By Henry Uche, Lagos
Experts drawn from management, leadership, economics, corporate and public administration among others, have expressed fear that Nigeria could become a dumping ground for substandard products if political and economic leaders fail to fix the infrastructure deficit and other problems urgently.
The experts expressed their concern in Lagos at the 45th Annual Conference & Dinner/Awards of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN).
According to them, ‘Nigeria is not getting it alright. We are yet to get it all well both in the administration and management of resources. The evidence is there. Incessant borrowing is becoming unbecoming. Economic squalor has become Nigerians’ narrative. Nigeria was better and safer in the 50s and 60s, but instead of us improving and developing we are becoming worse. Thus, we need to rise now and redeem this country.
‘We must position our self to avoid being a dumping ground for substandard products. This country belongs to all of us. We must not denounce Nigeria despite all odds. This government must not incur debt for children unborn to pay. Nigerians are not seeing the relevance of the money borrowed so far. Our top priority should be a focus on mass manufacturing else Nigeria would be at the receiving end.’
Speaking, the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Otunba Adeniyi, who spoke via Zoom, called on Nigerians to consciously work towards restoring investors’ confidence.
Adeniyi, who was the chairman of the conference, pledged the ministry’s readiness to partner with ICSAN to achieve both the ministry’s objectives and ICSAN’s goal.
‘We are faced with some challenges, but we must not lose hope. We need to work on restoring investors’ confidence. We shall work with ICSAN to bring about the desired change we hope to see for the good of all,’ he added.
In a keynote address, a Professor of Law, Akin Oyebode, who spoke on “AFCFTA and National Development: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities”, maintained that the future of Africa would depend to a great extent, on the success African countries are able to make off from AFCFTA.
The don stressed the need for reform in order to place African countries at a vantage position so that productivity can be enhanced and enable them to partake effectively in the production, distribution and exchange of goods and services in the world.
‘The global political economy would apprehend the necessity to establish much-needed reforms. The present global scheme of international economic relations where Africa is at the bottom of the ladder is, quite frankly, unsustainable and requires a drastic review.
‘The lopsided international division of labour, as well as inequitable terms of trade and unequal balance of payments, must be confronted as we get set for a new international economic order. This is imperative if Africa intends to reposition itself from the periphery of global trade and investment and become an active role actor in the scheme of things.’
Oyebode advised that Africa may venture into megaprojects and take advantage of its endowments and harness the benefits of increased intra-African exchange of goods and services. This, according to him, would inevitably entail reconfiguring and rationalisation of Africa’s current economies as well as harmonisation of national plans, policies, programs in order to reduce waste, duplication and blunt the thrust of unbridled nationalism in favour of common good and international well-being.
Analysing the problem and prospects of AFCFTA, he affirmed that AfCTA since its take-off has not secured the requisite traction. The similarity in the goods and products of different African countries has not availed the complementarity which diversity would have facilitated.
‘It does not appear as if the various African countries have sufficiently grasped the intricacies of economic integration on the African continent so as to be able to fulfil its objectives. Ignorance compounded by the inability to do what is needed is a potent mix where and when a difficulty presents itself.
‘The niggardly condition of the African countries and failure to discern the imperative to trade and collaborate with other African economies have cast a pall on the prospects of navigating out of the quagmire of poverty and underdevelopment. The synergy activated by synchronisation with programs, policies and plans of other African countries should be tapped by Member-States in order to jump-start their economies to a higher level.
‘The exponential rise in the market should be a stimulus to the productive base of the various economies and serve as an antidote to curb unemployment, underemployment and general impoverishment of the African population.
‘It is self-evident that economies of scale are low-hanging fruits that can be harvested to the benefit of all our countries. The individual modalities of development employed by the different African countries are now dysfunctional and counter-productive and should be replaced by more optimal and rewarding schemes. Thus, it is time to shine the light on benefits that would accrue from integration on a large scale on the continent,’ he said.
He added that if AFCFTA is properly harnessed, it could become the panacea for the many socio-economic difficulties afflicting the various African countries’
“The world we inhabit is now based on mutual cooperation and collective self-reliance rather than individual survival. Africans are not strangers to communal life as against individualism. This explains the cultural basis of the AFCFTA and the tremendous possibilities it offers for rapid transformation, social change and self-actualisation.’
On AFCFTA and development in Nigeria, he stated that ‘most of the good things of life are beyond the reach of most Nigerians with the cost of living index skyrocketing inexorably. The depressing scenario has now been compounded by kidnapping, restiveness and general insecurity across the land while the country seems to have descended into the Hobbesian state of nature and respite is not visible on the horizon. The suicide rate is on the rise and despondency and hopelessness have enveloped the entire country. AFCFTA, therefore, holds tremendous prospects for the betterment of the lives of the people.
‘If the dreams of the country are forward-looking, insightful and well-articulated, they would undoubtedly make a positive impact in the lives of people. However, where and when policies and programmes are not well-thought-out or implemented in a slipshod fashion, the role of the AFCFTA might be marginal. It is our fervent hope that Nigeria would make the right choices and decisions that would engender positive consequences for the people.’
Dr Oyesola Oyekunle, who spoke on “Nigeria infrastructural Deficit: Connections and Solutions”, said although it has been projected that AFCFTA has the potential to lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty, it would depend on putting in place significant policy reforms and trade facilitation measures.
He spoke on Nigeria’s growing infrastructure deficit, saying it remains a major concern.
‘The paucity of investment in physical and social infrastructure over the years has continued to limit the growth potential of Africa’s largest economy, restricting its ability to exploit its vast amount of natural and human resources towards achieving a broad-based, sustainable and inclusive growth.
‘Despite the National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP) created in 2015, by the National Planning Commission, Nigerian geographical terrain is littered with abandoned projects. In 2011, the Federal Government established a Project Assessment Committee which identified and recorded 11,866 projects that have been abandoned for a myriad of unfounded reasons.’
He submitted that closing the infrastructure gap will help Nigeria’s economy tremendously.
‘We also encourage similar strategies like Sukkuk to finance some road projects in the country as well as the toll gate Money collection, so long as the proceeds are prudently managed.
‘The Civil Defense Corps apart from protecting lives is to protect specifically our National Assets from vandalism. The Corps is hereby recommended to be strengthened both with Human and Material resources to enable it to perform its statutory rules optimally.
‘I recommend that responsibilities for the maintenance of Trunk A-roads and some of our National Assets under the supervision of the Federal Government be transferred to the state governments in whose jurisdictions such assets are domiciled since the state governments are closer to these assets and they will be able to maintain them better. This will however involve constitutional amendment and review of Revenue Allocation Formula to enable the state governments to perform this function effectively.
‘I strongly recommend that the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission be strengthened with human and material resources together with its legal framework to enable it to address Nigeria’s physical infrastructure deficit which hampers economic development. The Commission should also embark on a public campaign both nationally and internationally so as to create awareness in the mind of both private and public investors.
‘It is therefore important for us as a country to fix our infrastructural landscape and implement more friendly custom reforms that will improve logistics and the ease of doing business in the country. This will enable us as a country to take better advantage of the agreement apart from turning our great country into a dumping ground.
‘Africa policymakers must prioritise investments in regional infrastructure so as to catalyse integration and facilitate intercontinental trade. A sound infrastructure development policy setting is a key ingredient for sustainable long-term growth,’ he posited.