"Nigeria is Poor, O!"
says President Obasanjo
culled from The
November 14, 2003
Nigeria is poor, says Obasanjo
From Madu Onuorah, Abuja
Obasanjo yesterday painted a gloomy picture of the nation's
perceived wealth, saying that Nigeria is really a poor country.
In an audience with
a delegation of Agbor Kingdom led by the Dein of Agbor, Keagborekuzi
I, President Obasanjo stated that with a population of 140 million
and the cost of maintaining the nation's defence and foreign
missions and the low level of production, the country could not be
classified as rich.
He told the
delegation at the Council Chambers of the Presidential Villa: "I
feel worried at times, when people talk about Nigeria being in
money. With our population of about 140 million, we produce as much
oil or nearly as much oil as Libya with a population of five
million. So, when you look at our land area, which we have to criss-cross
by road, by pipelines, we are three or four times the size of Great
Britain, which colonised us. So, when people talk about resources in
this country, one wonders what really they are talking about because
we are poor in spite of what we may think that we have.
"The total budget
of the Federal Government is about the budget of the Fire Services
in the city of New York. And yet, we think that we are a rich
country. Yet, the city of New York doesn't have to think of the
foreign services where we have a little bit over 80 missions abroad.
It doesn't have to think of a defence of Army, Navy and Air Force.
It is only a city. So, when people talk about Nigeria being a rich
country and they want to live without being productive but relying
on oil income, we are just deceiving ourselves."
said that the development of the country was the responsibility of
not only the Federal Government, but also that of states, local
governments and communities.
He noted that while
the Federal Government was seen as the "father of all," the states
and local governments also had their own roles to play.
He urged the people
of Agbor Kingdom to contribute more to the development of their
community, adding that the Federal Government was faced with
"competing and conflicting demands" for development in the face of
the kingdom on being one of the surviving monarchies in the country
and thanked its people for the support given to his administration,
promising that it would do what it could to assist in the
development of Agbor.
The Dein of Agbor
had earlier commended the Federal Government's economic reform
He also called for
the dredging of Orogodo river; the digitalisation of Agbor telephone
exchange and the construction of a fly-over at Agbor junction on the
His address also
noted that His Royal Majesty, Keagborekuzi I took Nigeria into the
Guinness World Record as the youngest crowned king in the world.
Friday, November 14, 2003
Nigeria is poor, says Obasanjo
By Reuben Yunana
Obasanjo yesterday took a look at Nigeria’s revenue profile, its
huge population of 140 million coupled with its large landmass, and
declared the country a poor nation.
The president who
spoke at an audience with the Dein of Agbor Kingdom, Delta State,
said he felt worried when people describe Nigeria as a wealthy
nation," we are deceiving ourselves," he said.
According to him,
whatever the economic indices is used, Nigeria cannot be said to be
a rich nation when people talk about Nigeria being in money, with
our population of about 140 million, we produce as much oil or
nearly as much oil as Libya with a population of five million.
"So when you look
at our land area, which we have to criss-cross by road, by
pipelines, we are three or four times the size of Great Britain
which colonised us. So when people talk about resources in this
country, one wonders what really they are talking about because we
are poor in spite of what, we may think that we have," the President
He pointed out the
total budget of the federal government of the city of New York. And
yet we think we are a rich country, yet the city of New York doesn’t
have to think of the foreign services where we have a little bit
over 80 missions abroad. it doesn’t have to think of a defence, an
army, navy and airforce. It is only a city.
"So, when people
talk about Nigeria being a rich country and they want to live
without being productive, but relying on oil income we are just
deceiving ourselves," he said.
the Dein of Agbo Keagborekuzi I presented the President with a list
of requests which included adequate provisions in the 2004 budget
for the erosion control project in the area, digitalisation of the
Agbor telephone exchange, construction of the federal road
Agbor-Ogharafe, construction of a 132 KVA NEPA line from
Benin-Agbor-Asaba, and the Agbor-Ozara water scheme among others.
And the Mayor of
the City of New York does not criss-cross the world in a "mayoral
jet", attending international meetings constantly, nor does the city
spend city money on international games (eg COJA) or meetings (eg
ye!" that at least President Obasanjo now realises that "Nigeria is
not rich" as we are presently administered. Mind you, Nigeria is
NOT POOR - but we are NOT RICH as presently administered.
But there is worse
news: Nigeria's proposed 2002/2003 and 2003/2004 expenditure and
revenue budgets each is of the order of N1 trillion, which at about
N140 to $1 conversion is $7.14285714285714285... billion.
I don't know about
NY Fire Services, but what about New York CITY itself? Well, let us
and you will find
there that the 2003 and 2004 Fiscal Year budgets for the city as
adopted are in the order of $42.3 and $43.7 billion respectively,
which make the budget of the City of New York in fact SEVEN TIMES
larger than that of Nigeria! Of the City's budget, the Federal
Government and New York STATE in total both kick in roughly $12.7
billion in categorical grants - or roughly 30%. [The STATE of New
York's spending budget for 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 are of the order
of $90 billion; see for example
making the state's
budget about 13 times bigger than that of Nigeria.]
So it is
commendable that for the first time - at least to the best of my
knowledge - the president is putting Nigeria's current "wealth" in
its true perspective.
But he must from
now on act accordingly: he must walk the talk.
PS1: Men, last
Saturday November 8, as I travelled from Abuja to Akure, about 30
brand new BMWs - "Senior COJAs", as my driver called it - all
silver/black, all lights lit, sped past in full formation, headed
for Abuja in preparation for CHOGM, being driven all the way from
Lagos. I instantly wondered how all the Lagos-to-Abuja villagers
past who the splendid cars travelled felt: "Dang! Is this is a rich
country or what? If it is so rich, why am I so poor?"
Inquiring minds want to know.
PS2: And anyway,
why is the President receiving the Dein of Agbor, who jumps over his
local government and his state government to present a long list of
requests to THE WHOLE PRESIDENT OF THE WHOLE COUNTRY? Is it not
because of the impression created that the Federal Government is
indeed EVERYTHING in the country?
PS3: FOR THE RECORD
"Debt Relief, Loot Recovery and
Constitutional Reform in Nigeria"
Testimony by Mobolaji E. Aluko before
the US Congressional Subcommittee on Domestic and International
Monetary Policy, Committee on Banking and Financial Services (May
During the period 1986 to this year
2000, the exchange rate between the US dollar and the Nigerian Naira
changed from US$ 1 equals about 2 Naira to $1 = 100 N. Furthermore,
its internal debt increased from N36.5 billion in 1986 ($0.36
billion in today's dollars) to about N400 billion ($4 billion)
During this same period, Nigeria's
external debt increased from $11.5 billion in 1986 to $33.2 billion
in 1990, $33.4 billion in 1991 and then fell to $29.5 billion in
1994. It rose to $32.6 billion in 1995. Currently, it is placed at
about $30 billion dollars, or about 70% of its 1999 estimated Gross
Domestic Product, and of which about $14 billion is payment on
arrears. During this period it has, at an official level, tried
everything to manage the debt: debt rescheduling, debt conversion,
debt-buy back and curtailed new borrowing, yet it has seen little or
no relief. The strategy is just not working and cannot work.
For the US, the dollar figures quoted
above are not large, but for Nigeria, they are insurmountable, but
go to accentuate the fact that Nigeria with its monoculture of oil
and its 120 million population, is a poor country, even though it is
oil-rich. In fact, the current 2000 National budget of Nigeria which
the Executive and the legislature are still haggling over is roughly
N600 billion ( roughly $6 billion), which is what the District of
Columbia is budgeting to spend on its schools in the coming year.
But this Year 2000 budget means that 120 million Nigerians will have
to starve for about 5 years if it is to use up all of its money to
pay off its external debt if all interest payments were to be frozen
PS4: On the Naira
In November, it is
now officially $1 to 135-140, but last week in Abuja, I "saw" it in
the parallel market at N154, headed for maybe N200! Na wa o!