AN OVERVIEW OF SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGES OF NIGERIA IN RECENT TIMES
- Author Mukang Baklit
- Published May 6, 2022
- Word count 2,826
AN OVERVIEW OF SUSTAINABILITY CHALLENGES OF NIGERIA IN RECENT TIMES
By Baklit Mukang (B.Sc Geography, M.Sc Environmental Resource Planning)
Nigeria is believed to be the most populous black Nation and seen as the giant of the African continent with an estimated population of over 200 million people with about 250 different ethnic groups. The country is divided into six geo-political zones which are; South-South, South-East, South-West, North-West, North-East and North-Central. The South-South is made up of 6 states which are; Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Cross River. The South-West comprises of 6 states; Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Ondo, Oyo and Ekiti. The South-East comprises of 5 states; Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Abia, and Ebonyi. The North-West have 7 states which are; Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kano and Jigawa. The North-East have 6 states which are; Gombe, Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Maiduguri and Taraba. The North-Central which is being referred to as the Middle Belt in some quarters is made up of 6 states including the FCT, they are; Plateau, Benue, Nassarawa, Kogi, Kwara and Niger. The country thus has 36 states including the FCT which is the administrative headquarters of the country, and can be divided into two major political divisions of North and South.
Nigeria as a country has been plagued with a series of challenges in the past before gaining its independence from British rule in 1960 and embracing democratic system of government in 1999. Worthy of mention of these happenings in the history of Nigeria that have contributed in shaping the country to what it is today are the Military coups d’état of 1966, 1967 (Civil War), 1975, 1976, 1983, 1990 and 1993. The unity and stability of the nation during these periods were threatened through series of military coups, some of which successfully overthrew the sitting government (1966, 1975, 1983, 1985 and 1993), while others failed to overthrow the government and seize power (1967, 1976 and 1990).
National Unity and Stability can be hinged to the concept of sustainability. Sustainability as a concept refers to meeting of our basic needs without compromising or destroying the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs. As a concept, sustainability is anchored on three pillars which are; economic, social and environmental sustainability. The challenges confronting Nigeria in recent times have great consequences on these three pillars of sustainability, without which it becomes almost impossible for the nation to enjoy national unity and stability. This paper would however, focus on some happenings in the country that have threatened the economic, social and environmental sustainability aspects of the people of Nigeria. The issues to be examined briefly are; the agitations for secession by IPOB, banditry/Kidnappings in the North, ASUU strikes and crisis in the oil sector.
To begin with, there is a saying that “development can only thrive in an atmosphere of peace”. It can therefore be concluded that peace is a panacea for development. The multiplicity of ethnic groups in the country has made it easy for one group or the other to feel marginalized. For instance, the Indigenous People of Biafara (IPOB) is a separatist group in the south-east and parts of the south-south of Nigeria which was founded around 2014 by Nnamdi Kanu a British-Nigerian whose desire is to restore the separatist state of Biafara which existed in the eastern region of Nigeria during the civil war of 1967 to 1970. The Biafara struggle in Nigeria started shortly after independence in 1967 under the command of Colonel Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The Biafara republic however failed due to the surrender of the Biafaran forces to the Federal Military Government (FMG) under the command of General Yakubu Gowon in 1970.
The activities of this group has no doubt led to the destabilization of the region (south-east and parts of south-south) as there has been series of confrontations between the armed faction of IPOB known as Eastern Security Network (ESN) which was formed and announced by its leader in 2020 with security forces. He justified the reason for the establishment of ESN as a measure to protect the Igbo people from Fulani herders who have been attacking the Igbo people on their land and destroying their farm lands. This pronouncement by Nnamdi Kanu of course did not go down well with the government of Nigeria as every right thinking government would react. This led to an offensive launched on the group (ESN) by the Nigerian Military in 2021. The leader of IPOB had been arrested earlier in 2015 by the Department of state Services (DSS) in Lagos and was released on bail after a trial in a magistrate court in Abuja. He fled the country however in 2017 after the invasion of his compound in Abia State, Nigeria. He was rearrested in 2021 outside the shores of the country in where it was believed to be Kenya, a claim which was refuted by the Kenyan High Commissioner (Wilfred Machage). His arrest sparked waves of different reactions in the south-east which also led to an imposition of a sit-at-home order by IPOB. The order was expected to commence from the 9th of August 2021 in order to press for the release of its leader who was held in DSS custody. Every Monday from 6:00am to 6:00pm was declared as a sit at home order in the south-east. This meant that no form of business, commercial, educational or any other activity took place on Monday’s as the streets were deserted; people who attempted to flaunt the order incurred the wrath of IPOB as they were beaten mercilessly and their properties destroyed.
The next contemporary issue which is the activities of bandits in the north-west and parts of north-central Nigeria poses a great threat as the activities of IPOB to the security of lives and property by implication national unity and stability also. Bandits have been having a filled day in the north-west of the country and some parts of the north-central in recent times as they go about kidnapping people for ransom, ransacking villages and displacing people from their ancestral lands. They have destroyed the means of rural livelihood which happens to be farming in this case as villagers are attacked and killed on their farmlands and their crops burnt on the farm and in their reserves. There are also reports that villagers sometimes have to pay bandits in order to make them stay away from attacking their communities and each time people try to go against the demands made by the bandits, the result is destruction of properties, killing and maiming of people in these communities. Ibrahim Adeyemi in his report in Premium Times dated April 4th 2022, reported that there are about 100 different group of bandits with over 30,000 foot soldiers (militias) operating in the northwest and are engaged in killing, maiming and kidnapping of innocent citizens in the region. The center of Democracy and Development for West Africa (CDD) has attributed the activities of bandits in the northwest and some parts of the north-central to factors which include; political, economic and social problems. The ineffectiveness of Nigerian criminal justice system has made people lose confidence and trust in the judiciary. The people do not feel satisfied with judgments coming from the courts and each time this happens there is tendency for the defendants to take laws into their hands by devising ways of getting back at people whom they believe have done them wrong or decide to go into a life of crime themselves as a result of frustration occasioned by the disappointing judgment, this was the confession of a repentant bandit to CDD.
Kaduna state in the last one year (2021 to 2022) has always been on the news with the activities of bandits ranging from kidnappings and killings. The Nigerian Defense Academy (NDA) was attacked on the 24th of August 2021, it was reported that two officers were killed and another abducted. Another recent attack in Kaduna is the bombing of the rail track along the Kaduna-Abuja rail line on the 28th of March 2022, with about 8 people reported dead and about 41 persons injured while other passengers are still missing with others in the hands of bandits who have reached out to their families already to confirm they are in their custody and to negotiate on the ransom to be paid in order to have their loved ones released. One would ask, if the security agents themselves are targets to whom do they people run to for safety? Protection of lives and property is the sole prerogative of any government. When the people do not feel that sense of security any longer, there is that tendency for the nation to drift into a state of anarchy.
There is no gainsaying that education is the bedrock for the development of any nation. While peace is an environment that allows development to thrive, education is the basic tool needed to bring about development. No nation in the world can attain economic development without heavy investments in education. It is however sad to note with dismay the governments handling and response to issues of education especially at the tertiary level. Tertiary education in the country has been plagued with strikes and threats of strikes by lectures of universities, colleges of education as well as polytechnics. The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been involved in a series of face-off with the federal government over issues relating to the 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement and the issue of Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS). The universities lecturers have kicked against the adoption of IPPIS as a payment platform for its members as the system have been adjudged to be ineffective in suiting the needs of a university system. The union also went ahead to develop the University Transparency and Accountability Solution (UTAS) which they believe suits the university system. This however doesn’t seem to go down well with the federal government of Nigeria as they reported UTAS to have failed the integrity test conducted by National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in February 2022. The 2009 FGN-ASUU agreement borders on issues pertaining to conditions of service, funding, university autonomy and academic freedom amongst others. It is sad to note that 13 years down the line there are still grievances by ASUU towards the federal government of Nigeria who has failed to honor certain aspects of the agreement it entered into with the union. The nation’s federal universities have experienced series of strikes that have become more like a reoccurring decimal. The future of so many youths have been left hanging in the balance as their dream of acquiring a university degree to enable them pursue their career and professional calling lies in a plethora of ASUU strikes. This certainly does not augur well for the development of our dear country. Ground-breaking researches and innovations are capital intensive activities that require heavy funding. Funding of the nation’s universities and other tertiary institutions to enable them engage in researches and innovations in science and technology is critical if at all we are to compete with other countries of the world and be a force to be reckoned with. Without access to research grants and proper funding for the equipping of our laboratories to a global standard to allow experiments to be conducted and discoveries in the field of science possible, our universities would not be considered worthy of recognition in the committee of universities in the world.
Finally, we move to our last issue which is the oil sector of our economy. Nigeria is an oil blessed nation. The natural resource was discovered in commercial quantity in 1956 at Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. The discovery of oil would have meant a turn-around in the economic fortunes of the country but regrettably that isn’t the case. Despite having four refineries in the country, it is embarrassing to say that none of these four refineries or the four collectively can produce fuel to service the nation’s growing population who require the product for various activities of which their livelihood depends on. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) estimates a daily consumption rate of premium motor spirit (PMS) to a tune of 65.7 million liters a day in January, 2022. The concept of subsidy is being brought about as a result of the failure of our government to ensure that our refineries function optimally to suit the needs of the people in order to avoiding shipping crude outside the shores of the country to be refined and only to be imported back into the country again. The concept of subsidy has continued to be a debated issue by development experts and many others. This is because many believe that the figures being put forward by the NNPC as daily consumption rates sound outrageous and is only but a ploy by the agency to swindle resources. The organization had in January 2022 requested the sum of 3 trillion naira for subsidy payments due to the price of crude oil in the global market being pegged at $80 per barrel. Although the government has announced its intention to remove subsidy on a couple of occasions and recently in 2021 effective from February 2022, this decision if allowed to come into effect will lead to hardship on the masses as well as the collapse of most MSME’s in the country who rely on fuel for its production and other services. Others as well as the government have maintained that removal of subsidy is the best way f addressing the crisis in the oil sector.
In January of 2022, there was a fuel scarcity that hit the nation which was blamed on the importation of adulterated fuel by oil marketers as was reported by the regulatory body (NNPC), and lasted all through to almost the 4th week of the month of March, 2022. During the period of the scarcity long queues were observed in all the states of the nation as people spent hours queuing for fuel and some had to sleep in their cars before getting fuel the next day. This has led to hours of unproductive labor wasted in fuel queues as well as rising cost of transportation and the prices of goods and services almost doubled due to the high price of fuel which sold at between 400 and above in different parts of the country.
It is also important to point out that the exploration of oil in Niger delta by oil companies like Shell has led to the destruction of the ecosystem. Through these exploration activities, issues of oil spillage have been recorded in the region which has led to destruction of agricultural land and water for domestic and industrial purposes as well as the destruction of various species of flora and fauna. It is in the light of these happenings the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) was commissioned in 2011 by the federal government to embark on an Environmental assessment of the region. In its Environmental Report, a clean-up programme was recommended in the region (Ogoni land) and a total of 1 billion dollars was appropriated for the clean-up and restoration programme of Ogoni land on the 7th of August, 2017.
In conclusion, the issues raised in the paper threaten sustainability in diverse ways. The agitations by IPOB in the south and the activities of bandits in the north, threaten economic, social and environmental sustainability of the country. Human relations have been reduced due to the fear of kidnappings on our roads and in recent time’s rail ways (Kaduna-Abuja) by bandits while travelling. The means of earning a living have been threatened also by the activities of IPOB during the sit at home order as businesses and other commercial activities came to a halt every Monday of the week thereby leading to loss of capital by both government and private individuals and organizations. Some parts of the forest have also been bombed by the military in an offensive against the bandits who run to their hideouts in the forest thereby destroying habitats of certain species of flora and fauna. The FGN-ASUU face-off also has its own threat on economic sustainability as innovations in science and technology and knowledge sharing and acquisition have been greatly affected due to the incessant strike actions. The activities of oil exploration companies also pose a threat to economic as well as environmental sustainability. Farmers can no longer plough the land for both subsistence and commercial purposes as the land has been rendered agriculturally unproductive. Fisher men can no longer find fishes to catch as the fishes and other aquatic animals have been killed by the oil spillage. It is therefore in view of this that a clarion call on the federal government and well meaning Nigerians is made by this paper in order to prevent what the famous author Prof. Chinua Achebe posited in his book “Things Fall Apart”. Neglecting the issues discussed in this paper and other issues are capable of derailing the nation from the attainment of national unity and stability.
• Ibrahim Adeyemi (2022), unpunished crimes, poverty, others fuel banditry in Nigeria’s northwest-Report, Premium Times report of 4th April, 2022.
• FGN-ASUU INTIALED-AGREEMENT-JAN 2009, Premium Times. Retrieved from https://www.premiumtimesng.com on 4th of april, 2022.
• UN Environment’s Environmental Assessment of Ogoni land (2011).
Am a Tutor with the Directorate of non-nuc funded programs University of Jos for over 5 years and hold a Bachelor's degree in Geography and a Master's degree in Environmental Resource Planning all obtained from the University of Jos.Article source: https://articlebiz.com
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