A former Chief Economic Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Philip Asiodu, has asked governments at all levels to look beyond oil and other natural resource endowments if they are to grow the country’s economy.
Mr. Asiodu, who was also the Minister for Petroleum and Mineral Resources under the Ernest Shonekan’ Transitional Council between 1992 and 1993, said in Lagos that too much attention was being paid to crude oil, which he described as just one of the numerous natural resources Nigeria has.
As crude oil price continues to dwindle, Mr. Asiodu said government should have diverted attention to agriculture, manufacturing, processing and the service industry to produce the bulk of the nation’s revenue.
“If we had done what we should have done as a country, oil should not contribute more than 30 per cent of our total revenue,” he said.
Recalling that about 20 years ago, the country’s textile industry was employing more than a million people, Mr. Asiodu expressed dismay that today the same industry was employing less than 100,000.
Under the African Growth and Opportunities Act, AGOA, he said there were opportunities to export to the United States, citing the example of Mauritius, curently exporting about $1billion garments to America, while Nigeria was not exporting up to $2 million of garments to them.
“We have cotton, gas, oil,” the former adviser said.
He pointed out that by virtue of Nigeria’s position and resources, the country should be supplying plastic goods, like sport shoes, to the Americans, a trade, he noted, was dominated by Asians.
“For a country with a population of 180 million people and wishing to have higher standard of living, higher quality of life, the emphasis for us should be to look inward and think beyond oil as the source of income generation for the nation,” he said. “We must decide to go back to good governance, honesty, integrity, transparency, reduce corruption and create a better life for the masses.”
According to Mr. Asiodu, the usage and allocation of the country’s resources was sub-optimal, and was affecting the country’s economic development.
“Why should a Nigerian Senator receive money four times that of an American President in our budget, and our GDP (gross domestic product) is just five percent of America’s? The time has come for those who rule us and those who seek to rule us to once again discover patriotism and enlightened self-interest, to ensure that the poor man has hope,” he stated.
To achieve this objective, Mr. Asiodu said attention of governments at all levels must be given to quality education, healthcare, social services, good infrastructure and job creation.
At the same time, he advised the politicians and bureaucrats to discipline themselves so that people seeking to invest in Nigeria would be welcomed and given maximum cooperation in line with the laws of the country.
Government, he pointed out, must become facilitators to development and not rent seekers, adding that politicians need to be conscientious and ensure that they based their politics on developmental issues as the country approaches general elections in 2015.
He said if all politicians and the political parties made the people know what they stood for, based on issues, the people would be able to make better choices. He pointed out that if politics was based on no principles and distribution of money, it would take the country nowhere.
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