Economy, population growing at different directions
At current levels of over N25 trillion, it means that Nigeria has borrowed in three years more than it borrowed in 30 years previously, and the country to remain peaceful and get the economy working better, it must return to the basics of federalism, as the foundation of her national enterprise.
A former Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), Prof. Anya O. Anya, who stated this, noted that the political challenge is how to operationalise Chapter II of the Constitution, as the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy.
Speaking in Lagos, yesterday, at The Niche Newspapers yearly lecture, themed: “Business and Accountable Governance: The Obligation of Leadership,” Anya said Nigeria’s economy is faced with two fundamental obstacles. While the economy is growing at a miserly rate of two per cent, the population is growing currently at 3.8 per cent nearly double the economic rate of growth.
This showed that there is a fundamental dissonance between demography and the economy, he told guests, which included Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Christopher Kolade, as chairman; Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Alfred Achebe, among others.
Making reference to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Anya noted that the agency informed that Nigeria’s debt as of 2015 was a little over N12 trillion, but is now over N25 trillion.
“Much of the extra loans have been applied to recurrent expenditure given that most state governments could not even pay salaries. Indeed, it has been alleged that we spend 60-70 per cent of our total earnings in servicing debts that is paying interests (not re-paying loans),” he stated.
He said despite these, the normal metrics of economics continue southward, stressing that unemployment, inflation, productivity are not giving Nigerians any cheering news either.He pointed out that although the empanelling of an Economic Advisory Council is a step in the right direction, there is a need to face the gravity of the current situation.
“In this context, we must appeal to our leaders to wean themselves from an emerging attitude that is not helpful in our present circumstances, the tendency, to reply without deep reflection and usually with opinions rather than facts to any comments on our economy or other affairs often occasioned by new facts from research, whether from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, foreign and local respected think tanks.”
Anya said the issue of trust is also critical in governance, noting that absolute trust in a leader is vital. “A leader who will lead in an era of change must enjoy total confidence and trust of the citizens.”
According to him, the current social crisis is as frightening, given the economic crisis with tales of banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, insurrection, militancy and the rampaging herdsmen.“As an aside, it is also important to observe that the campaign against corruption is an important issue on this matter in order to tackle the disease and not merely the symptom.”
Anya said two facts give him confidence that Nigeria can face the new challenge to rebuild a new country and these are; “our youths are doing fantastic things: unremarked and uncelebrated. Beyond the hordes of the unemployed and the uneducated are also battalions of brilliant men and women who do the unexpected that often challenge their peers in other nations. To challenge and incentivise them should be the current priority. They are there if we look carefully.”
While asking where were the likes of Aliko Dangote, Jim Ovia, Ernest Azudialo-Obiejesi, Leo Stan Ekeh, Aig Imoukhede, some 25 years ago, Anya celebrated them, as they are all products of the modest economic reforms that came after the debacle of the Structural Adjustment Programme particularly in the oil industry, banking and technology.
He said Nigeria was able to engineer reforms in the private sector with incentives but did not institute an equivalent system in the public sector, which had since worsened by the repudiation of the principles of merit, competitiveness and the pursuit of excellence in the public sector despite constitutional provisions and the federal character principle.