By Ali Alkali
Former Nigerian Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, had expressed doubt whether Nigeria is indeed out of economic recession, saying that conclusion and celebration were premature.
“Last year, we celebrated the fact that we exited our first recession in 25 years. To me, that celebration was premature.”
The former vice president made this known in his keynote address when he was honoured with the ‘Silverbird’s 2017 man of the year’ award in Lagos on Friday.
“After contracting for five consecutive quarters, Nigeria came out of recession in the second quarter of 2017 with a GDP growth rate of 0.55 per cent. In the third quarter, we fared better with 1.40 per cent.
“While this looks somewhat like we exited the recession, the reality is that when you factor in our population growth rate of 2.3 per cent, which is one of the highest in the world, have we really exited a recession? Technically, yes, but in reality, it is doubtful.”
Lamenting that Nigeria is going through a lot of challenges in the area of unity, economy and security, he however noted that sadly, “These challenges are actually symptoms. They are not the ailment. And as any doctor will tell you, you cannot get genuine long-lasting relief if you treat symptoms. You have to target and treat the root cause of the disease.
“What is happening in Nigeria is that as a nation, we are caught up in a modern-day Malthusian Trap. For years, our population has been growing faster than our Gross Domestic Product, bringing us to a point where we have an ever-increasing population competing for resources that are not keeping pace with population growth.
“It may sound simplistic, but if Nigeria can assemble a leadership focused on getting us out of this Malthusian Trap by gradually reversing the trend where population growth exceeds GDP growth, many of these challenges we are currently facing will slowly but surely fade away,”
In February 2018, he said, Nigeria has just overtaken India as the world’s capital of extreme poverty according to the World Poverty Clock. He argued that there are more extremely poor people in Nigeria than there are in India, a country that has six times Nigeria’s population.
“When people do not have jobs and the means to start a business are beyond their reach, they are incrementally much more likely to engage in criminal behaviours like terrorism, kidnapping, militancy and armed robbery,” he noted.
“According to the African Development Bank, in 2017, 18 African countries grew their Gross Domestic Product above 5%. Nigeria, which was number one in 2014, was not amongst these nations. We must figure out what has happened in the intervening years between 2014 and 2018 and fix what went wrong.
“What happened to brilliant initiatives like the YouWIN programme which gave Nigerian youths the training and funding to start their own businesses?”