Saturday, 18 December 2010

Nigeria: Before 2011 dawns

Joachim Ezeji
The pervasive poor governance in Nigeria has once again come to the fore. The 2010 Human Development Report, compiled by UN Development Programme (UNDP) has ranked Nigeria 142 out of 169 least prosperous countries in the world. Nigeria was grouped among 41 countries considered to have the “least human development” in the 2010 Human Development Report.
This once again underscores the parlous decay in education and infrastructure coupled with incidents of high rising corruption across the country. For example, recently, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on MDGs, Hajiya Amina Az-zubair, expressed the fear that the slow implementation of the Millennium Development Goal, MDG, projects by many states may mar the country’s hope of achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets of 2015. She had accused states of unnecessary delays in project implementation, despite the fact that they had received the conditional grants.
According to her, conditional grants for 2009 were all released between November and December 2009, and March, 2010. The time frame was sufficient for the completion of projects which were intended to have six-month work plan, but as at the end of 2010 the average level of completion for 2009 was an abysmal 40%. Principal concern in this lapse is the challenge of governance which borders on the adherence to approval and due process mechanisms which are slow.
Yet, the performance of states under the 2007 and 2008 grants are necessary indicators among many of their capacities to effectively execute projects under the 2011 grant scheme. This became imperative because Nigerians can no longer afford further waste of time or resources in the march towards achieving MDGs.
Also, the Ecological Fund office is displeased with the ever increasing cases of ecological disasters ravaging states across the country. At the bottom of this problem is the profligacy in spending the money sourced from the Ecological Funds by states. In fact, most states spend the money in the same way they spend their security votes.
News sources hints that states collect money to solve ecological problems in their states but end up using the money to purchase fleet of cars and indulge in other frivolities. The result is that virtually all sections of the country is affected by ecological problems, ranging from coastal erosion in the South-West and South-South, soil and gully erosion in the North and South-East, desert encroachment in the North, as well as oil spill and pollution in the South-South.
Apart from misuse of the money from the Ecological Fund, Newspaper sources reports that some of the claims by states on their reforestation programmes were bogus and fraudulent. A Newspaper source had reported: “We have seen situations where some of the states announce with glee that they are embarking on tree planting campaigns for which billions of naira are to be spent but after the pomp and pageantry associated with the ceremonies and the photo opportunities that it offers, the exercise does not go beyond that.”
A former governor in one of the northern states was reported to have once spent millions of naira to import mango seedlings from Kenya for reforestation programme that would arrest the advancement of the desert but the seedlings were eventually shared out to government officials who used it to start their private orchids.
In most of these states that claim to have embarked on planting of millions of trees, the source said: “We see idle and unemployed youths whose services in such projects would have offered them temporary jobs.
Sadly, there are not functional forestry departments to monitor such tree planting programmes. The incidence of care-free logging is high and there are no visible signs of progress at the end of each tree planting season.“There are no benchmarks to measure the success of the programme. In fact, the whole exercise ends up as a sham and a charade. These are clever ploys by politicians to make money and we must check them closely.”
In the South-East where gully erosion is a major threat to socio-economic activities, misguided politicians and contractors are exacerbating the problem through inflated contracts, round tripping of contract awards and execution of shoddy jobs to create opportunities for re-award of the same contracts.
It has been reported that contract awards on gully erosion is hot potatoes for politicians at the federal and state levels. Contracts on the gully erosion problem top the list and you will be surprised by the calibre of politicians that scramble for it.
The 2010 report, entitled, “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development,” examined progress in health, education and income over the past 40 years, featuring some technical adjustments of its traditional indicators for health, education and income, and illustrating the wide range of development achievements among 37 countries analysed in the region.
According to the report, Nigeria’s wealth —as defined by gross domestic product per head—has slipped, while its educational ranking has failed to keep up with that of other countries. The GDP per head in Nigeria is a mere 1,224 dollars, compared to 9,812 dollars in South Africa, 1,628 dollars in Kenya and 2,197 dollars in Cameroon.
In 2010, Nigeria’s life expectancy was 48.4 years on average, below that of Ghana (57.1.), Cameroon (51.7), Benin Republic (62.3), Uganda (54.1) and Lesotho, at 46 years, has sub-Saharan Africa lowest life expectancy, while the Comoros Islands leads the region at 66 years.
Mauritius ranked highest among sub-Saharan states — number 72 in the world — in the “high human development” category, followed by Gabon, 93 and Botswana, 98. The report said Ethiopia was 11th in HDI improvement since 1970, Botswana 14, Benin 18 and Burkina Faso 21, among the world 25 “top movers’’
In view of the gaps and problems militating against the growth and development of Nigeria, there are suggestions that the issue of governance is most crucial. Another area is education. Unfortunately, Nigeria’s education is not reaching enough students. Another crucial area is the need to improve infrastructure in the country. It is expected that if Nigeria focuses on these key areas, there is no reason that Nigeria will not become much more productive and grow much faster in the future.
The 2010 report had reported that Norway is the best country to live in, followed by Australia, New Zealand, U.S, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Japan, Korea Republic, Switzerland, France, Israel, Finland, Iceland, Belgium, Denmark and Spain.
We hope that Nigeria makes this list in the coming year.

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