There is no better reflection of the challenging times in the country currently than the fact that both medical doctors and university lecturers have decided to go on strike at the same time. So, Nigerians are currently faced with a situation where majority of university students who depend on publicly funded university system are stuck at home and majority of Nigerians who depend on publicly funded medical care are dying because the hospitals are closed.
Ironically, those exempted from the consequence of the current strike action in public universities and public hospitals, are senior public officials, many of whom have their children schooling abroad and who also do not hesitate to jet out of the country at the slightest sign of ‘headache,’ malaria
or ear pain to take advantage of the well run public hospitals abroad while Nigerians are left to deal with the consequence of a failed health system.
Interestingly, strikes by both lecturers and medical doctors are not new even if both of them going on strike at the same time is a new high. Also not strange to many Nigerians are the problems faced by our universities and hospitals. It is a fact that lecturers are poorly paid like many other public servants will also claim. It is also a fact that the state of infrastructure in our public universities is not worth boasting about. It is even more factual that the universities are poorly funded and that the consequence of that poor funding is why universities are in the state in which they are currently.
The challenges in the medical sector are also well known. In a recent survey by NOI polls, they discovered eight of 10 doctors will want to emigrate outside the country if they got the opportunity. This is basically because they are dissatisfied with their poor remuneration and the poor facilities that they have to work with to provide medical care for the ordinary Nigerians. There is no arguing the fact that our hospitals are also poorly funded and have become death care centers instead of places of healing.
The biggest challenge we face as a people is that despite years of knowing the problems in both critical sectors of the Nigerian economy, we are yet to devise permanent solutions. The consequence is that on an annual basis, we lose several lives to ‘strikes’ in both sectors. Many students have had their lives and ambitions permanently altered because of these consistent strikes. It is clear that the government is not in a position to adequately fund both the medical sector and the public universities. But the government also has viable options to fund both sectors without putting undue strain on its finances.
In the educational sector, an increased fee structure, combined with increased autonomy for the universities is an obvious solution even though politically unpopular. Increased fees can be cushioned with the introduction of scholarships and student loans as it is done in most developed countries. In the medical sector, the obvious solution is the expansion of health insurance coverage to every Nigerian. Every Nigerian that has access to a phone should have access to health insurance. It can be done. But public officials, shielded from the consequences of poor management of these sectors can hardly be depended upon to provide the innovative solutions that can cure the ills of the sectors.
So population growth is running faster than food supply
Optimists about the future of Nigeria are quick to cite its fast growing population which would make it the fourth largest market in the world by 2050. With a population, currently estimated at anywhere between 180 to 200 million, the World Bank estimates that the country will have a population in excess of 400 million by 2050. This could present a huge potential for companies looking for an outlet for their goods and services and therefore this potential could translate into a source of significant investment inflows into the country.
However, there is no doubt that for this huge population to be an asset, they have to have access to healthy nutrition through adequate food supply. This is where the news that food production is falling short of population growth rate is scary. Without adequate feeding, Nigeria’s huge population will become a huge burden.
The data on major food supply gap is scary. Latest data from Agriculture Ministry show that despite being the largest producer of yam with 40 million metric tons per annum, the demand for yams in the country is 60 million metric tonnes per annum (MT), leaving a gap of 20 million MT.
Even though the country produces 42 million MT of cassava, demand stands at 53.8 million MT, leaving a gap of 11.8 million MT. National supply for Irish potato is put at 900,000 MT per annum but with a demand of 8million MT and a gap of 7.1 million MT. Local production of sweet potato is estimated at 1.2 million MT, while demand is 6million MT, leaving a gap of 4.8 million MT.
Nigeria produces 400,000 MT of wheat annually but with a demand of 4 million MT, which leaves a gap of 3.6million MT. Ginger production is 310,000 MT but demand is 650,000 MT, leaving a gap of 340,000 MT. Rice production has risen to 5.3 million MT but demand is still 7.2 million MT, leaving a gap of 1.9 million MT. Maize production in the country is put at 10.5 million MT but demand is 15 million MT, leaving a gap of 4.5 million MT. Local Soybean production is 750,000 MT but domestic demand is 2 million MT, meaning there is a gap of 1.3 million MT.
The gap exists across all major crops as a consequence of years of agricultural neglect in the country. While the gap is a major opportunity for Nigeria to scale up industrial production, it is also a major threat to food stability if we do not put in place strategies to improve supply. The current high food inflation rate despite the decline in headline inflation is an indication of how bad things could go if we do not take initiatives to urgently boost food supply in the face of a fast growing population.
How Nigeria can leverage on a viable energy mix policy
A lot has been said about the need for Nigeria to create an energy mix policy that will harness the resources available in each region to develop energy for the use of those living in that area.
This becomes especially important because with the current supply of 130kWh per capita, Nigeria is lagging well behind other developing nations in terms of grid based electricity consumption. Based on the country’s GDP and global trends, electricity consumption should be four to five times higher than it is today. In practical terms, this means that Nigeria produces enough power for a light bulb per person.
Ghana, Nigeria’s tiny neighbour boasts of electricity per capita consumption of 360k- Wh per capita which is 2.9 times higher than that of Nigeria, and South Africa’s
(4,000kWh per capita) is 31 times higher.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that 115 million people in Nigeria rely on traditional biomass and waste as their main sources of energy. The other 26 per cent is made up of oil, gas and hydropower. In recent years, electricity production from hydroelectric sources has plunged due to water shortages and climate change. Disruption to gas supply to Nigeria’s power plants have kept about a dozen power plants offline.
Experts say a key step in improving Nigeria’s energy mix is decentralising the national grid and creating regional grid networks. However, grid connectivity reaches about 40 percent of the population leaving about 90 million people offgrid.
A good energy mix policy will seek to harness alternative energy sources to generate power in a region and distribute power to the people in the region without sending it to the grid. Further investments in grid expansion have not achieved desired results as loss along transmission lines means that power transmitted do not get to those it is meant for.
Deploring solar power in northern Nigeria with vast amount of sunshine and localising hydro power generation to irrigate farmlands will contribute to reducing over 40 percent loss of farm produce due to lack of storage. In the Niger Delta with abundant gas resources, gas-fired plants will best meet the needs of the people.
Nigeria plans to deplore 30 percent energy generation from renewables by 2030 which can be best served with recent policy directives for feed-in tariff and net metering. Stakeholders say what is now required is for the country to provide incentives for importation and manufacture of solar PVs and granting tax waivers for renewables.