Corruption
Corruption

As a mono-crop economy with fluctuations and perennial slump in the prices of oil which have adversely affected her economy, Nigeria has embarked on diversification of her economy from total dependence on crude oil exports to agriculture and manufacturing; to reduce rising unemployment, stimulate export of non oil products and thus expand the economy.

While operators in the industrial and agricultural sectors groan under the heavy weight of crippling infrastructure – epileptic electric power supply, death trap on our roads, poor water supply, absence of rail and water transportation etc – that have rather given way to eclipse of industrialization instead of boom, some leaders of the organized private sector (OPS) have accused government of lack of seriousness in driving the diversification effort.

Others insist government efforts at diversification is been hampered by greed and corruption even as they reel at government’s monetary policies as making it impossible for operators to get needed funds to rebuild /expand their industries or build new ones.

“CBN, they chorused must address the true causes of the perennial excess naira Liquidity that fire inflation, where banks only pay lip service to supporting the real sector, while the usual bonanza income from government treasury bills, bonds and the eye popping gains from foreign exchange market exists”

Prince Billy Gillis, Chairman Belview Energy, Portharcourt speaking to journalists recently accused government of not being serious with the issue of diversification of the Economy, pointing out that the much talked about numerous policies government has on diversification has never been praticalised. “Government must do all it can to ease the climate of doing business in Nigeria even as it must partner with the Private sector to ensure success of her said numerous Policies on Diversification”

“CBN claims to have over N3 trillion Naira in funds for the organized private sector unaccessed in her vaults; these funds cannot be accessed by the people who need them due to the heavy layers of policies that make them impossible to be accessed.”

“Government should work out mechanism, in partnership with the private sector to set out ways those funds can be accessed by the people in dire need of it“, he affirmed.

He deplored present high levels of poverty in Nigeria, unemployment, insecurity, income inequality and illiteracy as well as a deepening lack of confidence in the Financial Institutions by consumers, adding that there is need for people to recover from their significantly eroded financial values due to huge currency devaluation; high inflation and interest rates occasioned by Botched Monetary Policy.

“A rate cut would improve credit delivery to the real sector, reduce cost of capital for firms; leading to more job opportunities and spur the stock market and could help CBN along with the MPC to ensure implementation of any measure that promotes National Economic Progress” he said.

Nigeria’s economy should depend on massive amounts of cheap bank credit to the private sector for sustainable growth and development.

Nigeria’s self-created economic misfortune is the prevalent excessive fiscal deficits which account for problems such as excess liquidity, high inflation, high monetary policy rates that brings extreme bank lending rates to the detriment of the productive sectors and the withholding of federation account dollar allocations by the CBN and substitution in their stead of unappropriate apex bank deficit financing are to blame for Nigeria’s unfriendly fiscal terrain Harry stated.

Unfortunately in Nigeria where real sector cost of borrowing currently stands between 20% and 30% percent it will be unduly optimistic to expect Nigerian products to successfully compete against imports from countries where lower single digit interest rates and supportive infrastructure make export prices more attractive and this do not bode well with our diversification effort.

The General Manager NGOBROS & COMPANY NIG LTD Engr. Chinenye Obi proclaimed that Nigeria is in trouble unless we decentralize our economy and come together as a people to say enough is enough by making imports more difficult and produce most of the things we import and thereby create jobs in areas of economy we are adding value, and make it difficult for importers of finished goods to officially access forex and ensure only those on value adding economic activities are the ones accessing forex at the official window.

She deplored dumping of substandard goods as well as goods produced under conducive economic climate in other nations in Nigeria and which is driving the local manufacturers out of business pointing out that there is no future for this nation if this is not stopped, since no business survives by consuming its profits when other competitors are constantly investing and reinvesting in expanding and modernizing their plants’ and equipments.

If Nigeria should get up today with policies to protect her infant industries she will not be the only country to have travelled that road, in 1489, England through King Henry VII, the US in 1791 through her Infant Industry Industrialization Policy, Germany in 1841, Japan in 1868 by Emperor Meiji and most recently in 1978 by China’s provincial leader Deng Xiaoping all blocked imported manufactured goods from the rest of the world to protect their infant industries and ushered their nations to industrial boom. But our government economic advisers who should realize that economic is not rocket science but common sense will not advise our leaders to toe this sensible path because in promotion of the neoliberal economic policies that have never been adopted in any of the world’s developed economies, their phony pieces of economic advice has also helped them fill their pockets.

Mr. Terso I. Orngudwen spokesperson to the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) who spoke to this writer on telephone heaped the blame on the inability of his agency to curtail dumping of imported goods in the country to government directive to the agency to leave the ports and wondered aloud how the agency is supposed to check dumping of goods in Nigeria, the Agency in the first place did not even know has entered the country.

He further decried the insincerity of the government of the countries in Asia from where those foreign goods originate, who in his words will tell you the goods are not being produced for Nigeria only for the same goods to enter Nigeria from Benin Republic through the Seme Borders.

“However, SON is fine tuning a project called product certification to sensitize Nigerians on the products of their motherland (Nigeria). This we have slated will kick off in 2018 and through this project, we will work to turn Nigerians back to love their goods of the country” he said.

As we talk about dumping the problems of deficit infrastructure especially, electricity which has eclipsed government efforts to industrialize and diversity come to mind.

Engr. Arinze Okwuosa of Cutix PLC who proclaims his company operates on 24 hours power generation due to epileptic national power supply expressed regret that Nigeria is nowhere toward steady electric power supply and wandered if we want to industrialize on charcoal fire. “We cannot rely on public power supply. It is not just buying the distribution companies, but there has to be integration of the components sectors of the power sector, generation, transmission and distribution; the distribution machinery are they in top working order? Assuming we can generate up to 10,000 mega watts of electricity; can the cables and transformers we have today carry them? We must go back to the basics, get the generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure in top shape to give optimal service to consumers of electricity” he said and pointed out that the problems of the power sector is not for removed from Nigeria’s perennial problem of corruption that has severely stunted her growth, and development as a nation and denied Nigeria her place in the sum as an industrialized country.

Engr. Chinenye Obi of NGOBROS & COMPANY NIG LTD further has this to say on Nigeria’s epileptic power supply, “the other day we bought diesel at about two hundred and thirty Naira a litre and as we use about four hundred litres of diesel everyday for our two shifts, multiply that by 26 working days and you get N2.390m monthly, if we have stable energy from the national grid we may not spend up to ¼ that amount, but where is the power?”

Engr. Obi likened the quagmire at the power sector to the evil at the Nigerian Ports Authority (Tincan Island Port, Lagos) where corrupt port officials instead of demanding for government approved 5% duty on imported raw materials ask for over 20% duty to have the industrialists running from office to office to seek redress and by the time this is eventually done, the raw material imported have by then incurred over 30% demurrage “so it is not really that government is not serious about diversification of the economy from oil to agriculture and manufacturing but I feel that may be it is our greed that is eating up the little gains we might have or that might help us” she opined.

Power supply is crucial to national development. With a vibrant power sector industries would perform at optimum capacity. Small business men and women would be able to plan and live their lives with minimum costs. The multiplier effect on the people could be tremendous,. Currently, the costs of running generators are overwhelming. It adds to production cost. It makes importation more attractive; it compels manufacturers to produce their goods outside Nigeria.

And if it is true that a lot of energy is generated in the country but not used due to the limited capacity of our national grid, then provision must be urgently made for all generated energy to be utilized appropriately. The national grid concept has become outdated; it should be jettisoned; smaller units of power generation and distribution should be created across the country. That way, the competitive dynamics of the spirit of efficiency which underlies privatization would be felt by all on this country.

It is not that we do not know that Nigeria cannot continue to be a mono-product economy where our exports being essentially unprocessed commodities becomes vulnerable and unable to withstand shocks that arise when there is a sharp decline in the prices of commodities in the international market to change our agricultural commodities into finished industrial goods as South Korea that started with US in 1962 has done and today has become an industrialized nation;

Or that we do not know what to do to put the energy sector in the right shape. Take for instance in the South East, while Geometric is built and lying waste, politicians in EEDC has vowed to keep the South East geopolitical zone in perpetual darkness. Or that the CBN does not realize that it must replicated best practice inflation rates to buoy the Nigerian economy instead it continues to further reduce consumer demand with even higher monetary policy rates that will invariably push domestic cost of borrowing well above 30% and forestall any serious hope of economic diversification or growth.

But as Nigeria’s problems deepen with an autumnal chill, one is left with the ugly thought that we somehow seem to be living out a script to validate Lord Lugard’s contemptuous remark that the Blackman seems unable to see beyond now and takes a long term view of his self interest. How come it is so difficult to realize that our troubles come from an enemy so close by, such that if we walked to the mirror we would see him stirring at us? Yet the image in the mirror, of us thinking so short term, like Dracula manages not to appear.

Apparently warned by those who gave me their contact on my reason to reach them, the spokesperson of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Tincan Island, Lagos never picked my calls.

Nworah Maduabuchi.

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