In Nigeria now, fear is the key. The coming of Buhari has introduced palpable fear and harship into the society. During his first coming as a military president his use of the security agents was scary. I recollect having cited an incident between a security agent and a private citizen in a bank in my novel, Dance Of The Vultures, published in 1992. Buhari had decided to change currency and citizens therefore had to go and pay any money they had into their account. One businessman went to his bank to pay in twenty five thousand naira. In the bank a security agent accosted him querying how he alone could have such a large amount. A heated altercation ensued between him and the outraged citizen with the agent threatening to deal with him and the citizen calling his bluff.
A lot of cash is in houses of citizens much of it illegally acquired. The newspapers have been awash with stories of large sums of money being stashed away in septic tanks, empty apartments and other funny places. Now there is a problem. The security agencies are everywhere trying to sniff out lodgments of large sums of money in bank accounts. An estate age tells a story of a serving customs officer with whom he had reached agreement for the sale of a large portion of land in Amuwo Odofin for four hundred million naira. It was obvious the customs officer had the money. But the deal fell through because if the customs officer paid the money would be traced to him and he would not only lose his job but other consequences would follow. Another agent tells the story of how he agreed to sell a property to somebody in Abuja for three hundred million naira. The other party would complete the deal if the agent would accept cash! Of course he would not. So many people loaded with cash are now resorting to putting up buildings including apartment blocks and hotels in cash. Now this society has not reached the level where security agents would accost somebody putting up a lavish building or driving a posh car and ask for his means of livelihood or his tax receipt.
The country has a lot of problems. In the case of taxes a tax holiday has been declared provided people declare their incomes their past sins would be forgiven. I believe people are utilising this way out. But how does the government get the loads of cash in private hands, in bunkers, and such other places. Everybody is afraid of being found out and imprisoned. Perhaps the government should declare another sort of holiday, pay in the cash you have into your bank account and only your tax would be deducted, no further punishment. This may be the only way of getting this economy moving again. Right now it is comatose. Money is not circulating. Businesses are not moving. banks are not lending.
People are virtually starving. The lucky traders who have something to sell keep hiking up prices on a daily basis. And the generality of the public is on the receiving end. The few who have already made it are living in comfort shielded from the general madness. And the few who have good jobs and those in the national assembly and upper civil servants and politicians are living it up. They say we are out of recession but the man in the street does not know what it is all about. All he knows is that he can no longer have three square meals a day. Those who have children in school are in soup with ever escalating school fees and cost of living. There is palpable fear of the future. How are we going to survive? On top of all this there is this laughable news that the government has set up a thirty man committee to review minimum wage in the face of the Trade Union demanding N56,000 per month minimum wage. What a laugh. Most states cannot pay the N18,000 per month minimum wage and government is talking of negotiating to hike minimum wage up!
Government must be serious to get citizens out of the current quagmire. People are talking of restructuring and devolution of power. This is what the government should be concentrating on, not the stupidity of upward review of minimum wage. There is no need for a national minimum wage. A few states can pay more and in a restructured Nigeria the more organised and viable states can pay more than the present minimum wage. Lagos and a few other states can. But the government should realise that the centre is no longer holding. People are in dire straits. Kidnapping, armed robbery, cultism and other societal evils are on the rise. Government cannot continue dillydallying until citizens can no longer leave their houses to go and hustle for a living.

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