By Aniefiok Macauley
The Wall Street Journal in its recent report painted a gloomy economic paradigm for Nigeria. The report was based on the impact of coronavirus, Covid-19 on world economy but specifically on developing nations.
The report stated that in Nigeria where oil accounts for 60% of government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange, the government has already slashed its 2020 budget by $5 billion and approached the International Monetary Fund for $7 billion in emergency funding.
According to Vortexa, a data analytics firm, not less than seven vessels carrying Nigerian oil are stranded in the sea without a definite destination as no country seems to be interested in buying Nigeria crude oil.
The threat post by covid-19 has a multiplier import on every nation of the world with most nation’s economy being on lockdown.
The implications of this for Nigeria is that with no crude oil sales, most states in Nigeria who rely solely on federal allocation generated from oil would come to economic doldrums.
Already, some states have begun the downward slashing of the salaries of political appointees by at least 50%, while some that have not implemented the new salary increase would not be in a hurry owing to high wage bill.
Some governors are however looking at more economically viable approaches that would mitigate the impact of the coronavirus and set their state economies on the path of sustainable growth.
Perhaps it could be said that Akwa Ibom state governor, Mr. Udom Emmanuel, acting like an eagle, saw the future even ahead of the future when he took some measures that were meant to place Akwa Ibom economy on a stronger pedestal without oil.
Some of the initiatives of the governor were aggressive pursuit of the Ibom Deep Seaport Project, establishment of coconut refinery, construction of power substations across the state, establishment of Methanol plant and Industrial parks whose constructions are at advanced stages.
It is therefore not in doubt that with the nose diving of the oil price and unwillingness of former buyers to buy even at a give- away price, it would be difficult to sustain most capital projects and recurrent expenditure.
Thus to manage the economy within a foreseeable financial resources, Governor Emmanuel with the instrumentality of the House of Assembly has slashed the 2020 budget from the former N587 billion to N388 budget.
Knowing full well that slashing the annual budget alone cannot take his developmental drive to the desired destination, Emmanuel has set up a strategic economic imperative drive to ensure that the economy is fully rejigged through foreign direct investment, bilateral and multilateral partnerships.
No doubt, while inaugurating what he termed “ Akwa Ibom Post Covid-19 Economic Reconstruction Committee, he tasked members not only to recommend what must be done but also how they would be achieved.
According to him, each recommendation must address both the ‘what and how’.
The committee headed by the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Uyo, Mr. Akpan Hogan Ekpo, a renowned Professor of Economics and former Director General of West African Institute For Financial and Economic Management has other eminent Nigerians as members.
Other members of the economic recovery committee include; Lady Mary Uduk, Ag. DG, Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Prince Bassey Sampson Inwang, President, All Farmers Association of Nigeria –Akwa Ibom Chapter, Sir Effiong Afiakurue, Former Executive Director, NCDMB, Chairman/CEO of Rootcare Pharmacy , Mr. Udom Inoyo , immediate past Executive Vice Chairman of Exxon Mobil, Dr. Leo Stan Ekeh , Chairman, Zinox Technologies, Mr. Hilary Akpan, Executive Director, NNPC/NAPIMS and Prof. Vincent Anigbogu, Institute for National Transformation.
Included also in the committee are Pastor Samuel Archibong, League of Akwa Ibom Business Association (LABUSA), Mr. Lordswill Umani , President, Akwa Ibom Business Community (AIBC), Obong Nseyen Ebong, President, Uyo Chambers of Commerce Industry, Mines & Agriculture (UYOCCIMA), Sir Inyang Inyang, Managing Consultant, NobleHouse Consulting. To represent government as members of the committee are Pastor Umo Eno , Executive Director, Agricultural Investments (AKICORP), Dr. Glory Edet Hon. Commissioner for Agric & Women Affairs
Mr. Ephraim Inyang-Eyen, Hon. Commissioner for Works, Mr. Akan Okon, Hon. Commissioner for Economic Development & Ibom Deep Sea Port, Mr. Linus Nkan , Hon. Commissioner for Finance,
Prince Ukpong Akpabio Hon. Commissioner for Trade & Investment, Prof. Emmanuel Onwioduokit Head of Dept. of Economics, University of Uyo and Mr. Imeh Uwah who is the Senior Special Assistant to Governor on Marketing and Brand Management.
The weight in which the governor has given to the recovery of the economy post covid-19 could be seen from the terms of reference handed down to the committee.
Among the critical imperative, according to Governor Emmanuel is for the committee to guide the State Government in the formulation of a Policy Framework necessary to create a viable economy for Post COVID-19; Identify and explore ways and means of sourcing funds and attracting investment partners, with comfortable terms, locally, nationally and internationally in realization of every identified revenue generating project.
This should also involve the Re-design of policies targeted at attracting Technical Assistance, including bilateral and multilateral donors plus Foreign Direct Investments;
The Akpan Ekpo-led committee is also tasked to “State the time frames (gestation) of each of the income generating projects; Establish the interconnectedness (an output from one providing input materials to another) in the value chains of each of the projects; and develop a priority list of the economic re-construction projects; then establish a sequence of pre-requisite-based order of implementation (segmented in series and in parallel). Indicate the duration of each segment.”
It is also saddled with responsibility of Stating measurable Success Indicators of a sustainable socio-economic growth and development of Akwa Ibom State with little or no revenue from oil; and
The Committee is also expected to make recommendations for a strong social reorientation programme for the citizens across board on the need to unlearn old mindsets, adopt new ones and see the value of life beyond what others see.
While designing a workable formula towards restoring basic livelihoods, even if at subsistence level;
Emmanuel tasked the committee to develop Conflict-Sensitive Policies that would lead to identifying ‘low-hanging fruits’, stability and prosperity for all Akwa Ibom residents.
With the steps taken by the governor it is hoped that though the economic fortunes of the state must have been bruised but certainly it has not been broken.
Aniefiok Macauley wrote from Uyo