20 years of democracy: Has Nigeria changed for the better? | News

Two decades ago, in a colourful ceremony held in the capital, Abuja, Nigeria’s military handed over power to an elected civilian leader.

Generals had ruled the oil-rich West African country for the previous 15 years.

The ceremony was attended by more than 40 heads of state and representatives from foreign countries.

The mood was upbeat and the new leader promised prosperity to the thousands of his countrymen who were in the stadium. Millions of others watched the ceremony on television. Others listened to newly elected president Olusegun Obasanjo’s speech on radio.

But after 20 years of democracy and four presidents, where is Nigeria today?

Economic malaise

The country’s economy has seen a boom since the return of civilian rule. Nigeria’s GDP has grown six fold since 1999, according to World Bank data.

In 1999, despite its vast oil wealth, Nigeria’s GDP was a mere $59bn. That figure skyrocketed to $375bn by the end of 2017.

“The economy is doing much better now because there is a greater level of trust in our economic institutions. There is also more foreign investments now compared to the military era,” Aliyu Audu, an Abuja-based economist, told Al Jazeera.

Nigeria, the continent’s most populous country, is still heavily reliant on oil. Petroleum represents more than 80 percent of total export revenue, according to the Oraganization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

When the global price of oil crashed in 2016, Nigeria’s economy wasn’t spared. The country went into a recession, its first in 25 years.




Is democracy the answer to Nigeria’s woes? (24:50)

The economy, the biggest on the continent ahead of South Africa, has not fully recovered. Unemployment stands at 23 percent and inflation at 11 percent, according to official figures.

“Nigeria’s economy needs to diversify. We need to tap into the agricultural sector where the country can put millions of the unemployed to work. Investment in infrastructure will also put many young people to work and reduce double-digit inflation,” Audu said.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics figures, 43 percent of the country’s 190 million population is either unemployed or underemployed.

Despite the recent economic boom, extreme poverty is common. Some 87 million Nigerians live in dire poverty, according to Washington-based Brookings Institute.

Nigeria overtook India, a country of 1.3 billion people, last year as the country that is home to the most extremely impoverished people in the world, it said.

Vast corruption

Nigeria still remains one of the most corrupt nations on the planet. Transparency International ranked the country 144 out 180 in its 2018 corruption perception index.

If corruption isn’t dealt with immediately it could cost Nigeria up to 37 percent of its GDP by 2030, according to Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), a global auditing firm.

This cost equates to nearly $2,000 per person who lives in Nigeria by 2030, PwC said.

President Muhammadu Buhari launched an anti-corruption drive after taking office in May 2015.

“Corruption is still a huge problem, but it is not like what it was before. That is because the people have the choice to get rid of a leader if he is corrupt. That was not possible under the military generals. There are also whistleblowers now,” Audu noted.

Security issues

Since 2009, northeastern Nigeria has been hit by security challenges. Boko Haram, a group that wants to establish an Islamic state following a strict interpretation of Islamic law, has waged a deadly insurgency.

The violence has killed of thousands of people and forced more than two million from their homes.

The United Nations and human rights activists accused both Boko Haram and security forces fighting it of putting civilians, including many children, in harm’s way.

The violence has spread to neighbouring Niger, Chad and Cameroon, prompting a regional military coalition against the armed group.

In recent weeks, the coalition forces have pounded Boko Haram hideouts in the Lake Chad area with air strikes as well as launching ground assaults.




Young and unemployed in Nigeria (25:15)

Boko Haram fighters kidnapped at least 276 girls from a secondary school in Chibok town. Five years after the attack, more than 112 girls are still missing.

A total of 107 girls have been found or released as part of a deal between the Nigerian government and the armed group.

Boko Haram allegedly operates its largest camp in the vast Sambisa forest in Nigeria’s northeast.

The forest stretches for about 60,000 square kilometres in the southern part of the northeastern state of Borno, which has borne the brunt of Boko Haram’s violence.

“More needs to be done to protect and preserve basic human rights in parts of the northeast. People live in fear from Boko Haram,” Eze Onyekpere, a human rights activist, told Al Jazeera.

“Apart from the areas facing Boko Haram insurgency, rights of citizens have improved significantly since the return of civilian rule. Arbitrary arrests and torture are not common. We also have a constitution that safeguards the rights of all citizens,” Onyekpere added.

Press freedom

Under the military, press freedom was severely restricted. Whistleblowers faced detention and possibly torture in custody.

Twenty years later, Nigeria has a vibrant media with the country also hosting bureaus for some the world’s major media groups.

Reporters Without Borders ranks Nigeria 120 out of 180 in its 2019 press freedom index.

“Nigeria has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go. We could have been far ahead of where are currently,” Onyekpere said.

Source

more recommended stories

  • North Korea test-fires missiles again after joint drills end | North Korea News

    North Korea fired two suspected short-range.

  • Amazon burning: Bolsonaro prepares to send army as outrage grows | Brazil News

    Under increasing international pressure to contain.

  • Canada bars consulate staff from travelling outside Hong Kong | Canada News

    The Canadian consulate in Hong Kong.

  • Ghana: Homecoming for African Americans | slavery

    Accra, Ghana – Afia Khalia Tweneboa.

  • Empty buses in Bangladesh as no Rohingya turn up for repatriation | News

    Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh – Ambia is.

  • Hong Kong police in standoff with protesters after sit-in | News

    Hong Kong riot police faced off.

  • Baffled Danes mock Trump after he scraps trip over Greenland | News

    President Donald Trump‘s decision to call.

  • Two killed in first Kashmir gun battle since lockdown began | India News

    Two people, including a police official.

  • Trump slammed for saying any Jew voting Democratic is ‘disloyal’ | USA News

    Activists, politicians and many within the.

  • Kashmir tensions: ‘War is not a solution’ | Kashmir News

    There is brewing conflict between nuclear-armed.

  • Indonesia’s Jokowi urges calm after violent West Papua protests | Indonesia News

    Indonesian President Joko Widodo has sought.

  • Danish PM: Trump’s idea of buying Greenland is ‘absurd’ | News

    Denmark‘s prime minister has said Greenland is.

  • Iran tanker departs after Gibraltar rejects US demand | Iran News

    The Iranian oil tanker at the.

  • Iceland bids farewell to first glacier lost to climate change | News

    With poetry, moments of silence and.

  • Former Malaysian PM Najib Razak in court for money laundering | Malaysia News

    Former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

  • Blast at wedding in Afghan capital wounds at least 20: hospital | Afghanistan News

    An explosion has ripped through a.

  • Sudan protest leaders, military sign transitional government deal | News

    Sudan‘s main opposition coalition and the.

  • Tlaib won’t visit West Bank under ‘oppressive’ Israeli conditions | Israel News

    US congresswoman Rashida Tlaib has said.

  • Brother of Afghan Taliban leader killed in Pakistan mosque blast | Afghanistan News

    The brother of Afghan Taliban leader.

  • Malaysia to question Zakir Naik as government weighs deportation | News

    Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – The Malaysian.

  • Gibraltar Supreme Court says Iranian tanker is free to sail | News

    Gibraltar’s Supreme Court has ruled that.

  • Pehlu Khan lynching: Indian state to appeal acquittal of accused | News

    A provincial government in India has said.

  • Japan’s Abe skips Yasukuni shrine visit but sends offering | News

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has.

  • Analysis: Saudi activist rejects release deal | Saudi Arabia News

    Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul.

  • Blast strikes military base in Iraq’s Baghdad | Iraq News

    At least one person has been.

  • Will China run out of patience with Hong Kong protests? | Hong Kong protests

    Hong Kong’s leader Carrie Lam is.

  • Kyrgyz ex-President Atambayev was plotting coup: Security chief | News

    Former Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev, who.

  • Opposition warns Maduro eyeing to dissolve Venezuela parliament | Venezuela News

    Venezuela’s pro-government Constituent Assembly was holding.

  • Hong Kong airport cancels Monday flights amid sit-in protest | News

    Hong Kong airport has suspended all.

  • Israel expels Filipino worker with Israeli-born son: NGO | News

    A Filipino migrant worker and her.

  • Yemeni official: UAE won in Aden, Saudi silent over ‘slaughter’ | Yemen News

    The interior minister of Yemen‘s internationally recognised.

  • Could the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen soon fall apart? | Yemen

    The war in Yemen looks like.