Bola Ahmed Tinubu will replace President Muhammadu Buhari as head of Nigeria in a few weeks. “The godfather”, as his supporters call him, will have to face challenges to bring the continent’s leading economic and demographic power out of the multidimensional crisis it is experiencing. Tinubu is particularly expected to address a number of issues. Nigeria: here are the challenges of President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Nigeria: the challenges of President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu
Bola Ahmed Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), was declared president of Nigeria on Wednesday, March 1, after the most competitive presidential elections in Nigeria’s democratic history, against his two main rivals: Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. Despite opposition protests, the new president-elect, endorsed by the United States and the African Union, is certain to succeed the outgoing president Buhari.
At 70 years old, this former governor of Lagos, nicknamed “The Godfather”, “Kingmaker” or “The Boss” for his considerable influence, will have a heavy task to meet the many challenges facing Nigeria, the largest demographic power in Africa with more than 220 million inhabitants and the largest African economy in terms of GDP.
However, this African power suffers from many ills: insecurity, corruption, shortages, deficits … against which solutions are expected.
Nigeria: the challenges of President-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu:
The fight against corruption is one of the priorities of every Nigerian president, given that the country is so plagued by this scourge that it hinders development. And corruption in Nigeria is practiced at all levels of power. The current president has made it one of his priorities, but has not been able to really combat the hydra that is plaguing the country’s development, particularly in the strategic oil sector.
As proof of this, Nigeria was ranked 154th out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s global corruption ranking (2021).
In 2017, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), Nigerians consider corruption to be the third most important problem facing their country, after the cost of living and unemployment.
Thus, the newly elected president will be under intense scrutiny in his fight against corruption. He himself has been repeatedly accused of corruption, including by the United States, without any evidence being presented. His economic success will depend greatly on his success in fighting corruption.
Shortages all around
In Nigeria, shortages are legion and affect many areas. The shortage of banknotes and the shortage of fuel have affected the country the most during the last weeks of the campaign. With regard to the shortage of banknotes, which is the result of the rapid changeover of old notes, the Supreme Court has just helped the newly elected president by extending the validity of the old bills, invalidating a government directive that caused serious cash shortages.
According to the Supreme Court, the decision to outlaw the old naira bills from February was made without consultation. The highest court extended the old naira notes until December 31, 2023. This is a boon for Tinubu, who will not have to deal with public discontent on this issue.
The second shortage concerns fuel. Although Nigeria is the continent’s leading oil producer, the country still imports almost all of its fuel needs (gasoline, diesel, fuel oil, etc.). This shortage, due to problems related to imports, has led to an increase in the price of fuel, although subsidized, and a rise in transport prices.
Ending subsidies: a complex issue
This is one of the electoral promises of the President-elect of Nigeria. It is certainly one of the major challenges he will face. Indeed, it is one of the hot potatoes left to him by President Buhari, who tried unsuccessfully to eliminate fuel subsidies.
Nigerians have benefited from fuel subsidies since the 1970s. And they do not intend to give up this privilege. But Nigeria imports almost all of its fuel. And the subsidies are costly to the government budget. Each year, these subsidies cost more than 6,000 billion naira (local currency), or $13.5 billion. A burden that weighs heavily on the state budget and reduces its room for maneuver.
But so far, all those who have tried to put an end to it have failed miserably because of violent demonstrations by the population. Tinubu will benefit from the impact of the inauguration of billionaire Dangote’s refinery, scheduled for the first half of this year, which is expected to end imports, reduce the cost of fuel and cut the subsidy bill. However, the election promise to eliminate subsidies altogether is proving to be a risky exercise.
Insecurity: dealing with Boko Haram and organized crime
The fight against terrorism and insecurity are among the priorities of the new president. This is logical when one considers that Nigeria has been experiencing a security crisis for many years. In addition to the inability of successive leaders over the past few years to overcome the Boko Haram nebula, organised crime has been grafted onto jihadism, leading to the loss of control over certain regions of the country. This situation has led to the displacement of many citizens in the most affected regions and is affecting the country’s economic development.
In this context, the new president is expected to focus on two issues: the elimination of the jihadist groups Boko Haram and especially Iswap, a group affiliated with the Islamic State (EI) and the merciless fight against organized crime. The Boko Haram sect, which began in 2002, has killed more than 40,000 people and displaced more than 2 million, according to the UN.
In the northwest and central regions of the country, criminal gangs have joined these two groups and thrive in rural areas, attacking villagers and carrying out mass kidnappings for ransom. As a result, more than 11,000 schools have been closed, resulting in 18.5 million children, 60% of whom are girls, being taken out of school, according to UNICEF.
Boosting the economy and fighting unemployment and poverty
With over 220 million inhabitants, Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. However, nearly one out of two Nigerians lives below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is very high while growth remains weak to absorb the growing number of job seekers. The unemployment rate reached an all-time high of 33% of the working population in February 2021. And since then, the situation has continued to worsen due to the economic crisis that the country is going through.
Thus, Tinubu, who prides himself on being at the origin of the dynamics of Lagos when he led the Nigerian metropolis of more than 20 million inhabitants, will this time have the heavy task of breathing new life into the Nigerian economy. Africa’s largest economy has considerable assets (large domestic market of 220 million people, significant oil and gas reserves, abundant and well-watered farmland, dynamic youth….). However, due to inadequate economic policies, particularly the reliance on oil revenues, corruption and especially the lack of electricity, the Nigerian economy is struggling to overcome.
Inflation: Purchasing power at half mast
Inflation has always been high in Nigeria. Even before the Ukrainian crisis, inflation was in double digits. And the fallout from the war has driven up food, fuel and other prices. In January this year, food inflation stood at 24.3%.
In addition to the impact of soaring food and fuel prices on the international market, the price increase in Nigeria is due to the depreciation of the naira against the dollar. The Nigerian currency has lost 191% of its value against the greenback since March 2013. A situation that translates into higher prices for imported products, especially fuel, which has a serious impact on the purchasing power of the population. The situation is such that for many Nigerian economic operators, the CFA franc of the countries of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Uemoa), much more stable, because of its peg to the euro, has become their currency of refuge.