NIGERIA: AGENDA 2012   4 comments

With a myriad of challenges viz., the rising wave of insecurity occasioned by the violent bombings of the terrorist Boko Haram sect, looming social unrest arising from the planned fuel subsidy removal, the worsening poverty rates, declining power supply, decaying infrastructure and the rot in the education sector brought to the fore by the ongoing industrial action embarked upon by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), 2012 promises to be a tough and decisive year for Nigeria on many fronts.

This write-up attempts to investigate how some of the key issues confronting Nigeria in the New Year will play out.

To begin with, upcoming gubernatorial elections – in Adamawa State on January 14, 2012; Bayelsa State on February 11, 2012; Sokoto State on March 10, 2012; Cross River State on April 14, 2012, and Edo State on July 14, 2012 will significantly test the new-found but not yet firmly entrenched confidence in the nation’s electoral umpire, INEC. INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega, has already promised significant improvements from the April 2011 general elections. Nigerians will be hoping he doesn’t disappoint.

With security gulping the bulk of the 2012 budget and with President Jonathan indicating recently that he will shake-up the generally underperforming security agencies in the wake of more violent bombings on Christmas Day 2011 and following, by Islamist militia, Boko Haram, Nigerians can hope that the President is genuine in his resolve to tackle the terrorist menace which is now a frequent occurrence in various parts of the country. Key to Jonathan’s efforts, however, should be the need to identify and prosecute the sponsors of the sect as well as to implement the other outstanding recommendations of the probe panel he set up on the same.

Also, relations between the state governors and the federal government could be abrasive in 2012. The creation of a sovereign wealth fund is the latest bone of contention. It is intended to insulate Nigeria from the boom/bust cycle of the oil economy – to “smoothen revenues and expenditures” as Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, puts it and to keep oil revenues away from crooks at every level of government. But in the eyes of the governors it reduces the amount of money allocated on a state-by-state basis, centralising it in the federal government’s pockets. A new revenue allocation formula will be discussed in 2012, while another tussle between state and federal levels is likely over closing the financial loophole of the special joint account between local governments and states.

Key to President Jonathan’s national economic ambitions is the technocratic team led by Okonjo-Iweala. Though the 2012 budget doesn’t reflect it, her priorities are to cut recurrent spending, and boost capital investment while bringing the budget deficit under control. Deregulating the oil and gas sector to encourage foreign investment is central to the plan, but government will struggle to persuade trade unionists, opposition parties and civil society that its “social safety nets” will cushion Nigerian masses from the inflationary effects of the controversial fuel subsidy removal.

There will be more complex political ructions over the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) which could finally be passed in 2012. The passage or not of the much-delayed PIB will decide the health of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector for the foreseeable future. Until it is passed, several multi-billion-dollar investment decisions will remain stalled.

A recent improvement in power delivery is welcome but barely touches the problem. The privatisation programme may help: six power plants and eleven distribution companies are supposed to be sold off by the first quarter of 2012 but government targets of 15,000MW generation by 2015 are no doubt optimistic. Power minister, Barth Nnaji, said in November 2011 that meeting the government’s target would require $50billion of fresh investment.

Elsewhere, local champions such as Dangote Flour Mills will thrive especially with recent legislation rewarding Nigerian companies with local manufacturing facilities. Service-sector industries are flourishing, with telecoms companies making a great deal of the running.

In agriculture, the Jonathan administration will seek to encourage the substitution of high quality cassava flour for wheat flour in bread-baking. With effect from March 31, 2012, the importation of cassava flour will be prohibited so as to further support this programme. Also, all equipment for the processing of high quality cassava flour and composite flour blending will enjoy a duty-free regime. In addition, from July 1, 2012, wheat flour will attract a levy of 65% to bring the effective duty to 100%, while wheat grain will attract a 15% levy and by December 31, 2012, rice millers should move towards domestic production and milling of rice, as the levy of 50% will be raised to 100%. No waivers or concessions will be entertained for rice and wheat importation. However, like all things government in Nigeria, the tricky part is always the implementation.

Another non-oil sector which has a huge potential for development but which has often not been accorded the attention it deserves, is tourism. Nonetheless, in 2012, the tourism minister, Edem Duke, has promised to break the jinx by launching a Travel Nigeria 2012 initiative to “get Nigerian legislators and other government functionaries to spend part of their holiday within the country” in a bid to boost domestic tourism and help attract Nigerians from outside and other foreigners to Nigeria.

On the whole, the IMF has lowered its earlier forecasts of overall economic growth to 6.6% for 2012 but there is optimism that, despite the substantial influence of the oil sector, a significant degree of growth is at last being seen in non-oil GDP and this trend should continue once the stumbling blocks to infrastructure investment are removed. It remains to be seen, though, if this would translate into tangible economic gains for Nigerians especially in the domain of jobs. Talking jobs, the Federal Government has assured unemployed youths in the country that over two million jobs will be created in 2012 through the Ministry of Science and Technology cluster concept but as always, implementation will be the deciding factor of success.

Foreign policy-wise, it is expected that Nigeria will stand her ground in the face of threats by Western governments led by the UK and the US to cut aid to those countries that deny gay rights and make lawful the bill criminalising same-sex marriage which has already been passed by the Senate and will soon get the consent of the House of Representatives. However, it would be a tough call for the Jonathan administration given how much foreign assistance his government may need in tackling Boko Haram.

Still on the foreign field, there’s a looming diplomatic tussle between Nigeria and South Africa in January 2012 on the question of who emerges the next chairperson of the African Union Commission. South Africa’s candidate and former foreign minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, will need to persuade Nigeria to back her against the incumbent, Jean Ping, whose strength is his natural Francophone Africa constituency. Nigeria may not be keen on Dlamini-Zuma’s candidature as that could mean the loss of their influence in the AU to their main continental rival, South Africa. Besides, a South African diplomat has argued that, “Ping’s chief of staff is Nigerian [ambassador Kayode Shinkaiye] and they [the Nigerians] fear Nkosazana coming in with a clean broom.”

Also, if the question of Palestinian statehood comes up for a UN vote in 2012, it would be interesting to see how Nigeria votes, having remained mum over that ever since.

In all, President Goodluck Jonathan has a plate full requiring his undivided attention in 2012. How he attempts to deal with the pressing security, unemployment, power, infrastructure and corruption challenges facing Nigeria in 2012 will go a long way to helping Nigeria make much-needed socio-economic progress.

References:
-“Palestinian Statehood: Nigeria mum on voting preference” from vanguardngr.com, October 5, 2011
-“Same-sex ban law: Nigeria adamant as world’s ire mounts” from nationalmirroronline.net, December 13, 2011
-“Major Policy Directions from President Jonathan’s Proposed 2012 Budget” from facebook.com/buildupnigeria, December 13, 2011
-“Federal Government to create 2m jobs in 2012” from vanguardngr.com, December 30, 2011
-“2012: A New Year, new challenges, old problems” from vanguardngr.com, December 31, 2011
-“Boko Haram: It’s fight to the finish, Jonathan vows” from punchng.com, December 31, 2011
-“Wish you were here!” says Nigerian [tourism minister], New African magazine No. 512, December 2011
-“Nigeria: Yet another season of travails”, New African magazine No 512, December 2011
-“African Union: A showdown in Addis Ababa”, The Africa Report magazine No 36, December 2011-January 2012
-“Nigeria: Tiny steps of a giant nation”, The Africa Report magazine No. 36, December 2011-January 2012

Advertisements

Posted December 31, 2011 by Raymond Eyo in Politics

4 responses to “NIGERIA: AGENDA 2012

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hi Eyo.
    Very interesting article and definitely worth reading. It is good practice however to use inline references.
    edwin.

    • Hi Edwin. I think you’re correct about inline referencing. But, you know, the blog format may not make that easy…and besides, I just wanted a plain outline. All the same, I appreciate your point. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  2. On Boko why would the president say its a fight to finish and his security adviser Azazi is saying govt will negotiate with Bokos. Who are they deceiving?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: