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Clinton chides Nigerian leaders over mismanagement of oil wealth

By The Citizen
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Former United States President Bill Clinton  on Tuesday  flayed what he described as Nigeria's  failure  to efficiently manage and maximise  her  oil and human resources for the benefit of all, as he also canvassed ways through which Nigeria could effectively deal with Boko Haram insurgency and  other  forms of insecurity  in  the country.

Speaking  at  Thisday Newspapers awards   in Abeokuta,  Ogun State, Clinton argued that Nigeria  would do better if her  resources  were   efficiently managed by her leaders, adding that  poverty eradication, education, equitable distribution of wealth and job creation for the nation's teeming  unemployed  graduates would assist in taming the rising insurgencies in the country.

He said one of the ways the nation could eradicate her high level of poverty, especially in the North, was to   have powerful state and local governments.

Clinton, who added that  programmes to check Boko Haram  violence and insecurity   were  desirious, advised  that deliberate efforts should be made by the three tiers of  government to give 'economic opportunities' to Nigerians lagging behind .

'You have to somehow bring economic opportunity to the people who don't have it,' he  said,   'You have all these political problems - and now violence  - that appear to be rooted in religious differences and all the rhetoric of the Boko Harams and others, but the truth is the poverty rate in the North is three times of what it is in Lagos. '

He said that poverty remained the main driver for the attacks by Boko Haram and needed to be addressed by strong local and Federal Government programmes.

Pointing out  that 'too much inequality' was capable of limiting growth and opportunities among the citizens of a country, he stressed that a redistribution of wealth would go a long way in addressing the  violence and insecurity in Nigeria.

The former President  said, 'You have about three big challenges. First of all, like 90 per cent of the countries who have one big resource, you have a number of ways with  your own money. It shows you have different ways. Now you are at least not wasting the natural gas, you are developing and selling it through the pipelines. You have to do better job of managing the natural resources.

'Secondly, you have to somehow bring economic opportunities to the people who don't have. This is not a problem specific to Nigeria. In almost every place in the world, prosperity is heavily concentrated in and around urban areas. So you have all these political problems for now even violence .

'There appears to be political and religious differences and now,  the rhetoric of the Boko Haram and all that.  You have to have both powerful state and local governments and a national policy that work together.

'If you just keep trying to divide the power if you will, into loosening strategy, you have to figure out a way to have a strategy that will help share the prosperity.'

He  advised that  education should be used as a tool to tackle poverty among Nigerians, saying that if citizens were well educated,  they would be economically empowered and hence have less inclination towards violence.

Clinton  said governments at all levels needed  to tackle graduate unemployment which, according to him,  is  as a source of instability across the world.

He  said   Nigeria, which earns billions of dollars from her  oil industry and is a major supplier to the US,  must not take a 'divide the pie' approach towards attacking poverty.

'It's a losing strategy,' the former President said. 'You have to figure out a way to have a strategy that will have shared prosperity.'

Boko Haram killed at least 792 people last year in Nigeria, according to an Associated Press count..

On agriculture, the former US President called on  Nigeria and other African countries to maximise the  potential of  small farmers rather than dabbling in mechanised and commercial agriculture.

This, he said,  would ensure food security in the continent.

Also speaking on the occasion, Governor Ibikunle Amosun,  said that early contact of the people of the state with the Christian missionaries gave it a head start in Western education.

'We have the largest number of higher institutions in Nigeria. We believe education is the key to the fulfillment of our mandate. Indeed, educated people are easily governed,' he said.

Fifteen teachers and ex-teachers from primary, secondary and tertiary institutions from across the country were honoured with the Thisday Awards of N2m each. The Thisday Lifetime Awards were also given to others, including prominent industrialists, Oba Otudeko and Chief Razaq Okoya as well as the Osile of Oke-Ona Egba, Oba Adedapo Tejuosho. Amosun and his Delta State counterpart, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan,  also won awards.