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Reflecting on Nigeria’s new refugee status

Nigeria is not at war but hunger is ravaging the citizens of the self-acclaimed Giant of Africa.

By Valentine Amanze


Growing up in the late 60s in the South-East Nigeria was not easy. It came with mixed feelings.

I recall observing the mass movement of people, especially from the present Rivers State, looking for a place to take refuge after being displaced in their ancestral homes by the ravaging Nigerian soldiers.

They automatically became refegee living in schools and other public places in Mbaise and Obowo areas at the peak of the Nigerian civil war.

Being a little boy and the son of a teacher, offered me the opportunity to make new friends with the children of the displaced people, who camped in the school, where my father, now late, headed.

I also observed, for the first time, Biafran soldiers’ training in the school my late father headed in Mbutu, Aboh Mbaise Local Government Area, Imo State.

I fell in love ignorantly with the system that hindered my education momentarily as I became addicted to watching young men training for war illequiped. At the sametime, I made new friends from the refugee camp.

But what was not fun then was hunger in the camp, which killed many of the refegees including some my kid friends. Yes, they died of kwashiorkor (malnutrition) caused by food scarcity.

The palliatives or reliefs like like drugs, salt, saltfish and cornmeals from the international organizations –Red Cross and the Caritas –were not enough for the refugees, who were in their thousands. Rats, lizards and grasshoppers became nutritional delicacies if one could lay hands on them.

 Life was very difficult as Nigerian war planes were equally bombing the refegee camps mercelessly.

Many years after the urgly experience, Nigeria, which unleashed the terror on the helpless innocent civilians in the South-East, has suddenly found itself in a similar situation without any war. What an irony.

Nigeria is not at war but hunger is ravaging the citizens of the self-acclaimed Giant of Africa. Kwashiokor is back as protest rages in the oil nation over poverty and starvation.

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The situation is geting worse than the Biafran era. Some people are selling their children to survive. What a shame in a country where the ruling class is enjoying every luxury available.

But the only difference between the current situation in Nigeria and the Biafra era was that the Gen. Yakubu Gowon-led Nigerian government then used hunger as a weapon to forcefully end the Biafran resistance.

Ironically, this is the same weapon the All Progressives Congress (APC) government is heavily unleashing on poor Nigerians now.

The ruling class enjoy everything, while the poor is denied everything.

The masses can nolonger protest against the government’s anti-people programmes like oil subsidy removal and hike in electricity tariff.

Tinubu (left) and Buhari in Aso Rock, Abuja | File Image

The eight-year civilian administration of Muhammadu Buhari and its successor, Bola Tinubu-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government could easily be refered as the worst thing that ever happened to Nigeria.

Buhari, like General Idi Amin of Uganda in the 70s, ruined the economy with unregulated printing of the Naira, the national currency.

When Uganda became a pariar nation in 1973, Idi Amin ordered the Ugandan Central Bank to print more money without minding the consequences – the same thing Buhari did with Emefiele, even when Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State raised alarm over the consequences on the economy.

Tinubu cannot deny knowledge of Buhari’s maladministration. He assured Nigerians, publicly, that he would continue from where Buhari stopped.

His unpreparedness for leadership and his choice of cabinet have made the matter worse than he met it nine months ago.

Nigeria is not at war, yet its situation has become worse than war-torn countries.

Today we are refegees in our country Nigeria.

Who would ever think that Ukraine, a war-ravaged small European nation, would be donating 25,000 tons of wheat rejected by Hungary and Slovania to Nigeria to feed its hungry citizens?

It would have been more dignified for Nigeria to open its borders to allow competition than accepting food items rejected by other countries.

Tinubu administration must be honest to Nigerians. The issue now is beyond passing blames. Nigerians are hungry. A hungry man is angry. Hunger is no respecter of person.

My fear is that the Biafran situation may be a child’s play if Tinubu continues with his anti-people policies.

Imagine the debt profile of the country as reported by the government agency.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in its latest report stated that the country’s public debt stock, which includes external and domestic debt stood at N87.38 trillion (US$113.42 billion) in Q2 2023 from N49.85 trillion (US$ 108.30 billion) in Q1 2023, indicating a growth rate of 75.27% on a quarter-on-quarter basis.

It also stated that the total external debt stood at N33.25 trillion (US$43.16 billion) in Q2 2023, while total domestic debt was N54.13 trillion (US$70.26 billion).

“The share of external debt (in naira value) to total public debt was 38.05% in Q2 2023, while the share of domestic debt (in naira value) to total public debt was 61.95%.

“Lagos State recorded the highest domestic debt in Q2 2023 with N996.44 billion, followed by Delta with N465.40 billion.

Jigawa State recorded the lowest domestic debt with N43.13 billion, followed by Kebbi with N60.94 billion,” it stated.

Where did all the borrowed money go to?

With the NBS statistics, the future looks gloom for the nation.

The government needs to restategise immediately. Its romance with the International Monetory Fund (IMF) and World Bank must be discontinued. There advice has not saved any economy; but benefitted only them.

Tinubu should be thinking about home-grown solution to Nigeria’s economic woes.

Thank God the country can still boast of the likes of Prof Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Dr Oby Ezekwesili, who could turnaround the economy.

The list of those sponsoring terrorism in Nigeria must be made public and action taken against them so that the farmers could go back to their farms.

The president should stop embarrassing the nation as he struggles to wage war against corruption in his cabinet.

Telling foreign investors not to offer bribe to members of his cabinet is enough to scare them.

Buhari must be invited to tell Nigerians, who collaborated with him to kill the economy before Nigerians become refegees.

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