By Abubakar Jimoh
Every October 1st Nigeria marks its anniversary of its independence. It would therefore be 49 years of liberty from its colonial master that had chained and persecuted our forefathers in the name of liberation. Initially, Nigeria was predominantly agricultural oriented economy, endowed in abundance with Tin and coal as major mineral resources; while sawmill and cotton served as the major
industrial produce. The country was recognized as the largest exporter of groundnuts, palm oil, and palm kernel by 1960. The level of development as at that time was overwhelming before the discovery of oil that contributed to internal economic tribulations and the consequent negative effects on the citizenry.
Nigeria embarked on series of developmental campaign in the early 60s and accomplishing physical development in transportation and communication like telephone conversation link between Nigeria and United States. There were also expansion in Air, railways and road transportations which were accompanied with introduction of local commodities (peanuts, skins, and gold) booming the exports market. Economic enhancement became the theme at round-table discussions among the then ruling class by 1966.
The economy suffered from depression in the aftermath of the assassination of the ruling class by the military coup in 1967 which later resulted to outbreak of civil war. The same period witnessed sudden change of the national currency aimed at forcing its cold war enemy, Biafra to rethink and intergrate with the rest of the country after it (Biafra) had declared itself independent in protest against unequal treatment of Easterners in the nation’s white-collar services.
The military intervention in the political circle, with its attendant aberration that is abhorred by other nations made our local export commodities to go under as the government paid more attention to the then newly discovered crude oil in commercial quantity. It gained priority as the major contributory export to the national income in 70s. Unfortunately maladministration set in with awful developments, like funds mismanagement, wastages of natural resources, corruption, and deficiency in political decision making.
The period also witnessed an era of revival for the crumbing agricultural and the industrial productions ones, as loans and advances of certain percentage were issued to the famers and small scaled industrialists as well as 5 years tax relief to any locally produce agricultural and agribusiness project. This led to the promulgation of the Agricultural Credit Guarantee Scheme Fund, to guarantee agricultural loans made by banks.
Flourished oil incomes accrued to the education sector at that time witnessed recruitment of thousands of teachers to satisfy the previous inadequacy. Payment of tuition and fees became the government responsibility in the respective institutions. This tentatively filled the widen gap previously emanated between the haves and the have-nots. Thereafter when parents were asked to pay tuition fees, students walked to the street in 1978 for demonstration against raise in board and lodging fees and the nation struggled to increase its deteriorated total revenue following the down slopped in the nation economic.
By 1980, Nigeria started moving towards mono-economy as the Oil production occupied 90% of its total revenue with the decline in other local exports, resulted to 15% increase in inflation rates. Drop-off in foreign reserves cumulated with increase in borrowing from domestic banks and International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditioned by massive interest rates in 1982.
Despite the unpleasant measures proposed in 1984 to boost revenue and cut-down expenditure, the populace became agitated when Inflation soaked the economy with an additional 25% raise leading to the further decline in industrial, agricultural and subsequently petroleum productions of which the instituted economic state of emergency declared in 1985 by another military regime could not resolve.
The proposed radical economic innovation policy and Structural Adjusted Programme that gave birth to the establishment of Second-tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM) in 1986 end up in drastic devaluation of naira, abolition of formerly proposed import license, extension in Nigeria borrowing mannerism to the London Club of private banks and Paris Club, further raise in inflation rate, unemployment and low standard of livings as the essential commodities became what the low income earners could not afford.
Besides, as the inflation rate increased to 48% by 1990, increased in cost of living emerged and the labour minimum wages was devaluated. Instead of tackling the inflation, government resolved at inept effort to strengthen wages structure and initiated new pay increase for civil servants in the name of absorbing high cost of living. However, this could not save the soul of the starving economy when new pessimistic development such as budget deficit, sharply naira depreciation, exchange rate instability, collapsed in national financial system as the banks ran at liquidation by 1993. This led to the fiscal and monetary predicament, and afterward, economic meltdown.
The era of new national leader, General Sanni Abacha quashed the economic liberalization programme instigated in 1986 for newly imposed system, having in contents: trade restriction, administered exchange rate and rationalization of foreign currency. The policy encouraged widespread corruption, slump-down of businesses and capital markets. The Okigbo instituted by the government to investigate the affairs of the Central Bank of Nigeria reported that $12.2billion had been diverted to budget-off accounts between 1988 and 1994. Inflation later exceeded 65% by 1995 as high level of official corruption, political instability, money laundry and deferred debt payment.