By Damilare Adeleye
There is no gainsaying the fact that Nigeria is technically poor. The World Poverty Clock captured it that there are 71 million people living in extreme poverty as at 2023. Some may contend that the country is Africa’s largest economy with a GDP of $477.38 billion in 2023. But, in terms of quality, it has little or no impact on average citizens. Recently, the Debt Management Office (DMO) pegged Nigeria’s total public debt at N87.38 trillion in the second quarter (Q2) of 2023, an increase of 75.29 percent. Interestingly, right before the National Assembly is the sum of N27.5 trillion Appropriation Bill for 2024 fiscal year awaiting passage. This implies that the country owes more than what it earns. Various global indexes are all pointing to the country’s penury. But, does the country deserve to be poor?
The answer is outright and unarguable NO. The country that is a big oil producer in the world. It also has unquantifiable number of natural resources. With a population of more than 225 million people, the country can boast of high human capital. Without prejudice, our climate is moderate. Our weather is friendly. We’re natural-disaster free nation. But, why is the country in abject poverty?
Only our political leaders can give a sincere answer. But, what is obvious is that the level of mismanagement, embezzlement, plundering, laundering, and looting of public treasury is largely responsible for the country’s ugly reality. And this is as a result of bad leadership. This is a problem that has left our public health sector in abysmal state: forcing many medical personnel out of the country. Our public education is in a shambles: with many losing confidence in education. The country suffers social and infrastructural deficits: no motorable roads, no potable clean water, no adequate electricity supply. The economy is dwindling. Among average citizens, the cost of living is high cost, while the standard of living is low. Insecurity is everywhere: bandits, gunmen and terrorists ravage like wild fire. Unemployment rate constantly goes upwards. Distress is the state of the country.
Amidst these predicaments, it seems as if the political class are oblivion of this moribund situation. They continue to wastefully and lavishly fend themselves at expense of the country. With the sum of N1.5 billion for purchase of SUV vehicles for First Lady, renovation of the residential quarters of Mr. President at N4 billion, renovation of Dodan Barracks, the official residence of Mr. President at another N4 billion, renovation of the official quarters of the Vice President in Lagos at N3 billion as contained in 2023 Supplementary Passed Budget, one can be tempted to ask if these are not misplaced priorities. Is the President and his Vice homeless like millions of citizens who have no shelter to cover their heads. Was the First Lady trekking before she entered an office not recognised by law? Similarly, our lawmakers recently spent a whooping sum of N160 billion to purchase SUVs for themselves. For what sake? In the 2024 budget proposal, a minister earmarked N1 billon for a trip to Geneva. Similarly, the President budgeted the sum of N15.9 for his and Vice’s local and international travels. As if that is no enough, N13.8 billion was proposed as maintenance allowance for ex-presidents, VPs, others. All these in a country that is largely and technically broke.
No doubt, this is a great disservice to the country. These funds can be used to build world best hospitals with adequate medical specialists across the country. Half of these funds can change the ridiculous face of our public tertiary institutions. Judicious use of the funds towards public infrastructures is enough to make social and economic impacts. It would definitely solve, to a very large extent, the nation’s housing deficit which was estimated at 28 million units as of 2023. The political class should understand the opportunity cost of these enormous amounts. Public funds should be spend prudently in the interest of the public. The rich politicians should learn to serve the people, not starve them. Common wealth should go around by providing social amenities. Perhaps making rich out of public treasury is a treason and undemocratic.
Damilare Adeleye is a sociopolitical commentator and journalist. Can be reached via: email@example.com .