REVISIT THE LAGOS PLAN OF ACTION
As soon as it became clear that the structural adjustment programme of the IMF and World Bank was unsuitable for African economies, African leaders embarked on a reform programme to repair the damage done in the 80s. That reform programme produced the Lagos Plan of Action from 1980-2005. The name of than plan had nothing to do with a plan for Lagos State other than it became a Lagos Action Plan because that was wherein the plan was drafted and conceived. The Lagos Action Plan was actually a plan for African economies. According to that report, what Nigeria and indeed the rest of Africa should do is to stop the unnecessary tapping and exportation of her resources to Europe and America. A classical example is with a Nigeria that has four comatose refineries and therefore exports her crude oil at rock bottom prices only to bring in refined crude oil at high cost. That in itself should not have been too much of an issue if the funds accruable from the importation of refined crude oil from Europe and America are not always ending in the deep pockets of Nigerian politicians.
Another solution that the Lagos Action Plan professes is for Africa to industrialize, industrialize and industrialize. A major reason why the G-7 group of industrialized nations leads the world today is that they realized early on that industries are the life blood of any economy – at any micro or macro levels industries provide jobs and put money in the pocket of people. The report is adamant that if Africa economies can control their raw materials and can industrialize, they are better positioned to engage in global trade. A country notorious for having put her people to work and which lends money to some of the biggest economies in the world is China. While Nigeria was complaining that she had too much money and didn't know what to do with it in the 80s, China already had a little village that can produce all the clothe-buttons the world would need in year.
What was curious about the Lagos Action Plan is the recommendation that African economies should seek foreign aid and assistance to help with their developmental needs. I have often found it difficult to stand this logic on its head and I guess this was why another report – the Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa – an agenda for action – was initiated. If African countries needed to borrow monies to develop her industries, wouldn't that be another case of neo-colonialism? I remember that that was what a great many African nations did. In doing that, they took so much money from the Paris Club of creditors to the extent that our children's children became indebted to Europe and America to the fourth and fifth generations.
And indeed, the Accelerated Development in Sub-Saharan Africa aka the Berg report came out to say that if Africa did not prioritize her Agricultural needs, did not increase her efficiency of resource use in the public sector; and come up with more suitable trade and exchange rate policies that would correct liberalizations generated from World Bank and IMF lending conditions, there would be problems in the long run.
There were other recommendations but I am not ready to go through with looking at them all. What interests me is that today the exchange rate of the dollar to the naira is unbelievably high; and we cannot with any certainty say that we have prioritized our agricultural policies by taking proceeds of oil to develop any agro-base industry in Nigeria. What happened during the Obasanjo and Shagari years were two agricultural programmes – Operation Feed the Nation and the Green Revolution – while one of them eventually morphed into Obasanjo Farms in Nigeria, the other fizzled away into obscurity. The contention then was that you needn't have to have a programme for agriculture before Nigerians were to cultivate a culture of food cultivation. That we have found out was an error in our judgement because today Nigeria imports her fish, rice and chicken. Rather than handle our problems the way recommended by this plan of action over the years, our leaders have seemingly discarded this plan and are busy hopping on the plane from one country to the other seeking easy solutions from countries that would not help us for free. As a matter of fact, from Olusegun Obasanjo to Umaru Yar'Adua to Goodluck Jonathan and now to Muhammadu Buhari, there has been no plan of action for a strong economy for Nigeria. All that these people have done is set agenda – 7-point Agenda, Fresh Air Agenda, Transformation Agenda and 'change' agenda based on the 'body language' of the current president.
This is not the way to go. While our leaders appear to completely ignore the merits inherent in this Lagos Plan of Action together with the Berg as enunciated above, others in the developed world like Canada are holding fast to it. The leitmotif is that over the last ten years, the African landscape has experienced such dynamism to the extent that science, technology and innovation are emerging as key drivers of social and economic development. Therefore there is a plan on ground which our governments appear to be ignorant of, that the level and pattern of any assistance that most developed countries would give any developing country must be 'determined in the framework of programmes of action prepared by individual governments that address critical development issues'. From certain documents here at my disposal, I can see that Kenya has a Science, Technology and Innovativeness Act 2013, and has made commitments to increase its budget for research and development in the areas highlighted by their 2013 Act. In East and Central Africa, there is an Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research formed to coordinate and promote regional partnerships. In the document I have here before me, Nigeria conspicuously absent.
I believe that governance in Nigeria must be about plans that take more than one head to factorize. It is about well wrought policies that attract a likelihood of support from those who identify the merit inherent in that well-wrought plan. Our government should look at the Lagos Plan of Action again and identify how it can be put to use for the benefit of an economy often tossed here and there from the inconsistencies in the international oil market.
***Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku is Communications manager with the Africa Network for Environment and Economic Justice, ANEEJ.