From: Madu Ezenoha, ENUGU
After a detailed review of Nigeria’s economic performance over the years, former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke on Thursday painted a gloomy picture, asserting that the nation’s economy may collapse in five years time if urgent steps were not taken to reverse the negative outlook.
Duke declared that Nigeria is running a ‘wacko economy’ which is designed to export jobs and other opportunities to foreign countries while stifling growth and development at home.
Duke, who made the assertion in Enugu during a lecture under the Big Ideas Podium, organized by African Heritage Institution, an outfit founded by former Central Bank (CBN) Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, stated that Nigeria lacks definite direction and articulate economic strategy to address the mounting economic challenges.
Speaking on the topic, “Ending Poverty in Nigeria: Using what we have to get what we want”, the former Cross River state Governor stated that Nigeria is currently operating a “goodwill economy” or rent seeking economic system of top-bottom approach where government at the centre collects rent from mainly oil resources and tries to monetize the economy top-down.
He said that this is against a bottom-up economic development approach where the masses are empowered through provision of incentives, infrastructures and conducive environment to engender productivity and serious manufacturing as against consumption economy.
The ex-governor said that with huge inflationary rate in Nigeria hovering around 16 to 25 percent, coupled with army of unemployed youths which is more than 40 million of the population, Nigeria is heading to serious socio economic disaster except the trend is reversed.
He noted that the nation has developed so many wonderful visions, but the problem was largely lack of political will and appropriate strategy to transform the visions into realistic economic progress.
“We do not appreciate how tragic our situation is, but we are so desperate that I don’t see us continuing this way for another five years.
“Let me emphasize that our broad national focus should be in four sectors: skills acquisition, you may call it education but education that does not leave you with skill is hollow; heavily investing in our healthcare to ensure that regardless of the situation, you can walk into a facility and get treatment; building a national infrastructure
that enables you, whether it is power, road network etc; and of course, we need to embrace technology to catch up with the rest of the world,” he said.
He emphasized the need to begin to harness the low hanging fruits in terms of utilizing the 2.5 billion cubic litres of gas being flared daily, which could give Nigeria equivalent of 25 billion cubic litres of diesel daily to power all the turbines required to electrify the whole of Africa.
He also suggested taking advantage of comparative advantage by investing heavily in agriculture as well as agro processing, as well as investing in education, and mass housing that targets two million houses annually in new cities.
In a remark, the former CBN governor, Prof. Soludo who commended the guest lecturer for a thought provoking lecture, emphasized the need to create the nexus between exchange rate regime, micro and fiscal policies, and poverty.
“It is very serious, very fundamental. You talked about exchange rate regime that creates jobs abroad, that exports healthcare and education etc. The exchange system is at the heart of productivity of the local economy, if you don’t get it right, your local production will continue to be stifled and when local production is stifled unemployment will continue to be stifled” he said.