By Patrick Dele Cole
SOME economists claim that you can predict the economy of a nation by counting the number of people idling around at motorparks and airports. There are all kinds of touts outnumbering the ones that are employed.
They are so busy collecting money and extorting people. People who are so busy doing nothing but wasting in idleness and laziness, and ironically those next to them are national officers such as Road Safety Marshalls, Police, Military, Vehicle Inspection Officers and so on, harassing motorists just to extort money from them for little or no traffic infractions.
Another group comprise those from the state and local government offices who harass drivers, especially of commercial vehicles carrying goods and passengers within and outside the state. They mount illegal checkpoints, requesting for vehicle documentations that have absolutely nothing to do with the roadworthiness of the vehicles.
It became necessary for the vehicle drivers, especially those who ply particular routes where these groups of criminals, as I would call them, mount these roadblocks. The people just keep wads of N200 notes to give so they are not bothered and delayed on the road by these jobless individuals who believe their job is to harass citizens who are going about their lawful businesses.
The National Assembly man who goes to the company to ask for a cut of a budget that has been approved for a contract. How are you going to look after me since I am a member of the committee that approved the budget? The reason why they are not working is that government has encouraged so much waste.
Subsidy is at N4 trillion and you are earning N7 trillion; it is obvious that the subsidy is higher than the budget and earnings. The justification to go on with the subsidy is explained with the story that people will suffer if the subsidy is removed. The people are suffering much more now. The Operation Feed the Nation, OFN, seemed laughable but people went to the farms to produce. It worked; but now it is abandoned.
The ministers have no plan for agriculture. Past ministers only acquired farms for themselves having understood the value of farming. They only made it possible for themselves. Young men who are in the city have no jobs, that is those who should have been given the opportunity to go into agriculture. What a wasteful nation. The issue of subsidies for PMS (petrol) could have been dealt with several years ago. A plan to solve this problem has been abandoned. Now the problem looks unsolvable. Government’s response is to abandon the problem.
In Lagos the Federal Secretariat was projected to serve as flats for Nigerians in diaspora who planned to return. The project has been abandoned for over 20 years. It is common to see many abandoned high-rise buildings in Lagos. Can you imagine if that space was transformed to serve as a general hospital?
Can you imagine how many people would be gainfully employed? The NITEL Building in Marina acquired by former Speaker, Dimeji Bankole, was abandoned over two decades ago; the Federal Guest House in Victoria Island, Lagos, the NICON Building, the National Oil building and so many others have similarly been abandoned. For administrative reasons, we kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Only the buildings that belong to the banks seem to be working.
Why has the subsidy solution been abandoned? So also are the three refineries in Nigeria, the activation of which must be an integral part of dealing with this unsupportable subsidy? Is the subsidy regime not surviving because it provides incredible wealth to the unsatisfiable piranhas along the food chain of oil? Today the conventional wisdom is that 80 per cent of our oil is stolen. Shell has just warned that the oil industry is in danger of collapse.
In MM2 there is a skeleton of a Five-Star airport hotel abandoned now for over 20 years. Near the Race Course, the former Ministry of Communications has been abandoned to squatters. The National Museum project has been abandoned and its building is now a shopping mall in King George Street.
Does government not understand that people should be employed gainfully to occupy these buildings? Can anyone imagine the GDP of Nigeria if these buildings were functional? They buy it and they abandon it. Can anyone imagine how much money had been spent on these buildings and the ridiculous amount they had been purchased for, yet abandoned.
There are more airlines in Nigeria that have died than in any other nation of the world. Imagine how much has been sunk into the airline business in Nigeria? The Nigerian Airways was killed, resurrected, died again, rebirthed and rebranded but to no avail. Yet other airline operators who came to learn from us still proudly have their airlines in operation: Ghana Airline, Ethiopian Airline and Kenyan Airline, to mention but a few.
Today we have aviation fuel issues and we complain while all the other African and European airlines, though also complaining, are still thriving. The other airlines use the same aviation fuel, yet they fly. Arik once had 19 planes and today it is in receivership just like Aero. Where are all the gains? When these businesses die, the organisations set up to run them continue despite their high running costs. If all the airlines were running, there would be more people employed. In the airline industries, they can’t pay salaries and the unions continue to threaten. The airline unions threaten strikes and sometimes they discharge the airlines of their duties. And we expect the country to function?
The steel plants in Ajaokuta, the oil refineries in Warri, PH and Kaduna are all mothballed. (By the way it was the Ukrainians who built the Ajaokuta Steel Plants.)
The Ajaokuta Steel Plant occasioned the building of the railways to Warri; now it is a useless moribund white elephant project. Apart from the Ajaokuta Steel Plant, Nigeria built six steel rolling mills which have all been abandoned. In 1975, government built 12 brick making factories, one in each state. They have all been abandoned.
Nigeria had a Peugeot assembly plant and Volkswagen Badagry, and in Enugu, Mercedes Benz had the Anamco Truck Assembly plant. All the ancillary industries that were supposed to support the industries across these value chains were built but are now abandoned, yet the civil service had no diminution in their pay despite the death of these industries.
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