Nigeria isa country where the citizens gain almost nothing from government. Exceptperhaps for Abuja the state capital, in almost all the states, citizens provideall services needed for living by themselves.
Whereasit is the duty of government to protect, provide water, good roads, educationalfacilities as well as power for the people, over the years government serviceshave so become decadent that people are forced to provide things for themselves;yet each year millions and billions of naira are voted by the federalgovernment for these services.
Waterthough a very important commodity for sanitation and good living, has sincedisappeared from the radar of public services in most states. The fad now isthat if you live in a city like Port Harcourt or Lagos, to avoid theembarrassment of crossing the highway for water from affluent homes, you haveto budget for the installation of a borehole in your premises. It is in yourinterest to dig the borehole, arrange for its periodic maintenance.
Forthose who cannot afford a borehole, there is a local angle; dig a well and useat least for bathing and washing up and fall back on sachet water suppliers forcooking and drinking. Beyond the cities, mono pumps often courtesy ofmultinationals operating in places like the Niger Delta and international donorpartners to non-governmental organisations fill in the gap. Others not luckyenough to harness this, resort to either often polluted stream water or harvestingrain water through wells.
Thesecome with some elements of danger to our health.
Power isthe driver of any economy but Nigeria’s power status is so low and horriblethat industrialists blame poor productivity in that industry on epileptic oroften times non-existent power supply. The power authority, NationalElectricity Power Authority lost authority to Power Holding before governmentstill in search of ways to improve services, contracted this all importantsector to private hands. Incompetence and inadequate capacity to muscleresources by the new operators has witnessed power supply dipping from 4000watts to some 2900 watts, sending down with it, the economy.
To avoiddisappointment, use of mainly generators and some renewable energy sources hasbecome the norm. Businesses invest hugely in Soundproof generators, inverters,solar energy panels just to keep in business and the millions of naira thesecost makes it difficult for them to break even enough to have room to engagemore workers and thus reduce the number of the unemployed in the country. Sofar the federal government is reported to have invested some N500billion inpower generation.
Theaverage Nigerian spends at least N15, 000 monthly fuelling generators to powerhis household and the power distributing companies, Discos still pile him withunbelievable bills for services not rendered.
Worriedby this, power consumers engage officials in protests and petition the NigerianElectricity Regulatory Agency, NERC daily seeking redress, demanding regularpower supply so they can manage their lives better. For the women poor poweramounts to more stress from domestic chores and eats deeply into family economyas planning family budgets become problematic without the storage facilitiesguaranteed by refrigerators while micro-business is placed on a stand-still.
EvenDangote the industry giant recently had to lament that other country’s havebeen able to access higher volumes of power supply at lower cost than Nigeria.
Withregards to education, it is more like government has raised its hands off thissector. Even in states where it appears something is being done, the reality isthat the efforts are more cosmetic as the number of public schools in squalorfar out-number projected intervention. Tied to this is the very unpalatablequality of what is being dished out to our children as education. Teacherscomplain of neglect and so turn to other trades for financial boost. They cryof years of stagnation, teaching without encouragement by way of promotion.Principals don’t come to school except there is something to gain, teachers usesame lesson notes developed ages ago and uninspired, students lose interest inpaying attention, learning and reading, with some embracing vices like cultism,robbery, even oil theft. Thus when it is time for qualifying externalexaminations like the West African Senior Secondary School CertificateExamination, WASSCE and the National Examination Council Examination, NECO,sorting, examination malpractice becomes the readily available option.
Knowingthis is a danger, those who can afford it take their children to privateschools which are like other alternative sector services, very expensive. Whatthis means is that if you don’t have money, your children’s future might bedoomed; a development that has caused some to dip their hands in the governmenttill to meet up with the Joneses. It is the duty of government to providequalitative education to all and ensure no one is left behind in accordancewith the Sustainable Development Goal, by the year 2030.
Roadsare important for communication, link communities, towns, states opening opportunity for commerce andemployment but the Nigerian government does not seem to care too much aboutthis. Nigeria must of the worst set of high way roads by way of their state.Many roads are death traps and offer easy opportunity for criminals to blockand harass commuters. No day passes without news of robberies, kidnaps ordeaths on our highways. States have had cause in the past to refurbish federalroads but usually, reimbursement is hard. And we have the Federal EmergencyRoad Maintenance Agency, FERMA charged with the responsibility of ensuringthese roads are in usable condition. Stretches of the Abuja/Lokoja Rd,Enugu-Markurdi Rd, Benin –Auchi Rd, to mention a few, are in such deplorablecondition there are nightmares to transporters especially trucks conveyinggoods across the country. The Federal government budgetted the sum of for road transport in 2018.
TheNigerian Transport Policy states,
One can go on naming under performing sectors but the major concern is to draw attention to the fact that there is a serious problem in our service sector and this has been made possible because the people who should access these services are not speaking up enough to be served right. President Buhari has set a standard of performance measurement for in the local government system. Let us extend it to the state and federal governments by getting them to answer questions from us on how they are spending our money and where. Each year Nigeria budgets trillions of naira for recurrent and capital expenditure. We have to follow the money and ascertain it is being properly utilized. We cannot allow a few people in power to bloat from stuffing public wealth when the real owners of the wealth are poor, hungry, and unable to access quality service. The responsibility of rebuilding Nigeria rests on all of us.
#Gender Accountability Project
Constance Meju is a veteranjournalist and gender and human right advocate committed to gender andenvironmental justice. She is publisher of Port Harcourt based National PointNewspaper.