By Luka Binniyat & Adamu Shuaibu
ABUJA—FORMER Minister of Finance and Managing Director of the World Bank, Mrs Ngozi Okonjo_Iweala, yesterday, joined forces with the former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke and Prof. Pat Utomi of Lagos Business School, among others, to carpet the Nigerian leadership for letting down its people in the past 50 years.
Okonjo-Iweala who was speaking at the public presentation of Next Generation Nigeria Report in Abuja which they took part in making, said the findings which were done with empirical evidence revealed that youths were the worst hit.
She said the country urgently needed to create almost 25 million jobs over the next ten years noting that “the crisis in the job market will worsen rapidly as growing numbers of young Nigerians enter the workforce.”
Director General of the Nigerian Economic Submit Group, Chief Frank Nweke, Jnr. Who also spoke, said the country had wasted several opportunities at attaining development, but noted that hope was not lost.
Presenting the main report which was sponsored by the British Council, in which Ngozi, Utomi, Duke, Nweke and Lamido Ado Ibrahim (Chiroman Kano) and others co-authored, Nweke said: “During the past 30 years, the Nigerian economy has stagnated, in sharp contrast to the fortunes of such natural competitors as Indonesia.
“The 1990s was a lost decade for Nigeria with per capital GDP falling to below 1980 levels. At present, health and education standards are low, especially in disadvantaged regions and among the poor. Many young Nigerians are ill equipped for life in a modern economy. Young women are especially likely to be excluded from opportunities."
Youth, not oil
The report, however, noted that, by 2030, Nigeria would be one of the few countries in the world that had young workers in plentiful supply. It stated: “Youth, not oil, will be the country’s most precious resource in the 21st century.”
On the way forward, the report recommended that Nigeria needed to create almost 25 million jobs over the next ten years if it was to offer work to new entrants, and halve current unemployment.
It said: “Nigeria needs to develop the infrastructure that will underpin a world class economy, spending up to an additional four per cent of GDP on this task.
It should diversify away from oil, with an emphasis on sectors that will improve employment prospects for young people, while removing obstacles to economic growth and private enterprise. With the right policies for the next generation, Nigeria’s aspiration to become one of the world’s largest 20 economies is in reach.”
It warned that if the
nation’s leaders made the wrong choices today, the country would suffer
the consequences for many decades to come, adding that her development breakthrough could be lost forever.
The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Mr. Robert Scot Dewar, was also at the presentation regretted that Nigeria was yet to match much of her South East Asian contemporaries in terms of development in spite of its huge resource base.
The global boss of the British Council, Vernon Elis, in his comments said that if Nigeria invested in its young, it was investing in the future, adding that all over the country, young people were very acrimonious towards the political leadership.