• Tuesday, May 28, 2024
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BusinessDay

Where in Nigeria is safe, anyway?

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After I wrote in this column why Nigeria is not a pariahdom, it appeared to me that I may have denied justice to the average Nigerian who is a victim of the hell that Nigeria has become. By the focus on foreign visitors and investors, I may have overlooked that the Nigerian spirit is a venturing one that considers any part of the world where a living can be made a home; and the equally important impact of that spirit on the Nigerian economy. To suppress the spirit, through widespread and unceasing state of insecurity, amounts to denying the economy of the needed internal growth engine – a mobile human capital.

As things currently stand, some parts of the country require extreme caution and limit on free movement if harm is to be avoided, while others have wittingly been declared pariah because harm in these areas happens anyway with total disregard for status and place. Churches, mosques and universities have been violated. Banks and police stations have become easy targets, with their officials victimised. Even traditional rulers who have been a revered part of the Nigerian tradition have not been spared in the melee.

Across the country, it is one form of insecurity or the other. While the north grapples with the orgy of killings perpetuated by Boko Haram, the south worries about who next would be kidnapped. Armed robbery knows no bounds; it is visited on unsuspecting victims at work, road and home. The scale of the violence witnessed daily is sufficient to overwhelm even the best trained and equipped national security organisation in the world. Now imagine how an ill-motivated, ill-funded, ill-equipped like Nigeria’s would fare.

The immediate fallouts of these unholy events is a self-imposed curfew on Nigerians, freezing their legitimate economic activities beyond a certain time limit, and forcing them to remain in their immediate neighbourhoods and, as such, curtailing their spirit of entrepreneurship within known geographical limits, the impact of which becomes a restriction to their pursuit of freedom and happiness. Is it any surprise, therefore, that unemployment and standard of living continue to remain where they are today?

Safety remains the compass that guides the movement of money, goods and people. If the Fulanis, for instance, are unable to move their cattle to the south freely and safely, jobs in southern abattoirs disappear and cost of beef soars. Similarly, when the Igbos in the north feel unsafe, their shops are closed, shop-attendants lose wages and cost of wares increases in the few places they are available. Few criminals and terrorists, if any, are aware of this interrelationship.

No one place can today be considered safer than the other. The smallest hamlet or village in Nigeria is not immune from the violence that occurs daily in the big cities. Not too long ago, a US-based financial economist, Ogbo Bennard Edoga, 56, was slain by gunmen in his village, Aku, Igbo-Etiti Local Government Area of Enugu State. He was there to take care of the poor populace that were unable to get proper medical care in their oil-rich fatherland. Edoga’s only crime was that he was a Nigerian – in Nigeria. I am sure the friends he left behind in the US will think twice before coming back home.

Personal safety rarely stops at the harms criminals and terrorists inflict on their victims. The harm government incidentally does through deteriorating physical infrastructure brings incalculable harm to the users of the infrastructure. The fear of using them, as incredible as it may seem, makes venturing out difficult for some. If the ghost of insecurity is on the heel of every movement that is made or place that is lived, then no place will be considered safe to live in due course. This happens to be the stark reality facing every Nigerian.

If safety is not promised and delivered in good time, it is the Nigerian economy and the Nigerian standard of living that continue to suffer. When people have to invest in the provision of extra security for themselves and their businesses, such investment will be rolled into higher cost of goods and services across the board. The sour nature of security not only affects decisions made by foreigners but also those made by Nigerians as to where to go, where to invest and where to work. Anywhere not made safe to live and work is somewhere denied of job opportunities, high standard of living and low crime rate. This must concern any government.

Promises for a new day are no longer sufficient, what Nigerians want is result – the result that will restore peace to crisis-torn areas; that will restore the military and the police to their traditional and constitutional roles; and that will make the people free again to go about their normal businesses with little restriction, either by security agents or terrorists. People will care less how the result is got.

Just like every Nigerian, I will keep my eyes and heart open to see the result that is so much yearned for; and to be able to live in any part of my choice in Nigeria. I will do so in a voluntary hiatus, which makes this piece the last contribution in this column. My many thanks to all – BusinessDay and readers alike.

EGHE ISIAKA GUOBADIA

Guobadia, economist, banker, who was special assistant to former finance minister Chu Okongwu, now works in New York.

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