Education and Economic Recession : The Nigerian Experience

The rate of school drop outs in Nigeria is on the increase, while the standard of education at all levels has fallen drastically.

Banditry, cultism, gangsterism  and examination malpractice are now common place in  most educational institutions. Of concern, is the dearth of qualified  Teachers and basic infrastructure   at all levels, just as mushroom educational outfits  have taken over.Major cities and suburbs are home to a room, two rooms and three bedroom schools, with people wondering  how these schools secured Government approval. A sizable  number of state Governments now rely on these schools to compliment their efforts in the education sector.

Indeed, over crowding, poor working conditions for Teachers and poor sanitation have resulted in the  poor quality of teaching  and the turn out of half baked products.

The proliferation of  continuing education centres, also known as to cater for the tutorial colleges, deficiencies of the regular educational institutions has not helped matters.

These colleges perfect  various methods of examination malpractices, including  bribing of  examination officials, to obtain desired  results.

The  physical outlook of average student,  is a good reflection of the rot i the system, such a student if not observed carefully could be mistaken for a motor park tout or a street urchin.

Under normal conditions, wherein governance revolves on  accountability, education is an instrument of change and a means for accelerated  development. But this is only possible when education is available, relevant, accessible and affordable  to everyone, who is willing and ready.

To address he perennial problems confronting the education sector, Government should go extra mile to create an enabling environment for teaching and learning, comparable to what obtains in advanced countries.

In addition, Government should embark on regular supervision,monitoring and evaluation  of the entire system of education, while ensuring a rich curricula, that is diversified, to emphasize integrated skills development at the should basic  educational level.

In conclusion, leaders  facilitate attitudinal change, by laying good examples for the  people to follow.

 

 

 

An Health System To Watch

Poor infrastructure and equipment which are inadequate and gradually becoming obsolete characterize Government owned hospitals.

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Despite this fact, fees charged at the hospitals are cut throat, even as the prevalence of diseases has become the order of the day.

Several states are presently contending with the outbreak of meningitis.

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Incessant industrial action by medical and health workers, declining productivity and corruption are stumbling blocks in the health system in Nigeria, which is a suggestion that Government attaches little importance to the health status of Nigerians.

The major discussion among most Nigerians include how Government can increase the life expectancy of citizens, by ensuring high and substantial levels of immunization against all vaccine preventable diseases.

With the access to primary health care hinged on substantial Government support still the issue, the eradication, control and prevention of epidemic diseases remains a mirage.

Happenings around the country and the sight of helpless patients, who are left to their fate, calls for concern and worry.

Health professionals are not in the right frame of mind to give their best, as a result of poor remuneration and working conditions. Government remains unshaken, despite the rising number of deaths recorded at the various hospitals on a daily basis.

Nigerians, up till this moment, do not know the cornerstone of the health policy of the present administration in the country, even though a well bred and well educated scholar, is at the helm of  affairs in the health Ministry.

These days, most Nigerians are  taking every precaution not to migrate from their present status to that of an hospital patient, however, should in case  the inevitable happen, such people take solace in traditional medicine.

Is this good, for a country, endowed with an impressive  combination of human and natural resources ? Definitely not, but the praise singers still live in ”fantasy Island”.

Culture and Tourism in a Lawless Society

The Culture and Tourism sector has remained a great potential source  of revenue for several years, even though this potential is still undeveloped.

Revenue generation and employment opportunities have not been encouraging, while foreign  exchange earnings has been nothing to write home about., this is regardless of the huge amount of money set aside for the sector annually.

Several factors are responsible for the pitiable situation in the sector. These include poor and inadequate infrastructure, political, social and economical impediments.

Also, the  nonchalant attitude of Government towards Culture and Tourism, the absence of law and order in most communities in the country coupled with the less attractive incentives to woo private investors has made this sector’s potential to generate the much needed revenue a mirage.

Of worry, is the fact that most tourist centres have been converted to abodes for hoodlums, kidnappers and ritualists, while the law enforcement agencies are helpless on how best to approach the situation.The dangerous looks of those, who, daily throng these centres would definitely not attract tourists.

Indeed, a existence of a society, where law and order prevails, is a major prerequisite to boost activities in this sector.

In addition, a re branding of the country’s image is essential, as a step towards convincing prospective investors that the status quo is no longer the situation.

A common sight at a tourist centre, is that of an homeless miscreant, relaxing and keeping himself busy with outlawed substances.

Without doubt, the positive response of other sectors, such as that in charge of the environment is of great importance. Culture and Tourism can only thrive in a clean, decent and epidemic free environment.

Presently, most tourist attractions in the country are in a very bad state and are in need of total overhaul and rehabilitation.

Lastly, funds presently been pumped into projects that are not viable should be set aside to revamp the ‘sickly’ Culture and Tourism sector.

The Nigeria Customs Service : A Potential Non-Oil Revenue Earner

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The appointment of a career officer as the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service(NCS) would have, indeed, prevented the avoidable intrigues,manoeuvre, backstabbing  and mudslinging that has characterized the relationship between the Senate and the NCS.

However, considerations outside globally accepted prerequisites, by the present administration, were instrumental in arriving at the status quo.

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There are six Geo-Political zones in the country, the North East, North West, North Central, South East, South West and South South, representing the diverse ethnic and tribal groupings.

These groupings are, all the time, desirous to be given a sense of belonging. Unfortunately, this has not been the  case for several years.

The history of the Nigeria Customs  is closely followed by grumblings of lack of sense of belonging by tribal groupings, since it was established in 1819.

 Indeed, from 1964 to the present time, Ayodele Dina, who was Chairman, Board of Customs and Excise, South(1964) and Oyebode Oyeleye, who was Director, Department of Customs and Excise, South(1976) were from the South West, while H.E Duke, father of a one time Governor of Cross River state, Donald Duke was the only individual from the South South, appointed as Chairman, Board of Customs and Excise, South in 1968.

In 2009, when Bernard Nwadialo, who is from the South East was appointed Comptroller-General, South, the three man committee constituted by the then Presidency, to oversee the operations of the Customs made Nwadialo’s position ceremonial. The committee was empowered by the Nigeria Customs Service Board.

Sadly, today, the NCS is still contending with how best to carry out its mandate  of jerking up the country’s revenue base from the non-oil sector and effectively checkmating the activities of smugglers at the nation’s borders.

Not long ago, men of the NCS  chased a truck load of smuggled products into the Sango market, in Ibadan, Nigeria. The smugglers mobilized jobless youths in and around the market to battle the Customs men, who stayed action, on realizing the danger that was lurking. When they also noticed that the Police were not in any way sure, if security of lives and property would be guaranteed, they withdrew.

However, an official of the  Public Relations office of the Customs Osun/ Oyo Command insisted that the invasion of the market was backed by section 147 of the Nigeria Customs Management act.

Curiously, factories which are  predominantly owned by expatriates, are having field day, stock piling products, majorly on the contraband list of the NCS, with impunity.

This has brought to the fore the fact that ”some animals are more equal than others”. Most especially when the Special Protection Unit(SPU)  of a law enforcement agency guarantees the safety of the lives and property of their paymasters, while Nigerians daily go to sleep, with one eye closed.

Of note, is the fact that a worrisome number of innocent lives  have been lost, due to the presence of men of the NCS, in areas, not among the porous borders of the country.

Indeed, Nigerians have great doubts, if at all there are ongoing reforms targeted at raising the standard of operational efficiency and effectiveness of the service and achieving 48 hours cargo clearance in the Nigerian ports.

The major issues weighing down the NCS have been in the public domain for several years, without any concrete efforts aimed at addressing same. Rather time and energy are being dissipated on peculiar interests, which without doubt  goes beyond public good.

The Nigerian Environment and Its Myriads of Challenges

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Deteriorating services by organizations in the Environment sector via obsolete equipment is a major problem, Nigerians have been contending with for several years.

In addition, low and inferior quality  waste management equipment, environmentally unfriendly technology and below average waste management and land use practices, have all contributed to make major cities in Nigeria, filthy.

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Even though, refuse generation is on the increase in cities and towns, Government at all levels have not been proactive in the areas of waste reduction, recycling and reuse.

Indeed, citizens expect Government to demonstrate it commitment to protect the ozone  layer.

The expectations of Nigerians include to experience  visible steps by Government in securing a conducive environment for good health and well being and the conservation and  conversion and of the environment and natural resources for the  overall good of the present and unborn generations, among several others. But it is not the expectation of the citizens that Governments at the state level would stoop so low, as to mobilize party  loyalists from other states, who are criminal elements, to deliberately dump refuse in the premises of house owners, as obtains at the Olorunsogo, Molete area of Ibadan, Oyo state.

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Sadly, if happenings in different states of the Federation is anything to go by, it is doubtful if there is a national policy on Environment.

There might not be  in existence time-bound programmes on solid waste management and sanitation, industrial pollution, afforestation and reforestation, conservation of biodiversity and wild life, in most states.

How effective  and successful the private sector participation in environmental sanitation issues have been, is left for state  Governments that have involved  private individuals, in this all important sector, to determine.

In most cities and towns, citizens  are not ready to listen to private  refuse contractors, since the contractors lack the will power to enforce  environmental sanitation laws.

The order of the day in several states, is revenue generation, rather than the effective implementation of  town planning  measures  and better  town planning practices. The construction of Petrol stations in residential areas is a common place in a sizable number of cities and  towns.

Of worry, is the use of obsolete technology, equipment and vehicles by those involved in Public Private Partnerships in some states.

Interestingly, Government at all levels have carefully avoided any form of assistance  to industries to change to ozone-friendly production process, because these industries are at the mercy of Government, when it comes to taxation.

However, with the myriad  of problems weighing down the Nigerian environment   such as drought and desertification, wind, sheet  and gully erosion, coastal and marine erosion, flood, uncontrolled logging and tree felling, inappropriate agricultural practices, uncontrolled use  of aggro-chemicals, loss of aesthetic  value, damage  to marine and wildlife, stack fumes and unregulated and grossly excessive automotive and related exhausts, among others, it is  the hope that Government will adopt worth the while measures to address the worrisome  situation in the Environment sector.

Is Crude Oil Still Nigeria’s Lifeline ?

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A major source of conflict in Nigeria today, is the neglect of communities, where crude oil reserves are situated, by the Government and oil prospecting companies.

Even though the Government has strenuously tried to divert the attention of the citizenry, that crude oil is no longer the largest  source of income for Government, activities of Government suggest that it still remains the mainstay. In April, 2000, daily crude oil and associated gas production was 2.03 million barrels and 2.5 billion standard cubic feet, respectively. During the  same period,  total crude oil and natural  gas  proven reserves, was 27 billion barrels and 12 Trillion standard cubic feet.

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Inspite of the investment friendly  nature of the petroleum sector, activities in the sector have not been impressive. When the fact that incentives are inadequate to encourage operators is foot to foot with the unstable terms of business and policy environment, the conclusion will be that all is not well in the sector.

Presently, irregular and shortage of supply of petroleum products, resulting in adulteration and other under hand practices, have become the road to hardship for Nigerians.

Products smuggling, coupled with the bad state of the four refineries in the country, makes the situation almost hopeless, but not hopeless.  Of interest, is the fact that the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) and Petroleum marketers are, presently busy, trading blames over a 10 Trillion subsidy fraud.

Towards restoring normalcy  to the  Petroleum sector, experts in the sector recommend  adequate budget provision for upstream activities, while downstream activities should be tailored to ease the hardships confronting Nigerians.

They also recommend the rehabilitation, refurbishment and repair of the refineries, in addition to keeping a close watch on the products pipeline system.

The four refineries in the country, have a daily production capacity of 445,000 barrels and a pipeline network of over 5,000 km, 21 storage depots and a liquefied petroleum gas depots.

Sadly, the absence of incentives to sustain competition and encourage investment, including encouraging investors to establish more gas-based projects and refineries, are obvious  deficiencies.

Although measures have been taken to address pipeline vandalization and product theft, sustaining such measures would go a long way in improving activities in the sector.

Most importantly, the domestication of oil technology and the adoption of policies to increase  local content and value addition, will no doubt be a great boost to the sector, all things been equal.

The Relevance of Science,Engineering and Technology in Economic Growth

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Science, Engineering and  Technology are the mainstay of a number of viable economies in the world today. These economies recognized the importance  of these fields and consequently put in efforts to maximize the benefits.

However, these fields have not been of significant relevance in the acceleration  of economic growth in Nigeria.

Indeed, stakeholders lament the absence of the much needed information on the services and expertise of research and development institutions, which also benefit from budget allocations.

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In addition, the prevalence of obsolete and dilapidated Science Laboratories and Engineering equipment, lack of maintenance culture, the terrible state of infrastructure and the non-availability of the  skills and expertise to achieve  the Government’s economic objectives, makes the future of this sector bleak.

Of great concern, is the worrisome state of  some research institutions and the fact that personnel are yet to acquire skills, relevant to the positions they occupy. Of what relevance is a graduate of Fine Arts(Education) to a purely science oriented institution ?

Of note, is the fact that recruitment into positions, have been based on political patronage, for several years.

Sadly, most inventions of research institutes, have been deliberately structured not to have commercial value, while intimidation and  threats are already informal conditions of service for workers.

Stakeholders are of the opinion that the Government of the day, should collaborate with them, towards raising the standard of indigenous technologies, while the acquisition  and adaptation of foreign technologies to aid private sector operators is of great importance.

Interestingly, the dwindling attention, the sciences are currently receiving at all levels of education in the country  is already reflecting in the quality of the products from the various institutions. Who could be said to be nothing close to, even, half baked.

Nigerians Continue To Search For Drinkable Water

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Access to potable water  is a major challenge  for rural  and urban dwellers in Nigeria.

Although the country probably has about 267.3 billion cubic meters of surface water and 52 billion cubic meters of underground water , on a yearly basis, the mangers of the  country have continuously struggled  to meet its  agricultural and other needs.

Of worry, is the fact that state Governments have failed to make available infrastructure to extract and treat water, to meet  the water needs of the people.

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This is in addition to soil erosion, policy inconsistency and under funding, which have all contributed to the poor state of water development. Usually, they trek long distances in search of water.

Safe drinking water is increasingly becoming a mirage, as the construction of bore holes is now the major activity on the landscape.

Indeed, Government’s present focus is not on water resources development.  This has resulted in the lack of maintenance of existing structures.

With the economic recession biting harder by the day, state Governments are financially handicapped, to expand and improve rural water supply, in addition to other water schemes.

Also, the absence of a National Water Resources Master-plan and the non-construction and development of down-stream facilities for irrigation and potable water supply from existing dams,l has increased the private sector participation in water supply, in the are of construction of bore holes. This has a negative and damaging effect on the landscape.

Without doubt, it is one thing to make a promise and it is another ball game entirely, to fulfill  such promise. This is the situation of Political office holders in Nigeria, today.

Ensuring That Solid Minerals in Nigeria Become Foreign Exchange Earner

The Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development came into being in `1995. Since the establishment of this sub-sector, a number of steps have been taken to fast track  its development from May, 1999.

Some steps taken before the present time, include the approval of a national policy on Solid Minerals development, the updating of outdated laws and regulations, the development of a computerized data base on the country’s solid minerals and the establishment of a National Consultative Forum on Solid Minerals.

However, this question still remain unanswered, has Government been able to curb the  activities of illegal miners ?

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Interestingly, the major focus of the sub-sector, include, to provide employment for jobless Nigerians, to enhance government revenue and foreign exchange earnings. In addition, the expectation, is that the sub-sector has the potential to broaden the productive base of the economy through its linkage capabilities.

Sadly, the absence of an enabling environment for the private sector to develop the natural  resources is a major impediment, coupled with the lack of incentives to woo investors.

Indeed, the  future is bright for the sector, only if  Government will take positive measures to boost domestic demand, ensure value  addition and make available useful  information to investors.

By also facilitating  institutional reorganization and carrying out  environmental  impact assessment to reduce the adverse effects of operations in rural areas, Government will reassure the citizenry that it is resolute to make the sub-sector economically  viable.

The Declining Role of The Steel Sub-Sector in Broadening the Productive Base of the Nigerian Economy

Over the years, the steel sub-sector has performed below expectation, in its defined role to broaden the productive base of the Nigerian economy.

Although it is supposed to make available raw materials to industry, in addition to forming the market for solid minerals like iron ore, bauxite, petroleum coke and pitch, soda ash and calcium, this has not been the case.

Indeed, Government’s involvement in this sub-sector for several years has not improved its fortunes, as the case has  been in the  steel plants in Osogbo, Ajaokuta and Aladja.  These steel rolling plants when operational, functioned at very low capacities.

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In the case of Aluminum, the Aluminum Smelter  Plant at Ikot Abasi, a joint effort of the Federal Government and some foreign private investors, began partial operation after almost a decade of construction, functioned for almost a year and half, before it shut down.

Appreciable development in the sub-sector has up till the present time, been haunted by below average planning and implementation of projects, mismanagement, poor working conditions, lack of maintenance culture, shortage  of  infrastructure, increasing  debts and the inability of certain category of stakeholders to access loans from financial institutions and misleading media propaganda.

For Government, to make an headway in the sub-sector, it should encourage the development of linkage sectors to steel and aluminum activities, understand, review and encourage private sector needs, and work towards the formulation of  a policy  on aluminum.

With the above mentioned as a basis for achieving a turn around of the steel sub-sector, devoid of sinister and self-centered motives, the  sub-sector will play  its expected role in broadening the productive base of the economy. Maybe.