Every nation around the world has an economy which drives the decision of policy makers. At the same time, every government is driven by the desire to create a growing and more stable economy.
Economic growth, being an increase in the amount of goods and services produced per head, is conventionally measured by the percentage rate increase in the real gross domestic product (GDP) usually in per capita terms or by an outward shift in the economy’s productive possibilities frontier (PPF).This can only be achieved through effective exploitation and processing of the country’s natural resources.
Nigeria’s portfolio of natural resources has at least 44 known mineral assets that include precious minerals, base metals, bulk minerals and what we presently call earth minerals. The most beneficial solid minerals are scattered all around the nation.
Before the advent of oil exploration and production in Nigeria, specifically, during the colonial era and up to a decade after independence, Nigeria carried out extensive geological surveys and had a good idea of the extent of her mineral reserves. The country had a plan of putting such assets to work alongside private enterprise. The proceeds of such ventures were put to good use and consequently used in the building of some of the public infrastructures in Nigeria. For instance, the agricultural proceeds from cocoa was used to finance education and infrastructures in Western Nigeria.
After the civil war in 1970, Nigerian government ignored the vast resources at her disposal and concentrated all attention on crude oil production. Worst, the country produced crude oil and sold it to other countries without processing it to extract other bi-products which could be harnessed from crude oil, thereby making Nigeria a handicapped farmer who harvests cassava, sells it in the market and in turn uses the money to buy garri. Yet, Nigeria made a lot of money accruing from the crude oil business.
Between 1973 and 1978, during the oil boom, oil revenue rose quickly to more than 90 percent of Nigeria’s revenue. Good business I must say, but the mismanagement and embezzlement associated with past administrations, especially during the military junta put the country in unprecedented indebtedness in the early 1980s. Successive governments inherited this debt which led to the slow pace of economic growth and development in the country.
The price of crude oil dropped in 2008, thus putting the country in severe economic danger. But why should the drop in the price of crude oil affect the economy of a country that is so naturally blessed like Nigeria? The answer is simple. It is because the country’s economy is one dimensional. Crude oil is the mainstay which decides the country’s GDP, hence the economic recession we are currently experiencing.
Today, we are facing a future in which crude oil either ceases to be a strategic resource, or one in which our status as a producer of oil becomes irrelevant to our quest for economic advancement.
The knowledge of this vicissitude of economic advancement made the immediate past and the present administrations to roll out plans to diversify the economy especially to agriculture. This is a step in the right direction capable of rescueing Nigeria’s economy from peril.
However, agriculture alone cannot give Nigeria’s economy the sustainable resurrection it deserves. Other channels of economic progression need to be explored.
There abound a lot of economic potentials in Nigeria as stated above which have not been exploited. In fact, there exists geographical evidence that proves that every zone, region and state in Nigeria has something to bring to the table.
Individual state governments should, in their budgets, make it a priority to exploit the natural resources of their states and pay less attention to federal allocation from Abuja. There is a need for all state governments to look inwards and harness their resources for the growth and advancement of the economy. Mining asset, for instance, which has not been exploited is a practical example.
Exploitation of natural resources by individual states can attract investors, create jobs and bring development to the states. But it must be stated that it is a capital project that cannot be completed in just one tenure. Therefore, Nigerian government should be a continuum and not a lab for project experimentation.
Successive governments should start completing developmental projects started by previous administrations before rolling out new ones. By so doing, Nigeria will start making economic progess and stop running round circles without having direction for infrastructural development.
In conclusion, the present administration in the country should take a bold step towards building infrastructures that will be instrumental in the processing and extraction of the numerous bi-products of crude oil. This will help us to fight poverty and economic dependence on other nations.
It is high time we stopped selling our pregnant mothers only to use the proceeds to buy children. National development is not a dream far-fetched or near impossible. Our leaders need to think towards identifying our individual state potentials and harnessing them to improve our GDP and create room for development. We are tired of paper promises and unfulfilled manifestoes. Posterity is watching and waiting.
Mgboh writes from Port Harcourt.