The choice of topic of this article is not to raise unnecessary alarm about the current economic uncertainty in Nigeria or to make a mockery of the appalling situation . The article has two aims or objectives. First, it seeks to draw attention to the economic quagmire Nigeria finds herself as a result of the dwindling fortune of crude oil, which is her major foreign exchange earner. Second, the article also attempts to proffer solutions to the economic misfrtune the country finds herself as a direct consequence of the fall in prices of crude oil in the global market.
In May 2015, I wrote an article, titled: 'Nigeria: The Practice of Feeding Bottle Federalism and Financial Misfortune of Component Parts'. I had argued in that article that a country that relies heavily on the export of single commodity for her foreign exchange earning to service her economy and attend to other affairs of state was doomed to face serious financial misfortune once the commodity suffers a dwindling fortune as a result of vagaries surrounding its sales. I went further and submitted that Nigeria's financial mess would not have been that appalling had she diversified her economy with the money earned from sales of crude oil sales for decades. I also opined that inability of many state governments to generate revenue internally which made them overdependent on the central government; coupled with corruption on the part of those in power made the financial situation of the country worse than it would have been. It was also my candid submission in that article that the inability of the federal, state and local governments in Nigeria to pay salaries of their employees and also attend to other affairs of government financially, would continue so long as the country continued to rely on crude oil as the only key foreign exchange earner, with corruption still in the system. I concluded the article by positing that every state and local government in Nigeria must begin to get involved in revenue generation and depend less on monthly financial allocations from the federal government.
Five months after President Mohammed Buhari came into power as the President and Commander-in- Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the economic misfortune that befell Nigeria, over a year ago, as a direct consequence of the drastic fall in the price of crude oil has remained unabated and aggravated instead. A pertinent question to ask is: Does Nigeria not know that this mono-product or oil-based economy is not working?
For about five decades, Nigeria had earned hundreds of billions of US Dollars from export of crude oil to other countries, especially during periods of oil booms. Unfortunately however, successive governments in Nigeria did not use the humongous amount of money realized from sales of crude oil to fix and diversify the economy, fix infrastructure, build new industries, fix power and many other critical areas relevant to the survival and prosperity of the country and her citizens. What happened instead, was that persons in government, at the federal, state and local levels, looted the billions of dollars the country made from sales of crude oil for their personal aggrandizement and luxuries, with billions of dollars of stolen Nigerian money kept abroad in unknown foreign accounts serving the economic interests of the host institutions and countries.
The fall in the price of crude oil in the international market over a year ago, led to serious economic shock waves in the Nigerian economy and the country lacks that necessary economic infrastructures and shock absorbers to receive and withstand the shock waves. What we are witnessing therefore, in Nigeria, regarding current economic misfortune of the country is an accumulated or long time negative effect of the refusal of successive Nigerian governments to use the money earned in the past to fix the country's economy with a view to reviving and revamping its various facets such as industrialization/manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, mining, power and so on. This is compounded by the presence of an endemic, contagious and seemingly incurable corruption that has eaten deep into every fabric of Nigeria's national life.
The chickens have gone to roost. The mono-product or oil-based economy has failed Nigeria because the country's political leaders in the past five decades were carried away by the billions of dollars earned from the commodity, refused to develop the economy, looted for their generations unborn and had thought (perhaps erroneously), that the oil economy would remain buoyant forever. Now, the entire country, especially the poor masses are suffering years of accumulated consequences of the wickedness and lack of focus and direction of persons who arrogated to themselves 'leaders of Nigeria'.
There is a saying that a blind man does not need to be told that a building where he, is burning. The die is cast as far as Nigerian economy is concerned and all the negative indexes of a sick and failing economy are evident everywhere in the country. To add credence to the fact that the Nigerian economy is sick, the president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, recently raised an alarm that the country is broke and that his government would not be able to sustain 37 ministers/ministries and pay workers. To buttress President Buhari's alarm about the poor state of the economy of Nigeria, a former military head of state of Nigeria, General Yakubu Gowon (retired), had also said, a few days back that the country is siting on a keg of gun powder, waiting to explode, as a result of the danger of youth unemployment caused by corruption on the part of Nigerian government officials. Gowon had won that something urgent must be done to curb corruption in government and provide jobs for teaming unemployed millions of Nigerian youth before it was too late.
The economic misfortune being experienced in Nigeria is as a result of the dwindling fortune of oil, her major export earner, and failure of successive governments to diversify the economy, save for rainy days and plan for the future. We now face manifestations of current economic and financial misfortune in Nigeria in forms of massive job losses or retrenchment, rise in robberies and other violent crimes, kidnappings, salary and pay cuts, closing down or folding up of companies, resurgence of fuel scarcity in some states of the federation, sale of petroleum products above government pump prices and so on. The overall negative consequence of all these is poor quality life and hardship for ordinary Nigerians. Without an iota of exaggeration, there is economic confusion, uncertainty and anxiety in Nigeria. Many employers of labour, including federal, state, local governments and even private organisations, either decline to pay salaries of their workers or pay them late. Things are really difficult for many Nigerians now as many cannot even afford their normal bills and other financial responsibilities. However, it must be admitted that most of the challenges facing Nigeria today, were there before Buhari became president. What matters, is his ability and capacity to stop them from aggravating and ultimately fix them .
As I conclude, I wish to state that Nigerians are aware of the poor state of their economy. This was caused by decades of over dependence on an oil-based economy and inherent corruption in government. Elections and campaigns are over and it is time for work; not talk. President Buhari was voted into power by over 15 million Nigerians based on his promise to fix the economy and other challenges facing Nigeria. What is paramount now is the need to put in place, immediate, holistic and long lasting economic measures and strategies to rescue the economy. That President Buhari has admitted to the sad economic reality when he declared a few days back that Nigeria is broke and cannot pay salaries of workers and attend to other affairs of state, is not enough. He MUST roll up his sleeves for the job for which he was elected to do. He and his newly constituted economic team of ministers MUST swing into action and begin to fix the country and its economy.There is need to present a holistic and workable economic strategy and blue print for fixing the economy. His government- must, without further hesitation, swing into action and tackle Nigeria's challenges head on. Now is the time for the government to begin to shift attention from oil and embark on urgent diversification of the economy and develop other aspects of it with a view to generating more jobs and creating other sources of revenue generation from agriculture, tourism, industrialization, service delivery, education and so on. It is also imperative to block all the leakages in government, thereby stopping officials of government from stealing public funds meant for development. There is urgent need to fix the power and energy sectors and create conducive economic environment for businesses to thrive in the country. The President has to adopt a positive and encouraging attitude in his official statements and reactions to issues of state. The adoption of true federalism would also go a long way in bringing an end to the economic woes of the states and local governments in Nigeria, as it would empower them with the constitutional capacity to harness, tap and utilize resources in their domains for development. Above all, all Nigerians must join hands with the government in fixing their country for their collective benefit.