ONE: It is time for that great tradition of setting priorities for the upcoming year. This year promises to be filled with intrigue as the president and his team gets set to present to the Nigerian people his vision for the country for the upcoming year. We already have an inkling of what is to come. The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, informed a group of policy makers last week that many great cuts are coming and that next year will be a year of reform. Ministries and parastatals will be merged or completely eradicated in the case of duplication of duties in other to reduce the extreme size of our recurrent expenditure and move towards infrastructural projects that will prove useful for economic growth. The administration is also planning to enlarge non-commodity sources of revenue, that is, more taxation. In the short run, the country is poised for some very difficult times. Many families will lose income; and companies that have long evaded taxes might have to pay up. However, in the long run, our children might actually have a healthy economy to thrive in. We are petrified but hopeful.
TWO: The Federal Government of Nigeria, to our chagrin, is known for its endemic public corruption and graft. It is a dragon that refuses to be slayed no matter the princes and princess we have employed to help us for this very purpose since independence. The Economist recently estimated that the country has lost “$380 billion to graft since independence in 1960.” Yet the powerful corrupt establishment has fought tirelessly against any reform that might curtail their parasitic existence. So it remains, who will slay the dragon? It certainly does not seem as if this current government has the will or the love to ride into that castle and slay the dragon sucking out the lifeblood of the Nigerian economy. A 2009 audit of the NNPC, one if not the most important agency in the country, was recently released. The audit found out like one pundit put it that “the NNPC is a cesspool of monumental corruption and fraud.” A full copy of the report can be found HERE. Nigeria desperately needs someone brave and bold enough to clean up our public house.
THREE: A failed state is one who loses its capital to marauders or to complete violence. Nigeria almost joined the list of those states this week when a group of disgruntled former militants blocked the Murtala Muhammed Bridge in Lokoja, Kogi State. The Militants were on their way to the Presidential Villa in the Federal Capital Territory to demand that the president begin the implementation of the Amnesty Agreement. This is certainly curious since this very program seems to cost the Nigerian people a considerable amount annually. Southwest of Lokoja, in Lagos State, The Oodua People’s Congress, a militant Yoruba nationalist organization staged a demonstration of their own to apparently teach the Northern terror group, Boko Haram, a lesson. However, their protest was to show their “great love of Lagos State”. The minor inconvenience that their protest caused the state was simply a “coincidence”. In the same week, a bomb explosion went off in a mosque in Sapele, Delta State. Authorities claim there were no casualties but some people were injured. Some days later, twin bomb blast rocked the city of Jos again, exactly 3 months since the last one. One death and a number of injuries were reported. Clearly, the country needs to invest in short and long term security strategies.
FOUR: In a move to reduce the constant traumas and insecurity facing Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan has called for the “Customs Service to intensify patrol on the borders in order to control the smuggling of small arms.” Sir, what took you so long?
FIVE: The complete argument in favor of the Federal Government’s impending subsidy removal can be found HERE. All the points made were valid and the policy seems necessary for the growth of the economy. However, the only counter argument is more powerful than any fact sheet released by this government. The Nigerian people do not trust this government with the money that will be saved with the subsidy removal. The government managed to deplete billions of dollars in the Excess Crude Account within a couple of years. The very same administration spent more billions on frivolous things like mansions for the vice president and 50th anniversary celebration. So what remains? How does a government with little or no credibility when it comes to austerity and fiscal restraint, convince the Nigerian people, the most skeptical people on earth, to trust it, to remove this subsidy and use it to make their lives better? 2012 will tell.
SIX: A complete list of all the contracts approved by the Federal Executive Council is HERE. The sum of the contracts stood at N36.6 billion to fix various roads and upgrade some airports.
SEVEN: The governor of Lagos State, the much lauded, Mr. Fashola, recently justified an increase in the Lagos State University fees as a necessary policy to upgrade the services that the school gives its clients. Yet during the same week, his administration gave monarchs in the state a gift of N46 million in cars to apparently “assist” them in whatever it is they do. The Lagos State’s priorities are clear.
EIGHT: The members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities are still on strike, grinding to a halt the education of thousands of Nigerian students. The governor of Ondo State reported last week that an estimate of N80 billion leaves the Nigerian educational sector for Universities in the United Kingdom. This entire sum is spent by an estimate of 68,300 young Nigerians. This constant strike by ASUU is directly correlated to this flight of capital and an unstable Nigerian university sector. It is truly a shame.
NINE: The governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, has called for the creation of the 37th state to commemorate the recently deceased Nigerian Odiemgwu Ojukwu. Of course, Nigeria desperately needs another unviable state.
TEN: In a powerful populist move, Representative Opeyemi Bamidele donated 6 months of his salary worth N8.1 million to a fund to assist widows in his state of Ekiti. What a fantastic gesture.