As Nigerians expect the President-elect to turn around the nation’s economy when he assumes office, OLUGBENGA SALAMI notes that the incoming administration needs the prayer and support of all citizens irrespective of ethnic and political differences to succeed.
Nigeria has always been regarded as the giant of Africa, with a population of over 160 million people, that make it the most populous country in the continent and the world’s seventh-largest population. Nigeria is also the Africa’s largest and the world’s 13th biggest oil producer.
But in economic terms, Nigeria becomes the largest economy in Africa after overtaking South Africa following the recent rebasing of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP. Recalculation of GDP to $510 billion, up from $262 billion, makes Nigeria Africa’s biggest and the world’s 24th largest economy, a promotion from the earlier 37th position. This represents an amazing 89 per cent increase.
However, many Nigerians believe that the nation’s economy can still be improved, especially under a firm and no-nonsense leader like the president-elect, Muhammadu Buhari. It is unarguably a herculean task to govern a society, and it becomes much more daunting in a society such as Nigeria with an uncertain socio-political and economic environment. The current state of the country to many is characterised by ineffectiveness of the political leaders and poor social institutions that have crippled the economy and pauperised the people.
The myriad of problems in Nigeria are exerting untold pressure on the people who have utilised every opportunity to pour out their anger and frustration before any person who is willing to listen.
It is against this background that many economic experts and groups are looking forward to improve economic under the Buhari administration when he finally takes charge from May 29.
However, financial experts have urged the President-elect, to ensure the appointment of technocrats and not politicians in the management of the nation’s economy. Among them is Mazi Okechukwu Unegbu, former President, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, CIBN, who maintained that appointment of technocrats in key areas of the economy remained critical for economic growth.
Unegbu said that the President-elect should tackle corruption and ensure economic agenda that would impact positively on all sectors of the economy. He also called on the National Assembly to enact friendly laws that would drive both small and big businesses in the country.
Unegbu said that the federal government, under the new dispensation, should pursue proper Foreign Direct Investment, FDI that would reduce unemployment rate. He also said that multinationals such as telecommunication companies, Shell, NNPC, should be encouraged to list on the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE to create employment.
Speaking in the same vein, Mr. Ariyo Olushekun, immediate past President, Chartered Institute of Bankers, CIS, urged Buhari to set right environment for both local and foreign investors. He said that security challenges of the country should be tackled to boost investors’ confidence.
He suggested the development of the non-oil sector of the economy such as agriculture and power, to complement earnings from crude oil.
According to him, government must encourage survival of small and medium enterprises through good policies and operating environment to boost employment. “The only way the huge unemployment rate of the country can be tackled is through SMEs development”, he said.
Olushekun also called for more development of the capital market ascribed as the engine growth of the economy. He said that the government should position the market in such a way that it could finance all developmental projects.
Improvement in revenue generation through taxation, according to Mallam Garba Kurfi, the Managing Director, APT Securities and Funds Ltd should also be given top priority. Kurfi advised the president-elect to map out strategies aimed at addressing tax leakages in the country.
He said that total revenue generated should be improved upon to at least 20 per cent against the current figure of 12 per cent, adding that diversification of the economy was important in line with the current realities at the international oil market.
According to him, insurgency in the northeast should be tackled head on because the economy could only survive with security.
President, Nigerian-British Chamber of Commerce, NABC, Mr. Adeyemi Adefulu, also urged the President-elect to embark on a complete diversification of the nation’s economy, to ensure sustainable economic growth. He said Buhari should make the diversification of the nation’s economy and exportation of processed goods a priority in his economic agenda for the nation.
“We expect that processed goods for export would be given a pride of place and that diversification of the economy would now be fulfilled. Part of the reasons why our economy is in trouble is because of our mono source of foreign exchange. We lost the opportunity to diversify the base.
“This is the time that we have to focus on the diversification of the base of our economy and make sure that the export of processed goods, artworks and mined products are all given pride of place,” he said.
Adefulu also called for a well-managed economy, which accommodates the views of the private sector in the formulation of national economic policies. According to him, robust economic policies with the active involvement of the private sector would drive the growth of the nation’s economy.
Mr. Ojo Olanipekun is the Secretary of Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, NACC. He said that the chamber’s expectations from the President-elect’s administration are anchored on improving trade, investment and businesses in the country.
“Our core interest which we also anchor our expectations on is in trade, investment and businesses in Nigeria, because our concern is to deliver value to the ranks of our members.
“Whatever will affect business and entrepreneurs in the country is our concern. Since economy is a key area of focus for the President-elect, we are quite hopeful and expectant of what is to come from that platform, when he is eventually sworn in and takes charge of the affairs of the country.
“As a chamber, we are hopeful, expectant and want to believe that change will come to that area of focus; for now, we can only keep our fingers crossed and see what happens effective May 29,” Ojo added.
Also, Director General, Advocacy for Economic Integrity, an NGO, Mr. Abdullahi Aremu, has urged Buhari to boost the energy, transportation and agriculture sectors of the economy.
According to him, the new government should also address dilapidated road network, poor public transportation and epileptic power supply. He said the transportation, energy and agriculture sectors were critical to addressing the infrastructure deficits in the country.
Aremu said addressing these sectors were imperative to drive development of other sectors of the Nigerian economy. “Unless Nigeria adequately addresses its infrastructure deficits, we may lag behind in meaningful economic development indexes,” he affirmed.
“At its minimum, failure to address the infrastructure deficits will further widen the development gap between Nigeria and countries like China, India, Brazil and South Korea. These countries have continued to engage in serious repositioning of their infrastructure for the development challenges of the 21st century,’’ the director general said.
Speaking in the same vein, Executive Director, Eva Financial Consult, Mr. Everest Ador, advised the incoming administration to focus on building the industrial sector and boosting infrastructure. He maintained that this was the only way the administration could ensure economic growth in the country.
According to him, the new government should also focus on good governance and work tirelessly to meet the yearnings of the people.
Another economist, Prof. Raphael Udegbunam urged the incoming administration to create an environment that would make the private sector to thrive when he assumes office. Udegbunam, a visiting Professor of Economist at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, said the administration should make the economic environment conducive so that the private sector could complement the efforts of government in solving the problem of unemployment.
Like others, he also urged Buhari to tackle critical infrastructure like power, transportation communication as well as ensure that projects of national importance were not abandoned as government was a continuum.
“Usually party manifestos in developing countries are not economy based but more of political; so there are problems of abandoned projects; so we expect to see the long term policies and programmes.
“What we need is a conducive environment for a private sector driven economy and reduce the situation of so much government presence on us because private sector is the way to go.
“They must get the infrastructure working, embark on long term policies and avoid quick-fix employment system; we have to get to the roots and kick start a long term economic prosperity process, “ he said.
However, it is certain that the president-elect needs the prayer and support of every Nigerian irrespective of ethnic and political differences to succeed in the task ahead of him. According to Nasarawa State governor, Alhaji Umar Tanko Al-Makura, prayers of everybody were necessary if Buhari would successfully execute the task nation building expected of him.
“The newly elected president needs prayers from all and sundry. Prayer is the only weapon that can put Buhari on the right to path to move the country forward”, he said, urging both Muslims and Christians to prayer for peace, unity and progress of the nation.