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Between the Almajiri problem and the high divorce rates in northern Nigeria

The current social crisis in Northern Nigeria continues to be a major concern in the region and an impediment to its development and progress. The incessant ethno religious conflicts and the Boko Haram menace have had negative effects on the implementation of policies that can move the region forward, but these tend to cloud two other serious social problems that require attention. While one of them is currently being addressed, the other is still not being given the full attention it deserves. The first is the scourge of almajiris created by the Islamic education system in the north. The system produces these almajiris that are street urchins who throng the streets of the major northern cities (and other urban areas in the country) begging. Their numbers have swelled over the last decade andImage they have been used as fodder for the mobs during ethno religious conflicts. The second is the high incidence of divorce in the Muslim north that needs to be addressed.

The nineteen states in the north have had little success in containing the problem of the almajiris, facing strong resistance from Muslim clerics in the more traditional Muslim states of the north against any policy that is seen to restrict the operations of Islamic schools that are the source of these almajiris. Recently, the Federal Government of President Jonathan Goodluck in order to tackle the problem enacted the Almajiri Education Programme that will provide boarding schools focused on educating them and thus removing them from the streets. There have been some negative comments regarding this policy with the Anglican Archbishop of Zaria Diocese stating that the introduction of this policy is divisive because it focuses on education for just one religious section of the country. This argument is weak because there are currently many schools in the country that serve only one faith, with quite a number of them based on the Christian faith. Another argument is that funding these special schools diverts funds from the Universal Basic Education scheme (UBE), which could have been expanded to accommodate them. This is a more reasonable argument, as expansion of the UBE scheme could have still provided the almajiris access to education. Tied to this is the non-compliance of the current UBE laws by parents that mandates them to send their children to school even under the threat of imprisonment. So unless government can ensure parents abide by the laws, the current programme might end up being just as ineffective as the UBE programme is in some northern states. Also, while the establishment of these schools might tackle the immediate problem of the current crop of almajiris, there is still a possibility that this will not solve the problem if the pipeline that produces them is not checked.

The second problem that needs to be addressed is the high divorce rates in the region because of the negative effect it has on women and the children. Muslims who form the majority of the population of the north are permitted to marry more than one wife and it is estimated that over one third of most marriages in the three northern zones of the country are polygamous in nature (see table I), with 38% of those in rural areas and 22% of those in urban areas in polygamous marriages. It is ironic that even though these three zones have the lowest income levels and thehighest number of the unemployed, the DHS data for 2008 shows that polygamous marriages are more likely to be found in these zones. (see table below).

Table I

table

 

 

The fact that poorer families are more likely to be polygamous and the lack of a social security system to cater for children create social problems where children are kept out of school so that they can hawk or beg to help their families out. Some of these children also form part of the numerous almajiris found in the urban areas because, due to the inability of their parents to take care of them they are they are shipped off to Islamic schools in far away places where they end up begging on the streets.  So how do we address this issue?

One way is to revisit the marriage laws in the country particularly those that pertain to Muslim and customary marriages. But will changes in the marriage laws especially as regards polygamous marriage and registration of all marriages help to check this problem?

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Nigeria has a large Muslim population that is estimated to be 50% of the country’s population of 160 Million, with a large proportion of this in the northern region. The country has a three-tier legal system that has the civil, Islamic and customary laws, with Muslims in many of the states in the northern region operating the sharia’a legal system. Men tend to abuse their rights under Islamic law especially in terms of divorce and provision of maintenance to the wife and any kids after divorce putting a huge burden on women. The right of men to marry up to a maximum of four wives under Islamic law allows them to see this as a free pass even when they are incapable of adequately providing for the expanded families. Also with no provision for marriage contracts, women enter these unions without anything to fall back on in case of its dissolution.

In 1970 the Nigerian government enacted the Matrimonial Causes Act as a way of addressing the differences in dissolution of marriages under the three separate laws in operation in the country. This is similar to the attempts by Pakistan in 1961, and the sahel countries of west Africa, namely Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Mali to streamline the differences between the civil laws as introduced by the French colonialist and Islamic and traditional customary laws that had been in existence prior to their arrival. The issues that these countries tried to address focused on the registration of marriages, what is required if a man wants to take a second, third of fourth wife and the manner of dissolution of marriages under the Islamic system.

The current situation in Nigeria is that many Muslim marriages are not registered and there are no marriage contracts. Also the man does not have to get his wife’s permission nor have to inform the authorities of his desire to take a second wife, which differs in many other Muslim dominated countries where there are certain requirements before a man can get married or take another wife. In a publication ‘Knowing Our Rights: Women, family, laws and customs in the Muslim world’ by Women Living Under Muslim Laws, it noted that in Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco and Pakistan a husband is required to obtain the permission of a governmental authority, court or quasi-judicial body, or other forum to contract a polygynous marriage’ while in Morocco it is required that ‘the court consults both the existing and proposed wives before the proposed marriage can go ahead’. The husband must also show that he can provide equitable treatment in terms of economic support. (though some want it to go further by taking the sexual and emotional needs of women into consideration).

Unfortunately, as stated, the current situation in marriages conducted under Sharia law in northern Nigeria does not take a lot of these into consideration especially regarding marriage registration and contracts. Men also divorce their wives by abusing the talaq, which is the pronouncement of divorce that a man makes when he wants to dissolve his marriage. They abuse this by making the pronouncement three times at once, giving no room for reconciliation, and can then simply get married again, starting the cycle once again. BOABAB which is a not for profit, non governmental organisation that focuses on women’s legal rights that examines their rights under the three legal systems operational in Nigeria, in a paper on the validity of divorce under the sharia, noted the following conditions for a valid talaq;

1. The husband must
(a) be an adult
(b) be sane
(c) not acting under any sort of coercion (external pressure).

2. The woman must be in a ‘state of purity’ (free from menstrual blood and the blood of child birth)


3. There should be no cohabitation between the two after being ‘clean’


4. He should not give it more than once; that is, it should be pronounced in a manner leaving room for reconciliation. This is known as Talaq Raj’i.

5. He should not give another divorce within the time of the three months awaiting period.

6. The intention to divorce must be clear. Intention can be shown by speaking, clear signs or writing.


7. Each statement of divorce must have at least two witnesses


8. The divorce that is pronounced once or twice is a revocable divorce.

This is known as Bid’i.

(a) This means that if the husband and wife decide to reconcile before the end of the waiting period (iddah) they may do so.

(b) But, if they mutually reconcile after the end of the waiting period, they must go through another marriage contract. This is known as talaq ba’in bainuna sugra.

9. A divorce that is given three times is irrevocable. This is known as talaq ba’in kubra. A talaq ba’in kubra means that the husband and wife cannot reconcile and be married again, after the wife has been married to and divorced from another man. This should not be a marriage done for the purpose of being able to remarry with the former husband.

A lot of divorces do not follow these conditions. The high divorce rate also comes with two notable negative side effects. Firstly, in terms of the provision of upkeep for the children borne out of the union, while Islamic law mandates that the man must make adequate provision for this, many men do not meet this obligation, making it difficult for the women to maintain the children after the divorce. Secondly women are sometimes restricted from having custody of the children causing them psychological trauma and they usually have no recourse for justice. It is obvious that changes need to be made in the enforcement of the Islamic marriage system. There must be some form of control that ensures that men that want to take more wives must show that they are able to provide for the increased family size, marriages must also be registered so that there can be a way to monitor abuses in the system. Men must also be penalized when they do not provide for their children; they must register these children at birth and must not be allowed them to send them outside the towns where their parents live under the pretext of sending them off for Islamic education.

Kano state has taken an initiative to address this issue by sponsoring the recent mass marriage of divorced and widowed women. There has been criticism from some quarters, with some arguing that the women would have been better off being empowered so that they can be self sufficient. But would they? Given that there was no compulsion in the marriages, it can be argued that women using their own agency took this decision to partake in this arrangement and if they had wanted something else they would not have taken part in the process. The fact that the government also ensured that marriage contracts were in place would ensure that both parties are aware of their rights in the marriage and should reduce the abuse that has become common in many marriages especially with regards to dissolution of marriages and the rights of women.

It is important that efforts are made to address these two social issues and while the federal government has started the process, the states in the north must take the initiative like Kano state did and be more proactive in how they approach these issues; government is tasked with enacting policies even those that seem unpopular in the best interest of the majority and they must not allow themselves to be blackmailed into not doing the right thing.

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Ethnicity as a fodder for Corruption

Reading Michela Wrong’s book, ‘It’s Our Turn To Eat’ that chronicles the efforts made by John Githongo to rid Kenya of its massive grand corruption and the obstacles he faced on this idealistic and noble task, what struck me were the parallels between Kenya and Nigeria (maybe indicative of most sub Saharan African countries). Nigeria like Kenya is plagued by massive Imagecorruption that is eating at the fabric of the nation, making it difficult for it to provide what we in Nigeria call the dividends of democracy. Large sums of money that can provide very basic services like health and education to the poor of these countries are siphoned off by the people in power through fraudulent schemes that divert much needed funds to the pockets of a few. Welcome to grand corruption. Ethnic divides that makes it difficult for them to develop also plague both countries.

It leads me to think that there seems to be a link between corruption and ethnicity, whereby groups in multiethnic societies tend to turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of their ‘own people’, defending the indefensible as seen with the protests against the House of Representatives oil subsidy report. This is not new in Nigeria, where in every state when an issue goes against those in power we have cases of ‘rent-a-crowds’ where groups are mobilized either on ethnic or communal grounds to support their son or daughter. This is now a common practice in Nigeria where ethnic and religious divides fragment the country and loyalties are more to these groups rather than to the nation. In her book, Wrong noted that Kenyans when dealing with corruption in the system, were ‘playing the system with verve’ complaining about it but using it when it suited them. She wondered ‘which of them could put their hand on their heart and swear that they never relied on a ‘brother’ for a bargain, a professional recommendation or a job’? This same question can be asked of the average Nigerian and I am sure a majority of them cannot say they never did. And as long as thisImage practices continue, the next generation of Nigerians will grow up seeing this as the norm, a loyalty first to the community rather than the nation.

This lack of a national allegiance further erodes any sense of unity that the country tries to forge, any sense of a national identity or citizenship. Sociologist Peter Ekeh writing in 1975 identified this problem in many African countries was as a result of what he called the existence of two realms, the ‘primordial’ public and the ‘civic’ public. These two realms were seen to have emerged during the colonial period and unlike the west where the private and public realms have a ‘common moral foundation’; this is not the case in African countries, where while the primordial public operates on the same moral imperatives as the private realm, the civic public is amoral.  In these countries there was an inability of citizens to restrict themselves to the boundaries between the two realms and individuals tend to have a stronger affinity to the primordial public, which he notes is closely linked to ‘primordial groupings, sentiments and activities, which nevertheless impinge on the public interest’

So if this type of dual allegiance exists in countries with weak national identities or sense of national citizenship, should we then expect that institutions will not be able to manage corruption cases due to the institutions being weakened by ethnic divisions that redefines any sense of justice, equality and fairness to mean that which is determined by the ethnic or communal social group that holds power. Wrong further noted in her book that many Kenyans do appreciate the effect corruption has on the country; with one of them noting that ‘I hope people come to associate tribalism with corruption and throw it out completely’.  However she does note that even though they are aware of this, many of them will end up doing nothing about it. This is similar to the Nigerian situation, where even though Nigerians are aware of how endemic corruption is in the country, pervading every facet of the social, economic and political fabric of the nation, they also do nothing about it. The leaders churn out all kinds of rhetoric, talking about how there will be no sacred cows and every one caught in such acts will be made accountable, but it becomes all too obvious that they are just providing sound bites and are so morally bankrupt themselves that they cannot fight this battle.

So if corruption is so deeply ingrained in the national way, with Nigeria being identified by how corrupt it is, how can we change things or better still, should we not be looking for other ways of tackling this problem? The country currently has several agencies to tackle this problem and these include, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), the Code of Conduct Bureau and the Nigeria Police Force fraud squad, however little headway has been made, rather like the mythical Hydra, as one head is severed two more appear, more deadly than the previous and more difficult to overcome.  The Stephen Osagiede Oronsaye committee set up by the Federal Government to look at ways of reorganizing government agencies has recommended that the EFCC and the ICPC should both be scrapped, with the task of combating corruption being handled by the Police Force’s anti fraud unit. While there is sense in downsizing government, and we must admit that the two agencies currently tasked with fighting corruption have done poorly and in some cases have become part of the very scourge they have been mandated to fight, leaving the task of combating corruption to the police force fraud unit is akin to putting a bleeding person in a shark infested pool. The Police force is probably the most corrupt institution in Nigeria (I know the customs are pretty bad too but they don’t have as much contact with the citizenry) and giving them the task to fight an evil that they are a part of is just going to worsen the situation.   

So how can this problem be tackled? I like many Nigerians probably don’t have the answer, we are stumped by how, rather than getting an upper hand in fighting corruption, the Nigerian authority seems to be losing the battle with the citizens seeing its inability in tackling the problem as an indication of how government itself now epitomizes all that corruption stands for. While institutions do matter in this fight, combating corruption in Nigeria might be more effective once the rule of law is respected. The more effective the courts are in prosecuting those found to have corruptly enriched themselves and the appropriate punishment is meted out, the quicker there will be a decline in the number of such cases. But if Nigerians still believe that if they steal enough, they can use their ethnic networks and the system through the courts to keep themselves from facing any kind of long-term incarceration then the problem will persist. Punishments must be seen to fit the crime and if we think corruption has a very negative effect on the country then we must ensure that the punishment is harsh. Remember that in China, because of how debilitating corrupt practices are viewed, corrupt officials face the firing squad and so we must ensure that the punishment for these crimes are severe enough to act as a deterrent, only then can we hope to get a stranglehold on the problem. We must also move away from the ethnic and religious sentiments that hamper the effectiveness of the institutions so as to ensure the rule of law is respected and this can only be done by a massive reeducation of the Nigerian population.

Where are the Northern Voices?

Where are the Northern Voices?.

When will I become an Indigene?

It seems that the different ethnic groups in Jos have remained in the past, a past that seems to resonant with memories of the wars that were fought, won and lost. These old animosities seem to be the driving force for the social interactions of the different ethnic groups in the state. These interactions are based on competition for both economic and political spoils that are dwindling in the Nigerian state and are what have led to the tensions and conflicts that continue to endure in the state.

Why does the past remain important for these ethnic groups and why has the Nigerian state been unable to move them away from the past into the future where Nigeria needs to be heading, a future that has promised so much and for some reason has remained unfulfilled?
The very structure of the Nigerian state is one that has been bedeviled with tensions since its creation. These tensions were based on the competition for resources, which is natural in every human society and through every social interaction. The Nigerian case is such that, as different social groups competed for resources and as these resources dwindled, the intensity of the competition increased proportionately.
Political elites seeing this realised the need to increase their stakes and sought new avenues or platforms to use to extend their push for the political and economic resources in the country. The two obvious platforms were those of ethnicity and religion. However it must be noted that these two platforms are never necessarily conflictual, rather they are made so by those with their own agenda. What is surprising is that it is hard to understand why individuals partake in these conflicts when their leaders ask them to? Is it because these figures of authority paint a picture of us vs. them, where the them are the enemies that are trying to take what is theirs or what should be theirs.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian state’s attempts at creating a sense of national unity or identity through provisions in the constitution seem to have only helped in exacerbating the situation. This was further compounded with the return of democracy where new spaces were created for various groups to demand for their rights leading to increased tensions and sometimes violent conflict.
The 2001 Jos riots were based on the fight for political power between the indigenes and settlers, a question that the Nigerian constitution has been unable to address. The 1979 constitution introduced the notion of indigenes and settlers into the country’s dynamics and along with the federal character principle helped in ensuring that it remained there by dividing the spoils of politics based on state of origin. 
While the introduction of this notion was probably made with the best of intentions to ensure that minority groups had access to political and economic power, those that fought against its entrenchment in the constitution realised the risk of maintaining ethnic, sectional and regional partitions as a platform for the division of any benefits from the state.  These fears seem to now have been confirmed with the continuous use of ethnic and religious differences for the zoning of political and economic power. These identity boundaries have been created and bringing them down might remain one of the hardest tasks for the Nigerian nation.
The issue regarding the indigene and settler dichotomy is such that while the constitution gives criteria for what defines an indigene or a settler, it does not give room for the possibility of a settler ever becoming an indigene. This means that Nigerians must forever remain citizens of their states, only getting access to minimal services in other states. This ensures that there can never be a Nigerian citizen, because it can be argued that a Nigerian citizen cannot exist in the true sense of the word, only citizens of states that make up Nigeria.  This of course is why the Jos crisis remains where it currently is, a continuous fight between the indigenes and the settlers, settlers who will never become citizens of Plateau state, but have no ties to where they originally came from, having spent all their lives in Jos.
Philip Ostein in his look at Jos crisis and Nigeria’s indigene/settler problem notes that ‘every Nigerian has the full rights of indigenes in one small locality, one ethnic enclave, and only the more partial rights of citizenship in every other place’.  This remains one of the main problems in the country and continues to be exacerbated.
Even with all of that, the question is why does Jos remain one of the areas where this problem seems to have no hope of being resolved? Though there are cases of other communal clashes between the Tiv and Jukuns in Benue state and other inter-ethnic conflicts all around the country, they have not had the frequency and sustainability that is being seen in Jos.
Some writers have argued that the Jos crisis remains as it is because of the lack of impartiality by the state government. The argument is that the state government has managed to sustain the ethnic identity divisions ensuring that one group was always seen as the antagonist. The ability of the state to institutionalize the settler/indigene dichotomy ensures that so-called settler in Jos will never have peace and the conflict will never abate. Or else what other reason is there to explain why Kaduna has remained relatively peaceful while Jos remains a keg ready to explode.
The media who have painted a picture of the settlers as the instigators of all the conflict in the once peaceful area without seeking to understand the root of the crisis and trying to remain impartial in their reporting also sustains the identity dichotomy. The media remain the bastion of hope for many all over the world, however in Nigeria, the media only manages to fire up sentiments and help sustain this ‘us’ and ‘them’ divisions. In many countries around the world the media is held accountable when the information they pass on stirs up sentiments and results in conflicts but this is not the case in Nigeria, rather the Nigerian press are allowed to play to the gallery of their readers. 
A look at the on-line editions of Nigeria newspapers carry comments from hatemongers that further espouse ethnic and religious hatred to sections of the country, all the time shouting for the division of the country so as to remove the cancerous part, which in this case is the Muslim north.  These comments ideally should not be published, because while freedom of speech is good, words that instigate divisions and stir up tensions should be avoided. These comments tend to sustain the identity of a north that is poor, backward, uneducated and living on Islamic ideals that are backward, repressive and militant. The media needs to have a moral obligation to ensure that comments that fuel division are not published.
While it is easy to demand for the division of the country, it might not be so easy to achieve. While we might not like each other much, we have managed it for over 50 years and living together might actually be simpler than living apart. Nigerians need to find a meeting point where we move away from the past and try to create a future that is more peaceful and tolerating.

Of Fuel, State of Emergency and the other things that really matter…

Most Nigerians will usually speak about their country with a sigh of resignation, the giant of Africa almost on its knees due to a combination of corruption and poor governance. We all know what the problems are, but we have lacked a zeal to take our future in our own hands, rather leaving it for the vast number of political charlatans who while claiming to be fighting for the average Nigerian, have constantly shown us that they do not have our best interests at heart.

It is due to this lackadaisical attitude that we find ourselves where we are today. The current situation can be traced to the April 2011 elections that provided the basis for the increased level of disunity in the country. The elections touted to be one of the freest and fairest that the country has witnessed in a long time, saw voting split across religious and ethnic lines. This should have been a sign that something was very wrong in our country, but the ruling elites continued to understate the level of discontent in the country, seeing the opposition as mere sore losers that were planning to tear the country apart because they lost. This became the popular sound bytes emanating from them and their cohorts. The violence that followed after the elections were seen as a further justification of the opposition’s unwillingness to accept defeat. However the Sheikh Lemu committee set up to investigate the post election violence when submitting its report noted that ‘General insecurity of life and property in people’s houses and on the highways and kidnapping are adding fuel to the fire of public frustration and disappointment’. Even with this warning the government did little or nothing, with the level of insecurity increasing at a rapid pace since then. The bombings, kidnappings, armed robberies continued unchecked, with government’s attempts at curbing these incidences limited to the erection of roadblocks in and out of major cities, that only managed to inconvenience travellers more than anything else. The so called terrorists still managed to import their weapons of destruction whenever and wherever they chose and all the time the security agencies kept telling us they are on top of things.

So why this attitude by the government? I believe that like with all other crisis, the current level of insecurity is an opportunity for someone (or somepersons) to benefit at our expense. The high allocation to the security vote is indicative of that, contracts for cctv cameras have been awarded in Abuja, even though there is no database to check whoever is captured on these cameras. The Federal Government finally declared a state of emergency in some Local governments to check the menace of the bombings, however this assumes that the agents of these violent acts are only in these local governments. The timing of this declaration seems suspicious now, when the day after that the announcement the government through the PPRA proceeded to remove the so called subsidy on petroleum subsidies resulting in an increase in pump price of PMS by 120%. Nigerians have risen up in arms to protest this injustice to the Nigerians that have benefitted litte in terms of the so called dividends of democracy. But even with these protest, what I imagine is that the government will negotiate with the ‘stakeholders’ and reduce the price by a token amount that will appease Nigerians. It has happened before and will probably happen again.

Boko Haram has now been ‘mainstreamed’ as the bringer of all things bad in this country and it is a convenient culprit for the security agencies to blame for every insecurity in the country, enabling them to sit on their huge security votes while doing nothing and Nigerians are killed. Nigeria adopts everything foreign except ideals like accountability and integrity. In every developed country, the Inspector General of Police, the Head of the SSS and any other security official responsible for curbing the insecurity in the country would have resigned, but in Nigeria Accountability remains an elusive ideal. 

So we are on the streets trying to recreate the Arab spring, but we are nothing like the countries that we are trying to imitate. We are a country ravaged by the twin sores of ethnicity and religious divide, that we have seemingly been unable to overcome. These differences have become more obvious since the return to democracy in 1999 and the competition for resources has increased. The Political elites have opened the pandoras box that is ethnicity and religion and unfortunately they do not realise that these twin evils have a life of their own and cannot be controlled as they please. But maybe that is the plan, while they claim that the Nigerian state is non negotiable, they do everything to ensure that it heads towards just that. Or else why would one of the President’s aides send out a text saying that the North should stop complaining and start creating wealth, while the demonization of the north in the media continues to inflame the divide between the different regions in the country. What we are thus heading towards is a fragmented entity where each fragment believes it is better off than the other (or at lest the south believes it is better off without the north). This is seemingly a simple way out and rather than solve the ills of the country why not break it up. An while many believe that this is the best way out of this quagmire we find ourselves, is it really the best option? It would be interesting if there is a general consensus to break the country apart, maybe the reality of it actually happening might bring us to our senses.

So what hope is there for Nigeria? For the eternal optimist, there is hope, for the realist, the future looks very bleak and until those that feel the pinch the most discard their garbs of ethnicity and religion and see that we are all suffering due to poor governance irrespective of our religion and ethnicity and demand that our rights be returned to us, we will continue to be played around by those that keep benefiting from our divisions. They are the real ethnic group, a group of rogues and scoundrels that are bound together by the illicit nature of their activities rather than any long term bond of friendship or community.

Half Baked Graduates as Development Drivers

When development is mentioned, education is seen as one of the fastest ways to ensure rapid development. The argument is that education empowers the people, providing them with skills that allow them to contribute their quota to the development of the country. However the education sector in Nigeria has not managed to have that expected effect, with many commentators highlighting the deplorable state of the Nigerian educational system at every level be it primary, secondary or tertiary. 
This article is concerned with the problems at the tertiary level but realizes that these problems begin from the lower levels of education. Poor standards at the primary level translate to every other level of the educational sector with the end result being that the quality of the graduates from the universities falling well below what can be deemed acceptable. There have been stories of how university graduates have stunned interview panels with the poor knowledge of their chosen fields, very poor command of English and their inability to express themselves. This is a situation that did not happen overnight and shows the neglect of the sector by the governments at every level. 
Obiageli Ezekwesili currently a Vice President at the World Bank who was a minister of Education under Olusegun Obasanjo lamented in a recent interview (Daily Trust March 222, 2012) about the state of the Nigerian education system. Her interview came days before the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) was due to hold its annual examinations for entrance into Nigerian universities. Ezekwesili in the interview noted that during her time as education Minister she found that the quality of secondary education on a scale of 1-10 (1-lowest; 10-highest) was a 2 and this does not say well for the quality of education in that sector. It must be noted that this has not been disaggregated and if that is done we might see different trends in different parts of the country.
The poor quality of secondary school education then translates to a low number of applicants able to gain admission into the universities. But this is not the whole story, while the numbers of those gaining admission is low, the quality of those getting in is below standard too. This is because the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) is forced to keep the cut off mark for admissions into universities at below the average mark of 200 points. With this below than average cut off mark it means that we are accepting a number of educationally deficient students into the universities. The reason for the lower than average cut off mark is said to be due to the insistence of the northern states that the cut off mark be below the average mark of 200 points so as not to disenfranchise a lot of northern candidates. This unfortunately is a poor attitude to take because it promotes mediocrity and ensures that the north remains lagging behind in the standard of education when compared to other parts of the country. What the northern states should be doing instead is ensuring that the quality of secondary education in the region is raised to a level that allows the students that emerge from there to be competitive. 
That is only one of the many problems that affect the quality of Nigerian university graduates. A second problem is that even with this low cut off mark, the numbers getting admissions into the universities is far above what the infrastructure in terms of physical and human resources can accommodate. We have situations where there are as much as 200 students taking some courses which is far above what one lecturer can manage. This leads to difficulties in passing on any kind of knowledge to many of the students. In order to address this issue the Federal government has established more universities to allow for fewer numbers in the more established federal universities. However, the Federal Government through the Secretary to the Government of the Federal (SGF) has just stated that the federal government can no longer be solely responsible for funding of these universities. So why did the government establish them when it knew that it could not fund the older ones in the first instance? 
In terms of human resources in these universities, the quality of lecturers seems to be as bad as the quality of the students being admitted. Lecturers seem to be more interested in how much money they can make off their students through the sale of handouts and the collection of money to pass students rather than being concerned with passing on knowledge to them thus affecting the quality of the graduates from the universities.
It is obvious that the problem in the Nigerian educational sector is one that needs serious attention, however every arm of government from the local, state and federal governments seems more preoccupied with paying lip service to the problems in the sector rather than providing any long term solutions to addressing the issues. Quick fix and short term solutions in the sector will be like using a Band-Aid for a leaky dam, inevitably the leak will get bigger and that is obviously the way the Nigerian educational sector is being treated. We must appreciate that the solutions to the problem in the sector must be seen as a long-term project that must begin from the lower levels so as to ensure that students are provided with very solid foundations as they progress through every education level. If this is not done, then the country will have to rely on poorly educated graduates as the drivers on the long road towards development.  

A Failing Giant

Nigerians live in a world where they believe their nation is a great nation, the so-called giant of Africa. But sadly this is not the case, Nigeria is not a giant, it is a state that has lost its focus (if it ever had on), a nation that can be said to have failed or is failing. Such nations are those that are unable to provide amongst other things; internal security; social services like education and health services; when the state loses legitimacy in the eyes of its citizenry and when they are unable to relate with other nations. While the issue of if and when a state can be considered as failing or failed still generates controversy amongst scholars and states falling into these categories, the concept is still relevant in examining the effect these weaknesses have on the citizens of a nation.
Interestingly even with all the self belief of how great a nation Nigerians think their country is, since 2007 Nigeria has consistently found itself amongst the top 20 in the list of failed states meeting some if not all the criteria of a failed nation. An article by Ned Parker in Foreign Affairs  describing Iraq mirrors the current appearance of the Nigerian nation. He stated that ‘the Iraqi state cannot provide basic services, including regular electricity in summer, clean water, and decent health care’. This is Nigeria at the moment and coupled with the level of insecurity, it is looking more and more like a failed or failing state. The problem is that Nigerian rulers still live in a state of disconnect from reality, refusing to acknowledge the level of decay in the Nigerian state. They spew out propaganda backed by figures that show that the Nigerian state is said to be one of the fastest growing economies on the African continent with the possibility of surpassing South Africa as Africa’s leading economy in the very near future. This is of course meant to counter the statistics that state otherwise. Recent figures released by the country’s National Board of statistics NBS show that Nigeria is behind on every development indicator and will not meet nor come close to meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) by 2015; Maternal and infant mortality are high, health services are generally unavailable and where they exist are poor, education levels are low (quality is even lower) corruption is rife, unemployment levels are high especially amongst the youth, poverty levels are alarmingly high with inequality widening and as stated insecurity is high with armed robberies, ethnic and religious clashes and the new threat of terror bombings now regular occurrences in the Nigerian state. 
The issue of the provision of security ranks high as the responsibility of the government of any nation state and when the situation is such that the state cannot provide this, it then spirals towards a state of anarchy. Rotberg writing in 2003 on failed states notes that in a country, ‘satisfying the security good weighs very heavily and high levels of internal violence are associated with failure and the propensity to fail’ . This can be seen in Nigeria by the gradual loss of territorial control by the state security services in parts of the north and south-south and even though the state keeps insisting that it has control of the situation, the evidence on the ground seems to contradict this. The state has tried to counter the insecurity by increasing the presence of the military on the streets but this has not reduced the amount of violence by groups like Boko Haram and others that hide under its umbrella. The increased presence of the military has however seen an increase in state violence, with ordinary citizens caught in the crossfire of the state’s attempt at combating the violence, making their lives unbearable, further deteriorating relations between them and the state.
Nigerians thus wake up unaware of what the day will bring, with no one being able to second guess where the next attack will come from or if it will be from the state that is charged with protecting them or from some random act of madness that is prevalent in the state. The country’s drift thus continues resulting in a loss in confidence in the ability of the state to provide its citizens with security. This failure to ensure security had in previous years already seen the emergence of local militia groups such as OPC and MASSOB. These ethnic militias emerged determined to protect their groups, however some like MASSOB have managed to mutate into a political militia that have wreaked terror on the same people they were meant to protect. The current threat from the Boko Haram continues to challenge the government’s authority and the government’s inability to check its operations has also allowed other criminals to hide under its ambit spreading further terror.
With the government focusing on how to tackle this insecurity it diverts funding meant for other areas like education, health and infrastructure in the economy. This diversion of funds coupled with the nature of the Nigerian state with its high level of corruption, not only reduces funding for these critical areas but also creates an opportunity for some to enrich themselves through huge security vote allocations by the federal and state governments that do not need to be accounted for. This is a further affront to the sensibilities of the average Nigerian, when while being forced to live in a perpetual state of fear they are at the same time being robbed of the resources that are needed to secure their future and the future of the children. If this is not indicative of a failed state then I do not know what is.