It was only a matter of time for the pent-up anger of the increasingly pauperized people to spark off the recent protest by some angry youths who took to the streets in Minna, the capital of Niger State over the escalating cost of living of the aver- age Nigerian citizen. And it does not take rocket science to understand the underlying circumstances behind it all. In fact, available statistics on food inflation, high cost of power and energy and the renewed surge of insecurity, courtesy of banditry, kidnapping for ransom and the killing spree in Plateau State are truly scary and scandalous.
These, of course, are indicative of the increasing failure of the government to match its statutory mandate. And that is to guarantee security and provide for the welfare of the led majority, as enshrined under Section 14 Sub-Section (2) (b) of the 1999 constitution as amended. According to the World Bank report titled: “Turning the Corner: From Reforms and Renewed Hope to Results” as at December 14, 2023 the poverty rate in Nigeria increased from 40%, equivalent of 79 million people in 2018 to 46% as at the end of 2023, representing 104 million people. Specifically, in urban areas – which are more exposed to inflation – the number of poor increased from 13 million to 20 million, while in the rural areas the figure jumped from 67 million to 84 million. With regards to the swirling wave of inflation, the rate rose to its highest in more than 27 years.
That is according to Reuters’ news which stated that as at December 2023, “food prices surged exacerbating the high cost crisis”. Worse still, the consumer inflation rate rose for the 12th straight month from 28.20% to 28.92% ac- cording to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). These perhaps explain why the youths in Minna stormed the streets on Monday, February 5, 2024 to express their angst against the government’s failure to rein in the high cost of living. The protesters, according to several media reports, blocked both the entry and exit points of Minna, Niger State’s capital city at Kpakungu roundabout, obstructing vehicular movement.
So tense was the situation that the protesters, carrying stones and cudgels and chanting anti-government slogans and expletives against Mister President and their state governor, stated that, “enough of the hardship” in their local languages. Furthermore, they report- edly went wild when the state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Shawulu Danmamman led a team to pave the way for traffic flow. And the anti-riot team deployed to the scene had to retreat twice. Though no life was lost, some policemen and passers- by sustained various degrees of injury from the mob attack. But good enough, that the protest was brought under control by some local vigilantes that sued for calm, pleading with them to sheath the sword and avoid an escalation that could lead to avoidable tragedies.
But what are the lessons to learn from this unfortunate situation? The answers are there within government policies, programs and projects, some of which are anti-people. For instance, there was little of the thinking process when President Bola Tinubu, out rightly scrapped the fuel subsidy that was costing the government N4.39 trillion ($5.07 billion) without appraisal of the serious economic implications on the quality of life of Nigerians. Agreed that the motive was noble but the method was rash, in the absence of palliatives and without the government mustering the political will to deal decisively with those behind the subsidy fraud. Worsening the economic challenge is the ever-rising insecurity characterised by banditry, kidnapping for ransom and the killing spree in Plateau and Benue states once considered as the food baskets of the nation.
That farmers have to pay funds in the region of millions of naira monthly to access their farms in places such as Zamfara and Niger states is inexcusable and absurd. As repeatedly suggested, now is the time for the government to approve the request for state and community policing. And now is also the time to do away with huge pay packages for political leaders as well as allowing a holistic restructuring of the country so that the states and geo-political zones should control their resources. The high cost of living can be reversed if the political structure is skewed in favour of the people and not the political office holders. Policies should be made to facilitate economic productivity with stable power supply under a secure environment.