The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and immediate past Emir of Kano, Alhaji Lamido Sanusi, recently argued that the country would not succeed with its present unsustainable economic and political structure. Sanusi spoke during an online roundtable with the theme: “Debt Relief for a Green and Inclusive Recovery in Nigeria” organised by the Centre for the Study of the Economies of Africa (CSEA) and the Heinrich Boll Foundation.
As Sanusi rightly observed, the “hugely unwieldy political system and an economy that mostly benefited those at the top” will continue to make the nation struggle. This is not the first time the ex-CBN boss will speak on the unwieldy political and economic structure of the country. Like some other Nigerians, Sanusi has been consistent with his assertion on running an unsustainable political structure comprising the federal government, 36 state governments and 774 local governments.
It is not in doubt that the bogus bureaucratic structure may be responsible for the failure of governance at all levels as well as the rising unemployment and insecurity in the country. Also, the country’s over-dependence on crude oil as the major source of revenue is worsening the situation. The government’s neglect of the solid mineral sector, where illegal mining holds sway, might have contributed to our economic woes. Sadly, some efforts to revive the nation’s economy have not been successful because of their ineffectiveness.
Therefore, the Federal Government should listen to Sanusi and other compatriots who have spoken in the same vein and embark on radical political and economic restructuring of the country without further delay. There is no way Nigeria can survive with its present structure which makes the federating units to be solely dependent on Abuja for their economic survival.
With dwindling revenue from the federal government due to volatility in the price of crude oil in international market and low tax base and weak internally generated revenue from the states, the present Nigerian structure is bound to fail.
The trouble with Nigeria is not essentially the lack of ideas; it is about the unwillingness of its leaders to implement some of the good ideas and policies. We have had national conferences on how to restructure Nigeria and make it work, yet our leaders, including the present ones, have vehemently refused to look at their numerous recommendations. Surprisingly, the present government has also refused to look at its own recommendations on restructuring as articulated by the All Progressives Congress (APC) committee chaired by the governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai.
Therefore, Sanusi’s advice that debts should be paid from the country’s revenue instead of from the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) must be heeded. The issue of high interest rates on debts at a servicing ratio of between 90 per cent to 93 per cent, and the ratio of its external debts to its external reserves, which the ex-banker highlighted, should also not be dismissed.
The Federal Government should be worried over the rising external debt, which has increased to $33.4billion in 2020 as against oil revenue of $8.3 billion. The nation’s bilateral debt to China put at $3.2billion is equally disturbing. Government must recognise the mooted fear of an expected pressure on Forex as personal travels begin when COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. This fear is well founded since the pressure on Forex will impact negatively on the Naira.
Apart from diversifying the economy and restructuring the country, we call on the government to ensure the implementation of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The government can achieve the SDGs if it invests so much in education, healthcare, renewable energy, skills development and productive agriculture. Let it also set up factories as well as make elaborate plans for the creation of more jobs for unemployed Nigerians, especially the youths. Since the cost of governance at all levels must be drastically reduced, there is need to cut the salaries and allowances of all political office holders to reflect the present economic situation in the country.