By Oswald Agwu
Nigeria’s over-concentration on oil since the 1960’s has been identified as a deep fault line ravaging her economy and responsible for her Socio-political problems to present day.
The discovery was part of the outcome of the 59th Founders Lecture of the University of Nigeria held on Tuesday, October 8, at the Princess Alexandra auditorium, Nsukka main campus.
The event was part of activities lined up for the University’s 59th anniversary celebration.
Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State who was the guest lecturer at the event juxtaposed the pre-oil economy of Nigeria with the post-oil economy and submitted that the country needs to go back to agriculture as the hub of her economy, as well as shift attention to other alternatives, if it must survive the daily declining global oil revenue.
He recalled the years of groundnut pyramids in the north, cocoa in the west and the palm oil in the south-eastern parts of the country and called on the country’s leaders to harness their regional comparative advantages for a diversified economic base.
He observed that restructuring of the country would help accelerate the nation’s economy, but advocated administrative restructuring before economic, adding that such would give the various regions adequate time and opportunity to rediscover their areas of advantage.
“This over-concentration on a single commodity creates deep fault-lines within the economy, as global oil price crashes travel through all facets of the Nigerian economy.
“Nigeria’s oil resources should be used as a down payment to build a robust diversified export basket of other products – to create jobs, earn foreign exchange and attract investments.
“Essentially, Nigeria must use oil to move beyond oil, our large population of 180 million people means we do not have enough oil to meet the needs of all our citizens.
“A lower nation with a lower population than Nigeria has oil reserves of 9,900 barrels per person (for each citizen), Saudi Arabia has 9,241 barrels per person; while Nigeria has only 214 barrels per person.
“Statistics has shown that oil economy is not the greatest precursor of job creation, food security and general economic growth, instead it breeds low standard of living, it widens the gap between the poor and the rich and brings about economic imbalance and encourages unemployment.
“With a nation of over 180 million people, the only way out is economic diversification or zero oil initiatives by government.
“This is coupled with the fact that new technology is evolving, where engines or machines are manufactured to function without oil.
“There is pressure on Federal allocation; there is alternative energy source like solar and wind energy that may further crash the price of oil.
Umahi further noted that his stewardship in Ebonyi State anchored solidly on Agriculture, development of viable SMEs through economic empowerment and grants to willing citizens as well as aggressive infrastructural development and security were aimed at preparing the State for an non oil economic future.
He commended the University and its management for sustaining the ideals of the founding fathers as a great citadel of research, innovation and manpower development.
He explained further: “Our administration, from day one is working on the premise that one-day oil will go or lose its value in the market.
“We are working on the stack reality that one day, Federal allocation will diminish or worse still extinguish and the world would have moved forward without oil.
“Ebonyi state does not have her oil reserve yet developed and does not enjoy 13% derivation.
“In planning for tomorrow based on our conviction that one-day oil will become history, we focused on the following Programs: Solid Infrastructure, Agriculture, Solid mineral, Human Capital Development, Tourism, water Production, Entrepreneurship, Vocational Development, Education, Health, industrialization and Security as critical sectors that will drive our initiative on zero oil economy.”
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Charles Igwe described the Lecture as “the most prestigious of the public lectures that take place in the University of Nigeria.
He noted that it was an ideal platform for discussions on topical issues of national and international relevance, adding that the event was not only about celebrating the past, but preparing for the future.
Igwe stressed that the University and it’s research centres and laboratories, including the consultancy units were ready and willing to collaborate with the Ebonyi State government on the task of promoting the zero oil economy for the country.
Other dignitaries who attended the event included Governor of Enugu State, represented by his commissioner for Local government affairs; all top management, Staff and Students of the University as well as a large delegation of Ebonyi state executive and legislative council.
The topic of the lecture is: Preparing Ebonyi State for tomorrow’s Zero Oil Economy.