By Sam Eyoboka
A FELLOW of the Nigerian Academy of Science (FAS), Professor Anya O. Anya, yesterday blamed the nationâ€™s steady economic regression on the low premium we place on efforts to educate the workforce.
He argued that human capital rather than natural resources is now the driver of any economic transformation.
Anya also listed three factors that easily militate against the nationâ€™s economic growth to include â€œthe unconscionable high cost of doing business in Nigeria which undermines our competitiveness and the pervasive and almost endemic level of corruption that threatens the entire architecture of our value system as well as the future of our social, political and economic infrastructure.â€
The third factor, he said include the â€œpervasive state of insecurity particularly in the Niger Delta which constrains our ability to attract foreign direct investment in the light of the revenue gap that exists, especially for education and infrastructure.â€
Anya spoke at the 10th Bishop Mike Okonkwo Annual Lecture at the Muson Centre in Lagos.
â€œExpectedly education and the quality of education available to the workforce became an issue as the major available competitive tool,â€ he maintained, pointing out that the ability to adapt to changes, the capacity to transform the mind set of the leadership and of the people into the â€˜can doâ€™ mode and accept competition with passion predisposes the society for success.
Speaking on the topic: â€œGlobal Economic Trend: The alternatives for Nigeriaâ€, Prof Anya bemoaned the rising unemployment rate in the country, saying that the nationâ€™s economic planners had consistently fed the nation with half truths and outright falsehood to the detriment of the masses.
â€œThe immediate past CBN governor, Prof Charles Soludo had assured at the initial appearance of the early warning signs of the global recession deriving from the crisis in the US economy that the Nigerian economy would largely be unaffected by the global turmoil,â€ he said.
According to him, â€œthe assurance was given despite the fact that oil prices, denominated in dollars were falling, remittances from Nigerians in diaspora which accounts for up to $1.2 billion inflow into the economy will reduce drastically even as the credits to Nigerian banks by US and European banks were being recalled and equity funds which had invested in the Nigerian Capital Market in its boom time of 2006-2007 were bound to deinvest.
â€œWe now know better,â€ he said, adding that in the midst of a global economic epidemic such as afflicts our world in the age of globalization, â€œthere is no hiding place for any economy. In the midst of these portents, the chief economic adviser to President Musa Yarâ€™Adua had projected a GDP growth rate for Nigeria of more than 20 per cent per annum in the run to 2020.
â€œThe reality, however, is that economic management does not respond with easy facility to cookery book prescriptions,â€ Anya stated, pointing out that growth in an economy is built on improving competitiveness and productivity.
According to him, the Nigerian economy at the moment is neither competitive nor productive and there are no obvious plans for the micro-economy which can be the basis for improved competitiveness, arguing that China, even at the best of times never achieved more than 13 per cent GDP in the last 30 years.
Taking a look at all the economic models particularly among the emerging economies, Prof. Anya came up with the opinion that Nigeriaâ€™s performance in the race for development has been less than satisfactory.
â€œIn the light of the experience of these other nations,â€ he argued â€œit is reasonably evident that Nigeriaâ€™s path to a future of wealth, prosperity for all her citizens and development must be a broad based programme that mobilises, motivates and employs the population. Given the high unemployment level in the country and the large numbers in agriculture, emphasis must involve a massive programme that develops capacity in small and medium scale industries organised in clusters across the nation.â€
He also lamented the dismal contribution of certain critical segment of the economy, adding â€œneither the exertions of the Media nor the preachments of the civil society and our religious establishment have availed much given the history and intractable ramifications of the issue of corruption in our society.â€
He therefore appealed to the Church in Nigeria to stand up to the crucial challenge maintaining that majority of the people who have contributed to the current economic decay in the nation, are Bible-carrying members of one church or the other.
Earlier, the chairman of the 10th annual Okonkwo Lecture to mark the 64th birthday anniversary, Apostle Hayford Alile praised the ingenuity of the TREM family for always taking topical national issues for discussion.
He therefore urged his colleagues to be always proactive on national issues, so that collectively we can reduce social vices from the society through holy and righteous living, not only among the leaders but also among the masses of the country.
Highlight of the programme was the presentation of gifts to the winners of the Mike Okonkwo essay competition among secondary schools in Nigeria. First price went to Master Emmanuel Amarachi Ezechukwu of Government Secondary School, Owerri who went home with the sum of N75,000 and a trophy while his school was given a computer set with UPS and a printer.
Second place went to Aminu Olowo Akinlabi of Nigerian Turkish College, Lagos and the Miss Adesina Adebanke came third. For their effort Aminu got N50,000 while Adesina went home with N25,000 with computer and set of books for their respective schools.