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National Productivity Day and diversification of economy

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EVERY year, Nigeria joins other countries of the world to celebrate National Productivity Day [NPD]. The theme of 2019 NPD was Productivity, National Re-Engineering, Security, and Growth. The Federal Government has been using the day for the recognition of individuals and organisations that have made remarkable socio-economic contributions to the growth and development of the economy. The selected persons and organisations are bestowed “National Productivity Order of Merit [NPOM] and enjoy the ‘golden’ handshake of the President.

  In this National Productivity Day remarks, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Dr. Chris Nwabueze Ngige disclosed that the recipient of NPOM have contributed much to offer of employment to the youths in addition to adding to the country’s GDP. He said: “The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari GCFR, has approved the conferment of the National Productivity Order of Merit on you in recognition of your high productivity, hard work and excellence”.

 If the reality of the country’s federal arrangement is anything to go by, one would asseverate that Nigeria has not been truthful and factual in the quest for faster and sustainable socio-economic growth and development. This is because the vast mineral resources in the country have not been tapped to boost the country’s GDP.

  The federal government should stop deluding the people by the yearly publicity and glamour of the NPOM and muster the courage to abrogate the laws that prevent the federating units from exploring and exploiting mineral resources in their areas. These mineral resources are illicitly exploited in the northern part of the country like Zamfara State by the people who employ crude methods that some time ago led to pollution and infectious diseases that killed scores of people. In addition to that, the federal government issues mining license to foreign entrepreneurs to mine the rich and vast mineral resources while the huge proceeds are not paid into the Federation Account. This brazen measure has been to the chagrin of other segments of the country who complain aloud since such discriminatory policy is averse to a federal arrangement. The policy has made the vast rich natural and mineral resources in many states to be lying dormant instead of being exploited to create wealth and get vast segment of the populace roaming about for jobs to be gainfully employed and contribute to the country’s GDP.

  For the celebration of National Productivity Day to be worthwhile, the leadership of the country must face the stark reality of the federal arrangement and embark on diversification of the economy so that the federating units will explore and exploit the vast mineral resources within their geographical area.

  To hand-pick few people for the yearly Productivity Day every November for the award of NPOM is ludicrous and preposterous to say the least. This is because the few people nominated contribute insignificantly to the country’s GDP compared to a situation where the federating units are allowed to exploit the vast mineral resources to create wealth and offer employment to millions and contributing to GDP and by extension advancing the socio-economic growth and development of the entire country.

Going by the laborious selection of  industrialists and the organised private sector players for the award of NPOM, there is no doubt that the federal government is committed to the overall socio-economic growth and development of the nation according to Minister for Labour and Employment.

  The awards, according to the Labour Minister are “some of the flagship programmes of government designed to institutionalise productivity consciousness and excellence in service among workers and organisations by rewarding innovation, creativity and hard work among the citizenry.

“The aim of the event was to stimulate healthy competition for higher productivity among individual workers and organisations”.

  According to him, such rewards will improve the standard of dedication of Nigerians towards their overall living conditions. “The government is therefore conscious of the critical place of productivity in the realisation of the Next Level Agenda, as no nation can be self-reliant and competitive in the international market without productivity improvement in its economic sector. Since inception of this administration, plans have been focused on restoring growth, investing in our people and building a competitive economy,” he said.

  Ngige further stated that the decision of the federal government to observe NPD every year was predicted on the need to stimulate productivity, consciousness, reward innovation, creativity and hard work, among Nigerians”. The objectives of the NPD include “building and encouraging spirit of entrepreneurship and self-reliance; identifying and rewarding the most productive workers and organisations in both public and private sectors of the economy”.

  The celebration of NPD according to Ngige is “to institutionalise productivity consciousness and excellence in service among workers and organisations in both public and private sectors in Nigeria, in addition to hard-work, high performance, efficiency, discipline, dedication, humility and patriotism”.

  In his remarks at the NPD, President, Muhammadu Buhari called for enabling environment for higher productivity towards improving all sectors of National economy reiterating his government’s resolve to embark on improving the decrepit infrastructure in all the states of the federation. “We will give significant attention to productivity in order to improve standard of living. Nigeria economy can be improved through dedication, hard work, self -reliance and determination, among others.

  Concluding, he said that he would be upbeat to the party’s campaign promises. “Productivity is crucial to greater development. We will intensify efforts in advancing security, fighting corruption and improving national economy. The federal government is conscious of the critical place of productivity in the realisation of the next level agenda, no nation can be self-reliant and competitive in the international market without productivity improvement in its economic sector,” he said.

  The federal government should hold the bull by the horns and stop the tokenism in the NPD and NPOM. When the federal laws constraining the federating units are abrogated, there will quantum improvement in the productivity of the nation even as the country’s GDP will jump to dizzy height. The restructuring of the federation has become a desideratum. The country is lagging behind due to the quasi federal arrangement imposed by the military regime which remains a monstrous aberration. Real federalism stimulates healthy competition for higher productivity among the federating units as recorded in the first republic where the northern region was reputed for the groundnut pyramid, the western region noted for cocoa, and the eastern region was earning quatum foreign exchange from palm produce. These erstwhile regional governments were leveraging on the comparative advantage in their respective natural and mineral resources.

  The western region used their natural resource revenue to embark on free education and the eastern regional government emulated that in addition to building University of Nigeria, Nsukka. It was the military junta that truncated the principles of federalism as observed the world over. That accounted for the genesis of socio-economic challenges the country is facing today.

It does not pay for a section of the country to go with the impression that the rest of the ethnic groups will abide by the terms in governance while pervasive poverty is ravaging the entire country leading to all forms of criminality, terrorism, and quest for secession.  

  Competitive economy will materialise only when the country reinvents true fiscal federalism. Nigeria has no reason to be referred to as “the poverty capital of the world” because of the false federalism imposed by the military regime and found convenient by a section of the country due to selfish consideration.

  The Guest Speaker on the NPD, Professor Mike Obadan spoke in line with the return of true federal practice where productivity would have been compared with the advanced democracies. Some countries who were at par with Nigeria and one or two who took palm nuts from Nigeria have now been world producers of palm oil and the associated value chains. He said: “The country’s productivity ought to compete favourably with the advanced countries. This will entail the enabling environment for sizable investment in both human and physical capital and research and innovations. Nigeria should take a cue from the developed countries and invest more in research and development activities in order to realize technological development.

  “There is need to improve governance and develop a winning strategy to deal with menacing phenomenon of insurgency and insecurity in the country,” he explained.

  In its assessment of the year’s Productivity Day, the editorial of a national daily while congratulating the winners of NPOM, harped on the imperative of diversification of the economy to enable the full exploitation of all the sectors of the national economy. The editorial which was on all fours with Ngige said: “No nation can enhance the quality of life of its citizens as well as be self-reliant and competitive in the international market without productivity improvement in all sectors of its economy…We must reward productivity to encourage the recipients not to rest on their oars as well as propel others to strive for greater heights in their respective endeavours. Productivity is indeed the most important determinant of socio-economic growth, wealth creation, employment generation and over-all improved standard of living”.

  Another scathing editorial on the imperative of diversification of the economy contended that “The economic outlook calls for urgent concrete actions to ensure sustainable economic growth. Government should embark on aggressive structural reforms and give priority attention to the diversification of the non-oil sectors. We believe that boosting non-oil sectors will raise export revenues. There is need for a growth-friendly fiscal and monetary policy instruments that would enhance the production of goods and services”, the editorial contended.

  Harping on the situation akin to time bomb courtesy of ever growing mass of unemployed youths in the country, another editorial advised the federal government to restructure the country’s governance architecture to create massive job outlets to create wealth and reduce poverty to a manageable level. It said: “…What all these imply is that government’s efforts are yet to have a dent on the unemployment situation. This is not surprising though. Power supply which is the key to job creation is still a far cry from what it should be; other infrastructures are similarly in a shambles.

  There is need for ingenious ways to ameliorate the situation. Power supply has to be fixed and access to credit should be facilitated. A country whose youths are roaming the streets when they should be productive is not only stunting its development; it is also sitting on a keg of gun-powder”.

  The vision of Buhari administration to “lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years” is an illusion unless the country is restructured and the federating units enabled to explore and exploit the vast natural and mineral resources within their areas to create wealth, massive employment and substantial reduction in grinding poverty. The feverish resort to foreign loans [now $82 billion loan] cannot help Nigeria because in the long run, the people will be massively impoverished by the debt overhang and trap.    

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