The Oxford professor says Nigeria is in a terrible mess because President Goodluck Jonathan and his predecessors have failed to do the right thing.
Nigeria’s oil wealth has, over the years, not impacted positively on her economic fortunes owing to failure of successive governments to make use of the revenue to generate further wealth.
Prof. Paul Collier, the Director of the Centre of African Studies at Oxford University, England, made this assertion on Friday at the 2012 Lagos Kuramo Conference at Victoria Island.
Mr Collier did not specifically mentioned President Goodluck Jonathan’s name, but he also did not isolate his administration from the “successive governments” he blamed for Nigeria’s mess.
He said that rather than investing oil revenue for the present development needs of the country and posterity, decision makers depleted the country`s crude reserves, thereby mortgaging the future.
Mr. Collier said that oil was an exhaustible resource and called on the current generation of Nigerian leaders to avoid the mistakes of the past and begin to put oil revenue into productive use.
“Oil is a natural asset, it belongs not only to this generation but also to the future. If this generation chooses to deplete it, it has an obligation to put in place other assets, hopefully more productive than oil itself for the next generation.
“That is the responsibilty of this generation, particularly decision makers. Past generation of Nigerian decision makers did not honour that responsibility.That explains why you are not yet prosperous.”
The expert also warned against the hinging of the country`s budget expenditure on the oil price, arguing the volatility of global oil prices could jeopardise the implementation of the budget.
“If expenditure slavishly follows oil price ,it could lead to expenditure catastophe. Jacking up the expenditure according to the prevailing oil price could be a problem, especially when the price suddenly falls.”
Collier said that retaining subsidy on petroleum products would promote corruption in the petroleum sector as it would result in producing “oil thieves and fat cows.”
While saying the country`s education system needed overhauling, Mr. Collier described Nigeria`s interest rate of 22 percent as antithetical to development.
He said the country had great developmental potential in view of its huge natural and human resources and urged the decision makers to harness the resources for the country`s greatness.
Also, Dr Dambisa Moyo, an international economist, said the country needed to embark on serious economic reforms to join the league of strong economies of the world.
She acknowledged that Nigeria was clearly an African economic giant,but said the problem of corruption needed to be frontally tackled to accelerate the country`s growth.
The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) reports that Prof. Wole Soyinka and Gov. Babatunde Fashola were among speakers at the 2012 Lagos Kuramo Conference ,an international multi-disciplinary summit for ideas,policy and global development.