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Why Nigeria needs a national planning ministry

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I have been a university researcher and teacher for about three decades. When a student comes to me to complain about a low grade in an examination, I ask him or her to tell me how he or she attends classes, studies and prepares for examinations. That is, I would ask him or her to tell me how he or she plans to score high grades in his or her examinations and complete his programme as first class or second class upper graduate.

That is because, it is necessary to plan well, if we aspire to achieve our desired objectives. To plan, according to the Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, is to make preparation for something that is expected to happen. We can also define planning as the act of putting together the thoughts and activities necessary for achieving desired objectives. In planning, a nation is expected to adopt an appropriate planning theory. Effective planning also demands that a nation adopts an appropriate planning framework.

Proper planning must be devoid of false assumptions. In terms of the demand for effective planning, although Nigeria implemented four five-year National Development Plans in the period 1962-1985: 1962-68, 1970-74, 1975-80 and 1980-85; and adopted the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) and its Rolling Plans in 1986 and SAP remains the main programme Nigeria is implementing today, Nigeria, in principle, has not been planning at all. This is because Nigeria’s planning has not been based on appropriate theory, framework and assumptions.

This was demonstrated in my article entitled: “Growth elements in Nigeria’s planning processes,” published in The Guardian, August 19, 2016, p. 18. In another article entitled: ‘What economists say about economics,’ published in the Catholic Weekly, Independent, Sunday, August 28, 2016, p.5, it was revealed that critical-minded economists, economists’ groups and indeed intelligent students agree that there is crisis in economics; the problem therefore is not that the economists themselves do not know that economics cannot serve as the intellectual framework for the management of economies. In another article entitled: “Reasons economists cannot manage economies,” published in The Guardian, Friday, November 25, 2016, p. 18, I presented 8 (eight) scientific reasons why economists cannot manage economies well. Nigeria cannot make progress with the present structure and functions of Federal Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies and economists planning for the nation.

Today, Nigeria may be described as a failing state. Unemployment, poverty, high crime wave problems have been worsening. Also there are no physical structures to show for the trillions-of -Naira budgets announced every year over the decades. Sadly, too, Nigeria is not only highly indebted but also has a very high propensity for accumulating local and foreign debts. Nigerian governments have only been wasting resources and imposing untold hardship on the ignorant and unsuspecting citizenry. This is the consequence of fruitless planning over decades. This article advocates that Nigeria should establish a National Planning Ministry, urgently, to plan for the nation so that the nation can initiate rapid growth, industrialisation and development.

In a production or service company, there are usually departments of production, sales, advertising, marketing, finance, personnel, research, accounting, public relations, engineering, maintenance, etc. The overall head of the company may be called the general manager, president or managing director. The heads of the various departments may be called managers or vice presidents or directors. More importantly, whereas the Accounting Department has the responsibility for preparing the financial statements including the income statement and balance sheet, the Finance Department’s function is comprised of activities related to securing monetary resources at favourable prices (Stevenson, 1986). The departments of accounting and finance, alone, do not carry out the management function of planning in an organisation. The hierarchy of functions in an organisation has three levels. They are: Operational (narrow scope), tactical (moderate scope) and strategic (broad scope).

Correspondingly, there are three types of skills endowment: technical skills (narrow scope), human or inter-personal skills (moderate scope) and conceptual skills (broad scope). Everyone is endowed with some quantity of all the three types of skill but one type predominates. With proper management, people with technical skills endowment should carry out operational functions, persons with human skills should carry out tactical functions, while persons with conceptual skills should carry out the strategic function of planning (broad scope). This is why the excellent supervisor (position that demands technical skills) may not be a good manager (job that demands human skills or conceptual skills). Accountants, engineers and technicians are endowed with more of technical skills than the other two types. Economists are not different from accountants and bankers. All economists are Marxian (Galbraith, 1967). That is, they all believe that capital investment is the solution to all problems; they believe that once capital is invested, economic growth ensues. Whereas economists claim that economics is science, economics has largely been confined to those motives for actions that can be evaluated with the measuring rod of money (Blaug, 1996). Accountants, bankers and lawyers have a poorer understanding of how an economy develops. The transformation of an economy from the agricultural/artisan status into an industrialised one is a scientific transformation. How could those who equate national economic planning with seeking money to build roads and bridges and wait for foreign investors to come and invest, facilitate the scientific transformation?

How could the Ministry of Finance (MOF), the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the National Planning Commission and the Debt Management Office (DMO), staffed with economists, accountants and bankers been planning for Nigeria, a nation, for decades, and the citizens have been expecting scientific development and industrialisation of Nigeria? It is bad management of an economy to assign a function that demands broad scope skills to people endowed with technical skills (narrow scope). This is the most serious impediment to the growth and development of Nigeria.

Nigeria needs a national planning ministry (NPM) to plan for the nation; the existing Planning Commission should be scrapped. The NPM is to be the super-Ministry to plan for the economic, political and social development of Nigeria. The NPM should be staffed with scientists, engineers, social scientists, liberal arts scholars and others endowed with all types of skills: conceptual, human and technical skills. Economics, accountants, bankers and lawyers are armed with unchanging “axiomatic truths” which they repeat and apply every day. But the staff of the NPM should be quite knowledgeable. It should be run by learning (knowledge-seeking) people.
Ogbimi teaches at the Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife.


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