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Divesting from the Petroleum-Driven Civil Service – 2

While the government seems to be raising our awareness about our need to diversify, the options identified are agriculture, which, with the best of investments, is medium-term to take 5 – 7 years to fruition, and mining and industrialization, with a long-term timeframe of 10 – 20 years before we can get any significant return on national investment. The challenge seems to be on how to diversify the economy in the shortest possible timeframe and lay the groundwork for the medium and long-term diversification drives.

What we have overlooked are the rural-based small scale industrialists staring us right in our faces but which we have no means of exploring and appropriately exploiting for the benefit of the nation. Our current focus is mostly on urban-oriented economic policies targeting taxation and demand side inflation without addressing the supply side productivity-driven part of the economy.

Any attempt at a productivity-driven economy is not possible without recognising the important role of the various stakeholders meant to drive this. According to the Central Bank ex-Governor and now Kano’s traditional ruler, Emir Lamido Sanusi, ‘Nigeria is a series of broken value chains.’  These broken value chains should identify the furniture makers in Maryland, Lagos, small scale industrialists in Aba-Onitsha, traditional textile makers in Abeokuta, Ogun, metal fabricators in Panteka, Kaduna and the constantly marauding billions of naira worth cattle herders who are basically causing havoc while creating farm destroyers on the move. Countless others abound in every local government around the nation.

The key stakeholders representing the government that should be planning, organising and pushing this inter and intra-sector value chain both for the local and foreign markets are the Central Bank, Ministries of Agric, Industries, External Affairs, Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, Nigerian Export Import Bank, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Local Government Councils, local faming and industrial cooperatives, Traditional rulers, Religious Representatives, Standard Organisation of Nigeria, National Administration of Food and Drug Administration, tax revenue bodies, transport network agencies covering road, rail, aviation, inland waterways, and the seaports, the security agencies, financial institutions, education institutions especially at the technical-vocational and polytechnic level, customs and excise right up to our consulates and Diaspora abroad. The role of the Bureau of Statistics is inherently proactively vital in implementing this value chain rather than the reactive statistical reports routinely presented on unemployment rate, monthly Federal Account Allocation Committee disbursements, foreign trade merchandise, airline passenger travel, road accidents, etc.

Identifying such a national economic linkage would ensure a local to international value chain which everyone can key into for Nigeria PLC to fully exploit. Every Nigerian, even from destitute camps, displacement centres, orphanages, prison camps, no matter how socio-economically disadvantaged would be engaged here rather than creating another dependency oriented package via welfare payments. Such a productivity-driven economy would engage a significant portion of the populace that can diversify our economy, increase our foreign reserves, upward valuation of our currency inevitably opening up the different sectors that can attract foreign direct investment and favourable interest rates both from the international and local financial institutions. A practical template that can equally be made reference to is one by Professor Poju Akinyanju which also highlights the practical role of the populace in economic inter-sector integration.

Targeting the traditional and rural sector of the economy has the advantage that the level of power required is low, rural-based traditional industry is readily available, rural-urban migration would be reduced while providing the sub-sectors for technical-vocational institutions to latch on to in order to lay the groundwork for low-level industrial progression. Our current drive is towards high-end technical/technologically driven industrial conglomerates, foreign dominated, import dependent, urban-based and requiring substantial power input which we would not have for at least a decade at best. Hence our current battle with foreign exchange scarcity and financial constraints encumbering the power sector constituting one of our infrastructural challenges. This presumed infrastructural deficit is what forms the basis for our seeking after the $30 billion loan meant to address this deficit.  While some might argue our national debt burden in relation to our GDP is tolerable thereby paving the way for the loan, hardly anyone is looking at whether our national productivity generates enough revenue to comfortable pay off our national debts, both local and international. Or are we basing our projections on the vagaries of the oil and gas market? This whole borrowing and disbursement enterprise would by the way be managed by these same civil servants…and that is meant to be some real confidence booster.

Meanwhile, without incurring any further debts, If we are able to get the inter-sector value chains right, these are the sub-sectors that should provide the basis for a rural transformation economy disengaged from the civil service driven cum petroleum laden economic template we are running via the civil servants/legislators. These sectors offer the fastest means to employment and empowerment at the federal, state or local government for revenue-generation with less dependence on Abuja for survival not forgetting slowing or even reversing the nationwide rural-urban migration trend.

Corruption or no corruption, which has been decried as one of the reasons for our non-productivity, civil servants should be remunerated on how many businesses they encourage to be set up in their locality not on how many they are able to get taxes from nor on how many have complied with one standard, regulatory framework or what not. The remuneration of the civil servants covering their salaries, bonuses, commissions, pensions and other emoluments should be tied to the growth and expansion of the private sector. The orientation of the civil service at the federal, state and local level should be towards revenue generation for the nation both locally and internationally rather than revenue collection and administration.  Civil servants should not domineeringly have the power to close down companies but judged by how many companies they provide advisory and practical assistance to set up, survive and thrive.  This will create a proactive civil service, streamline the service to only the elite intelligentsia of the society with a meritocratic performance monitoring system in place ensuring those idle hands would find their way out. They do not need to be sacked, merged as is rightly recommended in many cases by previous endless committee reports nor would there be the need to embark on any strikes.

Let the petroleum dry up, then long may the country live on its other abundant resources of which human, agricultural and industrial resources are not in short supply.

Dele Owolowo is an Author, Educationist, Trainer and Rural Entrepreneur with a widely travelled background.


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