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NEEDS: Any Sustainable Development? Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Henry Ekwuruke, Nigeria Jan 6, 2007
Technology   Opinions
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Development is a phenomenon associated with changes in human conditions through the use of their creative energies. It is the unending improvement in the capacity of individuals and society to control and manipulate the forces of nature in order to live a better and more rewarding life.

Development implies creating the skills and capacity to do things: greater freedom, self confidence, creativity, self discipline, responsibility and mutual well being.

Nigeria has faced, however, numerous challenges in achieving sustainable development since independence in 1960 in spite of its abundant human and natural resources. From the time Nigeria gained independence on October 1, 1960 to date, repeated efforts have been made to define a suitable framework for socio-political and economic development. In this regard, not less than five national development plans have been inaugurated. The first between 1962 and 1968, followed by the second development plan, 1970 to 1974, aimed at accelerating post-war reconstruction.

The third national development plan, 1975 to 1980, tried to jump-start industrial through the strategy of import substitution. This was followed under the military regime headed by General Ibrahim Babangida by the introduction of a Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP). A subsequent National Rolling Plan was instituted between 1990 and 1992 to consolidate the ‘achievements’ of the SAP and to address the problems that still hindered economic development. Vision 2010 was yet another development plan initiated by another military ruler, General Sani Abacha. It was meant to herald socio-economic prosperity for the citizens of Nigeria.

It is still worthy to note that all these development plans had the intentions of doing the following:

Developing a stable broad-based democratic system;
Generating employment opportunities and meeting the basic needs of the people;
Achieving food security by massively investing in agriculture;
Investing in education;
Developing critical sectors of the Nigerian economy;
Establishing an effective macroeconomic framework that attracts investment;
Directing the formal and informal sectors of the economy;
Promoting economic stability and sustaining non-inflationary growth and social justice;
Nurturing independent and responsible media, labour unions, NGOs and other institutions of civil society;
Developing an effective and efficient public service, judiciary and law enforcement system;
Reorienting Nigerian society along the path of honesty, probity, God consciousness, mutual respect, trust, tolerance, gender sensitivity and co-operation;
Ensuring sincere and committed leadership and an enlightened and empowered citizenry; and strengthening and sustaining Nigerian’s leadership role in Africa.

All the above development plans were brilliantly formulated but suffered from deficiency of scope, poor implementation, budgetary indiscipline and general corruption.

When the civilian administration of President Obasanjo came into limelight in 1999, the government gave Nigerian’s at home and abroad a lot of hope for a better Nigeria where unemployment, poor educational institutions, lack of portable water, poor power generation, non-existent health care system, inadequate infrastructure and insecurity of lives and properties would be a thing of the past. Regrettably, seven years have elapsed, with these expectations far from being met.

Despite being a signatory to the Commission for Africa and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) with the focus on halting poverty and hunger, infant mortality, illiteracy, provision of food and shelter by 2015, on current trends, Nigeria will not only miss all the MDGs by 2015, but also would likely take another 50 years to reduce the high level of poverty and hunger in the country.

The key economic platform of the Obasanjo administration is the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS), which was launched in 2003. It is set out of the government’s economic policy objectives, part of which is to create about 700,000 jobs over a period of seven years, to reduce poverty, to increase employment generation and also to decelerate inflation through the stabilization of the exchange rate.

However, the propositions in the NEEDS document are largely nebulous as they have failed to spell out, for instance, how the 700,000 jobs will be created. Are these jobs to b created by the three tiers of government, the private sector or some foreign investors? Besides, the NEEDS blueprint has failed to specify the stages of implementation of Nigeria’s economic reform programmes. More so, not even the chief economic adviser to the president and head of the Nigerian economic team, Dr. Osita Ogbu, could say precisely the current stage of implementation.

At this time, Nigeria’s deteriorating economic situation is baffling. One major problem confronting our nation is the issue of sustaining growth. There is therefore an urgent need fro us to be able to improve and sustain our means of development so that we may not find ourselves at the mercy of the unpredictable forces of globalization. We need also to ask ourselves serious questions. How do we balance the need for development and growth against the need to protect the natural environment? How to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs and aspirations of the future generations?

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Henry Ekwuruke

Henry Ekwuruke is Executive Director of the Development Generation Africa International.
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