Opinion: Nigeria: Deep Threats and The Way Forward
The West African state of Nigeria is experiencing grave national security, religious and economic threats to its existence and function in the comity of nations
The argument can be advanced that given the system of “rotational federalism” of Nigeria’s political structure, no one administration has maintained appreciable sustained influence, solutions and clout to contain and eradicate these deep threats.
Nigeria’s exposure to the metastasizing of a myriad of national issues; namely religious tensions and violence, a weak human rights regime, economic disparity and long term political instability elevate that nation to the risk of disintegration.
According to the World Population Review, the 2017 population of Nigeria is estimated at 191.7 million and on track to reach 398 million by 2050.
Economic freedom as defined by the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom include the rule of law, open markets, regulatory efficiencies and size of government. And when analyzed from a composite perspective, economic freedom is elusive for the ordinary Nigerian and the government.
With an inflation rate of 15.7% in 2016, some ugly factors continue to impact the attainment of the elusive nature of economic freedom; 90 % dependency on earnings from oil export, limited diversification of the economy, over regulation and interference of government.
In its economic update quoted in the Fragile Recovery publication in May, 2017, the World Bank notes that “…Nigeria’s recent misalignment of its exchange rate and current trade policies, both of which have impeded the country’s economic growth. It also identifies a need for liberalization and policy adjustment. Boosting the economy in the long-term would involve better quality institutions and making it easier for people to access finance and do business…”
The consequence of these negative economic factors which squeeze the ordinary Nigerian out of a dignified and legitimate way to earn a living is the resort to corrupt practices.
In 2016, Transparency International (TI), the global anti-corruption movement ranked Nigeria in relation to other 176 countries in its corruption index at 136/176 and a perceived level of public service corruption of 28/100 (0 highly corrupt and 100 very clean).
Nigeria failed to improve its score and level of public perception of corruption. In fact, since 2013, that score ticked up; from 25 to 28 in 2016. (0 highly corrupt and 100 very clean).
Botswana is the only sub-Saharan African nation which ranks the highest in the index 2016 at 60/100.
(0 highly corrupt and 100 very clean).
However, the World Bank offers that in order to address the long term and sluggish economic posture, Nigeria must adopt and implement a program of employability of its citizens, increase its record of transparency and service delivery and shift to more productive economic sectors.
Human Rights Record
The US State Department 2016 Human Rights report charged that “…The country also suffered from ethnic, regional, and religious violence. Other serious human rights problems included vigilante killings; prolonged pretrial detention, often in poor conditions and with limited independent oversight; civilian detentions in military facilities, often based on flimsy evidence; denial of fair public trial; executive influence on the judiciary; infringement on citizens’ privacy rights; restrictions on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and movement; official corruption; violence against women and children, including female genital mutilation/cutting; sexual exploitation of children; trafficking in persons; early and forced marriages; discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; discrimination based on ethnicity, regional origin, religion, and disability; forced and bonded labor; and child labor.
The government took few steps to investigate or prosecute officials who committed violations, whether in the security forces or elsewhere in the government, and impunity remained widespread at all levels of government. The government did not investigate or prosecute most of the major outstanding allegations of human rights violations by the security forces or the majority of cases of police or military extortion or other abuse of power…”
Boko Haram was singled out as responsible for committing the “most serious human rights violations”. The terrorist organization is intent on the overthrow of the Nigerian government and the imposition of “pure Shariah law”.
In its 2016 Death Sentence and Execution Report Amnesty International (AI) cited Nigeria with 3 executions at Benin Prison in Edo State. 527 people were sentenced to death (33 pardons granted, 32 others exonerated) and 1,979 people were known to be on death row and included 5 foreign nationals.
Nigeria still retains the death penalty for ordinary crimes.
Governance and Stability
Even with the peaceful transfer of state power in 2015, the restive Niger Delta insurgency, attacks, kidnappings and killings by Boko Haram and the resurgence of Biafra secessionism are threatening the stability of African’s most populous nation.
Nigeria, over the years, has unselfishly expended blood and treasury in the West African sub-region and globally with the United Nations Peace Keeping effort. The efficacy of the projection if its political, economic and military dominance in Africa is under constant threat from the challenges mentioned supra.
The political fragmentation of Nigeria due to instability in the face of the mantra of “One Nigeria” is not an option only because the sub-regional and internal fissures which could result are inimical to the balance of power and peace in the West African sub-region, the continent and globally.
Religious Stress Lines
Regardless of religious affiliations – Muslims, Christians or animists, Nigerians must live together; although sometimes in perpetual tension.
Oftentimes and undeniably, when Nigeria is discussed in the religious context, it is characterized and settled upon as the Muslim north and the Christian south. However, the central region of Nigeria is home to smaller Christians and Muslim ethnic groups.
Nigerians are known to be fierce adherents to their individual religion and will not hesitate to defend it against any threat – perceived or real. Over the years, the result has been flare-ups of sectarian and religious conflicts, tensions and sometimes violence.
In its 2017 Annual Report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), in key findings reported that “Religious freedom conditions in Nigeria remained poor during the reporting period. The Nigerian government at the federal and state levels continued to repress the Shi’a Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), including holding IMN leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky without charge, imposing state-level bans on the group’s activities, and failing to hold accountable Nigerian Army officers who used excessive force against IMN members in December 2015. Sectarian violence between predominately Muslim herders and predominately Christian farmers increased, and the Nigerian federal government failed to implement effective strategies to prevent or stop such violence or to hold Perpetrators accountable.
The Nigerian military continued to successfully recapture territory from Boko Haram and arrest its Members, but the government’s nonmilitary efforts to stop Boko Haram remain nascent. Finally, other religious freedom abuses continue at the state level. Based on these concerns, in 2017 USCIRF again finds that Nigeria merits designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA), as it has found since 2009. Nigeria has the capacity to improve religious freedom conditions by more fully and effectively addressing religious freedom concerns, and will only realize respect for human rights, security, stability, and economic prosperity if it does so.”
The complex issues of national governance and cohesion of the federal Nigerian state do challenge the art of politics.
The question is how do political leaders develop a clear path forward irrespective of their political, economic and religious differences and at the same time, develop and sustain democratic institutions for the survival and prosperity of Nigeria?
By Emmanuel Abalo
A Liberian Journalist
Philadelphia, PA USA
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