1. Nigeria’s Economic Outlook
Nigeria’s economy is still grappling with the effect of COVID–19. The pandemic’s containment measures continue to affect aviation, tourism, hospitality, manufacturing, and trade. Contraction in these sectors offset demand-driven expansion in financial and information and communications technology sectors. The public fiscal deficit, financed mostly by domestic and foreign borrowings, widened with high debt service payments, estimated at more than half of federally collected revenues, pose a major fiscal risk to Nigeria’s economy. Recent economic decisions have continued to exert more pressure on domestic prices and inflation which stands at 17.75% in 2021. Our major downside risk includes reduced fiscal space, should oil prices remain depressed. In addition, flooding and rising insecurity has hampered agricultural production. Further depletion in foreign reserves has also led to sharp exchange rate depreciation and inflationary pressures. A potential relapse in COVID–19 cases could exacerbate these risks. High unemployment, poverty and growing inequality remain some of the major challenges in Nigeria. Our system is not purposefully governed to foster an economy with relevant social, economic, and physical infrastructure for business operations and industrial growth, to provide gainful employment, functional and useful education, and quality health care for the people. Governments must ensure that rising poverty indices are reversed to ensure that Nigerians meet their basic needs.
2. Protracted Insecurity
The country's overstretched security forces still struggle to contain a rise in attacks on several fronts. The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern, and it has impacted more negatively by exerting complex negative pressures, while attacks have continued across several states. Rising Insecurity had led to growing separatist calls from the South East and South West. Nigeria is faced with an unprecedented wave of different but overlapping security crises - from kidnapping to extremist insurgencies - almost every corner of the country has been hit by violence and crime. Some have linked the recent surge of insecurity to the staggering poverty across the country. Youth unemployment currently stands at 32.5% and the country is in the middle of one of the worst economic downturns in 27 years. Violent disputes between nomadic animal herders and farmers have continued with its attendant bloodletting, maiming, raping and murder for many years. These disputes are directly connected to the use of land and water, as well as grazing routes which have been exacerbated by climate change and the spread of the Sahara Desert, as herders move further south looking for pasture. For this, thousands have been killed in clashes over limited resources. Today, one of the scariest threats for Nigerians is the frequent kidnapping of school children from their classrooms and boarding houses. More than 1,000 students have been abducted from their schools since December 2020, many only released after thousands of dollars are paid as ransom. The bandits raid villages, kidnap civilians and burn down houses at will.
3. Residents Doctors’ Perennial Strikes
Doctors across the country have embarked on strike for the fourth time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some of them complaining they have not been paid in months. The stoppage has left government-run hospitals and COVID-19 treatment centres short of staff. The latest strike comes as Nigeria confronts an avalanche of new COVID-19 cases blamed on the delta variant. Already, Nigerian media outlets are reporting that patients - some with COVID-19 symptoms - are being turned away at short-staffed hospitals. Other patients have been discharged into the streets or left to languish in hospital beds without being diagnosed or receiving treatment.
While the current stoppage does not affect specialist doctors or nurses, resident medical staff make up the bulk of health care workers at government hospitals throughout Nigeria, and they also staff most of the government-run treatment facilities for COVID-19. Though, the striking doctors worry about the wellbeing of their patients but place the blame on the federal government, saying it failed to honour an earlier agreement reached after the last strike in April 2021. Nigeria's health minister Osagie Ehanire has said that he is committed to getting the resident doctors back to work, though he has said that most of their demands are issues to be solved by state governments, not his ministry.
The doctors’ strike has also become more worrisome because it came at a time cholera epidemic, which has been silently growing nationwide since beginning of the year, is currently taking its toll across communities in the country, with 2,035 deaths, 58,698 suspected cases and a case fatality ratio, CFR, of 3.5 per cent reported in 305 local government areas in 23 states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. Furthermore, governments at all levels have also failed in terms of providing hygienic environment, creating awareness, educating people, and then fixing states’ water corporations for enhanced access to potable water as a way of reducing water borne diseases. Providing this basic amenity will also reduce pressure on our ill-serviced health facilities.
4. Review of the 1999 Constitution
Between May and June 2021 both the Senate and the House of Representatives Committees on Constitution Review held public hearings across the country’s six geopolitical zones. The committees engaged the general public, executive and judicial bodies, traditional institutions, political parties, civil society organisations, professional bodies, and others to attend and make submissions at the hearings. Some of the issues canvassed by Nigerians during the hearings include the creation of more states, state police, devolution of powers, restructuring of the federation, electoral reforms, abrogation of immunity clause, tenure of office, financial autonomy for the judiciary and local governments and drafting of a brand-new constitution. Others are independent candidacy, age limit for political office contestants, separation of the office of the attorney general from the office of the justice minister, Land Use Act, women inclusiveness, referendum, increased in derivation, impeachment clause, etc. Towards this end, ActionAid submitted a 19-page memo to the Senate Ad-hoc committee on the Review of the 1999 Constitution.
5. Shrinking Political Space
On 5 June 2021, the Nigerian government slammed an indefinite ban on Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria after the social media platform deleted tweets made by the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Journalists have also been quizzed for their reportages. Essentially, spaces for civic engagement are crucial to democracy and Civil Society operations. Globally, civic spaces are increasingly transforming into catalysts for social and political change, but sadly, in Nigeria the reverse is the case. With corresponding pace, the government is proposing or adopting measures designed to further restrict civic spaces, with implications on fundamental freedoms, particularly the rights of free expression, public assembly, conscience and thought. As Nigerians countdown to when the Twitter ban will be lifted, British firm Top10VPN estimates that the ban has affected around 104.4 million internet users, including businesses in the country, and cost the country around $6 million per day. The firm made the calculations using a tool developed by internet governance watchdog organization Netblocks, and Internet Society, a US advocacy non-profit.