30 November 2012, Vanguard Newspaper, Lagos – TWENTY three years after Nigeria’s independence was an era that witnessed huge capital investments by the Federal Government to lay the foundation for a strong and vibrant economy.
Such investments were in all aspects of the economy: oil and gas ( including refineries and depots and petro-chemical plants), mines and steel, infrastructure, especially inter-regional roads, electricity and telecommunication, vehicle plants, building and development of seaports and airways, building of financial institutions, post offices, textile factories, river basin development authorities, etc.
These investments were estimated to be over N5 trillion. Almost at about that time, it was discovered that most of these investments were going down the drain largely due to poor management.
Thus, the enterprises were not able to provide the economic and social services for which they were established. The accumulated result was that the Nigerian economy became comatose and so sick it needed a surgeon’s attention immediately.
So, the Federal Government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari consulted the World Bank and the IMF who, as usual to the economic challenges of Third World countries, recommended austerity measures which included deregulation and devaluation of the naira. Devaluation was devastating because it led to very high rising of the prices of goods and services, just like the Udoji era in 1975.
Inflation due to Shagari’s austerity measures was well captured by Jimmy Conter, the Eze Agala 1 of Ikwerre in his song titled “Austerity Measure”. According to Jimmy, before the austerity measures, a cup of garri used to sell for 20 kobo in Port Harcourt, but had to rise to one naira due to Shagari’s austerity measures.
Such unprecedented 400 per cent rise in the price of garri and indeed other goods had continued since then.
After Shagari, came the Buhari government which threw the issue of IMF-World Bank’s recommendation open to Nigerians for debate. At the end of the debate, most Nigerians rejected the IMF-World Bank prescriptions and so the government refused to buy the drugs.
When Babangida came as leader of the government, he welcomed the prescriptions and bought the drugs. The prescription was re-christened Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, who