Thu. Jul 25th, 2024

World Bank And IMF: In The Shadow Of Their Talons, By Owei Lakemfa

The American World Bank and the European International Monetary Fund (IMF) have, in the past few weeks, circled round Nigeria like vultures waiting for the prey to die.

The twin organisations have become more active and quite audacious since President Bola Ahmed Tinubu came to power on 29 May, 2023. They are like predators, ready for the kill.

While Nigerians are hungry and their anger is beginning to boil over to street protests due to the stifling economic policies of the Tinubu administration, these organisations are praising Tinubu to the high heavens and telling him to tighten the noose round the necks of the people.

Inflation is at 32 per cent. Fuel price increased from N238 per litre on Inauguration Day to N617-N700 presently, and the naira has dipped from a depth of about N700 to the dollar last year, to over N1,500 now. While these have resulted in devastating consequences, both institutions still tell Tinubu that he has not gone far enough.

In its Friday, 9 February statement, the IMF praised Tinubu for making “a strong start”. It further encouraged him to heavily tax hapless Nigerians as part of a so-called “ambitious domestic revenue mobilisation agenda.”

In the statement signed by its spokesperson, Julie Ziegler, the IMF, like a school master to an errant pupil, told Tinubu: “Fuel and electricity subsidies are costly, do not reach those that most need government support and should be phased out completely.” In other words, it is instructing him and his team to further increase the current prices of fuel and electricity.

The IMF also encouraged Tinubu to take more foreign loans because in its view: “Nigeria’s capacity to repay the Fund is adequate under the baseline.” As an incentive, it offered trade-offs “… between urgent humanitarian needs and debt service, including to the Fund.”

These IMF assessments and instructions tally with those of the World Bank. The latter’s Lead Economist for Nigeria, Alex Sienaert, had on Wednesday, 13 December, 2023, told Tinubu: “We think the price of petrol should be around N750 per litre more than the N650 per litre currently paid by Nigerians.”

So, why are the IMF and World Bank so callous and inhuman? It is simply because that is why they were set up in the first place; to exploit poor countries, degrade and destroy their production capacity, control their resources and destroy their education system so that they will be incapable of thinking. For instance, while the twin agencies are insistent on increasing the price of fuel, they do not encourage the local refining of fuel by an oil producing country like Nigeria. That will go against the belief they have instilled in the African people; that our role in the world is to produce raw materials, while their God-given role is to manufacture.

This is why apart from raising what Franz Fanon called ‘Black Skin, White Masks’ as elites, they also go for the jugular by destroying our education system and convincing generations of Nigerian governments that we do not need to know about our past. That was why until 2022, they banned the teaching of history in all Nigerian schools.

Surely, it is dangerous to allow slaves to be educated. But where it becomes inevitable, the bosses of the IMF and World Bank try to ensure that the education the former slave colonies receive, are uncritical, subservient, if not useless.

Let me tell you a verifiable story. The World Bank told African countries in the 1980s that they do not need universities; what they need is technical education to run a basic economy. So, it discouraged African countries from developing education by seeking to destroy the existing university education.

It got a listening ear in the Babangida military regime that thought learning is a danger to its dictatorship. The regime, which had accused academics in tertiary institutions of “teaching what they are not paid to teach”, agreed with the World Bank to stop funding university education.

So, both sides in 1987 signed an agreement for the World Bank to carry out a “restructuring exercise” of all federal universities in Nigeria, using a loan facility of $120-150 million.

Under the “Eligibility Criteria for Federal Universities,” the government accepted the conditionalities of the World Bank, which included the freezing of recruitment of all categories of staff, mandatory staff retrenchment, increase in tuition fees for remedial and non-degree students, cancelling remedial courses in the Arts and phasing out sub-degree programmes that are being offered in other tertiary institutions.

Other World Bank conditionalities accepted by the Nigerian government include eliminating post-graduate programmes in any department that had not yet graduated undergraduate students, phasing out any department that has been “in existence for more than ten years, but has less than 40 full time equivalent undergraduate students,” and phasing out any department that has been “in existence for more than ten years, and has less than two thirds of the normally required academic staff.”

The World Bank also demanded the commercialisation of facilities, which may include classrooms and lecture theatres, and that the procurement of 60 per cent equipment by the universities “shall be in accordance with standard specifications and approved manufacturers“ of the bank. To cap these, the bank demanded that it must scrutinise all the curricular of the universities and that there must be the mandatory importation of expatriate staff, whose salaries are to be heavily topped.

The bank and the conniving Babangida regime agreed that Nigerian universities must meet all the conditionalities between June 1990 and June 1994. All these were published by the World Bank under its “Progress Report on the World Bank-Federal Universities Adjustment Operation.”

The country was saved the implementation of this destructive agreement due to mass protests by the media, professional associations, academics and students. In its desperate attempt to implement this World Bank gambit, the Babangida regime shut down many campuses and shot four students of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.

This slavish project was buried when in the bloody 22 April, 1990 aborted coup speech, Major Gideon Orkar gave one of the reasons for the coup as: “The cowing of the university teaching and non-teaching staff by an intended massive purge, using the 150 million dollar loan as the necessitating factor.”

The twin institutions, which exercise power without responsibility, are predatory birds, and as the 1969 title of James Hardley Chase novel asserts: “The Vulture is a Patient Bird.”

The World Bank and IMF remind me of ‘The Vultures’ a poem by David Diop in which he wrote: “In those days, When civilisation kicked us in the face, When holy water slapped our cringing brows, The vultures built in the shadow of their talons, The blood-stained monument of tutelage.”

Owei Lakemfa, a former secretary general of African workers, is a human rights activist, journalist and author.

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