Chineme Okafor in Abuja
The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, yesterday claimed that Nigeria has reduced her import bills on five food supplies, including wheat; sugar; rice; fish and milk, from $2.1 billion to $595 million between 2015 and 2018.
Fashola also stated that some countries do not want Nigeria’s economy to grow and become competitive because of what they benefit from the lack of efficiency in Nigeria’s economy.
Although, he did not name the countries, he disclosed that loans obtained by Nigeria from China will not give way for the Chinese to flood the country with products and services that could be sourced locally.
The minister stated these when he delivered a paper at the 2019 Africa Development Conference at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University in the United States.
The theme of his paper, ‘New Global Partnerships for Africa’s Development: Creating Our Desired Future Together’ was made available to THISDAY in Abuja.
He argued that African countries, including Nigeria were faced with various forms of socio-economic challenges brought upon them by the choices they’ve made, adding that back home, President Muhammadu Buhari, has notwithstanding urged some choices upon Nigerians.
According to him, through the government’s prompting of Nigerians to “grow and produce our basic foods, staples such as rice, wheat, sugar, fish and tomatoes which have seen our import bills for these items reduce drastically between 2015 and 2018 as follows: wheat; sugar; rice; fish; milk.
“Our total import bills for these products have reduced from $2.1 billion in 2015 to $595 million in 2018,” he added.
He also stated that the government has emphasised on investing in infrastructure to grow the economy and improve the ease of doing business, and that this has led to increased investment in rail; road; and housing construction, as well as power project development.
The minister noted that the government was equally interested in domesticating the benefits of these developments for Nigeria’s local economy, and in this regards initiated executive orders to prioritise the employment of local persons and capacities in construction and related businesses irrespective of where the funding comes from.
Based on this, he said: “Therefore, even with the Chinese loans, we will not allow the importation of items that Nigerian industries can competently produce or the employment of Chinese manpower, where Nigerians can competently do the work.”
“These may be the small steps but they signify a choice informed by consciousness (the deep reflections about which I have spoken) on how to reposition Nigeria. It underlies the maxim of global diplomacy of being strong at home in order to be respected abroad.
“It is consistent with the idea of a journey (about which I have spoken) that African nations must undertake,” he explained.
According to him, Nigeria has also initiated the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), which sought to rapidly grow her economy by investing in her people and building a globally competitive economy.
“These are lofty goals for any nation, but in reality, they are not always globally welcome goals. Why should Nigeria’s economy grow? That is not necessarily good news to some parts of the world and some of our ‘partners’.
“If the investment in Nigeria’s people yields positive results the reality of the global economy (in which everybody seeks to dominate and take advantage as I have mentioned) is that some economies will lose business,” he claimed.
He also stated: “Of course if we became globally competitive, we become less dependent, and the market is shared when we become a competitor.
“Please do not be deceived that it is the global competitors alone whose interests are affected by such lofty goals. On the contrary, the threat lies within, among African citizens themselves who profit from Africa’s lack of infrastructure and inefficiencies.”
“These inefficiencies, internal strife and conflict are the oasis of their prosperity, whether acting alone or with external partners.
“They will fight to resist the attempts to embark on this journey, not because they dislike it but because they have acquired a vested interest in the existing order, however dysfunctional it might be,” the minister added.