By Mayowa Amoo
IN 1999, Vision 20:2020 aimed to take Nigeria to a top 20 economy by 2020 achieving a high upper middle income country status with per capita income of US$9,000 (it is only about US$2,000 per capita today in 2019). Fiscal indiscipline, recurring violent conflict and economic recession have caused us to miss the 2020 target. At the current rate of demographic explosion and an optimistic best case annual growth rate of 7%, it is likely we need at least another twenty (20) years to achieve the missed target of US$9,000 per capita.
This piece focuses on the linkages between poverty, insecurity and economic growth (decline) and (under) development. A background is first discussed on north east Nigeria followed by proposed strategies for creating or preserving wealth, preventing conflict and entrenching the rule of law with a view to achieving sustained economic growth in Nigeria.
Nigeria faces security, humanitarian and developmental challenges. The Boko Haram insurgency is now about a decade old and continues to deeply affect the north-east economy and population in particular and Nigeria in general.
Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY states) have been impacted the most by Boko Haram especially in the rural areas since government forces are in control of most major urban centres. Bauchi, Gombe and Taraba have to cope with the indirect effects of population displacement from the BAY states with the attendant consequences on already limited infrastructure and social services.
Due to the conflict, the BAY states in particular have suffered agriculture related losses of about US$3.7 billion. The World Bank estimates that between 2011 and 2015, the BAY states suffered a majority (75%) part of the estimated economic losses of US$8.3 billion. This amount excludes US$9.2 billion damages to infrastructure and services.
Research by US’s The Atlantic Council lends credence to the belief that financial incentives are the main motivation for youth to join Boko Haram or other violent groups. Creating wealth is therefore a smart way to ensure national security. Lagos State Government with support from UNDP has achieved relative success with the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF), which amongst other things is a “train-to-work” agency for low and semi-skilled individuals in the state. The Federal Government should promote LSETF or a tailored version in other states of our country.
There is ample opportunity for the new ministers to create wealth by opening up the multi-billion dollar marine, maritime and mining sectors to micro, small and medium enterprises (thus breaking the illegal, shadow economies in those sectors, including forestry and wood logging). The more diffuse wealth is, the more secure Nigeria will be.
In terms of domestic and regional trade, the North East Development Commission (NEDC) as part of the process of the region’s economic recovery should facilitate restoration of trade with the rest of the country and with neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon. In Nigeria, China is rising. At the policy level and to strengthen ties, our leaders need to quickly break the language barrier by selecting a cohort of no less than 5,000 new or existing public servants across junior, mid and senior cadres to learn mandarin in its totality with a view to undergirding economic, cultural, social, educational, diplomatic and political relations between us and China.
For instance, traders from Nigeria are constrained by high travel costs, difficult China visa policies and an obstructive air service agreement. Research by the US Institute for Peace suggests that there is a potential US$650 million economic gain to Nigerian consumers if restrictions on air service were lifted.
Private businesses and non-government organisations are the best agents for rapid, sustainable reconstruction post conflict. NEDC should collaborate strongly with the private sector. There is also a case for wealthy citizens with vested family or business interests in the area, to be involved in conflict prevention and mediation as well as investment in the post conflict areas of northern Nigeria.
According to Chatham House, in the decade ending 2014, Nigeria lost US$182 billion dollars through illicit financial flows. Al Jazeera Centre for Studies has also in the past estimated that Nigeria accounts for 68% of the nearly US$60 billion siphoned illegally from Africa every year. Nigeria must block holes in its public finance sources by clamping down on transfer pricing, circumvention of capital controls and tax evasion especially by large domestic and global corporate organisations.
Despite being officially a secular state, we suffer from unhealthy identity politics through religion, ethnicity and the infamous indigene-settler dichotomy. The rivalries that the preceding matters generate threaten our common security and it is high time we used our laws to for a start, make it illegal to demand information on religion and state of origin in official public or private sector documents. The indigene-settler differentiation divides us. It must be possible to live as Nigerians without such base cleavages. We also urgently need a robust law against hate speech, which can be either stand alone or embedded in the law that abolishes differentiation and division along ethnic and religious lines.
It is important to adopt debating, negotiation and mediation to forestall and resolve conflicts. On the farmer-herder crisis, from all indications, what is in contention is grazing routes and how they overlap with crop farms. To preserve security of food, dairy and animal assets but most importantly human life, Abuja in collaboration with leaders in affected states must negotiate with the relevant associations with a view to achieving peaceful relations that are underpinned in law and no longer ancient, informal traditions.
To conclude, going forward, we must do all to prevent conflict and preserve the peace because conflict kills children and women, it displaces people and creates refugees, triggers drug and weapons trafficking and cripples infrastructure and the economy. For maximum effect, any government intervention must be accompanied with investment promotion and humanitarian relief in water, food, health and educational services. Nigeria needs us and we need Nigeria. All hands to the plough…there’s so much work to be done!
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