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Recession: Government should organise harambee

By Luke Onyekakeyah   |   11 October 2016   |   3:13 am

The Sunday Sun newspaper’s prescription over the weekend that President Muhammadu Buhari should listen to a crop of wealthy and cerebral Nigerians for way out of the biting economic recession is apt and should be considered. By their track record, the individuals have what it takes to get Nigeria out of the economic crunch. They have the money to bail the country out as well as ideas on what to do at a time like this.

Looking inwards is critical to managing the recession. Overlooking the local economic giants in our midst and instead looking outside for bailout is not tack enough. History is replete with examples of how leaders in different countries got solution to harsh economic conditions by strategic engagement of some high worth individuals. Luckily, Nigeria is blessed with such men.

All that is required is for the leadership to think out of the box, get the men together and table the country’s predicament. This is not a matter of politics but of patriotism. Being patriotic does not consist in carrying the national flag or singing the anthem. It does not consist in holding a political office. Instead, being patriotic consists in defending the fatherland when the need arises, more so, by people who have gained a lot from the country.

It is on that ground that I reiterate what I wrote in this column in 2009, at the height of the global economic meltdown, that Nigeria should organise harambee. Harambee is Swahili for fundraising. I am convinced that if the Federal Government organises harambee in which the akajiaku (the hands that hold the wealth) are featured, there is no target that the Federal Government sets that would not be met. It is possible to raise the $15 billion government is seeking to inject into the economy if the men and many others are involved with the right terms, if that is necessary, or outright harambee, which is voluntary patriotic donation to salvage the country.

According the Sunday Sun, the individuals include former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar; Africa’s richest man, Alhaji Aliko Dangote; President African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina; Chairman of  United Bank for Africa (UBA), Tony Elumelu; former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; former Finance Minister and one time Managing Director of the World Bank, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala; former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) governors, Professor Chukwuma Soludo and Emir Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who is also the Emir of Kano; former governor of Abia State and chairman, SLOK Group, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and former chairman of First Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Umaru Mutallab. There are a host of other wealthy Nigerians in this group who would be prepared to answer the national call. The Buhari administration should think in this direction and save the country from further embarrassment.

Rather than waiting for the World Bank/IMF to extend aid in support of developing countries, Nigerians could conveniently raise any amount of money required to sail through the turbulent times. By pulling resources together, the Federal Government could raise billions internally from Nigerians with no strings attached. Where to get money to bail out the economy is the issue at stake. A harambee would provide the solution.

In 2009, Chairman of NICON Group and Managing Director/CEO Global Fleet Energy, Jimoh Ibrahim, advised the Federal Government to print more naira to get the country out of the financial predicament. He said printing more naira would enable government fund its spending, fund infrastructure and fund the Seven-point Agenda. While acknowledging that the action would cause inflation, he said issuing treasury bills to mop up excess liquidity would control the inflation. But to him, printing more naira is an option that could get the country out of the woods.

Jimoh Ibrahim’s advice is similar to Alhaji Aliko Dongote’s that government should sell national assets to raise funds. How to fund the 2016 budget is a headache to government.

Perhaps, it might be necessary to clarify the nature of the problem at hand. Some economies around the world are in recession. The simple definition of recession is a period usually shorter than a depression, when there is decline in economic trade and prosperity. Nigeria is affected by virtue of the fact that we depend almost entirely on the export of crude oil for foreign revenue earning. The crash of the price of crude oil from $147 in September 2009 to around $47 presently has drastically reduced government’s revenue. There is, therefore, financial crunch as government, which is the principal source of funds in the economy, is in a tight corner and unable to meet critical obligations because there is short supply of funds. This has negative impact on different sectors of the economy.

Under the prevailing condition, Nigeria is particularly in desperate state because different sectors of our economy were deep in crisis before the recession. For example, the industrial sector, which includes manufacturing, mining and construction, was virtually down at about three per cent growth rate. The other sectors like power supply, social infrastructure, roads and railways are decrepit. Given this appalling situation, which has been compounded by the recession, the country is desperately in need of cash to sail through the turbulent times. The budget must be implemented and the people need to have minimal respite amid the worsening hardship. It is on this basis that suggestions are being made for the sale of national assets to raise and inject liquid cash into the economy.

Recession will end when sectors of the economy become active once again thereby restoring growth. One way we can come back to that state is by adopting the harambee self-help strategy to ensure that government has enough liquidity and doesn’t stop spending. Wealthy Nigerians should be involved to realise this objective. There are patriotic and illustrious Nigerians who are wealthy enough to bail out the country and the economy financially in these hard times. They are the “Bill Gates” of the country. I am sure that if they are invited they will not disappoint.

Government should set a target based on need. The fund may be called special economic recovery fund with details of what is to be executed with the fund. A team drawn from the donors should be mandated to oversee the expenditure. Living on denials when action is needed won’t help us.

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