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Petrol And Population As Nigeria's Greatest Worries

Tunde Odediran writes that Nigeria must begin now to invest whatever is left of the wealth from oil assets in sustaining growth and diversity, if it’s to manage the imminent population explosion

The UN projects that by 2100, if current figures continue, the population of Nigeria will be over 746 million / Photo credit: Olorisupergal.com /Ceasefiremagazine.co.uk
The UN projects that by 2100, if current figures continue, the population of Nigeria will be over 746 million / Photo credit: Olorisupergal.com /Ceasefiremagazine.co.uk

Nigerian is faced with many daunting problems and most of us can name 10 or more, but the two that strike the greatest fear in my heart start with the letter P – petrol and population – and lead to a letter P - penury. National revenue from oil will largely dry up in a decade or so; and the population will explode. This combination will make today’s challenges so infinitesimal in just about a decade.

Nigeria has made a fortune from petroleum but has failed to carefully manage the wealth. A 2017 data from the Central Bank of Nigeria showed that total accruals from oil over 17 years amount to N77trn.

Other nations that have been so lucky to amass such vast wealth from natural resources have transformed their societies. The United Arab Emirates is a shining example, but Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Canada, Norway and Russia have also made good use of their oil wealth.

For nations that have been wasteful as ours, it is the day of reckoning. Fossil fuel as a source of national wealth is waning. Fracking, the use of injected liquid at high pressure to extract oil or gas from rocks, has made oil easy to find.

Technology has also visited a disaster upon the oil producing nations in the form of electric cars and non-carbon energy sources as solar and wind. Driverless cars will also have an impact. Cars are not likely to be sitting in the parking lot. Fewer cars serving many more passengers using non-carbon gas is a danger to Nigeria’s purse.

Agriculture may be growing the GDP, but it is not a major income source for any level of government. For Nigeria to start dealing with its economic reality, oil money most stop being the heartbeat of the nation.

Nigeria must be able earn income and drive prosperity through other abundant natural and human resources. The pervasive laziness, where governments at all levels sit idly for national revenue allocation in Abuja, is shameful. Although the Buhari administration - and the ones before it -has claimed economic diversification to the non-oil sectors, the reality is that oil is still the lone pillar holding the economy.

A 2017 report by the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that the oil and gas sector still accounted for 92 per cent of the country’s total export earnings. Agriculture may be growing the GDP, but it is not a major income source for any level of government. For Nigeria to start dealing with its economic reality, oil money most stop being the heartbeat of the nation.

The second significant issue which the whole nation must come to grasp with is the threat of population. According to the United Nations, Nigeria currently has 2.5 percent of the world's population – 7th highest in ranking, occupying less than one million square kilometers and with a median age of 17.9 years.

We can already feel the stress of a high and young population. How can we forget the recruitment stampede of 2014, when 6.5 million people invaded various recruitment centres for just 4,000 vacant positions in the Nigeria Immigration Service? Compound that by the statistics showing that just 12 years from now, the population of Nigeria will reach 263 million, an increase of 44 per cent.

It is too late for Nigeria to dream of creating the UAE miracle from oil - the train has already left the station. It would never generate the income necessary to build such massive infrastructure, when salaries of public servants cannot even be paid. Corruption has taken its toll.

And by 2050, it is projected Nigeria will overtake the United States to become the third most populous country, with a population above 400 million. This means that, at just the size of the US State of Texas, Nigeria will have double mouths to feed.

Further, the UN projects that by 2100, if current figures continue, the population of Nigeria will be over 746 million. That's frightening, if we consider the ability of our government to deal with development planning since independence.

It is safe to conclude that population will cripple the already crumbling infrastructure and social services. Nigeria has just surpassed India in the world extreme poverty ranking, with 87 million Nigerians living on $1.90 a day. Access to clean water, good education, decent housing and energy will take a hit. Even, diversifying the economy to agriculture will be difficult because land will become scarce.

It is too late for Nigeria to dream of creating the UAE miracle from oil - the train has already left the station. It would never generate the income necessary to build such massive infrastructure, when salaries of public servants cannot even be paid. Corruption has taken its toll. But there is still a way out.

The coming population explosion can be turned into an asset if the remaining wealth from oil assets can be invested on sustaining growth and diversity, with infrastructure and technology education taking priority.

The coming population explosion can be turned into an asset if the remaining wealth from oil assets can be invested on sustaining growth and diversity, with infrastructure and technology education taking priority. This will unleash the talent of the young to mold a nation that employs knowledge to create wealth.

India's recent revival has largely been driven by the improvement of its human capacity in terms of education and the adoption of technology, causing her to become the capital for outsourced jobs from Western countries. Nigeria must make heavy investments in education, basic infrastructure and technology to drive a service industry that can support the teeming population.

To have the right impact, the job of building for the future has to start now. Twelve years will come upon us rather quickly if we fail to act immediately. It will take vision, ingenuity and devotion to create this new Nigeria.

It will also demand integrity, transparency and planning – the very things that Nigeria struggle with. Above all, nothing short of excellent leadership is required to tie all of these together. Nigeria and Nigerians have to become transformed to experience economic transformation. It is a tall order.

No matter how well its intention may be, any administration that is ineffective in tackling corruption will only be attempting to manage a malignant tumor that will eventually sound Nigeria's death knell.

This is why the 2019 election has a dire consequence. It will determine if the economy can be intelligently steered to minimise the impact of dwindling oil wealth and if we can manage population to become an asset.

Sadly, the manifestoes of the major political parties have highlights of the solution but are subsistence at best. Our leading presidential dinosaurs know more about the past than the future. They represent irrelevant experience. And for their lack of relevance, the consequence may be crushing and crippling for Nigerians.

In 2019, Nigerians must critically evaluate political candidates. The task of running the government will become far more challenging as these two factors begin to have visible impact. The Buhari administration, expecting to have lots of oil money to run its programmes, faced a fragment of this challenge and has so far been unable to react properly.

Nigeria’s greatest worries can only be dealt with by a leader with a broad mind, vibrant solutions and an execution plan. An administration that imposes a limit on the number of children per family one day and withdraws the policy the next day because of political expediency is unable to address the issues.

Equally important for Nigerians is the need to elect leaders who will deal summarily and transparently with corruption, since corruption will always be in the way of prosperity. It is time to stop using the EFCC as a mere political tool.

No matter how well its intention may be, any administration that is ineffective in tackling corruption will only be attempting to manage a malignant tumor that will eventually sound Nigeria's death knell.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.

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