As Nigeria descends into darkness again

Written By Bolaji Akinola

Nigerians have been through very tough times these past six months. Last week’s Easter was observed with little or no activities by many families across the country largely due to economic hardship. It was Easter in darkness – no light, no money to buy food and no fuel to power generators. Many spent their Easter holiday on fuel queues at the petrol station. To compound their woes they paid more than twice the official rate to acquire much-needed premium motor spirit for vehicles and generators. The fuel scarcity was exacerbated by the careless and reckless comments credited to Minister of State for Petroleum, IbeKachikwu, who declared that fuel scarcity would persist for another two months.

Confronted by a battalion of reporters to tell them when he hopes the nation would get out of the latest cycle of fuel crisis, the minister, who doubles as the helmsman of the national oil corporation blurted out: “One of the training I did not receive is that of a magician, but I am working very hard to ensure some of these issues go away”. Amazing, isn’t it? He has since recanted though but the situation is not any better.

Worse still, Nigerians – thanks to Minister BabatundeFashola – are compelled to pay 45% more for the electricity they hardly get to use.

Few weeks into his Presidency, every sector of the economy sprang back to life. The naira firmed up to the dollar and other major currencies. Fuel queues disappeared, even without payment of the contentious fuel subsidy by the federal government. The nation’s major refineries located in Warri, Kaduna and Port Harcourt all sprang back to life collectively churning out over 10 million litres of petrol daily, representing a third of local consumption needs.

Shouts of “Sai Baba”, “SaiBuhari” rented the air as Nigerians hailed their choice of new president.

Electricity became stable in many parts of the country with power generation hitting 4,500 megawatts – an unprecedented high from an abysmal low of 750MW inherited from his predecessor.

Piracy, oil theft and other criminal activities on our waterways plummeted. Zero attack was recorded on the nation’s waterways during this period. The story is now different. Pirates are back in their full element. Oil theft is no longer worth the risk so they hijack ships and hold crewmembers for ransom. No fewer than four ships have been attacked this year with sailors taken hostage. They target all vessel types including containerships, tugs and oil tankers.

The naira has suffered the worst attack in its history, exchanging at 320 to the dollar. What is more, there is dollar scarcity, no thanks to a steep drop in foreign exchange earnings. Trade is suffering due to inability of importers and exporters to access foreign exchange. Volumes across our ports have dropped by more than 35% with attendant job losses across the spectrum. In the aviation sector, local airlines are groaning while the foreign ones have doubled their charges. The manufacturing sector is in a state of coma as several manufacturers have closed shop. They simply cannot cope with the multiple challenges of lack of access to foreign exchange, lack of electricity, lack of fuel and stifling government policies. No fewer than five million jobs are at stake.

Our stock market has sank to the bottom of global ranking, emerging one of the worst in the world with a daily loss of billions of naira as foreign investors pull out their funds.

Civil servants and public officers are not left out of the hardship, as at least 27 of our 36 states struggle to pay salaries to their workers.

At 11.38%, inflation is now at a five-year high. The purchasing power of Nigerians has been dreadfully impaired.

At USD27.88billion, there are concerns over the rapid depletion of the nation’s external reserves, from which the Central Bank of Nigeria pulls funds to defend the national currency.

On the security front, Nigerians are still to experience much-needed change. While major successes have been recorded against insurgents of the Boko Haram stock, kidnappings and killings of several innocent Nigerians remain sore points for the administration. High level of youth unemployment, incessant clashes between Fulani herdsmen and their host communities and suicide bombings in parts of the Northeast require new creative thinking by the present administration.

The situation of the country at present reminds Nigerians of the dark days of the Jonathan administration. It is hard to forget Jonathan’s last Monday in office. 25th May 2015 was the day Nigeria was practically brought to its knees by the skullduggery and ineptitude of that administration. It was a black day that would be permanently etched on the psyche of many Nigerians. That day was a fitting description of everything Jonathan’s five-and-a-half year regime typified – total darkness. We all remember how banks had to shut down their operations, no light, no fuel, no money.

Nigerians yearn for complete departure from that past.

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