Why Nigeria is poor

by Emmanuel-Francis Nwaolisa Ogomegbunam

Let’s start with the obvious, Nigeria is POOR.

No offense to my fellow Nigerians, but when 70% of your fellow citizens are scrapping by on less than $2 a day, there is no word for it but poverty.

The way I view it, rich countries generally follow a progressive route to prosperity, labour-intensive agricultural production, a transition to export-driven industrial products (with a concurrent transition to capital intensive agriculture so as to man the new industries) and finally a transition to world-beating services.

Nigeria’s problem, it saw the clearly beaten path and sought to be a trailblazer on another one. Nigeria initially before the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities was an agricultural powerhouse, the world’s leading producer of cocoa, groundnuts and palm nuts. Then came the discovery of crude oil and the country went nuts!

Nigeria’s crude oil problem counts as one of the examples of the famous “Dutch disease”.

When you have a valuable resource that brings in a lot of foreign exchange, it in turn drives up the value of your currency. It could be a good thing in theory, for example a sensible government could use their now valuable currency to import products for an infrastructure boom and to aid industrialisation.

What you don’t do is everything Nigerian leaders have done, give yourselves pay rises, steal what you can’t get legally, ignore governing, send your children abroad to safe……I mean actually “educate them” e.t.c.

With Nigeria’s now overvalued currency, suddenly our agricultural exports stop looking attractive, I mean why buy Nigerian cocoa when you can get it cheaper in Ghana?

The government can afford to buy off the middle-class by bloating the civil service and giving generous pay-rises, this concurrently begins to shift the economy towards a service tack, far too soon. Literally millions abandon the farms to make it big in the city.

Less farmers = Less food = More imports!

A bad place to be if the corner-stone of your economy is a commodity prone to boom and busts. During a boom, everybody is happy, Nigerians party and tither, but during a bust you get Boko Haram, increased crime waves, militants and secessionists destroying whatever progress that has been made.

All of the above combine to put the country in the worst situation any country can be in. A while ago I could say that perhaps the one thing that holds the country together is football, not anymore, our allegiances to our foreign clubs now trump that of the underachieving national team.

Nigerians it seems are “Nigerian” out of convenience alone, the center literally does not hold, thus we’ve devolved to an ethnic identities.

A final symptom of the Dutch disease, the oil sector is one of the lowest employers of labour in Nigeria.

It is the most taxed, aside from the civil servants who have their taxes taken directly, most Nigerians lie in the informal sector of the economy. Nigeria has one of the lowest tax-to-GDP ratios.

Its citizens are not invested in their country, thus whenever oil prices go down, the country begins to hemorrhage money, people starve, people die and people leave.

Those who leave are usually educated, often professionals, thus the country stays poor.

Those who would build her are no longer at home.

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