By Sam Eyoboka
LAGOS— ERSTWHILE Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Rev. Tunde Lemo, yesterday, recommended five nuggets for President Muhammadu Buhari to put the nation’s economy on the path of sustained growth and inclusive development, revealing how former governors were opposed to Federal Government’s decision to save excess crude revenue.
Speaking at the 61st annual Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria National Conference lecture, entitled: The Nigerian Economy: The Past, Present and the Future, the former CBN deputy governor said past state governors had on several occasions arm-twisted the executive, insisting that revenue accruing from oil should be immediately shared among states, instead of saving it in Excess Crude Account initiated by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
According to Lemo, the five suggestions for the way forward include restructuring, including fiscal consolidation; diversification of the economy; lifestyle changes and inclusive growth; investment in infrastructure and competitiveness, stressing that the road ahead was certainly rough.
Noting that the problems the country is currently facing are not insurmountable, Lemo said: “During some of the Federal Executive Council sessions, where I was present, the issue of saving funds generated from the sales of excess crude came up, but most of the governors at the time firmly opposed the idea.
“They opposed it so that more money could be available to fund many bogus budgets at state levels, often arguing that there was no need for saving for the rainy day, since, as some of them said, the day was already rainy.
“They insisted that the funds be shared among the states. Unfortunately, it greatly depleted the funds the Federal Government tried to save.”
Tracing the nation’s economic development from 1960 to 2015, he noted that the post-independence era was largely agrarian, while the first three to fours years of the PDP era were very challenging, adding, however, that the pace of economic transformation improved post-2003 mainly due to the emergence of a strong economic team.
He said Obasanjo’s performance could have been better, but for certain distractions and push backs from the National Assembly which preference, he said, was to hike the benchmark crude-oil price to provide additional ‘fiscal stimulus’ for constituency projects and higher allocation to the National Assembly itself.
Commenting on the administration of President Buhari, Lemo said though the President had already spent 14 of the 48 months of tenure of office, nobody could point at progresses that had been made without some brainstorming.
“While statistics point to improvements in the area of national security, economic problems are humongous and the presence of the political will to move the nation forward was not enough to achieve a quick fix.
‘’Recent, macro-economic indices show that Nigeria’s economy is in dire need of attention by policy makers. Inequalities have been widening and security challenges appear hydra-headed,” he said.
Lemo also advised the government not to repeat the mistakes of the past while it taking steps to restore Nigeria to the path of growth.
He counselled: “We must restructure because the present structure is too expensive, as it emphasizes resource sharing as opposed to production. The tax laws should be amended so that each zone will have total control over its resources.
“The economy must be diversified with immediate effect, and in addition, we need to move faster on the increase in our local petroleum refining capacity. More refineries should be privatised without delay.
“We should also embrace Nigerian-made products and this should start with such basic things as school uniforms, textiles, shoes etc . The government should also look beyond the annual budget for funding infrastructure.
‘’We have to reverse the negative trend of spending more of our resources to nurture the bloated government structure.
“We must rebuild the public school system and re-introduce technical education. We also need to build strong institutions and enhance property rights because many of the existing institutions are weak and with overlapping functions.”
Former Nigerian Ambassador to Britain, Dr. Christopher Kolade, who was the chairman of the occasion, said God gave Nigerians the mandate to manage their resources but noted that in doing so, they often forgot that God had principles.
He said: “Our management of the economy must respond to the rules that God has given. Managing the economy is not just Buhari’s responsibility, we all have a hand in it, but we must do so according to the guidance of God.”
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the General Overseer of Foursquare Gospel Church in Nigeria, Rev. Felix Meduoye, said the reason for organising the lecture was that the Church believed that it had a part to play in the process of nation building and establishing the counsel of God for the land.