Moghalu: Future of Young Nigerians at Risk with FG’s Excessive Borrowing

0

Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Presidential Candidate of the Young Progressive Party, in this interview on Arise TV, the sister broadcast station of THISDAY, spoke on a wide range of issues in the economy. Excerpts:  

What is Moghalunomics all about?

Moghalunomics is a phrase used by some commentators to indicate my views on economic transformation as we should have it in this country. I have some original thoughts about economic transformation and economic development, the first of which we need to understand in this country is the difference between economic growth, economic development and economic transformation. Our policy makers don’t understand this and they keep getting confused, chasing only economic growth statistics which though are necessary, but by themselves do not create structural economic transformation. That is why we still have a lot of poor people and we are the poverty capital of the world. So, that is part of what Moghalunomics is.  Part of it is also my vision on how to curtail unemployment in this country by focusing on the three secrets of successful capitalism which is property rights, innovation and capital. As president of Nigeria elected on the platform of the YPP, I will be setting up a N1 trillion venture capital fund in 2019. This fund will invest in millions of new businesses for young men and women.

How do you intend to raise this N1 trillion?

It is actually easy. The first thing to do is to take out the N500 billion Social Intervention Fund that the government has been budgeting for the past two years, which is total an unproductive venture, a citadel to waste and corruption.

But the feeding programme has taken more children to school?

What feeding programme? Those are propaganda claims. Let me explain to you. When you bring out N500 billion from the government fund and you bring out N500 billion from the private sector, it is going to be a public-private partnership. Then, we set up this fund which will create real wealth and create millions of new jobs. Now, that is economic thinking. The problem with this government that we have in Nigeria today is that they like to be populist, but at the end of the day they are just recycling poverty. What we need in Nigeria is not this thing they say they are doing, what we need in Nigeria is a social security programme, which my government would be working on separately.

We have had some other candidates on this programme and we have heard their manifesto. I will like you to compare and contrast the policy documents of President Mohammadu Buhari and thatof former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar?

My first comment about the APC government’s ‘NextLevel’ is that it is really the next level of the decent into poverty. That is what I think. I don’t see anything original in it, t is just political and the usual thing. They talked about the ERGP, trying to grow the economy at seven per cent a year by 2020. Well, we are very far from that, I think they know that. So, I am not impressed about the NextLevel. Also, let’s not talk about the controversy over whether or not the concept was plagiarised. It shows you the absolute lack of originality in this government. Whether it is technical plagiarism or not, it is very clear that it is very similarly to something some other people did in the United Kingdom. So, mostly likely, in my view, it was just a copied design. Let’s move to Atiku Abubakar’s document. Now, the problem I have with that document is that it over promises. You know people make a lot of flowery promises. He talked about a $900 billion economy. That would mean growth of 12 per cent a year consistently. I don’t see us being able to achieve that within a short-range. I think he said up to 2025. We can likely grow by upper single digit and in my government that is what is going to happen. But to assume right off the bat you are going to be growing at double-digit to get to $900 billion, is not possible. Again, the Atiku document makes the mistake that a lot of economic thinking makes in this country. It is a focus on Gross Domestic Product growth. It is not a focus on transforming the society and transforming millions of the people from poverty into the middle class. It is not a focus on economic development. It talks about selling off the NNPC, I just can’t believe that because I don’t think that is the correct way to go. I think the NNPC should be partially privatised as I myself said severally months ago. I was the first presidential aspirant at that time to talk about the need to privatise 49 per cent or 51 per cent, with the other side going to the private sector. And when I talk about privatisation, I give you the details of how the concept would work. The problem with Nigeria’s politicians in the APC and PDP is that they make these flowery statements without telling Nigerians how it will work. When you say you will privatise the NNPC and the refineries, where will you privatise it? Who is buying the NNPC? I say that we would put the shares of the NNPC on the Nigerian Stock Exchange and at least 10 per cent of the ownership must be for the host communities. So, I am very clear when I talk about these things. The purpose for privatising the NNPC is to make sure that it efficient and to sell off Nigeria’s crown jewels to friends and cronies.

I have heard many commentators say all the presidential candidates sound more or less the same. Maybe there could be variation in terms of details, but they are all saying same thing in terms of security, jobs, infrastructure and so on. In you book, you talked about internal security, law and order. We have a sitting president who is a retired soldier and under his watch we have not been able to address the security challenge. You are not a soldier, so what is this your vision all about?

The reason some people may think presidential candidates sound very much alike is because we all know the problem Nigeria faces. I don’t think there is anybody who doesn’t know what the real issues are. So, you must forgive us. But the difference, and you must be very discerning, is the solution to the problems. Listen carefully to all the presidential candidates and listen to me, and you cannot say we sound alike. When I speak, I don’t make promises. I have a plan and I have a plan to execute the plan. So, we don’t all have the same vision. Now, on the issue of security, first of all I want to say how sad and sorry I am for the families of our fallen soldiers. It’s always a sad thing when soldiers in any country are the subject of terrorists’ attacks and I don’t want to get too political about it because I want to focus on the human loss. But you asked me about security, which is a broader question. Now, it is a tragedy of monumental proportion that a man who was a General in the Army promised to secure Nigerians, and security in this country has gotten worse under his leadership. It is not just Boko Haram, there is also the herdsmen clashes and so many other things. So, the problem is number one, it is clear that the hood does not make the monk. Please do not be deceived by the fact that somebody is a General. I would secure Nigeria far better as president of Nigeria in 2019, more than President Muhammadu Buhari has done. Number one, I would come to national security with a much better understanding of what national security means. The understanding of security in Buhari’s vision is a tunnel vision, it is just about Boko Haram. But national security is many things. It is Boko Haram, herdsmen, it is also the ever-increasing rate of poverty in this country. It has national security implication for the country. It is about cybersecurity and it is about the borders. If you don’t understand the problems fully, you will not be able to solve it. Secondly, I will bring a much more professional approach to the management of Nigeria’s security problem. If you look at the military chiefs, 99 per cent of them come from one part of the country and are of one religion. That tells you that the consideration for the leadership of our security architecture is not professionalism, it is parochialism. The government of president Buhari is not securing Nigeria, they are securing his regime and he thinks his ethnic and religious kith and kin are the only ones he can trust. That is one of the reasons security is breaking down in this country and nobody talks about it. Thirdly, I will have as president, the political will to secure Nigeria. You see the president when the herdsmen attack, you will see him being evasive, making apologies and turning himself into a prayer warrior. We elected him to secure this country, we didn’t elect him to pray. So, the point is that there needs to be political will and no matter whose ox is gored, we must secure our citizens. Fourthly, border security is important. Our borders in this country are not secure. I as president will secure Nigeria’s border. Finally, as president, I will create a completely new 21st century police force with 1.5 million men and women over a period of four years.

As president, will you consider it important to seek technical assistance outside in terms of security?

The real problem is to look inwards and regenerate our armed forces. Nigeria’s armed forces are focused on the wrong things. Nigeria’s civilian space has become increasingly militarised. You have ‘Operation Python Dance, Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Crocodile Smiles.’ So, it is because our internal security of the police force has failed. So, the armed forces are increasingly being deployed for things that should be done by the police force and because of that their focus is on the wrong place. The focus of the army should be to defend Nigeria and our borders, to make us secure. The police should be strengthened and equipped. That is why I have my vision for national security. A new 21st century police force is absolutely essential. We have 350,000 policemen today and we are 200 million people. This country has serious security challenges. And one third of that 350,000 are guarding the big men. So, if we focus on our police so that they can take care of internal security, then the army will be professionalised to take care of external threats. Another issue is the relationship with our neighbouring countries- Chad, Niger Republic, Cameroon and others. The army should be focused on cross-border military intelligence. We don’t see evidence that, that is very strong. So, I will seek external collaboration if necessary, to make sure that Nigerians are secured once I become president.

What is your plan for women empowerment??

My cabinet will be 50-50 gender parity. That is, one man, one woman.

Are you being inspired by what is happening in Ethiopia?

No, I had the inspiration before what happened in Ethiopia. The national gender policy requires 30 per cent of female representation, but I am going 20 per cent above that. Secondly, we are going to strengthen gender participation through education. Public education that attacks the root causes of gender bias is very important. Also, men would play a very important role in gender mainstreaming under my presidency. Also, under my presidency, you are going to see a 100 per cent doubling of women who are running for position in the National Assembly.

Your book also talks about institutions and you say institution matters. Now, where are you going to bet the Nigerians that would transform those institutions given the culture and orientation of the average Nigerian. The second part is which institution are you likely to prioritise as a matter of urgency for reform and why?

If we study the political and economic history of countries that are doing well economically and democracy is flourishing, you will find out that the secret of their success is independence institutions. So, institutions that are independent and strong are necessary to check absolute power and to hold politically elected leaders to accountability and to help in effective public administration. In Nigeria for example, look at the rule of law. The president has refused to obey court orders in a number of cases and there have been glaring disregard for the rule of law. What does that mean? It means that you are inviting anarchy. I think the political office holders have too much immunity and that needs to be curtailed, so that that their conducts can come under scrutiny. Secondly, I would look at institutions such as the central bank and set the EFCC free. The fight against corruption is failing because it is a political football that people are playing and pretending to be fighting corruption. The EFCC will not be reporting to the presidency and that will enable the fight against economic crimes and corruption to proceed on a proper basis and stop using it as a political tool. That is a very weak institution.

What is your take on the country’s rising debt profile and how are you going to tackle it?

The first thing I want to tell you about foreign debt is that once I become president in 2019, we are going to have a moratorium on foreign borrowing. We are going to stop foreign borrowing. Why? This is because it is unnecessary. It is a lazy man’s economics when you cannot manage your revenue effectively to generate enough revenue. Nigeria has a population of 200 million and if you cannot generate your revenue internally, it means you are not doing something right. Fiscal policy is based on two things – taxation and debt management. The economy is not strong enough to sustain the level of foreign debts. Over 60 per cent of all the revenues Nigeria earns today go to repaying our foreign debt. Another 20 or 30 per cent goes to paying salaries of civil servants. So, what is left for development? Nothing! So, they are compelled to go and borrow more. So, it becomes a cycle that is putting the future of the young people at risk.

What about the Chinese loans which some have said come cheap?

Please, nothing is free.

In your book, why did you refer to the infrastructure deficit in the country as a conundrum?

It is conundrum because the government’s approach to infrastructure is wrong. As president, my approach to infrastructure for a country as big as Nigeria, is that large scale infrastructure should be done on the basis of public-private partnership, so that government’s funds are free for a lot of other things like the venture capital fund and social investment programmes. If you use the PPP model for major urban projects, they can recover their money. We have seen it in Lagos. The second Nigeria bridge project was supposed to be a PPP, but this government changed it. I am sorry to say this; the reason they change these things is because they like government to award contracts because politicians get rich from that process. That is why nothing gets done. The second point about infrastructure is that I am going to take a project and risk management approach to infrastructure management in Nigeria. We are going to get project management companies to help monitor all infrastructure projects and within two years of becoming president, we would complete all federal roads under construction.

Even with the rains? Because we are told at times that the rainy season also affects infrastructure development?

This is not the only country where it rains. I don’t understand why Nigerians keep giving these excuses for not being able to achieve anything. It is because the project never runs on time, they never stay within the budget and there is incompetence from inception. The purpose of many of those project is actually not to provide the infrastructure, but for political deals for people to get rich.

How do you intend to get capital since you said you are going to stop foreign borrowing?

The venture capital is a very important policy initiative to pipeline capital into the Nigerian economy. It doesn’t exist. The only place you get capital today is from the banks. Over 90 per cent of all the capital you see in this country comes from the banks and that is too much. It is imbalanced. In economies that function properly, you will have banks, venture capital firms, private equity, leasing companies and so many other things. But in Nigeria, everything is the banks. Then, those banks lend to only a small pool of people. As of 2015 when I last checked the statistics, 77 per cent of bank lending in this country goes to individuals and businesses in Lagos.