• Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigeria crumbling into anarchy

Members of Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress on a Peaceful protest on subsidy removal: Fix local refineries and stop naira devaluation, in Lagos, yesterday

…As hunger pangs bite harder

…Vehicles being attacked, food items carted away

Since the Monday protests in Kano and Minna over the high cost of living in the country, there have been more protests, and counter protests.

While many are lamenting over the economic hardship, some are saying the present government should be given more time.

The latter was what scores of pro-democracy activists did on Friday, staging a solidarity march from the Unity Fountain to the National Assembly complex in Abuja to demand that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) suspend its planned two-day protest and return to the negotiation table with the Federal Government.

In his view, Sunday Attah, convener of Nigerian Civil Society Forum, who spoke at the solidarity march, said that the planned protest was uncalled for.

“We are not going to allow the NLC to plunge Nigeria into anarchy. Calling for protest against an eight-month-old government is uncalled for. The President is doing his best. He is not a magician. All that Nigerians need at the moment is to be patient with the president,” he urged.

As Nigerians try to be patient with the President, some people are of the opinion that the economic reforms require adjustments by the masses and will definitely yield the expected economic stability.

Read also: Hunger: Two urgent steps Tinubu must take to avert anarchy – Agbakoba

But the question for many is how long will the masses continue to wait as the economic hardship bites harder every day or how long will it take the reforms to start impacting positively?

While they wait for answers, the inpatient ones see protests as a means to communicate their feelings.

Away from the protests, the concerns are that the realities are obvious and are fueling the protests as many families go hungry due to the high cost of food items in the market, high cost of transportation and other commodities.

Apart from the lamenting families, businesses are struggling to stay afloat over the high energy cost, high inflation, unstable foreign exchange rate and insecurity.

“You don’t need protests to know that hunger pangs are biting harder. In recent times, goods-bearing trucks have been attacked and food items carted away by hungry masses.

“Now, grocery stores and other potential targets are beefing up security in preparation for imminent attacks,” Mathieu Iyala, an economist and university lecturer, said.

According to him, no matter how good one wants to paint the picture, the situation on ground is not favouring anybody.

“Those who don’t have are crying and if you think you have money, inflation has reduced your millions to mere paper. In this situation, some rich are becoming poor and we are going to experience Babangida’s structural adjustment programme once again,” he noted.

Read also: Boosting food security in times of hunger

Bem Hembafan, a retired security officer, who runs private security for estates in Abuja and in Nasarawa State, fears the escalation of the situation as the steady depreciation of the Naira leaves many with little to fend for themselves.

“With the low purchasing power, many who don’t have may resort to violence and looting of food items just to survive. This is a bigger security risk because it is from within and from people we know,” Hembafan lamented.

Read also: February TalkExchange poll: Is Nigeria’s record-high food inflation affecting you?

His major worry is that with the insecurity situation in most agrarian communities, especially the persisting farmers-herders clash, there will be more hunger in the land this year.

“Those who are looting truckloads of food items today may see no truck to loot next year if farmers are not allowed to farm this year because the president has said no to importation of food. Which farmer will brace the odds to enter the farm when death is lurking in the corner?” The security expert asked.

He also fears anarchy as the people impacted by the hardship will definitely outnumber those who are safe, probably the politicians and those paid to pretend that all is well, according to him.

Sequel to the hunger in the land, the increasing default in the renewal of house rent in the estates his firm manages, especially in Abuja, is worrisome.

“As an estate security firm, we are always notified when quit notice is served to a tenant and the rate is increasing now. People need to eat first before paying house rent, which landlords are increasing like the American dollar.

“Without food and shelter, the situation will be catastrophic. The Police or Army people you will send to quell protests are also hungry, they have families and dependents, they pay house rent and school fees. It will be tough if nothing is done now because all of us are experiencing same thing,” he warned.

Considering the huge youth population, many of whom are idle, Chijioke Umelahi, an Abuja-based lawyer and onetime lawmaker, is urging the government not to play with the situation at hand.

For him, there should be a lasting solution to food insecurity and the measures should be both short and long terms because the government cannot keep sharing food items or money as the source will soon dry and hunger will still be biting.

“We hear of rented crowd, if that is true, how long will you keep renting them to support your policies because the hunger in the land seems to be here for a long stay and so also the protests,” he said.

Furthering on the reason the government should not politicise the situation, the lawyer noted that “a hungry man is an angry man” and that hunger does not know tribe or religion, but food.

In the immediate, he suggested that the government can introduce price control, offer manufacturers tax incentives to enable them to reduce price of their products, check arbitrary increase in fuel pump price as such will automatically increase prices of commodities and also allow importation of food items to augment the shortfall in supply.

“I don’t think Nigeria has reached that level of sufficiency in food production. There is shortfall in supply and that is part of the reasons prices of food items are high.

“In Economics, you are allowed to import to meet growing demand and supply shortfall, that will not bankrupt rice farmers, but will improve supply and beat down price.

“Again, where are the rice pyramids they keep showing us under Buhari?

“We need them now to feed the people or else open the borders for rice to come in, let people eat and survive first because this becoming an emergency situation,” he decried.

Meanwhile, the handlers of the presidency and the APC are confident that the Tinubu-led administration will lead Nigeria out of the economic hardship, having proven his credibility as governor of Lagos State.

They are also confident that the situation will not degenerate into anarchy, while pleading for more time and support for Mr. President.

But a hungry man, as they say, is an angry man.

The masses are hungry and are inpatient, hence, the government needs to do everything possible to save the bad situation.