The Federal Government yesterday blamed the nation’s economic woes on the Ibrahim Babangida’s military administration.
The government said the country was yet to recover from the Naira’s first devaluation in 1986, when former President Babangida introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP).
Information Minister, Labaran Maku, who revealed this, said the country had since the devaluation faced high unemployment rate, crises in its educational sector as well as collapse of industries.
But in reacting to the accusation, Babangida said the minister was suffering from ‘hallucination,’ and was too ‘carried away with his saxophonist job to remember simple history.’
Maku, who spoke at the flagship interview programme of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), tagged ‘NAN Forum,’ insisted that unemployment and falling standards in education, which began in 1986, have continued till date, leading to deindustrialization and social tensions.
He said the 1986 devaluation was also responsible for the problems in the Niger Delta and other parts of the country where unemployment has given birth to youth restiveness.
‘Why has youth unemployment mounted? Because over the last 20 years, the economy has not grown, there has not been any manufacturing.
‘Following the devaluation of the Naira in 1986, by 1990, almost all the factories closed down in several places because Nigeria was a capital goods-importing country.’
‘So the moment you devalued the Naira, the capacity to import the goods that we stored in our industries failed and so we entered a period of what I call de-industralisation.’
‘And de-industralisation means that all those that have been leaving school in the last 20 to 25 years have no jobs, because that devaluation of mid 1980s, in my opinion, led to the crisis in industry.’
Maku said prior to the devaluation, Nigeria was manufacturing goods, and had the Peugeot and Volkswagen assembly plants and was then moving towards local production.
He noted that with naira devaluation, the cost of capital goods went up and as such local manufacturing was no longer profitable as companies could not even sell at the value of manufacturing.
‘So because we devalued our naira, the cost of capital goods went up, our industries crashed. Since that period up till now, Nigeria has been struggling, struggling; that is why we became a ‘tokunbo’ nation.
We were affording new cars before, but we have become a ‘tokunbo’ nation since that time because of this development,’ he added.’
He said: ‘You had what we call the huge brain drain that has continued up to this moment and that brain drain affected the quality of education in our universities, in our polytechnics and higher institutions as well as other levels of education.’
‘That again created a new graduate class that no longer had the qualities of the 1970s in terms of training, in terms of capacity because the schools suffered also devaluation, so this compounded the problem.’
‘The entire workforce of the Federal Government, including the police, the paramilitary is not more than one million people and we are talking of a population of 167 million people, so the rest, where will they go,’ he queried.
The minister said, ‘In every country of the world, they (the unemployed) go into the private sector; into manufacturing, into industries; into the informal and formal sectors of the economy.’
But Babangida, through his Media Assistant, Kassim Afegbua, dismissed Maku as an unserious person with whom he would not join issues.
He asked: ‘Maku is just hallucinating. Did he (Maku) not criticise the proposed removal of fuel subsidy in 1988 as a student at the University of Jos?
Does he maintain the same position today? Has he not shamelessly been saying removal of subsidy would be the best for the country against popular public opinion?’
Babangida said, ‘He can’t be serious. He is a product of double speak just to keep his lousy job. We will certainly not join issues with him. He is too carried away with his saxophonist job to remember simple history.’