Petroleum is the cash cow of the Nigerian economy
By Femi Adesina
As you read this piece, President Muhammadu Buhari and his team are in the French capital, attending the Paris Peace Forum, a gathering of about 30 Presidents and head of governments from around the world. The Nigerian leader is among the few that were asked to deliver a speech.
On Wednesday afternoon, we had been at the Palais Elysee, the seat of the French government, where President Buhari paid an official visit to President Emmanuel Macron, who himself had been in Abuja in 2018. Impressive is a mild word to use for the spectacle.
Earlier that Wednesday, President Buhari had been at the Shangri-La Hotel, to give a keynote address at the Nigeria International Partnership Forum, put together for Nigerian and French investing community. It was a roll call of the brightest and best in the Nigerian business firmament, including Alhaji Abdulsamad Rabiu, Chairman BUA Group and head, France-Nigeria Business Council, Mr Tony Elumelu, Chairman Heirs Holdings and UBA, Alhaji Mohammed Indimi, Chairman, Oriental Energy Resources, Prince Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman/Editor-in-Chief, ThisDay Group and Arise News Channels, among many others.
Now, the narrative that some people have labored to paint over the years, either out of hatred, or cheap political reasons, is that nothing was happening in the country, other than wanton killings and massive insecurity. They trumpet and magnify insecurity to the exclusion of any other thing. Yes, Nigeria battles grave security challenges like many other countries, particularly in the Sahel region, but then, many other good things are happening, while evildoers are also being given a pounding by agencies of state.
Mr President spoke to the galaxy of Nigerian and French business people and investors, to a massive applause. And what did he say?
The government in Nigeria was on the right path to achieving multi-sectoral progress. It has re-assessed and updated the national security strategy, which has contributed to success in fighting insurgents and terrorists, and also countering violent extremism.
Still firing from the hips, Mr President told his audience that there was a link between modern infrastructure and the overall economic development of a nation, “hence the massive infrastructural expansion programme we have been executing in various sectors.”
He gave examples such as railways, seaports, roads, renewable energy, housing, and many others.
Petroleum is the cash cow of the Nigerian economy, which is now being heavily diversified. But for more than two decades, the enabling law for the industry crawled through the legislature. Till the Buhari administration gave it a fillip, and out came the Petroleum Industry Act, the liberalizing force of the oil industry, with incentives as tax holidays, zero interest loans, development plan for host communities, and easy repatriation of profits, among others.
On agriculture, President Buhari spoke about the Anchor Borrowers Programme, which gives loans and technical support to small holder farmers, leading to expansion of rice mills from 10 in 2014, to 40 today. The result is that we no longer import rice enormously, and now save billions of dollars, which can be utilized for other things.
Fertilizer blending plants were about only five in 2014, today we have 46, with the result that the commodity is widely available and accessible to farmers, at modest costs.
Many other facts and figures did the President adduce to justify the fact that good things were happening in Nigeria, and investments were not only safe, but also generating handsome returns. And that makes one to challenge those engaged in the paroxysm of ‘nothing is happening in the country’ to countermand or controvert any of the stated developments.
Has security not been jigged up in a way that bandits, terrorists, insurgents have been put on the back foot? Are evildoers not being daily sent to God to answer for their crimes? Is the country not being cleaned up, and it is just a matter of time before the sanitation is completed?
Don’t they see the infrastructure? Roads, bridges, airports, pipelines, awesome projects like the Second Niger Bridge, Bodo-Bonny road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano Expressway, Loko-Oweto Bridge, AKK gas pipelines, Lagos-Ibadan rail project that is up and running, other rail projects under construction round the country, brand new airports in Abuja, Kano, Port Harcourt, new runway and terminal building in Enugu, and many others. Which will the wailers, caterwauling all their lives point to, and deny its existence? Yet they keep repeating like broken gramophone records that nothing was happening in the country.
The truth is that no single government will solve all the challenges of a country in its life span. It will do its level best, and yield space for others to continue. Muhammadu Buhari has touched Nigeria in diverse ways. Our armed forces have been equipped, trained and motivated like never before. The economy has successfully been diversified, after more than five decades of lip service. Corruption is being robustly fought, stealing is something to be abhorred. And Nigeria is being rebuilt. Projects, projects everywhere, with a good number of them slated for commissioning next year.
The apostles of ‘nothing is happening, except insecurity’ should look for other music to sing, and for other dance steps. Honest Nigerians can see and feel the good things happening. It was unfolded to Nigerian and international investors in Paris on Wednesday. Those who have consigned themselves perpetually to the complaint counters should wake up. The market is over. It is time to go home, and do something better.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity