Sideline Chats At The Abuja Gathering Of Nigerian Economists On ‘Economic Policies, Quality Of Life In Africa’

The Oasis Reporters

September 18, 2019

It seemed almost as if Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of government was waiting for the epochal
60th annual conference of the Nigerian Economic Society before it could be nudged into constituting what may look like a serious attempt to tackle the myriad of economic problems facing and humiliating Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with a democratic vote pattern that almost always end in the law courts. Like late General Sani Abacha talked about issues, that make Nigeria ‘look big for nothing’ before the world.

Consider this: Against the backdrop of the evacuation of Nigeria’s economic migrants from South Africa where they have been roundly beaten, harassed, their businesses destroyed and in some cases, killed, the Economists gathered. As they did, the South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa was on hand to send his envoys all over Africa with a plea for forgiveness as his recalcitrant cabinet ministers and errant hoodlums remained defiant in sending back economic refugees back to their homelands, especially Nigeria .

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari under whose watch the country slipped below South Africa from its previously held top position as the biggest economy in Africa and the number One destination for Foreign Direct investment, FDI, suddenly constituted an ECONOMIC ADVISORY COUNCIL (EAC) made up of the following:

1. Prof. Doyin Salami – Chairman
2. Dr. Mohammed Sagagi – Vice-Chairman
3. Prof. Ode Ojowu – Member
4. Dr. Shehu Yahaya – Member
5. Dr. Iyabo Masha – Member
6. Prof. Chukwuma Soludo – Member
7. Mr. Bismarck Rewane – Member
8. Dr. Mohammed Adaya Salisu – Secretary (Senior Special Assistant to the President, Development Policy)

This advisory council will replace the current Economic Management Team (EMT) and will be reporting directly to the President.
The Economic Advisory Council (EAC) will advise the President on economic policy matters, including fiscal analysis, economic growth and a range of internal and global economic issues working with the relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies.
The EAC will have monthly technical sessions as well as scheduled quarterly meetings with the President. The Chairman may, however, request for unscheduled meetings if the need arises.

The statement was signed by Femi Adesina,
Special Adviser to the President
(Media & Publicity).

This has been the missing link in Nigeria’s political firmament, that a government would invest more in media and publicity since 2015, with little or nothing to show on the economic front, except a lackluster Economic Management Team headed by a law professor, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.

Nigeria has had to cope with broken economic opportunities leading to a mass exodus of professionals to the diaspora. A backlash is already reacting to this scenario from South Africa, and it could spread, due to lack of opportunities in the nation of an estimated 200 million population.

The most interesting aspect of the diamond jubilee conference of the Nigerian Economic Society conference was listening to their chit chat on the sidelines of the conference. Many of them would have preferred to drive to Abuja that is in the center of Nigeria so as to enjoy the serene scenery of the Nigerian countryside. But more than 90 percent of the big economic players flew in at an altitude far removed from the bandits who now run the Country’s highways and never ending forests which now yield little or no food products because bandits, kidnappers and foreign herdsmen won’t let them till the soil .
It was the greatest lesson they learnt on the tormenting insecurity plaguing Nigeria . One major drawback on Nigeria’s economic progress and development.

Though couched in technical economic terms, the Conference Overview was thought provoking .

Hear them : “The traditional measures of economic development centred on the capacity of an economy to not only generate but also sustain increase in its total output of goods and services per capita and desirable structural changes. It is in the light of the limitations that are inherent in the traditional measures that the opponents of the use of conventional statistical indicators of economic development have argued vehemently that the use of such data largely fails to track, in a pragmatic and objectively verifiable sense the outcomes of development policies and programmes. This is the basis of Dudley Seers (1969) forceful argument that economic development is when a country experiences a reduction or elimination of poverty, inequality and unemployment. According to him:

“The questions to ask about a country’s development are therefore: What has been happening to poverty?
What has been happening to unemployment?
What has been happening to inequality?

If all three of these have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development for the country concerned. If one or two of these central problems have been growing worse, especially if all three have, it would be strange to call the result “development” even if per capita income doubled.”

In addition to Nigeria’s concerns about
security, poverty, unemployment and inequality,
key physical quality of life indicators as access to good quality and functional education, efficient, accessible and affordable health care, access to such key infrastructural facilities as good quality roads, electricity, water and sanitation among others have over the years emerged as additional measures/indicators of development that agitate Nigerian minds.

For according to the World Development Report (WDR 1991): “The challenge of development… is to improve the quality of life…better education, higher standards of health and nutrition, less poverty, a cleaner environment, more equality of opportunity, greater individual freedom, and a richer cultural life.”

At the back of the minds of conference attendees would be how to “shed some new insights into the use of Quality of Life as indicators of socio-economic development and to examine how effectively they can be used to track inputs into development-oriented policies, programmes and financing and the corresponding outcomes from these inputs”. The Conference seeks to examine the current practices in the use of Quality of Life Indicators to gauge developmental outcomes, examine the constraints and possible alternatives to the current practice.

It is expected that the Conference will yield some new ideas on and insight into the use of Quality of Life Indicators to track progress out of poverty, the most pervasive and daunting challenge faced by governments, aid agencies and development partners around the world. In addition, the Conference seeks to put on the front burner cross country comparison of outcomes of developmental policies, programmes and financing by addressing methodological issues in the construction of Quality of Life Indices that could make such a comparison possible”.

Greg Abolo

Greg Abolo

Blogger at The Oasis Reporters.

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