Is Nigeria a failed State? (Part 1)

By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

‘’Government simply doesn’t exists in Nigeria’’

This is a 3 series publication that seek to establish weather or not, Nigeria is a failed state. In the 3 series, i shall define what a failed state is all about and with the aid of practical illustration, establish how Nigeria is failing and how it is not. Kindly endevour to read the 3 series.

By definition, a failed state is said to be one that is unable to effectively maintain all or some of the essential characteristics of the state. It could also be referred to as “collapsed” or “disintegrated” state, but in effect, the political structure of such state would have been crippled by significant variables. (Oluwadare, 2004)

According to Max Weber dictionary, a failed state can be described as a failed if it could not to maintain either internal and external sovereignty or both; thereby losing the ability for internal “monopoly of power”. A failed state is therefore said to be, an unworkable state, which may likely disintegrate or be dismembered. This means that, a failed state is one without a sovereign government, one that has lost control of its borders, or where the government cannot guarantee the safety of its citizens, a habitat for the procreation of corruption and criminal acts. (Oluwadare, 2004)

From the above definitions, it can be stated that, Nigeria is not a state without state (sovereignty); it is a state with complete sovereignty. However, it is not clear if the country could maintain or exercise full control over its territorial integrity or internal sovereignty because its government seems to have lost control in the north-eastern part of the country where a terrorist sect popularly known as Boko Haram (BH) continues to have its own sovereignty. BH has its own organisation, leaders, laws, security apparatus, citizens and even flag, yet, on the same soil of Nigeria.

Although, Nigeria has a sovereign government, it seems to have lost control of its land and borders, thereby giving people the freedom to go in and go out of the country unrestrictedly. Countless reports had revealed how porous its borders are, yet they remain unchecked. Also, the Nigerian government has proven time and time again that it is unable to guarantee the safety of its citizens. A daily glance at most newspapers across the country would confirm how Nigerian citizens are being murdered on a daily basis by what has now been described as unknown gunmen, BH, Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, militants and many others.

Again, Nigeria seems to be a permanent habitat for procreation of corruption and criminal acts, where government officials embezzle public funds with confidence, knowing they are well covered and protected under the law of impunity. The law of Impunity is an unwritten law that requires absolute loyalty from the political elite to the current leadership of the country. It is their believe that, with loyalty to the current government in power, any politician can always go scot free irrespective of their corrupt and criminal behaviour.

Similarly, many people are also with the view that, without loyalty to the government in power, the Nigerian law made provision for fines which can be paid by any corrupt officer to escape true justice. An example of this situation can be seen when an Abuja high court in January 2013 sentenced Mr. Yakubu Yusuf to two years imprisonment with an option of paying ₦750, 000.00 ($5000) fine after pleading guilty to stealing about ₦24.2 billion ($161,333,000) belonging to the Nigerian police pension. This type of judgment gives corrupt officers the impression that, after stealing ₦24.2 billion ($161,333,000) belonging to retired civil servants. Such corrupt officers can continue to enjoy the corrupt embezzlement by merely paying a fine of ₦750, 000.00 ($5000) without returning the embezzled funds.

1. 1 How Nigeria is failing?

Although a state can move from being a failed one to a sovereign entity; however, a study conducted by Patrick (2007) shows that, failed states have specific characteristics which are the indicators that demonstrate their status. These indicators have been presented as the Failed States Index (Patrick, 2007). They are categorised into the social, economic and political indicators, and on the basis of the performances of these indicators, states are assessed. The indicators are presented as in the following table:

Table 1: Characteristics of a Failed State





demographic pressures, populace, emigration and brain-drain



economic and Social inequality, and economic decline



Widespread corruption, violation of human rights, illegal security mechanism, decline of public services, intervention of foreign forces and rise of factionalised elites.

Note: for further reading, please check, International Relations and Security

Let us analyse the indicators to determine the status of Nigeria as a state. Firstly, Social indicator lists demographic pressures, populace, emigration and brain-drain as its sub-indicator. Emigration and brain-drain are evident in Nigeria. It has been observed that, skilled workers in Nigeria continue to travel abroad in search for better opportunities; from university lecturers to bankers, engineers, doctors, nurses, sportsmen and women and many others. The rate at which the country’s essential manpower that is supposed to intellectually contribute to the nation’s development is emigrating out of the country is alarming. More worrisome is the quality of jobs they engage in outside the country.

For example, a respected banker in Nigeria may travel abroad to engage in unbefitting jobs such as cleaning, bar attendants or other ridiculous jobs. Investigations also show that, many are unaware of the realities abroad; they are mostly carried away by scene portrayed in Hollywood movies as well as the fake lives those who visit home from abroad usually display at home in Nigeria.

Also, the rate at which Nigerians queue at the various embassies across the country in seeking visa under inhuman condition and degrading treatment is also embarrassing. Evidences show that, even unskilled workers apply in their thousands for the American Diversity Visa lottery. Therefore, it is not out of place to conclude that, massive brain drain is taking place in Nigeria.

Economic indicators, the second indicator of a failed state consists of the economic and social inequalities, and economic decline. A report recently revealed that, about 87% of Nigeria’s budgetary allocation is distributed among 5% of its elite population and only about 13% is shared by the majority 95 % citizens. Without any doubt, this is wide economic and social inequality. Furthermore, the true state of our economic situation is unknown with the various unguarded and contradictory statement coming from the financial custodians. In year 2011 before the partial removal of fuel subsidy, the finance Minister, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo Iweala had claimed that, Nigeria’s economy is on the brinks of collapse and in another report, she claimed it is strong and vibrant. Equally, the suspended former CBN governor, Mallam Sanusi Lamido had also claimed that the economy is about to collapse, but he later painted another picture in the following months. It is my view that, for any economy to be on the brinks of collapse, certainly, it must have been as a result of decline in economic activity.

However, based on the recently re-based economic figure of Nigeria which indicated its growth and made the country’s economy to be the largest economy in Africa and 26th in the world, it could be said that certain growth are being recorded in some areas of the economy. The World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and African development bank all endorsed Nigeria’s new Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of approximate $509.9 billion, surpassing South Africa with a 2013 rebased figure of $370 billion.

Although, the major economic growth indicators such as power supply, employment opportunity, infrastructure etc are declining. For example, the peak Nigeria’s power generation reduced from 4,517.6 MW in December 2012 to 3,781.8MW in October 2013. This means that, only 3781.8MW of electricity is available to the over 170 million Nigerians, while South Africa with just about 50 million population generates over 40,000 MW. Again, it is true that Nigeria’s electricity is bad, but majority of Nigerian citizens can afford to use alternative power supply such as generator.

Some interesting statistics on the usage of power generating sets in Nigeria was revealed by the Director-General of centre for Management Development, Dr. Kabir usman while speaking at the launch of the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria in Abuja in 2012. According to him, about 60 million Nigerians spend ₦1.6 trillion on generators annually. He also said that, Nigerians had the highest number of standby generators, which had become parmanent, making the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) standby. In his word, ‘’currently, there are about 60 million generators in Nigeria at the ratio of one per household of 2.5 people with an annual spending of 1.6 trillion.’’

Another report also state that, Nigeria spends ₦3.5trn annually on power generators. According to the report, Nigerian manufacturers, small scale businesses and families spend an average of ₦3.5 trillion yearly to power their generating sets with diesel and petrol due to unstable supply of electricity. This is one of reasons for Mr. Festus Mbisiogu, President of Good Governance Initiative (GGI), a Non-Governmental Organisation, who stated this, pointed out that 70 percent of the problems facing the country could be effectively solved through effective power supply.

Similarly, according to a report published by a global research firm (GBI), importation of generator sets in Nigeria is expected to grow to about ₦151.16 billion ($950.07 million) by the year 2020. According to the report, Nigeria which is the largest market for diesel and gas generators set in Africa is forecast to see growth rates of 8.7 percent driving up market volume from ₦71.55 billion ($450 million) in 2011 to reach N151.16 billion ($950.7 million) by 2020. In Nigeria, generator is the major source of electricity.

In view of this, while it is true that Nigeria’s power supply is poor, its citizens can afford to make use of alternative power supply. But this does not just apply to power supply, virtually every sector that Nigerian government has failed; its citizens had created an affordable alternative for themselves. In essence, it could be said that, Nigerian government simply does not exist, or at least, they do not provide any meaningful service to the citizens. This has largely contributed to the unpatriotic nature of some Nigerian citizens and they justify such unpatriotism by saying “I don’t enjoy any benefit as a Nigerian citizen”.

To be continued in part 2.

This article is culled from ‘’The truth about Nigeria’’ a book by Abdulrazaq O Hamzat.

Follow me on twitter @Abdool101

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