COVID-19 Pandemic: Motivation for a Greater Nigeria

COVID-19 Pandemic: Motivation for a Greater Nigeria

Mr. Godwin Emefiele (FCIB), the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria has articulated policies of the CBN in response to COVID-19 in a 24 page essay titled ‘TURNING THE COVID-19 TRAGEDY INTO AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A NEW NIGERIA’ published on the 15th of April, 2020. 

All over the world, people and institutions have always used lessons learnt from terrible experiences to reposition their country for a better future. They do this by being methodical and determined to achieve the set goals. There is no room for compromise, as they mobilize the entire nation to key into the objectives of becoming a self-reliant and truly independent country. To be fully independent is not just a political objective, it’s an economical goal to guarantee the wellbeing of the citizenry.

There are so many examples one can draw from, from America, to Europe to Asia and other parts of the world. This COVID-19 pandemic is another opportunity for countries to redesign their strategies in terms of research and development. When this pandemic is over, and I hope that happens soon, watch out for the reactions of these developed nations towards health infrastructures, education, science, technology and manufacturing to prepare their system and the people for a better future. 

Japan had as early as1870 decided that superior engineering knowledge will guarantee a better future for the country. So, they had invited very young British and American Engineering teachers, average age was at 27 to teach in their Universities and colleges recognizing that their future depended on science and technological advancement.

According to Professor Emeritus Shunsuke Otani ‘…it took only 15 years for the change in engineering education; from education by invited foreign teachers to that of trained native teachers.’ The rest is history, Japan’s contribution to the world in the areas of architecture, automobiles and electronics engineering has indeed provided the people with a better future.

The CBN has undertaken a task that should serve as a national call to walk the talk. This present Nigeria has been talk and talks but nothing to show for it. Before the advent of crude oil exploration in commercial quantities, this country depended so much on groundnuts, cocoa, rubber and palm oil, there were talks about diversification of the economy/revenue base instead of depending on Agricultural produce alone. 

Then came crude oil reign, and we abandoned agriculture and depended on oil, and since 1970 to date, we are still echoing the chorus on ‘diversification of the economy’. Oil is so cheap now that we are better off being a consumer rather than a producer.

The Governor of the CBN has outlined a policy document for immediate-term, short -term, and medium-term policy priorities commencing now up until 2023. 

These policies priorities are mainly to support government fiscal policy. However, they are also within the CBN’s mandate. The core mandate of the CBN is to maintain price stability and drive economic development. Monetary policy alone is not enough, as a matter of fact, interventions in the fiscal policy aid the effective implementation of monetary policies towards achieving price stability. Issues such as inflation targeting, unemployment, exchange rates management can better be managed with strategic fiscal interventions.

According to the Governor, the CBN will be providing N3.5 trillion stimulus packages in response to this COVID-19 pandemic, and there are plans to establish a N15 trillion Infrastructure Company that will provide funding for projects in the transport sector to unlock the value chain in the agriculture industry. 

This N15 trillion Infrastructure Company is a very ambitious project, but it can be done. The CBN has in recent times been very articulate in their plans and there are results to show for it. This COVID-19 pandemic can indeed become Nigeria’s opportunity to guarantee the future wellbeing of her citizens. There will always be global pandemics of this nature going forward, therefore, how we learn from this experience and our determination for creating a truly independent country that will be the bastion of the black race in human development will be vital for our future.

As a country, we have not been exploiting our potentials, it took the CBN intervention for our people to start looking inwards and producing goods that hitherto, we spent our foreign reserves in imports from China and the rest of the world. 

Don’t forget that when CBN restricted access to the official FX market for certain goods and products that can be produced locally, there were many condemnations from several quarters including some segment of manufacturers association. Today, we can see the positive results of such protectionist policy on the economy.

The lessons to learn from this COVID-19 is that going forward, nations that can guarantee the wellbeing of her citizenry are nations that are truly independent. This independence is not just political, but economically and self-reliant is the ultimate goal.

China, USA, Italy, France, Spain, Japan, Canada, Germany, Russia, United Kingdom, Korea, and India who have developed manufacturing capabilities for several items that are needed for the containment of COVID-19 pandemic immediately stopped or banned or restricted production for export. They needed to survive first before helping others, and that is fair. 

Global pandemic of this nature will continue to plague the world periodically, it’s not a curse, it’s just the times we are in, and so Nigeria needs to be prepared to help herself first, before others and before others can assist her.

This COVID-19 pandemic offers Nigeria the opportunity to build and operate world class medical facilities across the country, and we can! Since we can’t fly abroad to these countries with state-of-the-art medical facilities.

The Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria and the National Universities Commission can be encouraged with improved funding to continue to ensure the highest quality of medicine, dental and alternative medicine practices in our country is maintained. Today, Nigerian universities trained medical practitioners are highly revered all over the world, we must continue to train more to work within our improved post-COVID -19 medical facilities.

As affirmed by the CBN in this policy document, the Manufacturing sector is key in driving a new Nigeria. Investments in machinery and equipment which are the major inputs in economic production is very vital. The CBN has vowed to provide finance for these very important inputs in production, therefore capital to invest in machinery and equipment should never be a hindrance to our economic growth going forward. The CBN plans to make available an initial N500 billion for intervention in this area.

Constant power supply is also important because machines need to be powered and there are plans for investments in the power sector that can provide constant electricity generation and distribution. This is where we have the greatest challenge as a nation. However, we can overcome this, electricity should never be a rocket science, so we have the expertise to mystify this darkness and power the country to greatness.

Finally, the new Nigeria we envisage post COVID-19 is possible with more investment in education, research and development, particularly in sciences, engineering and technology. Our universities must now concentrate on the practical aspects of things as we have imbibed the theories for too long. 

Take a look at the following items required for managing COVID-19 pandemic; Breathing face masks, protective suits, medical gloves, alcohol-based sanitizers, ventilators and other breathing devices, vitamin C, hydroxychloroquine and other malaria drugs. 

All these items can be produced 100 percent local content in Nigeria. Today our chemistry and biology laboratories across our universities are busy producing some of these items for their internal use. A visit especially to our first and second generation faculties of engineering will convince you that we still have very creative and innovative students. There are some forms of innovation in application knowledge. Our students and teachers are fabricating and designing useful machines to solve today’s problems and needs. Sadly, these are just for exhibition, and requirements for some engineering courses examinations. It all ends in the laboratory junkyard. There is no synergy between our universities and our manufacturing sector that can transform these projects to commercially viable products. 

Therefore, our businesses and manufacturing sectors need to collaborate with our universities in the areas of research and product development to commercialize some of these innovations. Our businessmen and women should change their orientation from being importers of goods to becoming producers and exporters of made in Nigeria goods. This creates massive employment and economic activities in the county.

Yes, quality is important, and we already have a quality assurance and certification regulatory body such as the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) that should actually certify the quality of goods and products made in Nigeria. And we have to trust these certifications. It will take a while for Nigerians that have been so used to foreign things to believe that goods and products made in Nigeria are indeed of quality.  

Many of the locally fabricated machines that mirrored several sophisticated technologies used during Nigeria’s civil war were products from Nigerian universities students and their teachers based on the theories underlying those inventions. It’s now time to galvanize our academics to re-transform our universities to Centers of innovations and development.

Let us take a stand today, that Nigeria as a country and Nigerians as a people have the capabilities to be self-reliant, to take care of our people first, and to offer help to other countries in need. There is indeed opportunity in this pandemic, as Professor Ndubuisi Ekekwe said ‘….The human spirit is indestructible and will always rise HIGHER. Let’s take this as a lesson and a motivation: the world is not folding up because of COVID-19’, in response to Apple’s launch of a cheaper iPhone amid  the COVID-19 pandemic. May this N3.5 trillion initial stimulus package from the CBN motivate us all for a greater Nigeria.

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