LAGOS: ESCALATING terror, violence ahead of elections that are uncertain, a currency that is on a downslide. It cannot get worse for Nigeria.
Africa’s most populous country is facing a myriad of socio-economic and political crisis that has left Nigeria on the brink. Chief among these is the inter-party violence that has characterised the run-up to the general polls scheduled for mid-February.
Numerous lives, although it is difficult to ascertain figures, but estimated at 14,000 people have been lost in Nigeria last year alone. Apart from the notorious Boko Haram, disgruntled youth and political thugs have attacked the convoy of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in recent days.
Nigeria president Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is facing a stiff challenge from the All Progressives Congress (APC), led by former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari.
There is a possibility the election might not be held after all if calls by some politicians are anything to go by owing to the displacement of a significant proportion of voters from their terror-stricken areas as well as the contentious distribution of the permanent voters cards by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
It is reported some 30 million people, half of the electorate, had yet to receive their cards two weeks away from the eagerly-anticipated poll. Meanwhile, the local currency is on a freefall-the Naira falling to a record low amid falling global oil prices and demand.
The currency of Africa’s largest crude oil producer and the continent’s biggest economy fell 4 percent, the most since January 2009 on a closing basis, to 187,05 per United States dollar. All this though reads like child’s play compared to the stiffest challenge the country is facing.
The biggest of these problems is the terror the Islamic militant Boko Haram is waging against civilians. The attacks have killed an estimated 10 000 people since 2009 when the sect started a violent attempt to carve an Islamic State.
More than 1 million civilians have been internally displaced and scores have fled to neighbouring countries, which have also borne the brunt of the marauding terrorists.
The outlawed group gained international infamy last April when it kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls at a government school in Chibok in the terror-stricken Borno State, one of three states (alongside Adamawa and Yobe) under emergency rule. The sect is believed to be still holding them captive while there are fears they have been sold for marriage.
International condemnation and support from some of the world’s most powerful nations have thus far failed to rescue the minors nor has it managed to end the terror which is growing by the day.
A demotivated army, some of its members previously tried for mutiny, has found the going tough against the better-equipped terrorists, who, as of January, controlled towns and villages across about 50 000km2, an area the size of Belgium. The economy has not been spared.
“Investment inflows could be disrupted if militants begin targeting Westerners. It is a huge challenge, and it isn’t going to be resolved overnight,” said an analyst.
Households, in a country where one in every four people are said to be jobless, are already feeling the pinch.
In June last year, food prices rose about 10 percent and inflation soar to 8,2 percent, the highest it has been in 10 months, a development attributed to Boko Haram’s impact on farming.
“The effects of conflict on the agricultural sector are largely due to the risk of being attacked by insurgents,” the Brookings Institute said in a statement.
“People across all value chains feared movement outside protected areas because of attacks by insurgents,” the think-tank added.
Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, told international media the Boko Haram insurgency mostly in the northeast would slow economic growth in the past year.
“We are expecting about 6, 75 percent growth in 2014 and we have accounted for the impact of the insurgency which we will think will take half a percentage point off GDP growth,” she said during a visit to Germany.
On the local front, some local entrepreneurs are already feeling the heat.
“Boko Haram has targeted local marketplaces in some of their attacks. While the focus has been on lives and property lost, means of livelihoods have been lost.
“Millions of lives depend on these stalls that have been attacked,” said a Lagos-based market watcher.
He said such attacks in marketplaces have scared off potential entrepreneurs. With the terror escalating, elections on the horizon and the currency on a freefall, it remains to be seen how the continent’s biggest economy will perform in the coming months.
“Whether the Nigerian government acknowledges it or not, Boko Haram is a distraction from economic growth and that could have far reaching effects on the economic integration of the West African region,” warned prominent blogger, O Obaremi.
SOURCE: CAJ NEWS AGENCY