The Platform

Tope A. Asokere

The Nigerian economy is in a freefall, and the government is doing little to address it.

The present Nigerian economic policy feels like a death sentence for its citizens, extinguishing hope and condemning many to relentless hardship and endemic poverty.

The burden of the shrinking economy falls heavily on the poor. Many are forced to hustle daily to stave off starvation for their families. If their efforts fail, they become trapped in the abyss of hunger. During Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, 63% of Nigerians lived in poverty—133 million people, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Each year, the figures keep rising, plunging the country deeper into despair.

The current reality is the result of successive governments’ failed attempts to address the economic crisis, ignite hope, or lay the groundwork for the country’s prosperity. Their failure hinges on non-transformative policies that are too porous to address human troubles.

From 2015 to 2023, Buhari’s government introduced initiatives like TraderMoni, NPower, and the Anchor Borrowers Program (ABP) through Nigeria’s central bank to combat poverty. These programs were designed to provide monthly cash payments and loans for micro-investments and agricultural production, aiming to boost the economy. However, poor monitoring, delays, and corruption led to their failure, resulting in the accumulation of over $50 million in foreign debt.

As Buhari’s administration ended, the situation worsened. Farmers were taken to court, and NPower beneficiaries waited months without seeing payments. Accusations of mismanagement and looting dominated media headlines, culminating in President Bola Tinubu’s suspension of Godwin Emefiele, the former head of the country’s central bank, in June of last year.

Outdoor market in Ibadan, Nigeria
(International Institute of Tropical Agriculture)

Tinubu’s sudden rise to power came with the mantra of his Renewed Hope Agenda, centered on economic reform. His first major move was to remove the petrol subsidy, which was meant to save government funds and stabilize the economy without incurring foreign debt. However, this policy has deepened the economic crisis as inflation soared, and the cost of essential goods like garri, maize, and guinea corn increased dramatically. Citizens now walk the land in absolute fear, with the policy hitting harder than ever expected.

The harrowing tale of 17-year-old Boluwatife Israel, reported by a Nigerian national daily, sums up the entire situation. Forced to abandon school to support his family affected by inflation, Boluwatife’s dreams are slipping away. His ill father has spent months bedridden, struggling to survive. Tears filled the eyes of Boluwatife’s mother as she watched her child’s future fade into oblivion. No aid comes, and more children like Boluwatife continue to wander the streets. Children are the worst victims of Nigeria’s failed economic policies, as nobody wants to see schoolchildren forced into the evils of child labor.

Many institutions and sectors are directly bearing the brunt of the sudden economic downturn. The Nigerian currency has not been spared. Analysis shows how the value of the naira fell to N1,339 per dollar in 2024. Recently, this depreciation has affected even citizens studying abroad. University World News reported on the grim reality facing Nigerian students at Teesside University, where the naira’s depreciation has left many unable to pay their tuition fees, abruptly ending their educational pursuits and leaving their parents suffocating with grief.

“The students’ woes began when the economic crisis in Nigeria impacted the value of the currency in the students’ bank accounts – the naira has depreciated by more than 200% against the dollar in the past 12 months – leaving many unable to keep up to date with their tuition fees,” reports University World News.

The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), an organization representing Nigerian workers, also feels the sharp pain of the economic policy. Workers’ salaries are too meager to sustain their families daily. A call for an increase beyond the $20 minimum wage has become central to their demands. To lessen the burden of hardship on its workers, the Labour Union demands a substantially higher minimum wage, triggering a national debate.

In response to these challenges, the Nigerian government intervened by releasing $660,066 in emergency funds to all state governors. This money was generated from petrol profits. However, the gesture has made little or no impact, as many government officials have been accused of diverting these desperately needed funds for personal gain. Now, Nigerians wonder how they will benefit from Tinubu’s economic policies with no significant job creation, no resounding effort to tackle abject poverty, inflation, and the rampant corruption of public officeholders who use the courts and an outdated constitution to embezzle public funds with impunity.

The government ceases to exist in the circle of life when its policies fail to address the needs of the suffering masses.

Usman Yakubu Usman is in his final year of study at Usmanu Dafodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS). Usman is also a campus and freelance journalist whose writings have appeared on The Nation Newspaper, The Nigerian Tribune, Ripples Nigeria, Campus Reporter Africa and others.