The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in the wake of September announced that Nigeria’s economy has officially exited recession, which it slumped into in early 2016. This was through the bureau’s quarterly release. It coincided with the Eid-el- Kabir holiday, as the news met President Muhammadu Buhari in his Daura home town.
As journalists would say, “good news is no news, but the bizarre is.” The same NBS which has existed for decades unnoticed came into limelight in early 2016, when it declared Nigeria economy has officially entered into recession. Not a few Nigerians were surprised to see a government agency in Nigeria working so independently as to issue a coma certificate on the economy which was the major pillar on which the security of the government of the day rests.
The declaration came like a thunder bolt on the managers of the economy policies of the Buhari administration and brought them under severe pressure and undue criticisms from even the most unexpected quarters considering the trajectory of our economic management.
The only thing one could make from the hullabaloo that followed the announcement as it raged on was that a new Nigeria that will face her stark reality may have been born with the Buhari administration as the announcement was astonishingly devoid of the usual cosmetology for political expediency.
The term recession all of a sudden assumed a life of its own, slipped into our economic lexicon. The economic restructuring efforts through diversification policies of the government of the day does not help matters as the woes of the masses were compounded by what looked like an hydra-headed monster of policies: total removal of petroleum subsidy, ban on importation by land of rice, a major staple food of Nigerians and an increase in electricity tariff.
All these resulted in hyper-inflation in an economy that has already been hit by nearly 75% drop in oil income by early 2015 through the 1st half of 2016. It was indeed a terrible time for Nigeria and Nigerians and a stretch far beyond the normal of our elastic resilience.
The Central Bank of Nigeria came under severe attacks for its monetary policies inadequacies, as the naira went into a free fall under the heavy weight of free market which was earlier a popular call in the economic circles against the personal wish of PMB.
The minister of finance, one of the best we have ever had was reduced to rubbles by hard critics. Safe for PMB’s Spartan nature, he would have been pushed to change his entire cabinet on account of the economic recession but the president stoically withstood the hard criticisms.
The minister of finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun came before the National Assembly in the midst of the heat and did admit that we were in a recession but with the scantly soothing assurance that we would be out of it by 2017 as effort will be made to consciously reflate the economy and by ensuring the efficient application of the available resources into the most productive sectors.
The NBS continued to release its report quarterly like the town criers of old and in this period launched itself into relevance in the consciousness of Nigerians remarkably. Quite strangely in our institutional empowerment profiles, the NBS again independently announced early this September that Nigeria economy had eventually exited recession by the end of 2nd quarter of 2017 by posting a GDP growth of 0.55% from the negatives in the last five preceding quarters.
Curiously and like every good news, it’s been no news to the cynics who never doubted it when the NBS announced we have entered recession but who will quickly now describe as a ruse the news of our exit from the recession by the same body. Definitely the mileage covered is still low but the exit out of recession is a sign of real growth. There is no doubt that the consistent pursuit of this administration’s economic policy, restructuring in the main and the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) tools launched last year combined together can put Nigeria on a new pedestal of steady economic growth but only if consistently pursued, and its tenets are religiously observed and meticulously evaluated.
As economic experts have observed a 0.55% growth it still too marginal to go to town with and start celebration but should be transformed into a consistent and sustained growth until those growth indices become permanent features of our economy. President Muhammadu Buhari had stolen the show off the shelf of critics, when the news was broken to him and he jocularly said “the exit from the recession must be made to translate to better life for the masses before it could become of relevance” thereby sending a note of “Not yet Uhuru” to his economic team.
The plugging of leakages in the government finances has started yielding fruits with a robust inflow into the Treasury Single Account (TSA) which has led to investment in public infrastructure all over the country, which will eventually sustain improved economic production.
Our current gains in Agriculture, particularly in rice production should be consolidated. The downstream of the oil sector should be incentive towards self-sufficiency and exportation of petroleum products now that we have been successfully weaned from the subsidy scam.
The solid mineral sector development should be decentralized as a major strategy in the economic restructuring of the country. Responsibilities for managing the environmental impact challenges of every mineral exploitation should be to left to the region or state that host the mineral while requesting them to pay royalties of 50% minimum to the central government.
Unless there is productive economic competition among the federating units , there cannot be sustainable growth in the GDP, neither will there be peace, financial discipline and shared prosperity in this “Street beggar” economy.
Meet Afolabi Ige, the Chair at the Concern for Democracy and Good Governance in Nigeria, Abuja here weekly. For comments, e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org