An economist and policy analyst, Professor Pat Utomi, has said that President Muhammadu Buhari’s statements that he would not agree to devaluation of the naira sent wrong signal to would be investors.
Speaking at the Third Awomolo & Associates’ Annual Colloquium held in Abuja on on a theme, ‘Global Economy Beyond Oil: Challenges and Solutions; Nigeria in Focus’, Utomi said that as at the time when investors confidence in Nigeria had waned, the blame game adopted by the president did not help matters.
He explained that the world already knew the implication of the pillage of the national treasury that took place before Buhari came to power and there was no need for the president to keep on repeating it.
He said: “But the matter on ground was how to keep confidence in the market till the balance of payment challenges could be overcome and fiscal modulation achieved in getting state governments to manage realistically.
“On the current account challenges, we compounded the problem by unnecessary comments that devaluation would never be accepted. That rigid position caused exporters to pause, lest they repatriate their earnings and get less than real value.
“It also held back foreign direct investments and even the more dreaded, but useful in context portfolio capital into stock market.”
Utomi said the way forward out of the country’s economic woes must include an open and candid conversation in policy choice.
He said: “A new national development strategy that inspires confidence, run by champions of competence and passion mobilising the young to build on their know how to build competitiveness on value chains that rest on Nigeria’s factor endowment.”
He disagreed with the ongoing debate on the sale of public assets as a way of generating revenues for the government.
“The trouble with the call for sale of public assets is how much it goes against what is most needed in Nigeria today; elite consensus on how to solve the problems. A clear example is in the power sector,” he added.
Utomi underscored the role of lawyers in the economic development of the nation, describing it as “more central than lawyers often realised”
He said: “I therefore wish to seize this opportunity to urge lawyers to see their professional calling as a vocation of sorts in which they do more to ensure that Nigeria becomes a more just society.”
Also speaking, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano of Anambra State also gave insight into how the federal government could improve agricultural activities in a bid to diversify the nation’s economy from crude oil.
Obiano said through adequate planning and coordination of farming activities by giving incentives to farmers, Nigeria would wriggle itself out of the current recession it is faced with.
Speaking on the same theme at the colloquium: ” Obiano advised the government to adopt a scientific approach to farming by building a data bank for farmers with a view to tracking their activities.
He said: “For Nigeria to truly change her almost pathetic mono-economic profile and take advantage of her rich arable land and excellent climate that favours farming, adopt a scientific approach to farming by building a data bank for farmers.
“This will help us identify the true farmers among us and their holdings and ensure a more effective distribution of farm input.”
While relating the Anambra State success story in agricultural export and job creation, Obiano further said government should develop clear export windows for the nation’s farm produce.
He said: “It should create and sustain a synergy between commercial farmers and industries that need their produce as raw materials.
“These are just a few of the many things that Nigeria should do to break the yoke of over dependence on oil and carve out a sustainable pathway that will lead us out of the present recession,” Obiano declared.
In his remarks, the Chief Host, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) said Nigeria had enough resources to get out of the economic hardship through the blocking of leakages in public service.
Earlier, the Chairman of the occasion, Justice Suleiman Galadima had said the topic for the colloquium could not have come at a better time than now, urging the government to spur Nigerians towards to taking to agriculture.