How To Fix The Nigerian Economy – Cheta Nwanze


Nigeria as it is currently run is not economically viable, and going along the routes a lot of people are suggesting won't solve the problem. Secession by one or more parts won't sort anything. Most of the new countries will be just as badly run as Nigeria currently is if not worse.

Creating new states solves nothing. Majority of the current 36 can't even stand on their own to begin with much less smaller less viable bits. A return to the 12 state structure is a great possible solution, but being that the people involved are Nigerians, that will never happen. Throwing money at the problems associated with Nigeria hasn't solved them, will not solve them. There is however, a likely solution: trade. There are two big lessons to be learned about Nigeria as it is currently constituted and run, and we have to sit back and learn those well. 

First lesson is that our government thinks that poverty alleviation is handing out largesse, creating jobs that do not exist, dashing out cutlasses and machetes.

Me, I think that poverty alleviation is different, and it is hard work. Poverty alleviation is educating the people. That's a 30 year plan. Poverty alleviation is building and rehabilitating our network of roads, building our waterways. It is revamping and improving the rails. Poverty alleviation is restoring electricity so that I will not hear the damned generator that is currently giving me a headache. Nigeria needs to open internal trade. Trade brings growth, growth brings progress, progress brings development. Development brings wealth.

Lesson two: Nigeria as a country is getting richer. This is what all the Economic indices the world over would tell you. It is true. However, Nigerians are getting poorer. This is the economy. They don't, and they can't teach this anywhere. You learn this truth by living it. The question then becomes how does the wealth of the nation translate to the people of the nation? To be honest, we know the answer to that.

We know the answer to most of our questions, the answers are at home, but like Kassim Shettima we prefer to go to London to look for them. Let us take Shettima's state, Borno, as an example: unknown to most of you, one of Borno's major produces is fish. Until Boko Haram that is. As a matter of fact, until the Lake Chad recession gathered pace, the Chad Basin was Nigeria's biggest fish producer. That honour of being Nigeria's biggest source of fish now lies with the Argungu Basin in Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states, but that's by the way. Imagine producing say 1 million metric tonnes of fish in this environment, how do you get them to the markets in the south? I'll tell you…

You will have to load the whole fish in trucks which lack refrigeration, and put them on the road, to take a 1585 km journey to Lagos. By the time you get to the Lagos port to export the fish, roughly 3-4 days would have passed, roughly 60% of your stock will have rotted.

THIS, will push the price of your fish way up, and your product will not be able to compete with cheaper imports from the Ivory Coast. How is that economical? It means that it makes no sense for you to run that fish business in Borno. Cue, a lot of Borno youths lose jobs. When the Borno youths lose their jobs, Boko Haram becomes all that much nicer in their eyes, and they'll join up. Then we'll be "surprised". 

If on the other hand, we have refrigerated rail trucks running the 1585 km from Maiduguri to Lagos at 300km/h, it will take them 6 hours. At that point, it makes economic sense for us to trade with each other.

THAT is what our government ought to concentrate on, not talk shops that achieve nothing such as the World Economic Forum.


Cheta Nwanze wrote in from Lagos

photo: Author

Cheta Nwanze sees the obvious…but not as clear with the Nigerian authorities