The Nigerian Dream, if there ever were such a notion, is facing its greatest challenge in recent times. With a less than one-year-old government in place and an enormous task to ensure a fair economic and social justice system for all and a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources whilst combating corruption.
A huge drop in crude prices, dwindling foreign Exchange (forex) reserves, continued import dependence, increased national and state debts amongst others, have led to a state of economic anarchy. Despite these economic headwinds, I believe the Nigerian people and government have been presented with a unique opportunity for us to re-evaluate ourselves – from our consumption habits to rent-seeking behaviour in line with current realities. Things may seem harsh at the moment, but nothing good comes easy. Led by a determined President Muhammadu Buhari, eliminating corruption, reducing wastage and checking leakages in the system at the government level has become a front burner issue. As a private investor, the current situation, whilst it presents huge challenges also comes with equally huge opportunities.
There are key areas looking for investment in agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructural development, which I predict, will be the key drivers of Nigeria's revival. Arguments have been put for and against the notion of devaluing the currency. But, is that really the issue? Does devaluing the currency without first creating the necessary conditions to stimulate local production suit our import dependent country at this time?
Ultimately, private investors have to make genuine and concerted effort to support the government's effort, build capacity to develop local industries and give back to this economy rather than just looking for ways to exploit the system to the detriment of the many. These actions are not only crippling the economy but are also unpatriotic.
I am however hopeful because our government is conscious of the fact that Nigerians are expecting a lot. They are ready, willing and in a position to help realise our potential. We have the human capital, land, natural resources, so it is just the will that we need. With good leadership, everything else will fall into place.
We also have a president who is very anxious to ensure Nigerians get value for money without corruption and with the highest level of integrity. That one person makes all the difference. I am quite hopeful, confident, and optimistic that things definitely will improve for this country. We deserve that.
The Foreign Exchange dragon rears its ugly head – again…
It is disheartening to know that despite all the money that accrued to the government during the oil price boom in recent years, we find ourselves yet again in this position.
To be quite frank, the current forex situation is bad. Even the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) and other organised private sector operators have raised alarm over the unfavourable forex situation. There are lots of issues from regulatory to rent-seeking behaviour that need to be dealt with decisively. Whilst the Federal Government is doing everything to protect the naira, there are Nigerians – corporate and individuals alike, who are grossly undermining the government's position – sometimes with the aid of regulators – knowingly or unknowingly. On one hand, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) claims to be safeguarding the currency in line with the Federal Government's resolve to protect the naira but on the other hand, the lack of a transparent exchange rate policy and inequitable distribution of foreign exchange to all players in key sectors meant to boost local production only worsens an already bad situation.