New Poll: Spend Abacha Loot on Jobs, Power and Healthcare

Abuja, Nigeria. July 10th, 2018 – In a new public opinion poll conducted by NOIPolls, Nigerians have urged the President, Muhammadu Buhari to spend the recently recovered $322 million Abacha loot on job creation, improving electricity supply, boosting healthcare and building new roads. These were the top four recommendations proffered by Nigerians in the poll which sought the opinions of Nigerians on the awareness of the recently recovered Abacha loot and what the funds received should be spent on. Interestingly, the proposed plan of the federal government to share the recovered funds to the poorest of the poor in the society came 5th on the line of suggestions, thereby indicating that Nigerians consider Jobs, Electricity and Healthcare as top priorities calling for urgent attention. 

Following the news of the recently repatriated $322 million from the Government of Switzerland and plans by the Federal Government of Nigeria to expend the funds on its Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Social Investment Programme target poor and vulnerable citizens; there have been mixed reactions in the media and social space. In this regard, NOIPolls, the nation’s barometer conducted a poll to feel the pulse of Nigerians on the issue. 

The poll was conducted between the 2nd and 6th of July 2018, with 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians interviewed across the country; and representing the 6 geo-political zones. Firstly, the poll sought to assess the level of awareness of Nigerians on the recently recovered $322 Million, fondly referred to as Abacha Loot. It was found that 8 in 10 Nigerians (80 percent) said they are aware of the recently recovered Abacha Loot, leaving only 20 percent who are unaware.

Interestingly, the data revealed that more Men (84 percent) than Women (75 percent), and respondents above 36 years of age (82 percent) said they are aware of the recovered loot; while respondents in the North-East (89 percent) and South-West (85 percent) geopolitical zones seem to be more aware of the news of the recovered loot.

The second key question sought the opinion of Nigerians on how the repatriated Abacha Loot should be spent. From the results of the poll, about a third (30 percent) of Nigerians interviewed were of the opinion that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari should use the funds to create employment opportunities in the country. This is not surprising, given the current youth bulge experienced in the country and the level of unemployment, particularly amongst young people aged between 18 and 35 years. This was followed by 20 percent who suggested that government should expend the recovered funds on improving the power supply in the country; while another 20 percent suggest that government should build hospitals and improve healthcare in the country. These are also linked to job creation and enhancing human capital development in the country, as it has been argued that when the people have access to electricity, they would be able to create their own jobs; and when the people have good healthcare it would improve their life expectancy, and ultimately their capacity to contribute to developing the country. In addition, 15 percent were of the opinion that part of the recovered funds should be channeled to building new roads and rail links across the country; with 10 percent suggesting that the funds be shared amongst the poorest Nigerians. It is instructive to note that the proposal of the Federal Government to share the recovered funds to poor Nigerians came 5th on the list of what Nigerians consider top priorities to be handled by the government.

Further analysis from the data revealed varoius priorities across the six geo-political zones on how the funds should be spent. For instance, Nigerians residing in the South-West (30 percent), South-South (30 percent) and South-East (30 percent) regions want the Federal Government to create employment opportunities with the recovered funds. This is not surprising given the population density and unemployment rate in these regions. Similarly, respondents in the South-East (27 percent) and South-West (24 percent) clamour for improved power supply. Again, these are regions that hold the industrial base of the country, and would require stable power supply to drive the country’s industrial capacity. In the same vein, those residing in the North-West zone (25 percent) would like the funds to be used to build hospitals and improve healthcare; while those in the North-East (15 percent) want the funds to be invested in agriculture given the land mass and agricultural resources available in the region.

The third key question sought the opinions of Nigerians on what needs to be done to prevent further outrageous looting of public funds in Nigeria. Interestingly, the findings demonstrate the level of anger expressed by Nigerians, particularly on the issue of corruption and the need to totally prevent recurrence of looting. A third of the respondents recommended life imprisonment for offenders (30 percent); followed by 25 percent who were of the opinion that death penalty be introduced and 20 percent who said offenders should be punished severely amongst other measures.

In conclusion, this new poll has clearly revealed what Nigerians consider their topmost priorities and how they believe the government should spend the recovered Abacha Loot. In their opinion, government should spend the recovered funds in this order: (1) promoting job creation, (2) improving electricity supply, (3) enhancing healthcare access and universal healthcare coverage for all Nigerians, and (4) improving the state of Nigerian roads and rail infrastrcuture, and (5) sharing some money to the poorest of the poor Nigerians, amongst others. 

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate rose from 14.2 percent to 18.8 percent in 2017, indicating an increase of additional 1.2 million in Nigeria’s unemployed labour population.[1] Unemployment remains a crucial issue facing the country, and the message from this poll is crystal clear. There’s need for government to: direct significant amount of funds to development projects with the capacity to create large number of jobs for the teeming unemployed youths (such as the revamping of Ajaokuta Steel); work towards improving the enabling environment to enhance increased productivity within the private sector; and support programmes aimed at promoting entrepreneurship development amongst young Nigerians. For instance, funds ought to be directed to social investment programmes such as the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP) and YouWin which does not only support young entrepreneurs to start their businesses, but also gives them the opportunity to become employers of labour. 

Finally, a significant proportion of Nigerians have advocated for life imprisonment and death sentence for looters of public funds amongst other punitive measures. It is therefore imperative that the Federal Government needs to step up its fight against corruption, and work towards plugging all the loopholes to avoid recurrence of diversion of public funds into private accounts. 

About NOIPolls & the Poll Methodology

NOIPolls is Nigeria’s premier public opinion polling institution, which conducts periodic opinion polls and studies on various socio-economic and political issues in Nigeria. More information is available at www.noi-polls.com. 

The poll was conducted between July 2nd and July 6th, 2018. It involved telephone interviews of a random nationwide sample. 1,000 randomly selected phone-owning Nigerians aged 18 years and above, representing the six geopolitical zones in the country, were interviewed. With a sample of this size, we can say with 95% confidence that the results obtained are statistically precise - within a range of plus or minus 3%. Of the 1,000 completed interviews, 51 percent were male and 49 percent female respondents. Samples for the poll were selected randomly for the 36 states and the FCT in representation of geo-political zone’s population – North-Central (15 percent), North-East (14 percent), North-West (24 percent), South-East (12 percent), South-South (15 percent) and South-West (20 percent). Also, 43 percent of respondents were aged between 18 and 35 years; 53 percent between 36 and 60 years; and 4 percent above 61 years. In terms of employment status of respondents, top 6 respondents are: Self-employed traders (32 percent), Civil servants (20 percent), Unemployed young people (9 percent), Artisans (9 percent), Students (8 percent) Professional workers (8 percent).

[1] https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/12/nigerias-unemployment-rate-rises-14-2-18-8/