria ranks virtually at the bottom of the scale on pillars 1, 3, 5, and 7.

The cumulative result of these low rankings is the ranking of Nigeria as the 14th most fragile country in the world on the 2020 Fragile States Index. Nigeria ranks low on the major indicators of state fragility, particularly, cohesion, economic, political, and social indicators. Despite the government’s unrealistic position that the unity of the country is nonnegotiable, the cohesion indicators point to the need for negotiation: The elites are fractionalized; group grievance is at its peak; and the security of lives and property is at its lowest ebb.

Urgent solution needed

There is no other way to interpret the agitations by Nigerians and the poor global rankings than to see Nigeria as facing imminent collapse, if nothing is done to ameliorate the situation. Immediate action is needed to halt widespread insecurity; curb group grievances; reallocate resources to achieve economic balance; and enhance governance by bringing it closer to the people.

After repeated group agitations and several national conferences, it has become evident that the best solutions should include decentralising the police system to enhance security supervision; ensuring that livestock and crop farmers operate within their zones; reconfiguring the federating units (to curb waste); and devolving powers as well as reallocating resources to the federating units.