Excitingly named as Next Level, PMB launched his re-election campaign on 18th November with a focus on 12 key areas that will help take Nigeria to the next level of sustainable growth and development. The key areas include jobs, infrastructure, broadband, technology, power, people moni bank, the entrepreneur bank, education, health, policies for improved ease of doing business, MSMEs and inclusive government. To be honest the plan has good contents and details but there are so many doubts.
The first is that considering how PMB government has performed in the last 3.5 years, there is a wide perception that the plan will not be effectively executed and achieved. There is nothing significantly different with regards to details of execution from the campaign plan and promises of 2014 which disappointingly have remained largely unachieved. At the end of 2014, Nigeria GDP was valued at $568.419 billion, it is currently about $411 billion, a decline of about $157.419 billion or about 28% since PMB took over. Not only has our external debt increased, it has more than doubled from $10.71 billion in 2015 to about $23 billion as at June 2018. While inflation was about 8.062% in 2014, it is currently about 11.2%. In addition, a highly disturbing performance of PMB’s government is in the area of unemployment which has astronomically increased from about 4.56% in 2014 to about 18% presently. To further affirm our lamentable situation, we are now the poverty capital of the world moving from our third position in 2014 to first overtaking India and China. These are countries with a population of over a billion people each as compared to our less than 200 million. As if the above is not bad enough, we are presently bedeviled with unprecedented levels of insecurity, violent killings and destruction of farmlands and properties, kidnapping and other violent crimes. Our economy remains undiversified with a possible recession and exchange rate problem next year! So the question is from what level are we moving to the next level!
Considering our frightening socio-economic and political situation, the second doubt of the PMB next level is if the plan is really the appropriate plan for a very precarious society like ours. Reading through the plan, it comes across as a plan for a reasonably stable and growing economy. It looks like a plan for any of the BRICS or the top Asian country with very visible trajectory of positive developments and growth. Ours is not like that and as such, it is important for PMB and his team to properly appreciate and reflect the seriousness and complexity of our problem and then revise the plan and governance strategy.
The third major doubt of the plan is the limited explanation for effective reforms in areas of rule of law, government effectiveness and regulatory quality. As Nigeria has consistently failed woefully in these key factors, I think that reforming these factors should have been the first level that will take us to the next level. For instance, rule of law which is the fulcrum of governance of a country reflects perceptions of the extent to which agents have confidence in and abide by the rules of society, and in particular the quality of contract enforcement, property rights, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence. The question that should disturb the government is why majority of Nigerians don’t accept and obey the laws of the country and what should be done about it. The effectiveness of a law depends on the extent to which the law is understood, accepted, internalized to enhance compliance.
To better understand the kind of reforms needed in rule of law, the view of Caenegem (1986: 8) is most helpful. “English legal development appears as a historical continuum. There is no obvious rupture, no wholesale wiping out of legal wisdom of centuries and no division of the law into a pre-and post-revolutionary era. In English law, the present is never completely shut off from the past and its historical roots are easily perceived. Out of hard and bitter experience, Englishmen had come to learn that the remorseless, incalculable power of the past over the present was not to be dispelled by the strivings of a single generation. From 1660 onwards, England was never again entirely to forget that the secret of a nation’s strength is to have the power of the historic past behind it, not against it”. From the above quote, a helpful question that we should ask of our abysmal level of rule of law is if the same as above can be said of our legal system? Unless and until proper reforms are effectively achieved in these key institutional factors (rule of law, regulatory quality and government effectiveness), it will be difficult for us to move away from the zero level that we are in to any other level. Our poor performance in these relevant factors is further affirmed with our 145th position in the Ease of Doing Business ranking that surveyed 190 countries in 2017.
The fourth doubt which is related to the third and even central to everything in the plan and PMB’s government is the confusion with regards to the call for the restructuring of the country. While PMB in numerous statements seems to suggest a rejection of the need to restructure, the vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, argues that he is an advocate of restructuring. Unsurprisingly, this confusion is very evident in the Next Level plan possibly enhanced with the position of the vice president as the head of government’s economic team. While the key areas of the plan such as agriculture, industrialization, infrastructure, power, education and health can only be better executed and achieved through a kind of restructured economy, there is no clarity that it will be so even though it is very evident in the plan. For instance, under industrialization and jobs section of the plan, 6 regional industrial parks and special economic zones will be built in addition to 109 special production and processing centers (SPPCs). Thinking deep about such project indicates that it is a kind of admission of the need to somehow restructure the country. For the 6 regional industrial parks to work, effective co-operation and co-ordination of the respective states of the regions will be immensely required. If this is the case, it means that the regional states should be supported and encouraged to properly collaborate through the devolution of powers to them to enhance the sense of ownership and seriousness. For Nigeria to truly move to the next level, this regional approach need to be extended to other areas such infrastructure, power, health and education. This will allow the federal government to focus on issues of common national interest such as external defense and foreign policy.
A fifth and major doubt of the plan is in the area of funding. With borrowing seemingly the main way through which the PMB government has executed government projects since 2015, there is a need for serious thinking and innovation on how to fund the 2019-2023 plans outside unsustainable debt accumulation. There are other short, medium and long term options on how to diversify the economy and enhance revenue generation that remain untapped. As oil price is presently hovering below 2019 budget benchmark, the urgency for innovative thinking in so many areas of national existence and survival cannot be overemphasized.
Franklin Nnaemeka Ngwu (PhD)
Dr. Ngwu is a Senior Lecturer in Strategy, Finance and Risk Management, Lagos Business School and a Member, Expert Network, World Economic Forum. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: Next Level