BOUNCING BACK: NIGERIA ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY PLAN OUR CONTRIBUTION TO ASCAB’S RESPONSE

1.THE CONCEPTION MUST BE RIGHT

Conceptually, the first question to ask is: “bouncing back” to what? 

To the vast majority of Nigerian people, what obtained or what existed economically, socially and culturally, was not the ideal and is actually nothing to write home about. We believe that for that reason, the concept of “bouncing back” is ill-thought out phrase mongering, and no more than a play on words capable of derailing a project otherwise inbuilt with some potentials.  

2.NEW DEVELOPMENT VISTAS NOT SUSTENANCE 

The concept of Nigeria’s “economic sustainability” and the plan for it, is in need of broadening; it can only enjoy wholesomeness where conceptually, it incorporates not only economic development, but along with it, social and cultural dimensions. Thus, the articulation of the project at hand needs serious rethinking.  

3.THE BASIS AND FOUNDATION OF THE PLAN MUST BE WHOLESOME

While the need for the Plan is traceable to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the challenges engendered by the experience, there is no escaping the fact that the inability of Nigeria to grapple with the Pandemic is to be located in the systemic limitations that characterized Nigeria before the Pandemic. Thus, coping with the Pandemic and contending with its consequences thereafter, requires recognition of the underlying challenges in the pre-COVID-19 era, unless what is envisioned goes no further than the treatment of symptoms. 

The reasons for the lopsided nature of Nigeria’s economy as a mono-product economy, exposed to manipulation by the international market system, with all the negative exposures that go with that, and how this has prevented a planned integrated self sustaining economy for Nigeria from colonial and post colonial time till date, has to be addressed.  Furthermore, how this has promoted socially disastrous level of unemployment and wide spread poverty, calls for immediate attention. Before COVID-19, Nigeria was already recognized as the Poverty Capital of the World; it is time to address why this was the case and to find a solution to the challenge. Consequently, a new development vista for Nigeria must go beyond the so called “time tested approach to fighting recession using stimulus packages” which the Vice-President’s Committee recommends.               

4.SELF-RELIANCE AS A STRATEGY IS KEY

We agree with the slogan, “Produce what we eat and eat what we produce”. We ask however that the concept should be extended to all aspects of our National life, whereby Nigerian people make clothes for themselves and proudly wear only made in Nigeria clothes; we make vehicles, agricultural implements etc for Nigerians, and Nigerians use such made in Nigeria products. Boosting agricultural production, preservation and exploitation-free distribution of the produce, is also important. In this regard, the concept of increasing the acreage under cultivation should be extended to extending production of fishery, poultry, animal husbandry, snails, grasscutter rearing and local meeting of the appetite of Nigerian people for Nigerian fruits and vegetable.   

5.DIRECT LABOUR INTERVENTIONS

We agree with the concept of job creation through infrastructural investment in mass housing, which ought to include the building of schools and hospitals (particularly important post COVID-19) as well as public offices. The vehicle for this should be through direct labour and abolition of the corruption laden contract system, founded on its maximization of profit motive. On the proposed massive road construction program, the Vice-President’s Committee appears to have lost sight of the work of the Presidential Committee on Bitumen Deposit, under the Obasanjo Government, which confirmed extensive deposit of bitumen in many parts of Nigeria. The abolition of the contract system should also be extended to all public procurement, with an accentuation of mass participation in protection of public property and genuine anti-corruption fight in general.      

We resist the urge to engage in further blow by blow or item by item consideration of the Committee’s proposals.  

6.THE PEOPLE’S VOICE IS PARAMOUNT 

Despite the foregoing, it is regrettable that the Vice-President as the Chairman of the Economic Sustainability Committee in his executive summary of the Committee’s Report to the President, owned up that those considered to be stakeholders with whom consultations were held in arriving at the Report are members of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Federal Executive Council members.

As the public is told, State Governors were fully briefed, while the draft Sustainability Plan was presented to the leadership of the National Assembly in a consultative session. Thus, so far, in the conception and consideration of the Plan, no effort whatsoever was made to reach out to Organized Labour and/or any Civil Society Group. 

The Plan becomes highly suspicious and denied of any semblance of democratic content with the Committee’s inexcusably limited definition of stakeholders worthy of consultation with or from whom input is to be solicited.        

7.RALLYING NIGERIA PEOPLE 

We consider the Vice-President’s Report as no more than a Draft, in view of the highly restrictive nature of participation in the process that gave birth to the Committee’s Report as one that kept out Labour, Civil Society, and Professional Groups, which constitute and defend the interest of majority of the Nigerian People. The Draft Report by the Vice-President committee should be subjected to popular consideration, to allow for popular input before adoption. We call on Mr. President to set this machinery in motion and enhancement: 

OUR CALL 

i.We call on Mr. President to reject the framework put forward by the so called Economic Sustainability Committee: Instead of “bouncing back” which we consider meaningless, we suggest: A New Horizon For A New Nigeria.  

ii.We believe the situation calls for a new ethic, new orientation and new vistas.

iii.That Nigerians must no longer be on-lookers in matters of National Development, and that government has a duty to create avenues for harnessing the creative energies of the entirety of all the Nigerian people in the Nigeria transformation process.

iv.That the goal should be the implementation of Chapter II of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended, which provides for the enjoyment of social, economic and cultural rights of the people, anchored on the fundamental interests of the poorest segment of the Nigerian Populace. 

v.That legislation is called for in this regard, as to make the said Chapter II justiceable.     

8. ON THE KEY THEMATIC AREAS 

We request Mr. President to do the following:

i.On Revamping Education: 

Call for Memorandum from all the unions in the Educational sector, Nigeria Union of Teachers, Conference of Secondary School Tutors, Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, Academic Staff Union of Universities and the National Association of Nigerian students. The Mandate of the Unions in the education sector should include curriculum redevelopment and creation of a new work force for a new Nigeria, as well as recommendations for wiping out adult illiteracy.

ii.A Heath Sector Accessible to All: 

Mr. President should invite memoranda on how to realize this goal, from Nigerian Medical Association, National Association of Resident Doctors, National Union of Nurses and Midwives, Professional Organizations of Pharmacists, Laboratory Scientists, Hospital Administrators and all other professionals engaged in health care delivery. 

iii.On Infrastructure and Housing: 

Mr. President should invite proposals from the Council of Registered Engineers in Nigeria, Architects, Town planners, and all other professionals in the building industry.  

 iv.New Values and Re-Orientation: 

We encourage Mr. President to invite proposals from the Nigeria Union of Journalists, the Nigerian Bar Association and other interest groups, to design a program of action in this all important area, including proposals for bringing about mass participation in the anti-corruption campaign.    

v.Revamping Agriculture: 

The Agric and Allied Workers Union should lead the discussion and make proposals in this sector.      

9. CONCLUSION 

The above is certainly not complete, but is a pointer to the way forward. The Approach recognizes One Nigeria, with the peculiarities of its component parts appreciated, while giving a stake and a reason for commitment to all. The process must be one that abrogates the mindset of any group or public official protecting or championing sectional interest. Mistakes already made in the journey so far must be recognized, and a dedication shown to make amends. The above is our humble contribution towards setting New Horizons for a New Nigeria, as Nigerian people debate, adopt and implement the Plan for a New Nigeria. The key to successful realization of this New Nigeria is to be located in mass participation in the formulation, implementation and review of this National Development Plan. An important piece of legislation in this regard, to make this process irreversible, is the domestication of the African Chapter for Popular Participation in Governance and Development.   

DR. OSAGIE OBAYUWANA,

NATIONAL PRESIDENT, (CDHR).