• Thursday, June 20, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Make our burden lighter in 2022, Nigerians beg FG

Measuring the regions by data

Burdened as they have been in the outgoing year, Nigerians are begging President Muhammadu Buhari to lighten their burden in the incoming year, 2022.

Whether it is hunger, poverty, unemployment or insecurity, the story is the same. They are the realities that define Nigeria and the life of an average Nigerian. This became worse in 2021—a year Nigerians expected to see succour after the crippling and life-threatening impact of Covid-19 in 2020.

Like the Israelites under their Egyptian task-masters, Nigerians have been compelled to produce something from nothing and, because this is difficult and impossible in most cases, hunger has become a native in the country, ravishing many homes.

It is no joke that poverty has its headquarters in Nigeria, according to an international rating body. And besides hunger, which is a physical manifestation of poverty, many young Nigerians have been driven into various crimes—armed robbery, banditry, kidnapping, prostitution, among others.

Nigerians’ burden emanates from a genealogy that is as clear as it is worrying. Unemployment, the figure of which is frightening in a country so richly endowed, is the grandfather that gave birth to poverty; then hunger and insecurity, which are by-products of a bruised mind and troubled psyche.
All these are sight and scenes that Nigerians want the government of their country to end with 2021 so that a new lease of life will greet them in 2022.

No doubt, the current year has been very challenging. It has demanded so much from Nigerians in order to stay afloat the wave of inclement socio-economic and political weather and an intolerable maladministration.

Apart from the challenges already mentioned, the country has had to contend with other challenges, including inflation as reflected in rising food and other costs, #TwitterBan, continued police brutality and even COVID-19.

More recent activities such as President Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Act Amendment Bill on day 31, when the law requires a response within 30 days, speaks volume about his respect for the rule of law. And there’s no gain saying that any country with leadership lawlessness is not only rudderless but also doomed.

Nigerians have experienced and are still experiencing some of the worst times in the history of the country, in the last six years of this present administration.

With unemployment rate hitting all time high at almost 40 percent, inflation rate currently at 15.99 percent, after hitting a peak of 18.17 percent in March this year, and food prices soaring the highest, millions of Nigerians cannot afford two square meals again.

Of course, the masses’ woe is worsened by the lingering huge impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw many SMEs and entrepreneurs shutting down, and leaving scores unemployed.

As the economy struggles to recover, economic hardship worsens and the impact of the pandemic still lingering in 2021, concerned Nigerians are calling on the government to make their burdens lighter in 2022.

The call is against the backdrop of the many planned increases in taxation, total removal of fuel subsidy and expectant hike in prices in 2022.

With the very high inflation presently, many are worried over how much burden the planned increments and removal of subsidy will place on the helpless masses in 2022.

Read also: NIGERIA IN 2022: What to expect from economy

Peter Ogaga, a Niger Delta human right activist, decried that the president administration has failed to plan ahead and has also toed the same wasteful way they accused the opposition of in 2015, hence the poor masses are going to suffer because of the wasteful manner the country’s economy has been running.

“The call for the government to lighten our burden will fall on deaf ears because there is no Plan B for the economy or its recovery. In 2022, we will be servicing $11.51 billion loan from the World Bank and $3.402bn from Exim Bank of China, among other debts. So, we should not expect respite from this administration. Expect the worst,” he said.

According to him, if there had been well-thought-out plans, marching and sustained strategies, Nigeria would not be talking about subsidy removal now but export of refined crude oil products to the world.

“Our unemployment is among the worst in the world today. It is projected to reach 40 percent by the end of this year. But if we have three to four refineries, which are working, then allied companies such as petrochemicals, power stations, millions of youths will be employed. So, why is the government not interested in finding lasting solutions to our problems,” he said.

For Sam Ajanaku Onikoyi, a Nigerian historian and Commonwealth researcher based in Brussels, there is no need for such calls as what Nigerians needed to have done was to protest to stop the unnecessary loans, which the government has been borrowing to mortgage the future of the country.

“With the rising debt profile, Nigeria will do whatever the World Bank or IMF wants because they are part of the conditions for giving the loans and this means more hardship as such conditions require austerity measures. People can call on the government to make their burden lighter in 2022, but has the government ever listened to such calls?” he said.

The historian and researcher is anticipating a much harder 2022 because the country will be entering the election year from 2022 and as expected, politicians will be saving money to buy votes during the election.

“No matter what the politicians are saying to calm down the angry masses or how much tears the masses shed, the truth is, the politicians are more interested in their political ambitions than in better welfare for the masses in 2022, if not why borrow to fund elections when infrastructure, acclaimed reason for the loans, is still lacking,” he noted.

On his part, Chijioke J. Umelahi, a former Abia State lawmaker, encouraged the masses to make persistent calls on the government to lighten their burden in 2022, noting that such effort yielded results at #EndSARS protests in 2020.

“We have the right to call the government to order, especially this present administration because it seems the government responds positively to crisis, if not why stop Jonathan from removing subsidy and also claiming there is no subsidy? The masses have to stand for their welfare or 2022 will sink more businesses, with attendant hardship,” Umelahi said.

Looking at the economy, Onikoyi said that the economy has not met its growth projections this year and that it will affect 2022, hence people should tighten their belts.

“I read the latest report of the National Bureau of Statistics where the bureau said the economy grew 4.03 percent, slower than the 5.01 percent it grew in the second quarter of this year. Based on the slow recovery, the economic advisers will not go for stimulus or incentives that will impact the poor in 2022. They will give the anticipated advice, which will see the government increasing things rather than reducing costs,” Onikoyi said.

Reflecting on the outgoing year, they expressed disappointment with the prevailing state of affairs, stressing that despite promises from the All Progressives Congress (APC) government their living conditions have become tougher which had made them poorer.

Speaking in separate interviews with BusinessDay Sunday, they said that the year 2021 had been a tough one and charged the government to focus on tackling the spate of insecurity ravaging the country, revamp the economy and initiate policies aimed at tackling poverty, creating jobs.

However, several of those interviewed were pessimistic about the future and the ability of Buhari’s led administration to turn things around in 2022, they say the President and his team appear to have lost focus.

Ajayi Adejare, Spokesman of the pan-Yoruba socio-political organization (Afenifere) said ahead 2022, President Buhari should prioritize security, create jobs, revamp the economy to improve the living condition of Nigerians.

Adejare, however, lamented that Nigerians had experienced untold hardship in the outgoing year which had made them poorer, stressing that nothing could be achieved with the current spate of insecurity across the country is not checked.

According to him, “If you ask me I would say the government should focus on making sure that Nigeria does not go with the spate of insecurity now in 2022. Next year would be decisive for Nigeria because of the level of security now which is getting worse and it appears Buhari and his men don’t know what to do. And don’t forget that 2023 is the election year.

“Also, the economy should be revamped as the cost of things are high in the market. The welfare of Nigerians, who have suffered greatly in the outgoing year, is priority; everything must be done on that. The country must be safe. So, for me it is security, economy, I mean safe atmosphere, or what can you do without a safe society?”

Idowu Omolegan, lawyer and activist said though it was obvious that the country was in a terrible state and needed to be rescued ahead of the new year, he had no confidence that the incumbent administration had the desire and capacity to do it.

“The year 2021 was a tough one; we don’t pray to see such a year again. I mean with the level of insecurity, killing and kidnapping. The economy is in a bad shape; look at the naira, unemployment is high. Right now there is nothing working here, and it does not look like the President and his team can take us out of this problem.

“I don’t know but, the people in power appear to be living on another planet. Tomorrow you hear the President saying the terrorists had been defeated the next day you hear several people are killed. That is the country we are now.

Speaking further, “Buhari should make the country safe, and fix the economy; those are the two basic things that affect me and you now”.

Similar view was shared by Kehinde Kayode, public affairs analyst, who said the level of insecurity in 2021 had no doubt left the country many steps backward.

“A major area of concern that the Buhari administration must pursue come 2022 is to fight against insecurity. Only a secured country can promise economic growth and prosperity. The level of insecurity in 2021 no doubt left the country many steps backward from a lot of the many signs of progress achieved over time.

“The government failed woefully in this area this year, and the hope is to not have worse situations by 2022,” Kehinde said.