Nigeria’s inflation rate has been rising for many months but has fallen in recent months, according to the latest figures from the National Bureau of Statistics. Do you think the NBS numbers reflect market prices?
When COVID-19 arrived, economic activities were not what they used to be. But now we have some stability and I think it has a positive impact on economic development and the inflation rate. What was published by the NBS is close to reality when we look at how the country’s economic activities have improved. It is not just government spending that is having an impact, but when you look at individuals and various businesses, economic activities have actually resumed and that will definitely have an impact on the economy. Look at real estate, trade and commerce, even major cities in Nigeria, economic activities have resumed except in the North where we have insecurity issues. The level at which we brought things to the South was severely affected when COVID-19 started.
Many states have very low internally generated revenue (IGR) and rely on the Federal Account Allocation Committee (FAAC) allocation to meet their needs. How to solve this problem ?
One thing affects the other. How many states are viable as they are currently run? This is why I support the idea of regionalization. Many of our states are not viable. If we manage federalism as it should, the states should have control of all the resources that are in their domain.
Power at the center should be decentralized to the states. For example, Osun State can provide resources that oil provides. We have stocks of mineral resources in Osun State, but what does the state get from the mining activities that the Chinese are doing in the state? If the federal government allows Osun to take over the resources and manage them, you will see the development. And that’s how it is in many other states.
It is the way we apply our federalism that is in question. We first bring resources to the center and the center takes care of it now. Look at the recent turmoil over value added tax? A state that contributes little receives more. Some states challenge the federal government. They’re right. They don’t have to settle out of court. They should challenge this federalism. This is the beginning of the restructuring. States should allow the Supreme Court to rule because they are right. The system we practice does not give states control over the resources they generate.
Again, in terms of IGR, a lot of people cut corners. How many companies are registered in the states? How many companies pay taxes? Tax evasion is also criminal.
If you are a small trader, there must be registration.
Who enforces the laws? The laws are there. I wish and pray that good leadership emerges for this country and for every state. It takes boldness on the part of a state governor to challenge the federal government. If all can wake up, ask the SANs to interpret the law, let them go challenge and do the right thing.
When we were doing regionalization, each region had its own economic power. Tafawa Balewa was a brilliant leader. Didn’t he go to school? How come they are now preventing others from going to school? Give someone an education, you have set them free for life. Let’s look beyond the rhetoric. It is time to act concretely.
Doctors and teachers are still on strike, which is not good for the country. In fact, many of our doctors are now recruited from foreign countries. How to solve all these incessant strikes?
The implication is capital flight, brain drain. It is because of the insensitivity of our leaders. Tell me a hospital you can walk into and get the services you need? Is it a university hospital? They are glorified hospitals and we have a lot of people working there who wouldn’t even go to work. All the doctors have their private practices there. This is because of the continued neglect of these facilities. You will therefore continue to strike after strike.
If you have certain things, when you don’t even have funds to finance all the basic things, you only pay salaries, and that is what you find not only in the health sector but also in education. Do you know that private universities are more than public universities? What is the budget allocated to education and health? Does the money go to such projects? When you select incompetent people, they value the wrong thing.
Someone spoke of knowledge, power and wealth; only a fool will go for wealth. If you have knowledge, that knowledge will empower you, and with that power, you will use it to create wealth. We know that in the public service, when you retire, you receive your pension. The funds of the contributory pension scheme amount to about 13 trillion naira. Almost 80% of the funds were borrowed by the government. How are they going to repay? The way they will refund is to print naira.
But in this economy, who cares about retirees? If you retire today, you’re not even talking about a pension for the next five years for which you may even be dead. It is regrettable. There has been neglect over the years, but there has to be someone who is competent to deal with it.
Look what happened in Ghana, the president went to a hospital, everything was empty. None of the equipment was working. And he said I want this, if you don’t fix this in two weeks, everybody’s fired. He got there, everything was renovated, the equipment was working, everything. Why, corruption.
A country that neglects its best and goes abroad for treatment, what are you waiting for? Until we go down the conventional path of seeking knowledge, empowering ourselves, and creating wealth, instead of just spending and spending, the problem persists.
What do we produce? Isn’t it shameful that we don’t have a working refinery? Most money taken abroad will be lost when the owners die. And a Nigerian will not divulge what he has to his children and his wife. Even when they do disclose it becomes a major problem because if you have huge sums of money and you want it back the lawyers will get bigger and if you don’t have the money to pay the lawyers, what will there be money now? Many resources are lost.
With good leadership, does that mean all these challenges will stop?
There are many successful business gurus and they have gone there to take leadership courses for our country Nigeria. But the way leaders are selected in this country is a challenge.
By the grace of God, I started with Mutual Benefits and we now employ over 5,000 Nigerians. You can imagine, the federal government and the states that are the largest employers of labor, what do they give? There are many officials who are totally unproductive; there are those who are corrupt. It’s not as if they have nothing to offer, but because the system does not encourage them. We need good leadership in this country. When you have these good qualities, you put them into practice to make this country grow.
Many people who have to travel for business are afraid to hit the road because of insecurity, and air travel is expensive. How do you think insecurity affects the business environment?
I am satisfied with the aviation industry every time I travel and see the activities at the airport, and the response index with the level of traffic; it’s phenomenal. Airlines are buying new planes. It’s not that they’re too comfortable, but they manage themselves and they react. Why will people abandon the roads and opt for planes? This is at a big disadvantage, I must say. What is the cost of a flight from Lagos to Abuja? It’s so high. But can you blame them?
Insecurity in this country has affected trade and commerce. Even the few people traveling by road and carrying their goods are disturbed on the road by customs officers. Customs must secure borders. But if the goods have crossed the borders and someone is traveling inside and he has to pass several points through customs, and for each point he has to deposit something, it will only increase the cost of goods, apart from insecurity on the roads. You must organize your safety if you go by road. Thank goodness for IT, services can be rendered online now. But anyway, some services have to be performed physically. We don’t have good roads either, apart from the security challenge.
Nigeria spends a substantial portion of its revenue on servicing debt and continues to borrow. How sustainable is Nigeria’s growing debt?
Let the government do an analysis of the debt profile and tell us what it spent on each debt it incurred. The National Assembly will not ask questions. There is nothing wrong with going into debt. America borrows but remains the richest country. They go into debt to support themselves. If you are going to borrow money, tie it to a particular project. Let the project have its life, generating cash flow, then the project will pay off.
If it’s a social project like education and health, let’s see exactly what you used the money for. I don’t subscribe to Nigeria giving more credit because they took that money to please a few. How can you go into debt to meet your recurring expenses? is that how it’s done? How sustainable is it? It is unfortunate that you transfer debts to other governments after you. I will say that Nigeria should stop borrowing to fund recurrent expenditures. Projects awarded in the country are mostly exaggerated.
If you borrow money, give it to the people who will carry out the projects, but do not overcharge the cost of the projects. How many billions have they spent? They are too complacent; no one asks questions. And when our young people rose up, they killed them. I just pray that in the next elections, Nigerians will vote correctly. How can you sell your conscience because of money? Young people have the power to change leadership in this country.
Let them come together and form a party. They have the population. I challenge our young people to rise up. We have no other country. Our country is a country of which we should be proud. I challenge young people; don’t just protest. There are better ways to do it. The election is 2023; they can organize now. Let them register online now. There will be holiness in the unity of Nigeria; we should not compromise it. We can do better.