The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has, once again, expressed its determination to seriously tackle unemployment through job creation. The President’s budget speech, delivered to a joint session of the National Assembly on December 22, 2015 indicates this much.
The speech, like some other budget speeches Nigerians have heard in the past, was carefully written to touch the core of Nigeria’s problems and give hope, genuine or otherwise, to Nigerians. But at a critical time like this, in the history of Nigeria’s development, this country needs more than rhetorics to walk the age-long talk of economic regeneration.
Past administrations had failed to make successive budgets treat identified anomalies in the system when the oil producing countries basked in the euphoria of high oil prices. The current government can therefore not leave any stone unturned in efforts to revitalise the real sector of the economy now that oil prices have reached ridiculously low levels at the intermational market.
The previous administration’s Industrial Revolution Plan sought to address the real problems bedevilling the industrial sector with a view to putting Nigeria in the league of successful industrialised nations. But today, manufacturers are still singing the same old song of ailing industries. So, what exactly is the problem?
The Buhari administration must first sit at a roundtable to identify why previous policies, which had worked for other countries, have failed to work in Nigeria. Doing so will save the country another round of sound policies with no measurable impact.
While we ponder on that, and without prejudice to the manifesto of the ruling All Progressives Congress, it is useful to state in clear terms that the Buhari administration must look inwards and begin to site industries according to the environmental needs of each of the 36 states in the country. To overcome the strains and pains caused by the fall in oil price, Nigeria should, in the New Year, focus more on developing agro-allied and manufacturing companies, especially in the hinterlands, as a way of reversing the growing rural-urban drift in Nigeria.
For instance, if new jobs in the rural areas throw up vacancies needed by the army of the unemployed that have refused to leave the Lagos metropolis, a lot of people will return to their various localities to take up employment. But there must be pilot plans if the current administration means business.
Six big industries, consciously spread across the six geopolitical zones, is a good way to start. Each of such big industries should have the capacity to generate over 20,000 direct and indirect jobs annually, with clear benefits on the nation’s Gross Domestic Product.
Assuredly, embarking on such lofty projects every two years, on a public-private sector participation basis, will be a very good way of eliminating bureaucratic bottlenecks and other allied clogs common with state-owned companies. But, of course, a crucial factor needed in making the industries work is power supply, which has remained Nigeria’s albatross.
While it is cheery to hear the Transmission Company of Nigeria announce that the power generation of the country has leaped to between 3,800 and 4,000 megawatts since the Buhari team took over, this is still a far cry from what Nigeria actually needs to take it to the desired stage of economic growth and development.
For an ailing Nigerian economy, the New Year should be heralded with so much determination to realise the country’s needs of improved GDP, job generation and good living. Yet, what is paramount in all of these is the security of lives and properties. While the country has been grappling with the virulence of the Boko Haram insurgent group, which has rendered the North-Eastern part of the country virtually desolate, the activities of these characters have also created a global perception that Nigeria is one of the world’s most dangerous places to be.
Though Nigerians were dazed by revelations that over $3billion kept in the custody of the National Security Adviser to former President Goodluck Jonathan was reportedly stolen, the nation cannot still neglect the need to go ahead and crush the raging insurgency through proper funding of the Nigerian armed forces.
The President stands commended for his anti-corruption stance, especially as witnessed in the prosecution of those found culpable in the armsgate scandal. But he still has a lot to do in ensuring that he beams his searchlight in the direction of oil thieves exposed under the last administration, through public prosecution.
Most important, however, is the proper monitoring of the implementation of the 2016 budget. We must block wastage and corrupt practices by strengthening the bureau of public procurement and the adjunct bureau of public enterprise. The anti-graft bodies should also be empowered under the circumstance, to live up to expectations.
Happy New Year