Monday, 21 September 2015

Article: Beyond The First 100 Days Of The Buhari Presidency And A Panacea For Economic Growth



By Sam Okey Mbonu

The Oil-Boom Is Over
One of the realities, which many Nigerians need to come to grips with, is the fact that this is an era where actual productivity will be required of all Nigerians, across the North-South divide.  Or, to put it another way, the “Oil Boom” is over!  The boom is not coming back; in-fact Oil may drop to as low as $20 dollars per barrel, between the next few months and early 2016.  Therefore, every state in the Republic of Nigeria will henceforth need to invariably create an environment for the economic growth and well-being of its people, through innovative home-grown policies, amid robust internal revenues.

Robust internal revenues can only be spurred by private sector or public-private sector initiatives.  Where an enabling environment has been created for businesses to thrive, all the government need do is sit back and collect taxes, both payroll taxes from an active workforce and entrepreneurs, and corporate taxes from corporate investors.

Folks who celebrated the new administration, because they erroneously believed that a particular person holding the reins of government, is a “my turn to chop” opportunity; or where state governors or political cronies head to Abuja, cap-in-hand to collect from the overflowing oil revenues, will be severely disappointed, because there may be nothing to distribute.

Opportunities In The Midst of Crisis
Underlying the Nigerian economy is the fact that every one of Nigeria’s 36 states has opportunities to attract investments through attractive propositions to investors.  Each state also has opportunities to develop at a rapid pace, if it gets its act together.  In the event that the governor of a particular state does not know what to do, there’s nothing wrong, with as an example, Adamawa state, seeking to collaborate with a fast rising state like Anambra state, which is currently number one in education and new investments.

In the United States, where this Council is based, and where most of our personnel and Advisors have performed in policy-making roles, the states are either in fierce competition with each other to attract investors, or are frequently studying successful models of economic growth, and adapting these models to their own states.  There is obviously no need to reinvent the wheel.

 The “Nigerian-American Leadership Council (NALC)”, boasts of both US and Nigerian personnel who have held high-level positions; and served as US Presidential and US State appointees at different times.  Many of them have proven their worth in the US, and around the world.  However proffering solid advisory, based on experience and expertise is one thing; but actual adoption of these advisories by the recipient, is a different thing altogether.  It is obvious that one cannot force persons in any given administration to adopt tried and tested successful policies.

Some Continuity May Be Warranted
Our experience with the previous administration under Goodluck Jonathan was unfortunately a cause for disappointment.  In 2013, a senior member of Dr. Jonathan’s government visited our Washington offices for three (3) days of briefings, valued in multiple-million dollars at no charge.  The official who was a Senior Presidential Adviser returned back to Abuja without corresponding with this Council according to the terms of the meeting, rather he outrageously tried to twist the program for private benefits, and attempted to implement a half-baked version of the program, without recourse to this Council.  Of course he failed woefully, and made their administration look terrible.  That incident showed us the level of mediocrity the core group around that president entertained, and we knew it was downhill from that point.

The above account is not to disparage the entire previous administration, as there were some very bright stars in that administration, especially Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in Finance, and Dr. Akinwumi Adesina in Agriculture.  These two persons among a tiny clique, delivered for that administration.  When a technocrat is good they are good, and we do not expect you to play politics with incompetence.  We expect you to evaluate some of the good initiatives of your predecessor, and continue them, especially in agriculture, tight fiscal control, and Almajiri education.

The Future of Nigeria
This Council has reviewed the enormous research we have conducted on Nigeria in recent years; and we have come to the inevitable conclusion that though massive corruption has held Nigeria down, however, the biggest impediment to economic growth in Nigeria is the lack of reliable electric power in Nigeria.

The horrors of epileptic and insufficient power supply in Nigeria, is very well known.  Persons who have never lived outside Nigeria may never fully comprehend this matter clearly; suffice it to say that the lack of sufficient power has caused Nigeria to perform at about ten (10) percent of its true potential.  The Nigerian people are very entrepreneurial and energetic.  If the government facilitates reliable electricity, they will go out and create their own businesses, and generate their own employment.  There are so many services that reliable electricity can spur, from technicians to agro/food industry, to small –scale servicers.

The power shortages have forced numerous companies to move operations elsewhere.  The power situation has held down small business and entrepreneurship from blossoming. The power situation has held down productivity from every sector, both public and private.  The lack of power turns a twenty (20) minute automobile service call to a 24 hour ordeal, with its attendant loss of time and productivity to the customer and the servicer.

Our researchers in Nigeria have witnessed all productivity shut down in government offices, even in the federal seat of power, when computers shut down, due to a power shortage.  In these cases, even the most diligent public servant even inside Aso Rock cannot perform fully.  Backup generators may come up, but the loss in a train-of-thought may never be recaptured.

A State of Emergency
Mr. President Sir, you must declare an emergency in power, if you expect Nigeria to arise economically.  You must supervise the power ministry yourself, or through a trusted aide, who you can fire at short notice, if you see signs of incompetence.  You must be open to all the newly available “renewable” energy, especially in “solar” and “wind” energy technology.  Previous governments threw money at the power problem, but we know persons high and low in the power ministry misappropriated those monies, and left Nigerians holding an empty bag.  You may also supervise the Petroleum Ministry closely, but all you may need to do in that case, is to plug the avenues of instant-wealth and corruption in the Petroleum Ministry.
Without adequate power, Nigeria will never truly arise.  No one can power a modern country on generators.  If power is fixed, the economy will be so robust that corruption in government will become infinitesimal, because more people will be making their living in the private sectors, rather than in the public sector.  In that scenario, government will just sit back and collect taxes.  That is the model of economic prosperity.

Do Not Let Incompetent Hands Drag Your Administration Down
You must also bring competent hands into government.  You have to be firm.  You can have your friends come around to chat in the evening and drink tea, but you owe it to Nigerians to listen to Nigerians who bring fresh expertise from different corners of the globe.  There are many Nigerians who fit that mold globally, and many who do not bring the massive baggage of corruption that some of the people around you bring.  You can do this, and we wish you luck.

(Mbonu is Executive Director of Washington-based Nigerian-American Leadership Council. He can be reached at: Tel: 202 379-2848, Ext 301, Email: mbonu@nigerian-americancouncil.org)

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