“Why do we produce what we don't consume and consume what we don't produce?”
Corporate Institutions across Nigeria are embarking on mass retrenchment of workers amidst fresh graduates entering the job market by mid-June which is coming on the heels of predictions from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that the Nigerian economy was about to slip into a recession. These are tell-tale signs that the Nigerian economy needs urgent attention, not a “quick fix” but a corrective and long-term solution that would stand the test of time as the global oil prices keeps fluctuating so very rapidly.
Some analysts have argued that the woes of our economy began shortly after the commercial exploration of oil in 1958, that perhaps we had contacted the Dutch disease and became more obsessed with the sweet crude without any premonition that these new “sweetness” would be short-lived with the discovery of renewable energy sources, global oversupply of oil and gross mismanagement leading to oil price instability, environmental degradation and acute corruption which would further enervate rather than develop our economy.
We neglected the need to save for the rainy day while the oil boom lasted and developed a compulsive taste for foreign made goods. First, we had to import gas turbines to build our refineries and next we began to import refined petroleum; spoons, pens, handkerchiefs and toothpicks. We became unduly conversant of the current dollar rate as bureau de change agents sprang up at strategic locations in our commercial cities.
Custom officials had a tedious time clearing our congested ports and gradually our economy began to bleed but we didn’t feel the pain; we had a painkiller – 6th largest oil producer in the world. Sooner or later some public officials joined the trend and found foreign banks to be more viable for doing business where they could stealthily pile away public funds into fictitious accounts to acquire luxury properties thereby fostering money laundering– a behemoth that halted our growth and is hurting our nation.
When we ignore our pains they may subside for a while but yet they must be treated. Today, our economy seeks urgent treatment as the lower preference for locally produced goods has led to a high inflation rate of 15.6 per cent, unpaid salaries and mass unemployment. We must now develop new consumption behaviours to buy Nigerian branded products such as the quality footwear showcased at the recently concluded Made-in-Nigeria-Shoe-Expo, Abuja 2016.
Indeed, now is the time to return from our prodigal journey, renew our commitment to support local manufacturers, consume what we produce and build an export-driven economy that would truly withstand the capricious nature of global oil prices.
*Jacob Ugbodaga is a social entrepreneur and the Co-convener of the Made-In-Nigeria-Shoe-Expo (MINSE)