Martins Hile, Editor, Financial Nigeria magazine

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As the world leaves Nigeria behind 11 Sep 2020

It is a major loss for Nigeria the decision of the World Bank to suspend its annual Doing Business report. It is on the index that Nigeria has made a significant upward movement on the major global indexes in recent years. The country jumped 15 places to 131st position, out of 190 countries surveyed, on the 2019 index. The reputation of the Doing Business report has been called into question. Some experts believe the index was being politically manipulated. But to be clear, there has been no mention of Nigeria among countries whose rankings on the index have been affected by alleged irregularities.
Since 2017, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has been implementing the National Action Plans on Ease of Doing Business. Among the aims of the plans is to, “remove critical bottlenecks and bureaucratic constraints to doing business in Nigeria” and “move Nigeria 20 steps upwards in the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index.”

The rankings of Nigeria on other major indexes have been very depressing. They show that, instead of making progress, the country is retrogressing, and that Nigerians are among the most unfortunate people on earth. The world has literally left Nigeria behind on a number of diverse metrics, including poverty eradication, peace and security, and digital access. In many indexes, Nigeria ranks below the average scores for Sub Saharan Africa.

In a way, the Best Countries 2020 rankings is perhaps the most damning for the country. Published by the U.S. News & World Report, in collaboration with BAV Consulting and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Nigeria dropped 17 places from 57th in the debut report in 2016 to 74th in the world last year. The country was then removed completely from the rankings in this year’s report. According to the authors, the current report had to narrow countries down to a statistically manageable group by comparing their performance in a number of key business, economic and quality of life indicators. For this reason, 10 countries that were previously ranked, including Nigeria and Angola, failed to meet the key benchmarks this year and had to be dropped out.

Two reports capture the worsening security situation in the country, relative to other countries. The 2020 Global Peace Index (GPI) shows Nigeria recorded a 0.8% deterioration in peacefulness in 2019. The GPI, produced by the Sydney-headquartered Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), measures the state of peace across three domains: the level of societal safety and security; the extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict; and the degree of militarisation.

Nigeria is ranked 147th out of 163 countries and territories in the latest GPI. This indicates Nigeria is among the 20 least peaceful countries, which include Mali, Israel, Venezuela, North Korea, Syria and Afghanistan. Compared to the previous year, Nigeria's GPI score was unchanged as militarisation and conflict heightened in the reporting period.

Data available in the latest Global Terrorism Index (GTI), also published by IEP, shows terrorism deaths in Nigeria rose by 33% to 2,040 in 2018. This was the second-highest terror-related deaths after Afghanistan, which recorded 7,379 deaths. The number of deaths due to Boko Haram attacks in 2018 reached its lowest level (882) since 2011. The rise in terrorism deaths, therefore, was attributed to escalation of violence by armed Fulani herdsmen who were responsible for majority of terror-related deaths.

The GTI report shows violent extremism cost Nigeria about 2.7% of GDP in 2018 – the third-highest economic impact of terrorism in the world. The escalation of the conflict between Fulani herdsmen and various farmer communities would undoubtedly intensify the already-bedeviling hunger and poverty indices in Nigeria. Accordingly, the country ranks 93rd out of 117 countries on the latest Global Hunger Index (GHI), a peer-reviewed annual report, co-published by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.

In 2018, Nigeria ignominiously overtook India – a country with six times Nigeria’s population – as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, based on findings by the World Poverty Clock. As of the end of August 2020, there were over 102 million people (50% of the country’s population) living in extreme poverty – defined as those living below the poverty line of $1.90.   

The 2018 Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) ranks Nigeria in 158th position out of 189 countries and territories based on human development achievements. In 2010, Nigeria had a higher HDI value than Cameroon. But by 2018, the latter recorded a higher HDI and climbed into the medium human development category with a ranking of 150th, leaving Nigeria in the low human development group.

To provide a perspective on the divergence that has occurred between Nigeria and Cameroon, for instance, we may look at the HDI indicator on education. People aged 25 and older in the neighbouring country received an average of 12.7 years of education, three more years than people in Nigeria. People in Ghana – which also records better educational performance on the HDI than Nigeria – spend nearly two years in school more than their Nigerian counterparts.

Little wonder, then, that Nigeria fell precipitously on the 2019 Legatum Prosperity Index (LPI). The country dropped 10 places to 148th amongst 167 countries. The index, published by Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank, measures countries across twelve pillars, including personal freedom, living conditions, enterprise conditions, health, education, governance, safety and security, and social capital; which, by implication, help to identify those pathways that lead from poverty to prosperity.

The five top-ranked sub-Saharan African countries on the latest LPI are Mauritius (44th), Seychelles (48th), Botswana (76th), Cape Verde (77th) and South Africa (83rd). Nigeria is ranked 34th in the SSA region.  

It is the same dismal ranking the country got on another latest index that zeroes in on the quality of digital wellbeing in 85 countries. The Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Index 2020, developed by British Virgin Islands-based Surfshark, ranks Nigeria in the 81st position, putting Nigeria at the bottom of the pile in global digital wellbeing. Nigeria was ranked as the country with the least affordable internet in the world.

Nigeria’s misfortune is comprehensive. It suggests there is no single magic bullet for a complete turnaround. But it is clear to Nigerians that leadership and the constitutional framework for national progress are critical for the country to start moving in the right direction.