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Buhari’s regime damned by UK Parliament report

The UK Parliament’s International Development Committee published today their report on the work of the country’s Department for International Development (DFID) in Nigeria.

The DFID claim that their work in Nigeria “is focused on helping the Nigeria Government to do better with its own resources”.

The report “highlights regional inequalities and the depth of poverty and instability in the north of the country, despite the re-establishment of democratic civilian rule in 1999 and sustained economic growth over the past 20 years”.

It states: “With 120 million people living below or only just above the poverty line, 10% of the world’s mothers who die in childbirth and 16% of the world’s out of school children, the scale and depth of development challenges in Nigeria are significant. Despite the re-establishment of democratic civilian rule in 1999 and decades of impressive economic growth, the vast potential of Africa’s most populous nation has yet to be realised. The proceeds of economic successes, largely from the oil sector, have not been shared evenly, with the concentration of poverty in the North contributing to marginalisation and a surge in violence that has killed thousands and devastated the lives of many millions more. Women and girls, particularly in the North, face substantial barriers to empowerment in the form of cultural, social, political and economic disadvantages. Oil wealth has sustained an exclusive political system driven by patronage, and has undermined the accountability of elites to citizens. While the election of the reformist President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 gives cause for optimism, there is an urgent need to deliver necessary reforms to the economy and structures and processes of governance.”

The report continues: “Basic services such as health and education have not been given the priority they deserve by the Nigerian Government”. It added: “We are particularly alarmed by the poor prospects for Nigeria’s achievement of SDG 4 [Sustainable Development Goals] on inclusive and quality education”. The perception that Buhari and most Nigerian rulers are not committed to improving education in Nigeria is not helped by the fact that their children usually study abroad.

“Nick Hurd MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for International Development, also expressed uncertainty regarding the Federal Government’s commitment to education. He told us: ‘it is not entirely clear to me yet what priority the Government attaches to education at the federal level’. DFID noted in oral evidence that Sustainable Development Goal 4—ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all—is “unlikely to be achieved”. Given that the Goals were only agreed last year, it is of great concern to us that there is already talk of Nigeria’s failure on such a key Goal”.

On power supply the report claims: “The lack of access to electricity constrains the economic potential of millions of Nigerians…we are not convinced that the impacts of associated price increases for many poor Nigerians have been sufficiently researched and that measures to mitigate these impacts are adequate.”

While the Buhari administration inherited power sector privatisation from previous administrations, it has chosen to continue down this path despite concerns highlighted in the report: “Further concerns have been raised about the way in which private companies raised funds to purchase power sector assets. In written evidence, Dr Kate Meagher wrote: ‘The process of privatization was deeply financialized, requiring purchasers to take out such huge loans that they are now unable to invest in improving the power infrastructure, and focus largely on raising tariffs to meet the cost of their debt obligations.’ It was also mentioned in oral evidence by Dr Meagher that loans were raised ‘from all over the world’. This adds an additional layer of concern given the recent devaluation of the Naira, Nigeria’s currency. A less valuable Naira, which fell almost 30 percent to a record 281.75 per US dollar, is likely to add to the debt burden of those companies required to service their debts in foreign currencies. This may have implications for the viability of the power sector based on current tariff structures”.

On Buhari’s fabled “fight against corruption” the report notes: “A commitment to fighting corruption was a central feature of President Buhari’s election campaign and is thus a key pillar of his mandate, so there is much room for optimism moving forwards. As Ben Mellor stated: ‘We cannot underestimate the importance of a President coming to power whose primary mandate is to tackle corruption in a country where corruption is endemic.’ However, it is also important to note that in the 2009 Report by our predecessor Committee, the then President Yar’Adua had also identified the fight against corruption as one of his priorities. Despite this, Nigeria has made little progress in the fight against corruption since 2009, actually slipping down the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index from 130th in 2009 to 136th in 2015.69 Nigeria also fell from 35th out of 53 countries in 2009 to 39th out of 54 in 2014 in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance. This suggests that political will is a necessary but not sufficient condition for turning the tide against corruption in Nigeria”.

Buhari at an anti-corruption summit in London
Buhari at an anti-corruption summit in London

On Nigeria’s various conflicts on several fronts the report stated: “In December 2015, President Buhari declared that Nigeria had ‘technically won the war’ against Boko Haram, yet this was seen by some as a premature announcement”.

“In the Niger Delta, there has been a recent surge of attacks on oil infrastructure and installations. These have largely attributed to the ‘Niger Delta Avengers’, a new group demanding greater ownership of resources for people living in oil-producing areas, as well as environmental repair and compensation for damages inflicted by oil producers. After an amnesty deal was reached between the government and armed groups in 2009, the Niger Delta enjoyed a period of relative harmony. Former combatants were paid monthly stipends for keeping the peace and their former commanders were awarded federal government contracts for securing pipelines. However, incidents of oil theft and sabotage have also increased following President Buhari’s decision to cut the budget for an amnesty programme previously set up with militant groups and his decision to cancel the security contracts given to ex-militants as part of his effort to tackle corruption”.

The committee’s full report is available here.

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