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Nigeria’s new drive to industrialisation

By Matthew Agboma Ozah
07 April 2021   |   3:05 am
I have always tried to imagine what stage our industrialisation would have been today if successive governments have continued the development process from where their predecessors stopped

Industrialisation. Photo: PIXABAY

I have always tried to imagine what stage our industrialisation would have been today if successive governments have continued the development process from where their predecessors stopped. This is on the backdrop that government is said to be a continuum.

Regrettably, Nigeria has a disappointing record when it comes to the continuation of previous administrations’ unfinished projects as political leaders treat the laid down economic plan of their predecessors with levity. Of course, it has become a tradition that every government of the day wants to be identified with its own specific economic blueprint that targets a new decade that would take the country to the ‘promise land’.

If the government is truly a continuum, one possibility is that Nigeria would have evolved through trial and error and to the normal process of human adjustment into an industrialised nation and by now will be the real giant of Africa as well as belong to the BRIGS club or be a member of G-8 nations among others. Anyway, all that is a matter of human imagination as reality stares at us on a daily basis just as our political leaders continue to shy away from continuity in government. Instead, political leaders prefer to hang the peoples’ hope on superlative promises while the paradox remains the affirmative action to keep the promises and the reality that the people are compelled to live with.

Over the years, there have been several moves to industrialise the country by successive administrations to no avail. To a large extent, the ambition of the current government to industrialise the country seems to lack some definite focus as anything within reach in the country that is making global waves economically is chased at as our next drive to industrialisation.

At some point in 2016, the then Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun was reported to be highly disappointed at the resolution reached a meeting held in Washington, United States of America that discussed the importance of addressing infrastructure gaps in developing countries. According to the report, the minister saw Western nations as a stumbling block to Nigeria’s plan to develop by improving power output through the use of coal which will eventually lead Nigeria to industrialisation. Mrs Adeosun argued then that, coal was a competitive advantage that was used to develop Europe yet, now that Nigeria wants to do it they say it is not green, so we cannot. Since then, however, the coal dream to industrialisation has been languishing in pipeline banishment as the ruling government finds it too disrespectful to go against the international powers on the matter.

For the better part of the life of this government, it is interesting to note that just about two years to the end of his administration, the President Muhammadu Buhari government now suddenly realised that, gas, a commodity that has been flared recklessly in the Niger Delta region for decades is now crucial and economically viable. Many well-meaning Nigerians have advocated in the past that gas could catapult the country into becoming an industrialised nation if the flared commodity is properly managed. All these fell on deaf ears until recently, when President Buhari made the revelation at the Nigerian International Petroleum Summit (NIPS) 2021 pre-summit conference and the official launch of the Decade of Gas in Abuja.

Mr. President pointed out that Nigeria is a gas nation with a little oil “really” and lamented that the country had focused more on the ‘little’ oil over the years. However, the paradox of the little oil is what President Buhari’s government decided to confront by declaring the year 2020 as the year of gas in Nigeria.

The high expectations about the overnight realisation that gas is indeed the next revolution that would industrialise the country and bring revenue to the government as well as redeem Nigerians from the poor conditions of livelihood is hard to thumb one’s chest and crow that corruption would not derail the expectations.

Nevertheless, what is instructive is that the gas discovery to wealth should not be treated as the sole economic earner for the country just like oil was regarded. But curiously, is gas not to oil what chicken is to egg? To be candid, the issue of which is little should not arise because you cannot tap wealth from gas without exploring oil, both are like a bind as one begets the other. Nevertheless, the present government should think right and act quickly in looking at other sources of wealth to complement gas, this may add up to big improvements in the lives of the masses. No doubt, climate change brouhaha has made the global future depend on cleaner energy. Therefore, attempts by the ruling government to vigorously follow the trend would in no small measure solve the unemployment problem in the country.

As a precaution, in no way should the gas revolution resemble the nation’s wealth creation in the 19th Century where the gains from agriculture and cash crops, now gone with the wind are only remembered in tales describing the beautiful architecture of the groundnut pyramids and the rolls of the well-cultivated lawns of palm trees, cocoa, and rubber plantations. Also, the endless fascinating tales about the Naira power to currencies across the world especially the British Pound Sterling, are painstaking work and achievements by small teams of dedicated and honest Nigerians across the country.

Given the spectacular gains being envisaged, the decision to make gas lead the nation to industrialisation can be said to be on high expectations on all sides. Aside from job creation and the economic benefit to the government, the Niger Deltans who suffer unbearable destruction and pollution of their environment as a result of gas flaring are eager to witness a zero gas flare in the region and enjoy not just a meaningful but dignified life. Until recently, it has been easy to shrug off oil dominance in the international market as other sources of cleaner energy are being discovered. Currently, crude oil big buyer nations like America, China, and India are switching to alternative cleaner energy. In this case, Nigeria has no reason to continue in the past, rather she should strive to be one of the world’s industrialised nations.

Come to think of it, Nigeria has what it takes both in human and mineral resources, the quality of professionals in various fields both in the diaspora and here at home as well as abundant resources is second to none. Aside from the above, there is some obvious lesson for the ruling government. It should treat gas as an opportunity to embrace the rest of the world with other produce from Nigeria. That implies that rather than neglecting other viable sectors of the economy the government should potentially allow other sectors to flourish so as to increase the nation’s earnings.