NIGERIA is a country with diverse but abundant natural resources. The landmass of Nigeria is about one million square kilometres. There are numerous mineral resources scattered all over the nation. Nigeria’s land is so fertile that farmers do not require fertilizer before reaping bumper harvest in some areas.
There is a particular saying that many countries, at creation, complained to God for favouring Nigeria in terms of natural resources. In reply, God told them that they should not bother because he was going to give Nigeria leaders who would waste the abundant natural resources he (God) gave Nigeria.
True to God’s answer, the type of leaders Nigeria have had since 1966 failed to exploit the country’s abundant resources for the benefit of her citizens. Nigeria’s fertile landmass can feed the whole of Africa but she started importing food from other countries to feed her people since the early ’70s.
Agriculture that used to be the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy before and up to 1966 was neglected by the succeeding military rulers who relied solely on abundant revenue from petroleum with out any attempt to diversify the country’s revenue base. Nigeria used to be among the world’s leading producers and exporters of groundnut, cocoa, kola nut, palm oil, palm kernel, cotton, rubber, columbite, iron ore, hides and skin, among others, up till 1966.
Nigeria has a more suitable soil than Thailand for producing abundant rice for domestic consumption and export, but the country spends hundreds of millions of dollars to import rice from Thailand to feed her population yearly. The Federal Government reportedly spent N991billion on rice and wheat imports alone in 2010.
In 2009, Nigeria set aside the sum of N80 billion to import rice from Thailand. If this amount were given to rice producers directly with safeguard against the usual corruption, Nigeria would have been self- sufficient in rice production. The new Minister of Agriculture recently revealed in Lagos that Nigerian spent N4 trillion on food import in 2010. Nigeria should have earned more than the N4 trillion on food exports if the civilian administration had been able to reverse the national mismanagement of the military.
Indonesia, Singapore Malaysia and Thailand were below Nigeria in international development scale in the sixties but through the optimal use of lesser funds and natural resources, these countries are now among the 20 most developed countries in the world (G20).
For instance, Indonesia is among the top six gas producing and exporting countries in the world, third among top five producers of rice in the world, third among the ten top producers of tea in the world, second among top producers of rubber, and third among top world exporters of coffee.
In 1987 the total industrial output for Nigeria was $47.1billion, while that of Indonesia was only $29billion. Nigeria is not among the 20 exporters of any agricultural or mineral resources in the world except petroleum where it occupies the sixth position among the 13 countries of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC.
It has been reported that Nigeria is the largest producer of yam and cassava in the world but she is not exporting it to anywhere to earn foreign exchange. The most annoying aspect of all this for Nigeria is that despite the abundance of these natural resources, she is importing most of these agricultural and petroleum products for her domestic consumption.
The focus of economic activities in Nigeria since the SAP of 1986 has been on making easy money through foreign exchange trading, round tripping, over invoicing in government contracts, collecting mobilisation for contracts and abandoning the contracts, buying, hoarding and selling agricultural produce.
One sure way of bringing Nigeria back on the glory path of wealth creation and employment generation, food security and foreign exchange earning is to make agriculture the focus of public and private sector economic activities.
This can be reversed by having Marketing Board Offices in each local government of Nigeria. Each ward should have a cooperative farm settlement. Every political appointee from councilor to Mr. President should have a demonstration farm in his local government or ward.
The Asian Tigers performed economic miracles through agriculture which they used to launch themselves into small and medium agricultural based industrial and later high technology because they encouraged many to go into agriculture. They realised the role of agriculture in small and medium scale business activities and exploited it fully. They do not have the type of fertile land Nigeria has, yet they are feeding the world.
There is hardly any person in the world who has not tasted rice from Thailand. Nigeria taught Malaysia how to go into palm oil business by giving them freely, their palm tree seeds, but Nigeria abandoned palm oil production for petroleum oil which has a life span.
There is hardly any idle land mass in East Asia countries because they maximize what they have even at the official circle. Most Nigerians, including their policy makers only see Nigeria’s land mass from the air or on the road on their way to seek contracts in Abuja, and other cities in Nigeria. This is the fastest means of making money without productive enterprise.
In 1979, the then head of state, General Olusengun Obasenjo said he expected Nigeria to be among the first 20 most developed countries in the world in 2001. But in 2001 under a democratic government of which he was the president, he informed that he left office in 1979 as a military Head of State with 30 planes with Nigerian Airways but in 1999 when he came back, he met only one plane.
He left 25 ships in 1979 with Nigerian National Shipping Line but in 1999 there was none remaining. He left Nigerian Railway in 1979 with flourishing business but in 1999 it was almost liquidated. One will add that ex-president Obasanjo left office in 1979 when Nigeria had a better standard of education than that of Britain and America, but in 1999 many Nigerian graduates were unable to make correct sentence in English language.
The truth is that Nigerian leadership since independence cannot give out the best education because they (the military leadership) did not posses one. The result is that while in the early ’60s, 75 percent passed GCE and HSC with distinction, only 10 percent or less passed GCE or JMAB by 2006 -2009 with distinctions. Democratic government in Nigeria since 1999 has not been able to recover from the devastation on education caused by the military.
Mr.agbo ABOH, a former LGA chairman, wrote from Benue State.