Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi II, the Emir of Kano, believes the problem with Nigeria is either policy failure or lack of a clear policy.
He spoke in Lagos at the weekend during The Point newspaper’s Public Presentation and First Annual Conference on Economic Regeneration.
What is the problem with the economy?
The emir, who was the special guest of honour, said decades of policy failures, became a spoke in the country’s wheel of economic development.
He advised policy makers and Nigerians to focus on the issues that have pushed the economy into a crisis so as to quickly exit the recession.
The former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governor said: “We have had decades of policy failure. The last decade was Africa’s miracle decade because we moved from a continent that was known for hunger and war to a decade where we were seen as a land of opportunities and investments.
“Nigeria grew at seven per cent every year throughout that period as the economy doubled and we became the biggest economy in Africa but lack of policy made us lose all proceeds.”
He advised the Federal Government to decide the type of economy it wants to run by differentiating between reality and passion.
“I objected to the increase in the minimum wage from N12, 000 o N18, 000 in 2011 because government only had passion to reward the electorate and failed to consider the consequences along the line. By 2011, the Federal Government was spending about 80 per cent of its revenue on personnel and oil price was $110 per barrel and we were producing over two million barrels per day. That was a failed policy,” he said.
To Sanusi, stopping Nigerians from consuming imported goods is not the biggest problem confronting the country, but the lack of local production of goods and the will to change policies that will drive the growth of quality local production.
Senate President Bukola Saraki and Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbesola also listed conditions necessary to exit the recession and avoid another crisis.
They also cautioned Nigerians against overdependence on foreign products to the detriment of locally made goods.
Aregbesola described the theme of the annual lecture series, “What is the Economics of Change?” as “a play on word that indirectly puts to task the campaign mantra of the ruling All Progressives Congress, which promised Nigerians a change for the better during last year’s election campaign.”
He said a decline in the price of crude in the international market had always been the cause of the recession the country had fallen into at different periods.
He also attributed the severity of the economic recession to lack of foresight and planning on the part of the government, adding that the difference between the past recession and the current one was the fact that the previous ones never lasted this long.
“The fundamental problem is that we can no longer fund our imports because our foreign earnings have progressively declined while our taste for and dependence on foreign goods have continued to increase. This is what put pressure on the Naira, makes imported goods to become very expensive and put the economy in a tailspin,” he said.
The Senate President said that the time had come for the country to diversify its economy. Represented by the Chairman, Senate Committee of Banking and Finance, Senator Rafiu Ibrahim, Saraki said his experience at a recent trade exhibition had made it clear that there were potentials laying waste due to over-reliance on oil, which he said had made the economy weak.
“SMEs, not government, not big corporations, hold the key to solving our unemployment problems, raising the GDP, diversifying the economy and promoting production and manufacturing in Nigeria,” he said.
He said that the country had not fully harness its economic potentials due to the absence of adequate and deliberate interventions that could support SME development and growth.