• Friday, February 23, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria: A country of queues

Fuel queues appear in Osun after President Tinubu’s inaugural speech

 

In many cities across Nigeria today, the popular refrain is: “Which queue are you joining today- for fuel, PVC or new naira notes?”

This has become necessary as a result of the importance role the three items play in the scale of needs of Nigerians and in the economy of the country.

The above-listed items have been made scarce, in the estimation of Nigerians, by dark powers that hold the country hostage.

From collection of the permanent voter’s card (PVC) to qualify for voting, to purchasing of petrol for productivity in a country that is a member of Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) but has perennial fuel scarcity, and to collection of new naira notes, it has been lamentation all the way.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), last Wednesday while campaigning in Abeokuta, Ogun State, South West, deplored the excruciating pain Nigerians are going through over the policies of government.

Tinubu had spoken in such a manner that it would seem he had got an intel that some apparatchiks within his party were out to frustrate his ambition of succeeding Muhammadu Buhari, who is billed to leave office on May 29, 2023.

The obviously angry politician said: “Even if they said there is no fuel, we will trek to vote. They have a lot of mischief; they could say there is no fuel. They have been scheming to create fuel crisis, but forget about it.”

“Relax, I, Asiwaju, have told you that the issue of fuel supply will be permanently addressed. Whoever wants to eat the honey embedded in a mountain won’t worry about the axe. Is that not so? And if you want to eat palm kernel, you would bring stone and use it to break it, then the kernel will come out,” he was also quoted to have said in Yoruba Language.

He was not done yet, as he said: “Let them increase the price of fuel, it’s only them that know where they have hoarded fuel, they hoarded money, they hoarded Naira; we will go and vote and we will win. Even if they changed the ink on Naira notes. Whatever their plans, it will come to naught. We are going to win. Those in the PDP will lose (Won Ma Lule).

“They said fuel price will increase and reach N200 per litre. Go and relax. They don’t want this election to hold, they want to scuttle it. Do you agree?

“Let me say what’s on my mind. The other day, I told you. This one too, they think they can cause crisis by sabotaging fuel supply. They are sabotaging fuel supply. Whether there is fuel or not, whether there is ‘Okada’ (motorcycle) or not, whether there is tricycle or not, we will go and vote and we shall win. This is a superior revolution and when I tell you, you know what I mean. You know me, we are going there to win”, he said.

Although his minders have tried to say that he was not referring to the powers that be in Abuja, the tenor of his speech did not support their argument.

Nigeria’s crisis of governance, argues Peter M. Lewis, the Warren Weinstein Chair of African Studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), is conspicuous. Ruling elites and public institutions, he posits, “have not provided essential collective goods, such as physical infrastructure, the rule of law, or legitimate symbols of state authority and political community.”

For an inefficient country, Nigeria’s landscape is unsurprisingly dotted with ubiquitous queues for basic goods; fuel, cash, PVCs.

Over the last one-week, long queues of bank customers have thronged Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) of banks to collect the new naira notes; notes Nigeria’s central bank claims is widely available.

State failure and the attendant dysfunction of state institutions, including their inability to meet their responsibility to Nigerians have over time resulted in unending and unyielding lines of Nigerians seeking an entrée to services that state authorities make extremely difficult to access.

The Bank of England has been gradually replacing its paper notes with polymer ones over a number of years, and in March 2022, the bank issued its six-month reminder to consumers and businesses about the withdrawal of legal tender status (or WOLTS) of the paper £20 and the paper £50 banknotes on 30 September 2022.

Nigeria’s Central Bank gave just over a month for citizens to exchange their old notes for new ones.

This bewildering difference speaks to the insensitivity of state institutions in Nigeria who see themselves as centres of power and control

Nigeria has become a weak state. Weakness, says Robert I. Rotberg, the founding director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Program on Intrastate Conflict and president emeritus of the World Peace Foundation, and John Campbell, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria “consists of providing many, but not all, of essential public goods, the most important of which are security and safety. If citizens are not secure from harm within national borders, governments cannot deliver good governance (the essential services that citizens expect) to their constituents”.

Even though it might be difficult in most cases to establish if a state is weak, fragile or failed, this is not so for Nigeria. It performs poorly across the board in all indicators of state failure (which comprise security, ability to adjudicate conflict, political participation and social service provision).

At the core of Nigeria’s systemic failure, notes Obasesam Okoi and MaryAnne Iwara, in an April 2021 article in the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, “is the crisis of governance, which manifests in the declining capacity of the state to cope with a range of internal political and social upheavals. There is an expectation for political leaders to recognize systemic risks such as terrorist attacks, herder-farmer conflict, and police brutality and put in place the necessary infrastructure to gather relevant data for problem solving. But the insufficiency of political savvy required to navigate the challenges that Nigeria faces has unleashed unrest across the nation and exacerbated existing tensions”.

Nigeria can learn from international measures to build a more capable state and end the crisis of queueing

Old notes: Atiku urges extension, says deadline causing hardship

Following the crisis that has set in, Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has called for extension of the deadline by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to phase out old naira notes in circulation.

The apex bank had issued January 31 as the deadline the old naira notes will stop being legal tender, insisting it would not extend the period.

Read also: Desperate Nigerians looking for new naira queue up at ATMs

There has been tension across the country as many banks have been overcrowded with Nigerians who want to deposit their old naira notes.

Most banks across the country have little deposit of the new naira notes few days to the deadline, prompting calls for the CBN to extend the date.

Atiku in a short video released on social media on Saturday, said the deadline is creating hardship on Nigerians.

The former vice president noted that redesigning of currency is a normal thing across the world, hence the situation in Nigeria is not unusual but rather the January 31 deadline is creating hardship on the people.

He said, “The ongoing policy by the Central Bank of Nigeria to redesign the naira notes has generated wild reactions across the country and beyond.

“This exercise is a worldwide practice and not anything new, especially as the January 31 deadline draws closer, a large number of Nigerians out of good conscience have expressed apprehension about how the policy and the deadline will make life more difficult for Nigerians.

“Many Nigerians, especially farmers, artisans and those in the rural areas do not have bank accounts, so the time frame for the change of old notes to new ones is not achievable.”

He appealed for the extension of the deadline so as to address the situation of hardship facing the people.

“On this note, I am compelled to align with the upsurge of demands for a slight extension of the monetary conversion policy.

“The January 31 deadline is certainly going to cause a heavy discomfort on our people and it will be magnanimous on the part of the government and the regulatory agency to ease the burden on the people for the public interest,” he said.