Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Northern ‘idiocy’: Who is to blame? by Dr Sani Sabo

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The Northern part of Nigeria is by far more economically disadvantaged part of the country, and this can be substantiated by the IGR reports and other metrics compiled and released by the FGN periodically.

However, a nexus can be drawn between the soaring economic under productivity of the region and some unfavourable economic policies by this Government. For any observer, since the August 2019 directive of the Customs boss, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd), where he directed an indefinite and total shutdown in trade across Nigeria’s land borders, the North has continued to have a sharp decline in economic productivity. This came as no surprise to anyone capable of comprehending elementary economics, as the North utilises Trans-Saharan-Trade (TST) as part of its economic model.

It is noteworthy to understand that the closure does not affect Nigeria’s oil exports, which are exported almost entirely via the nation’s sea ports and offshore oil platforms – situated in the South. Perhaps, that is why our Northern governors are not sufficiently concerned since it has no direct effect to their monthly allocations. Additionally, majority of the Southern part of Nigeria has been encapsulated by consequences of this policy, because given the directive, Col. Hameed Ali (Rtd) further reiterated that ‘all imports should now come through the country’s sea ports where they can be monitored more easily and generate more-needed revenue.’ By this singular directive, it suffices to say the Southern part of Nigeria, if anything, will experience an unprecedented boom in both local and foreign trade economic activity, which in turn could cascade into promoting their microeconomics.

This action taken by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari didn’t just negatively affect the North, it was against all commercial and freedom of movement treaties signed under the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Although Nigeria relies heavily on imports to feed its booming population, the Government maintains that it is seeking to boost domestic agriculture and encourage domestic productivity as it looks forward to diversify the oil-dependent economy.

The policy wasn’t adequately challenged by Northern political leaders, and for me, this was an unfortunate development. At the very least, a policy with this weight ought to have drawn counter argument with informed logic.

I recently stumbled upon a group of erudite scholars that call themselves ‘Arewa Renaissance’ and from their operando, it didn’t take too much time for me to realise they are on a mission to seek ‘Northern Economic Justice’. They operate as ancient argonauts seeking a lost justice. Perhaps, that is where they coin their acronym from – ARgonauts.

This group has exposed an economic injustice yet again perpetuated by this administration, against the North as a whole.

The CBN announces a monetary intervention geared towards reversing the nation’s over reliance on import — a policy named ‘100 for 100 policy on production and productivity (100 for 100 PPP).’ It is said to be part of an effort to stimulate flow of credit to the real sector of our economy. What the AR group has done is part of their ongoing effort to re-awaken the North as some of these troubling issues unfold. In their report, following the first trench of release since rolling out of the program I think in November 2021, Lagos State alone has received the sum of N12,716,000,000, which is far more than the money received by all the nineteen Northern states put together.

The ARG group believes given the backdrop of the land border closure, the North should be commemorated by peculiar policies such as the 100 for 100 PPP. Afterall, the Government has promised to cushion the effect of that land border closure policy by introducing alternate policies that would be centred towards revitalising, diversifying, and promoting internal economic activities in the North as opposed to imports via land borders.

From ab initio, I personally see no sense in the land border closure. For me, it is a logic difficult to explain. And now, coupled with this recent bias, it undermines Chapter Two of our constitution that is pillared on ‘fundamental objectives and directives principles of state policy’ which in essence, necessitated that wealth of the country should not be concentrated on a certain few.

How can a country close it land borders only to increase activities of its sea borders, knowing full well the economic hardship that directive would throw certain section of the country? Alas, with no alternative at sight, it was only a matter of time before insecurity and banditry ravaged the North.

We have public political office holders that are meant to protect our interests and challenge these issues, but only God knows what they are up to. Could it be crass ineptitude, incompetence, or lack of capacity? As it stands, we are compelled to believe that this aged economic injustice stems from incompetence of our political class.

This 100 for 100 PPP is not an isolated case. The North, under the watch of our political leaders, has suffered serious economic injustice, and since this is a political season, we must ask those who have occupied political offices, particularly those seeking re-election these questions of injustice to the North. We must ask them what they did, and where were they when these issues were unfolding.

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  1. I suggest the writer to suggest, in another article, WAYS in which our political office holders will be able to do the northern economy some good service. We need to be out of this mess.


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