Nigeria: Progress or decline under Buhari?

Okada riders in Magboro, Ogun State, Nigeria.
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High unemployment, increasing crime rate, inflation, crumbling infrastructure, lack of basic amenities, widespread corruptions, lawlessness, lack of security and safety are some of the persistent challenges facing Nigeria since independence.

Your introduction to the corrupt culture in Nigeria is not subtle but occurs immediately upon disembarkment from your flight at the Murtala Muhammed International airport in Ikeja, Lagos. Here at the immigration checkpoint, officials who are well versed in the art of bribery will maintain direct eye contact with you, while boldly asking for handouts. This process will be repeated by many others, until you finally exit the facility and out into the wild wild west chaos known as Lagos, Nigeria.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is sworn in for a second four-year term in Africa’s most populous nation in Abuja, Nigeria, Wednesday May 29, 2019. The 76 year-old former military dictator faces heightened pressure to defeat Islamic extremism and boost the oil-dependent economy amid concerns over his health. (AP Photo)

As Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari began his second term as head of Africa’s most populous nation on Wednesday, he is facing heightened pressure to defeat Islamic extremism and boost the oil-dependent economy amid concerns over his health.

Buhari is known to point to fighting curroption as his primary goal, yet travellers along major highways are met with gun-totting police, army, custom and road safety officials forcefully demanding money from motorist. Bribery and corruption is so endemic and widespread in all aspects of the society that bribes are deemed as entitlement, absent of which nothing can be accomplished.

Boko Haram, armed militants are roaming the northern and central parts of the country, while murderous reign of terror are sponteniousely unleashed in the eastern and southern partsof the nathe nation.

Due to lack of trust by the communities on the effectiveness of Nigerian police, gates are installed in many neighborhoods and designated vigilantes or private guards are paid to secure the streets at a determined time. Most neighborhoods are in a self-imposed locked down curfew by 10 pm in Lagos, thus rendering free movement impossible in Africa’s most populous city.

During a visit to a local police station, crime victims are openly extorted by uniform police officers, while the anti-bribery posters and notices are widely displayed. To arrest criminals, victims must pay a bribe and to gain freedom detention and formal prosecution, criminals must pay a bribe to the police too. In the end, nothing changes and criminal activities continue unabated.

On a trip from Lagos to Oshogbo, during which I left my home at 6 am only to arrive at my destination ten hours later, due to four hours delay on Lagos/ Ibadan expressway.

Widely adopted best practices, including road constructions and repairs on major commercial routes, which are held overnight in most developed nations to minimize impacts on commutters and commerce are done during the heights of commute. As a result, billions of dollars in goods and human resources are wasted in traffic congestion along various highways including the Lagos/ Ibadan expressway.

Road safety is simply non-existence and widely ignored by uniformed designated officials, who in exchange of few nairas would ignore critical life-dependent infractions such as bald tires, lack of headlight or rear indicator or brake lamps on fuel tankers and buses.

In Nigeria, many have simply resigned thier fate to the state of mediocrity and lack of progress around them. To survive in a very costly and heavily corrupt environment, many have resorted to either join in, remain in denial and apathy or abandon the country to seek refuge in other African countries, Europe or the Americas.

By my visual count and estimate, ninety percent of heavy commercial trucks, fuel tankers, buses and Danfo plying the roads across Nigeria lacks operating headlight and tail lamps. Yet, they operate at night on mostly pitch dark highways. Included in this survey are fuel tankers owned by such widely known businesses as Dangote and Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.

A picture of one of many truck on Nigerian roads with bald tires and missing lights

This is why Nigeria suffers from a high rate of roadways accidents and fatalities on a daily basis. Victims of such preventable accidents are generally left at the scene for hours and perhaps days, while pictures of their remains are widely circulated on Instagram and other social platforms, prior to eventual removal by relatives, due to lack of basic emergency response infrastructure.

Fully loaded passenger van, commonly called Danfo, with missing tail lamps and bald tires.

If you are a victim of a motor vehicle accident in Nigeria, it is very common for the other driver, who is clearly at fault, to simply abandon his or her vehicle and flee the scene. Most drivers on Nigerian roads are not legally licensed and if they are, many had simply paid to obtain it illegally and do not have the minimum liability or other forms of automobile insurance.

Overturned semi truck on Lagos/ Ibadan expressway. A common sight in Nigeria.
Another semi truck on Nigerian highway with no tail lights

Enforcement of the road safety laws in Nigeria is absent. Everyone, including fully employed road safety officers, are busy subsidizing their salaries with bribes.

Another example of a Danfo wil no lights on Lagos road

Cost of living in Lagos, Abuja, Enugu or Port Harcourt are extremely high in comparison to the average income for most employed inhabitants of those cities. This disparity and gap in income and expense are key factors in increased stress, public displays of aggressive behaviors, corruption, and prostitution. Instances of Nigerians screaming at each other in traffic, market places and bus stations are common sights in most cities.

Having full-time employment in either government or private sector does not amount to self-sufficiency in Nigeria. With high unemployment across the country, many have made compromising deals to obtain such inadequate employment, out of desperation.

“If sexual harassment laws exist in Nigeria, it is widely ignored and unenforced.”

Sexual relationship amongst employees and employers, as a form of quid pro quo, is a common practice in both private and governmental institution here. Simply, many women, regardless of their marital status are required to maintain a sexual relationship with their boss to keep their jobs here. It is not unusual for an employer to hire a woman for a short period, to simply replace her after she has been sexually compromised, and then hire another with the same intention. Many expatriate employers who generally hire Nigerians for clerk and domestic assignments are well engaged in this exploitation practices too.

During another road trip to Ondo state via Ijebu-Ode/ Benin expressway, we encountered checkpoints every two miles, manned by various uniform officers who openly demanded bribes. In one instance, the checkpoint manned by the police was merely a few feet from the Nigerian customs officers, who were also demanding their entitlements.

In Nigeria, gun-totting corrupt uniform officers are in abundance everywhere, but emergency life-saving services are noticeably absent.

Regardless of your health condition, hospitals in Nigeria will not treat you, unless you can provide a significant financial deposit. Many critically ill patients are summarily rejected and sentenced to death, due to lack of treatment by local and publicly operated health facilities.

Rotating electricity blackout is the norm and most Nigerians are accustomed to owning and maintaining their own power plant in form of an electric generator, which consumes up to twenty-five percent of their income and contributes to high rate of air pollution.

Trash pickup services, public sewage/ waste treatment plant and public water services are rarities in Nigeria. As a result, most homes must have water wells or boreholes, in-ground sewage reservoir and burn or dump their garbage at a local point.

As demonstrated by social activities, high values are placed on naming, weddings and funeral ceremonies; human lives appeared only valued at those identified milestones. Quality of life and how an average Nigerian lives exist between such important milestones are widely deemed irrelevant.

As Muhammadu Buhari is inaugurated for his second term, I openly ask every Nigeria this uncomfortable question; “Where is Nigeria heading and how do you measure progress and failure under his tenure?”

Michael Onas I Africa-Online

About the Author

Michael Onas
Africa - Online Founder & Senior Editor Africa - Online.Com was founded by Michael Onas in 1997, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in African news sector, with millions of readers around the world and followers on social media.