Diversifying Nigeria’s Economy


The recent disclosure by the Secretary-General of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that the much-awaited rebound of oil price from its current low level may take two more years to materialise has expectedly elicited diverse reactions from many people.
Mr Abdella El-Badri, had reportedly told audience at the annual oil and money conference in London, that the decline in globe crude oil price may not abate until 2017, s the market is expected to re-balance within two years.
Some people have expressed fears that this will worsen the bad economic situation in some oil producing countries like Nigeria. They say that virtually everything in the country is at standstill, many state governors cannot pay their workers salaries, no developmental projects are being carried out in most states and even at the federal level, contractors are being owed, many companies are downsizing all because of the dwindling oil revenue. They maintain that if the situation continues till 2017, there will be disaster in the land.
However, a few other persons believe that the delay in the rebound of the oil price and indeed the fall in the oil price should serve as a wake-up call for Nigerian leaders to think of how to diversify the country’s economy instead of depending solely on oil. It is on record that since the discovery of oil in 1956, especially since 1970, when its price took the upward trend, the major income  of the country had been from oil. And we all know that there is hardly any country in the world that can attain growth and development without diversifying its economy.
So, the drop  in crude oil price in the international market should compel our leaders to begin to look into diversification of other sectors of the economy, so as to attain a solid economic growth.
A primary sector to pay attention is agriculture. Until the discovery of oil, agriculture was the country’s mainstay of the economy with different regions boasting of different cash crops like groundnut, cocoa, rubber, palm oil produce and many more.
Today, with its abundant arable land and over 160 million people, Nigeria cannot feed its citizens not to talk of exporting to other lands.
Some stakeholders in the agricultural sector have argued that with over 79 million hectares of arable land, diversified ecological conditions, abundant water resources and adequate rainfall, there is no reason for Nigerians to be hungry and jobless.
Unfortunately, the reverse is the case. The country cannot boast of sufficient production of any food items, instead we import virtually every food item from different parts of the world.
A major disturbing development is the dwindling population of farmers in the country, as farming has become largely unattractive to the youth because of certain socio-economic considerations and the archaic system of farming still in use. We cannot possibly expect a young graduate to go back to the village to farm with the hoe and cutlass. But give him a tractor and other modern farming equipment and you must have convinced him to go into farming.
It is, therefore, imperative that different levels of government should institute pragmatic plans to make farming more appealing, particularly to the youth, as part of their efforts to transform agriculture and boost food production in Nigeria.
Government should encourage farming by providing modern farming implements to farmers to boost their production. A situation where most farmers still rely on crude farming implements is most discouraging.
Farmers who are willing to expand their farms often complain of lack of support from banks and other financial institutions. Unless this problem is solved and provision of soft loans to farmers is made possible, our dream of having a thriving agricultural sector may just be a mirage.
Provision of power, accessible roads and good transport system is also paramount. Many farm products perish in villages due to non-availability of access roads and transport system to bring them to the cities for the consumers. Yet there are no storage facilities for them to store theses products.
Some people have also argued that proper enforcement of the ban on importation of certain farm produce like rice, tomatoes and production of high quality local ones will reduce the craving for imported goods.
For there to be adequate food in the country, for us to grow the agricultural sector and in turn grow our economy, individuals, co-operative societies, clubs, local, state and federal government should show more commitment to agriculture.
As part of this year’s World Food Day, taking place today, the state commissioner for agriculture was on the radio two days ago, talking about the massive plan of the current administration in the state to revatalise agriculture and make it one of the major income generating sectors in the state. This, indeed is very plausible and a move which other state government should key into in order to make food available for Nigerian citizens.