Last year was, no doubt, a year many Nigerians were eager to bid farewell to, in view of all its challenges, including insecurity in the form of banditry, kidnapping, killings, insurgency and #EndSARS protest.
Of course, there were also raging Coronavirus (COVID-19), which led to lockdown and disruption of economic and social activities, as well as stifled economy, loss of jobs and businesses, and crisis in the education sector as a result of the nine-month strike by federal universities lecturers, which kept many students at home for a long time.
As Nigerians look forward to a better 2021, many expect governments at all level, but particularly the Federal Government, to, with more determination and purposefulness, tackle the afore-mentioned issues, among others, to make life better for them.
Bearing in mind that government is saddled with the responsibility of securing lives and property, in which many Nigerians think it has failed, Adebayo Falomo, a resident of Lawanson, Surulere in Lagos, said he would like to remind governments at all level that the commoners are suffering from their ineptness.
“I want stability in power supply, construction of good roads, primary health centres/health insurance for all Nigerians, price control of goods and services, more schools equipped with good facilities and access to good water,” he stated.
Ogunrinu Olanshile, a resident of Ilasamaja, expects government to tackle insecurity that has claimed many lives and properties, saying government was obviously not doing enough to stop kidnapping, killings and other crimes afflicting the country.
On education, which he said remains the bedrock of the economy of any nation, he charged government to be more proactive in funding qualitative education. He lamented that federal universities were shut down for over nine months last year following the strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
Esther Chuks, resident in Ipaja, added: “I want government to improve our health sector, education system, the naira to dollar exchange rate, security, the bad roads and power supply, as well as be accountable to the people.”
Uzoma Ukaonu in Mafoluku wants government to be sincere in leadership, accountability and protection of citizens, while Nwakor Chidi, wants government to address banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen attacks, bad governance, disunity, intolerance and lack of respect for human rights, which he stressed, characterised last year.
“I want governments to wake up to their responsibilities this year. In the area of insecurity and economy, the President should sack the current service chiefs, fight corruption genuinely and improve the economy.
“Lots of our youths are jobless and this is causing serious challenge in our country. So, government should create an enabling environment for them, improve the educational sector and support young entrepreneurs financially and through good legislations.”
Michael Olaniyi in Ijesha implored government to address the issues of outrageous electricity billing, bad roads, provide jobs for the youth and settle all the pensioners.
An educationist and Director at Le Poshe School, Ikoyi, RonkePosh Adeniyi, said: “It will be a dream come true if relevant stakeholders are engaged, including parents, in conversations to drive education forward in Nigeria.
“I expect education to be on the front burner, to be prioritised, because as the late Dr. Nelson Mandela said, no country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.
“We need funding, accountability and transparency as to how funds are spent. There ought to be consequences for any act of corruption.
“We must fight for our children who loiter the streets in hopelessness and have now been termed ‘hoodlums’ due to the failure of government to provide them with the basic education and opportunities they deserve, especially in the northern states.”
Adeniyi added that formal and informal education must be prioritised, along with the implementation of technology in our day-to-day practises on a national scale.
She lamented that the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector have forced more teachers out of the system. According to her, there was need for thorough teacher training, better wages and working conditions to bring great educators back and drive the country forward.
For Executive Director of Cece Yara Foundation, Grace Ketefe, last year was quite challenging for children, families and the world at large with the disruptions caused by COVID-19 and associated containment measures, insecurity and armed conflicts.
According to her, the challenges led to increase in the number of child abuse cases. Ketefe noted that protecting children from abuses must be government’s top priority this year, saying:
“Government, parents and relevant stakeholders should take steps to ensure that children are adequately protected. This can only be achieved if government invests in safe and equitable education systems that meet the needs of children with inadequate care and protection.
“Invest in child protection-sensitive social protection programmes; that is, reach the most marginalised and vulnerable groups. Increase funding to child protection in emergencies and in fragile states; ensure that there are comprehensive laws and policies on child protection that include disaster, risk and resilience plans that incorporate focus on child protection.”
She also called for effective coordination, as well as the mainstreaming of child protection into other areas, such as health and education.
“Focus should be on prevention, while we recognise the role of communities in protecting children and paying special attention to ensure that messages are accessible to children with disabilities.”
For Executive Director at Safety Advocates, Jamiu Badmos, the country does not need to create fear, but should use technology to drive innovation in the field of occupational health and safety in 2021.
“We need serious and robust programmes to reach the grassroots to drive home our message of hope. Sincerely, what we learned from history is that people don’t learn from history. We should remember that we are at an advantage compared to the situation during Spanish flu in 1918. Yet, we forget to know that we are not at the mercy of coronavirus,” he added.
Lawyers advocate independence of judiciary
Some lawyers advocated complete independence of the judicial arm of government, insisting this would facilitate growth, development and also encourage achievements in other critical areas, considering the destruction of some courts during the #EndSARS protest.
A former chairman of Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Yinka Faronmbi, said with what Nigeria experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and how it disrupted the legal system for months, there was need for more emphasis on independence of the judiciary.
Faronmbi said a society without a functional, credible and trusted judicial system “is a failed one in waiting,” regretting that government was doing almost nothing to make the judicial sector what it should be, despite several agitations.
“As at today, 80 per cent of the courtrooms in Nigeria are not conducive for users, particularly lawyers and litigants. The seats are terribly bad, lights very poor, ventilation horrible and air conditioners not working well.
“The worst is that the judiciary is seen by the executive as its extension, rather than a separate organ, and so the judiciary almost beg to get things done for it. This should stop and autonomy granted to the sector,” he added.
Lagos-based rights crusader, Kabir Akingbolu, stressed that autonomy of the judiciary must and cannot be compromised. His words: “Independence and undiluted fiscal autonomy for the judiciary should be the greatest expectations of any lover of constitutional democracy. I believe strongly that withholding of funds meant for the judiciary is a tactical way by which the executive arm of government dictates and controls the workings of the judiciary and stifles the efficiency of the judiciary. Thus, for any meaningful change or improvement to take place in the judicial sector, complete independence is sine qua non and non-negotiable.”
Another legal practitioner, Yemi Omodele, added that challenges witnessed in 2020 legal year have made it necessary for government to vote enough funds for and give maximum security to the judiciary to avoid the repeat of what happened to Igbosere Court in Lagos.
Akeem Aponmade recalled that the judiciary has been carrying over its challenges from year to year, noting that it seemed there was no end to them until COVID-19 forced everyone to think outside the box.
“Now, it is obvious that certain things are possible, including virtual hearing of cases. My expectation is that heads of our courts should come up with practice directions that will engender speedy dispensation of cases in our courts, in addition to provision of more courtrooms and Judges. Lawyers who have ideas on how this can be achieved, possibly drawing experience and knowledge from other jurisdictions, should feel free to offer advice through the NBA.
“The judiciary has lost so much of its respect and awe in the eyes of the public. The massive destruction of courthouses in Lagos during the #EndSARS protest has proved that.
“The executive arm has painted the judiciary as a very corrupt institution. I cannot say in good conscience that we do not have some corrupt elements in the system, but majority of our Judges are hardworking and honest.
“In 2021, I expect that honest Judges and lawyers will work towards exposing corrupt Judges and lawyers,” he added. On his part, a former minister of Defence and one time boss of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dr. Olu Agunloye, said Nigeria has no alternative to restructuring. He also noted that the country must face the crisis of insecurity with whatever measures it could if any sector must progress.
“It is time for Nigerians to have sober reflections and think about how to develop the political will to fix Nigeria’s problems and challenges with all sincerity of purpose. It is time for us to look forward together and work out an enduring solution together.
“It is time to revisit the basis and fundamentals of our union and its operations in order to change these for the better. Nigeria’s amalgamation must be rejigged and bound by social justice, equity and fairness to survive.
“The bottom-line is that by whichever nomenclature it is called, Nigeria needs to be retooled or restructured or re-engineered in a way that will engender justice, equity and progress. The new Nigeria envisaged would be driven by national competitiveness, leverage on massive youth development, economic emancipation for women and be able to ensure food and social security and economic development, which would translate to improved well-being and life more abundant for the generality of the citizens,” he said.
Nimah Ibrahim, a teacher in Ejigbo, Lagos, wants government to make things better this year by being responsible and more responsive.
He stated: “In Ejigbo, there are no good roads, no water, no stable electricity and so on. The local government, despite the lack of these basic social amenities, built a cemetery in the community in an open field where people used to play football.
“That is why we need a more responsive and responsible government, a government that would look out for what the people really need. We cannot be waiting on the Federal Government and Buhari to do everything when we have state government and local governments. They should look after the people under them because that is why they were elected.
“This year, we need responsible governments that would listen to the people and do things to the best of their capabilities.”
Kolade Alabi in Alagbado said the primary objective of government is to serve its people, secure lives and property, protect them in times of war and provide them with social amenities.
“Hence in 2021, government needs to create more job opportunities for its citizens, provide us with good social amenities, such as good roads, water and hospitals with necessary equipment, especially COVID-19 test kits.
“Government should look into the prices of goods, especially foodstuffs, which have been increasing lately, provide schools with good learning environments and necessary materials.”
Esther Amadi in Ilasamaja expects government to take responsibility in the area of insecurity and fix the economy by creating job opportunities, improving the educational sector and supporting young entrepreneurs financially.
“Government should look into the hike in electricity tariff. We are only paying for darkness, because the light we have per day is not even up to eight hours. Our electricity is not stable and at month end, the DisCos bring crazy bills. If we complain, they don’t listen to us; they tell us to write letters, which will never be read or action on.”
Govt should fight insecurity frontally, says MIIVOC
Executive Director of Media Initiative Against Injustice, Violence and Corruption (MIIVOC), Dr. Walter Duru, has urged the Federal Government, as well as the state and local governments to tackle the problem of insecurity in 2021.
He also expects government to invest in human capacity development and genuine citizens’ empowerment, as well as agriculture, saying these would do the country a lot of good.
“Mainstreaming transparency and accountability in public service is one step towards preserving the country. Taking steps towards recovering the economy is non-negotiable and nepotism must be eschewed, while competence and merit should guide the appointment of persons into public positions,” he stated.
‘I have lost confidence in government’
A senior citizen, Patrick Ikeakenam, is not expecting anything from governments at all level in the country this year, claiming that those at the helm of affairs had failed in all ramifications.
“Those in government are conformable, so they don’t have us in mind any longer. In fact, the governments of the day have failed woefully. I mean the federal and Delta State governments; nothing new is coming from them. I have lost confidence in them; we the masses are surviving by God’s grace.
“Today, we have governments that lie to the people. We only depend on journalists to tell them that they don’t have any of us at heart, because we have since learnt that nothing is working in Nigeria.
“I have not been paid my pension; there is no hope for graduates to get jobs; there is no security. What we have are lip service programmes,” he lamented.
Waliyah Adeleke, a food vendor, simply said the governments should go with their wahala, adding:
“Government did not give me anything last year, let alone expecting something this year.”
For Mrs. Jecinta Nwachukwu, a widow, “Nigerian government no get head, nothing good comes from them. Remember, Fela had said it before now, about governments that don’t think about the welfare and wellbeing of the poor, even windows like me.
“The Nigerian government is terribly bad, I mean very bad. No hope, no help and you think that is government? I beg, I’m thinking about my children’s school fees and not government that has failed us, mostly the poor people.”
Pastor Ezediunor Ikechukwu also said: “I expect fairness in employment, security and others from governments. Currently, we are not novices to the rate of insecurity in the country. Everybody needs security and that is one of the areas I expect government to address.
“Also, the issue of empowering farmers should be looked into. Most of the time, we hear that farmers have been empowered, but government officials always divert funds meant for them. So, I expect government to monitor such funds to the latter so that the core farmers could benefit.
“I expect government to diversify its sources of revenue to non-oil sectors. Government should encourage farmers, sculptors and other artisans to work to improve the economy. It should also encourage individuals to develop, especially those that have come up with inventions. Government should encourage people with talents to develop them for the benefit of all.
“I expect government to give youths the opportunity to excel and realise their capacities, being leaders of tomorrow. Government should include the youth in the governance of the country.”
‘Prices of goods should come down’
A School teacher, Mrs. Queeneth Alozie, wants government to drive down the prices of goods, saying doing so would go a long way to help the masses.
A medical practitioner, Dr. Daniel Okwoche, also expects an affordable and easily accessible cure for Coronavirus worldwide. He also expects government to do everything possible to ensure that public universities resume to enable idle youths go back to school and focus on their academic pursuits.
Okwoche also listed creation of jobs despite the economic downturn being experienced as well as better governance from the political elite among what should get the government’s attention this year.
Emmanuel Agbor, an entrepreneur hopes the lessons learnt last year would be taken into consideration; hence he expects governments at all level to focus on the strengthening of macro businesses and reduction of poverty rate this year.
“In a nutshell, I expect that 2021 will be a better year, because we have never experienced in time past what we experienced last year in the areas of health, security and economic meltdown.
“I also expect that this year, things would be a lot more affordable, because a lot of us had to improvise to remain afloat. So, I expect government to be up and doing in running the country.”
Jessica Carswel, also an entrepreneur, looks forward to better times this year. “In 2021, I expect things to be far better than it has been in 2020. I hope for better days to come, for things to fall in their places and life should be more affordable as compared to this year.
“I expect more people to go into agriculture, as I will be doing that, so there will be enough food, because that is the major challenge we have right now.
“Government should try as much as possible to make sure that there are more job opportunities, especially for youths. I hope that this year, God should show us mercy,” he said.
Victor Atacor, a secondary school student, while lamenting the challenges of last year, hopes for early resumption of academic activities this year, adding: “We just hope this year will be better.”
Kogi residents want better deal this year
Most residents of Kogi State, bearing in mind the difficulties they faced last year, were optimistic that things would get better this year, calling on both the federal and state governments to end insecurity in the country.
Mallam Ahmed Sule, while describing the security situation in the state as fair compared to other places, called on Governor Yahaya Bello to work harder to ensure adequate security of the people.
A commercial bus driver, Sumaila Idi, stressed the need for government to speed up the rehabilitation of both state and federal roads across the state, just as he welcomed the award of contract for the rehabilitation of the Okene-Ajaokuta-Itobe dual carriage way.
“You can see the condition of our roads, both state and federal roads; they are in very sorry states. Where they are being worked on, the contractors are too slow. Government must put them under pressure to speed up the job.
“We spend over 60 per cent of all we make on a daily basis on repairs of our vehicles, making life very difficult for us. So, we want the government to do more in this regard,” he noted.