By Simon Ateba/Lagos
President Muhammadu Buhari said on Wednesday that Nigeria has remained an underdeveloped country because of bad habits that if changed, Africa’s most populous country would change. He has a dream, he explained, that one day, Nigeria would consume what it produces.
“For many years we depended on oil for foreign exchange revenues. In the days of high oil prices, we did not save. We squandered,” Mr. Buhari told a joint session of the National Assembly during his 2017 budget presentation in Abuja on Wednesday.
He added: “We wasted our large foreign exchange reserves to import nearly everything we consume. Our food, Our clothing, Our manufacturing inputs, Our fuel and much more.
“In the past 18 months when we experienced low oil prices, we saw our foreign exchange earnings cut by about 60%, our reserves eroded and our consumption declined as we could not import to meet our needs.
“By importing nearly everything, we provide jobs for young men and women in the countries that produce what we import, while our own young people wander around jobless. By preferring imported goods, we ensure steady jobs for the nationals of other countries, while our own farmers, manufacturers, engineers, and marketers, remained jobless.
“I will stand my ground and maintain my position that under my watch, that old Nigeria is slowly but surely disappearing and a new era is rising in which we grow what we eat and consume what we make.
“We will CHANGE our habits and we will CHANGE Nigeria.
“By this simple principle, we will increasingly grow and process our own food, we will manufacture what we can and refine our own petroleum products.
“We will buy ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods. We will encourage garment manufacturing and Nigerian designers, tailors and fashion retailers. We will patronize local entrepreneurs. We will promote the manufacturing powerhouses in Aba, Calabar, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Nnewi, Onitsha, and Ota.
“From light manufacturing to cement production and petrochemicals, our objective is to make Nigeria a new manufacturing hub”.