As I put on my television set on that fateful Thursday morning, November 8, 2018. Guess who was the special guest on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily? It was Pat Utomi, who at that time was a governorship aspirant in Delta State in Nigeria under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
It was Utomi’s thought on that morning that struck me. He was not only speaking on the state of the nation, but also he said something very significant, which was: “We (Nigerians) are expecting the hand of God to fix things. Nigeria is the most miserable place to live on the planet right now. Check every indicator. Nigeria is at the bottom of almost everything.”
Utomi noted that “A lot of Nigerians are suffering because the nation is being mismanaged by its elite political class. We are not surviving; millions of people are hungry and dying out there. Everywhere in Nigeria is a war zone. If we do not fix this, we are dealing with an existential crisis.”
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Four months after Utomi shared his thought, Steve Hanke, an economist from John Hopkins University in Baltimore, US, hit the nail on the head, by ranking Nigeria as the sixth most miserable country in the world.
On hearing about this report by a US-based economist, my heart raced back to a terrible incident that occurred in Lagos late last year, when it was reported on October 3, 2018 that a middle-aged man drowned after reportedly jumping into the Lagos Lagoon in the early hours of Tuesday October 2.
The report has it that the deceased jumped into the lagoon after trekking on the Third Mainland Bridge inwards Lagos Island, where official statement at that time attributed the deceased action to “frustration”.
Barely one month after that terrible incident, exactly on November 2, 2018 another man was reported to have jumped into Lagos lagoon from the same Third Mainland Bridge. This was not the end to suicide in Nigeria as several other incidents of people committing suicide by hanging were reported in the media in the year 2018.
Since it has been established through research and scientifically collected data that Nigeria is truly a miserable place to live, the big question now is how miserable are Nigerians?
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Take your mind back to 2016, when Nigeria’s currency, naira, recorded its worst weakness in 17 year on a row. At that time, Nigerians for the first time saw a situation where one dollar was sold at over N500/$ in the black market. Being an import-dependent economy, so many Nigerians, mostly importers, were using high number of naira to go after limited number of dollar.
This created several economic crises as the economy also slowed into recession. Then, several manufacturing companies, which at that time depended on import for their critical production input, could not cope and most of them were forced out of the market.
What next? Thousands of Nigerians were laid off, thereby, compounding the number of those Nigerians that were unemployed. The sad side of this narrative was that those who retained their jobs at that time and even up till today, also got salary cut and all these contributed to cutting down consumers’ spending. Many Nigerians were forced to learn careful spending including how not to spend on things that are not very essential.
This was only for those who could still boast of either daily wages or monthly salaries. It did not end. Many low income earners inherited loads of responsibilities from numerous dependants especially from the extended family members heavily hit by the economic crisis in the country.
Tim Adedoyin, a retiree, said: “Presently, many families in Nigeria find it extremely difficult to eat a decent meal on a daily basis.”
Adedoyin, who emphatically agreed with Hanke’s report on Nigeria, said he recently conducted a survey with the United Nations in which 153 out of a total of 160 families living in the Surulere area of Lagos, said they have not eaten ‘chicken’ in six months.
“They have not eaten chicken not because they do not want to but because they could not afford it,” Adedoyin said.
According to him, a recent research also reviewed that 76 million out of the 180 million Nigerians live in houses without toilet facilities, while another survey conducted by him reveals that 10 families put together, can hardly afford the sum of N50,000 as their monthly feeding allowances.
“Nigeria is truly a miserable country. The climate condition is always extremely hot and unbearable, yet, you cannot get to your house after the day’s hustling and bustling that characterised life in Lagos, to even see electricity to have a sound sleep with your fans switched on.
“Power supply in this part of the world is still very unreliable as small and medium businesses run at a loss due to the heavy spending on diesel and fuel for power generation,” Adedoyin said while he heaved a sigh and shrugged.
Oluseyi Afolabi, an engineer by profession, said: “We lack basic infrastructure especially power.”
“A lot of people are running generators which make the cost of doing business very high. This is why the citizens are paying more for services because the service providers are spending monies that they should not be spending only on generating power to keep their businesses operational,” Afolabi said.
Pointing to a nearby generating set, which at that time was on and making heavy noise, Afolabi frowned and says, “Diesel is about N250 to N260 per liter and using that to generate power is like burning N250 per seconds and the only way to recoup such cost is by imposing the cost on the consumers. Goods and services are much higher than imported products.”
Afolabi further said: “The manufacturers here have to spend a lot of money generating power. So, we lack the basic infrastructure of power and roads. Our road networks are horrible such that even to transport the agricultural produce from the rural areas to urban areas becomes an issue because most of them get wasted on the road because trucks get trapped on the bad roads.”
“Our health care system is also horrible. If the health care provider buys any equipment and without constant power, they get damaged in no time while we do not even have the needed equipment in most government-owned hospitals. For me, we lack the basic infrastructure to even call ourselves a developing nation. I am tired of talking about Nigeria,” Afolabi further said, resignedly.
Jonathan Nicol, president of Shippers Association of Lagos State, simply said: “Our system is dead.”
According to him, “Nigeria is the only country where a citizen buys a car in his country to travel to his village, only for an officer of the Nigeria Customs Service to stop the person on the highway and arrest the car in the name of ‘not paying the correct duty’.”
“Nigeria is no doubt a miserable country to do business,” he said. “Do you know that transportation cost for moving goods from ports in Lagos to our warehouses, which we today pay as much as N600,000 to carry 25 to 30 tonnes of goods, used to be N60 in the 80s? Those days, we used to operate both day and night which was N120 because we were working for 24 hours.
“It took less than four or five hours to clear a whole vessel because the roads were free. Then, we had security but today there is no security and you cannot go to Ikeja and come back the same day or even make a roundtrip in a day. These are all the decay in the system and the people making money are not the shippers but the government agencies and they want to keep the status quo to safeguard their jobs,” Nicole lamented.
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“The Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) says they will keep the withholding tax till when you want to pay income tax. It says companies can use part of it but you must pay the 5 percent Value Added Tax (VAT). Meanwhile, FIRS is still holding your 10 percent, which would have taken care of the 5 percent but no. they rather allow it to continue to build up with their receipts for so many years.
“This is after paying about 25 percent to the government as 5 percent VAT paid repeatedly on one import to Customs, shipping companies, terminal operator, licensed agent and another 5 percent to NAFDAC, if it is goods that need certification amounting to 20 percent on VAT alone. “So, businesses and shippers are in hell in this country. And this is just a tip of eyes berg to the misery of businesses in Nigeria,” Nicol said.
Source: Amaka Anagor Ewuzie