The Lean Years Are Coming,By Ayisha Osori



“Alarm bells are ringing…Shale , the product of advanced technology is gradually eroding the anticipated prospects of natural as a major income stream of the Federal Government. We are running out of years of abundance…”

In the Bible and the Qur’an, Joseph/Yusuf, the great interpreter of dreams, warns the King of Egypt of seven years of abundance, which would be followed by seven dreadful lean years and advises on how to prepare for and weather the drought.
‘Diligently sow, and the harvest that you reap, you shall leave them in the ear, except a little of which you shall eat.’ As we are clearly in the waning years of 50+ years of abundance its ironical that hyper religious Nigerians seem unmindful (and unprepared) for the unknown number of lean years that we face.

2013 budget approval wrangling and an ultimatum tied to missing police pension funds provide the setting for additional confirmation that brazen within government is thriving. Global
Financial Integrity, reports that in the ten years, Nigerians in positions of authority have laundered over N3.047 trillion ($19.66B) – 70% of our 2013 budget. It is safe to deduct that at least double this amount has been stolen – because of the billions and trillions missing pensions, foreign reserve accounts, police equipment funds, fuel subsidy allocations, and basically anything not nailed down. Besides, not all stolen is spirited abroad, some
of it is spent forcing real estate prices up to N1 Billion a plot in Lagos and Abuja and suffering lavish unsustainable lifestyles.

If $1Billion in $100 notes laid out one after the other is approximately 97,000 miles and the circumference of Earth is 25,000 miles then the $19B laundered Nigeria in the decade takes us around the Earth 73 and a half times. And with some of the worst data on infant mortality, $19B would get us 950,000 incubators at $20,000 each. These amounts, dwarfed by rising debt – $44billion as of April 2012, makes it clear that government’s fiscal irresponsibility will not endure without grave repercussions.

Today’s Men are not concerned with Nigeria’s Future- a country deeply reliant on oil (& ) revenue when Nigeria only accounts for 2.7% of the world’s supply. Lean times are coming – there are signs. The United States which is responsible for 80%of our exports, is working hard at reducing their dependence on foreign oil. Sure, there is always energy hungry China but as other ‘easier-to-do-business-in’ countries start producing oil our chief export will be increasingly
unattractive and we might be forced to sell at lower prices. And as if that were not bad enough, our hatred for accurate data means that best estimates of how much oil and Nigeria still has are suspect. October, the Association of Petroleum Explorationists refuted the belief that Nigeria has huge gas reserves and hinted that natural gas might be sourced externally, especially to improve electricity production. Already, Shale Gas, the product of advanced technology is gradually eroding the anticipated prospects of natural gas as a major income stream of the Federal Government. According to Chima Ibeneche, President, Gas Association, US liquefied and natural gas imports is already dropping – a bad market signal for LNG exporting countries, like Nigeria.
Alarm bells are ringing and ironically, this might be why the looting is taking on a particularly urgent ‘caution-be-damned’ angle. Instead of envisioning and implementing a sensible economic growth plan to reduce the dependence on oil & gas and increase activity in agriculture, manufacturing, services, research and development, corruption infrastructure is being rapidly expanded.

We know what the possibilities and opportunities are. Allegedly 70% of our population are agrarian and agriculture contributes almost 40% of our GDP. But we should be doing much more, especially with forecasts of global food shortage and our vast land. We used to be major exporters of cocoa, groundnuts, rubber, and palm oil, now we spend over a trillion importing
wheat, sugar, fish and rice and the products raw materials we used to export. Today, the combination of bad roads, poor transport services and of electricity ensures that 40% of farms produce rots. And despite whatever best efforts are put into the agriculture sector, our land tenure system ensures that there is no serious investment in farming technology.

So far our large population has remained a shallow boasting tool (“1 in every 4 Africans is ”So what?) instead of a source of human talent to drive our service sector and build our research and development (R&D) capabilities. While President Obama’s State of the Union address tries to whip Americans into a frenzy of competition and opportunities in R&D and education, we have people in positions of authority trying to justify wasteful and immoral budgets. The intense insecurity problems makes commerce impossible in some areas and hinders it in others. It is only a matter of time before we realize how hollow stories of FDI are because these investments are not creating jobs for Nigerians.

Now, more than ever, the opportunities are aligned and primed for a change in direction for
Nigeria – not just politically, but economically and socially. In addition to citizens demanding more accountability and value for governance, it will not take much for the political parties especially those in the throes of birth or re-birth to prepare and sell blueprints of economic diversification and growth. Now is the time for clarity on how to cut the shameful waste in maintaining our federal, state and local governments and move the majority of Nigerians out of
poverty.

We are running out of years of abundance…some would argue that there haven’t been any such years – at least not for them. However, it is not disputable that Nigeria has been endowed
with much but because of complicity and silence, these blessings have been stripped clean from most Nigerians. It is not too late to heed the warning signs and prepare – but we dreaming about maintaining the status quo and start dreaming the impossible.

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