The need of Nigerians to redefine the conditions for their co-existence

okoli-nigeriaThe Federal Government does not need to panic over dwin­dling oil revenue. The country does not also need any kind of austerity measures.

Between 1914 and 1960, Nigeria was one of the happiest countries on earth. British colonial agriculture programme worked. Above 75 per cent of the coun­try’s population lived in the rural area, participating in the programme, making money, and living well. This programme stretched into years of independence.

After the counter-coup of July 1966, young military officers took over the Federal Government. Many of them, in­cluding General Yakubu Gowon, were all below 35 years of age. They had no training in civil governance, management or economics. Money just kept coming in from crude oil export. If, after the civil war, they had returned the country to the four autonomous regions of 1963, Nigeria should, by now, be comparing economic

notes with countries like China, India, Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia. Unfortu­nately, they did not. Instead, they decided to finance the annual budget of the fed­eration; invest billions of dollars in sup­port of ill conceived and poorly managed import substitution industries; and invest billions of naira in contracts for white el­ephant projects.

Solution to this problem is to restore regional autonomy. If we do, economic recovery will just be electric (1) oil pro­ducing regions will not source foreign exchange to import. Petrol and pay sub­sidy. They will set up their own refiner­ies to produce petrol, kerosene and diesel for domestic distribution and export. (2) Groundnut and maize producing regions will not borrow money from commercial banks to import vegetable oil, frozen fish, frozen chicken and frozen turkey. They will produce them for domestic distribu­tion and export. (3) No region of Nigeria will import rice at almost US $ 70, a 50 kilogram bag. Every region will produce rice for domestic distribution and export. (4) Cassava producing regions will make more money from export of cassava chips than from crude oil. Asia, Europe and America currently invest over US$ 50 billion a year to import cassava chips. They do not import from Nigeria because Nigeria does not now produce cassava to meet domestic demand. Nigeria has dropped from the world’s largest produc­er of cassava, in 1960, to the sixth in the world today.

Immediately the economy is regional­ized all military structures that hamper economic growth will be dismantled (1) The British government handed over to Nigeria, one branch of the Central Bank. Central Bank is regulatory authority for banking. It is not a commercial bank. Because every soldier wanted his own branch of the CBN, the country now op­erates over 30 branches of the CBN with annual budget above that of a state. In a regionalized economy, Federal Gov­ernment will probably retain one CBN. branch in Abuja, one in each of the six regions. The rest to be sold to commer­cial banks. (2) The British government handed over to Nigeria, one radio station in 1960. Today, the Federal Government operates 40 federal radio stations and 40 federal television stations for an annual budget above that of any state of the fed­eration. In a regionalized economy, the Federal Government will neither need nor find money to fund these propaganda stations. They should be privatized. There are no radio or television stations funded by government in the United States or United Kingdom. (3) Federal Govern­ment now pays salaries and allowances of between N900 thousand and N2.5 million each, to 44 local government chairmen and over 200 councilors in Kano state every month. Immediately the economy is regionalized every region will abolish local governments. Kano State will be richer if it spends the annual budgets of 44 local governments to pay farmers for rice, groundnuts, maize etc., to provide employment and food for the people of Kano State. The list is endless.

In a world dominated by globalization, Nigeria should forget import substitution industries and campaign for direct for­eign investments, to concentrate on what Nigeria can do for itself.

In a sad story on page 57 of Daily Sun of November 14, 2014 the Federal Govern­ment, to avert another round of fuel scarcity in Nigeria, pledged to pay outstanding fuel subsidy of N375 billion by end of Novem­ber 2014. This needless expenditure will not be incurred immediately the economy is regionalized. Oil producing states will flood the country with petrol, kerosene and diesel for prices lower than what Nigeri­ans now pay for imported products; and no subsidy will be paid. A country with 10 oil-producing states has no business importing or paying subsidy for imported petrol.

Exchange rate

I retired maximum of grade level 15 from the Federal Civil Service in, Decem­ber, 1988. My terminal salary was N900 a month. It was, with this salary, I lived in a beautiful two rented bedroom flat, in Ade­tayo Oso Street, Akoka, Lagos. I drove, fuelled and maintained my car, and was able to bring my four children through the university. The reason was that in 1988, the exchange rate was one naira to one dollar. My salary of N900, therefore, had the pur­chasing power of $900 dollars. Food was available and affordable. 100 cups of garri sold for N20,100 cups of beans, N30. A crate of 30 eggs went for N6.

What is happening in Nigeria today has long been predicted. The then director of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Nigeria, Dr. Berth Essemberg was quoted in the Sunday Times of June 18, 1995, as attributing Africa’s declining ex­port earnings and increasing external debts to the depreciating economic out-put in the region. He noted, specifically, that, while the regions population rose faster than the economic output, two thirds of the regions work force remained unemployed.

Failure of African countries, South of the Sahara, including Nigeria, to substan­tially invest in food security has been iden­tified as major reason for poverty, political instability, unending civil wars and escala­tion of destitution and refugee problems in the region.

This assessment must be taken seriously. Between 1970 and 1975 the Federal Gov­ernment directly bought large quantities of food from Nigerian farmers for distribution to the population of civil war affected ar­eas, in the process of rehabilitation. Food production rose sharply during this period. By June 1975, a crate of eggs sold four nai­ra, 100 cups of garri, N10, and 100 cups of beans N15. The exchange rate in 1975 was 60 kobo to the dollar.

Between 1980 and the year 2000 agri­culture was relegated and totally ignored by the military governments. Over 20,000 poultry farms closed down across the coun­try, because of high cost of poultry feed and epileptic supply of electricity. While the country grappled with the problem of hun­ger, the inexperienced military in govern­ment created 24 more states and 774 local governments to add to the 12 states earlier created by General Gowon. Today, Nigeria has been ranked one of the poorest coun­tries on earth; (1) Because of the amount of money the Federal Government spends each year to finance the annual budgets of the country’s 36 states and 774 local gov­ernments; (2) The amount of money the Federal Government spends, in hard cur­rency, each year, to pay for imported petro­leum products, rice, wheat, sugar, vegeta­ble oil, frozen turkey etc, creating massive unemployment as a result.

Solution, in the face of pre­sent day economic realities, is for the executive and the legislative arms of the Federal Government to take serious­ly, the advice of Professor David West on page 6 of Saturday Sun of 25th November, 2014, to return Nigeria immediately to re­gional administration and autonomy. If, in addition, Nigeria invests the Naira to pro­duce petrol, kerosene and diesel from the country’s refineries, invest the Naira to massively produce and process food for domestic distribution and export, thou­sands of Nigerian youths will become employed and the Naira exchange rate will, in due course return to one Naira to one Dollar. There is no state of the United States whose annual budget is funded by the American treasury.

Foreign exchange control

In 1988, I attended an International Conference, sponsored by the United Nations in Kenya. Our estacode was, therefore, paid by the UNDP on our ar­rival in Nairobi, surprisingly, in Kenyan Shillings. When we protested, the UNDP explained that it was directive of the Kenyan government that agencies of the United Nations in Kenya, pay all their domestic bills in Kenyan currency. At the end of the conference I requested the ac­countant of my hotel to pay the balance of my deposit, at whatever exchange rate, in dollars. He refused, explaining that under Kenyan law, hotels are not allowed to do business in foreign exchange. I collected my money and walked into a commercial bank, presenting my passport and confer­ence documents to the foreign exchange manager, requesting conversation of my money to dollars. He too explained, very politely, that under Kenyan law, foreign­ers who came into Kenya without foreign exchange were not allowed to leave Ken­ya with foreign exchange. He advised me to spend my money buying souvenir and presents for my family; and that was what I did.

Now compare this story with what we do in Nigeria. A foreigner once said that Nigeria is the best country to do busi­ness because you pick up dollars from the streets of any state capital. No applica­tion, no questions, no showing of pass­port or travel papers. Foreigners can fly into Abuja one day and depart next even­ing after buying dollars with mint fresh N1000 notes they need not explain to any­one how or where they get them. The situ­ation is even worse in Lagos. Just walk into the car park of Murtala Muhammed airport any evening and you see queues of passengers buying foreign exchange. This does not happen anywhere else in the world.

In Germany, if a recognised foreigner walks into a car dealer’s show-room and attempts to pay for a new car with Ger­man currency, straight from his pocket; the owners of the show-room will ask to see his passport. If the money he is about to spend is not declared in his passport he will be handed over to German currency police and will remain in detention till he tells them how he came by the money. This is what obtains in all serious coun­tries of the world. Nigeria needs to tight­en its foreign exchange control. It is the only way to check influx of substandard products including dangerous drugs into Nigeria.

Budget administration

The national assembly must take its budget administration and monitoring duties seriously, if Nigeria must success­fully end corruption, impunity, instability and insecurity.

In an interview published on page 66 of Saturday Sun of 15th February, 2014, Barrister Dogara Yakubu, Hon. Member representing Dogoro / Dass/ Tafawa Bale­wa Federal constituency of Bauchi state in the House of Representatives said, he is spending his sixth year in the House of Representatives. From the day he came into the House till date, the annual budg­ets of the CBN, NNPC. department of customs, NPA. and Inland revenue, have neither been presented, debated, approved nor appropriated by the house.

This story is difficult to understand be­cause these departments account for over 90 per cent of the country’s revenue. The same departments have variously also been accused of reckless and wasteful spending of billions of naira government money. Perhaps this is why in his last press conference before assuming office as the Emir of Kano, the immediate past governor of the Central Bank, Lamido Sa­nusi, was asked why he gave billions of naira to ailing banks without approval of the Senate. He replied that he did not seek or needed approval of the Senate because the money he gave out was not appropri­ated by the National Assembly.

The National Assembly is seriously advised to put its budget control house in order, because the House of Representa­tives recently invited the minister of pe­troleum, Hon. Deziani Alison-Madueke, to question expenditure of her ministry in connection with air transportation. The Hon. Minister immediately went to court to stop the House of Representatives. Because, perhaps, the National Assem­bly has no business monitoring expendi­ture from a budget it did not appropriate. Something is seriously wrong. Federal Ministries, departments, and agencies of government are permitted under federal financial regulations to spend money only as approved and appropriated by the Na­tional Assembly.

Igbo economy

If one walks into any major market in Igbo land today, one directly sees evi­dence of planlessness helplessness and hopelessness. In front of each market you see hundreds of able bodied young men and women, most of them graduates, sell­ing imported second hand shoes, second hand shirts, trousers, imported second hand pants, boxers, under skirts, assort­ed hand bags. You move further into the market, you see thousands of traders sit­ting down nine hours (9am to 6pm) daily, selling imported rice, sugar, vegetable oil, blue band margarene (from Ghana) wash­ing soap made from palm kernel oil (from Cameroon), Titus sardine (from Moroc­co), imported frozen fish, frozen chicken, frozen Turkey. You walk along major roads in Igbo state capitals you see traders selling imported second hand motor spare parts, second hand tires, imported second hand freezers, refrigerators, television sets, laptops. You just see Igbo business­men spend hard currency to import the dustbins of other lands into Nigeria, in the name of doing business.

Igbos may wish to know, that Hol­land is a small European country, of 16.6 million population (i.e about pre­sent combined populations of Anambra and Imo states). Holland currently oper­ates over 22,000 dairy farms (please see the internet) giving gainful employment to thousands of their youths; producing high quantity milk, butter and cheese for domestic distribution and for export. Hol­land has exported “PEAK MILK” to the rest of the world and supplied high quality butter and cheese to Europe for over 100 years. There is no local government of Ni­geria, today, that you will not find a shop that sells “peak milk”. So, you can calcu­late how much money Holland makes in hard currency from Nigeria every year.

In 1964 the World Bank named Eastern Nigeria the fastest growing regional econ­omy on earth. At the time of this assess­ment, Eastern Nigeria was made up of the present five states of the South East, plus four out of the present six states of the South South. Reason for the assessment was that in 1964, Nigeria was the world’s largest producer and exporter of palm oil and palm kernel. Above 90 per cent of the palm oil and palm kernel came from Eastern Nigeria. Nigeria was the world’s largest producer of cassava. Above 60 per cent of Nigeria’s cassava was produced in Eastern Nigeria. By 1964, garri, yam and palm oil from Eastern Nigeria were sold in South Africa, Great Britain and the United States. Coal mining had reached commercial production and Eastern Nige­ria had started making money from Nige­ria’s coal export. By 1964 the Eastern Ni­geria Development Corporation (ENDC) was Eastern Nigeria’s next highest em­ployer of labour after the regional govern­ment itself; producing high quality garri, rice, vegetable oil, fresh eggs, frozen fish, frozen chicken, frozen beef, frozen pork and pork sausages, for domestic distribu­tion and export.

There will be no hunger, unemployment, frustration, destitution or urban vio­lence in the South East or South South if:

Each state establishes a cassava pro­cessing plant in every senatorial district and mobilizes farmers in all local govern­ments to deliver raw cassava to the plants for an agreed price per ton; to produce high quality garri, cassava chips, starch and cassava flour for domestic distribu­tion and export. Asia, Europe and Amer­ica currently invest over 50 billion dollars a year on import of cassava chips alone. They do not import from Nigeria because Nigeria does not now produce cassava to meet domestic demand.

Each state establishes one palm fruit processing plant and mobilizes farmers in all local governments to deliver palm fruits to the plant for an agreed price per ton; to produce high quality palm oil for domestic distribution and export. Palm oil now fetches more money in world market than crude oil. Here in Nigeria, while a li­tre of imported refined petrol sells N97 a litre of palm oil sells between N400 and N500. If nurseries are established to sup­ply seedlings of palm trees to farmers in all local governments today, South East and South South, will earn more foreign exchange from palm oil export than from crude oil by the year 2040. Each palm fruit processing plant should be equipped with palm kernel crushing machine to produce palm kernel oil, which is another product of very high industrial utility.

South East and South South must stop importation of vegetable oil, frozen fish, frozen chicken and frozen turkey. Every soil in the area produces high quality ground nuts and maize. The two regions should produce vegetable oil, frozen fish, frozen chicken, frozen turkey and frozen pork for domestic distribution and export. Agriculture must be planned to solve problems.

Every major supermar­ket in Europe sells (from January to December) fresh bananas, fresh pine­apples and fresh paw-paw. No European country im­ports any of these products from Nigeria, because our businessmen only travel overseas to look for what to buy. Cameroon is the only African country, south of the Sahara that makes a lot of money from banana ex­port; while Kenya exports paw-paw from expansive paw-paw plantations in Kenya. Plantain is now also in the daily menu of large populations of South Africa, United Kingdom and United States. If farm­ers in South East and South South are mobilized, the area can earn billions of dollars yearly from export of banana, plantain, pine­apple and paw-paw.

The most popular table sugar sold in markets and supermarkets in the South East and South South to­day is St. Louis. St Louis sugar is imported from France. This is sad; because, Brazil, in about the same climatic region as Nigeria; and a country with which Nigeria once compared eco­nomic notes, is now the world’s largest producer and exporter of sugar. South East and South South are so blessed with wa­ter, they can produce sugar for domestic distribution and export. A country that im­ports products it can produce for export is evidence of poor national planning. South East and South South have no reason for hunger, unemployment, frustration desti­tution, Urban violence or kidnapping.

Nigeria’s unity

Nigeria will not disintegrate from reso­lution of the National Assembly. No Ni­geria will disintegrate and nothing will stop it, if; (1) Majority of Nigerians lose confidence in the ability of the federal government to rule; (2) Majority of Nige­rians lose confidence in the ability of the National Assembly to make laws that will improve the quality of lives of Nigerians; (3) Majority of Nigerians lose confidence in the ability of the National Population Census Commission to conduct census and produce result that will pass demo­graphic test; (4) Majority of Nigerians lose confidence in the ability of INEC to conduct free, fair and credible election; (5) Majority of Nigerians lose confidence in the ability of the Nigeria police to pro­vide security for lives and property across the country; (6) Majority of Nigerians lose confidence in the ability of Nigerian courts to dispense quick and reasonable justice. Anybody calling for military coup today is asking for instant disintegration of Nigeria because activities of a long line of irresponsible military governments is responsible for Nigeria’s present levels of hunger, poverty, frustration and destitu­tion, resulting in youth restiveness, Niger Delta militancy and Boko Haram. Mean­while, with the levels of impunity and disregard for law and decency today, only Almighty God in His infinite mercy can bring Nigeria back from the brink. -SunNews

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