Many Nigerians have in recent times embraced the use of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), popularly known as cooking gas, encouraged by its speed in cooking and low health risk.
However, a persistent increase in the cost of cooking gas is now threatening to force average Nigerians to return to charcoal and firewood, with all their well known health hazards.
Indeed, since the beginning of the year, the price of gas has soared beyond the reach of the common man.
It now costs an average of N12,000 to refill a 12.5kg LPG in some parts of Lagos, while the cost of refilling a 5kg cylinder has also increased to N4,750 on average.
Some consumers are now lamenting the continuous increase in the price of cooking gas.
Mr Mike Samson, a businessman who went to Dikram gas depot in Surulere, Lagos, to purchase the product on Friday, said the price hike had become frustrating to consumers.
Samson said, “At this point, we are quite frustrated at the rate at which the price of every commodity in the market keeps surging every single day.
“Imagine the increase from last month to this month, and with every possibility that it might increase again in the next few weeks.
“The development forced some LPG users to shift to charcoal or firewood, as consumers of the commodity raised the alarm over the persistent hike in its price.
“The product has increased by 240 per cent for 12.5kg, moving up from N3,000 to N10,200 within the first 10 months of 2021.”
Mrs Alice Bamidele, a housewife, arrived at her usual gas depot in the Somolu area of Lagos, last week, to refill her 12.5kg gas cylinder but was surprised that what she bought about a month ago at N10,200 had increased to 11, 800.
She lamented that the increase would affect her family’s monthly budget, particularly because her husband, a civil servant, had fixed income.
Another Lagos housewife, Mrs Toun Philips, who resides in Ilupeju, Lagos, expressed her frustration thus, “I bought 12.5kg cylinder at this same depot last month for N10,000, only to be told today that it is now N12,200. This really destabilises my budget.
“What if I didn’t come with extra money, that would have meant that I would have gone back home and not purchased gas and definitely would not be able to cook food at home.
“The government doesn’t seem to be doing anything about the constant increase in the price of cooking gas.
“They (the government) have been encouraging us to use gas instead of charcoal, but with the way things are going, gas may no longer be within the reach of the common man,” she said.
Mrs Juliana Matthew, a restaurant owner, said the increase in the price of gas along with the hike in food prices, automatically increased the cost of production for her business.
“When I consider that I have to pay more for gas and the food items I buy from the market, I cannot help but reduce the quantity or quality of the food or maybe increase the price to make a substantial profit,” she said.
Similarly, the manager of a depot in Lagos, who declined to be mentioned, stated that the selling price at the depot was determined by how much the product was bought from the marketers.
“The increase is not really our fault. We also buy the product to sell to consumers. If there is an increase in price by the marketers, we also have to increase from our end to avoid losses.
“The problem is really from the top of the chain,” he claimed.
Mr Peter Chima, a retailer in the Ikotun area, Lagos, said one of the factors responsible for the high cost of cooking gas was the rising foreign exchange rate of the Naira to the dollar.
“Aside from being a dealer, I’m also a gas consumer, so I understand how our customers are feeling. Gas is not the only thing that keeps increasing in price in Nigeria.
“A great percentage of locally consumed gas is being imported and you cannot rule out the factor of rising dollar and Naira depreciation,” he said.
Mr Afolabi George an Energy Consultant, attributed the high cost of cooking gas to supply not matching the increase in demand.
He said the trend of switching to cleaner energy from local alternatives in the last one decade highlighted the interplay of the forces of demand and supply in the increase in the price of cooking gas.
“More than a decade ago, the demand was just about 60,000 metric tonnes per year as cooking gas was largely unpopular compared to kerosene.
“Today, we consume over one million metric tonnes per year. To meet up with the demand, we have to import.
“It is at this point that importers have to deal with the bottlenecks of scarcity of dollars, government’s recent introduction of 7.5 per cent value-added tax (VAT) and others,” he said.
George said the Russian-Ukraine war also led to shortage of supply of gas in the face of rising demand around the world.
“Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter. Due to the imposition of an embargo on its gas, countries like Nigeria that depend on the eastern European country for imports will feel the brunt.
“The price of cooking gas has more than doubled in the last one year.
“The rising LPG prices are a part of a general escalation of other daily living costs.
“Gasoline pump prices, electricity tariffs, basic prescription drug prices and urban mass transportation, form part of the determinants of the escalating living costs and declining living standards,” he added.
He explained that to establish the fundamentals that led to the increase in the price of cooking gas, there was need to understand the micro and macroeconomics of LPG in Nigeria and global trends that impacted the sector.
“First, Nigeria gets a little over 450,000 metric tonnes of LPG from its liquefaction company, the NLNG, co-owned by the Federal Government and three international oil companies, while the actual domestic demand stands at 1.3 million metric tonnes, a shortfall of 850,000 metric tonnes.
“These 450,000 metric tonnes of LPG represent about 100 per cent of its Butane production (Butane gas is less volatile and is suitable for cooking).
“And by committing 100 per cent of its Butane production, NLNG posits that it has prioritised the domestic market, thus meeting its domestic supply target,” he said.
in the sector,” he said.
Nigeria @63: Bottlenecks hindering development in educational sector
By Sodiq Adelakun
Nigeria’s educational sector has been grappling with a myriad of challenges, encompassing issues as diverse as sexual harassment, a dearth of educational materials, bribery, and the presence of unskilled teachers.
Despite concerted efforts to enhance educational accessibility, a substantial segment of Nigeria’s populace, particularly those residing in rural areas, continues to endure a dearth of quality education.
According to the World Bank, higher institutions in sub-Saharan African countries like Nigeria face the formidable policy challenge of balancing the need to raise educational quality with increasing social demand for access.
It reads, “The task of funding these institutions will become increasingly difficult in the years ahead; as the youth population continues to grow, each country will have to devise a financing approach to higher education development that enables it to meet the challenge.”
That “financing approach,” stakeholders in the education sector have come to agree, is the collaboration between the town and gown (private partners).
Public-private partnership is considered “an agreement between governments and private partners that may include the operations and financiers, according to which the private partners deliver the service in such matter that the service delivery objectives of government are aligned with the profit objectives of the private partners, and where the effectiveness of the alignment depends on a sufficient transfer of risk to the private partners.”
This predicament is exacerbated by factors such as poverty, cultural barriers, and gender inequality, all of which contribute to the perpetuation of educational disparities and the constriction of opportunities for social and economic advancement.
One of the most significant bottlenecks impeding progress in Nigeria’s educational sector is the glaring insufficiency of funding.
Though Nigeria has at least 50 Federal Government-owned and 60 state government-owned universities, it has not been able to meet the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) standard of 26 per cent budgetary allocation for the funding of education. The highest allocation so far recorded was eight per cent, yet, 60 per cent of that funding for universities goes into recurrent expenditure.
The allocated budget for education falls short of the recommended international standards, resulting in a lack of resources, dilapidated infrastructure, and inadequate teacher training. This financial constraint limits the government’s ability to provide quality education and hampers the overall development of the sector.
In a presentation to the international community on ‘Public-private partnership and sustainable higher education funding: The Nigerian experience,’ Prof. Bashiru Raji, a few years ago, asked the question: “How do Nigerian universities cope with these two key issues?” The answers are not far-fetched.
Despite the government’s efforts to improve access to quality education, there are several bottlenecks hindering the sector’s development.
Decades of neglect and underinvestment have left Nigeria’s educational infrastructure in a dire state. Many schools lack basic amenities such as classrooms, libraries, laboratories, and sanitary facilities. This deficiency not only affects the learning environment but also poses safety risks for students and teachers. Without proper infrastructure, it becomes challenging to deliver quality education and create a conducive atmosphere for learning.
The shortage of qualified teachers is another bottleneck plaguing Nigeria’s educational sector. The country faces a significant deficit in the number of trained teachers, particularly in rural areas. Additionally, the quality of education provided by some teachers is subpar due to inadequate training and professional development opportunities. This lack of qualified educators hampers the delivery of quality education and undermines the sector’s development.
The educational curriculum in Nigeria has been criticised for its outdated content and lack of relevance to the current needs of the society and job market. The curriculum fails to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge required to thrive in a rapidly evolving world.
As a result, graduates often struggle to find employment or contribute meaningfully to the country’s development. A comprehensive curriculum reform is necessary to align education with the demands of the modern world.
Inequality and Access: Inequality in access to education remains a significant challenge in Nigeria.
Corruption and mismanagement plague Nigeria’s educational sector, further hindering its development. Cases of embezzlement of funds meant for educational projects, fraudulent practices in the admission process, and the sale of examination papers have been reported. These unethical practices undermine the integrity of the system and hinder progress.
Disparities exist between urban and rural areas, as well as among different socioeconomic groups. Many children, particularly girls and those from marginalized communities, face barriers such as poverty, early marriage, and cultural norms that hinder their access to education.
Addressing these inequalities and ensuring equal opportunities for all is crucial for the sector’s development.
Nigeria’s educational sector faces numerous bottlenecks that hinder its development and impede the country’s progress.
These problems have persisted for years, hindering the development and progress of the nation’s education system.
It is high time for the government, educational institutions, and society as a whole to come together and address these pressing concerns with a sense of urgency.
One of the most distressing issues within Nigeria’s educational sector is the prevalence of sexual harassment. This despicable behavior not only violates the rights of students but also creates an unsafe and hostile learning environment.
It is imperative that educational institutions establish strict policies and mechanisms to prevent and address such misconduct.
This includes providing support systems for victims, conducting thorough investigations, and implementing appropriate disciplinary measures against perpetrators.
Additionally, comprehensive awareness campaigns and educational programs should be introduced to foster a culture of respect and gender equality within schools and universities.
Another significant challenge faced by Nigeria’s educational sector is the scarcity of adequate teaching materials. Many schools, particularly in rural areas, lack access to up-to-date textbooks, technology, and other essential resources.
This scarcity severely hampers the quality of education provided to students, hindering their ability to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for their future.
The government must prioritise investment in the provision of educational materials, ensuring that every student has equal access to quality resources. Partnerships with international organizations and NGOs can also play a vital role in bridging this resource gap.
The pervasive issue of bribery within Nigeria’s educational institutions undermines the integrity of the entire system. Instances of students bribing lecturers for better grades or lecturers demanding bribes for admission are all too common. This corrupt practice erodes the credibility of qualifications and devalues the hard work and talent of deserving students.
To combat this, strict anti-corruption measures must be implemented, including the establishment of transparent and accountable processes for admissions, examinations, and grading.
Additionally, awareness campaigns should be conducted to educate students and lecturers about the detrimental consequences of bribery and the importance of meritocracy.
The shortage of skilled teachers across primary, secondary, and tertiary institutions is a critical challenge that must be urgently addressed. Many educators lack the necessary qualifications, training, and pedagogical skills required to effectively impart knowledge to students.
The government should invest in comprehensive teacher training programs, ensuring that educators are equipped with the latest teaching methodologies and subject knowledge. Attracting and retaining talented teachers should also be a priority, achieved through competitive salaries, professional development opportunities, and a supportive work environment.
By implementing strict policies, investing in resources, and prioritising teacher training, Nigeria can pave the way for a brighter future, where every student has access to a safe, inclusive, and high-quality education. Only through concerted efforts can we ensure that the next generation is equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to drive Nigeria’s progress and development.
The bottlenecks hindering the development of Nigeria’s educational sector are multifaceted and deeply rooted.
The government, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, must prioritise these issues and implement comprehensive reforms to overcome these obstacles. Only by addressing these bottlenecks can Nigeria’s educational sector flourish and contribute to the nation’s growth and development.
Can Tinubu administration tame job racketeering in MDAs?
Nigeria has one of the highest unemployment rates in Africa. According to National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 33.3 per cent in the last quarter of 2020 while the rate of unemployment among youths was even higher, 42.5 per cent.
The NBS further says that as at the time the figures were released, under-employment was 22.8 per cent and youth unemployment was 21.0 per cent.
However, KPMG, a multi-national consulting firm, in a release predicted that Nigeria’s unemployment rate will hit 40.6 per cent in 2023.
“Although the National Bureau of Statistics recorded an increase in the national unemployment rate from 23.1per cent in 2018 to 33.3per cent in 2020.
“We estimate that this rate has increased to 37.7per cent in 2022 and will rise further to 40.6 per cent in 2023,” said KPMG in its Global Economy Outlook report for first half of 2023.
Nigeria’s unemployment figure is outrageous compared to that of Ghana which, according to a BBC report, was 13.7 per cent in the 3rd quarter of 2022.
The scarcity of job means that unemployed people can go to any length to secure a job and top officials in Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), take advantage of applicants, exploiting them both financially and morally.
In some instances, job seekers are allegedly offered phantom jobs, enrolled into and collect salaries from the centralised Federal Government salary payment platform, Integrated Payroll Personnel Information System (IPPIS).
Worried by this situation, the House of Representatives set up an Ad hoc Committee to investigate job racketeering in MDAs and so far reports from the committee’s sittings have been mind-boggling.
In one of the sessions of the committee witnesses Abdulmalik Ahmed and Ali Yaro shared their experiences of being swindled by individuals posing as intermediaries for an agency.
The two witnesses on Aug. 8 presented themselves before the committee which is also probing the mismanagement of IPPS by those in charge of its operations.
They testified how a former staff of the Federal Character Commission (FCC), Mr Haruna Kolo, who doubles as the IPPIS desk officer and ex-protocol person to the Commission’s chairman, Mrs Farida Dankaka, swindled unsuspecting job seekers,
He was alleged to have acted as a proxy to the chairman.
Kolo, now a staff of Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON), in his submission before the committee said his movement to AMCON was facilitated by Dankaka along with three others, which he said included the FCC chairman’s 51 year old sister.
He alleged that the chairman’s sister was rejected at AMCON on account of her age, which according to him.
He claimed Dankaka blamed him for not doing enough to convince AMCON management to accept her.
On his part, Ahmed, an indigene of Adamawa, and the only graduate from the family of 21 said he was ready to part with any amount to secure a job in any Federal Government when presented with the opportunity.
He said the driver to the Federal Commissioner, representing Taraba took him to Kolo, the protocol officer to the chairman of the commission into whose account he paid N1 million for the purpose of giving him a job in the commission.
Yaro, also from Adamawa paid even higher, paying N2 million into Kolo’s account in a bid to secure the federal government job.
“I graduated 11 years ago without a job. I had the privilege of joining the dreaded Boko Haram but I wanted to be a good citizen. So, I thought it was better to pay the N2 million to secure a job than offering myself as a tool for Boko Haram,” he told the committee.
Rep. Yusuf Gagdi, the Chairman of the committee said no stone would be left unturned to get justice for the victim.
A visibly angry Gagdi said it was unfortunate that one of the heads of an MDA, after obtaining waiver for recruitment, resorted to a secret recruitment.
Gagdi said MDAs use waiver to bypass recruitment guidelines, sell jobs to the highest bidders, and engage in fraudulent activities, adding that they perpetrate job racketeering, which undermine the principles of fairness and transparency in recruitment processes.
He described the act as a deliberate effort to engage cronies and sell the slots to willing graduates, while some of highly placed official move their children from one MDAs to the other depending on how ‘lucrative’ the MDA is.
Some of the MDAs considered as lucrative includes: the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigeria National Petroleum Company Ltd., Nigeria Communication Commission.
Meanwhile, at the investigative hearing, one of the FCC Commissioners representing Delta State , Mr Moses Anaughe’s accused the chairman of the commission of moving her children from NCC to Downstream Regulatory Commission, a subsiduary of NNPC where the pay is higher.
She did not deny the allegation.
Some FCC Commissioners such as those from Lagos, Delta, Osun, Rivers, Enugu even Dankaka’s state, Kwara, among others are up in arms against her, accusing her of selling job slots in dollars using Kolo and her sister as the receiving agents.
Account details where job seekers paid into were provided to the committee with names and beneficiaries, but Dankaka denied any wrong doing.
Swearing with the Holy Quran she said she had discharged her duties to the best of her abilities and never collected money from any applicant personally or through any proxy.
Pundits are of the opinion that if these allegations from the Ad hoc committee settings are true, the President Bola Tinubu administration has a lot to do to clean up the civil service.
They also urge that similar probes be extended to other MDAs in order to determine the extent of the rot and bring culprits to book.
Responding to the Niger Coup: Lessons in diplomacy for Nigeria and ECOWAS
On the 26th of July 2023, the world was confronted with yet another distressing piece of news: the successful military coup in Africa’s Niger, marking the fourth such incident in a span of just two years, following similar events in Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso.
The Nigerien presidential guard took action by removing President Mohamed Bazoum from power, closing borders, and blocking entrances to government ministries.
Subsequently, in full alignment with the coup orchestrators, the nation’s armed forces rallied behind the coup leaders, with General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the head of Niger’s presidential guard, declaring himself as the head of state after seizing control.
Amidst this turmoil, an emergency meeting was convened in Abuja, Nigeria, on the 30th of July, where the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called for the “immediate release and reinstatement” of Niger’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, who had been held by the military since the 19th of July.
In response, the regional bloc issued a one-week ultimatum to the regime, stressing their willingness to employ any necessary measures — including the use of military force — to restore constitutional order. However, the military junta disregarded these warnings and remained unresponsive to another ultimatum issued by ECOWAS on the 10th of August.
Embedded within ECOWAS’s objectives is the preservation of peace and stability in the West African region through conflict prevention, resolution, and peacekeeping initiatives. Nigeria, guided by its foreign policy principle of African Centrality, assumes leadership roles in regional bodies such as the African Union and ECOWAS, currently chaired by Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
While adhering to a policy of non-alignment in global power struggles, Nigeria actively engages in diplomatic efforts to address conflicts both within Africa and on the global stage. Over the years, the country has played a mediating role in various conflicts, including those in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Sudan.
In analyzing potential strategies to address the Niger crisis, it becomes crucial to assess what aligns with Nigeria’s national interests and contributes to the overall security and stability of West Africa. From this vantage point, three primary considerations emerge to guide Nigeria’s response to the constitutional and leadership crisis in Niger Republic.
The border between Niger and Nigeria stretches over 1,600 kilometers, spanning the Nigerian states of Yobe, Jigawa, Kebbi, Katsina, and Sokoto, regions that have grappled with insecurity for over a decade. Notably, Niger plays an essential role as a security partner to Nigeria within initiatives like the G5 and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), a regional military operation targeting terrorist insurgents in the Lake Chad Basin. Moreover, Niger hosts Sector 4 of the Force in the Diffa Presence. The presence of Nigerien troops in the MNJTF is pivotal to containing the insurgency and has significantly contributed to the military successes in Nigeria’s North East region. Taking these factors into account, any hostile action against the coup regime could prompt a withdrawal from the MNJTF, unraveling a critical component of the coalition against insurgents and jeopardizing counterinsurgency gains. Additionally, the Nigerien regime might allow ISWAP to use its territory as a base for regrouping and launching attacks on Nigeria, resulting in both humanitarian and military crises.
Presently, over 300,000 Nigerian refugees have sought shelter in Niger, primarily fleeing conflict and armed group activities in Nigeria’s North-East and North-West regions. Furthermore, over a million Nigerians reside in Niger, constituting 73 per cent of the refugee population. Ethnically driven concerns also factor into addressing the Niger crisis, as the ousted President Bazoum is the first Diffa Arab to lead Niger. These Arabs, residing mainly in the Diffa Region of eastern Niger, have a history of tense interactions with other groups, particularly the Fulani, marked by disputes over pastoral resources and clashes with the Nigerien government.
Niger and Northern Nigeria share a longstanding sociocultural, familial, and economic connection. Many households along the 1,600 km border boast a binational heritage due to strong ancestral links. This connection was notably highlighted in December 2022 when former President Muhammadu Buhari, former Governor Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, and Mohammed Matawalle of Zamfara State, alongside businessmen Aliko Dangote and Abdulsamad Rabi’u, received Niger’s national honors. Yet, a protracted conflict with Niger could potentially strain social cohesion in Northern Nigeria. A portrayal of ECOWAS intervention as a military assault by the Nigerian president against a population with shared cultural ties might ignite tensions. In the event of hostilities, the safety of Nigerian nationals and the numerous refugees would be at severe risk.
Plans for the orderly return of refugees depend on bilateral agreements with the Nigerien government, but a hostile regime could lead to expulsion, causing a catastrophic humanitarian and security crisis in both North-West and North-East Nigeria.
Nigeria’s military resources would be heavily strained by any extensive ECOWAS military intervention in Niger, as it possesses the most formidable armed forces in West Africa. Besides external peacekeeping, the Nigerian military is currently engaged in internal security operations across 32 of the federation’s 36 states, simultaneously confronting insurgencies in the North East, North-West, and South-East. Any commitment on the scale required for a viable military operation would weaken the internal security structure, making it susceptible to exploitation by hostile non-state actors. Consequently, the outcome of military intervention would leave Nigeria less secure.
Though envisaged as a swift operation to reinstate civilian leadership, the reality could manifest as a prolonged conflict featuring both conventional and irregular combat. Unlike situations in Sierra Leone and Gambia, where restoring ousted civilian governments was relatively smooth for the Nigerian military, Niger presents a distinct challenge due to its geopolitical and geoeconomic significance. Occupying a larger territory with well-tested armed forces, Niger’s role in the Lake Chad Basin’s defense and security framework amplifies the stakes.
A Nigerian-led intervention would inadvertently perpetuate stereotypes in Francophone states. This narrative could embolden the Nigerien regime to mobilize its forces and population against the intervention forces. Instead of being perceived as liberators, Nigerian troops might be viewed as an occupying force, intensifying the conflict and risking civilian casualties. Moreover, the substantial Nigerian population in Niger would be vulnerable. Anti-Nigerian sentiment could surge in Francophone nations, impacting Nigerian nationals, businesses, and investments not only in Niger but also across other Francophone African countries.
While recommending that ECOWAS adopt a diplomatic approach to resolving the Niger crisis, it is equally vital for the regional body to resist the introduction of foreign military forces. Foreign intervention could lead to an aftermath of anarchy and enduring instability. History has demonstrated that while military interventions might achieve regime change relatively easily, managing the post-change phase is far more complex.
The instances of Iraq and Libya underscore this point, with interventions causing immense human suffering and regional instability due to a lack of consideration for post-conflict stabilization. The NATO intervention in Libya, for instance, triggered instability and weapon proliferation across the African continent, birthing groups like Al-Qaeda, Islamic State affiliates, and Boko Haram that continue to wreak havoc.
The perception of Nigeria as an Anglophone giant with hegemonic intentions in the Francophone West African imagination has fueled distrust and suspicion in Nigeria’s relations with Francophone ECOWAS member states. While ECOWAS plays a vital role in resolving the Niger crisis, it must acknowledge the existing mistrust among member states. Recent years have seen the rise of military regimes in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso, forming a distinct bloc within ECOWAS. These regimes, driven by anti-French sentiments and populist ideals, have resisted ECOWAS sanctions, fostering a sense of solidarity. The emergence of the new Niamey regime further bolsters the “anti-French” bloc.
An ECOWAS military intervention in Niger would likely garner support from other military-led countries, aligning them with the Niamey regime. Mali and Burkina Faso have openly declared their intent to support Niger militarily against any attack on the regime. They have rejected ECOWAS sanctions on Niger, potentially leading to a division within the West African Union.
Given these complexities, it remains in Nigeria’s best interest to ensure stability in Niger. A stable Niger serves as a buffer against the chaos emanating from Libya. Hastily pursuing military action against the new regime could destabilize Niger and the broader Sahel region, potentially reigniting the Tuareg insurgency. This instability would empower Sahel armed groups, accelerating their southward movement towards coastal West Africa. For Nigeria, a chaotic Niger could trigger refugee influxes into the already fragile regions of its southern neighbor, sparking humanitarian and security crises.
©DR ZAINAB SULEIMAN
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