ENOUGH OF ECONOMIC SLAVERY

The Democrat February 1 & 3, 1995

 SHAME -Shame indeed is what foreign economic experts have plunged Nigeria into. Their economic programmes and policies geared towards Africa are nothing but woes upon woes. Their media too never help matters. Instead of lambasting their masters on the crises they have put our country into as an experimental ground for practising their half-baked concocted economic theories, the foreign press crucify our government with the usual clichés that we lack “sense of direction, accountability and transparency.” Imagine, recently when the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) came from London on official assignment to Abuja, instead of zooming their camera lenses on gorgeous edifices and completed structures (the pride of our nation), they were busy taking shots of uncompleted (not abandoned) projects still under construction and few potholes which were necessitated by the ongoing installation of traffic lights on the major highways in the capital city. If they had no predetermined agenda, what is the impression they wanted to create in the minds of their global listeners and viewers?

While their media see nothing newsworthy about the country’s development efforts except economic misfortunes such as hunger, starvation, famine, war and disease, foreign financial institutions relish our being indebted to them as to remain foolishly enslaved, perpetually stagnated and economically milked dry.

It is undeniable that Nigeria as a developing country has undergone a series of economic changes as an attempt to grapple with the issues of economic development. Over the decades, we were forcefully led to implement tough, politically risky, bitter pills economic measures, which were anticipated to lay the groundwork for economic recovery. But the result of those policies of foreign financial institutions, most especially the World Bank, IMF and Paris Club, with their strict conditionality, is untold hardship on the populace that exacerbated poverty.

Nigeria has recognized the failure of foreign economic policies and accepted the need for fundamental policy reforms, which include a regulated economy being operated in the country, with a view to satisfying the aspirations of Nigerians and the international community at large. The so-called world economic experts are still condemning these worthy reforms.

The Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Chief Anthony Ani and the Minister of State, Alhaji Abu Gidado realizing the implication of blindly following their doctrines have, in different fora urged the international community to give the country a chance to solve its economic problems in its own way. He pointed out that Nigeria has currently evolved the best approach, which includes putting in place appropriate programmes and policies that would eventually reduce the economic problem.

Even though the country has consistently been challenged by two aspects of adjustment - how to make it more socially and politically sustainable and how to ensure it reduces the poverty level in what is already seen as one of the world’s most impoverished nations, still the fruit of uncountable foreign economic pills, so far swallowed by the government is yet to ripen while the hardship goes on unabated. It is obvious in our faces.

The naked propaganda and childish claim by the International Monetary Fund that the condemnable Structural Adjustment Programme is the only hope for economic development of Nigeria and other African countries, after its woeful failures in the countries it has so far been operated, is an attempt, if we accept it, to keep us at bay, to subjection, re-colonization and enslavement.

In one of his articles recently, Professor Bade Onimode, Chairman Institute for African Alternative (IFAA) clearly pointed out the ironic achievements of Structural Adjustment Programme in African countries which include the death of millions, especially women and children, drastic fall in real income, widespread hunger, malnutrition and stunted growth; excessive and pauperizing inflation; collapse of social services and falling enrolment of all levels of education, huge and rising unemployment, declining export earning; destruction of public services, from inhuman retrenchment exercises; the de-industrialization of African countries; widespread repression needed to impose SAP on un-working population; threatened social disintegration from rising crimes and drug pushing.

In fact, the catastrophic effectsof IMF on our lives is a gory tale of abandonment, rejection and lamentation. It is high time for Nigeria mindful of adapting ideas and concepts to suit her own historical and cultural peculiarities in terms of acceptability to our existence, instead of consuming all the world dictates to our detriment.

It will be a worthy step if we vehemently reject and refuse to accept what they don’t operate in their own countries like massive and persistent currency devaluation to make our raw materials and other services very cheap to their advantage; total rejection of the so-called import liberalization where we open our borders for goods and services, while they are closing their own against our products and opposition to dogmatic privatization of public enterprises, whether profitable or not.

This reminds me of how our foreign partners made a mockery of Nigeria’s Enterprises Promotion Decree, which was enacted to encourage Nigerians to take active part and control the national economy. The Nigerians and the foreigners were expected to participate meaningfully in the ownership and management of economic activities in the country, but due to the hanky-panky tricks the policy was thwarted.

The decree dictated areas where foreigners could associate with Nigerians to do business and areas where the right and the security of the government were needed for combination with foreign investors and Nigerian citizens. At the end, the foreign partners used Nigeria as fronts to enable them to siphon money and maintain high level of ownership and control of such establishment. In addition, they twisted the laws to their advantage through various false sales of shares.

For how long shall we be dictated to like foolish docile helots? For how long shall we continue to be in bondage of economic slavery? It is high time Nigeria, with other African countries, woke up from their slumber and realized these catastrophic policies of Western economic experts and strictly and firmly stand on any decision that would easily revamp our economies without soliciting for their ever-failing consultancy.

African countries should stand behind the proposal of the Economic Commission for Africa on the correct road to rapid recovery and genuine development. It is necessary for Nigeria to begin the search for an alternative way of development that is intrinsically Nigerian and could be used as an alternative to existing structures which is capable of taking us into the new century, not only in maintaining the status of being the giant of Africa but as a world economic power.

If the World Bank, IMF and other Financial Institutions want the country to take them seriously, they must do more to adopt Nigeria’s concern as their own and make sure that it is seen to be more forcefully acting on behalf of the country’s economic developmental priorities. The immediate cancellation of all our foreign debts will be enough and justifiable as part of the reparation payment for the days of slavery legally due to us.

The two parties, Nigeria and foreign financial institutions, should recognize that the failure of one is also the failure of the other. Moreover, we should point out to them that the sovereignty of our country, as Professor Onimode rightly pointed out, includes the right to design our budget and economic policies in the best interest of our country without interference. “Chike nan Kurrum.”