How productive is Nigeria? By Issa Aremu

Yours truly was a privileged Guest/former Awardee recipient at this year’s 17th National Productivity Day (NPD)/ Conferment of National productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award. I therefore bear witness that President Muhammadu Buhari ably represented by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, on Thursday conferred Chairman of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote; foremost investment banker, philanthropist and Chairman of Heirs Holdings, Tony Elumelu; and industrialist Oba Otudeko, under “Special Category” with the National Productivity Order of Merit (NPOM) Award for job creation. 22 other individuals and seven corporate organizations also received awards under various categories. Also honoured at the event which held in Abuja include the Comptroller-General of Nigeria Customs Services, Hameed Ali; Chairman of Channels Television, John Momoh; Registrar of Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board, Is-haq Oloyede,  as well as Sam Omatseye, a newspaper columnist.

I agree with President Buhari  that the award ceremony was a practical demonstration of the commitment of the administration to the promotion of the ideals of a productive nation. We must incentivize productivity to make Nigeria productive. We must reward value addition possibly more than we must damn value depletion which is what corruption and graft is. But how productive truly is Nigeria? I bear witness that considerable work needs to be done on national productivity. No better time to raise the noise level of the production crisis than now; on the eve of the 60th independence anniversary. Next year is 2020. But we are far from being one of the 20 leading economies in 2010 as repeatedly officially chorused in 1999, when Nigeria returned to democracy after decades of military driven corruption (as distinct from productivity!) regimes. Simply put: Nigeria is no longer a productive nation of the immediate post colonial era of 60s and 70s.

On the contrary, we still consume what we do not produce; export raw materials what we should have turned to manufactured goods, import same products produced by others with tears. Productivity is an input/ output relationship. It is commendable that the Federal Government for once seems set to reindustrialise the country, through sustainable industrial policies, curbing smuggling and dumping. Please let us for once address critical issues of electricity, policy environment, education and technology to raise the nation’s output. However there are even little critical success factors within our reach. The most precious input factor in productivity is time and time management. We parade highest number of public holidays on earth. Some of these holidays legitimize idleness rather than promoting decent work with respect to rest.

How on earth do you declare a free working day to “mark” Democracy Day, a day arbitrarily chosen by one man in office that could even fall on a Monday? Why would children not be in schools on a Monday in the name of democracy? I agree with President Muhammadu Buhari’s  message on the day that stressed the need for all Nigerians to embrace high productivity in their respective professions to increase the country’s economic growth and development. But it must start with simple things like time management. Nigeria works 8 hrs, 5 days a week. But on average, other 19 countries in our preferred club of 20 most developed countries, (come the magic 2020!) work longer hours, 6 days a week. Out of 365 days in a year, Nigeria is at rest for some 120 days. Out of the official 8 hrs, we resume unofficially at 10 am, set to do some unofficial school (children) runs by noon, only to unofficially close shops at 3 pm ostensibly to beat the traffic.

We may have to reinvent some shock therapy approach. Such as locking out late comers, at offices and events. No need for endless opening ceremonies and multiple prayers at functions. Work itself is an act of worship. Nigeria is the only country you wait 3 to 4 hrs to catch a 45 minute flight!! It simply does not add up in costs and efficiency. Nelson Mandela once observed; “.South Africans have no concept of time and this is why we can’t solve poverty and social problems… By this stage we should have overcome being late all the time.”  Mandela’s admonition is even more relevant for Nigeria at 60.

Conceived in early 1990s, Vision 2010 had eluded us. Time and timing were central to the messages of all our prophets. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) says in one Hadith: “There are two things that people are not aware of how important they are: health and time.”

For Jesus Christ “Everything He did was timed to perfection; the Scripture says that He came in the “fullness of time” – that is, at the perfect time. In 1998, we signed on MDG for 2015. We did not meet any of the eight goals, that include eradicating infant and mortality rates. We dare to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals 17 of 2030. And we must start now.

The challenge lies in stimulating institutional productivity. At the heart of this institutional productivity is the National Productivity Centre (NPC). “The need to improve the quantity and quality of goods and services available for consumption in Nigeria  as a means of increasing total wealth, is a task to which successive Nigerian Government have attached great importance . Between 1963 and 1985, series of panels and commission were set up by the various governments of Nigeria to work out the modalities for instituting productivity consciousness in the nation’s system. 

In 1984, the National Productivity Centre was formally inaugurated while the enabling Decree No. 7 now (Act CAP 272 of 1994) was promulgated in April, 1987, thus legally establishing the Centre as a federal parastatal. The history of the Centre will be incomplete without highlighting the roles of played by international organizations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nation Development Programme (UNDP). These two provided the technical as well as financial assistance for the take-off of the Centre”.

It should also be on record that President Goodluck Jonathan is the first president to productively sign the Productivity Order of Merit making the point that productivity improvement matters if Nigeria is indeed ready to be part of the leading economies soonest. What is good at Federal level is even more desirable at the states. State government  must inaugurate their respective productivity commissions to promote development agenda. 

Issa Aremu mni 

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