A pastor once shared with his congregation how just few decades ago a brand new Peugeot car now sold at millions of naira was sold at N5, 000, 00, while a brand new bicycle was bought for N150.00 among others, millennials present at the church gathering opened their mouths in utter disbelief because they never experienced such a possibility. To them, much higher amounts of naira in Nigeria presently can hardly buy anything meaningful and to them, the pastor’s speech appeared more of rhetoric than real.
The pastor was reflecting on matters of the moment. The rate of inflation in Nigeria is alarming. If you compare how much those same products go for now in the market, one may lack economic terms to explain such price disparity.
The truth is that Nigeria is sick and we are in dire of people that can fix Nigeria. Over the years, Nigeria has lacked leaders with clear focus and direction of how to take Nigeria on the path of development. Our past leaders instead of taking the advantage thrown up by emerging trends in the economic world order wasted such golden opportunities. Worse still, some of our leaders had preference to pursue personal goals and interests rather than carving their names in gold by putting the monies into meaningful use whereas some of them were naïve and lacked the intelligence expected of outstanding leaders.
A couple of scenarios play out. In the early 70s when Nigeria made so much money during the so called oil boom when General Yakubu Gowon was head of state what did Nigeria do with the money?
We rather opened our floodgates for ostentatious living and started importing products from the west even as we proudly declared to the whole world that Nigeria had become stupendously rich.
In another development, the proceeds of the oil windfall during the Gulf Crisis were brazenly diverted and were never accounted for by General Badamosi Ibrahim Babangida.
Subsequent regimes were not better off in terms of accountability and purposeful leadership and all of that culminated to where we find ourselves presently.
At the current rate, U$D1 now goes for over three hundred naira whereas in those old good days the same one United States dollar was being exchanged for 60k. Imagine what the exchange of the naira to the dollar would be in the next five years?
The development has opened up for brain drain, a process whereby a very good number of educated Nigerians would want to join the next available flight to the developed economies in search of greener pastures.
Nigeria’s foreign exchange income is 75 % reliant on oil and what this means is any shock on the oil business will have overwhelming impact on the economy. The issue of over dependence on oil money has long been identified but successive governments had failed to pay serious attention on how to diversify the economy.
From the middle of last year, the oil price began to fall from about 115 US dollars per barrel even up until December 2015. Today oil price has taken a worse plunge selling below 40 dollars per barrel. The harsh and negative impact of the dwindling oil price on the economy, the citizens and general well being of the people is anticipated since we have failed to plan.
However, the current situation is not totally hopeless; the situation on the other hand might be a good psychological measure for accelerating the pace of economic and export diversification for the country. A higher level of discipline and determination is therefore required this time, for us to achieve success, as the current circumstances are more challenging.
This fact, the former managing director/CEO, NEXIM Bank, Mr Roberts Orya canvassed even as he said that Small and Medium Scale Enterprises are recognised as the engine for economic growth.
Apart from providing immense opportunities for job creation, SMEs are said to provide the promise of innovations and adaptability that can harness export markets.
The federal government as a matter of urgency should develop the local infrastructure that promote and encourage small and medium scale industries to operate efficiently in Nigeria. The war against corruption should also be sustained in Nigeria by prosecuting offenders without fear or favour.
The time to act is now otherwise we should be entering the same river twice.
In spite of the daunting challenges, we are optimistic about the prospects of this economy if mitigating issues are given their desired attention by the Buhari-led administration.