By Jaye Gaskia
With the look of things across the country it does seem that Nigeria’s light fingered ruling elite have found their collective answer and solution to the ‘Poor question’, that is to the question of what to do with the poor, as a way of dealing with poverty.
This will not be the first time in history though that a ruling class has collectively decided on a solution to very persistent and nagging questions, that is issues of existential developmental challenge that they are unable to, or incapable of resolving in any other way.
The Nazis under their supreme leader, the Fuhrer in the first half of the 20th century also arrived at their final solution to the problem they had dubbed the ‘Jewish question’. And what was the Nazi’s final solution? Exterminate the Jew!
So what is Nigeria’s ruling class of the 21st century’s final solution to the ‘poor question’? Eliminate the poor! Ingenious isn’t it?
Every time the treasury looting elite gets up boastfully, beating its chest as to how under its watch we have become Africa’s largest economy, and the world’s 26thlargest economy; or as to how a Nigerian man is Africa’s richest man, and the world’s 25th richest, while a Nigerian woman is the world’s richest black woman; etc, each time it goes on this euphoric grandstandings, the poor and poverty keeps popping up to burst the balloons of lies and puncture big potholes in the tarmac of falsehoods.
So yes we are Africa’s largest economy, but we are also home to the largest concentration of poor people in Africa, and the third largest concentration in the whole wide world.
Yes 15 of Africa’s 40 richest are Nigerians, but 112 million Nigerians at a poverty rate of 70% live in poverty.
And whereas Nigeria’s rich own some of the choicest properties, the overwhelming majority of which are empty and not being lived in across Abuja, in Lagos, in PH, in Europe and the Americas, and in Dubai; yet the country suffers a 17 million housing deficit. The implication of this at an average household size of 6, is that nearly 90 million Nigerians are living in subhuman housing conditions are simply homeless.
And so it seems that as the country has grown in wealth, the lot of its ruling elites has improved magnificently while the conditions of living of the overwhelming majority of citizens have largely regressed or at best stagnated engendering a precarious existence for them.
And yes GDP has grown steadily since 1999 at more than 6% annually, nevertheless so has the rate of unemployment; with general unemployment growing from 8% in 2004 to 24% in 2013, and youth unemployment topping 54% in 2012.
And in the midst of this grinding, crushing and alienating poverty and misery that is the lot of the majority, what has the thieving ruling elite been up to?
Every year in the last 5 to 6 years at least, outside of the annual budget of more than N4tn, the country’s ruling class has expropriated extra-budgetary funds to the tune of at least on the average $8bn from the Excess Crude Account annually, and at least another annual average of not less than $10bn from the External Reserves.
The implication of this is that at least in the last 6 years, on the average Nigeria’s ruling elite have had access to and claimed to spend on the Nigerian economy at least the combined sum of N4tn [annual national budget] plus N4tn [combined annual budget of the 36 states] plus N2tn [being additional withdrawals from both the excess crude account and the external reserves] on a yearly basis. That is more than N10tn each year, and more than N60tn over the 6 year period.
This is in exclusion of the untraceable stolen resources that simply disappear into the bottomless pockets of these gangs of treasury looters. Take just one instance, that of the so-called crude oil theft. If we take the lowest but clearly understated estimate on loss of 100,000 barrels of crude oil daily to theft, at $100 per barrel this amounts to nearly $10m per day over 6 years.
Additionally since celebrating with fanfare our debt free nature after paying back in excess of $12bn at once in order to be forgiven the remaining $18bn of debt in 2005; our external debt profile has since climbed back to just below $10bn, growing by about 40% between June 2013 and July 2014 alone.
Where have all of these monies gone? Is it a mere coincidence therefore that a mere 10% of wealthiest Nigerians now own more than 40% of national wealth, while the bottom 20% of the population own a mere insignificant 4% of national wealth?
And so how have they addressed the poverty question? Well we have 17 million housing deficits; what to do? Demolish the houses of the poor and evict them from the urban cities.
We have such a high unemployment rate; what to do? Criminalise the livelihood of the poor. So you ban street trading, ban okadas, ban buses plying some routes; harass street traders, okada riders, bus drivers, sometimes chase them to their deaths, sometimes destroy their equipment, and oftentimes arrest and jail them and absolutely provide no alternatives.
Then to hasten this quick fix solution, ensure that hospitals are either nonexistent or not equipped and staffed and charge exorbitant fees. That way when the poor get sick from your harassment, they can die quickly.
Obviously therefore it seems that to this clueless, irredeemably greedy, light fingered treasury looting elite, the solution to poverty is not to curb their humongous appetite to steal, not to drastically scale back the historic scale and scope of their corruption, and certainly not to punish the impunity that drives this piracy; but instead, it is to eliminate and eradicate the poor from the face of the earth.
Our bounden duty is to chase this inhumane and inconsiderate treasury looting ruling elite from power before they get the chance to fully realize their final solution to poverty and the poor.
Only by waging a war against this thieving ruling class can we end their war on the poor. And we can do this only by taking concrete steps to Take Back Nigeria.
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JAYE GASKIA IS NATIONAL COORDINATOR OF PROTEST TO POWER MOVEMENT [P2PM] & CO-CONVENER OF SAY NO CAMPAIGN [SNC]