NIGERIA, A NATION ON EDGE: UNRAVELING THE LINK BETWEEN ECONOMIC HARDSHIP AND UNREST

Driven by soaring inflation and a rapidly depreciating currency, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy, finds itself in the grip of a severe economic crisis. The significant decline of the Nigerian currency has impacted businesses and citizens, prompting the need for dire solutions. From January 2023 to February 2024, the country witnessed a significant decline in the official exchange rate, plunging by 66% from 462 Naira per US dollar to 1700 Naira per US dollar.

Simultaneously, this reflects an alarming gap that has impacted both local and foreign businesses operating within the country. Likewise, criminality and kidnappings have been on the rise, an effect of the current crisis. The hardships have also led to protests and unrest in the country.

Economic Hardship

In January 2024, inflation reached a debilitating 29.9%, the highest in decades, driven by soaring food prices. This harsh reality pushes nearly 46% of the population below the poverty line, making it difficult for them to afford necessities. Unemployment, especially among the youth, is alarmingly high with a 5.0% surge in Q3 of 2023. There is widespread political instability and corruption, further eroding public trust in institutions following the allegations or irregularities that marred elections held in February, March, and November of 2023.

In addition, the country’s 16th President was sworn in on 29 May 2023, ushering in a new era of political actors and the imposition of pivotal policies i.e., the removal of fuel subsidies. Citizens anticipate further policy changes and the influence of external actors on domestic politics, adding complexity to an already volatile situation with anticipated pushbacks from labour unions and aggrieved citizens.

Economic Crisis as a Breeding Ground for Criminality and Social Upheaval

Nigeria’s economic crisis, with skyrocketing inflation and unemployment, pushes individuals towards perilous choices. Criminal activities have been fueled by the economic crisis, with threat actors exploiting the situation to vandalize public infrastructure as witnessed during the currency scarcity in February 2023.

Additionally, the surge in crime and kidnapping highlights the link between hardship and crime. Some resort to kidnapping for survival, viewing it as a quick means to obtain resources. Others are lured by the seemingly easy profit, especially amidst reports of exorbitant ransoms paid for high-profile victims. High youth unemployment breeds frustration and resentment, creating a fertile ground for recruitment by criminal groups. Witnessing inequality and a lack of upward mobility can push some towards acts of violence as a way to express their anger and challenge the perceived unfairness of the system. Ultimately, the surge in kidnappings in Nigeria paints a stark picture of how economic hardship, political instability, and social injustices can intertwine to create a desperate and volatile environment

Political instability fuels this crisis further. Weak governance and corruption act as recurrent factors, eroding public trust and leaving communities vulnerable. This lack of accountability incentivizes criminal activity, knowing the chances of capture and prosecution are low. Adding to the mix is the lack of opportunities and perceived injustice.

Economic downturns can lead to unrest by igniting resentment. Demonstrations to express discontent have begun across Nigeria as seen in Oyo State on 19 February 2024.

Image Source: The Guardian Nigeria, X account.

Geopolitical Variations

Economic hardship affects Nigeria differently across its regions. The North East and North West face security challenges like Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP), Boko Haram insurgency, and banditry, driving some towards criminal activities. The North Central experiences protests and communal clashes as well as abductions and robberies. In the South-South, historical grievances cause discontent and conflict, fostering oil bunkering and kidnappings. The South East struggles with uneven development, while the South West deals with high living costs pushing some towards theft and kidnappings. These regional issues intersect with broader economic struggles, creating complex challenges.

Conclusion

The truth of Nigeria’s crisis lies in the undeniable link between economic hardship and the surge in criminality and social upheaval. From the North’s desperate struggle for survival to the South’s societal woes, regional nuances paint a complex picture. While current responses offer temporary relief, lasting peace demands systemic change. Empowering youth, tackling corruption, and building a just society are not just ideals, but essential steps toward a secure and prosperous Nigeria.

 

 

 

 

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