New Telegraph

Hardship: Taking AfDB’s warning seriously

The piece of recent warning given by the African Development Bank (AfDB) to the effect that the ever rising prices of food, fuel and sundry consumables could precipitate social unrest, especially in Nigeria is both timely and auspicious. The regional bank issued the warning based on its macro-economic performance, as well the outlook for 2024. Worthy of note is that a similar warning was given within the economic matrix of such other African countries as Ethiopia, Angola and Kenya, all which removed fuel subsidy without meaningful palliatives in place, as buffers to cushion the debilitating shock on the led majority of the populace.

Though the AfDB projected that the economic growth on the continent could rebound to 3.8% this year, it nonetheless warned that: “Internal conflicts and violence could also result from rising prices for fuel and other commodities, due to weaker domestic currencies and reforms.” Furthermore, it warned that the rise of geopolitical tension in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, added to the El Nino phenomenon could trigger supply chain disruptions and aggravate energy and food inflation across the globe, with Africa becoming vulnerable to these shocks. Such unbiased appraisal coming from the AfDB, at this challenging time should not be wished away with a wave of the hand by our political leaders, who incidentally are the policy makers and catalyst for implementation. It is on record that the AfDB has over the decades exhibited genuine concern over the Human Development Index of the average citizen in different African countries, by providing statistical data on their economic performance, as well as providing financial support where needed. For instance, in recent years and with regards to Nigeria, where the President of the regional bank, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, hails from the AfDB launched a multimillion dollar initiative to support the recovery in the embattled North-East terrorized states. It also approved a $15 million loan for Infrastructure Credit Guarantee Company Ltd to support infrastructural development in the country.

Similarly, it has kicked off AFAWA Finance Series Nigeria to unlock financing for womenled start-ups and recently gave approval for $80 million for investment in the Hi-Tech driven Ekiti State Knowledge Zone. The bank will not want such human development initiatives laid to waste by a nationwide civil unrest. Its warning is therefore, in the best interest of the country and our political leaders are best advised to act with promptitude to prevent further crises. Coming at the same period that similar warnings have come from the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), as led by Most Reverend Lucious Ugorji, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), and the Sultan of Sokoto and the Chairman of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, describing the situation as that of Nigeria sitting on a keg of gunpowder, now is the moment for President Bola Tinubu-led government to have a moment of sober reflection. That is instead of engaging in a nauseating blame game. It should muster the political will to admit to its anti-people policies that have cumulatively brought excruciating hunger on the vulnerable masses. These policies include the rash removal of fuel subsidy in the absence of palliatives to ease the pains, tampering with tuition fees for the Federal Government-owned universities, polytechnics and colleges of education, and worsening the scary economic scenario is the plan to remove subsidy on electric power supply. As the AfDB has rightly advised, rising food and fuel prices could lead to civil unrest. The evidence is right there on ground with protests against hardship expanding in scope from Minna, Niger State, through Kano, Kogi, Imo and Osun to that of Ibadan, Oyo State as the angry citizens decry the high cost of living. And scary indeed, is the recent revelation that kept the media awash on February 19, 2023 that at least 46 lecturers, including some professors, have died due to the biting economic hardship under the President Tinubu administration. Such avoidable tragedy should be curtailed before it worsens across the country. Beyond the issue of state police as being considered, with the related bill at the House of Representatives, with the aim to bolster internal security now is the right time for the current administration to go for the holistic restructuring of Nigeria. The benefits of regional agricultural revolution during the First Republic remain a reference point till this day. A stitch in time will save millions of lives from hunger, anger and anarchy.

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