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Friday, July 19, 2024

Reno Omokri: The Facts Behind Nigeria’s Rebased Economy

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The attempts by some individuals to deemphasize the recent rebasing of the Nigerian economy as something that should not be celebrated is most unfortunate as this is a feat that adds value to every Nigerian irrespective of religion, region or political persuasion.

President Jonathan once said, “I am loyal to Nigeria’s economy. I don’t have accounts or property abroad. All my children live and school in Nigeria”.

If any of his critics can make that same boast, let him be the first one to criticize the rebasing of Nigeria’s economy.

Never mind that a Chief Economist of the World Bank, Francisco Ferreira, has said that the rebasing “had exposed sectors where Nigeria’s economy was recording dynamic growth, and therefore would be areas of attraction for investment inflows”, unpatriotic politicians would want us to jettison this expert opinion for their negative inexpert opinion.

The thing that they fail to understand is that any Nigerian who discredits the rebasing of Nigeria’s economy is discrediting himself. It was Nigeria’s value that was rebased not the government’s value.

But why should I even be surprised? Many of those who have been debased politically would not want Nigeria to be rebased economically. It is a classic case of misery wanting company.

There is really very little you can do for such folk other than prescribe psychiatric therapy for the management of their inferiority complex because I am not sure that anything is as damaging to their reputation as their attempt to spite their country even as they think they are spitting its leaders.

Nations, institutions and individuals are more likely to perform at their best if you commend them when they do well.

Unfortunately, many of these people will ignore rather than reward good behavior and performance and find ways to spin good news into bad in order to condemn.

To these people, I would recommend a principle I use in raising my kids. I praise them publicly and scold them privately ensuring that they grow up having a sense of personal value even as they adjust their behavior.

The reason I do this is because I have noticed from experience that when a child is scolded publicly, bystanders remember the negative thing the child did and they never forget it even when the child has matured beyond that deficiency and even when you as a parent have forgotten it. People tend to look on themselves and their children with rose colored glasses and on others with magnifying glasses.

Similarly, when we condemn Nigeria to the outside world on Traditional and New Media platforms, that condemnation sticks to the minds of foreigners and the foreign media and they don’t see Nigeria as government and opposition, they just see Nigeria.

Nigerians are irrevocably tied to the value of Nigeria.

And it is obvious that these nay sayers are confused because in one breath they claim that the rebasing of our economy is fiction while in another they claim that our economic growth is not a result of any deliberate government policy.

Since the World Bank itself as well as the Economist Magazine, the Financial Times and the New York Times have acknowledged that the rebasing is real, I will now respond to the desperate allegation that no deliberate policy of government is responsible for the economic growth seen in the rebasing.

Now let’s get technical.

When Forbes named the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina as its African Person of the Year 2013, it was in recognition of his efforts of reducing Nigeria’s food import bill by $6 billion annually.

This $6 billion which used to go overseas now circulates within Nigeria adding to our Gross Domestic Product and lubricating other sectors of our economy.

Nigeria is now near self sufficient in rice, wheat and poultry production as a result of the deliberate action of the government in eliminating the corruption in the fertilizer procurement and distribution system, free distribution of high yield seedlings to farmers and extension of agricultural loans to small and medium scale farmers.

That agriculture is now big business in Nigeria was recently demonstrated when D’Banj, one of Nigeria’s biggest pop stars, bought into the agriculture business with the launch of ‘Koko Gari’.

Farmers, are making more money and this did not happen by chance. It is a deliberate policy of the Federal Government and it is leading to one of the greatest wealth transfers in Nigeria’s history.

Another deliberate policy that is ensuring wealth transfer is the liberalization and privatization policy of the Federal Government. For example, the recent privatization of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, achieved two objectives.

The first objective is wealth repatriation. Nigerians who had billions of dollars sitting idle in their foreign accounts repatriated those funds back to Nigeria to purchase the Transmission and Distribution companies that were sold ensuring that those billions now circulate within Nigeria adding to our Gross Domestic Product.

The second objective achieved is that government funds which used to be budgeted annually to those firms are now freed up since they have been sold and can now be spent on other priority sectors of the economy further expanding our GDP.

Moreover, the Backward Integration Policy on cement by the Federal Government has ensured that Nigeria has moved from being a net importer of cement to a net exporter of the product.

Billions of dollars that were used to import cement before 2009 are now retained in Nigeria as well as billions from the sale of Nigerian cement abroad.

These are deliberate policies for which the government should be applauded for.

They are the basic principles of elementary economics that some opposition politicians can not grasp, yet they want to dislodge President Jonathan and return Nigeria back to the status quo. God forbid!

Another example of a deliberate policy contributing to the expansion of Nigeria’s GDP is the Local Content Bill signed into law by President Jonathan on April 25, 2010.

As a direct consequence of this law, the oil majors have been forced to reserve for Nigerian engineers and technicians jobs that had hitherto been the reserve of expatriates workers.

They have also been mandated to award contracts to Nigerian firms that would have gone to foreign companies prior to the signing of the Local Content Law.

For example, as a direct consequence of this law, Royal Dutch Shell PLC awarded a 7.8 billion-naira ($49 million) natural-gas pipeline contract to a local manufacturer, S.C.C. Nigeria Ltd. This is the first time such has been awarded to a Nigerian company.

Also, Mobil Producing Nigeria unlimited, as a direct result of the Local Content Law, awarded a multi million dollar contract to Niger Dock Nigeria PLC to build wellhead platforms. This is the first time such a contract has been awarded to a Nigerian firm.

The effect of the Local Content Law is that hundreds of millions of dollars that would have hitherto left Nigeria is now retained in Nigeria swelling our GDP.

Years ago, South Africa was the number one recipient of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa but she has since been overtaken by Nigeria under President Jonathan which according to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has been the number one recipient of FDI in Africa for the past two years.

Can such a feat happen by accident?

Since the advent of the Jonathan administration, the education sector has consistently had the highest sectoral allocation in the Federal Budget.

Nigerians now have access to education in record numbers (though more still needs to be done).

Twelve new universities have been built in fulfillment of what President Jonathan said that “crude oil is not our “Black Gold”. The real “Black Gold” of Nigeria are her people and they can grow in value via education”.

This is why Nigerians pay very affordable tuition fees at Federal Universities when compared to the exorbitant fees charged by state universities in the opposition controlled APC states.

How sad that those who enjoyed free education have now become purveyors of expensive education.

It is this focus on education and industry that has increased the capacity of the average Nigerian for enterprise and thrift which has resulted in the expansion of our economy.

The President’s daughter recently got married to her hearth throb and everything about the marriage was done in Nigeria. It is such patriotic actions of Nigerians spending their money in Nigeria that makes Nigeria grow.

But of course, people who travel abroad to celebrate even their birthdays will not know that our economy is expanding.

How could they, when their children, accounts, property and minds are overseas? It then become easy for them to overlook what is happening in Nigeria.

Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media. He tweets from @renoomokri.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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