The word ‘crisis’ when written in Chinese has two characters – one meaning DANGER and the other OPPORTUNITY. That exactly is the summary of the present crisis due to recession in our economy. Let’s talk about the opportunities first:
- Here is a golden opportunity for the President Muhammadu Buhari s team to demonstrate leadership, economic sagacity and build a legacy out of the present mess. That leadership has been a cup half full since the beginning of this administration due to external challenges and some mistakes and slow decisions on the part of the government. And by government we include all the three branches(Executive, Legislature and Judiciary) and the four levels(Federal, State, Local government and personal). I will soon explain what personal government is.
For the government to show leadership, we will like to see urgent passage of the budgets of 38 federal parastatals including NNPC, CBN, NDDC and many others. The total budget of these statutory bodies is almost equal to Nigeria’s budget. Yet our legislatures went into recess without passing those budgets. And instead of Nigerians crying foul, we are busy engaged in ethnic and religious tantrums.
Secondly. PMB’s government need to put on the table Nigeria’s ‘New Dream Bill’ akin to the ‘New Deal’ put together in the first 100 days of Roosevelt as American President in a recession. Now is the time to fashion that bill and for us to ask for special powers(remove the word emergency as it paints a scary picture in Nigerians’ minds.). Tough times ask for extraordinary measures. We need a massive investment and stimulus bill to make things happen in the economy. Provide single digit interest loans to the productive sector of the economy – manufacturers, hospitals and educational institutions. You can make the special provisions for the hospitals and educational institutions in form of matching grants. Let institutions compete for special capital and manpower building grants. And choose projects and programs with best returns on investment(ROI) – say new services Nigerians are used to seeking abroad at more effective and efficient rates. Ensure workers are paid salaries on time and in full. I have not been paid in full as a lecturer since December! Unacceptable in an economy with roaring inflation.
Let’s sustain the incremental improvement in power supply – now back to 5000MW with yours sincerely buying minimal fuel for generator in almost 4 weeks now! Energy is as being pursued by Fashola is key. Build infrastructure with a sense of urgency.
- This is the right moment to pursue the diversification of the economy, which several generations of government post-Gowon era has been talking about with little action. No sane nation depends on one product for 90% supply of foreign currency. The monthly revenue inflow from oil, which used to be $3.2bn, is now around $1bn, So let’s work hard at diversification with value-chain focus on those agricultural and other commodities to create jobs and build a new economy. We must avoid falling into slumber again as oil gets back to $80 per barrel. Now is the time for a new direction.
- You wonder where the money will come from? Why not from the TSA? 3.5 Trillion Naira lies idle daily in accounts in CBN while so many projects lie undone. You can flexibly spend 1,5 trillion Naira and keep 2 trillion in that account for running the parastatals who has their money in that pool. Since inception, that account has never gone below 2.5 trillion Naira, so why keep the funds idle? The proceeds from anti-corruption drive too is available.
- Nigerians must focus on the state governments urgently. Every state government must be held accountable -spurious expenses on 25-years anniversary, fleet of cars, ‘jobless’ aides and convoys must be trimmed and money diverted to productive sectors.
- Here is an opportunity for the private sector to demonstrate ingenuity. South Korea and other Asia Tigers went through similar periods albeit under a dictatorship and they built their economy from the inside, in somewhat similar vein to what Nigeria is doing – stimulate import substitution, local production of imports and enhance exports. Foreign currencies were banned for most manufactured goods except the essentials. We already have local investors like Dangote building refineries and getting ready to start selling Forex to CBN in two years time. He again is planning 12,000 MW power plants. We need more of that, let Nigerians invest in Nigeria and export to the 15 countries in the ECOWAS community that are duty-free. That export market is big and profitable and can be extended to the whole of Africa. How much trade is going on between African countries?
- Here is the opportunity for Nigeria’s government to eliminate oil bunkering once and for all. The operation crocodile smile must ensure all economic saboteurs are cleared off the creeks and help given to remorseful ones to gain meaningful employment while recalcitrant criminals should be dealt with. Nigeria is the only country in the world not at war where oil gets stolen in large quantities. The NNPC GMD just stated 800,000 Barrels per day a few weeks ago! Just imagine that! That MUST STOP.
- On a personal governance level, it is time for all Nigerians to say loudly in words and action – ‘the CHANGE begins with me’. Do your job, eschew corruption, nepotism and bigotry in all forms. Think about others and again invest in Nigeria and buy made in Nigeria.
Now to the dangers:
- There are some leprous party people already asking Mr PMB to resign if he can not cope forgetting that their SIXTEEN years of poor governance led us here. Nigerians must be vigilant to ask them to keep quiet while patriots redirect our ship of state to a safe and prosperous habour.
- We must avoid enemies of state using our present economic situation as a reason to truncate the anti-corruption drive. Corruption is one of the major reason we are here today and we must eliminate it to really move forward. Just imagine 70% implementation of all capital budgets in the last 16 years or judicious use of $40 billion accrual to Niger Delta in the last 16 years. Would we be here today? No!
- Avoid people who are turning history on its head to say PMB 16 months in office caused the recession. Their goals is clear – create fear and discord and get back to power to continue their genetic pilfering.
Dear all, the current crisis does not call for panic but reasonable action by all patriots to chart a new cause and build a real economy for Nigeria. We need GDP growth that is in sync with improvement in quality of lives for all Nigerians.
That is doable, let’s do it TOGETHER!
Dr. Mudashiru Adebayo Salami is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon at University College Hospital, Ibadan.