At 58, CEOs Rue Nigeria’s Economic Challenges, Lost Opportunities

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By Obinna Chima and Chinedu Eze

As Nigeria celebrates its 58 Independence Anniversary today, some chief executive officers (CEOs) in the country have decried the country’s lost opportunities.

According to them, Nigeria in the last 58 years has not been able to fully realise its potential.

They also lamented the fact that the economies of a lot of nations that got independence at the same time with Nigeria have continued to outperform Nigeria’s economy.

Speaking in an interview with THISDAY, the CEO of Maxifund Investments and Securities Plc, Mr. Okechukwu Unegbu said: “If I look back to the time I was born and when I was growing up, Nigeria was better then, than now.”

According to Unegbu, who is a former bank CEO, then, “everything was based on merit and our leaders were committed to helping the society.”

“If you compare Nigeria with other countries that Nigeria gained Independence same time with, you will find out that in Nigeria, ethnicity and nepotism have taken over and that has retarded the country’s growth.

“The political terrain today does not give anyone hope and you cannot divorce the economy from the politics of the nation.”

He stressed that the Nigerian economy requires economic managers that have the general interest of the populace in mind to realise its potential.

“Despite all the negative things we face today, I still see this country as one of the best you can do business in the world. After 58 years, we must now start charting the proper direction for economic growth.

“We need to encourage a lot of Nigerians that have businesses, but don’t have the wherewithal to do it,” Unegbu said.

On his part, the CEO Aero Contractors, Ado Sanusi, in assessing the performance of the aviation sector since 1960, said, “I think a lot have been achieved in perspective, but we have really moved forward and backwards.”

According to Sanusi, in terms of infrastructure, the airports that were built in recent times were built by the states or private sector operators.

“The federal government has not built any new airport for several years. What has been going on is that government has been renovating existing airports and even the airport that was built in Abuja by Julius Berger was not completed.

“The design was that the airport was to be extended by adding more facilities but this was not done and recently a new terminal was built there by the Chinese.

“Nigeria does not have a formidable airline that can compete with international carriers; so, we have not achieved anything in that area.

“In terms of regulating the industry, we have the best regulatory policies which we copied from the advanced nations, but we have not been able to implement these policies efficiently. So, the problem is implementation,” the Aero Contractor boss added.

Also, a former bank Executive Director, Abdulrahman Yinusa, said Nigeria had misused several opportunities to grow its economy to where it ought to be. “Opportunities keep coming and we keep missing them and that for me is the bane of our economic growth.

“In Nigeria, you will see a government will start something beautiful and promising and down the line, we would abandon it. For example, look at a simple thing like the national identity card project, I have seen about three different identity card projects, all started and failed.

“What is the big deal in having a national identity card? For most countries that is what they use for economic planning and policy formulation. Look at the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, after several years, we are still talking about that project.

“If you look at our ports today, you will be wondering what kind of human beings we are in this country. I am afraid for this country because even though I don’t expect us to achieve everything today, I don’t think we are in the right direction,” he said.

Yinusa, stressed the need for the government to revisit all previous national plans and work towards its implementation.

“Those going into government must be made to understand that their job is to implement the national plan on ground and not to create new ones,” he said.

 To the CEO of Financial Derivatives Company Limited, Bismarck Rewane, the Nigerian economy has continued to perform sub-optimally in the past 58 years.

“We have lost our opportunities and we have defective leadership and weak followers.

“You can’t fix this in one day, we have to go back and deal with the structural issues in this country. What we have achieved so far is that we have moved from a command economy to a mixed economy, but we have to move to a free market economy,” he said.

On his part, the CEO Aglow Limited, an aviation consulting firm, Tayo Ojuri, the aviation industry in Nigeria is still at the infancy stage, despite the 58 years Independence celebration.

“There is lack of infrastructure, there is lack of enabling environment and the sector is wracked by policy summersault. The aviation industry is supposed to be a catalyst to economic growth.

“We have the geographical location; we have the population, so we need a quicker way of moving passenger and cargo to grow the economy,” he added.