Since independence in 1960, successive governments in Nigeria have put in place various economic blueprints to ensure rapid development of the country. So far, Nigeria has experimented four 5- year development plans, one Structural Adjustment Programme, two 3- year rolling plans, four Visions and Strategies, including the recently launched Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP, by the Buhari administration.
Most of these economic roadmaps are referred to as National Rolling Plans. The first post-independence National rolling plan was introduced in June 1962 to cover a period of 7 years. The objectives were to establish Nigeria firmly as a united, strong and self-reliant nation.
It was also aimed at making the country a great and dynamic economy, a just and egalitarian society as well as a land of abundant opportunities for all citizens. The implementation of this plan was not so impressive probably because of the political uncertainties of that period that led to the Nigeria- Biafra civil war in 1967.
The second National Development Plan covered the period 1970-74. The Plan envisaged an average annual growth rate of 6.6 percent in real Gross Domestic Product, GDP. Similarly, Gross domestic investment was estimated at 1.596 million Pounds, of which the equivalent of 495 million Pounds would be financed by a net inflow of foreign capital.
This was followed by the third National Development Plan, spanning between 1975 and 1980. The Plan is seen by many as the biggest and most ambitious which the country has ever launched. Perhaps, the reason for this impression is because the plan focused on convergence of Federal and State governments on the same result agenda and approach, response to geopolitical realities and dynamics, decentralisation of decision making and harmonisation of Local Development Plans.
The fourth National Plan from 1981 to 1985 called for the establishment of a benchmark for population censuses through the activities of a newly established National Population Commission. The Plan sought a decline in the fertility rate through the voluntary use of family planning services and an increase in formal education. During the Plan period, liberalizing the abortion law was under consideration.
Efforts were made to improve the delivery of health care to reduce child, infant, and maternal mortality and morbidity rates. The Plan also called for the intensification of efforts to prevent illegal immigration and stressed the need for government to encourage trained and skilled personnel to remain in the country.
To combat over urbanisation, the document recommended that government should pursue a policy of integrated urban and rural development. It is obvious that the Plan, just as the previous ones, was well intended. In the same vein, the period between 2006 and 2010 witnessed the 5th National Development Plan which recognized ‘’gender-based violence as a critical area of concern, particularly in cases relating to girls’ and women’s rights and its contribution to the spread of HIV’’.
This was an ambitious document which not only recognised the economic rights of the people, but also their physical wellbeing. In addition to all these Rolling Plans, successive governments, at different stages, introduced a number of policies and programmes to address the development needs of Nigeria.
For instance, the Obasanjo military regime in 1976, introduced Operation Feed the Nation, OFN, to encourage Nigerians to return to agriculture, which was the mainstay of the Nation’s economy before the advent of Crude Oil. There were also programmes like Back to Land, Directorate of Food, Road and Rural Infrastructure, DIFRRI, National Poverty Elimination Programme, NAPEP, and the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy, NEEDS.
Government also set up the National Directorate of Employment, NDE. All these programmes and policies were intended to harness available natural and human resources for employment generation, poverty reduction and smooth transition from traditional to a modern industrial economy that would serve as catalyst for the Nation’s economic development and growth. Besides all these, Yar’adua administration in 2009, launched Vision 20: 2020, a long-term development goal to propel Nigeria to the league of the top 20 economies of the world by 2020.
It was intended that the attainment of the Vision would enable Nigeria to achieve a high standard of living for its citizens. The Vision was conceived by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2006, with six cardinal points of good governance and a capable state, human resource development and a knowledge-based economy, private sector led development, productive high value and market-oriented agriculture as well as regional and international integration. All these were in addition to some declarations, such as Education for all by the year 2020 and Housing for all by the year 2020. A combination of all these Plans, Visions and Strategies were expected to lift Nigeria out of her present economic woes.
At this juncture, many questions arise: why is Nigeria still backward in development indices in spite of the various Development Plans? Why is the country still being counted among the poorest countries in the world? Why is it that most Nigerians are still living below poverty line in the midst of plenty? A close look at these Rolling Plans shows that the problem is not in the policies and programmes contained in the Plans, but in the implementation.
It is quite unfortunate that most of these programmes suffered some setbacks at the various stages of their implementation. For instance, steel development, captured in one of the rolling plans, and which led to the establishment of the multi-billion Dollar Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill in Kogi State, has remained a still birth up till now. The mill has never produced crude steel, more than 30 years after the construction of the first phase of the complex. There were other steel rolling plants established in some states which are now moribund. The story is the same in other key sectors of the economy, including health, education, transportation and water supply.
If successive governments were serious in the implementation of the steel development programme, Nigeria would have now been in the process of establishing a formidable building industry like other countries. It must be noted that the success of the industrial revolution in developed countries depends, to a large extent, on the strength and inherent uses of steel. Due to its strength and durability, steel has also become a frequently utilised ingredient in the aviation industry.
The same thing applies to Aluminium development plan, which led to establishment of the gigantic Aluminium Smelter Plant in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State. That Company was set up to produce tonnes of Aluminium annually for local consumption and for export. But a few years after its establishment, the performance of the company is nothing to write home about.
The importance of Aluminium in the construction of windows and doors cannot be over emphasised. Apart from this, most airplanes are made of aluminium, which is a strong, yet lightweight metal. If this industry had been well developed as contained in the third Rolling Plan, by now, Nigeria would have launched herself into the league of the world exporters of steel and aluminium for the construction of vehicles and aircraft.
This would have provided the country another source of revenue earning, away from oil. While some projects only existed on paper, others were abandoned halfway, not because they were not well intended, but because of corruption and lack of political will on the part of political leaders. What we see now is unnecessary attention on oil as the main source of revenue generation. Nigeria’s infrastructural deficits exist in all the sectors, despite her abundant natural and human resources, and this has contributed to the increase in the level of poverty and hunger among the citizenries.
If Nigeria must join the league of developed Nations, political leaders must wake up to their responsibilities and revisit the different policies enunciated in the various National Development Plans with a view of implementing them. The current calls for restructuring will not yield any meaningful results without laying a solid foundation for national development. It took unflinching political will and prudent management of resources for Singapore and the Asian Tigers to reach where they are now, in terms of technology and industrialisation. For far too long, Nigeria has been lagging behind in infrastructural development, thereby subjecting the citizens to untold hardship. The country has what it takes to make her a great nation, self reliant and capable of producing enough for domestic consumption and for export. The time to achieve this is now.