This week, I invite you to consider the following excerpts from Toyin Dawodu’s response to Forbes’ (a foremost international business magazine) conclusions from its interview with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister of the Economy.  Dawodu is Managing Partner of Capital Investment Group in the United States, and he wrote as follows: 

“I saw a headline last night on one of my favourite websites, Forbes.com; it reads “Nigeria Rising: The Woman behind the Nation’s Economic Turnaround.”  The headline captured Forbes’ conclusion after its interview with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

“I think perhaps Steve Forbes got this one wrong.  Nigeria Rising.  Is it?  From where millions of other Nigerians and I sit, the disintegration of Nigeria rages on as Nigeria’s leaders continue to sweet talk, double-talk and bamboozle its citizens.

“In its report of the interview, Forbes referred to the Minister’s work as the Head of Finance of an “economic miracle,” even when the World Bank begs to differ.  What economic miracle is this?

“Is it the 170 million Nigerians that live in darkness?  Is it the 50% unemployment rate amongst Nigeria’s 40 million youths?  Incidentally, a remnant of youths are now earning their living by kidnapping members from well-off families and holding them for ransom.  Is that fact included as part of this economic miracle?

“Maybe it’s the estimated 8% inflation rate which the average citizen feels as more like 15%?  Is it the fact that the world’s eighth largest exporter of oil has its own citizens lining up for days just to fill their tanks because they live in a country where there is a constant shortage of petrol?  

“Is it the fact that there is no potable water in most parts of Nigeria, where only a handful of paved roads exist, where traffic officers double as unauthorized toll collectors and freely shake down poor citizens?  Is it the fact that a country that was rid of a huge debt burden just a few years ago now has a growing domestic debt at oppressive interest rates?  Moreover, who is looking into these claims that the same banks being used to warehouse government’s money for free, turn around and charge 12-14% interest whenever government borrows money?

“Nigerian citizens, Nigeria’s National Assembly and civil society groups have all come forward to challenge Nigeria's economic minister, demanding she provide proof of all the jobs she claimed to have created since she became minister.

“So far, the only proof offered by the minister is her propaganda across the globe, of 27,000 jobs created since 2012, by doling out free money to a few lucky winners of a business competition?  Is this how jobs are created in advanced economies?

“Wonder of wonders, how do you create sustainable jobs in a country where businesses barely get two hours of electricity a day?  Most businesses spend, on average, 20% of their revenue generating power and producing their own water.  I am curious to know how much research Mr. Forbes actually conducted on the Honourable Minister before Okaying this headline for publication.

“For the sake of argument, let’s say Nigeria is rising.  The question now becomes “for whom”?  Is Nigeria rising for foreign investors who make a killing on Nigerian's sovereign bills and bonds in a stock market led by the same banks that warehouse government funds at zero percent cost, only for government to return thereafter to borrow at phenomenally high interest rates?

“In Nigeria, banks bask in the richness of their profits, yet refuse to lend to businesses in the private sector, leaving Nigerian companies to languish and toil for years without ever having the opportunity to positively impact the economy by creating real jobs.  

“Here are some real facts about the Nigerian economy since Dr. Okonjo-Iweala took over the management of Nigeria's economy in 2010:
1. Unemployment has increased year on year, and currently stands at about 23%.

2. Interest rate for business loans has remained at 20-35% for the last four years.

3. Nigeria's electricity supply has decreased from 4,000 megawatts to about 2,800, in a country of 170 million people.  Nigeria has spent more than $9bn to generate electricity for an average of about two hours of power a day, and yet, curiously, sold most of the existing assets of PHCN for about $3.3bn (N530bn), and still ended up with almost N400bn debt after privatization.

4. According to the recently suspended Central Bank governor, between $10bn, or is it $20bn went missing from the treasury under Madam Minister’s watch.  How do you siphon $10bn from a pocketbook and your Head of Finance cannot say where it went?

5. Nigeria's debt service charges have quickly risen to almost 20% of budget, since the Honourable Minister took over the management and co-ordination of Nigeria's economy.

6. In spite of prevailing alleged systemic surplus cash, Nigeria's domestic debt has also risen from $35bn to $44.3bn since the honourable minister came into office.

7. Over $12bn was expended for fuel subsidy under the watchful eyes of Madam Minister, yet Nigerians cannot seem to get their hands on petrol for their automobiles or kerosene to cook their food.

8. Nigeria is ranked 120th out of 148 countries in Global Competitiveness Index.

9. According to the World Bank, increasingly, over 70% of Nigerians live in absolute destitution.

10. According to the Nigerian Custom's Director-General, Nigeria lost over $9bn to controversial import waivers granted by the office of the honourable minister between 2011 and 2013. 

“Nigeria's economic saboteurs disguise themselves as industrialists and rake in big bucks, while exploiting the people.  Nigerians are struggling.  It seems to me that the true beneficiaries of Nigeria’s huge markets are foreign exploiters, the banks, and a handful of well-protected Nigerian cohorts, who do not care whether or not their investments created any real jobs, stability, infrastructure or long-term growth.

“So Mr. Forbes, if you want a quick verdict, just go to the streets of any Nigerian city and poll the people lined up for hours daily to buy overpriced kerosene with which they can cook dinner for their families.  Just ask the average business owner to tell you the last time he got a loan from a bank and the interest rate.  You will find a much different truth that Nigerians live every day.”

The above piece by Toyin Dawodu may not be agreeable to some Nigerians, but there can be no doubt that ironically, Nigerians and our economy have become poorer despite increasing revenue over the years.  Surely, this is not the way it should be!