Retired Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi, Defence Minister
Retired Major General Bashir Salihi Magashi, Defence Minister

Prioritizing Economic Development for National Security, By Mukhtar Ya’u Madobi

Nigeria is the most populous and the largest country in Africa with over 200 million people speaking about 250 different languages among diverse ethnic groups; mainly Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo.

Owing to that, Nigeria’s economic potential is projected as the biggest in the West African sub region. The country is gifted with abundant natural resources, ranging from solid minerals (crude oil, gold, tin, iron ore, lead, zinc, lime stone, salt etc.) to abundant livestock resources and arable land with varieties of agricultural produce such as oil palm, cocoa, groundnut, beans, melon, corns, rice, among others.

Before the discovery and exploration of oil, the hub of Nigeria’s economy was typically agriculture. But with the emergence of oil, there was a major focus shift from being an agriculturally-dependent country to a crude oil dependent nation. Alas, this marked the starting point of the Nigerian economy’s woes in history.

As of today, oil revenue accounts for almost 90% of Nigeria’s foreign revenue, leaving a paltry 10% to other commodities such as agriculture and solid minerals. From the 1970 oil boom era in the country to date, the heavy reliance has still been on crude revenue.

With the fluctuation of oil prices and a subsequent sharp decline in the world’s oil price in recent periods, it is obvious that Nigeria’s over dependence on oil as a major source of revenue could be disastrous, as it cannot finance the yearly budget, again.

The latest version of National Security Strategy 2019, a document released by the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), clearly stated that Nigeria is faced with a broad spectrum of economic threats and challenges ranging from global economic uncertainties to internal constrictions such as energy deficit, crude oil related crimes, unemployment and poverty, among others.

One of the major problems of our economy is over reliance on oil, which has been coming back to haunt us, according to some analysts’ prediction. Over the years, little attention has been paid to developing non-oil sectors.

Thus, the significant drop in oil prices shrinks our revenue earnings. And the effect is visible to all; less money for the Government to spend and an undue pressure on the available foreign exchange. Furthermore, abject poverty and unemployment among youths is another bottleneck to Nigeria’s economy.

This has led many productive youths into committing various crimes which have been threatening the unity and national stability of the country. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate of Nigeria in the fourth quarter of 2020 was 33.3% and this figure is expected to rise to 35.2% in the fourth quarter of 2021.

Currently, 43% of Nigerians now live below the poverty line and another 25% are vulnerable. Even though Nigeria is endowed with abundant oil, gas, hydro, wind and solar energy resources, the country still cannot generate, transmit and distribute enough electricity to sustain rapid development.

In spite of the huge investment in the power sector, the energy deficit continues to undermine the Nigerian economy and well-being of citizens, hence hindering economic growth and prosperity of the nation. It is apt to assert that Nigeria is currently faced with a lot of security challenges across all its regions.

These include kidnapping, banditry, Farmers/herdsmen clashes, Boko Haram insurgency, militancy, secessionists’ agitations, communal conflicts, robbery, thuggery, together with pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta region. The inability of the federal government to provide a secure and conducive environment for the protection of lives, properties and various business economic activities has discouraged potential investors.

This, among other things, has disrupted business activities, and retarded economic growth and national development. Additionally, corruption is a cankerworm that has eaten deep into the nation’s fabric, thus, affecting the economy badly, too.

It is time Nigeria promptly diversifies its economy and makes agriculture a priority, once again. More resources should also be earmarked for the production of commercial agro/food commodities such as rice, cocoa, oil palm, rubber, groundnut, and cotton. Other sectors including solid minerals should also receive the same treatment.

Again, Nigeria also needs to emplace sustainable measures to diversify its sources of energy, while investing more in nuclear, renewable and other promising innovative technologies. Adequate national security strategy should focus on how to curb and eliminate violence and crimes in the society, so as to create an enabling environment for investors and industries to thrive, with a view to improving the economic well-being of the country.

Efforts should also be made to eradicate hunger, poverty and unemployment among teeming Nigerians, while at the same time, measures that will help in checking corrupt practices across various institutions in the country should be implemented.

Meanwhile, it is crucial to emphasize that Nigerians should be united and look beyond ethnicity, while unceasingly preaching the gospel of peace among themselves. This is necessary as nation building can only be achieved only when the country is stable.

Mukhtar Ya’u writes from Madobi, Kano State

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