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Nigerian businessmen and the casino mindset



Great economies are not built on the quicksand of stocks and bonds. Investments in stocks and bonds, otherwise called financial instruments, are mere derivatives of bigger economic structures, whether state-controlled or not. The more the knowledge institutions of a country continue to produce proficient labour, the more activities are created in the economy. That means, jobs are always begging for hands in all sectors of the economy. The more many hands are engaged, the more individual earnings and per capita income grow, also the GDP, foreign reserves, consumer index, and banks’ vaults get brimming with lendable money.

Interest rates cascade because there is enough to lend out. Foreign reserves grow because quality labour force is producing competitive products. Quality exportable goods and services are magnets for international investors who bring in foreign currency into the local economy, putting much more into the money houses. Then, of course, a combination of virile local money market with valuable currency buffered by hefty foreign reserves solves all the riddles about exchange rate and standard of living. All the long grammar about use and allocation of dollars, bureau De change or Change of Bureau or whatever they are called becomes an aberration in the economy

Those who think leadership is rocket science in this part of the world may cynically quip:‘ this is easier said than done.’ But that has been the growth pattern of big Asian tigers that are calling the shots in global power games today. China is one of the most populous nations in the world, yet she has one of the most advanced standards of living in the world, in the first tier bracket with U.S., France, Britain, and Germany and in fact one of the big eight most industrialised nations. Chinese economy was not nurtured on trans nationalism. Chinese businessmen, learning the ropes of free enterprise at the turn of the century adopted a strategy of forward-thinking, investing in technical manpower and resources in the exploitation of its vast array of solid mineral deposits, especially, iron and steel production. Firms built special training schools for staff for their line of businesses. They went about stealing technology secrets even from Washington, exploiting her openness and freedom of information culture.

China depended less on resources from countries and regions of the world where she knew her investments may be exposed to high risks. Which was why even with her now globally recognised embrace of free market, Chinese businessmen would still rather prefer to look towards Africa for much net worth portfolio investments where they believe China’s currency would be appreciated, her citizens’ investments appreciated and maximum returns with generational equity guaranteed. But do Nigerian business invest in timeless entities that serve not just their present fantasies but also generations to come?

This is why it baffles me that notwithstanding startling revelations and exhibitions of many solid mineral finds in the country, no single Nigerian business entity, not to talk of the ones Nigeria’s noisy media brand global, has found it expedient to mobilise resources into those areas. Then what did they do with all the credits and waivers doled out to them over the years, in fact since 2006 when Nigerian state managers found it expedient to intervene in the operations of some sectors of the economy considered of strategic interest?

With all the commotion and flow of blood in the Niger Delta area, some foolish Nigerian businessmen who claim they know it all in modern business calculation, having been falsely enriched largely by Nigerian corrupt bureaucracies over the years, are still dying to partake in oil and gas lifting, even if it would cost them ten times what it would take to exploit the new high-grade kaolin recently discovered in commercial quantity somewhere in Kaduna State just three months ago. Now imagine this piece of just a few months ago, Dangote Group concluded a business deal with a consortium of foreign partners which involved outright acquisition of a world class Netherlands-based gas processing hi-tech company for the purpose of accelerating the sub-sea gas pipeline project that would run all the way from Bonny in Rivers State to Lagos to berth at Dangote’s Lekki Petrochemical and

Refinery project. If anyone had any doubt why every other sector of the economy is hemorrhaging for lack of foreign exchange, does one need to search too far?

The sub-sea installation which is being executed at breakneck speed as if that is the solution to every one of Nigeria’s problem would cost an estimated N500 billion or approximately $17 billion, the largest and most ambitious so far in Africa According to the Vice President, Prof. Osinbajo himself while flagging off this project in Lagos in June this year, the pipeline when completed would be draining three billion cubic feet of gas everyday from the bowels of Niger Delta in Bonny Rivers State all the way to Olokola in Ogun State to Lagos through the Lagos-Escravos Pipeline.

Meanwhile, the Nigerian authorities and military battalions are daily conducting warfare against the agitating Niger Delta peoples whose environments has been rendered the worst ecological disaster in the world as confirmed in the 2016 World Environmental Sustainability Index report compiled by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) this year.

Whether due environmental safety compliance was done and consummated before commencing a project of such profound consequence to the environmental survivability of the area as the project proceeds is still a matter that has been so suffused in media propaganda.

Let it be clear here that no one is making case against investment in gas utilisation, which we have now belatedly realised is a major aspect we have missed in the oil and gas matrix over the years. But let us not in an effort to recoup lost opportunities due to our visionlessness and kleptomania cut our nose to spite our face or dig our own graves while we are still alive. Here we only realise our follies when we are already six feet down.

• Nwokoro is a journalist based in Lagos.

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