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Nigeria: Before we become a beggar nation (1)

IN the last week of July 2017, the Nigerian National Assembly voted on 33 items slated for amendment in the 1999 Constitution. Like many commentators have said, the amendments were largely cosmetic as they failed to address issues such as devolution of powers, Land Use Act amendment, which are seen as capable of activating national prosperity.

By and large, the National Assembly merely shifted a little goal posts and further entrenched Nigeria’s reliance on petro dollars.

Even though governments and economic watchers have decried the mono-product economy over the years, the bold efforts to reverse that have largely been missing. Save for the tenure of the immediate past Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, (now president of AFDB), who orchestrated some reforms in the Agric sector, previous governments have merely paid lip service to economic diversification.

How long shall we depend on a single product for more than 90 percent of the nation’s foreign exchange earnings? That has been the question on the lips of economic experts. It is obvious now that the answer to that will not be long in coming and the consequences are looking dreary indeed.

When our lawmakers were busy amending the Constitution with eyes fixed on the continued relevance of petrol, oil giant, Shell, a big player in the Nigerian oil industry gave the petroleum world a lot to ponder about. Chief Executive Officer of the oil giant, Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Mr. Ben Van Beurden, announced his next official car would neither run on oil or gas but electricity. And that according to him, would take effect from next month, September.

Shell does not need any introduction in Nigeria. It is the biggest player over time in the nation’s oil industry and a key employer of labour. Right now, the Royal Dutch Shell is Europe’s largest energy company. You can just imagine the effect on global relevance of oil if all official cars of Shell run on electricity. It is certainly the beginning of the end of petrol regime if you equally go by reports emanating from Britain and France.

The same week Shell’s Van Beurden announced his switch to electric cars starting from September, Britain also unveiled its policy to place a ban on the sale of diesel and petrol cars from 2040.  In like manner, France had, two weeks earlier, announced a similar ban just as experts project that China’s slowing economy and the global push for cleaner energy will continue to reduce reliance on petrol.

In fact, the Chief Executive of Shell said recently that the company is growing into the $50- a- barrel crude price and was gearing up for a world of “lower forever” oil prices forever.

“We need to be at a much higher degree of electric vehicle penetration— or hydrogen vehicles or gas vehicles — if we want to stay within the 2-degrees Celsius outcome,” he was quoted as saying recently.

Far more dangerous news coming the way of petrol-rich countries is the report from Carmaker, Volvo AB, which said in July that it will manufacture only electric or hybrid vehicles from 2019.

The estimation out there is all against crude, with growing concerns for climate change and slowdown in China. The projections are indicating that oil use could peak in the early 2030s and possibly faster than that. The Bloomberg New Energy Finance had also projected that electric cars will outsell fossil-fuel powered vehicles within two decades as battery prices plunge.

Where will all these leave Nigeria, a country that has failed to reap the full benefits of its abundant oil reserves? A country that exports crude and has been importing finished products for more than two decades now?  That is the question you expect the country to keep addressing henceforth. That is the question you expect the Ministers of Finance, Agric, Trade and Investment, Steel and Solid Minerals

Development as well as Budget and Planning as well as all elected chief executives at the federal and the states to advert their minds to henceforth.

When our politicians are expected to look far into the future with policies that would prevent the doom, they kept roiling on mundane issues of resource control and scheming against devolution of powers. But we have all seen that the current federal structure only breeds “feeding bottle federalism.”

Can Nigeria survive the projected oil doom of the2030s? Sure she can. And the clear ways to go remain Agric and solid minerals. If the state governments start investing sincerely in the Agric sector, if they partner real players in the minerals exploration sector, they can easily boost revenue and enhance earnings. They will also open new channels of employment.

Right now, nothing inhibits a Governor from acquiring land for agricultural use. But the governors prefer to wait for handouts from the federation account as the sole source of revenue to fund their recurrent and capital votes. Where the sharing in Abuja is down, it becomes a readymade excuse to the electorate-‘where will the governor see money to execute projects?’

I dare say that it should be criminal for any governor to declare that he could not pay salaries or execute projects because of the size of his state’s allocation from the Federal Government. If the states are well run, federal allocations would become bonus earnings. And I do believe that they don’t need to go to heaven to secure the ideas.

Most of the elected persons are never sincere about service. They come in with the vision of a government with limitless resources available for them to spend. And when they get on the seat and find an empty treasury, they either start harassing their predecessor or convert the balance in the accounts to security votes, available only for the governor and cronies.

The post Nigeria: Before we become a beggar nation (1) appeared first on Tribune.

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