It has been a tumultuous year for Nigeria as it battles a pandemic, a shrinking economy, and insurgency raging north of the country. In three charts, we look at the numbers that significantly affected public life in Nigeria in 2020.
The Novel Coronavirus
Nothing has remained the same since February 28, 2020, when Nigeria recorded its first covid-19 case. Since then, the country has recorded over 70,000 more infections and 1200 deaths. In December, a second wave of the virus hit the country, accounting for the increase in the number of infections. While many countries are pinning their hopes on ending the pandemic through vaccination, Nigeria does not appear close to getting a vaccine yet. Data from the Economist Intelligence Unit suggests the general population of Nigerians may not access a vaccine until 2024..
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, oil prices slumped, significantly affecting countries like Nigeria whose economy is heavily dependent on oil exports. In the first quarter of the year, a 1.87% GDP growth was recorded, a decline from 2.55% in the last quarter of 2019. By November 2020, the country slid into a recession after two consecutive quarters of negative growth, -6.1% in the second quarter and -3.62% in the third. The IMF predicts a 4.3% contraction by the last quarter of 2020. However, negative GDP growth is not the only troubling economic indicator for Nigeria. A huge external debt profile (currently at $31,477.14), food inflation, and a resurgent COVID-19 strain that could threaten economic productivity makes the prospects of recovery bleak.
In 2020, Nigeria witnessed consistent and widespread violent attacks from insurgent groups, including Boko Haram and its splinter Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). While the Nigerian military has taken back most of the territories occupied by Boko Haram, the beheading of over 43 farmers in late November in Borno state, and the abduction of hundreds of school boys on 11 December – an operation which was reportedly a joint one between the bandits and Boko Haram – showed insurgents maintain a significant hold of the region. An estimated 30,000 people have been killed while 2.3 million are displaced due to the crisis in North Eastern Nigeria. In the North West, 160,000 people have been displaced while data on the number of deaths in the region remains missing.
What to Expect in 2021
A total lockdown is not expected as it will further exacerbate the effects of prior lockdowns on the economy, especially small businesses. However, Public Health Safety Measures like social distancing, wearing masks, limited crowds will persist for most of 2021. The unlikelihood of the country to obtain vaccines soon could impact international trade and GDP. Improvement in government revenue is highly unlikely due to falling oil prices that have been triggered by the new COVID-19 strain. In the event that revenue improves, more than 50% of it will go to servicing debts. However, an exit from the recession is expected late 2021. The conflict in the North West and North East of the country could further intensify and give room for other insurgent groups to rise. Now that land borders have officially opened, more Nigerians will flee for safety, adding to the over 298,000 refugees in Niger, Cameroon and Lake Chad region.