The Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi, has spoken up about how Nigeria got into its current economic recession.
The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria also warned the government against continuing to blame previous administrations for the nation’s woe.
He gave the warning while delivering a paper entitled, “Nigeria In Search Of New Growth model” at the 15th meeting of the Joint Planning Board and National Council on Development Planning.
He said: “You can’t have improving terms of trade when you are exporting commodities over short periods of a cycle. But, we know as far back as the 1950s, from the Latin American structure economics, that over the long term, any economy that specialises in exporting primary products and importing manufactures would end up having terms of trade shifting against it. You can have a temporary boost, but If you don’t use that boost to have a structural adjustment that would make for prudent management of the economy, you would be courting trouble.
“By 2008, one barrel of oil would buy you one Sanyo flip telephone as against 19 barrels of oil to buy the same phone earlier. That gives an idea how well the terms of trade have shifted.
“We had an oil price of $10 a barrel in the time of Babangida. At one point under Obasanjo, it rose to $140 a barrel. This was a time of rapidly improving technology, cheaper manufactured products and therefore our oil could technically import us much more.
“This process was not common across all of Africa, because we are aware of other African economies that grew, and certainly it was not just one pillar. Let’s go to the second pillar of growth in Africa in that decade, which was debt.
“Between 2002 and 2008, the levels of debt to GDP (gross domestic product) in African countries and what they became after the Paris Club, HIPC debt reliefs and so on. Nigeria was at 50 per cent debt to GDP and came down to literally 5 per cent or so.
“This happened across all Africa in the form of debt forgiveness, debt relief, debt restructuring and so on. What this did was that it freed up government balance sheets and in that decade of Africa rising, the countries went back on a borrowing binge.
“Nigeria kept borrowing, not externally, but internally. I think our external debt was just about $8 billion on the balance sheet. But, the Naira indebtedness of the Nigerian government, we were spending over 30 per cent (maybe 40 per cent now) of every Naira earned just servicing debts.
“That’s what you have. Nobody was noticing it. We have written off the debts, and then we kept building it up bit by bit. And when you look at where that debt was going into, you will see why, or part of the answer to the problem we are having.”
Speaking about the increase in minimum wage, he added: “In Nigeria, for example, our public sector wage bill went up from N443 billion in 2005 to N1.7 trillion in 2012.
“In 2010, the government increased minimum wage to N18,000. I was at the Central Bank, I protested and protested. They had an election coming, they increased the minimum wage N18,000 and basically borrowed money to pay.
“In 2012, as governor of Central Bank, I said this was an unsustainable wage bill. We needed to reduce the size of the public service. My own government minister came out to say that was the (CBN) governor’s personal opinion. In fact, she said the government wanted to employ more people. And this is the result.
“I am serious. Sometimes I don’t bother. I’m never going to change. I’m never going to be political. I’m never going to stand here and tell people what they want to hear.
“The problem is that there is nothing that we are facing today that we did not know would happen. That is the truth. We made mistakes. Many of them deliberate. We ignored every single word that pointed otherwise. Economics is a science. It is not a perfect science. But, over decades and decades and centuries, people have seen that there are certain things that, when you do, will lead to certain consequences.”