• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Tackling the triple threats against Nigeria

Tackling the triple threats against Nigeria

Three hydra-headed threats currently confront Nigeria: insecurity, inflation, and low productivity. They are interconnected and require a multi-pronged approach to be tackled.

The security challenge hides in plain sight. Because it manifests in banditry and insurgency in remote outposts and rural communities, both the government and citizens in Abuja and the state capitals do not pay sufficient attention. Inadequate attention to the threat of insecurity is itself an added threat.

Read also: Understanding food insecurity in Nigeria

Insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping create instability, disrupt economic activity, and discourage investment. Investors seek only places where they can repatriate or retrieve profits safely. What is the point of investing in reaping death?

The Southeast has suffered the peril of insecurity in the last five years. It followed the Monday sit-at-home orders imposed by the Indigenous People of Biafra to show their control of the region. It backfired as investors moved out of the region to neighbouring towns in the South-South despite a clarion call about returning to invest in the homeland (akuruoulo). Leading Igbo group Ohanaeze Ndigbo started a campaign in 2023 to convince the people to discount the sit-at-home, noting that it costs a trillion Naira annually in lost production, profits, and people.

Agriculture suffered because of insecurity in Nigeria. Bandits and jihadists have despoiled many farming communities and made it impossible and undesirable to plant. One outcome is the country’s high food inflation in 2024.

Q: “Insurgency, banditry, and kidnapping create instability, disrupt economic activity, and discourage investment.”

High inflation, such as Nigeria is experiencing, erodes purchasing power, reduces savings, and discourages businesses from expanding. The country’s inflation is as high as 31 percent.

The combination of insecurity and high inflation leads to low productivity. Low productivity means the economy is flying at half-mast, which makes it harder to create jobs, raise wages, and improve living standards. It creates a Catch-22.

As banditry escalates, the federal and state governments need to do more. They need to tackle the bandits and jihadists with greater force. Significantly, they need to instill trust and confidence in citizens in their actions against these security threats. Many of their actions regarding recent bandit activities are shrouded in concealment, bothering the mysterious. For instance, how did the number of abducted Kuriga pupils plummet mysteriously from 285 to 137 at the point of their release? What did Nigeria do to ensure their release? Who is paying the price for the crime of abduction?

Moreover, Nigeria must address the root causes of conflict, such as poverty, unemployment, and injustice. Governments at state and federal levels must foster dialogue and cooperation between different communities to reduce the kind of challenge that escalated in the Okuama community in Delta State. We cannot emphasise enough the necessity of training, reorientation, and equipping the country’s security forces.

There are other challenges. In March 2023, UNICEF drew attention to another triple threat against Nigeria in water management and climate change. The UN agency stated, “78 million children in Nigeria are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats: inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); related diseases; and climate hazards.”.

Read also: Nigeria needs world interventions on food insecurity, starvation

UNICEF said, “Nigeria also ranks second out of 163 countries globally with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats. Groundwater levels are also dropping, requiring some communities to dig wells twice as deep as just a decade ago. At the same time, rainfall has become more erratic and intense, leading to floods contaminating scarce water supplies.”

They recommended a scaling of investment in that sector, “including from global climate financing and strengthening of climate resilience in the WASH sector and communities. Many citizens lack access to safe water, and UNICEF fears it may take Nigeria 16 years to meet up. The example of just one sector underlines the need for more significant investments and a focus on tackling the challenges.

Productivity is critical. Nigeria must revive its factories and clusters, where firms can engage critical human capital to produce goods and services. The much-hyped investments in infrastructure, such as transportation and power, must take effect to reduce business operational costs. We must promote innovation and technological advancement.

Tighter control over government spending is necessary to reduce our growing budget deficits. Nigeria’s deficits at the federal and state levels are unsustainable. Moreover, it is difficult to see why., what, and how such deficits occur and for what purpose. The financial authorities are significantly implementing tighter monetary policies, such as raising interest rates. Early results are encouraging and positive.

The triple threats are interconnected. The challenges require a multi-pronged approach. The Nigerian government, businesses, and civil society have a role to play.

Additionally, Nigeria can seek international cooperation to provide financial and technical assistance.