With another contentious round of elections over, Nigeria hobbles into yet another stage of a 4-year democratic dispensation. It is President Mohammadu Buhari’s second Term. As he characteristically takes his time to select his cabinet to reboot the levers of political administration and the economy working, the issues of Growth, Investment and employment continue to be the matter arising for the country. Unfortunately, these very urgent parameters required to set the nation on the path to proper and sustainable industrialization are yet to leave the unproductive platform of government promises and unimplemented policies.
With increasing poverty, joblessness among the youth and resultant insecurity that have been biting at the soul of the nation these recent years, there is, therefore, a critical imperative to move the discourse of bringing the much-vaunted potential of the world’s largest black population down to pragmatic reality.
This was what informed the theme of 13th Annual Business Law Conference held on June 26-28, 2019 at the Eko Hotel. Featuring 25 Speakers, in four sessions, the two-day event examined the Nigerian economy from the perspective of health, security and education towards building a foundation for inclusive growth, moving from Crude Exports to value addition.
The theme of this year’s edition was GROWTH, INVESTMENT AND EMPLOYMENT: BEYOND RHETORIC. Among the Speakers were the President of the Nigeria Stock Exchange, Abimbola Ogunbanjo, Chief Economist at PWC, Andrew Nevin, Group CEO, Emerging Africa Capital Group, former Presidential candidate and President, Institute for Governance and Economic Transformation Kingsley Moghalu, FBN Holdings Plc Independent Director Cecilia Azintamide, Chief Investment Officer, Africa Finance Corporation, Oliver Andrews among others.
The issues facing Nigerians and Nigerian economy are as real as the consequence failed government actions or solutions and private sector indifference. For Moghalu, the basic place to begin is in ensuring that the country gets its political set up well enough. But he believes Nigerians are not interested in this very critical bedrock of the nation’s development. “People are not just interested in politics. How many people voted here? Many of our elite are apathetic”, said Moghalu.
He asserted that certain things are changed by the middle class, because influence is transmitted down to the poor people. But the middle class is disengaged. “But you are all doing nicely well in your various professions. So, they don’t see the need to go and vote. The most senior ones among you, on the day of elections, are congregating in the lounge at Heathrow airport. I used to be one of those people until I became born again,” admitted the former 2019 Presidential candidate.
Now that the elections are over, Kingsley has stepped back from partisan engagement to set up a citizen movement called to build a nation. “We are saying to people, let us address the real issues. Do we really have a democracy? Is the electoral system open, free and fair? Are people enlightened enough to know on which basis they should vote for candidates? That is what the movement is going to be addressing over the next coming years.” He said.
He wants to get to people on a non-partisan basis… to let them know it is not about who will be President or not. According to him, it is about whether Joseph Stalin was a Nigerian, because he has a famous quote: ‘it is not the people that vote that count. It is those who count the votes that count.’
He believes Government is not doing enough in things that would structurally unlock transformation in the nation’s economy which is massive investment in the quality education. Education has been neglected for many years.
Folawe Omikunle, the CEO for Teach Nigeria and one of the Speakers, agreed with him when she said Nigeria has an education disaster at hand and that the country is sitting on a ticking time bomb. In year 2000, Nigeria signed up for the Millennium development goals.
“Goal number two, of the eight goals, was on education which implied that we were signing up to promote universal basic education for all our citizens.” She said.
By 2011, a lot of countries had not attained the targeted goals and so it was extended up to 2015. By 2013, there was a report released by UNESCO that had Nigeria as the country with largest out of school children at 10.5m, it is now 13.2m Nigerians who are out of school.
“When you think about that and you think about 2015, and the need for citizens to have a dignified life, better quality of life… again, Nigeria signed up to ensuring that this happens by 2030. So, we gathered and signed up to Goal 4: for inclusive and quality education. For everyone to have the skills to be productive HUMAN BEINGS. Again, Nigeria falls under E9-the Low income and middle-income countries.” Said Folawe.
In this group, they form half of the population of the world. So, they hold the key to providing the indicators to the eventual outcomes. At first, Nigeria, China, India and Bangladesh failed to give the indicators across all levels, but recently UNESCO published a report across sub-Saharan Africa and it shows that 56.8% of our school age children are unable to perform at proficiency literacy level. A lot of times people argue that UNESCO, World Bank that their data is incorrect.
So, let us bring in WAEC: In 2009, four million candidates sat for the WAEC examination and 29% obtained a credit in Math, English and three other subjects required for them to obtain admission into tertiary institution. In 2010, the pass rate was 26.4%, it was 30% in 2011, it was 31.3% in 2012 and in 2017, it was 17.1%.
When you use those indicators and think about 12 years of investing in education, and the result being as poor, then you know we are not preparing the future and the transformation that we need for this country. Only 19% of between the ages of 19 and 37 years who have completed primary education, were able to have basic literacy skills. The problems confronting our educational system include out of school and kids aren’t learning and teacher-quality issues. So, we checked the quality of Teachers across the country and we found in Kwara state, for example, where a Primary four exam was set for 19, 000 Teachers, in Primary Schools and only 75 Teachers were able to score at least 80%. Fayemi tried it in Ekiti State and it cost him his election back then, Oshiomhole tried it and it got him some troubles and recently El Rufai tried in Kaduna and 33,000 Teachers were tested, 21,780 failed to score 75% as a minimum requirement, with a primary six test examination.
There is also the more functional and personal type of educational that has to do with how people regulate their lifestyles. Moghalu drew attention to the education concerning the size of the average family in the country.
“The government has to embark on a population program in this country. Nigerians in the rural areas, the uneducated people have to be educated on the benefit of controlling their family sizes. It shouldn’t be done by force because there are many cultural and religious issues that make us a unique nation.” He said.
If people are educated enough so they themselves make the decisions, because they can see the benefits of controlling their family sizes, I think we are on a good track.
“The problem is that some people don’t want to allow this to happen and that is a problem.” He submitted.
This takes one to the health sector. Ola Brown is the CEO of Flying Doctors and she said relative to other nations budget on healthcare, Nigeria’s budget is nowhere near solving the challenges of the health sector.
UK, for instance, has 65m citizens and their healthcare budget is $200bn. Nigeria’s entire budget is $20bn for 180 million people. When you actually divide up Nigeria’s healthcare budget, you would find out that in America, they spend $10,000 per person, in UK it is $ 5,000 per person.
UK is usually sited as one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the world. In Nigeria, it is six dollars. The real issue, according to her, is that Nigeria has not focused more on what we can do with theirs. Focusing on solution, I believe it is very possible to do more with theirs.
Siting the attire of the Program Chairman, Ola said “you may not have the money to sew the kind of agbada our chairman is wearing. But you can get a cheaper material to sew an agbada which is meant to look good and big. So, getting an agbada with a cheaper material will do the job of an agbada, which is to make you look good and big.
India has a similar spend per person as Nigeria’s, though not quite as bad as Nigeria’s but they make more from Medical Tourism than Nigeria does from Oil and Gas. In fact, there are Americans leaving America and flying to India for medical Tourism, because a surgery of $200,000 in the US, cost just $10,000 in India. If you check the outcome of those surgeries, they have out preformed America in a lot of those areas, despite the fact that they are only charging less than 10% of the cost in America. So how did they get here?
About ten years ago, when they started this journey, they came up with the concept of super specialist hospital. In this concept, the super specialist hospital that does Heart Surgery does more heart surgery in a day than an average American hospital would do in a month, including the transplants. So, the doctors become very, very good doing the same thing over and over again. There is an economy of scale that comes with that and so, they have taken advantage of the real cost to medical procedure. They defragmented the healthcare system and put a lot of resources in super specialized centers, where they are able to take advantage of operations at less cost than the rest of the world. So, the cheapest hospital in the world is actually in India.
“Back to my agbada analogy. There is no way in the world we are going to budget $200 million for Health care in Nigeria. But I believe with the right innovations like centralizing our tertiary centers, spending more money on Primary care, using other healthcare professionals like the Pharmacist and the Biochemical scientist to do things that doctors would not do and take a hard look at our finances, we can achieve our desired goal.” She said.
Rodio Diallo is the Senior Program Officer, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, she said the health care matter is also about the capacity of the Health care system. She said in a country where the Health care is healthy enough, its primary health care can take care of over 90% of its citizens healthcare needs. Besides interrogating why governments in Nigeria are under-funding of the health care needs of Nigerians, there is also the issue of quality of healthcare Providers.
Another critical area is the supply chain. The supply chain is broken. “You go to a primary healthcare to find a drug to save your life or your children’s life and you don’t get it. What do you do? You go to the informal market to get the drugs that will take of your healthcare need at that time.
Health insurance has become another major challenge facing Nigeria’s health sector. Dr. Leke Osunniyi is the Managing Director, AIICO, Multishield Limited. He said the journey of Nigeria’s Health insurance began at Nigeria’s independence. But it had not taken off at the time. However, during the tenure of the late Prof. Ransome Kuti, he started the ball rolling again and so, by 1999, Nigeria had a Law signed by General Abdulsalam Abubakar in the last days of his administration. Unfortunately, the Law was not made mandatory, which meant Nigeria had a Law that had no bite. “It’s like having a guard dog with no teeth. The Law made optional. According to him, the Law should have read a minimum of four or five people shall subscribe to this scheme. “Some very clever person changed the word from shall to MAY…and that was the end of the Law. The Law was dead as soon as it was signed. “I had the opportunity of meeting General Abubakar afterwards and he said to me ‘well, you know your civil service, how it works, when one thinks they have their own idea. So, effectively, we have been trying to change, since 1999, that optional clause. Trying to change MAY to SHALL…”
From health, the matter which is threatening the life of the country is the rampaging insecurity in the country.
Tom Griffin is a Senior Partner, Control Risks. He has been in Nigeria for the past 30 years and is currently working across the conflict Theatres in Nigeria. Tom, whose organization, which has worked across sectors in the country, said the way to look at the Nigerian issue is from a ‘half full glass’ perspective. Talking about the insecurity in the country, Tom said the corruption among state actors is linked to the issue of security.
In the last three months, there has been a 55% increase in attacks and violence in the Northwest, while in May 90 people were killed in that region. “That is almost twice the amount of the largest shooting in America. It is unacceptable.”
The number of deaths recorded in these regions is far worse in Nigeria, than those across Libya, Syria among other conflict-ridden countries where his organization has on ground monitors.
He also recalled that right after the 2015 election, when Tom Polo, the Niger Delta militant Kingpin, at the time, was linked with corruption charges, it became the trigger for the Niger Delta Avengers to begin disrupting economic activities in the Niger Delta region “ and that affected millions of dollars of investments in the region and the economy.
He is convinced that the issues driving security or insecurity in the country are issues bothering on education, infrastructure, good governance.
Going forward, what are the solutions to reengineering the economy?
Kunle Ajagbe is a veteran Lawyer. He said without hesitation, agriculture represents that part of the economy with the highest potential for economic development, wealth generation and job creation. These are big issues that both the Public and Private sectors are contending with right now.
To generate practical solutions for the Nigerian economy, he said it is important to know where we are as an economy because Nigeria’s economy is built around crude oil.
“Crude oil income is what has kept the government afloat. This is despite the volatility and uncertainty around the global crude oil price. To develop the economy, there isn’t one answer.” He said.
However, there is a consensus of opinion that Nigeria needs to diversify her economy which has been a long-standing prescription. But for whatever reasons, that has not been done.
The reasons for that diversification stare us in the face and so we can no longer rely on crude oil and the world is gradually moving on beyond crude oil. Crude oil comes with a lot of insecurity and environmental challenges as we have seen all too clearly in Nigeria. So, those are compelling reasons to doing so.
“As I said earlier, there is no one solution to fixing the economy. Rather, there are many areas perhaps for which enough attention has not been paid. Such as Education, infrastructure, security, government policies, boosting investor confidence, so many strands to how the economy can be fixed. Perhaps it is important to take one step at a time or start somewhere. “Kunle said.
Moghalu, a former CBN Deputy Governor, said the nation needs to give young people skills and encourage the private sector to invest in ways that match those skills with economic opportunities: in agriculture through a value chain approach.
To create a massive venture capital fund that will create equity capital. It is not just about giving people loans that become a problem for them to pay back. But own part of the business, that is a better incentive. But give them the capital to start new businesses. That would create millions of jobs in a few years.
“This is how many countries have done it. So, that is the problem we are having with some of the populist and socialist type approaches. They may sound very good and say they love the poor…we all love the poor and want to take them out of poverty. The question is how? What works, what doesn’t work. We have seen a lot of things and heard a lot, political rhetoric good for grandstanding but makes no rural impact. Nigerians are getting poorer.”
Folawe puts the solution in its proper perspective which is founded on the education. She said No nation can exceed the qualities of its Teachers. According to her, from the point of view of vision and agenda, Nigeria has yet to define what her agenda is, for education. “Education for what? Why are we educating our citizens? “when we returned history back to the curriculum in our schools, it shows me that we do not have a clear-cut direction of what we want our education to be or do for us as a nation.
In the end, the development of any nation is determined by the level of the development of its human capital. Capacity building of its people therefore becomes critical to the work force that would be employed to nurture the growth of and the investment that flows into her economy.