Lake Chad was the sixth largest lake in the World in 1960. It has now shrunk by over 90% leading to the displacement of millions of farmers, fishermen, hunters and herders.
The displacement of over 20 million people, who once lived around the Lake is fuelling or directly responsible for the insurgency in the Northern parts of Nigeria.
The essence of these examples is to show that nations, depend so much on each other, than we can possibly imagine. If retaliatory actions should be taken against Nigeria now or in future based on the present border crisis, the consequences may be quite devastating.
Be that as it may, Nigeria’s socio-economic problems are more than what a mere border closure can address.
OPEN MARKET, rather than OPEN BORDER is responsible for Nigeria’s economic woes. A country which opens its market to all and sundry imported goods is bound to have serious issues with unemployment and poverty.
The competition with foreign manufactured products have in the past three decades forced the closing down of the following once thriving Nigerian brands and companies viz : Michelin and Dunlop tyres, Berec and Exide batteries, Bata, Lennards, Clark shoes, the assembly plants: Volkswagen, Leyland, Peugeot Automobile, Steyr tractors, Annamco trucks, the textile mills in Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, to mention a few among hundreds of local industries, which have gone down with hundreds of thousands of their workers.
The countries which have developed their economies, rather opened their borders, but closed their markets. India as a good example shut its market to all imported manufactured goods for several decades to enable the local industries mature.
The slogan buy ‘ Made in India’ was enforced. The internal demands were initially met, before the qualities were good enough to compete internationally. Tata-Leyland motors has now become a world brand.
China adopted the same policy, as well as the other Asian Tiger countries.
Nigeria’s manufacturing industries cannot grow, nor come out of the present economic miasma because of competition from abroad.
In the Automobile industry, fully built cars have replaced the once thriving Nigeria’s automobile industry. The Volkswagen series ( the bettle, Rio, Passat, Santana, Igala) were until the 1980s manufactured in Nigeria.
The Peugeot Series,( 305, 404, 504, 505) were official cars used by the President, Ministers, government officials and the general public. They were also exported to West and Central African countries. Whereas at the time of their closure, most of them had achieved over 40% local content components.
The oil refineries are not working and Nigeria with a crude oil production of over two million barrels a day, and the largest producer in Africa imports petroleum products: incredible, ironical and absurd.
The market economy and private sector driven economic policy has failed to address the problems of unemployment and poverty, such that Nigeria is now ranked the poverty capital of the world, which is a huge indictment of the country’s economic policies.
The market economy policy must be reviewed in such a way, that the government will have to intervene directly in the welfare of its citizens. The government must build low cost houses, invest substantially in education, health and develop rural communities.
The defunct DFFRI, PTF, Federal Housing Authority (FHA) should be revived to play their traditional roles in addressing these problems.
While focusing and obsessed with the trite problems with our neighbors, we should also tackle the huge challenges facing the country based on the above arguments.
Ambassador Akinkuolie Rasheed was Director of Trade and Investment, MInistry of Foreign Affairs, Abuja Nigeria