Nigerians’ Wastage Culture in the Midst of Extreme Poverty — Nigerian Pilot News
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Nigerians’ Wastage Culture in the Midst of Extreme Poverty

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It appalling that a country with the highest number of poor people in the world, where more than 90 million of citizens live in abject poverty on less than one dollar a day, Our Correspondent LANRE OLOYEDE writes:
Saturday 23rd of February 2019 was one of many days I was ashamed to be identified as a Nigerian. In the full glare of international observers, with the rest of the world monitoring via different media, we openly showcased our brazen display of irresponsibility and immaturity in such an embarrassing manner that revealed we are still unserious about constitutional democracy as a nation.
I wept bitterly as I watched on national television and social media, the barefaced display of brigandage and hooliganism with which thugs invaded polling units, unleashed mayhem on electorates and destroyed INEC’s sensitive and non-sensitive electoral materials worth billions of naira thereby disrupting the conduct of elections in many parts of the country.
Unfortunately, none of these hoodlums will be arrested; none will be prosecuted (as it has been the case in past elections), let alone convicted to serve as deterrent to others. Come next four years, the same incident will repeat itself; and so, the country will continue in such endless vicious cycle of wanton wastages.
For crying out loud, those materials destroyed were procured with very scarce resources and tax payers’ money worth billions of naira that could have been used to provide critical social amenities that would have had significant impact on the lives of millions of Nigerians. Don’t get me wrong, I do not intend to undermine the sacrosanctity of elections in a democracy.
Giving that some of those non-sensitive materials could still have been used for subsequent elections in future, thereby saving the nation some cost; but now that they were destroyed, the country would have to spend another huge sum of money to procure them again; this unwarranted wastage is unacceptable and could have been avoided.
Ironically, Nigeria, a country famous for running, cap- in- hand, to beg for aid from international community to feed its citizens (with millions starving in various IDP camps across the North-East), is known to have the highest spending on elections compared to other African countries.
According to media reports, Nigeria spent more than 200 billion naira to conduct the 2019 general elections. This puts Nigeria’s elections among the most expensive in the world, with the cost soaring from a little above N1 billion in 1999 to over N100 billion in 2015. The country’s huge cost of elections has surpassed that of the world’s largest democracy, India, with a population six times bigger than Nigeria’s. Nigeria, with 67 million registered voters, spent $625 million during the 2015 elections, translating into $9.33 per voter, according to data prepared by the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS) in 2015. This figure is higher than the $600 million the Electoral Commission of India (ECI) said it spent during the 2014 general elections in which 553.8 million people voted out of 815 million registered voters. From 1999 to 2018, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had received N450bn as an electoral expenditure from the federal government, according to official documents reviewed by the media.
Imagine what benefit that would be to the general masses if that huge amount is ploughed into infrastructure development and agriculture to ensure food security. Unfortunately, substantial part of that has been wasted by hoodlums sponsored by politicians. Politicians would steal Nigerians’ money to campaign for elections, politicians would appropriate INEC’s budget, and the same politicians would sponsor thugs to destroy materials procured with the budget. What an irony, what a country!
What is even more annoying is the fact that a large chunk of this money that went into procurement of electoral materials was borrowed from countries like China, only for it to end up being destroyed by hoodlums sponsored by politicians with state resources. What a monumental wastage!
In any case, the lenders of the loan would be somewhere watching and laughing the nation to scorn by now, knowing full well that whether the money is judiciously used or not, they will surely get back their loan with interest.
Isn’t it appalling that a country with the highest number of poor people in the world, where more than 90 million of citizens live in abject poverty on less than one dollar a day, where millions of almajiris on the street feed from bare floor, could allow such wanton destruction of property procured with scarce state resources worth billions of naira?
And to think that these same people would later cry to the international community for rescue in the name of foreign aid leaves much to be desired; because with them seeing us wasting our resources in this manner, one wonders if they will be willing to help us?
Without doubt, there is a certain a nexus between wastages and poverty. A land that wastes resources will definitely wallow in poverty. Little wonder, Nigeria is home to the largest number of poor people in the world. A land that spends too much on election and less on education is like a man who choosed to spend fortunes to build a mansion but denied his children benefit of good education. Such uneducated children would be the ones to mortgage the mansion in future.
Interestingly, Nigeria’s wastage culture does not manifest in elections alone. It appears to be endemic, systemic and entrenched in our day-to-day social lifestyle. For instance, when Nigerians organize party or social events, such as namings, birthdays, weddings ceremonies to mention a few, what you see the following day is humongous heap of surplus leftover food and drinks that are waiting to be trashed. This is because in Nigeria, it is not in our culture to plan for events based on the number of expected guests, rather we prepare based on the amount of money in our pockets. And in most cases, it is an avenue to show off financial strength, that is, “who rich past?”
This is even more pronounced in Southwestern Nigeria, which is known for its affinity for partying and celebrations in what is popularly referred as ‘owambe’ meaning “we are there”‘.
A typical wedding ceremony in Yorubaland costs a fortune depending on the social and financial status of the families involved. In a bid to satisfy the varied appetite of invited and uninvited guests, a buffet of various meals referred to as ‘orisirsi’ is usually prepared without any consideration of the number of expected guests. As for the guests, trust typical Nigerians, many will never request for what they have the capacity to consume. To them, it is an opportunity to have access to free largess (awoof don land). At the end of the day, what you have is a heap of leftover gathered from the tables heading for the trash bin.
A story was once told of some Nigerians who went into a restaurant in the United States of America to eat. These Nigerians ordered more than what they could eat just because they have the money. They ate little and left a large chunk on the table to be trashed. As they were leaving, they were arrested by municipal security officials. Surprised, they asked what their offences were. They were told, though the money was theirs, the resources was not theirs alone, but for the whole of America. If they had used their money to buy all the food in the restaurant and wasted them, what will be left for others who also have money to buy and eat? Money may not be scarce but resources are scarce. This is a food for thought for us all to learn.
The monumental wastage being perpetrated by the Nigerian customs and other similar government agencies is another mindboggling can of worm. In almost every news bulletin, you hear cases of Nigeria Customs Service destroying seized goods worth billions of naira. While one is not in support of smuggling, which is an act of economic sabotage on its own, or consumption of expired food products, however such goods as clothings and some unexpired, standardized food items can still be taken to the IDP camps where severe hunger is threatening to wipe out hundreds of thousands of people instead of destroying them in such a wasteful exercise.
The Nigerian Navy’s destruction of the so-called illegal refineries is also condemnable. Experts in oil and gas industry have argued that since the product of such refineries are good for car engines; the operators of such refineries should rather be organized, licensed and regulated by turning them into ready-made modular refineries so that they can help to solve the problem of incessant and perennial scarcity of petroleum products usually occasioned by over-dependence on foreign importation of refined products.
In closing, the 2019 general election is far from being peaceful, let alone being free and fair as it was marred with incidences of violence, ballot snatching and destruction of electoral materials. The question is, when are we going to get it right after 20 years of uninterrupted democracy?
As we look into the future as a nation, to prevent crises-ridden elections and its attendant wanton destruction and wastages, there is need for a concerted and calculated effort at reorienting Nigerian politicians, youths and other election stakeholders on the need to shun do-or-die mentality in Nigeria’s politics.
There is also need for the security agencies to double their combative and intelligence capabilities with the aim of mitigating and curtailing unwarranted disruption of electoral process by sponsored hoodlums in the country. This can only be achieved with better funding, training and equipping our security agencies with the state of the art knowledge and technology in line with obtainable global best practices.
Finally, the perpetrators of electoral crimes must be duly prosecuted and be made to face the wrath of the law in order to serve as deterrent to others who might want to indulge in same.

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