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2022: What a horrific year!



THE long, gloomy faces of frustrated motorists at the even longer queues of vehicles waiting to buy petrol provided a fitting epitaph to the year that just ended. For a population afflicted by many ills, 2022 was a particularly miserable year marked by violence, bloodshed, poverty, shortages of food and energy, endless scandals and a political class becoming more degenerate by the day. The fiery cleric, Mathew Kukah, in his Christmas homily, graphically pointed out the shortcomings of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), who along with regime figures, continues to play the ostrich. Kukah’s damning verdict on his failures in healthcare, corruption and nepotism is an accurate sketch of the year. Nigerians should resolve to make 2023 different.

Kukah berated Buhari for failing to deliver on his election promises to improve major areas of national life, including security. Undoubtedly, governance further degenerated dangerously on Buhari’s watch in 2022 and Kukah’s message resonates beyond Nigeria’s shores. Charitably, he scored him well in infrastructure provision, saying Buhari had made some strides in that area.

But many Nigerians are not convinced. What they see, and which were amplified in 2022, are insecurity magnified to unprecedented levels, inflation, more joblessness, the severe battering of the naira, more power shortages, and of petrol, kerosene and diesel, hunger, floods and dilapidated public infrastructure. Amid all this, the political class and public officials have become even more corrupt, unaccountable, and brazen in their misrule.

Kukah’s intervention summarises the view of most Nigerians. With just five months before he exits power, Kukah arguedthat Buhari is leaving Nigerians much more helpless than he met them in 2015.

“It is sad that despite your lofty promises, you are leaving us far more vulnerable than when you came, that the corruption we thought would be fought has become a leviathan and sadly, a consequence of a government marked by nepotism,” the bishop said.

In 2022, the self-centred political class lived large while the people groaned, Kukah reminded Buhari. “We know that you are healthier now than you were before. We can see it in the spring in your steps, the thousands of miles you have continued to cover as you travel abroad. However, I also wish that millions of our citizens had a chance to enjoy just a fraction of your own health by a measurable improvement in the quality of health care in our country.” Under Buhari, there may be nothing of such.

Doctors and other medical professionals are fleeing abroad for better work conditions while regime ministers trivialise the issue with insensitive statements.

Nigerians feel betrayed. His frequent junketing overseas for his personal health care rankles. Just like in previous years, his regime was weak, lethargic, and rudderless in 2022.

Worse, Buhari lives in denial. He recently repeated his bland claim that he has done his best for Nigeria. Certainly, his best has been so woeful in that for many, life was “short, nasty, and brutish” in 2022. In a properly functioning democracy, popular pressure would have forced him out of office.

In truth, 2022 was a horrific year for many Nigerians. A study by the National Bureau of Statistics and released in November aggregated the number of Nigerians living in multidimensional poverty at 133 million. That cements Nigeria’s status as the global capital of poverty, a far higher figure than the 86.9 million in 2018 by multilateral organisations thatshot Nigeria into infamy as the global centre of extreme poverty.

Food insecurity marred 2022.  Kenya-based Integrated Food Security Phase Classification found that nearly six million children aged 0-59 months suffered, and will likely continue to suffer from acute malnutrition between May 2022 and April 2023 in the North-West and North-East.The UN Food and Agricultural Organisation said about 19.4 million people faced food insecurity across Nigeria between June and August. Food inflation rose to 24.13 per cent in November from 23.72 per cent recorded in October. That figure is likely understated, as many go to bed or wake up hungry.

For the education industry, 2022 was disastrous, ruined by an eight-month-long strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities over remuneration and revitalisation of public tertiary institutions. Unwisely, despite the huge funding gaps, Buhari and the insensitive National Assembly continue to establish more institutions. The consequences of the strike will linger for a longtime after Buhari’s exit.

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Undoubtedly, insecurity ballooned in 2022. This saw 5,222 Nigerians killed in the eight months to August, the Nigerian Security Tracker said.Rampaging bandits maimed, kidnapped, and killed wantonly.

The country was shocked when bandits invaded the Kaduna International Airport, followed by an audacious attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train in March. It took several months and over N1 billion in ransom before the hostages were released. This prompted the suspension of the service. In June, terrorists bombed the St Xavier Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, as the Sunday service was ending, killing over 40 worshippers. A month later in July, terrorists/bandits raided the Kuje Correctional Centre, in the Federal Capital Territory, following it up with an ambush of the elite Brigade of Guards troops.

These incidents exposed the government’s weakness in the face of hardship, insecurity, and economic losses. Corruption reigned supreme. The suspended Accountant-General of the Federation, who is on trial for allegedly looting N101 billion, has already returned N30 billion, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission said.

Buhari’s chronic distractedness fuelled insecurity and economic haemorrhage. According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited, Nigeria lost between 400,000 and 700,000 barrels per day through oil theft. This equated to a loss of $2 billion (or N1.3 trillion) from January to August, a Senate ad-hoc committee found. From its top position, Angola and Algeria dislodged Nigeria as Africa’s largest crude exporter at a point during the year. Consequently, Nigeria could not meet its OPEC assigned quota of 1.8 million bpd.

For a country whose main source of foreign exchange is oil and gas sales, it spelt trouble. Consequently, the forex crisis became more pronounced in 2022.From N415 to $1 in January, and N567 to $1 in the parallel market, the naira plunged to over N447/$1 on December 28. In the parallel market, it sold for nearly N800/$1.Thus, imports, which Nigerians depend on for survival, are prohibitively priced.

Nigeria derived little benefits from having oil and gas in abundance. Inexcusably, the regime persisted in neglecting domestic refining. The Central Bank of Nigeria said petroleum products worth $1.04billion were imported into the country in 2021; the 2022 figure is not likely to be much different. Hefty subsidies of N4 trillion were incurred January to September. Intermittent petrol scarcity worsened by year end.

As of 2019, the International Energy Agency had put electricity access in Nigeria at 61.6 per cent, with 77 million people without power supply. The peak generation of 5,593.40 megawatts attained in February 2021 is underwhelming for a country that needs 98,000MW, per IEA estimates, to power homes and industry.

At 21.47 per cent in November, inflation is trending higher monthly. Buhari and regime officials cite Russia’s war on Ukraine, flooding and the aftermath of COVID-19 to explain the adversity. They are partly right as these have impacted the whole world. Yet, Buhari has failed woefully in economic management. The maritime sector, which can ameliorate the paucity of inflows, is deeply chaotic, negatively impacting exports. Thus, the major global rating agencies – Moody’s, Fitch, and S&P – downgraded Nigeria’s economic outlook.

The jobless rate, at 33.5 per cent, is alarming. Millions of youths graduate annually with no hope of getting jobs. The ‘japa’ syndrome, in which the youth are fleeing overseas for a better life, is one of the telling indices of 2022.

On a positive note, Kukah praised Buhari for infrastructure. The cleric also lauded Buhari for electoral reforms. The Second Niger Bridge and the Bodo-Bonny Highway finally opened; the train service between Aladja in Delta State to Itakpe in Kogi State is done. However, these projects are too few to celebrate and the infrastructure deficit is colossal.

On the flip side, borrowing accelerated with little to show for it. At the end of June, the national debt stock stood at N42.84 trillion. Today’s and future generations are being saddled with debt.

Will 2023 be better? Going by Buhari’s antecedents, that is a long shot.

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