The tragedy of Nigeria began in 1986 when we did the structural adjustment program. When we were persuaded to devalue our currency every week for 32years. When I went to school the Naira was one Dollar fifty cents. The Naira was almost one pounds sterling. They came here persuaded some brilliant men from Harvard and the world bank that weekly devaluation was wonderful. Thirty-two years of devaluing our currency until we get to five hundred and twenty-seven and they were still telling us the Naira was still overvalued, the brought poverty and misery upon us. The interest rate went to 30% so nobody could build a factory, starting a farm, produce anything or create jobs.
Every time we bring in a shipload of rice, we also bring in a shipload of unemployment because you are transferring your wealth to sustain another economy. So we became a nation of importers. Toothpicks each year cost us 18million dollars, tomato paste 400 million dollars. We talk about tomato, one basket in town is less than two thousand Naira. The farmers are losing money because processors don’t have enough funds to set up factories. If you are going to do tomato paste, it must be a full grade stainless steel, you can just use anything because you will be putting poison in the stomach of the people.
Two factories have started off, I believe by the middle of next year, we can comfortably tell importers of tomato paste to stop but when you do, you make enemies. Heavy enemies who can kill if they have a chance because you are spoiling their business. Let nobody take it lightly, these guys have seized the country’s economy, they have taken us hostage and they have no intention of giving up because this is a huge market, a sweet market they have taken control.
This regime is unpopular in part because it is trying to cut down imports and transfer wealth to our rural people. I am saying this because I have been in business for 41 years and I can tell you some history. Abdullahi Adamu is here, we import milk, sugar, toothpicks, toothpaste, handkerchief, pencils we don’t make.
To cure Nigeria of that malady will take a while, take a strong government that is the truth. When we cut down, they lose money there. So you see all sorts of publications, we are telling lies, we are not growing rice trying to demoralize the local farmers and make sure the economy fails, that is the story of imports. Now, I read a story recently in the newspaper, the French ambassador, the champagne ambassador in Nigeria, gave an article to the Guardian he said Nigeria loves life. We are the biggest consumer of champagne on planet earth, more than the French who makes it.
There are parties you attend in some places where they only drink champagne. Off course, the individual is free to spend his money, but his money comes from Nigeria’s commonwealth. So on import, it will take a while to get used to local goods and accept that we should consume what we produce and produce what we want to consume.
I take your point, we have to take stem measure to cut down on import because these young boys and girls who have no jobs today are not going to allow us to carry on and enjoy life at their expense. They need jobs, they are our children. They have graduated, come back home to begin a second childhood because there are no factories to employ them and the ministries can’t take anymore. Somebody is making sure you fail when u want to produce at home.
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