Nigeria’s new president vows to restart economy as he inherits ‘a broken country’

ABUJA, Nigeria – May 29, 2023: President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria arrives for the swearing-in ceremony at Eagle Square in the capital. Tinubu inherits a fractured society, a crippled economy when he takes the reins of Africa’s most populous nation.

Emmanuel Osodi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

New Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu faces the daunting task of bringing stability to a society and economy in crisis — while rekindling hope for a segment of the young population who feel their voices have been ignored in many decade.

The 71-year-old was sworn in on Monday as the 16th president of Africa’s most populous nation and the fifth since the end of three decades of military rule. team in 1999. He succeeded Muhammadu Buhari, also of the All-Progressive Congress (APC) party, whose economic performance was widely criticized.

Meanwhile, judges are considering legal petitions from opposition leaders, Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi of the Labor Partyallegations of fraud and challenged the results of the presidential election in February.

Tinubu enjoys a record debt-ridden economy and nearly two-decade high inflation of more than 22%, coupled with shortages of foreign exchange and fuel reserves, a severely weakened naira, and weak power supplies. and oil production fell.

Economic Crisis

A former governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007, Tinubu is credited with modernizing Nigeria’s commercial hub and significantly expanding the region’s economy.

Welcoming his record, he announced at his swearing-in ceremony on Monday that it would expand Nigeria’s economy by at least 6% a year, unify the exchange rate and eliminate costly fuel subsidies. poor, along with addressing widespread insecurity.

“I have a message for our investors, at home and abroad: our government will look into all their complaints about multiple taxation and anti-investment restrictions. different,” Tinubu told an audience in Abuja’s Eagle Square, promising a “radical housecleaning” of monetary policy.

His predecessor, Buhari, implemented a series of protectionist economic policies that spooked international investors. While he claimed in a farewell speech on Sunday that many “difficult decisions” had boosted the country’s economic resilience, hard data showed rising unemployment and poverty rates. increase.

ABUJA, Nigeria – February 25, 2023: A party observer argues with an official of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) because ballot boxes are believed to have been placed at the wrong polling place. in Abuja.

Michele Spatari/AFP via Getty Images

Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics now estimates that 63% of the population, about 133 million, is now classified as multidimensionally poor, up 10 percentage points from before Buhari’s term began in 2015. The rate unemployment at 33.3%, to more than 23 million people, has increased steadily over the past eight years.

Samson Itodo, executive director of Nigeria-based civic advocacy organization YIAGA Africa, told CNBC that he expects the country to get through the legal challenge process with minimal disruption, but it is Tinubu’s rights faced many obstacles during the first 60 days.

“He’s inheriting a broken economy, he’s inheriting a broken country, very religiously and ethnically polarized, and so there’s a lot of expectation that as Tinubu, he She will take on this responsibility, but I do believe that Nigeria will withdraw from this because of our resilient character,” Itodo said on Monday.

Despite its popularity, the decades-long subsidy for petroleum products has been a rock around the fiscal neck of government, and some governments have promised but have not been able to abolish it since it was implemented. appeared in the 1970s.

Itodo said the first few months of Tinubu’s term will be key in restoring economic credibility with a electorate that has endured two recessions in the past eight years, both through the implementation of bold campaign promises and appointing “competent people” with the necessary experience.

The country is divided

Nigeria has one of the fastest growing populations in the world — now nearly 220 million people and is forecast to double by 2050. The country also has one of the youngest population averages. world, with 42 percent of citizens under the age of 15 and the average age just over 18, the United Nations estimates.

Ahead of the election in February, Labor’s Peter Obi mobilized popular discontent over rampant youth unemployment, lack of opportunity and police brutality to entice large numbers of people. Young voters want to break away from the two traditional big parties of the country, the APC and the PDP.

Tinubu won only 37% of the vote nationwide, while only a quarter of Nigeria’s 93 million registered voters cast their ballots in a voting process due to technical problems. For many Nigerians disenfranchised, he will have a daunting task in proving his bravery on economic and social issues.

Mucahid Durmaz, senior analyst for West Africa at risk intelligence firm Verisk Maplecroft, said Tinubu’s presidency would be seen by many disillusioned voters as reinforcing “political elite dominance entrenched”.

“Tinubu’s election victory has ingrained the perception among ordinary Nigerians that the political stage is the playground of wealthy former Guardsmen who put patronage at the heart of their country,” Durmaz said. politics”.

“The vast network of clients and powerful regional realtors behind his victory will likely be rewarded with state and federal positions.”

Protesters kneel to honor the lives of those who have lost their lives as a result of police brutality occurring in the country at the Murtala Muhammed airport toll station, during an ongoing protest against the atrocities. unjust violence by the Nigeria Police Force Unit, Special Robbery Squad (SARS), at Obafemi Awolowo Road, Ikeja, Lagos on October 19, 2020.

Benson Ibeabuchi/AFP via Getty Images

A key question in his first 100 days in office, Durmaz suggests, will be whether the new leader has the “will and ability” to reach out to marginalized urban minorities and youth.

“Tinubu will need to promote an integral national identity in a deeply vulnerable society and remove the grievances that the majority of Nigerians feel about issues such as insecurity, police brutality and inequality”.

Tinubu vowed to tackle widespread violence – including murder and kidnapping in the northwest, clashes between herders and farmers in the country’s “Middle Belt” and a combination of Separatist and gang attacks in the southeast – through sweeping reforms to Nigeria’s security services.

“Nigeria’s overstretched state security apparatus has a history of serious human rights abuses and requires extensive structural reforms, comprehensive training programs and modern equipment,” Durmaz said.

“Any improvement in the military must be followed by economic development plans in areas affected by violence in order to prevent the main causes of insecurity, namely poverty, youth unemployment and lack of state presence.”


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