By Henry Uche
Nigerians and the world at large do not need a prophet or a seer to affirm the level of agony, anguish and penury ravaging the country. The reasons for the woes bedeviling Nigeria are not far -fetched. The totality of the Nigerians’ present sorrow can be better summed thus: “Maladministration and Mismanagement of Resources.” Experts across disciplines have maintained that cronyism, kakistocracy, gerontocracy, Prebendalism are some of the cankerworms that have dragged Nigeria into economic morass.
From its communiqué signed by the Registrar /CEO of Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators of Nigeria (ICSAN), Taiwo Ganiyat Olusesi, issued at the end of its annual public lecture, the Institute observed that for Nigeria whose currency is not convertible or serves as the international currency, it is necessarily for it to earn foreign exchange through high productivity and export of goods and services, receipt of monetary gifts, or receipt of foreign loans and investments to import needed goods and services aimed at the developing the economy and enhancing the welfare of citizens.
ICSAN observered that foreign exchange has kept dwindling and eroded over the years with concomitant inability to ensure the stability of the national currency and loss of options to strengthen the nation’s macroeconomic fundamentals and buoy the economy.
The Institute also observered that any country that wishes to increase its external reserves must be more export-oriented rather than largely import-dependent, as it’s in Nigeria at the moment, noting that the import-dependent economy of Nigeria has, unfortunately, put the naira under severe pressure as importers continue to buy US dollars to import various commodities used in Nigeria, resulting in the inauspicious exchange rate of the naira /dollar dynamics.
“There is no justification for the high rate of unemployment we have in Nigeria today, because Nigeria is potentially a very rich nation that should be able to harness its natural resources to provide jobs for citizens. The skill sector is very crucial to closing Nigeria’s unemployment gap as it is imperative for enhancing domestic production structures and raising productivity.
“Nigeria’s non-oil sector has enormous potential that can be harnessed for national growth and sustainable development through vision and quality planning. Positioning the Nigerian non-oil sector as a destination for investments (domestic and foreign) can be partly realized through a vibrant capital market, characterised by a high level of liquidity, depth, and transparency.
“Overall measures of financial depth reveal that the Nigerian economy was more liquid a decade ago than now. This is true of both domestic and external liquidity measures. The Nigerian financial system is shallower than it was a decade ago. All measures of growth exhibited a clear pattern of steady growth deceleration over the last decade that culminated in a recession, except for agriculture. All these speak to the weak nature of the contemporary Nigerian financial system,”
ICSAN stressed that until Nigeria deepens its foreign exchange financing bucket by building up precautionary foreign reserves, holding to levels that will strengthen the Naira enough to protect the store of value attribute of the currency, none of the three other financing buckets viz: Money, Bonds or Equity, should be expected to deepen.
The Institute decried that Nigeria’s economy still depend largely on foreign exchange earnings from the oil and gas sector even though it only accounts for 10 percent of the country’s GDP and employs one percent of the labor force. Agriculture, industries, services.
“The non-oil sector has continued to prove its resilience to adverse macroeconomic realities as well as general market conditions to drive revenue earned at a significant rate and potential economic growth across the various subsectors. The non-oil sector not only employs more than 90 percent of the labour force at present, it also retains the capacity to attract increased foreign capital from investors, seeking to exploit Nigeria’s demographic potential.
“The employment potential of the non-oil sector is illustrated by the following statistics showing the percentage each sector contributes to employment: Agriculture 54.70 percent contribution to employment; Trade 16.93%; Manufacturing 8.32%; Transportation and storage 4.04%; Education 4.28%; Human health and social services 3.34%; Construction 2.73; Accommodation & food services 1.58; financial & insurance 1.49%; Mining and quarrying, 0.19%, others 2.39%.
“The Nigerian system is rocked with a lot of problems and challenges that are profoundly inimical to the dream of enhancement of national productivity and boosting external reserve. These are: Increase the cost of doing business, regulatory uncertainty, insecurity with its attendant loss of lives and properties, degradation of the environment, lengthy dispute resolution process erodes investors’ confidence, prolonged time to market, and increased administrative cost in the debt market. All of these lead to a reduction in Nigeria’s attractiveness as a business destination,” ICSAN bemoaned.
Therefore with deep sadness over the multilateral problems besetting the country, but with optimism, ICSAN left no stone unturned in an effort to proffer solutions to the aforementioned challenges as a professional Institute established to foster good governance and sound administration across board -at the brainstorming session.
With the theme “External Reserve Dynamics and Governance challenges” the Advocate of sound Corporate governance came up with some recommendations which could be regarded as elixir for the myriads of troubles ailing the giant of Africa.
First, ICSAN urged Nigeria’s resource controllers to as a matter of urgency, embark on comprehensive diversification of its economy with a commitment not only to ensure inclusiveness of all the sectors but also to enhancing the contribution of each of the subsectors to national productivity.
In specific terms, it says the government should place a great premium on boosting potential from sectors such as Agriculture, Trade Manufacturing, Transportation/storage Education, Human health /social services Construction, Accommodation /food services Financial and insurance; Mining/quarrying, among others.
“Government should empower citizens especially the youths by providing the necessary resources for skills acquisition, empower them and give the starter packages to become self-employed, and provide the supportive environment for self-employment initiatives to thrive.
“Nigeria must retool and refocus the masses to become more productive in the larger economic space in recognition of the strength and resilience of our people. Governments, therefore, need to increase social investment that will stimulate labour productivity.
“The Government at all levels as well as other stakeholders in the private sectors should pool efforts to galvanise the nation’s energy sector through the provision of constant power supply to unlock macro, small and medium-scale enterprises. It is trite that without an adequate power supply, entrepreneurship cannot thrive in Nigeria.
“The Government at all levels should also put revolutionary measures in place not only to create jobs directly but also to support job creation through the entrepreneurial dynamism of Nigerians, to improve the nation’s Gross Domestic Product,”
The corporate governance professionals asseverated that Nigeria must, as a measure of urgency devise comprehensive fiscal initiatives to create an export-oriented economy while looking beyond diminishing crude oil resources for economic sustainability.
On the issue of multiplicity of regulation, Nigeria leaders were urged to ensure the reduction of an administrative burden through harmonization and simplification of regulations and increased collaboration among stakeholders.
“Nigeria must embark on the policy push which should incorporate the development and utilization of risk management products, access to capital for infrastructural projects, democratising of investments for private companies, financial market literacy programs, and incentivizing of foreign capital inflow through viable investment opportunities.
“The Federal Government should take proactive measures to curb the persistent menace of insecurity which should include continuous engagement with the key actors in the restive regions to promote inclusiveness while there should also be improved security and surveillance through the deployment of appropriate technology and facilities.
“Nigeria should be wholly committed to the implementation of fair and independent dispute resolution mechanisms to encourage foreign investors and boost their confidence about the sanctity of contractual undertakings in the country’s business parlance.
“As a corollary to the above, the Nigerian judicial system should be overhauled in all ramifications by making it more efficient in quick delivery of justice as well as ensuring the quality of justice through manpower capacity boosting and built-in anti-corruption initiatives.
“Government should strengthen inter-sectoral linkages within the non-oil sector to achieve greater synergy and boost the overall productivity of the sectors and their contributions to the nation’s GDP, and by extension, external reserves.
They added that the Federal Government should be committed to incentivizing access to finance through the debt markets to make the non-oil sector drive expansion and economic growth.
“The Government should also ensure improvement in the regulatory environment and ensure greater ease of doing business not only by eliminating unnecessary hiccups that discourage investors but by also taking proactive measures to incentivize both local and foreign investors.
“All Nigerians, including individuals, groups, institutions, and organizations should be committed to ideals of sound economic management through practices dedicated to recovering the economy, buoy sufficiency at micro and macro levels, and increasing external reserves. These and other perspicacious ideas when conscientiously prosecuted, would not only lift Nigerians out of economic dungeon, but would lead us to the part of recovery,” ICSAN adjured.