•Lists corruption, insecurity as bane of Nigeria
Nigeria’s hope of becoming one of the 20 leading economies in 2020 will remain a mirage, if it continues to rely more on capital-intensive sectors of the economy.
The counctry should instead depend on labour-intensive sectors, the former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Walter Carrington, has said.
The former U.S envoy also canvassed the diversification of the economy to make it less vulnerable to the fluctuations in petroleum prices.
Carrington spoke yesterday in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, when he delivered the 29th convocation lecture of the University of Ilorin (UNILORIN), titled: On the Dawn of Nigeria’s Second Century: Challenges To a New Generation.
He said: “Until Nigeria is able to rely less on capital-intensive sectors of the economy and more on intensive ones, it will be difficult to see how it will meet its ambitious goals to make the country one of the world’s 20 important economies.”
The former envoy noted that successive governments’ relegation of agriculture to the backwaters was responsible for the country beggared economy.
He attributed Nigeria’s economic woes to what “economists label as ‘Dutch disease,’ where other sectors of the economy are neglected”.
He added: “The fact that Nigeria’s current yield per hectare is less than 50 per cent of comparable developing countries, dramatically demonstrates how much Nigeria has abandoned its once promising agricultural sector.
“Even when oil prices were historically high the national unemployment rate, instead of falling rose from 21 per cent in 2010 to 24 per cent in 2011.
“As the African Development Bank (ADB) Report pointed out, Nigeria’s recent economic growth has been mainly driven by the non-oil sector because of high consumer demand, the cruel irony is that whatever Nigeria and others in Africa might do to improve their economies, their efforts in the short-run could be undone by a renewed global financial crisis.
“According to the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates, Nigeria has the second largest economy on the sub-continent, with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $270 billion, behind South Africa, whose GDP is $375 billion. Thus, Nigeria, the seventh largest country in the world by population, has only the 40th largest economy by GDP.
“It is overly dependent on oil and gas sector which provides 70 per cent of it federal revenue, but is the source of a much smaller percentage of jobs than agriculture which employs 70 per cent of the country’s labour force. But Nigeria suffers, as do so many other highly endowed extractive natural resource countries, as other sectors of the economy, such as agriculture and manufacturing are relatively ignored.”
Carrington said the fears of growing insecurity and pervasive corruption were the impediments scaring several Nigerians in the U.S from returning home.
“I often ask Nigerians who are legally in the U.S why they remain there. The two major impediments to coming back, which they cite, are their fears of the omnipresence of corruption and the grow absence of security. They cringe whenever they hear Nigeria belittled on television comedies because of 419 schemes.
“Nigeria has the potential to be in fact, the giant of Africa which it has always thought of itself to be. Its agricultural output is already second to none on the continent and 25th in the world. By making it more of a priority Nigeria could become a major player on the world’s commodities market. It must refine at home more of its 37 billion proven barrels of oil which is the world’s sixth largest reserve of crude oil. Its 187 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas is the eighth largest gas deposit in the world. Its flaring must be stopped and the gas harnessed to meet the country’s mounting energy needs,” Carrington added.
UNILORIN Vice Chancellor, Prof Abdulganiyu Ambali, dissected the disillusionment of many a Nigerian about the current state of affairs in the country.
He said: “If many Nigerians are asked if they are satisfied with the state of their country, they are most likely to respond with a resounding ‘no’. Twenty years ago, Ambassador Carrington said ‘no’ to how Nigeria was and he supported Nigerians in the quest for democracy and restoration of civil rule.
“By the time the mission was accomplished, there has been a variance between expectations and reality. With the vast potential that Nigeria has, the challenge is for the new generation of Nigerians in various sectors to make the future of Nigeria better that the present. This is more important since at this stage and age of Nigeria, nothing less than progress or development is required.”
Source: The Nation