By Chika Amanze-Nwachuku
Policy makers have been advised to focus on the key issues that pushed Nigeria’s economy into crisis with a view to taking more proactive measures necessary to exit recession and avoid future chaos.
The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Osun State Governor, Rauf Aregbesola and Senate President, Bukola Saraki, gave the advice at the weekend during The Point Newspaper’s public presentation and first annual conference on economic regeneration.
Specifically, Sanusi, who was the special guest at the event, blamed the current economic recession on decades of policy failures, which he said had become a clog in the wheel of Nigeria’s economic development.
Sanusi’s remarks came just as the Senate President, Bukola Saraki and Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, cautioned Nigerians against over-dependence on foreign products at the expense of locally produced goods.
Sanusi, who was a former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN),
however argued that the biggest problem confronting the country was the lack of local production of essential commodities and goods and the will to change policies that would drive the growth of quality local production and not stopping Nigerians from consuming imported goods.
Sanusi said: “We have had decades of policy failure. The last decade was Africa’s miracle decade because we moved from a continent that was known for hunger and war to a decade where as a people we were seen as a land of opportunities and investments.
“Nigeria grew at seven per cent every year through out that period as the economy doubled and we became the biggest economy in Africa but lack of policy made us lose all proceeds.”
He urged the federal government to take a decisive step on the type of economy it would want to run.
According to him, the time had come for the government to differentiate between reality and passion.
He recalled: “I objected to the increase in the minimum wage from N12, 000 o N18, 000 in 2011 because government only had passion to reward the electorate and failed to consider the consequences along the line. By 2011, the federal government was spending about 80 per cent of its revenue on personnel and oil price was $110 per barrel and we were producing over two million barrels per day. That was a failed policy”.
On his part, Aregbesola said the theme of the annual lecture series, “What is the Economics of Change?” was “a play on word that indirectly put to task the campaign mantra of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), which promised Nigerians a change for the better during last year’s election campaign.”
According to him, a decline in the price of crude in the international market had always been the cause of the recession the country had fallen into at different periods.
The governor admitted that the severity of the economic recession was a result of lack of foresight and planning on the part of government, adding that the difference between the past recession and the current one was the fact that the previous ones never lasted this long.
He said: “The fundamental problem is that we can no longer fund our imports because our foreign earnings have progressively declined while our taste for and dependence on foreign goods have continued to increase. This is what put pressure on the Naira, makes imported goods to become very expensive and put the economy in a tailspin,” he said. Speaking in the same vein, the Senate President said the time had come for Nigeria to diversify as it was no longer fashionable to run a monolithic economy.
The Senate President, who was represented at the event by the Chairman, Senate Committee of Banking and Finance, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, said his experience at a recent trade exhibition had made it clear that there were potentials laying waste due to over-reliance on oil, which he said had made the economy weak.
“SMEs, not government, not big corporations, hold the key to solving our unemployment problems, raising the GDP, diversifying the economy and promoting production and manufacturing in Nigeria.”