Nigerian economic policy

Simple Economics: All bark and no bite in Nigerian economic policy

All we see these days on mainstream Nigerian media is someone “calling for” something. Buhari might wake up today and “call for” peace in the North-East without actually doing anything to ensure peace. That’s what we have been reduced to as a nation, all talk, and zero substance.

 Nigerian economic policy
A Nigerian leader without a plan.

The latest on the list of things to “call for” is an “import reducing policy” by the Central Bank of Nigeria, through its Governor, Godwin Emefiele, at a lecture he gave to members of the Nigeria Bar Association. It really is shameful for a country of this size to have problems that have led to a high dependence on imported goods, and for it to have gotten this bad.

If you follow me on twitter, you’d have noticed how frequently I go on rants about issues that affect me, and the Nigerian economy, being one of these issues, has not been left out of these rants. In fact, it has been a prominent subject over the last few months. I see the Nigerian economy as a peculiar one, because the issues that affect it, are not in any way, ordinary. I’ll give you one example of a peculiarity. The Nigerian Senate recommended that the dollar be sold to individuals intending to go on pilgrimage, at a rate of $1-N200, even after the official rate was pegged at $1-N305. Why? “To cushion the effect of any similar astronomic increase (of the Dollar against the Naira) in the foreseeable futureWOW. What happens when the pilgrims come back with spare cash (dollars), and decide to resell to the Nigerian public? What happens when someone buys more dollars than he/she needs for the purpose of reselling? This is just one example, let’s not digress too much.

According to Mr Emefiele, over the last 12 years, Nigeria’s import bill has risen by 95 percent. The figure currently stands at an average of N588,000,000,000 (five hundred and eighty-eight billion Naira) monthly. That’s a lot of money. Little wonder why our economy is in the gutters; an utter disgrace. To fully gauge the mess we find ourselves in with regards to imported goods, you’d need to take a visit into the market, and try to purchase something outside foodstuff (even some foodstuff are imported), you’d discover the extent of this mess. Now, the Governor is proposing, through his lecture, a number of ways to improve on the general fortunes of the economy, and an “import reducing” policy is touted as one of the steps to be taken. Agriculture, as usual, is on that list, but we’ve all heard this song before.

Are these steps really going to be taken? Are we disciplined enough, both as a government and as citizens, to obey simple policies? Are we ready to do the actual walk, and actually put substance to our talk? I think not.

For years, all the Presidents elected have all had the same refurbished ideas about what will take the economy forward. If these ideas were solid, we wouldn’t find ourselves in this mess we’re in at the moment. What needs to happen requires an individual with bright ideas, preferably one in tune with modern happenings and technology, to revive the already flatlined heartbeat of this nation. Without getting too political, I pose a question; how come virtually nobody in government ever talks about ideas that actually work? Is it a lack of knowledge or simply ignorance? We may never find out with this current crop of leaders.

Yes, reducing the amount of goods imported into the country will help, yes. But the problem with solving a problem halfway is that the problem comes back in another form to bite you from behind. Ouch. To actually solve our problems, I believe in employing a totally new way of thinking and reasoning. We have to work with what we have, and see how we can begin to compete with the most innovative and forward-thinking nations in the world. Fair enough, focusing on agriculture and import bans are alright, but who is talking about branching out? We don’t even need to branch out too far at first. Standard education, Renewable Energy, Robotics, Digital media, Film and Cinema, Art, etc are avenues we could employ to work in our favour if there is a dynamic cohesion between them. We could literally try anything as a nation now, and yield serious results, but only if we try. Elon Musk is planning on taking people to Mars in some years; that is forward-thinking. Do we even have a space program in Nigeria?

The other day, I saw through More Branches‘ twitter feed, that a Nigerian startup created a neuron inside a silicon. WOW. That was honestly very exciting and mind-blowing.

What is the government doing to allow such ideas come through within Nigeria?

Instead of “calling for” policies and laws, we need to focus on the basics and build from there. Without an enabling environment, a simple plant cannot grow into a full-blown tree. The same analogy applies to human beings with ideas. Without basics like power, good education, etc we can not grow into the powerhouse we all know Nigeria can be in the future. Yes, Mr Emefiele, introducing an import reducing policy would do us all a favour, but please let us not be left behind and continue to remain a third world nation tucked away in Western Africa. I’m not saying I’m not in support of something that clearly is in the best interest of our country, I’m saying we need to first provide our citizens with enough motivation, and a proper environment to create new ideas and flourish. When we do this, only then will the nation begin to prosper as a whole. Maybe then, we will not even think about an import ban, because all we need is provided within our economy. As a result, there will be a steady and consistent rise in the purchasing power of the Naira, and we can take centre stage in the global discussion.

Inalegwu Oyebanji

Always in front of a screen.

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