The Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Kacalla Baru, has lamented that Nigeria with oil ought not to be economically backward if the country had emulated countries like Qatar, Norway, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Baru, who stated this while delivering a lecture at the 40th convocation ceremony of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, said countries like Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates that had taken the right steps at the right time are already thriving on sector-specific development such as the Financial sector of Bahrain, Airlines and Logistics in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Downstream Petrochemicals and Mining in Saudi Arabia, and the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) Sector in Oman.
At the lecture session chaired by the Oba of Lagos, His Majesty Rilwan Akiolu, the NNPC boss spoke on “Oil and Gas Industry and the Nigerian State: Enduring Value, Promoting Economic Integration and Social Stability.”
Baru while tracing the evolution of Nigeria’s economy pointed out that, unlike Qatar and others who used oil dollars to jump-start and diversify their economy, Nigeria abandoned its previous economic mainstay after the exploration of the oil.
According to him, “The advent of oil production, other natural resources of economic value such as tin, columbite, limestone, Iron ore, and coal had been explored and produced. These mineral resources in addition to cash crops were the country’s export commodities and serve as the revenue base of the economy.
“Steady but volatile flow of hard currencies accrued from crude oil took our attention away from Agriculture and solid minerals development; as a result, our people, by circumstances they had never chosen, began a journey of necessity, from rural to urban areas in search of better livelihood. Problems of unemployment, corruption, wasteful execution of moribund Projects soon took over our National development sphere.
“As time goes by, Agriculture that was known as job for the assiduous and the affluent in the developed part of the world was relegated to the job of the peasants and less the privileged. Things changed quickly as oil boom brought about distortion in our production and consumption patterns, which gave a false twist to the Nigerian economy. Agriculture and mining which were the primary drivers of the economy were relegated in the 70’s for crude oil which now makes the country a virtual mono- product economy.
“Some of us still remember the glory days of the agricultural boom. Nigeria was a huge haven for agricultural products. We nostalgically remember the groundnut pyramids of Kano, the wonders performed with cotton proceeds, the booming business of hides and skins and the contribution of coffee and cocoa down south. One wonders how we got to the present mono economic state with all these successes,” he said.
Citing the Qatar’s example, the NNPC GMD pointed out that, Qatar has the third largest proven natural gas reserves and is the second-largest exporter of natural gas in the world, making it among the global top seven richest economies based on GDP per capita.
In his words, “Today, Qatar’s economy is still thriving quite well despite the GCC blockade. The secret is a simple one, Qatar has over the years used its oil and gas resource to jumpstart other sectors of its economy. These included setting up of autonomous free-zone business districts, fertilizer and methanol plants and the recent drive in tourism. They have also developed agriculture towards food sufficiency.
“Also, Trinidad and Tobago has been involved in the petroleum sector for over one hundred years, but today the country’s economy is primarily industrial, thanks to its huge petroleum reserve, especially natural gas. Trinidad and Tobago’s success story is linked to the judicious utilisation of its resources in developing the industrial sector.
“While it could be argued that Qatar’s oil and gas resources spin-off to her financial sector, manufacturing, and tourism made the country beneficiary of trade surpluses. For Trinidad and Tobago, economic diversification has made her the wealthiest in the Caribbean and the third richest country by GDP per capita in the Americas after the United States and Canada.
“Since 1966, when Norway drilled its first oil well, the country has consistently been a trailblazer in judicious application and management of proceeds derived from petroleum resources. Today, Norway tops the list of countries best at providing broad based sustainable growth across different sectors, creating jobs for a great majority of the population, and reducing poverty.
“But how was Norway able to achieve this? The country formulated and deployed robust policies that support education and innovation. The government prioritized education as a means to diversify its economy and foster higher and more inclusive growth through promoting Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, alongside entrepreneurial skills.
“The country emplaced a long term management of its oil and gas revenues through the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund. Overall, Norway identified her vulnerability exposures – such as oil price fluctuations – and deployed robust policies to deliver sustainable growth and development,” he noted.
While noting that, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government has put plans in place to exploit success stories of Qatar and others, Baru pointed out embracing various sectors such as agriculture, mining, and manufacturing can rescue the nation from the current economic doldrums.
He said, “Agriculture is still the sector that employs the largest share of the labour force in most developing and transiting economies including Nigeria. Improving agricultural productivity and commercialisation, and linking producers to markets are among some of the important measures required in this regard. Examples of countries such as Chile and Malaysia confirmed the proposition that a healthy rural economy is necessary for industrialisation because the linkages between the two are obvious.
“Economic diversification by embracing various sectors such as agriculture, mining, and manufacturing that can rescue the nation from the current economic doldrums is therefore necessary. It is this strategy that has the potential of creating jobs for the teeming unemployed population of the youths as well as boosting the foreign exchange earnings of Nigeria.
“Encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation through improved access to information, communication technology, finance and research and development. Also, promoting private investment in non-extractive sectors through improving the business and regulatory environment, providing better access to finance, and supporting entrepreneurship and skills development.”
Speaking on economic integration and social stability of Nigeria, the NNPC GMD stressed the need to focus more on equitable resource proceeds distribution rather than equality in order to achieve meaningful economic integration and social stability across the nation, adding that, by so doing, the weighted inflow per capita to the smallest geographical entity in the nation will be at par with the inflow of the largest geographical entity.
While advocating a better life for people in the Niger-Delta region, Baru noted that, “it is no doubt that the Niger Delta region has been a key contributor to Nigeria’s economic development. However, a cursory look at the state of development in the Niger Delta indicates that despite the huge resources channelled by the government, much progress needs to be made in improving the living conditions and quality of life of the people in the region.
“Different administrations have deployed different initiatives to address the disparaging socio-economic issues in the region, including critical multi-sector interventions, but the development challenges have not only lingered, but also continued to expand, perhaps, in ways that might not have been envisaged”, he said.
The GMD alongside the chairman of the occasion, Oba Rilwan Akiolu, the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Ugochukwu Achebe, who is the ABU Chancellor and other dignitaries had earlier paid homage to the Emir of Zazzau, Dr. Shehu Idris, where the three monarchs harped on Nigeria’s unity.
Story source: http://thenationonlineng.net/