By Ayo Akinfe
(1) With the global crude oil market dancing Atilogwu over the last few weeks as Donald Trump continues to make the world an uncertain place with his clownish behaviour, Nigeria needs to wake up to the reality that she can no longer rely on petroleum to fund her budget. Somehow, this reality has not dawned on our people in Aso Rock but very soon they will be hit by a sucker punch but alas, by then it will be too late
(2) Those of you who remember Nigeria’s first oil boom will recollect that during the Murtala/Obasanjo era, crude oil was selling for $40 a barrel when Obasanjo handed over to Shagari in 1979. By 1982, prices had dropped to $8 a barrel. Up until the day he died, President Shagari believed he was unfairly blamed for Nigeria’s economic woes, saying he had no control over global oil prices. He is correct about that but he is to blame for not diversifying the economy and relying on one commodity to run a national economy
(3) President Buhari is toeing the same path of destruction. Nigeria’s 2019 budget is predicated on us producing 2m barrels of oil a day at a price of $60 a barrel. For starters, our Opec quota is only 1.68m barrels a day and to make matters worse, crude oil is currently selling for about $57 a barrel. I will not be surprised if we can only fund half of the $28bn 2019 budget the way things are going
(4) Now, this is where state governors need to step in and fill the vacuum. We have a Nigerian Governor’s Forum and from what I can see, these lazy governors are the ones who can liberate Nigeria from poverty. If our 36 states match the $25bn or so the federal government is expecting from crude oil receipts in 2019, whatever Donald Trump does will have no impact on the Nigerian economy. I am surprised that alarm bells are not ringing
(5) As is usually the case, in these kind of scenarios, everyone is waiting for someone else to do something. Well, I think the way forward is for us to start calling out several governors and telling them – Hey, it is you we are looking up to as the person who will get us out of this mess. Today, I am going to start with Governor David Umahi of Ebonyi State because he is sitting on a potential gold mine as the Okposi and Uburu salt lakes fall within his domain
(7) Ebonyi State’s nickname is Salt of the Nation because of the large salt deposits it sits on. However, Ebonyi has not come to Nigeria’s rescue at a time when we badly need her to. Do you know that the global salt economy is expected to total $14.1bn in 2020? Governor Umahi must tell is how much of the world total of 335m tonnes Ebonyi will produce and how much it will generate in foreign exchange earnings
(8) Do you know that during the Nigerian Civil War, the Okposi Salt Lake supplied Biafra with all its needs? After a series of tests, scientists declared that the brine from Okposi Salt Lakes had the highest salinity among all the lakes in Eastern Nigeria. They built an industry close to the lake and taught local women new production techniques, including the use of alom to effect sedimentation of dirt before decantation and ultimate filtration. The now dilapidated industry still stands as a monument of the glory that was Biafra. What stops Governor Umahi from reviving it?
(9) In 1947 when India gained independence, she imported salt from the UK, but today, India is the world’s third largest salt producer with an annual output of 27m tonnes, accounting for about 9% of global production. The sector is also a major employer as there are about 11,799 salt manufacturers in India
(10) With most of the world’s oceans polluted with plastic, salt producers are actually looking for uncontaminated sources of raw materials and Ebonyi can easily provide this. I am throwing down a challenge to all my Ebonyi friends today. Oya, Nigeria needs you so it is time for Ebonyians to stand up and be counted!