Monday, July 27, 2015 2:21 pm
In the following essay, Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, looks at the cases exhumed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, its plan to concentrate only on the Goodluck Jonathan administration and other related issues:
The Nigerian Economy and the Nigerian people
The right to development is a fundamental right by virtue of which every human person and all peoples are entitled to participate in, contribute to and enjoy economic, social and cultural development. It is a right which includes the exercise of full sovereignty over national resources, self determination, popular participation in development and equality of opportunity. Accordingly, the Nigerian State shall direct its policy towards ensuring the promotion of a planned and balanced economic development and ensure that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the mean of production and exchange in the hands of a few individuals or of a group.
Having ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Nigeria is under a duty to ensure the exercise of the right to development and respect the economic, social and cultural rights of the people with due regard to their freedom and identity and in the equal enjoyment of the common heritage of mankind. Apart from ensuring that the nation’s material resources are harnessed and distributed to serve the common good the State shall ensure that suitable and adequate shelter, suitable and adequate food, old age care and pension, sick benefits and welfare of the disabled are provided for all citizens.
A key component of the economic objectives of the State is the “control of the national economy in such manner as to secure the maximum welfare, freedom and happiness of every citizen on the basis of social justice and equality of status.” Therefore, the State shall prevent the “exploitation of human and natural resources in any form whatsoever for reasons, other than the good of the community”. Hence, the entire property in and control of all natural resources vested in the Government of the Federation shall be managed in such manner as may be prescribed by the National Assembly.
In order to establish a welfare system in the country the Constitution has imposed a duty on the State to direct its policy towards ensuring that “the material resources of the nation are harnessed and distributed as best as possible to serve the common good and that the economic system is not operated in such a manner as to permit the concentration of wealth or the means of production and exchange in the hands of few individuals or of a group. But with the hijack and control of the economy by imperialism and its local lackeys the commonwealth has been completely concentrated in the hands of a few people.
The demand for the control of the country’s natural resources was a component element in the struggle for independence from the British colonial regime. But upon the attainment of self rule the status quo was allowed to remain in the economic front. Realizing that the socio-economic rights of the people could not be meaningfully guaranteed without the control of the natural resources a duty has been imposed on the member states of the African Union to freely dispose of the commonwealth in the exclusive interest of the people.
No doubt, the domination of the Nigerian economy by market forces has stultified the development and growth of an efficient, dynamic and self-reliant economy in Nigeria. The adoption of neo-liberal economic policies by the Federal Government has continued to promote poverty among the generality of Nigerians . Despite the abundant resources of the nation, the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo has disclosed that “over 100 million Nigerians live below the poverty line.” I am not unmindful of the commitment of the Buhari Administration to fight corruption. It ought to be pointed out that corruption is not the root cause of our poverty but one of the manifestations of the peripheral capitalist economy which is anchored on ruthless exploitation.
Instead of striving by means of appropriate regulations “for the minimization of exploitation and the concentration of wealth in a few hands, the securing of adequate means of livelihood and employment opportunities, suitable and adequate shelter, reasonable minimum living wage, old age care and pensions, unemployment and sick benefits etc” the State begun the systematic promotion of poverty through the implementation of the Structural Adjustment Programme imposed on the country under the Ibrahim Babangida junta.