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BUSINESS REVIEW: Nigerian economy failing because its managers choose to walk backward into the future

President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday told members of his Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC) that the economic growth of the country had not been fast enough to meet the national ambition of collective prosperity. He also told them that his government was commitment to lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, adding that the country must move forward with the home-grown solutions suitable to its local contexts. He told the council that he would be looking forward to receiving their baseline studies, which according to him, would help shape his administration’s economic efforts. Buhari spoke when he met with members of the council at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. He said, “I want to thank you for agreeing to serve Nigeria. Your task cannot be more important. Our goal is to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. “Yes we have exited the recession, but our economic growth rate is still not fast enough to meet our national ambition of collective prosperity. “We must move forward with the home-grown solutions, suitable to our local contexts. Our efforts must be both suitable and sustainable. I look forward to receiving your baseline studies as this will help shape our economic efforts. “All key MDAs will be available to meet with you and discuss how we can create a Nigeria that works for all”, he said. READ ALSO: Malami claims Nigerian government has become more transparent, accountable The President administered oaths of office on members of the newly constituted Council (PEAC), and set an agenda of what they should accomplish in the shortest possible time. Speaking at the meeting with the 8-man Council chaired by Prof. Doyin Salami, President Buhari charged them to focus on developing reliable data that will properly reflect what is happening in the country. The President said: ‘‘As you develop your baseline study, I would like you to focus on primary data collection. ‘‘Today, most of the statistics quoted about Nigeria are developed abroad by the World Bank, IMF and other foreign bodies. ‘‘Some of the statistics we get relating to Nigeria are wild estimates and bear little relation to the facts on the ground. ‘‘This is disturbing as it implies we are not fully aware of what is happening in our own country. ‘‘We can only plan realistically when we have reliable data. As you are aware, as a government, we prioritised agriculture as a critical sector to create jobs and bring prosperity to our rural communities. ‘‘Our programs covered the entire agricultural value chain from seed to fertiliser to grains and ultimately, our dishes. ‘‘As you travel in some rural communities, you can clearly see the impact. However, the absence of reliable data is hindering our ability to upgrade these programmes and assure their sustainability.” The President also used the occasion to set agenda and expectations from the Council, constituted on September 16, 2019, to replace the Economic Management Team (EMT). On the Social Investment Programmes (SIPs), the President told members that his administration was working to measure the impact of the programme targeted at improving the well-being of millions of poor and vulnerable citizens. As such, the President said he had directed the new Minister for Humanitarian Affairs to commence a comprehensive data-gathering exercise in all Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps in the North East. ‘‘Today, we hear international organisations claiming to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on IDPs in the North East. But when you visit the camps, you rarely see the impact. ‘‘In 2017, when the National Emergency Management Agency took over the feeding of some IDPs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, the amount we spent was significantly lower than the claims made by these international organisations. ‘‘Therefore, actionable data is critical to implement effective strategies to address pressing problems such as these humanitarian issues. ‘‘I, therefore, look forward to receiving your baseline study as this will help us shape ideas for a sustainable and prosperous future,’’ the President said. On his expectations from the council, the President urged them to proffer solutions on how to move the country and economy forward. The President directed the Council to coordinate and synthesize ideas and efforts on how to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years, working in collaboration with various employment generating agencies of government. ''I am told you worked throughout last weekend in preparation for this meeting. ''I have listened attentively to findings and ideas on how to move the country and the economy forward. ''Yes, Nigeria has exited the recession. But our reported growth rate is still not fast enough to create the jobs we need to meet our national ambition of collective prosperity. ''Reason being we had to tread carefully in view of the mess we inherited. ''Many of the ideas we developed in the last four years were targeted at returning Nigeria back to the path of growth. ''I am sure you will also appreciate that during that time, our country was also facing serious challenges especially in the areas of insecurity and massive corruption. ''Therefore, I will be the first to admit that our plans were conservative. We had to avoid reckless and not well thought out policies. ''However, it was very clear to me after we exited the recession that we needed to re-energise our economic growth plans. This is what I expect from you, '' he said. President Buhari also assured the Council that the Federal Government will ensure that all their needs and requests were met before the next technical sessions in November. He said all key ministries, departments and agencies will be available to meet and discuss with them on how to collectively build a new Nigeria that caters for all. ''Now, no one person or a group of persons has a monopoly of knowledge or wisdom or patriotism. ''In the circumstances, you may feel free to co-opt, consult and defer to any knowledgeable person if in your opinion such a move enriches your deliberations and add to the quality of your decisions, '' he said. Chairman of Council, Professor Salami, said the mandate was about “Nigeria first, Nigeria second, and Nigeria always,” adding that it was about Nigerians, not as numbers, but as people. He added: “Our goal is that the economy grows in a manner that is rapid, inclusive, sustained and sustainable, so that Nigerians will feel the impact.” President Buhari had, in September 2019, constituted the EAC to advise him on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth; and a range of internal and global economic issues. He used the new economic team to replace the Economic Management Team (EMT), headed by his vice, Yemi Osinbajo.

The march to economic stability has been rather too difficult for Nigeria, not particularly because of its massive population size of about 200 million but for widespread commonplace irregularities in practices, shallow insights resulting from expertise deficiency, and for the observed poor technology deployment both in the public and private sector.

This is so because those in position as stewards have chosen, perhaps, not to take the route that does across farther into the future in giant leaps but limps. The game of nation building has more to do with being intentional about growth, being purposeful about reforms and being clear on terms and conditions towards such end.

Hence, like in the case of Nigeria, it is only natural that little, hard-to-notice progress has been attained, so far, since public and private sectors actors are hell bent to sabotage processes, construe policies and manipulate standards.

While the border, for instance, has supposedly been locked under the command of the President in August, a lot of infiltration continues. Today, it still cannot be said that smuggling, the reason for the closure, has finally been driven to a halt. To say the least, one begins to wonder the essence of a policy seemingly falling flat on its back.

It is for this reasoning that walking backward into the future seemed to be the order of the day. The aftermath is that this project, Nigeria, didn’t scale. Therefore, in explaining this in context, let’s consider a few things for the sake of this review;

  • Appointments on reward over merit
  • Nigeria and capacity development
  • Priority blunders

Perhaps, much more progress would have been recorded if our politics hasn’t been put on reward pegs where office holders have considered the privilege as means to onboard only their next-of-kin(s). Worse still, when the said next-of-kin(s) are not technically qualified for assigned positions in government. This is a typical way to illustrate walking backward into the future.

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For true development to be recorded there is the urgent need to stop this act that is shooting us right on the foot. Nigeria must be intentional about its development and stay true to the cause via appoints of capable hands where necessary. While this is not only a thing for the public sector, the private sector as a key building block must equally see that this holds.

In government, for instance, a common area this is often over flogged is the awarding of contracts. Aside not putting measure in place to monitor progress and evaluate the process, awarding of state contracts to friends and families of public office holders has crippled the economy and caused great disservice to public good. This has accounted for the dearth in infrastructure as could be observed across board.

The ripple effect of this is what is witnessed in business where business owners have to struggle with harsh economic realities.

Importers of talents

Like the case of unmerited appointments, another missing link is the lack of a well-structured framework for capacity development.  Aside political tourism, it seemed that public office holders do not remember their mandate is to develop capacities by way of investing in state’s human asset.

It is as a result of this despicable factor that Nigeria is a nation importing talents and skills. Today, surprisingly, there is hardly a sector where top experts in charge are not foreigners.

Of course, standards must not be compromised but what are we doing to train natives? The trend is the same –from medicine to construction, from telecoms to academics and even sport. There is no better way to describe this other than walking backward into the future. And, the only remedy is a complete shift.

Fixing priorities

Nigeria hasn’t recorded much progress owing to the fact that priorities are not professional reviewed and decided upon. For developed nations, they understand the place of steady power supply for the growth of an economy and readily invest in it.

On the contrary, Nigeria continues to struggle with epileptic power supply which could have been solved by investing in it and following the process through to execution.

Recommendations

Development might not happen over the night, but the attitude to truly develop the country can be changed over the night. Public office hold must realize that their mandate is nation building and not private purse building. They must go out of their way to set priorities right and invest in building capacities.

In a nutshell, what Nigeria must avoid is walking backward into the future. 

 

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Ridwan Adelaja

Ridwan Adelaja is a multimedia journalist with a special interest in business news analysis.

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