Deepening the ‘marshall plan’ for Nigeria’s North East: Practical solutions to a ravaged populace
By Taiwo F. Akerele
It is no longer news that the entire North East of Nigeria is in serious crisis due to the seemingly intractable Boko Haram insurgency that is ravaging three states of Nigeria with attendant effects in three other countries of the region such as Chad, Niger and Cameroon.
I will not attempt to dwell into the genesis or historical narrative of the crisis as it will amount to diverting attention from the focus of this write up which is to primarily draw attention to the strategic options available to the Nigerian government in ensuring an accelerated recovery process for the dilapidated human and physical infrastructure with particular respect to education and public works.
To put issues in proper perspective, the north east region of Nigeria comprises of six states of Borno, Adamawa, Gombe, Yobe, Taraba and Bauchi states. The combined population of this region according to Nigeria’s 2006 population census is put at 18.9million this is roughly the population of Austria and Belgium combined, by the way the population of these two countries stands at 11.7m people. The population of this region to the total of Nigeria stands at 13.56%.
Borno state with a total landmass of 70,890 square km is roughly twice the size of Switzerland with a land mass of 39,516 square kilometres, while Adamawa state has almost the same square kilometers with Switzerland at 39,742 square kilometres.
Since the beginning of the crisis in the north east region, the educational sector has practically come to a standstill, for a region that is already lacking behind in school enrolment compared to its peers in the North West and more pointedly the entire southern Nigeria, there is need for a sense of outrage to usher in the desired urgency in tackling the problems post-crisis.
The north east region is the only region in Nigeria and probably one of a few places in the world that share boundaries with three other countries in this case Chad, Niger and Cameroon. It is one of the most porous and poorly manned borders in the world. This could be partly attributed to weak border controls on the part of the customs and immigration and also due to the homogeneity of the population of the entire area making immigration and movement of people easier and seamless.
According to Mr David Paradang, the Comptroller-General of Immigration he lamented the porosity of the nation’s borders as the reason for the rising wave of insecurity and increased level of human trafficking saying the service needs additional funds to check the level of illegal immigrants into the country. “Distinguished Senators, you would have gone round one or two of our borders and at best, they are open fields, there is no form of control that can be said to be effective because most of them are open.
“It is not right for us to leave them that way because a lot of illegal immigrant can come in and a lot of arms can be moved in and we have complained severally that there are many unmanned routes, illegal crossings, that no control post had been stationed in these areas and the more we keep them open without providing effective security in those areas, the more exposed the country is to security challenges so we felt that the budget should look squarely at these areas of border issues.”
“We need plazas in some key areas of the border and what we have for border patrol here cannot even build a boys quarter in some areas. We feel that the issue of plaza should be put back in the front burner. We need to look at our key entry points in our North East, North Central, and Northwest and some South-South areas.
To underscore the severity of the problem in the region, in March 2014, the Federal Government of Nigeria shut down all the Unity Schools in the North East states of Nigeria due to continued attack of the insurgents on schools.
A statement issued by Mr Simeon Nwakaudu, the Special Assistant, Media to the Supervising Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike listed the schools as: Federal Government Girls College, Munguno;Federal Government College, Potiskum ;Federal Government College, Buni Yadi; Federal Science and Technical College Lassa and Federal Science and Technical College, Michika.
According to the statement, the Minister also approved that candidates registered for WASSCE, NECO SSCE and BECE in FGGC Potiskum should have their examination centres relocated to FGGC Bauchi, while those from FGGC Munguno and FGC Buni Yadi should also be relocated.
According to Wikipedia, the Boko Haram insurgents have displaced 2.3m people since May 2009, 250,000 people have fled Nigeria to neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon, 17,000 people have been killed since 2009 including 10,000 in 2014 alone. They have also carried out mass abductions including estimated 276 schools girls in April 2014 in Chibok town of Borno State while reportedly preparing for a science examination.
Scores of secondary and primary schools have been burnt down in the most affected states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa forcing the educational authorities to shut down schools. During the 2015 annual teachers days celebration, the National President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) lamented that since the campaign by the insurgents started, about 600 teachers have lost their lives while an estimated 19,000 teachers have been displaced and presently in Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) camps across the country.
The present Federal Government led by General Mohammadu Buhari rode to power on the strength of the personal integrity of the Presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC) and three campaign flanks hinged on the following items
1. Fight against terrorism
2. Restoration of power infrastructure
3. Fight against graft and corruption
Perhaps the key most important of these three today is the issue of terrorism. Since coming to power, several media tallies have put death tolls arising from Boko Haram attacks to between 505 people (Naija.com) and 650 people (Nigeraineye.com). The government has come under ferocious attack for not leaving up to expectation by members of the public and civil society.
With the continued spate of bombings and attacks in various parts of Nigeria, has this rendered insignificant, the relocation of the Nigerian Army Command Signal and Control Unit to Maiduguri on the Orders of the President during his inauguration in May 29 2015?
The inability of the government to stem the attacks is generating concern as to the capacity of the state to guarantee safe return of students back to school for learning and capacity building. However, the military high command has assured Nigerians through various channels that they are on top of the situation. According to the Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai, “I want to reassure Nigerians that Nigerian Army is ever determined to succeed in meeting up with the set deadline of defeating Boko Haram terrorists by the end of this year.”
With the presidential order in mind, it is key for the Nigerian government and indeed the affected states government to start brainstorming on a possible post Boko Haram intervention program that will be immense social benefits to the country in general and the North East specifically.
What do we do in preparation for post Boko Haram era?
In preparation for a post Boko Haram recovery process in the North East, the following quick steps are been suggested. Using the SEEFOR approach, the North East States government is required to urgently do the following.
1. Education Data collection and baseline analysis: We need to strengthen the capacity of the relevant ministries in the affected states to develop the technical know-how (although working with experts) to do the following;
a) To collect data on the exact number of schools that have been destroyed by the terrorists since the violence started.
b) Number of out of school pupils and students in the affected states. This will require using existing register of school attendance records before the violence.
c) How many children are within the Five year bracket that are eligible to enrol in school in 2014/2015. This will require analysing hospital data and informal statistics of children born in 2010/2011.
d) The statistics generated from this endeavour will include sex, location, date of birth (approximate) and other relevant information.
e) Education authorities should start working on what has been destroyed during the almost a decade old insurgency, what do we need to do to make the schools safer in terms of security, the nature of building that will be put in place of old infrastructure and an indicative budget and alternative options.
f) Number of teachers that have been killed, kidnapped and missing. What numbers do we require to fill existing vacancies in the affected areas. Do the affected states have the wherewithal to recruit these teachers locally?
g) What incentives culture do we put in place to encourage qualified teachers from other regions to fill existing positions on contractual basis pending when the local authorities find suitable replacements?
h) On secondary education, what subjects do we require to focus on to engage students more constructively? Probably the sciences will be a major focus post Boko Haram. Therefore, emphasis should be on ensuring a deliberate policy on teacher recruitment ratio of 60% for this area as against 40% for the arts and liberal social sciences.
i) This has implication for teacher training capacity, how many teacher training schools do we have in the North East? We need data on their conditions and what sort of investments is required to ensure an accelerated training of science teachers across existing schools. This data will enable us know the existing/potential gap that requires to be sourced from neighbouring regions particularly from the North West region.
Incentive for female education:
Every society that finds itself in a very difficult situation must come up with innovative ideas to resolve its peculiar problem and fastrack its developmental trajectory. Nigeria is in a very difficult situation/dilemma with respect to female education in the entire north east region of the country.
Based on this, this paper is suggesting that the President of this Country should establish a Cash Transfer Window (CTW) for parents of female students in the North East region within the UN Sustainable Development Goal Framework (SDGs). This strategy is to encourage parents of female students to send their girls back to school at any risk.
1) An equivalent of US$100 per session for every female student and a maximum of $200 for a household with more than two females in school.
2) For female science students, this could be up to $150 per session and a maximum of $250 for a family with more than two female science students in school.
3) The government will guarantee an agriculture credit of up to $3,000 or its equivalent per planting season for parents with four children or more enrolled in a public school. Parents are also encouraged to get wards or relatives who are orphaned and claim them as “children” to enable them earn points for eligibility.
4) The agriculture credit scheme for parents with children in school will achieve multiple objectives as summarised below”
a. Guarantee quality education for the kids
b. Guarantee food security
c. Reduce incidence of internal immigration within the region
d. Encourage technology transfer with the use of tractor and equipments
e. State guarantee of stock buy back in the event of product glut.
One of the best approaches towards alleviating poverty in the region and in Nigeria generally is to review our current educational curriculum and its content. I wish to state categorically with all sense of responsibility that the present educational curriculum of the Nigerian state is focused on issuing certificates to graduands and not skills for development and economic growth of both individuals and the country.
It is therefore suggested that working with the Federal authorities, the North East States of Nigeria will establish a technical committee of technocrats to look at the factor endowments of the region and come up with relevant facts leading to a modern educational curriculum that will address the industrial and economic needs of the region. It is most likely therefore that emphasis will be on skills acquisition in the following areas
2. Forestry management
3. Veterinary medicine
4. Sports and Physical Education
5. Teacher training in sciences and sports.
THE PUBLIC WORKS APPROACH
The public works approach has been tried in many developing countries of the world with similar peculiarities and it has helped to cushion social unrest, address minor infrastructure deficit and promote rapid social cash transfers to the beneficiaries and vulnerable groups.
According to John Paul in his Public works guidelines (2013) as revised in (2014), the public works program is easiest social mechanism to bring thousands of poor people out of the poverty trap in any society that is recovering from social upheaval. The public works program promoted in Sierra Leone and Liberia post civil war and financed by the World Bank through a concessionary credit scheme is one of the most successful ways to help a government reduce social pressure and address human need.
In Nigeria, this approach has been successfully implemented in four Niger Delta states of Bayelsa, Edo, Delta and Rivers under the post amnesty program, and within two years, about 10,000 persons have benefitted directly with additional 40,000 indirect beneficiaries when you use the 1 head of household and four dependants theory of income distribution in poor countries.
How does Public works approach work?
1. The state is mapped into local governments and senatorial districts, tarred roads are separated from un-tarred roads, streets with linkages to primary drainages are clearly separated from ‘landlocked’ streets. After which strategic areas such as rings roads are clearly identified, roads leading to market centers and airports are also earmarked.
2. Engineering designs are drawn to show clearly how many people could be deploy to carry out desiltation of drains, vegetation control, sweeping of raods sides and carting away of waste generated therein.
3. A general public announcement with respect to the eligibility for selection of beneficiaries is made across areas that have been designated for intervention. The eligible youths are usually in this category analysed below
a) Youths within the age bracket of 18-35. No prior formal education or at least primary school certificate is acceptable.
b) Must be resident within the area designated for intervention
c) Should be willing to work between hours of 7am-1pm every day from Monday to Saturday specifically.
d) Could be married with children.
e) Could be in school or planning to set up small scale business.
f) Be in good health and physical agility.
According to the National Planning Commission (NPC), Nigeria, the acceptable minimum wage limit in Nigeria is Eighteen Thousand Naira Only (N18,000.00) equivalent of US$90 monthly. Therefore, in view of the qualification of the category of people within this framework the national minimum wage is highly recommended and in view of the vulnerable nature of the north east region, additional incentives could be worked out for those who volunteer for over time’ work and additional services rendered to the state government.
Strategy for recruitment and sustainability
In the first 12 months of introducing this intervention, we recommend a minimum of 100,000 youths to be brought into the window. This is deliberately designed to ensure low availability of young vulnerable youths that could be recruited by the Boko Haram insurgents into their groups. As part of database development, recruited young people should open bank accounts in designated banks in their locality with biometrics and passport photos taken.
The bank accounts achieves two objectives, one it addresses the issue of low self esteem and helps capture the identity of the youth, secondly it eliminates the possibility of middle-man approach of paying salary and ultimately corruption in the payment process.
Budgeting : Within the framework of the intervention, annuals plans and budgets are prepared, reviewed and approved by the relevant authorities usually the designated representative of the state Governor. Each state will come up with priority local governments and earmark some number of youths to be recruited within the 12 months circle. After which the 10% compulsory savings is released to the beneficiaries to commence small scale business or in the case of those that prefer higher education, this is also encouraged.
The benefitting states do not need to establish new structures and ministries for this purpose. It requires strengthening the capacity of existing institutions such as Waste Management Boards, Ministries of Roads and Works, Environment, Youths and Sports to working with the Special Project Coordinating Unit (SPCU) to fashion out a detailed modality for take-off.
In addition to the above, qualified personell are recruited on supervision capacity to ensure quality assurance of work done, vet daily attendance register which is in turn use to authorise/advise the banks for monthly payment of salaries.
Assuming that the public works program is able to engage a minimum of 100,000 youths in a year for five years. This is 500,000 young men and women brought out of the poverty trap within a five year time frame directly . And using the Sub Saharan Africa house hold practice of 1 to feed 4 people, we are looking at 500,000 people per annum and 2.5 million people in half a decade.
On a global picture and to put it in proper perspective, we may have inadvertently rescued Cape Verde and Malta with combined population of about 1.2m people and the whole of Botswana with 2.0 million people or Lesotho with 2.074 million or in America perspective, this is like rescuing the whole of Vermont (624,151), New Hampshire (1.3m) and Portland (62,951) together from hunger, poverty, destitution and social upheaval. (www.google.com/population of states accessed on the 25th of October 2015).
It is on record that Nigeria as a country has gone through different phases of civil strife in his chequered political history from independence in 1960 till date. However, measures have always been established by the government of the day to mitigate the hardship of the casualties of such crisis. For instance immediately after the civil war in 1970, the Gowon Government embarked on infrastructure program in the South East after the declaration of the ‘no victor, no vanguished’ slogan. Same was applied to the Niger Delta after amnesty was proclaimed by the Umar Yar Adua regime in 2008.
It is therefore not out of place for the Nigerian government under the leadership of President Mohammadu Buhari to conceive an operational, measurable, achievable and timely intervention strategy for the accelerated recovery of the people and the economy of the North East region.