By OBINNA EZUGWU
The human cost of Nigeria’s growing spate of insecurity has, over the past few days, grabbed all the headlines. And for the right reasons. It’s a country fast becoming what 17th Century English philosopher, Thomas Hobbes described as the state of nature, “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.” From the North Central through the swaths of North West and North East, life for millions, is lived in fear. And for thousands dead, grave is in the belly of vultures.
A fortnight ago, Boko Haram terror group, which has waged over a decade long war against the Nigerian state visited farmers at Zabarmari rice fields in Jere Local Government of Borno State, with the cruelty that has characterised its campaign for an Islamic state since 2009. At least 43 of them were killed in the most gruesome way, their throats slit in an act of violence Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari described as insane.
But the incident, sadly, is only one of many. And while the human cost of the tragedy is well noted, not so much is the economic cost of a raging violence that is threatening to push Africa’s most populous country into a failed state status.
Foreign investors are taking flight, unable to cope, and new investors are opting for neighbouring West African countries. According to the UNCTAD 2020 World Investment Report, FDI flows to Nigeria totalled to USD 3,3 billion in 2019, showing a 48,5% decrease compared to the previous year (USD 6,4 billion in 2018).
“Insecurity is one of the major reasons for Nigeria’s unattractiveness for inward foreign investment in the last five years, amongst other factors. Security, in my opinion, is an essential prerequisite for true and lasting economic growth to take place. Therefore, the economic security of Nigeria is intricately linked to its national security. The epidemic proportion of criminality and violence in the country has ramifications for the economy”, said economist and CEO of Prodel Global Services, Charles Omole.
“These are large sums of money that should have been going elsewhere in the economy, especially in the education and health sectors. The domestic economic impact of this exorbitant defence expenditure is further devalued as long as it is mostly foreign procurement-based. This is not helpful to the growth of the economy.”
Local investors too are growing weary, and farmers have become endangered, more so farming in a country that has an estimated 200 million mouths to feed. Even as as the highways have become unsafe, threatening circulation for those that manage to produce. In October, composite food index rose by 17.38 percent compared to 16.66 in September, according to figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Prices of staple food items are rising exponentially and supply has reduced considerably. The times, analysts say can yet get more desperate.
“Food crisis is staring us in the face. But you know, in these things, there is often a lull effect before it strikes everywhere,” said Dr. Boniface Chizea, CEO of BIC Consultancy Services.
“If you profile the structure of our inflation and you look the data, you see the spike in food prices. But it’s morning yet because it will happen. All the food belt areas in Nigeria are facing one form of insecurity or the other, so that means that people are not free to go to farms. For instance, 43 rice farmers were slaughtered and we are saying that they didn’t get clearance from the military to go to the farm.
“But this is everywhere. Look at Olu Falaye for instance, how many times have his farms in Ondo been attacked? Now, this is somebody who is a former secretary to the government of the federation. You put that in the foreground and you say to yourself, what about the common man who is merely a subsistence farmer, how will he go to the farm? So, the security situation is very worrisome. Now everybody is coming out. All these primordial proclivities that he is our person, we can’t criticize him, have all been thrown out of the window.”
It is not in doubt, the growing spate of insecurity in the country, especially in the Northeast, Northwest, North Central and parts of Southern Nigeria has wreaked havoc on the nation’s economy, upending critical economic sectors and leaving millions of Nigerians accross the country without work and enough food on their tables. But apart from further thrusting the nation’s vulnerable economy into a precarious situation and pushing many states, businesses and families towards insolvency, the worsening security situation has, observers say, exposed the incompetence and unpreparedness of the incumbent administration for governance.
President Buhari has come under growing criticisms, notably from his Northern constituency where he once had cult following. From the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of Jamaatu Nasril Islam, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar ll, to the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and Northern Elders Forum (NEF), prominent voices are raising against the president as attacks by Boko Haram terrorists, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, bandits, armed robbers, cultists, militants and other elements become daily affair.
On Thursday, November 26, 2020, the people of Ondo State was thrown into mourning when the king of Ifon, the headquarters of Ose Local Government area of Ondo State, a first class traditional ruler, Oba Israel Adewusi, was by suspected kidnappers. Less than 48 hours later, a Chinese construction worker was killed in Ekiti and another kidnapped. A sign of the nationwide dimension the situation is assuming.
Over the past few days and months, thousands have been killed and even more kidnapped. Few days ago, Nasarawa State chairman of the All Progressive Congress, Phillip Shekwa, was murdered by bandits in an operation that lasted for about 49 minutes. The killers gained entrance into his bedroom, took him away with his car key before killing him a meter away from his house. The same week, Alhaji Lawal Dako, Peoples Democratic Party chairman in Sabuwa Local Government of Kastina, met his end in the hands of bandits.
On October 20, at least 20 villagers were Tungar Kwana, Talaka Marafa local government in Zamfara State. Before then, on the 12th of the same month, 14 people were killed in Katsina and Niger States. Earlier on the 11th, 12 were killed in Giwa Local Government of Kaduna. Attacks have become a daily occurrence, even as the Sultan insists the killings are under reported.
In May, International Crisis Group in a report titled, ‘Working Document — Fulani Militias’ Terror: Compilation of News (2017-2020),’ said between 2017 and May 2, 2020, Fulani herdsmen alone conducted 654 attacks, killed 2,539 and kidnapped 253 people in the country, mostly in the North Central and Kaduna.
“Nigerians are suffering widespread and systematic terrorist attacks by, mainly, Boko Haram, the ISIL-aligned Islamic State West African Province (ISWAP), Fulani militias and Ansaru,” the report had said.
“The Global Terrorist Index 2019 published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, indicates that the primary driver of the increase in terrorism in Sub-Saharan Africa was a rise in terrorist activity in Nigeria attributed to Fulani extremists: in 2018, Fulani extremists were responsible for the majority of terror-related deaths in Nigeria (1,158 fatalities), with an increase by 261 and 308 percent respectively from the prior year.”
It warned that the armed gangs in the North West and Central could be developing links with groups such as Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP) in the North East.
The group said bandits have killed about 8,000 people since 2011 till May, and forced more than 200,000 to flee their homes. The number would have risen exponentially, with attacks and kidnappings now more regular.
A breakdown of a report released by NigeriaMourns, a civil society organisation, revealed that in the first half of 2020, the country lost at least 2,503 persons to violent killings, as against 3,188 lives in the whole of 2019.
“Insecurity and killings continued to worsen despite claims by Nigeria’s security agencies of successfully routing organised criminal groups, killing over 166 terrorists in June. These number of killings in a single month is also higher than the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in the country”.
Meanwhile, Hallmark findings show that the worsening insecurity is having collateral damage on all developmental indices. The incessant herdsmen and farmers clashes, as well as bandits attacks and killings have disrupted economic activities, particularly in theaters of war such as Borno, Benue, Kaduna, Bauchi, Plateau Zamfara, Adamawa, Gombe and Sokoto.
Sources in the states disclosed that apart from internal displacement of people, economic activities, particularly farming is almost crippled in the states. They blamed the current food scarcity and inflation in the country on the destruction of farmlands by rampaging militias and bandits.
“Foodstuffs prices should be coming down at this period as we are in harvest season. But most farmers could not cultivate idle lands at the start of planting due to insecurity. Several had fled with their families to safety. I am supposed to be in Sokoto now farming. But have been in Lagos since the beginning of this year because I did not want to die,” said Suleiman who now works as a security guard in Lagos.
“Some of those that have the courage to still go to farms have been killed or injured in the process, with their produce destroyed or looted. While some produce are rotting away in abandoned farms with no one to harvest them.
“Even with the few that are harvested, a large chunk rot away in sheds as trailer drivers have abandoned treacherous roads due to incessant kidnappings and killings of their members. The few daredevils that agree to do business charge exorbitant fees.
“For example, we used to hire a trailer from Kano to Lagos for between N150,000 and N200,000. But today, you can’t get one for less than N500,000. That is why farm products are very expensive in the south. Apart from cattles, I doubt if agricultural goods that filled up a trailer amount to N500,000. So what Nigerians are paying for is haulage cost and not the actual value of the products.”
An agriculture expert, Dr. Gbenga Alabi, said the nation has lost over N1trillion in 2020 alone to the disruption in farming activities.
“The current high cost of poultry products, particularly eggs, is due to the scarcity of maize, an essential feedstock in poultry food production. At the beginning of this year, a ton of maize sold for between N75,000 and N80,000. Today, it is over N200,000 per ton. And it is not getting better,” Alabi said.
Corroborating Alabi, the Chairman, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), Ogun State chapter, Mrs Blessing Alawode, informed our correspondents that millions of jobs have been lost in the industry and appealed for the quick intervention of the Federal Government.
“Poultry industry, estimated at ten trillion naira is the most capitalised in the agric sector. Such an industry employing about 20 millions directly and indirectly through its wide value chain must not be allowed to completely collapse.
“With the current astronomical prices of soya beans and maize, more poultry farmers with thousands of their workers across the country may soon be out of business as majority of Nigerians cannot afford the inevitable but exorbitant cost of poultry products.
“Over two millions of direct and indirect poultry farm jobs have been lost and many firms have closed down in the last five months as a result of acute shortage of maize and rising price of soya beans,” Alawode said.
Another sector insecurity has impacted negatively is the real estate sector. According to available data, over 3.3 million Nigerians have been displaced by insecurity, including over 2.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northeastern Nigeria alone.
Hallmark findings show that while many Nigerians who are already housed, had their houses razed down, those displaced from their communities are left without homes thereby worsening the overall housing deficit.
Some housing experts who spoke on the development said the destruction of many properties by rampaging bandits and hoodlums has denied property owners, agents and government the much needed income from rents, commissions and levies.
A property developer, Architect Segun Oladapo, disclosed that estate surveyors, agents, developers, and even investors are no longer willing to travel to some parts of Nigeria because of the rising waves of kidnapping and banditry in the country.
“In November 2019, two of our workers were kidnapped in Lokoja, Kogi State, while on their way to Abuja to supervise an ongoing project. Unfortunately, one of them died in the process, despite the company paying N100million ransom for the two.
“In March 2020, after we recovered a bit from the tragedy, we mobilised two workers to move to Abuja to see to the completion of the project. Do you know what they did? They took to their heels without even doing proper resignation. Mind you, they were not even going to travel by road but by air. Some of their colleagues said they told them that they did not want to ever cross the ‘Niger’ to the North.
“As I speak with you, the project is abandoned after gulping over N4billion”, Oladapo said.
The situation is not peculiar to Oladapo’s firm, as many projects scattered across the country, particularly in states and cities prone to violence, are now abandoned as real estate professionals reluctant to move to site for fear of being killed or kidnapped.
Another real estate practitioner, Mr. Lanre Ninalowo, said most of the properties his firm manage in Rivers, Federal Ccapital Territory (particularly in Abuja suburbs), Kaduna, Kano, Delta, Ondo, Adamawa and other states prone to violence are now vacant as people flee with their businesses to safer states like Lagos, Anambra.
Worried by the development, stakeholders in the industry who had earlier predicted the recovery of the real estate sector are now of the view that worsening insecurity is becoming a disincentive to investors.
They noted that wary investors are no longer eager to embark on new projects or complete ongoing ones, preferring instead to observe developments in the country. The security threat, they argued, could affect the $2.5billion Family Homes Fund with the objective of achieving 500,000 homes by 2023 in different states.
Speaking on the development, the President of the Nigerian Institution of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Mr. Roland Abonta, stated that both local and foreign investors are scared of the high level of insecurity in some parts of thecountry and are unwilling to deploy human and material resources which could all end up in flames.
“Insecurity is a bad one for everybody because real estate is a high profile investment that is cost-intensive and requires a lot of financial commitment. So, every investor is looking for a secure environment for his investment.
“The other day, we heard of some houses being burnt in Kwara and other places. The terrorists go to places and destroy every building that is in that place, and so no investor will go near where there has been doing such in the past for fear of the same thing befalling his investment.
“The foreign direct investment in real estate is the worst hit with warnings coming from the United States and other nations saying their indigenes should not be around some places in Nigeria.
“Definitely, those are the price the economy is paying for the unending insecurity in our nation. With insecurity, it is a lose-lose situation. There are losses, such as loss of lives, investments, and assets.
“Property market in some of these areas is down and goes down every day each time there is an attack between Abuja- Kaduna road or attack within Kaduna metropolis. it goes down.
“Since the method of attack is no longer predictable, it is beyond the military, it is beyond everybody such that with escort people run from them when they start operations.
“We are in a situation that is very precarious, a situation of crisis in our security system and until some thing is done about it, no sector will survive much more so the real estate sector.
“It is worsening because investors are scared and even the existing houses are being burnt down, definitely, it has a worsening effect on the housing industry and other sectors including the real estate. In fact, very soon the entire economy will come down, that is when you will know the import of what we are dealing with,” he stated.
Our correspondents reliably gathered that worsening insecurity is also leading to massive exodus of people from cities, towns and villages to safer places, thereby putting pressure on available houses.
Still, owing to the worsening security situation in the country which in effect is daily shrinking economic opportunities, Nigeria is losing its best brains on a daily basis through mass emigration to foreign countries, particularly the United States, Canada, Europe and Asian countries.
According to a recent poll conducted by NOI Polls, almost 9 in 10 respondents (88%) confirmed that are seeking work opportunities abroad. The poll found out that 83% of doctors who filled the survey and are based abroad are licensed in Nigeria, indicating that they had completed their medical education in Nigeria before departing beyond the shores of Nigeria.
While the search for a better quality of life is the main reason for the mass emigration of Nigerian doctors and other professionals, the prospect for thats good life is being jeopardised by insecurity.
It would be recalled that the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) had on several occasions called out its members on strike over the constant kidnapping and killing of some of its members in states like Delta and Cross River.
Another sector affected by worsening insecurity is tourism and hospitality. Owing to fear of attacks by hoodlums, tourists no longer visit several cultural sites in the country, thereby denying the proprietors and state governments the much needed income. Several games reserves, national parks and historical sites like the Yankari Games Reserve, Borgu Park and Oyo National Park are now abandoned and desolate due to inactivity.
Many countries, it was observed, have continuously advised their citizens not to travel to many parts of Nigeria. For instance, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advised British nationals against travelling to sixteen states in the country. The American government in a travel advise to its nationals in Nigeria posted on its website advised them to be extremely careful anytime they crossed the three bridges (Eko, Carter and Third Mailand) that connect Lagos Island to the mainland. They were advised to limit their stay on the island except they have unavoidable businesses on the mainland.
“You are talking about exiting recession and so on. How many people are coming into the environment to invest?,” Chizea noted. “Of course, the environment is not enabling. People are going to Ghana. Ghana has about 30million people, barely more than the population of Lagos. And people are leaving Nigeria to go to Ghana and invest because of these challenges.
“You have insecurity, your environment is not enabling, you have inconsistency in policies and on top of that, you have corruption. If people want to go through the system, you mount roadblocks everywhere. So, it’s a big challenge. And when hunger is added to it, then you will have another EndSARS protest, which we pray doesn’t happen.
“We are joking with dry gunpowder and we pray that it doesn’t explode. Nobody wants a revolution in this country. Look at our population, look at everything. And wherever they have a revolution, things will normally go out of hand. So, for those of us who are fairly elderly, we don’t to see it. We want things to be more controlled. We want those in authority to wake up and smell the coffee. Things cannot continue like this.
“Let the budget be passed quickly so that we start implementation. There are crisis everywhere. That sense of urgency must be felt across board.”