Deputy minority leader of the house of representatives, Toby Okechukwu says Nigeria must look for ways of deriving development opportunities from COVID-19 crisis.
He stated this while speaking at an international conference held at the Nnamdi Azikwe University, Awka, on Wednesday.
Okechukwu said “One of the fallouts of the pandemic is that it further exposed our vulnerabilities to external shocks such as the fall in crude oil prices. The last time we witnessed a sharp decline in crude oil prices in 2016, our economy slipped into a recession,”
“Unfortunately, Nigeria is plagued by the ‘Dutch Disease’ or what Prof. Charles Soludo calls the Lottery Syndrome whereby a nation spends in the spirit of the boom of today without planning for tomorrow.
“We learn nothing and forget nothing – like the Bourbon royals of France. The chicken is now coming home to roost because even though the oil prices are going up, we are unable to reap its benefits due to our inability to meet our OPEC production quota. And since we are spending 98 percent of our entire revenue on debt servicing, we are left with little option but to keep borrowing from local and foreign lenders.
“Governance is the foundation of development. But out of the 54 African countries measured in 2019, Nigeria ranked 34 with a score of 45.5 points and persistent decline of 1.6 points from 2010. We should be worried that this ranking is with African countries when we pride ourselves as the ‘Giant of Africa’.
“During the Nigerian-Biafra Civil War, Biafran engineers and scientists developed several breakthrough inventions, innovations and technologies. Even though they were hastily utilised for the war, most of them could have provided the technological underpinnings of industrial development and advancement after the war and build a competitive advantage for Nigeria. But we failed to invest in that future.
“Today, we are at the cusp of another societal change because COVID-19 has provided an opportunity for us to innovate and go digital. Therefore, we must invest in the future by scaling up investments in the expansion of digital infrastructure, promoting digital transformation and encourage investments in ICT and innovation.
“We must not misuse the opportunities that this crisis presents the same way we mismanaged the civil war crisis, very much unlike Malaysia and Singapore, which utilised their own crises as springboards to launch forward.
“We must also seek to maximise the opportunities presented by the oil and energy crisis, infrastructural crisis, employment crisis, and farmers/herders clashes, among others. The choice is ours to either find solutions or weaponise them against one another. But my stand is that we should see the present challenges as a takeoff moment.”
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