Why Nigeria’s Agenda 2050 May Fail

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President Muhammadu Buhari recently inaugurated a National Steering Committee to oversee and achieve the Nigeria Agenda 2050and Medium-Term National Development Plan (MTNDP), upon sensing his government’s inability to position Nigeria among the top 20 economies as outlined in Vision 2020 goals. The Vision 2020 goals was conceived in the administration of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo. It’s 2020; but none of them is yet to be achieved.

One of the goals is that, by this year, Nigeria would be generating35,000MW of electricity. Not only has this target failed — the electricity capacity in the country has not exceeded 5000MW — but there is also no definite implementation and tracking strategy to achieving it. This is evident in the rising poverty rate, with over 89 million citizens living in extreme poverty and huge infrastructural deficits worsened by ballooning unemployment rate which stands at27.1%.

More so, the Senior Director of AfDB Nigeria recently revealed that infrastructural deficit financing would cost Nigeria about $100 billion annually, reaching $3 trillion by 2044. Interestingly, in the 2020 budget, only $6.8 billion is allocated for infrastructure.

Going by Nigeria’s current financial policies, suffice to say that the Agenda 2050, like Vision 2020, may also coast home to failure. Catastrophe beckons if the country keeps relying dominantly on oil revenue as it is unsustainable to keep financing Nigeria’s budget deficits annually with loans. There is therefore an urgent need to diversify and expand Nigeria’s sources of revenue for any meaningful development to take place.

We should take a cue from the rapid transformation of Dubai, a hitherto desert which relied on fishing and pearls as its major sources of earnings between the 18th and early 20th century. The unprecedented low revenue due to artificial invention of pearls by Japan in the 1950s put Dubai’s revenue under threat and this necessitated urgency of revenue diversification in Dubai.

Luckily, when Dubai discovered crude oil in 1966, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum embarked on a massive and aggressive infrastructural development with the intention of making the city a globally renowned tourist destination. The excellent fundamental infrastructure now attracts investors from all over the world. Interestingly, as of today, crude oil accounts for a paltry 8% of Dubai’s revenue. A large chunk of Dubai’s earnings come from tourism, real estate, finance and information technology.

Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum was a selfless and a visionary leader with a commendable political will. Together with his team, he diversified the economy, conceived and championed social projects and landmark edifices in Dubai. There is tranquility and political stability. The vision is alive and being sustained by his successor. Unlike in Nigeria where such beautifully-crafted vision would have been dumped or a jamboree launch of a replica vision upon the emergence of a successor from another political party. At the Agenda 2050 inauguration, President Buhari promised to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty within the next 10 years. Well, how?

On the goal of achieving sustainable cities, it seems elusive because apart from Abuja, the nation’s capital which seems to have a city layout and planning from inception, I doubt there is any state in Nigeria with a lucid infrastructure and city layout inclusive of mid and long-term development plans.

The pertinent questions begging for answers are: How does the government intend to achieve the targets? What actions would be taken to actualise those plans? Who are the financiers? Will the plans be executed when a new government comes on board? Prior to 1966, decentralisation spurred rapid and competitive growth in all parts of Nigeria. The legislature needs to amend the exclusive legislative list which arrogates enormous power to the federal government. The system hinders state governments from embarking on critical infrastructural development as a state.

Nigeria’s political and economic configurations further stifle rapid and competitive development – a stumbling block to Agenda 2050 attainment. This is the right time to restructure Nigeria by embracing true federalism. It is high time states were empowered to fully harness the resources within their domains and grant local government absolute autonomy – which is free of undue interference.

Development, political instability and insecurity can never coexist. Stakeholders need to take insecurity in certain parts of the nation seriously.

Also, to achieve this goal, it is paramount to cut frivolous and bogus expenses in financing the government. This drains the country’s meagre revenue because it should be invested in infrastructure and human capacity development. Achieving an agenda goes beyond fancifully crafted plans, animated branding and jamboree committees.

Odewale Abayomi, writing fellow at African Liberty