NIGERIA @58 – Why will a country so endowed with immeasurable wealth and resources subject its young, youth and elderly to untold pain and suffering?
Nigeria @58 – The most populous black nation and arguably the largest economy on the African continent, Nigeria is widely regarded as the “Giant of Africa”. Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural resources and a young, dynamic population, but the country has remained generally underdeveloped. Nigeria is, in fact, poorer today than it was after it gained independence from Great Britain; but the failure to diversify the economy, corruption, prolonged years of military misrule, and policy errors have brought the country’s economy to its current state. Sadly though, this wasn’t always the case…
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ECONOMY
Prior to independence, the economy of Nigeria was mainly involved in the extraction of raw materials funded by commercial and trading houses like the United African Company (UAC), John Holt and Miller Brother which came with colonialism. These raw materials were refined into finished products and sold at maximum cost of profit. In no time, Nigeria started taking her giant strides towards achieving financial freedom and was viewed then by many across the world as an emerging economy with our main export, Cocoa, Groundnut and Palm Oil contributing to a large trading surplus. Those were the days Nigeria showed the prospect of becoming a dominant force in the global economy.
The promising signs about her economy soon became clear right after she gained independence in 1960 and expectations were on the high for the new emerging state that has been under the stranglehold of colonialism for many decades given its huge resource endowment (human and material resources). The Founding fathers of our country were on a mission to lay down the foundations of prosperity and integrity while working relentlessly in their pursuit of increasing exportation substantially as a weapon against malnutrition and improving the standard of living of every Nigerian citizen. They took up the direction and planning of economic growth and development with revenue from the exportation of agricultural products mentioned above spent in providing farmers with fertilizers, pesticides and other agricultural inputs at heavily subsidized prices. Tractor hire services and land development schemes were expanded. Roads were constructed and Education was progressively expanded to provide the nation with the required skilled labour force. No wonder five (5) years after independence, the agricultural sector had employed 70% of the nation’s population.
THE OIL BOOM
The discovery of crude oil in Nigeria in 1956 came with economic growth and infrastructural development that later dominated the economy to the detriment of the agricultural sector in the early 70’s. Expectations were high again and Nigeria immediately became the wealthiest country in Africa after reaping instant riches from its oil production. Thereafter, Nigeria’s economy became heavily reliant on crude oil exports and gas production; but the immense wealth brought about the lack of structure to balance, check and prosecute, making it all too easy to be fantastically corrupt. No wonder the economic prosperity was short-lived.
One would expect that there would be a massive turnaround in the years that followed, but that never happened. As an alternative, we continued betraying ourselves as a worthy agricultural economy by settling for a post-industrial economy instead and continued to wallow in a path of self-destruction. The situation of things continued like this to the 80s that country started importing the likes of rice, fish and even palm oil.
Domestic inflation became so high and Nigeria had to default on numerous debts. Unemployment was high and the government was forced to kick out the thousands of West African immigrants whom they believed were taking advantage of the employment in the formerly booming economy. The economic decline was so severe that by 1989 Nigeria was regarded as a low-income country and qualified for World Bank assistance.
So there is the short of it, more or less. There was steady growth in the 60s, an unprecedented boom in the 70s, a crash in the 80s, then a slight improvement in oil revenue in the 90s that levelled out to what we have today….
NIGERIA @58, to be continued…
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