Mordi: Every State in Nigeria’s Viable because the Ultimate Resources of Wealth Creation Are the People

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 At a recent launch of the maiden edition of its National Competitiveness Report and Sub-National Index, in which the National Competitive Council of Nigeria (NCCN) ranked all the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory across areas including human capital, infrastructure, economy and institutions, Lagos State emerged tops, followed by Delta and River States. In an interview the Council’s CEO, Mr. Chika Mordi looks at the report and its importance for improved governance. Abimbola Akosile brings the excerpts

After about two years of rigorous work, you have now successfully launched this report…how excited are you about this?

Well, the excitement is that for the first time ever we have an index that measures the states in terms of how competitive they are. This is a combination of almost twenty months of hard work, sometimes with limited resources and we have got to where we are today and people could see where their states stand, which policies are working and which policies are not working, and this could help governance at the state level. This is particularly important because states play a key role in positive economic outcomes that affect their citizens, particularly in employment generation. Unemployment is connected to poverty and poverty reduction is primarily resolved by job creation and when you have competitive environment, businesses prosper and create jobs.

What will be your expectation from States and other stakeholders now that the result of the report is out?

What we hope, and to be frank with you, we are not just waiting for reaction; we are going to go all out to engage them positively to improve on areas where they are challenged and to help them consolidate on the areas where they are doing well. It is not advisory; it is very much of collaboration. We may see states ranked high being happy with the report and states ranked low being unhappy with it, but I must caution that it is important that they look at the total result, not just the aggregate ranking. They should look at the pillars and sub-pillars so that they can be clearer how the ranking came about, so that they could use it as basis for improvement on what they are currently doing.

Based on the outcome of the report, indicating that Lagos, Delta and some other states have done well, what lessons can be drawn from their performance?

 

I have said this before; we have to be careful when we say a particular state has done well aggregate wise. It is important that you understand where they have done well because there is something to learn from every state because we have about more than 26 pillars on which they are measured and within that, there are other micro-businesses. But, specifically, Lagos has done very well in terms of internally generated revenue which has helped government financing, brought stability and made the state more robust. They also have had a natural resource advantage of having two seaports and an international airport, and the legacy of an industrial base and wealthy large population. Also, the state has been deliberate in business interventions, so there are some positives from that. Lagos also has the Corporate Affairs Commission office, which makes business registration a lot easier, and not every state is afforded that advantage. However, I can’t remember precisely, but it must be noted that every state in Nigeria is viable because the ultimate resource of wealth creation is the people and they all have them in abundance. If you search very well, there is natural resource in every state that could give them competitive advantage, and it’s just about identifying them, having policies that allow businesses explore those advantages and by so doing create jobs and reduce poverty. These will create revenue for government and help project execution. But if you base your income from allocation at the centre, that is federal allocation, then, competitiveness will not come.

In most of the rankings, Enugu came around top five despite being predominantly a civil service state with most industries inherited from the old South-eastern region as the capital then all gone. How would you defend this before critics?

 

Look, everyone has his or her opinion and it is even better to have an opinion if it’s informed. However, our methodology is very clear and we have stated it clearly for everybody to see. The weight we attach to each of the pillars, our survey on how we got our primary data and secondary data are clear. The way we analysed the results are also very clear, we did a lot of cost valuation, our results are replicable, and so people can test our methodology. Given all that, what should be asked about Enugu is, which pillars did they score high and which pillars did they not score high? And if you look at the pillars you will see that very clearly. So, for example, when you talk about transportation, there is an airport in Enugu.

It was the capital of old South-eastern region, there is legacy connectivity that exists and these are considered when it comes to transportation. Also look at the human capital pillars; here you look at the level of education, number of schools. That is very clear. If you look at the gender representation, which is the number of female participation in state activities, that is clear. If you look at health, in terms of infant mortality rate that is also clear, same as number of hospitals when compared to other states of the federation.

Then you also look at their finance, how leveraged they are, how much revenue they generate, fiscal discipline and all that. There are so many other considerations. We are very confident of the report we have for each state. Every state has their own strength, in some areas they did well and in other areas they lagged. And on aggregate for the country, we are not doing well. So, if you look at national competitiveness as a country, we are weak. Coming first is good, but as a country we have problem with our competitiveness. So, this is a relative exercise, it’s not absolute. It’s still challenged.

This is the first time we are having this report, how often are we going to be seeing such a report?

This is going to be an annual report. We expect subsequent actuarial to be even better because you learn from every experience. There are things we would have loved to do that we couldn’t do; there are some things that were constrained, there are things you simply can’t do. So, in statistics, history matters a lot because you can draw trends. There was nothing to draw from the first exercise because it was the first, but in subsequent ones we expect that there will be historical data from index and off-index to draw from.

Can you talk about the National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria and reason behind the report?

The National Competitiveness Council of Nigeria (NCCN) is a public-private sector partnership that aims to boost Nigeria’s business competitiveness and ability to attract local and international investment. This report has become crucial for Nigeria’s government and private sector to engage in developing a clear competitiveness agenda and implementing vibrant competition strategies centred around creating the appropriate business environment with the aim of boosting collective prosperity in

Nigeria.

Over last 20 months, NCCN working with the World Bank, UK’s Department for International Development (DfID), Michael Porter Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness and the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness with support and sponsorship from Ford Foundation and from Tony Elumelu Foundation has worked hard to develop the report which is expected to spur policy adoption and global best practice.

What we did was to set parameters for assessing the competitiveness of the 36 States of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, and based on those parameters that have pillars and sub-pillars around macro-economics, human capital, infrastructure, trade, settlement and enforcement, we came out with these reports.