The Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Dr. Maikanti Baru, has lamented that Nigeria with oil ought not to be economically backward if the country had emulated countries like Qatar, Norway, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
Baru, who stated this while delivering a lecture at the 40th convocation ceremony of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, said countries like Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates that had taken the right steps at the right time are already thriving on sector-specific development such as the Financial sector of Bahrain, Airlines and Logistics in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, Downstream Petrochemicals and Mining in Saudi Arabia, and the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SME) Sector in Oman.
At the lecture session chaired by the Oba of Lagos, His Majesty Rilwan Akiolu, the NNPC boss spoke on “Oil and Gas Industry and the Nigerian State: Enduring Value, Promoting Economic Integration and Social Stability.”
Baru while tracing the evolution of Nigeria’s economy pointed out that, unlike Qatar and others who used oil dollars to jump-start and diversify their economy, Nigeria abandoned its previous economic mainstay after the exploration of the oil.
According to him, “The advent of oil production, other natural resources of economic value such as tin, columbite, limestone, Iron ore, and coal had been explored and produced. These mineral resources in addition to cash crops were the country’s export commodities and serve as the revenue base of the economy.
“Steady but volatile flow of hard currencies accrued from crude oil took our attention away from Agriculture and solid minerals development; as a result, our people, by circumstances they had never chosen, began a journey of necessity, from rural to urban areas in search of better livelihood. Problems of unemployment, corruption, wasteful execution of moribund Projects soon took over our National development sphere.
“As time goes by, Agriculture that was known as job for the assiduous and the affluent in the developed part of the world was relegated to the job of the peasants and less the privileged. Things changed quickly as oil boom brought about distortion in our production and consumption patterns, which gave a false twist to the Nigerian economy. Agriculture and mining which were the primary drivers of the economy were relegated in the 70’s for crude oil which now makes the country a virtual mono- product economy.
“Some of us still remember the glory days of the agricultural boom. Nigeria was a huge haven for agricultural products. We nostalgically remember the groundnut pyramids of Kano, the wonders performed with cotton proceeds, the booming business of hides and skins and the contribution of coffee and cocoa down south. One wonders how we got to the present mono economic state with all these successes,” he said.