That is why Nigeria is the third country in the world with the highest percentage of the world’s poor. While India has 33 percent of the world’s poor, China has 13 percent and Nigeria is in third place with 7 percent. We are followed by Bangladesh with 6 percent and the Democratic Republic of Congo with 5 percent. 70 percent of Nigerians, most of them residing in the rural areas, live below the poverty line of $1.25 a day according to the World Bank.
That is also why when popular columnist and TheCable founder, Simon Kolawole, wrote in his brilliantly-presented back-page article, “The Parable of Dollars and Dullards” in THISDAY Newspapers a few weeks back, that our age-old poor investment decisions and lack of foresight got us snookered, he was saying nothing but the undeniable and absolute truth. I believe our eyes are clear now. The cumulative effect of poor leadership decisions and choices including unpatriotic lifestyles adopted by some of us as Nigerians over the years is what we are now experiencing.
Whichever way we may want to look at it or analyse it, I just think the country would need to manage the outflow of forex from the economy until oil prices rebound and the inflow of forex improves. What we must however not overlook is that the scope of options or solutions are seriously limited since scaling-up its supply into the country is clearly not within our control as a country or that of even the CBN. The little piece of good news though is that something can be done concerning what the country’s diminishing stock of dollars in our foreign reserves can be used for because this is in our control. And I think this explains why the CBN decided to put some restrictions in place by limiting the list of goods that officially-sourced forex can be used to import aside the bank’s other intervention activities.
But much more than these, I believe looted funds being recovered by the government through the EFCC must be devoted to remarkably reducing the shameful level of poverty in the country through employment creation, boosting the industrial sector, improving agriculture and rural development, enhancing the provision of healthcare, scaling up the quality of education and physical infrastructure, as well as developing tourism and various basic social amenities as befits a country that prides itself as the largest economy in Africa and the 26th largest economy in the world.
Therefore, from bad choices, we can start making good choices. Now, whether we are ready and willing to pay the price and endure the hard times like the CBN Governor mentioned before the refreshing times return is what I cannot tell. But it’s certain that time, that revealer and decider of all things, will surely prove the choices our leaders are making on our behalf now and even the choices we are making ourselves as citizens.
With our over 170 million population, if we truly get our acts together, poverty can be seriously curbed in order to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. I just believe there are lessons our country’s economic managers like CBN Governor Emefiele and the Finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, can learn from the Senior Vice President and Chief Economist at the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, who famously explained at the IMF/World Bank Spring Meetings in Washington in 2014 that to mitigate poverty and strive for a more equitable society requires determination but also ideas and innovation because ‘the ways of the economy can be strange.’
If the APC government of President Buhari works on fixing power and infrastructure and providing the enabling environment for manufacturing companies and small businesses to thrive, internal growth will be stimulated and foreign investments will be attracted.
But the government must equally show itself as respecting the rule of law by eliminating impunity and illegality in public office even as corrupt politicians being indicted are brought to justice. Even then, all Nigerians must also be ready to pay their tax much more than ever before.
Frankly, if we fail as citizens to pay our tax and refuse to hold government officials accountable on delivering electoral promises made, we will only be ruining our collective future.
I will admit that doing all these won’t solve our problems in a day or a year but they would go a long way in helping us achieve our desire for a better country for ourselves, and a more beautiful and prosperous future for our children.