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Reforming Nigeria

THE challenges that reforms pose are not new to these parts. With a little hindsight, we can remember that the re-structuring of this economy, otherwise called reforms started most emphatically in the public’s mind with the structural adjustment programme, SAP.

Devaluation of the Naira that followed from SAP failed to produce the economic elixir Nigerians were promised. The Naira has been on the slide ever since.

Reforms of banks, electoral system, the polity and attitudes of Nigerians dominated the air waves in the past three decades. If we are not being told how to cross the streets, we are harassed to all become farmers, so that jointly we can feed the nation.

Greater attention is paid to words rather than the sustainability of these programmes that have left Nigeria constantly under reforms without meaningful progress. Reforms no longer have meaning. From the Constitution to electricity all we talk about are reforms. Yet nothing comes out of these.

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo sang about reforms as if they would be the sole basis for the survival of the country. The most accomplished of the reforms under Obasanjo could be the recapitalisation of the banks to a minimum of N25 billion. Competitive as this was said to have made Nigerian banks globally, it did not in any way improve banking services, nor did it improve corporate governance in banks.

Reforms have not touched key human development areas like education, health, provision of drinking water, housing, and food security. There has not been any basic improvement in agriculture, beyond the billions of Naira allocated to the sector. Nigeria’s agriculture remains in its primitive nature and is unable to fend for the peoples, hence the increasing import of grains, especially rice.

Electricity supply is mired in sheer semantics. One day generation is the problem, another day, the distribution of what is produced is the issue. The most profound statement on electricity supply came from  former Power and Steel Minister, Chief Lyel Imoke, who four years ago said stable power supply would be achieved in 2056 – 46 years hence.

Media reports are filled with the high cost of manufacturing – and living – that poor electricity supply causes. This sector will only get proper attention, if there is good leadership to unbundle the issues and manage them.

Remarkably, the Vision 2020 document, which captures government’s economic and social aspirations for Nigeria, is already suffering devastating blows from the absence of enabling laws to bring it to life. Constant references to the Vision 2020 document as the possible provider of direction for development of Nigeria now sound trite.

The imperatives of reforms for Nigeria to combat debilitating poverty are pressing. Reforms that do not change peoples’ lives are meaningless. Reforms today address issues that could compound the poverty of more than 90 million.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.