A group of economists at the American University of Nigeria, AUN, on Friday held a seminar at the 24-Hour Room of the institution to discuss and proffer solutions to Nigeria’s economic crisis.
The economists were Dr. John Leonard, Dr. Wasiq Khan, Dr. NatinaYaduma, Dr. Jean-Paul Cleron, and Miss Abo-Ojo Atabo.
The seminar focused on issues such as crude oil prices, Nigeria’s foreign exchange, population explosion and unemployment.
In his presentation, Dr. Khan provided an exposé into the workings of the Nigerian economy and explored how key sectors have adjusted to the plunge in oil prices.
He identified domestic agriculture sector as one that has proven able to withstand the tough times.
“There is a shock absorber in the Nigerian industry that appears to be agriculture, not export agriculture, but agriculture for domestic purposes,” he said.
Dr. Khan also decried the dearth of accurate data on Nigeria’s oil production and recommended that the country should carefully consider removing fuel subsidy.
“Nigeria spends double what it spends on the education and health sectors on fuel subsidy.”
He also expressed hope that the country could survive its economic crisis, having demonstrated remarkable resilience.
“Nigeria has actually shown some surprising resilience and we know the story is not yet over,” he said.
Dr. Yaduma gave a technical breakdown of the causes of Nigeria’s foreign exchange crisis and explained that devaluation of the naira would make imports expensive.
He also said that devaluation of the naira would not be a short-term solution for Nigeria, given that the country is not a producing or exporting country.
“The deeper issues in the economy are long-term,” Yaduma said, while expressing concern over Nigeria’s exploding population and lack of social amenities.
Dr. Leonard discussed the short-term effects of the decline in oil prices and exchange rate.
“As the exchange rate falls, currency reserves fall, the official exchange rate will become more and more irrelevant and is not sustainable, and if we forecast on in the future, collapse in 2020,” he said.
Dr. Leonard also pointed out high unemployment and inflation levels as potential effects of the country’s economic crisis.
According to Dr. Cleron, “Nigeria is in trouble, and it is more in trouble than it has ever been.”
Cleron diagnosed the country’s main twin post-independence problems to be corruption and poverty.
“Nigeria has two major problems, poverty and exploding corruption, and as long as those two problems persist, we are not going to make progress,” he said.
He also urged the Nigerian government to effectively utilize its human resources.
“Human resources can have a negative quality and can turn from an asset to a liability.”
Miss Atabo, who is an AUN alumna, noted that the ongoing crisis serves as an eye opener to Nigerian government, which was hitherto blinded by the huge revenues it was generating from oil and gas.
“This crisis we are experiencing is very good to me because it is highlighting a lot of the structural problems in Nigeria’s economy that have been there for a long time but we didn’t really have to deal with it because the revenues from oil were so much and it was very easy to ignore these problems.”
She observed that the crisis has forced government to explore long-term solutions to its economic woes.
The event was well-attended, with faculty, staff and students from the different schools and departments of the University in the audience.
Among the attendees were the Dean of the School of Information Technology and Computing, SITC, Prof. Mathias Mbu Fonkam, Dean of the School of Business and Entrepreneurship, SBE, Vrajlal Sapovadia, and the Interim Associate Dean of the School of Arts and Science, SAS, Prof. Jacob Jacob.
By Zamiyat Abubakar