Former Federal Minister of Petroleum, Chief Philip Asiodu,
By Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Former Federal Minister of Petroleum, Chief Philip Asiodu, has given details as to how the military regime of Murtala Muhammed and Olusegun Obasanjo had set Nigeria on the path of economic stagnation and infrastructural degradation from 1975.
Asiodu in his presentation at the presidential dinner organised for graduating participants of Senior Executive Course 34 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS) at the weekend in Abuja, said Nigeria’s path to economic indiscipline and disregard for planning was actually encouraged by Murtala/Obasanjo regime when it abandoned the 1975 to 80 national economic plan.
In his capacity as the guest speaker at the event organised in honour of 66 participants of the NIPPS Course 34, Asiodu explained that such economic decisions of the regime had deviated Nigeria’s path to economic development from that of its Asian counterparts who were practically at par with her in the early 1970s.
He said the choice of the regime to get rid of the 1975 to 80 national economic plans was a great tragedy to the country, adding that the principle and discipline of planning was abandoned for other unconventional measures.
“Retired officials like myself can only recall with great pain and regret the third national development plan 1975 to 1980 which was launched in April 1975, that is 37 years ago. That plan was meant to lay the basis for economic diversification and industrialisation with priority to be given to modernised agriculture and agro-allied industries and value-added projects in the oil and gas sector like export refineries, petrochemical and fertiliser plants for the local market and for export.
“The great tragedy is that the Murtala-Obasanjo administration, which replaced the overthrown Gowon administration effectively abandoned the 1975 to 80 plan with its great promise of creating the basis for economic diversification and industrialisation and also abandoned indeed, the principle and discipline of planning,” he said.
Asiodu further explained: “The traumatic massive purge of about 10,000 officials countrywide over a period of four months had destroyed the competent, professional, bold, non-partisan, fearless, prestigious and merit-driven civil service inherited from the British colonial administration which might have been able to influence the new administration to keep to the plan and its constraining discipline.
The stage was then set for the economic stagnation and degradation of infrastructure, educational, health and other sectors over the next three decades despite the fairly high level of oil revenues compared with the pre-civil war and pre-independence situation.
“This is when Nigeria’s economic development path diverged from that of the Asian Tigers with whom we were practically at par in the early 1970s.
“We may recall the impressive average annual growth rate of six percent achieved under the first plan 1962-66, later extended to 1968 and after the civil war, the average annual growth rate of 11.75 percent from 1970-75.”
The former minister warned that the country stands to contend with serious economic challenges in a more difficult setting going by her continuous disregard for proper economic planning and discipline, adding that the country’s economic plan in Vision 2020 would amount to nothing without detailed planning.