Just two days ago on the 11th of November, 2016, Raji Fashola, Nigeria’s super minister of power, works and housing, who is more famous for spending ₦78 million on his website in 2014 (an amount then worth $500,000) said that the 7% GDP growth Nigeria enjoyed under the Jonathan administration was solely the result of high oil prices rather than any policy of that administration.
Fashola said; “I say this in the context of those who are tempted to lay some claim to any form of credit about why our economy was growing at seven percent for almost a decade, and I say very very clearly, without mincing words, that I don’t think that anybody can fairly lay claim to any economic policy that drove that growth.
It was growth that was driven by high oil prices. If we agree that infrastructure is the driver of growth, when you get high oil prices, what do you do with it? So, where are those towers, where are those bridges, where are those highways?”
The only part of the above statement that is true is the part where Mr. Fashola says “I don’t think”. Yes sir, you do not think. Because if you did you would know that the oil and gas industry, by the admission of even Mr. Fashola’s boss, President Buhari, is only 15% of Nigeria’s GDP. This fact which is well known to Mr. Fashola is also corroborated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
So yes, high oil prices would have a positive impact on the Nigerian economy but it cannot be the sole reason why we enjoyed 7% GDP growth under President Jonathan.
After all during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s eight years in office oil price was very low and were below $20 for a while yet that Peoples Democratic Party government did not deliver excuses, instead, they delivered consistent annual 5% GDP growth.
Going by Mr. Fashola’s logic, the present administration which is enjoying an oil price that is presently $45 per barrel ought to at least match President Obasanjo’s record. But here we are, at a recession.
You, see, the truth is that no matter how high oil prices are, if you do not have sound economic policies, you cannot have economic progression.
So what are the economic policies of the Jonathan era that drove Nigeria’s massive 7% GDP growth year in year out while Jonathan was on the saddle?
What is beneath the ground cannot make a nation great. The only way a nation can be great is by what is between the ears of her people. Educating the citizenry is the fastest way to achieve economic growth because education makes you GROW through life while illiteracy makes you GO through life.
President Jonathan began the practice of giving education the highest sectoral allocation in the budget.
In the 2011 budget, N306.3 billion was allocated to education, in 2012 N400.15 billion, in 2013 N426.53 billion, in 2014, N493.2 billion and in 2015 N492. 34 billion was allocated for education.
Never in the history of Nigeria has any government consistently shown such commitment to education.
Such was President Jonathan’s commitment to education that even though primary and secondary education is the preserve of the states, the federal government intervened to reduce the 10 million children out of school in Northern Nigeria by building 165 brand new almajiri schools.
By building 12 new federal universities and 165 almajiri schools and renovating 507 additional secondary schools all over Nigeria through the Universal Basic Education Commission, the Jonathan administration not only increased access to education, the policy also had the intended side effect of putting hundreds of thousands of youths to work which stimulated the economy and contributed to GDP growth.
Another policy of the Jonathan administration that added to GDP growth was his deliberate effort to expand access to opportunity through the YouWIN program. The Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) scheme was a business plan competition that provided training and funding of between $6000-$80,000 to youths to start or grow existing small, medium and even large scale businesses with the proviso that beneficiaries were to compulsorily employ other youths.
Mr. Fashola may also want to have a chat with the GIS Project Director in the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Dennis Chukwu, who revealed in Lokoja, Kogi State, on the 5th of September, 2016 during the Career Development and Entrepreneurship Skills Training for beneficiaries of the Graduate Internship Scheme that the GIS scheme had benefited a total of 41,000 Nigerian graduates during the Jonathan administration by giving them the opportunity to earn experience and money that put them in good stead to either start their own businesses or get employed at a level that they would not have been qualified for had they not had the opportunity provided by the GIS.
In 2010 President Jonathan Promised to Revive Nigeria’s Railways. By 2012 The Nigerian Railways Corporation began operating a Lagos to Kano service at the cost of just ₦1500. In 2013 rail lines were revived from Lagos Port Direct to Kaduna. By 2014, the Enugu-Port Harcourt lines were revived along with several others including the Makurdi-Port Harcourt rail.
By 2015, the Abuja-Kaduna rail which was recently commissioned by President Buhari was completed BY THE JONATHAN ADMINISTRATION!
Not only did work on these projects provide jobs to tens of thousands of Nigerians, by the time they were finished these rail lines eased transportation of goods and services all over Nigeria.
Mr. Fashola, this was a policy that added to our GDP growth.
On April 23, 2010, President Jonathan signed the Local Content Law, that he had promoted, into law. This law had the effect of forcing the oil majors in Nigeria to employ only Nigerians for certain specified jobs in the oil industry and to use only Nigerian contractors for certain contracts.
Because of this law, Shell Petroleum Development Company awarded its first ever deep pressure pipeline contract to an indigenous Nigerian company, SCC Nigeria limited to the tune of $50 million in 2011. Total also awarded a multi-million dollarcontract to Nigerdock, an indigenous firm, to fabricate platforms and top sides for its off shore operations.
When Nigerdock delivered on the project in June this year, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Patrick Daziba Obah said “I am proud to say that this laudable achievement is a direct result of the enactment and implementation of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act of 2010 and the overwhelming support that the Government has given and has continued to give to the development of Local Content in the Oil and Gas industry”.
This is another policy that led to the steady GDP growth of the Jonathan era.
In agriculture, the Jonathan administration has a policy known as the e-wallet policy fir fertilizer distribution which cut out the middle man and sent texts to farmers on where to pick up fertilizer after payment was deducted from their e-wallet. The administration also banned the importation of rice an act that attracted Olam Farms to come to Nigeria to build the largest rice mill in Nigeria in Nasarawa state. Olam farms invested $130 million in the Nigerian rice industry.
Because of these policies, Nigeria’s food import bill reduced from ₦1.1 trillion in 2011 to ₦648 billion by 2012 (the figure has now skyrocketed back to pre-Jonathan levels because the Buhari administration reversed Jonathan’s ban on rice importation for reasons best known to it).
Another policy which drove GDP growth under Jonathan was the policy of 70% Tariff on imported cars to dissuade Nigerians from continuing to spend $3.4 billion annually on importing foreign cars.
This policy forced Nissan, Kia and Hyundai to establish assembly plants in Nigeria for the manufacturing of partially made in Nigeria vehicles. President Jonathan ordered federal government ministries, departments and parastatals to patronize these vehicles along with cars made by Innoson motors.
This policy had the effect of attracting over $150 million foreign direct investment into the Nigerian automotive industry and prevented hundreds of millions of dollars from leaving Nigeria to purchase imported cars.
Time would not permit me to talk of the Nagropreneur program or the fact that under Jonathan not only did CNN Money project Nigeria as the world’s third fastest growing economy but that the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development named Nigeria the number 1 destination for foreign direct investment in Africa.
I also would not have the time to write about how the Jonathan administration added 1.3 million jobs in 2013 alone (per the National Bureau of Statistics, the same agency that revealed that Nigeria lost 4.58 million jobs in the first year of the Buhari administration).
So, in conclusion, no Mr. Fashola, high oil prices may have contributed to GDP growth during the previous administration but it was ideas that drove growth under Jonathan and it is lack of ideas not low oil prices that is stifling growth under President Buhari.
This is more so when you consider that US President elect, Donald Trump, has not even been sworn in, yet today, he named some members of his cabinet. That is real change, not the reverse change promised by someone who waited for six months after his swearing in before naming his cabinet consisting of an Agriculture minister who studied French and other misfits! That is what is to blame for your recession Mr. Fashola. That and not low oil prices.
Reno Omokri is the founder of the Mind of Christ Christian Center