Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Nigeria's History of Resistance to Structural Adjustment Program

The Whirld Wind Group  defined Structural Adjustment Policies as economic policies which countries must follow in order to qualify for new World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans and help them make debt repayments on the older debts owed to commercial banks, governments and the World Bank. Although SAPs are designed for individual countries but have common guiding principles and features which include export-led growth; privatisation and liberalisation; and the efficiency of the free market.

SAPs generally require countries to devalue their currencies against the dollar; lift import and export restrictions; balance their budgets and not overspend; and remove price controls and state subsidies.
Devaluation makes their goods cheaper for foreigners to buy and theoretically makes foreign imports more expensive. In principle it should make the country wary of buying expensive foreign equipment. In practice, however, the IMF actually disrupts this by rewarding the country with a large foreign currency loan that encourages it to purchase imports.

Balancing national budgets can be done by raising taxes, which the IMF frowns upon, or by cutting government spending, which it definitely recommends. As a result, SAPs often result in deep cuts in programmes like education, health and social care, and the removal of subsidies designed to control the price of basics such as food and milk. So SAPs hurt the poor most, because they depend heavily on these services and subsidies.

SAPs encourage countries to focus on the production and export of primary commodities such as cocoa and coffee to earn foreign exchange. But these commodities have notoriously erratic prices subject to the whims of global markets which can depress prices just when countries have invested in these so-called 'cash crops'.

By devaluing the currency and simultaneously removing price controls, the immediate effect of a SAP is generally to hike prices up three or four times, increasing poverty to such an extent that riots are a frequent result.

The term "Structural Adjustment Program" has gained such a negative connotation that the World Bank and IMF launched a new initiative, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Initiative, and makes countries develop Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP). While the name has changed, with PRSPs, the World Bank is still forcing countries to adopt the same types of policies as SAPs.

 Nigeria's Resistance

(May 1986)

About twenty students and bystanders at Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria massacred by security forces after staging peaceful protests over impending introduction of SAP. More students killed in protests against SAP and the ABU massacre during the following days at Kaduna Polytechnic, the University of Benin and the University of Lagos.

(April 1988)

Students demonstrate at 33 universities against fuel price increase demanded by IMF-inspired SAP.

(May-June 1989)

Dozens of people killed and hundreds arrested in riots and strikes against SAP in Lagos, Benin City and Port Harcourt. Government forced to offer a welfare program called a "SAP Relief Package," the establishment of a mass transit scheme and a “People's Bank,” and a review of the minimum wage.

(March-May 1990)

Students and faculty on campuses nationwide protest government's decision to accept a $150 million university restructuring loan from the World Bank, especially conditions requiring closure of many departments and programs. Military government stages armed assaults and hundreds of arrests, with hundreds more expelled from university system.

(May 1992)

Students at Universities of Ibadan and Lagos protest against implementation of Structural Adjustment Program, which they accused of being responsible for the deterioration of campus facilities and education programs as well as doubling of transport prices. Police respond by shooting at the demonstrators, wounding at least five students. Battles between young anti-government demonstrators and riot police in Lagos leave at least three dead and hundreds injured. The IMF and World Bank made the removal of subsidies and probable increase of the price of gasoline the main imperative in its negotiations with the Nigerian government.

(January 2012)

Angry Nigerians chanted anti-government slogans and brandished placards in a largely peaceful protest against the removal of government subsidies.
In what has been described as a "callous New Year gift," the government ended its fuel subsidy Sunday January 2012, bringing the cost of a liter of gasoline from 65 naira (40¢) to 141 Naira, (86¢). 'You can not ask us to sacrifice, while you run a government obese with waste and corruption', a youth activist said.

Out of about 16 countries whose citizen  have resisted the imposition of SAP by its government and the IMF, Nigerians have resisted this policy a good number of times, 7 if I'm correct. Though they give the program different names, why do they hate/disrespect Nigerians so much? Do we need to get violent before we (Nigerians) are taken serious? Note, violence worked for the Niger-Deltans here in Nigeria, and it will work for Boko-Haram. Do we have to start lynching public office holders? My thoughts and questions.

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