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Friday, December 9, 2022

Russia-Ukraine War: Implications for Nigeria

By Bayo Fasuwon

The World was rudely woken from sleep by the Russian bombs that shattered the relative peace of Ukraine, and the international environment is no longer at ease. Various Scholars and international media agencies have lent their voices and opinions on the ongoing War against Ukraine – some condemning Russia, and others insisting that she was left with no other option than seeking peace through war. Yours truly understands that all nations execute their international politics with the sole aim of protecting their national interests.

Unfortunately, the national interests of nations are not easily deciphered as such may even be the personal interests of leaders given spatio-temporal considerations. Russia is convinced within the contexts of her national interests and security that the ongoing war is justified, while Ukraine and her allies are also convinced beyond all reasonable doubts that their resilience against Russia’s pre-war demands was in consideration of their national interest and sovereignty. Debating these issues would be tantamount to kicking a dead horse, and sometimes being subjectively emotional in the face of glaring facts. Therefore, within the context of this war, let us turn the radar to focus on that which concerns us.

Nigeria is a member of the United Nations, a front-line member of the nonaligned movement, as well as having established long term relations with Russia. It should be recalled that when Britain and Europe withdrew their bosom from the teary Nigeria during the civil war, Russia gave the helping hands that made Nigeria remain as an indivisible and united entity that she still is, today. With the current war however, Nigeria is one of the 154 countries that had condemned Russia’s action against Ukraine, and close to 150 Nigerians have signified their intentions at fighting on the side of Ukraine in the battle for survival. Nigeria is therefore being drawn, albeit subtly into being one of antagonists of Russia. If the dictum stands that the ‘friend of my enemy is my enemy’, still stands, then Nigeria is registering in Putin’s book of fiends. Global events would however, in years to come, determine if Nigeria is taking a step in the right direction or not. That would be a discussion for another day. Today, the focus of this article is on the implications of the ongoing war on Nigeria(ns).

The Federal Government of Nigeria in carrying out her responsibilities to her citizens has graciously set in motion the process of evacuating about 5,000 willing Nigerians who were stranded in Ukraine and neighbouring countries due to the war. To this end, and applaudable too, the government has approved $8.5million (about 4Billion Naira) for this exercise. But for the war, this huge amount of money could have been invested in other areas of the economy with more profitable dividends than this evacuation. For example, if this amount had been invested in the education sector, would there be need for education excursion of about 5,600 Nigerians as students in Ukrainian Universities? Unfortunately, depending on how long the war lasts, and the programmes of rebuilding Ukraine, many Nigerian students may not have the means of returning to complete their abandoned studies. The war has opened the eyes of the country to the enormous funds lost by Nigeria due to its dilapidated education institutions. The War therefore is a call to the Federal Government to invest in her education system, retain and sustain her citizens in these schools and reduce capital flights that could be used for developmental projects in the nation.  In addition to this, with Victor Moses’ Spartak Moscow coming under the sledgehammer of FIFA, and the various sanctions against Russia, remittances from Nigerian workers in Ukraine and Russia would suffer hit backs, thereby negatively affecting diaspora flows into Nigeria for domestic investments.

Ukraine and Russia are Nigeria’s leading exporters of vital commodities of high importance to Nigerians of all class levels. From Russia, Nigeria imported goods valued at N813.19 billion (3.7% of Nigeria’s total import) between January and September 2021 while she spent $156.08m on imports from Ukraine. These imports were made up of basic goods such as cereals, mineral fuel, oil distillation products, fertilizers, fish, iron and steel which are also vital to the nation’s economy.

The outright stoppage of these imports due to the sanctions against Russia and the bombardments against Ukraine would result into reduced supplies, higher demands and of course increases in the prices of the available goods.  Even if investors would seek alternatives in getting these goods, the price would of course increase leading to high costs of procurement in Nigeria and hence a tsunami of inflation.  Already, this is being witnessed in the oil sector. The disruption of oil supplies occasioned by the sanctions against Russia, being the second largest producer of oil globally has increased the crude oil price to about $102 USD per barrel. In the short run, Nigeria’s income from crude oil is expected to increase thereby giving the country more income.

However, this income is likely to grow wings due to corruption. like the Iraq $2.8billion oil windfall, and also the attendant increase in subsidy cost of diesel, kerosene, aviation fuel, gas and petrol. Hence Nigerians would have to pay more for these products and or be contented with long queues at the various dispensing points. More worrisome and given Nigeria’s stance on the war, the AjaokutaSteel Mill’s hope of resurrection is suspect, given the fact that Russia, the life blood donor is currently facing sanctions globally. If this war escalates, Nigeria may have to seek assistance elsewhere thus impeding the development of her automobile and manufacturing sector.

However, in every misfortune, fortune hides. Nigeria can as well take a cue from the likely effects of this war, and rise to become the giant it used to be. The focus of leadership would then be the weaning of the nation from the nipples of dependency. More than lip service, focused effort would be dedicated to the revamping, construction and revitalization of the moribund refineries.

This would help in reducing the volumes of imported crude oil derivatives as well as ensure the harvest of the nation’s gas for domestic use and exports. More than ever before the nation has to invest in her education sector with the focus on developing strategies and inventions that would enrich the nation’s human capital as well as her technology for development purposes.

The pursuit of local industries for the production of fertilisers, investments in fish production and high sea fishing as well as the increase in local wheat production has become indispensable. Given the price volatility  occasioned by the market forces of demand and supply, government may want to reconsider her ‘close-border’ policies so as to increase imports from neighbouring countries at reduced prices.

As the nation prepares for capital intensive projects of elections and census; the various agitations from unions; fuel crises and unending issues of insecurity, this Russian-Ukraine debacle has unfortunately increased the nation’s burdens. Nigeria would do well to put in place policies that would alleviate the attendant hardships this would have on her citizens so as to curb civil unrests and chaos in the political system. May the Russia-Ukraine war not escalate, and may it end sooner than expected.

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