Umahi's propositions for non-oil economy

By Felix Uka,
Abakaliki

Governor David Nweze Umahi of Ebonyi State recently delivered a mind bugging lecture at University of Nigeria, UN.The topic was how Ebonyi State can survive under non oil economy, by extension, the Nigerian nation.
It was both revealing and incisive.
No doubt the UN chose him for her 59th Founders Day lecture because of the Governor's projects and programmes that have been commended by many people, from within and outside the State.
Umahi in his acclaimed lecture at the prestigious UN made it clear that there are great opportunities for non oil sectors to grow in Nigeria and that this growth has been visible since 2001. He though explained that desired changes cannot be that quick and the transformation cannot happen overnight. Nigeria, he said can develop different sectors by taking important steps.

Part of the text of the lecture made some demands from all tiers and strata of government, not excluding the private sector operators. Umahi stated thus:
Nigeria needs:
Credit access for small business
Opportunities for medium-size business
Modernization in agriculture sector
Development of textiles
Development of tourism and creative industry.
Independence of businesses and private sector participation in economic development.
Reduction of the involvement of the government in economic production
Introduction of new opportunities instead of relying on traditional sectors only
Human Capital Development through education, capacity building and empowerment.

A restructured economy of Nigeria against zero oil economy:
It is crystal clear that a restructured Nigeria based on a zero oil economy will consequently transform into a Nation with a different constitution in which the exclusive list and concurrent list will look dramatically different from what it looks like today. The primary burden of governance, development and the general welfare of the citizens will rest squarely on the component States. The recent price crash of international oil prices, staring from June 2014, significantly constrained national earnings and slowed our growth, demonstrating once again, the vulnerability of building our economy only on oil. My vision is simple; to build a State economy that will thrive even when our income from crude oil goes to zero.
A restructured economy is a diversified economy. It will usher in the following:
New jobs
Macroeconomic environment stabilization
Encouragement of youth development
Supporting high social standards
Fight against corruption at all levels
Protecting environment
Foreign exchange rate improvement
Safety in public places
Better coordination between cities, states, and government
Cleaner environment.
Around the world, the key driver of most non oil economies is infrastructure. Good infrastructure facilitates the movement of goods and services, promotes economic growth and aids poverty reduction. According to the McKinsey Global Institute China spent 8.5% of its GDP on infrastructure between 1992 and 2011. 43% of China’s total investment is in infrastructure.

Enabling environment in our consideration includes; infrastructures, security, ease of doing business, task incentive, and investment opportunities. Ebonyi State that hitherto had worst road infrastructure among its contemporaries and the rural communities were cut off from the capital city. We had the worst Economy, our Poverty Index was very high and was the highest in South East; environment was poor; Private Sector investment was lacking and the State suffered Criminal neglect. That is why we have modest achievement as follows:

He gave hint as to the projects he executed within the last four years and half:
We constructed not less than 25-kilometres roads of concrete pavement (and in some cases bridges) in all the 13 Local Government Areas of the State, to enhance intercommunity trade and market accessibility.
Reconstructed Federal roads linking to the metropolis and about 500-kilometers in the capital city and satellite town of the State to enhance safety and movement of goods and services in the state.
Constructed the internal roads of the headquarters of the police command, the Army, the National Youth Service Corps, the Civil Defence, the SSS to give them the comfort required to discharge their duties.
Introduced road construction with concrete pavement of 8 inches, which we did over 300km roads, first of its kind in Nigeria with 50 years guarantee.
Built the biggest Ecumenical Center ever built by any government in Nigeria, with main boll of 10,000 capacity, about 2000 capacity smaller halls with modern lift, escalators, offices and accommodation to boost socio-economic activities, including spiritual revival.
Built the longest and most aesthetic flyovers in the South east with 3-number of such having a total of 96 span built in 3-years and has commenced another construction of 8 flyovers in strategic junctions and major highways of the 3 senatorial zones to attract investors.
Built a President Buhari light Tunnel with 29 spans, with aesthetic lights that shines in the night to make Ebonyi State investment friendly and promote night trading.
Built the most amazing and sustainable fountains/tourist attraction in the South East – 12 in number at strategic locations to promote the entertainment industry in the State.
Renovated our Stadium with ancillary work and guest house for accommodation of athletes and has ambition to construct one of the best stadium in Nigeria. Construction of new stadium is ongoing now in the State.

We are constructing the biggest shopping Mall that will be the microcosm of the macrocosm of the Dubai Mall, to create market and stimulate provision of goods and services. This Shopping mall will attract International trade and investment and shall create not less than 3000 jobs and generate thousands of wealth.
We are reconstructing Margaret Umahi International market in the South East to create opportunities for importers and exporters from Ebonyi State and beyond. The market is located at trans-Sahara road. This was started by Chief Martin Elechi.
Besides creating smooth road, the major streets are adorned with beautiful ornamentals to make the environment inviting. Each of the headquarters of the various Local Government Areas of Ebonyi State has 12 hours’ street light that cannot go off unless in rare cases. This is to encourage urban-rural migration and trade.
It is worthy to emphasize that my administration intends to make Ebonyi State a global village not only in terms of ICT but also in terms of road connectivity between the rural communities and the metropolitan city. In these four years of renewed tenure, we have started to construct modern twin flyover bridges of about 29 spans each twin in 8 major junctions linking the three Senatorial Zone, new Stadium, airport and teaching Hospital, with ancillary works.
Other special infrastructure being built by Ebonyi State Government under my watch is a Classical International Airport with 4 x 4.5km land area and with 3.5km runway, patterned after Lagos and Abuja Airport which will be one of the best in Nigeria, an Ultra Modern Stadium, all centrally located within the state to serve the investment needs of the State. These investments will create not less than 5000 direct and indirect jobs, attract investors, raise tourism potentials of the state and enhance the revenue generation capacity of the state. Guarantee safety in the wake of insecurity in the country.
Driven by our passion to lift the living standards of our rural people who constitute the highest number of our population, we are partnering with the Federal Government and the World Bank, under RAMP Programme to construct not less than 595km of Agricultural farm roads, 46km per Local Government to link up all the major communities, through Rural Access and Agricultural Market Project.
We are doing a ring road of 189 kilometers in partnership with African Development Bank (AFDB) to connect 9 Local Government Areas in the State with a target of providing access road for farmers and solid mineral dealers and thus boost economic activities across all communities. It is expected that not less than 100,000 of rural farmers and entrepreneurs will be involved in agric and solid mineral businesses within the local communitie.

Given that the most prosperous nations in the world are not dependent on oil, it is clear to me that, with proper investment in physical and human development, Nigeria can survive without relying on oil and may even grow faster. One way to do this would be to ensure that all revenues from oil are applied only to infrastructure development. It is sub-optimal for Nigeria to be using its oil wealth to fund recurrent expenditure. This promotes a dependency culture that stifles innovation, creativity and productivity. It also encourages a bloated governance system with the attendant high cost of governance. If we are to insist that recurrent expenditure must be funded from non-oil revenue, it will focus the minds of governments a lot more and drive productivity. It will also make the imperative to improve tax collection more urgent, which will in turn drive accountability as citizens start to ask what is being done with the taxes they pay.
In Ebonyi, we have started preparing, as Confucius advised. The journey will be a long and difficult one but we are laying the foundations for sustained economic growth and prosperity in our state, beyond the era of oil. We have made the modest strides we have made in our state through a combination of prudence, preparation for the future and diversification of our economy beyond oil. We stretch out our hand in partnership to everyone that is willing and able to partner with us on this journey, including this reputable university.
In all, the most outstanding legacies our government will want to leave will be in lifting over 60,000 Ebonyians out of poverty.Ends

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