Former World Bank Vice President, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, says the Federal Government of Nigeria and the states need to have a proper conversation on the structure of Nigeria’s economy for there to be a way out of its current economic challenges.
Ezekwesili was speaking on Channels TV’s Politics Today and the conversation bordered on the economic crisis across Nigeria where many state governments are unable to pay their workers’ salaries and blaming this on the drop in their monthly allocation from the central government.
She stated that a conversation has become important because the decisions the government would have to make in order to fix the economy are very difficult ones that would not make the government popular among its expectant masses.
Ezekwesili was of the view that it has become critical for Nigeria to break away from an old pattern of “habitual addiction to free oil money”.
“The kinds of policies that will make us break out of this will be forced on us. We have no choice,” she said, adding that “there is no easy solution” for the situation Nigeria is in.
The former Education Minister expressed disgust at the manner in which the country failed to respond to warning signs few years ahead, despite the knowledge of the impact the volatile global oil market could have on its economy.
While commenting on the roles played by past governments in the country’s current economic situation, she acknowledged the former Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala for her consistency in drawing attention to the challenges of eroding the excess crude account.
She, however, berated the Federal Government for doing “exactly the same thing as what the states did”.
“If the Federal Government could show that (from) its own portion of the distribution of federation money, it has put away some significant savings, then it will have the moral pedestal on which to stand and say the governors were completely reckless and therefore were not seeing that the signs were clear.”
She went further; “If anything I saw in some of the states is anything to go by, there were some of these frivolous projects that they embarked upon. Why do they need that?
“At a time they have those kinds of resources, those were the times to really invest in the things that drive economic growth. They could have invested in those critical infrastructure that would enable the diversification of their states’ economy.
“Every state has an economy, we haven’t treated them that way. What we have currently in our nation is that the state levels are revenue distribution units – revenue expenditure levels and that shouldn’t be so.”
She also identified the cost of governance as one of the reasons why there must be a conversation on restructuring the economy as she maintained that there are no easy options available.
“The productivity of the public sector needs to be questioned. We need to look at how to achieve efficiency of governance and policy making with resources enough to give us the space for capital investment,” she said.