By Sunny Ikhioya
WE are again in recession and it is official. But, how did we get here? Was it avoidable? Our excuses are legendary; we are officially a mono product nation, and so, when the prices of crude oil drop in the international market, our income drops accordingly.
Excuses have continued to pile up for this country’s abysmal economic situation and in the course of looking for excuses, we lose focus on the solutions for this country. Excuses do not get problems solved and you do not need all of four years to positively impact the people of a country; all that is needed is a focused leadership, backed by strong structures and institutions. We must ask ourselves whether we want to remain the way we are or we want to move forward?
If we want to move forward, we must be ready to take the right steps towards development. All we appear to be doing is digging pitfalls for ourselves. It is so glaring, everyone can see it, except those ruling us. It is not enough to ask the people to make sacrifices when those at the top are engaged in profligacy; it does not work out that way.
Everytime prices of petroleum products are to be increased, the impression is always given that the extra income will be used as a cushion for the people. It has been so right from the military regimes till today. There seem to be some lack of creativity and initiative, with every successive regime building on the foolishness of its predecessors. That is the way we are and that is why we have found ourselves in this situation.
We are in recession because we have refused to do the needful, period. The other day it was in the news that Nigeria is slashing duty on imported cars from 35 percent to five percent. According to the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, “it is to reduce the cost of transportation on the people in the face of growing economic challenges”.
We are trying to promote local manufacturing and are reducing duties on importation; what a contradiction! When we create policies that are contradictory to our goals and purposes, there is no way the goal or purpose can be achieved.
Already, we are hearing discordant voices. In his reaction Chidi Ajaere, Chief Executive of GIG group, said “the decision by government to cut the duty imposed on imported vehicles from 35 percent to five percent is a disincentive to prospective and existing investors in the local manufacturing of vehicles”.
If tomorrow the local manufacturing companies fold up their operations, who would be held responsible? Meanwhile, you have the tax man hanging on companies. We are the killers of our businesses. It was in the news that the Kano State Sharia law enforcement police, Hisbah, destroyed quantities of beer worth over N200 million.
These are products of local breweries in Nigeria which pay huge sums of money as taxes into the federation account, of which Kano State is a beneficiary. How can this happen in a country that is supposed to be a secular state? Is there no better way of handling this? What happens to all of those in the distribution chain whose incomes depend on the products destroyed? And we say we want to get out of recession.
We must be able to face the truth for us to move forward. Everyone is complaining about the congestion in the ports at Apapa and Tin Can in Lagos. It has been so for many years, depleting our resources and making life difficult for businesses generally, while the solution lies in the decentralisation of our import and export channels.
With viable ports in Warri, Koko, Port Harcourt, Calabar and others, instead of looking for ways to make these ports operational, we are wasting energies and resources to build dry sea ports, where goods will be kept in transit.
Nobody is looking at the overall benefits for the country; we are all looking at our own parochial and sectional interests. We have closed down our borders for about a year now. But what has been the benefit of the closure?
While people are still allowed to bring in goods from one part of the country, the other side is on lockdown; it certainly will not work. It is important for government to listen to the people, as represented by the manufacturers, professionals, state and local governments and even the opposition; everyone must be factored in, so that solutions can be proffered to the perennial economic challenges.
It is not a matter that we can wish away through excuses. We have a railway line that was recently commissioned; less than two years after the trains have started breaking down; and we have to wait for the Chinese technicians to come and do the repairs for us. How do we now meet up with the payment terms of the debts procured. In monitoring and evaluation terminology, it is called PTF, programmed to fail; that is the situation our Chinese debt is leading us into.
It is said that “the borrower is a servant of the lender”. We suffered with the Bretton Woods debts, now the Chinese are taking us in the same direction. You are executing a project worth billions of dollars in your land and there are no reasonable local imput; you cannot even engage your local engineers or workers as part of the top crew. Again, you think our economy can thrive under this kind of arrangement?
Recession is not a death sentence to the economy, but this depend on how it is handled. If not well handled, it could result to death in real life and the way out of it is to stay focused on the basics. It is time for the Federal Government to shed weight, I mean shedding in all ramifications; it cannot be over emphasised that our cost of running government is too high. Government cannot succeed in changing the people if the leadership is not setting the right standards and examples.
We must cut down on every available expense area: the presidential fleet, administration, National Assembly, state executives, state assemblies and all. It is important to note here that if we bring in ethnicity and religion into the whole setup, we will fail. So, anything that will make religion to clash with the interest of the state must be eliminated, including government sponsorship of pilgrimages.
I believe we know what to do as experts from diverse fields have been highlighting these shortcomings. What is lacking is the leadership will to execute these recommendations. How I wish our leaders will take heed.