To Deputy National Coordinator of the Institute of Chartered Economists of Nigeria, Prof. Oladapo Ganiyu, the economic team of the Federal Government has failed to revive the ailing economy because it lacks the required expertise. In this interview with ABIOLA ODUTOLA, the chartered economist alleges that interested buyers of the nation’s assets want to use funds they stole from Nigeria to buy her assets. Excerpts:
What is the difference between the financial meltdown witnessed in 2009 in Nigeria and the current recession facing the economy?
Recession is biting harder on the country, compared to what we experienced in 2009, because we did not save for the rainy day. The 2009 financial meltdown did not affect us much, because we saved. The recession will bite harder on Nigerians because there is nothing to fall back on and that is because the money we had in reserve has been spent lavishly by our past corrupt leaders. If they were not corrupt, we will not be where we are today. How come one person has over $20 million government fund in her account for health purposes, what type of sickness is that? And millions of Nigerians are suffering.
Mixed feelings have continued to trail Federal Government’s consideration of the sale of assets. Is this not a welcomed development now that the economy of the country is struggling to survive?
It is a foolish thing to do now. Who are the interested buyers? They are the people that stole Nigeria’s money. They made away with our money, kept it somewhere and now want to use it to buy our assets. They are fraudsters, most of them are richer than the country. If we allow them to buy the assets, it is as if we are selling our birthrights, as they will have our economy in their pockets and thus become monopolists.
Recently, there are reports that about 60 per cent of Nigerian youths are unemployed. How will this affect the efforts of the Federal Government in reviving the economy?
Increasing rate of unemployment in Nigeria is alarming and that means we are sitting on a time bomb. Nigeria will witness more violence across the country, as more unemployed youth will gather someday and attack, kill or kidnap the rich. Except we sit down, change our ways of pursuing selfinterests and stop corruption, Nigeria cannot improve. Our leaders should pity the citizens and take right and dispassionate decisions on our behalf. If they do not, four years is around the corner, when they are out of office, the youth can attack them at home because they have failed the country. There are graduates and Masters’ degree holders driving taxis on the streets, is that what they planned for? Or is that how we are going to grow the economy? Meanwhile their own children are driving exotic cars that were bought with the tax payers’ money, spending dollars in parties and you think the angry youths will spare them?
How can the economy be revived from recession?
Aside from tackling corruption, the Federal Government must pay great attention to the provision of infrastructure. Infrastructure is key to any economic development. If we must sell the assets, it must be spent on providing infrastructure for Nigerians, but if they share the money, we will be going back to square one. The Federal Government should address youth unemployment because it is a problem that must be addressed urgently. Look at the problem we have in the North-East and Niger Delta, youth unemployment led to such restive situations. We also need to break the mono-product jinx and revive the agriculture sector. The government should learn from the leaders in 1960s. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo used the proceeds from cocoa to develop the Western region, while his Northern and Eastern regions counterparts did same from groundnut and palm oil respectively. We must go back to the farm, else the economy cannot rebound easily. The Federal Government must wake up and start the change from itself and move the campaign to the legislators in the National Assembly.
"YOU CANNOT JUST PICK LAWYERS, COMMUNICATORS AND ENGINEERS AND ASK THEM TO JOIN THE ECONOMIC TEAM AND YOU EXPECT THEM TO PERFORM, IT IS NOT POSSIBLE"
What do you think about the impending fiasco between the finance ministry and the Central Bank of Nigeria over the lending rate in the country, which the former advised reduction in the rate, but the latter ignored the counsel and left it at 17 per cent?
The minister has found herself in a very tight corner and the CBN governor is also trying to save his job, because any attempt to reduce the lending rate and it backfires, Nigerians will call him a failure and ask him to resign. Both of them do not want Nigerians to see them as weak regulators and at the same time, they are afraid to take certain risky economic decisions that can jeopardise the future of the economy.
What then should be the way out?
The Federal Government should stand its ground and insist on what it wants, but that can also be determined by the political forces behind the development. For instance, the CBN has been going back and forth on the suspension of the operations of illegal Bureau de Change firms. It has been difficult to regulate that arm of the money market, because a lot of lawmakers in the National Assembly are owners of the BDCs and if the CBN governor is not careful, he will be sacked.
This government is finding it difficult to fight corruption in some quarters because it is careful not to offend certain political big wigs.
What is your assessment of the performance of the CBN under the leadership of Godwin Emefiele?
Most of the previous governors of the apex bank have been assessing the performance of the bank under Godwin Emefiele. His performance is very much below par and I doubt if he knows what he is doing. You can never compare CBN under Charles Soludo and Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to the current governor. I think what he met on ground was different from what he expected. He reversed several policies because he did not want to offend certain politicians. Soludo and Sanusi know better than him because they were leaders that were not ready to favour anyone against the interest of the country.
Emefiele needs to go back to his drawing board and restrategise or seek for counsel from his predecessors. The economy of Nigeria is shaking and those in authority do not know what to do.
Do you think the economic team will make any difference too?
The economic team should be dissolved because it has failed the country. Most of the members of the team are not economists, therefore, how can they correct Emefiele if he is wrong when they do not understand the economy? You cannot just pick lawyers, communicators and engineers and ask them to join the economic team and you expect them to perform, it is not possible.
The Federal Government is confused on considerations for appointments. If you appoint a medical doctor as the Minister of Transportation, you are killing the economy, because he will consult the permanent secretaries, who are corrupt, and he will fail. Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State succeeded in Lagos as the Commissioner for Works because he is an engineer. The Federal Government should consult institutes of economists for the way forward because they are experienced.