By Omoh Gabriel
Nigerians’ taste for foreign goods has been the bane of the economy. Many prefer goods and services made abroad to locally produced goods even when such goods are of lower quality. This has had a serious effect on the nation’s reserve. The continued depletion of the external reserves of the nation and the ever growing army of unemployed youths is as a result of this trend that has bedeviled our economy.
Available data show that the trend of high importation of goods and service out- stripping export has continued despite efforts by government at transforming the economy. Latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics in the first three months of this year has painted another gloomy picture of Nigerians appetite for foreign products. National Bureau of Statistics figure indicate that Nigeria’s external merchandise trade totalled N5, 098.9 billion in the first quarter of 2013, a decrease of N2, 086.9 billion or 29 per cent from the N7,185.8 billion recorded in the previous quarter.
The decrease emanated mainly from the fall in the value of exports from N5, 892.9 billion in the fourth quarter, 2012 to N3, 452.1billion in the first quarter, 2013, a 41.4 per cent decline. Furthermore, a 27.4 per cent increase in imports from N1, 292.8 billion in the fourth quarter, 2012 to N1, 646.7 billion in the first quarter 2013 in combination with a decrease in exports, created a decline in the trade balance by N2, 794.7 or 60.8 per cent during the period.
Sadly, instead of Nigeria’s non-oil export rising, it has fallen. Instead of import bills dropping, they are rising, a scenario that does portend danger for the economy. For too long, Nigerians have failed to recognise that the nation is in the wrong business by exporting crude oil and importing fuels and petro-chemicals, exporting iron ore and importing steel, exporting alumina and importing aluminium products, exporting raw cocoa and importing processed cocoa products, exporting cotton and importing garment.
This is bad business. Foreigners and economists have always bemoaned the much touted economic growth because it has not reflected on the life of the average Nigerian.
Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, recently said that Nigeria expends N1 billion daily on rice importation, translating to N360 billion annually. Besides, N217 billion is equally spent annually to import sugar while fish importation gulps N97 billion every year.
Nigerians must ask themselves the question; when did rice become a staple food? Rice was in those days a ceremonial food. It was cooked during festivals. Besides, the nation has large expanse of land, why wasting so much on rice importation? This is not all, the amount the nation spends annually on foreign trips by government functionaries for medical check up is equally mind boggling, same is the amount the rich and well-to-do spend on sending their children to schools abroad. Could it be true that Nigeria is cursed as Obasanjo now feels?
As Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole said, no country desirous of making economic progress relies on importation. Nigeria has no business importing rice.
Is Nigeria really cursed that it cannot get the right policy to address this ugly situation? Why can’t Nigerian leaders think while in office only to be out of office and full of lamentation? Who then is in a position to break the curse or spell on Nigeria if there is one? Who imposed the curse on the country? Recall that when Obasanjo was the UN eminent personality to South Africa in the days of apartheid, he advocated the use of ekpe, curses and incantation to dismantle the regime.
Is he saying same in a country he ruled for eight years as a President and about three odd years as a military leader? Nigeria is not jinxed; it is simply in a mess because the kind of leadership imposed on the country is the Fani Kayode type. When serious nations are discussing how to move forward, Nigeria’s supposed leaders are counting the number of women they have slept with including other people’s wives.
When other leaders are busy reading books and memoirs of great minds, Nigerian leaders with small minds are pursing women. At international conferences, while others are negotiating deals that will bring succour to their people, Nigerian leaders are looking for women. This is the root of Nigeria’s leadership problems. Nigeria is not cursed; Nigerian leaders are simply lazy and rent seekers.
According to National Bureau of Statistics data, year-on-year, the value of the nation’s total merchandise trade decreased by N1,523.1billion or 23.0 per cent as a result of decreasing imports and exports. A drop in exports compared to imports also led to a decline in the trade balance by 45.6 per cent during this period as well.
Crude oil exports stood at N3,030.7 billion during the first quarter of 2013, a decrease of N1,072.0 billion or 26.1 per cent when Nigerian imports by economic category revealed that fuels and lubricants accounted for N506.4 billion or 30.7 per cent of imports, followed by goods not elsewhere specified with N401.8 billion or 24.4 per cent, industrial supplies with N341.0 billion or 20.7 per cent, and capital goods and associated parts with N165.2 or 10.0 per cent.
This is the basic problem; bulk of the nation’s import is for consumption instead of capital goods that will aid further production. While one may not agree with Obasanjo that Nigeria is under a curse, there is something
fundamentally wrong with Nigerian leaders and Nigerians. If anything, this is the time for a rethink.