Nigeria has spoken and General Mahammadu Buhari has the mandate of the people. A day after winning the presidential election, General Buhari made clear his agenda, the two main things he run his presidential campaign on, eradicating the onslaught of Boko Haram militant group plaguing the country and the ‘evil of corruption’ as he put it.
His agenda may sound simple to many but really, it feeds into a larger agenda.
In his first 100days as president, General Mahammadu Buhari has pledged to uproot corruption and implement good governance; improve access to justice and respect for fundamental human rights; reform investment in infrastructural development of the Niger Delta, improve diversity and involvement of all citizens, and improve health and education in the country, among others.
His pledge speaks volumes, it aims to make Nigeria better; after all, we are on track to become Africa’s only global superpower. We already have the continent’s biggest economy, a huge military budget and a fair record of regional engagement. By 2040, we could be the fourth largest country in the world after India, China and the United States. All this is possible but to get there, the new government will have to concentrate on certain areas, starting with the oil and gas industry.
Nigeria is blessed with abundant oil and gas resources, and we would like to see the new government nurture the oil and gas industry further. To create a conducive environment that will increase general investment in the sector especially in the downstream and upstream sectors to attract investment in the much needed areas of construction, maintenance, pipelines and well services to mention a few.
Another area for the new government focus on in the oil and gas industry is local content. Thanks to the Nigerian Content Act of 2002, Nigerian indigenous entities are finding their feet in many fields of the oil and gas business.
The Local Content Act has so far attracted $5bn worth of investments into the country and created around 38,000 jobs, and enforcing it and similar laws from the government will lead to a positive impact on employment and the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP).
The hope is that the new government will do more with our gas industry which hasn’t been harnessed to its full potential yet. Nigeria has natural gas reserves that are well over 187 trillion ft³ (2,800 km³), and three times as substantial as our crude oil reserves so if the government passes favourable policies and reforms the sector to facilitate investment, it can solve our long standing unstable electricity issues and contribute to our GPD by exporting it to neighbouring African countries.
Also, the government should prioritize enforcing the laws put in place to curb gas flaring to stop its negative effects on the economy, environment and the population health wise. Economically, it is estimated that Nigeria loses 18.2 million US$ daily from the loss of flared gas.
Environmentally, flaring contributes to climate change, causes acid rains which acidifies lakes and streams and damages vegetation. It also contaminates crops causing stunted growth and scotched plants to mention a few. The biggest costs of it all, is its implication on human health causing cancers, neurological, reproductive and developmental effects. Deformities in children, lung damage and skin problems.
Another area for the new government to focus on is agriculture. Nigeria’s oil has come at the detriment of the agriculture sector, and our largely agrarian population, hence resulting in a rise in poverty.
While we post high growth figures, and make it into Goldman Sachs’ ‘Next 11’ emerging markets group, absolute poverty is also on the rise , with almost 100 million people living on less than a $1.25 a day.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 60.9 percent of Nigerians in 2010 were living in absolute poverty, up from 54.7 percent in 2004.
So the government needs to do more for the sector by introducing new policies and investing in the sector so Nigeria can feed itself and cut down on the importation of food.
For years, the agricultural sector was the prime driver of the economy and main source of foreign exchange; between 1962 and 1968, we were number one globally in palm oil exports, well ahead of Malaysia and Indonesia, and exported 47 percent of all groundnuts, ahead of the US and Argentina.
This has declined over the years; we once provided 18 percent of the global production of cocoa, second in the world in the 1960s, that figure is now down to 8 percent.
Such decline can be halted by making agriculture a major focus. Further investment in production and processing, laying the institutional foundation to attract large-scale investments and capital to the sector will help Nigeria diversify her economy from crude petroleum dependency, solve our food security crises by weaning Nigeria off food imports and make agriculture a major contributor to our GDP again.
Another area to focus on is the involvement of women in public office. Nigeria has some 80 million women and their participation in politics is of strategic importance, not only for women’s empowerment but because it has wider benefits and impacts.
There is a lack of gender equity in political representation, some progress has been made but it is not nearly enough. Women are particularly underrepresented in Northern and rural regions.
The government should give women a real role in both local governance and appointed offices because women representatives will make better decisions as only women can represent women’s interests.”
Women as well as men should be represented at decision-making levels – locally, regionally and nationally – particularly in areas where crucial resources are allocated. Research suggests that allocation is more effective and efficient, and ultimately produces superior human development outcomes, in countries where women are more broadly represented.
Finally, Nigeria has a young, vibrant and hardworking population with 25 million of them unemployed so the new government needs to concentrate on industrial revolution. By putting policies in place to transform the nation’s industrial landscape, boost skills development, enhance job creation and conserve foreign exchange.
Investment in the manufacturing sector will set the stage for a new era of industrial, micro, small and medium enterprises development in Nigeria which will create jobs and increase the contribution of the manufacturing sector to GDP.
Also, market protection policies and encouraging the patronage of made in Nigeria products is the way forward. Most importantly, if Nigeria is to unlock her vast economic potential and truly achieve the goal of industrial revolution, it needs to improve the business environment and make it more conducive to both local and foreign investors.
To conclude, I’d like to wish the new government all the best in the great task ahead. Nigerians have voted for them so it is the will of God and He will give the new President the strength and wisdom to govern and meet the needs of the people and help Nigeria meet its full potential.