BY BAYO OGUNMUPE
AT the moment, the rate of inflation in Nigeria stands at 16 per cent. However, the floating of the naira is a bold move to unshackle the Nigerian economy and position it on the path of recovery from recession. Also, floating the naira has caused the stock market to rebound. This will lead to the influx of foreign investment. The Nigerian economy is as indefinable as Nigerians. Which is why Nigerians remain upbeat and optimistic in the face of grievous hardship.
Indeed, Nigeria has been in recession for more than a year. The 2014 revaluation of our economy as the largest in Africa was a farce. Truly, poverty reeks all over the land as the human development index for 2014 stood at 0.51 too low for oil rich Nigeria. This economic crunch stems from low productivity in industry and agriculture. Consequently, under-employment; mass unemployment and runaway inflation dominated the economy. Another symptom of recession was low purchasing power among the people. This is why Nigeria has not experienced real growth for many years.
Nigeria, as a classic model of a mismanaged economy is studied in universities in Europe and North America. What we call recession today is the climax of a progressive economic downturn that was never addressed. The bugaboo about fuel subsidy removal is mere blackmail. The only solution to fuel scarcity is for Nigeria to build refineries. Germany, Kenya and Japan do not produce oil. But they all have refineries. Japan has 29 refineries. If we have refineries, we would not waste foreign exchange to import petrol.
The solution to fuel scarcity is to ask companies to tender for the building of refineries. Nigeria then buys 30 per cent, allowing the core investors to own 60 per cent of each refinery; the remainder goes to the stock exchange. Similarly, the solution to the foreign exchange crisis is for the federal government to criminalize the sale of foreign money in Nigeria. It is only in Nigeria that people peddle dollars and euros on the streets. Money is changed only in the banks in Europe and North America. In fact, nowhere in the world except Nigeria that you find a second foreign exchange market. The foreign exchange black market should be outlawed. Money laundering and round-tripping are done through the black market. This is a case of government refusing to enforce the law, or their incapacity due to intellectual weakness or mediocrity.
Also, the questions of total power failure and low productivity we are experiencing now should be addressed. What we need do to bring Nigeria out of recession is to restructure the country so that we can return to happiness. Turn the geo-political zones to states and the present states to local governments. That will liberate a lot of money wasted on the bloated civil services.
If we fail to restructure, we shall not be able to pay all the workers as our foreign exchange earnings from oil continue to dwindle. Ekiti is the smallest state in the West. But its civil service is enough to run the entire southwest zone when they become one single state.
Another way to tackle the recession is to embrace agricultural production of our food stables instead of importing them. Growing our small and medium enterprises (SMEs) is yet another area of escape. But the manner, the Bank of Industry is handling the issues leaves much to be desired. Naturally, the power and the numerical force of the Nigerian consumer to drive SME growth is enormous.
The N10 billion youth Entrepreneurship Support Programme is notable but not co-ordinated. A report from The Economist Intelligence Unit suggests that stabilizing macro-economic policies; installing a more transparent tax and customs system as well as reducing import barriers; must be critically looked into to enhance productivity in our SMEs. The vigorous participation of Fidelity Bank in the growth of the Micro Small Medium Enterprises (MSME) is laudable as well. But ensuring the success of these efforts lie in making one organization to supervise the programmes.
For such an organization we recommend the establishment of the National Full Employment Plan (NAFEP). Backed by an Act of National Assembly, NAFEP like the Marshall Plan of the USA, should make agriculture and SME as the lodester of its industrialization programme. Thriving on zero collateral and zero interest template, NAFEP should ensure the participation of every financial institution in the land so as to extend it nationwide. To frustrate the advent of the ghost worker syndrome. Introduce the Personnel Payroll and Information System (IPPIS). This was mooted by Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in 2014. But our corruption prone mediocre leaders have not implemented it since then. Through IPPIS and restructuring as advised, the present cost of governance would be reduced by 60 per cent. Restructuring is crucial to peace and stability in Nigeria, for Johnson Aguiyi Ironsi’s unification decree has never been vacated by anyone since 1966.
National security is another issue troubling the nation. Militancy from the Niger Delta Avengers, the Biafra agitators and the menace of herdsmen are issues thrown up by the sheer incompetence of our leaders.
Certainly, herdsmen are traders, they are business owners abusing their privilege of being an ethnic group. Simple law enforcement would destroy the menace. For the militants restructuring and resource control will abate their destructive agitation. What we are certain about is that there can neither be peace nor prosperity in Nigeria without restructuring.
For power, housing and industrialization, our leaders do not appear capable of tackling them. The minister of power should diversify his measures. He should consult with Germany and ask them to build fields of solar, wind, and other renewable energy sources for him. Without power, we cannot develop. Let government divide Nigeria into East, the West – meaning all land west of the Niger river. That is from Delta, through Oyo ending in Kogi. Then allocate French, German and Japanese companies to build those power stations in the North, East and West.
For housing the government is quibbling. This is so because the way they are going, the rich will buy every house they build and put out for sale. What should be done is build house to applicants who need houses. Up till now Federal Government does not know that not every Nigerian can own land in Abuja. All government houses should be for lease. Government should not encourage the culture of owning houses, it should build house for lease or rent. Those who want to own houses should build them by themselves. The idea of house for all by the year 2020 is built on dishonesty. For building materials or not, we have to rely on import substitution industries to survive.
Since the peace and tranquility of the nation are threatened by the militants and herdsmen, we need a new security outfit namely, Nigerian National Guard (NNG). This is necessary because Nigeria is underpoliced. With 170 million people, we need one million and seven hundred thousand policemen. Because of rampart corruption in the Nigeria Police Force, a new security outfit will be salutary. This will augment the failing powers of the police force. Moreover, NNG will not require foreign exchange to build. It will be another way to absorb the unemployed.