The Transform Nigeria Citizens Initiative, Concerned Nigerians Forum and Governance Index have tasked the Federal, State and Local Governments across the country to look inward and solve the economic challenges presented to Nigeria by the coronavirus pandemic and drop in oil price.
The Coalition made the call in a statement released after a three-hour virtual Conference hosted by The Governance Index, a Social Enterprise dedicated to promoting purposeful leadership around the world.
It had the former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, as Guest Speaker; Marcel Ngogbehei, a Sloan Fellow from London Business School; Paul Ejime, Communications Consultant for ECOWAS and EU; Orji Udemezue, a management and financial consultant; and Alwal Hassan, a public policy consultant, as panelists and over 150 participants around the world in attendance.
The participants agreed that there is need for policy makers across the country to strategise and provide home grown solution to avert a looming economic crisis as a result of the COVID-19 and the crash in oil price.
The Zoom Conference, titled: “COVID-19 and the Oil Price Crash, its implications for Nigeria,” held on May 1, 2020, is the second of the “COVID-19: Turning a crisis into Opportunities” series being promoted by the Governance Index.
Participants x-rayed the historical net oil export income of member states of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and pointed out that although Nigeria is within the average income earning brackets, it immediately goes to the bottom once its income is divided among its over 198 million population net export per capita.
The communique of the conference said: “Angola, Algeria and Congo are above Nigeria in this ratings. This rating effectively measures the quality of life of the citizens based on their oil earnings.
“Nigeria is not making effective use of its huge population potentials.
“We need to commit resources and develop strategies for manpower development to improve the productive capability of Nigerians – i.e. provide required infrastructure and knowledge, thereby improving their market value and productivity.”
The participants recalled that during the Biafra War, which lasted for three years, the Igbos ingeniously invented many devices under a total blockade using local materials.
They said: “Many materials were invented under total blockade through local processes.
“We need to take off the glasses and take our destiny in our own hands rather than waiting for solutions from the Western world.
“We need to be original in our thinking with an intent that we are running a race with other parts of the world.”
Regarding the lockdown policy adopted by governments to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic, the group adopted the former CBN governor’s position that a home grown solution will mean that government seeks to save lives without destroying people’s livelihood.
The participants agreed: “Madagascar has opened its economy, and with no death record from COVID-19. Ethiopia also did not lock down their economy but allowed Ethiopia Airlines to continue in operation, and yet Ethiopia has one of the lowest COVID-19 cases in Africa.
“It is time for Nigeria to start thinking ‘without the box’. There is need for self-belief by the Nigerian government so that we can come out of COVID-19 and also position the country for economic benefits Post-COVID-19.”
The participants, while brainstorming on opportunities embedded in the COVID-19 crisis, advised that the three tiers of government should invest heavily in human capital.
They said: “We need to commit resources and develop strategies for manpower development to improve the productive capability of Nigerians, that is provide required infrastructure, systems and knowledge, thereby improving their market value and productivity.
“After COVID-19, oil prices will fall, but there’ll be a huge demand in human resource capabilities and technological knowhow and this could be a huge source of earnings for the country.
“We should also develop Investment friendly policies, improve rule of Law index to give investors the needed assurances to play in the Nigerian Markets – No firm will invest in a country where the judicial system appears to be compromised and or controlled by an invisible hand.”
Participants further submitted that government at various level should invest heavily in Agriculture and work towards improving agricultural produce.
They said: “Nigeria is yet to cultivate 60 per cent of its arable land and should identify various Agricultural produce that can thrive in different parts of the country, cultivate it and extract maximum value.
“Agriculture was the bedrock of our economy before oil discovery – groundnuts in the North, Cocoa in the West and Palm oil in the East; therefore with the continuous decline in the oil price, it is advisable for the government at all levels to invest heavily in Agriculture.”
While stating that COVID-19 pandemic has devastated several economies but has also provided several opportunities for Nigeria and Nigerians, participants adopted a 10-Point Opportunity provided for Nigeria by the COVID-19 crisis and proposed by M. Udemezue: The opportunity to look away from oil as a critical contributor to our forex earnings and national revenue pool; Nigeria must seize this opportunity to take a longer view on issues concerning our federal system of government. Fiscal federalism must be pursued now more than ever before; COVID-19 has further exposed the economic non-viability of Nigerian States. State Governors must engage all stakeholders with a view to strategically fashioning out ways to generate independent sources of revenue for funding state budgets. The over-reliance on FAAC allocation must end now; Nigeria must now pay urgent attention to human capital development. Key areas of focus must include: healthcare, education and skills acquisition; hospitality/tourism, and entertainment; and As China faces emotional and economic backlash as a result of COVID-19, can Nigeria ramp up its manufacturing capacity.
Others are: As government faces difficulty in creating new jobs, and even meeting salary payments of existing staff, we now have an opportunity to design policies that would put SMEs in the driving seat of job creation; Individual Nigerians are also now presented with another opportunity to invest in some markets where prices have crashed. This is probably the time to assess the real estate and the stock market for possible cheaper entry; This is an opportunity for SMEs and other businesses to adopt agility and innovation in driving business growth, particularly leveraging digital and electronic platforms; With COVID-19, the drive for export earnings must now include policies that make exporting easier. The route to market must be made faster for all potential exporters; and COVID-19 now presents another opportunity for CBN to strategically restructure our Forex pricing system (ie, pragmatically devalue) in order to encourage and drive export. To take these opportunities require bold, transparent, dynamic, and transformational leadership at all levels..
“To take these opportunities require bold, transparent, dynamic, and transformational leadership at all levels,” the Coalition stated.
It added: “Post COVID-19, oil prices will fall, but there’ll be a huge demand in human resources capabilities and technology knowhow and thus could be a huge source of earnings for the country, the participants said, adding: “We should also develop Investment friendly policies, improve our communication strategy, be transparent, improve rule of Law index to give investors the needed assurances to play in the Nigerian Markets – No firm will invest in a country where the judicial system appears to be compromised and or controlled by an invisible hand.”