By Obinna Chima
The Director General, West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management (WAIFEM), Prof. Akpan Ekpo, has called for increased private sector investments in Nigeria.
This, he said was important to stimulate economic growth and help the country achieve its quest for economic diversification.
Ekpo, said this in a speech he presented at the Nigeria Eminent Personalities and Corporates Awards (NEPAC)/Lectures that took place in Lagos at the weekend.
He also stressed the need for a clear economic blueprint in the country, saying “Nigeria must define its economic blueprint.”
“Go to India, Malaysia, Singapore, China, all of them have comprehensive development plan. The quality of leadership is very important.
“Instead of states waiting every month for allocation, they should develop their states and compete effectively.
“There must also be the political will. Also, if we don’t add value to our solid minerals, it would end up as oil. Agriculture must also be in large scale, using science and technology.
“Nigeria has no option other than to strive towards economic diversification. However, for the economy to be diversified, there must be good governance,” he said.
According to Ekpo, the Nigerian economy remains under-developed and backward, despite enormous human and material resources.
He pointed out that since Independence in 1960, various policies, programmes and strategies, meant to reverse underdevelopment have not yielded the desired results.
“The elites, over time, have captured the states for their own self-interest. Even the experiment of democratic government has been a disaster.
“In some, both military and civilian rules have not produced the desired result of making life better for millions of Nigerians as they still lacked the basic necessities of life.
“They lack quality education, running water, quality health care, power supply, adequate shelter, etc. Also, unemployment rate has reached unprecedented high. Overall, the country lacks the necessary infrastructure for growth and development,” he added.
The WAIFEM boss, however, pointed out that the irony was that the economy had earned huge revenue and foreign exchange from the export of crude oil over the years.
He wondered why revenue from crude oil not had not been utilised to grow the economy like in several other countries.
“Countries like Norway, Indonesia, China, used their oil revenues to build their economies. China that buys oil crude oil, has crude oil. But the strategic policy of the country is to buy for reserve.
“Norway has also been deploying its oil revenue to develop its infrastructure, Indonesia same thing.
“But it seems like the discovery of oil reversed the fortunes of millions of Nigerians, but enriched few. Nonetheless, crude oil remains the main driver of the economy.
“Therefore, the Nigerian economy, from the early seventies to now, is still the oil story. Yet, it is generally known that oil is a wasting asset, it is non-renewable and therefore, revenue from oil could be a windfall and utilised as such.
“When the oil sector is doing well, the country’s selected economic indicators would trend upwards and vice versa,” Ekpo said.
He added: “There is no doubt that government, policy makers and other stakeholders are aware of the dangers of running a mono-product economy, that is based on crude oil.
“Hence, the call for diversifying the economy. Moreover, with the new technological innovation, oil will no longer be crucial.
“Therefore, the need for diversification is more urgent than ever. It is important to note that diversification has been on the table for about 50 years.”
The awardees included the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; Central Bank of Nigeria; the Nigeria Ports Authority; Joe Ajaero; Fidelity Bank Plc; Tincan Island Ports Customs Command; the Association of Bureau De Change Operators of Nigeria; NIMASA and the Nigeria Breweries.