Oil discovery changed the mentality of Nigerians, reduced the country’s productivity – Okonjo-Iweala

Nigeria’s Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has said that ‘before the country discovered oil the national economy was well-diversified.’

She added that once oil came on stream in Nigeria, and the non-oil sectors contracted, the psychology and mentality of the people changed, and a lot of entrepreneurial energy was now directed at rent-seeking activities like chasing after government contracts rather than productive investments.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

Speaking at the 2nd John A. Kufuor Global Development Series 2013 in Accra on Friday, the Finance Minister cautioned Ghana to illustrate greater transparency and accountability in managing the fledgling oil industry to avoid the challenges associated with the harnessing of the natural resource.

‘My sisterly advice is that you should be uncompromising on issues of transparency and accountability in the sector,’ she stressed.

She made the recommendation during a lecture on: ‘What Africa should do to claim the 21’st Century.’

She said before her country discovered oil the national economy was well-diversified, with agriculture contributing about 64 per cent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), whilst the manufacturing sector was netting five per cent.

However, ‘once oil came on stream, the non-oil sectors contracted, the psychology and mentality of the people changed, and a lot of entrepreneurial energy was now directed at rent-seeking activities liking chasing after government contracts rather than productive investments’, she said.

By 2010, agriculture had shrunk to about 40 per cent of GDP, and manufacturing slipped to about four per cent of GDP.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala said Ghana’s Petroleum Revenue Management Act was praised widely since the legislation specified how petroleum revenue should be collected and allocated.

She however warned that temptations could set in at some level and therefore recommended policymakers and leaders to be more transparent in the negotiations of contracts.

They should also do their homework thoroughly before beginning contract negotiations with foreign oil firms as well as investing the oil income in public infrastructure.

Dr Okonjo-Iweala, former Managing Director of the World Bank Group, called on African leaders to pay close attention job creation, addressing widening inequality, building resilience against climate shocks, financing development and deepening regional integration.

She noted that Africans could do better if they work harder at regional and sub-regional integration stressing: ‘Nigeria and Ghana can be a collective powerhouse of Africa and West Africa if we can look closely at economic ties we need to build to bind us…together.’

‘Infrastructure is certainly key, like making the West Africa Gas Pipeline, work better. But trade is also important and we need to facilitate commerce in our sub-region, making it easier for the private sector to manufacture and sell goods in our countries.’

According to GNA report, Dr Okonjo-Iweala Dr Ngozi observed that the necessary building blocks for development are finally falling in place, good economic policies, good governance, and investments in infrastructure and skills. ‘With these building blocks in place, we can create a platform for the private sector to grow,’ she said.

Mr John Agyekum Kufuor, Ghana’s former President noted that human and natural resources abound in Africa but due to un-groomed and un-nurtured leadership the people are living in abject poverty.

He said leadership is the most important and decisive factor in all human activity that is why his Foundation is seeking to establish good leaders by creating a Centre of Distinction that would train budding world leaders in all facets of human endeavour.

  1. Kayode Oduwale Reply

    Nigeria indeed needs to wake up and tap the potentials of the non-oil sectors of the economy.

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