Thursday, 12 January 2017

5 things Nigerians must do to get out of recession this year—Gen. Sam Momah


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General (Dr.) Sam Momah (CFR, Ph-D) former Minister of Science & Technology of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

In this second part of our end of the year 2016 encounter with former Minister of Science & Technology, General Sam Momah (CFR) in Abuja, he revealed the 5 basic things Nigerians need to do in the New Year (2017) in order to escape the pang of hunger and social mystery. Momah, who unveiled his 8th book “Nigeria’s Break-Up: Great Consequences and Solutions” to the media is a soldier, author and engineer. He told Asabeafrika during a media briefing why Nigerians should stop thinking about oil. Enjoy the excerpts.
 

General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'No free meal in 2017'
Sir, recession is biting hard and the cost of dollars and living condition is getting quite unbearable. How can government make life bearable for Nigerians? 
Yes, that is also a point but dollars is an international denomination that is used. We sell our oils and we get our money in dollars and because we don’t export anything, we import virtually everything, we have to pay in dollars, and that is why you found the dollar’s exchange rate to become a very important denominator in the growth of the economy. But if we start producing and we eat what we produce, then, of course we don’t need to import so much and with that, whatever dollars exchange rate is, it will not affect us.
General Sam Momah's new book launched on December 20th, 2016
But now, since we have to import even the food we eat, we are paying in dollars and that is why dollars is a major factor in our economy and people are trying to now make it a big deal. Even some schools (In Nigeria) will prefer you paying them in dollars which is wrong. But we can only defend it by being productive. Productivity is key, you cannot legislate it because if you legislate it, they will go underground and be collecting it. But if you make your currency strong, they won’t be able to useless it. There was a time Naira was acceptable in Europe, you could go to London and buy things in Naira because Naira was strong. But now we can’t do that because we are not producing.
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'We can stop recession in 5 ways in 2017'


So, what can government do to stop this recession?
To stop recession, we must be able to feed ourselves. I think Government in conjunction with the state should go into massive agricultural program. I have not seen that happen. We must make it a duty that everybody including civil servants wherever you are, you should have a little garden behind your house, you should rear some chicken or something because that is what they do in Israel and some of these advanced countries. Everybody owns little cattle, chicken farm or something. They have tomato garden or something and you find out that, collectively, what it sums up nationwide at the end of the day is a lot. And you find that their people are healthier. We must go back to what Nigeria used to be in the 50s and 60s when our parent had that knack of having some gardens or farms at the back of the house to generate some agricultural products. That is one; secondly, we must not joke with power.
General Sam Momah's book on technology as a tool of economic power
Power is very, very crucial. We must restore our power capacity, we must improve on it. Today, it is about three thousand mega watt, which is very, very low compared to an earlier six thousand mega watt and that is because of the activities of the militants who are destroying our gas pipe lines. This is what we are saying, that the militants cannot be destroying the pipelines and hoping that government will now be paying their bills and developing infrastructures. Power is very, very important because you need power to energize your factories. Today, most of the factories are closing down because they can’t stand on private generators. So, power is very crucial and to wade off recession, we must find a way to make peace in the Niger-Delta and be able to make sure that our power source is assured. And lastly, Nigerians must realize that, to get out of recession, all hands must be on deck. Our life style must change. Today, people are used to driving luxury cars and all that, it has to change. We have to change our lifestyle. We have to cut down on excesses, we have to realize that to regain and revive the economy we must sacrifice a bit. This is what I think must be done to come out of the recession.
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'If General Buhari's loan will give uninterrupted power among many others, i will support the decision'
The President recently put up a request for $30 billion Dollars loan from International Banks and the National Assembly debunked the request with strong criticism from eminent Nigerians like former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Do you think Mr. President’s request is okay?
Gen. Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'In 2017, Nigerians must learn to feed themselves'
As a person, I don’t believe in taking loan and I know if Mr. President too is averse to taking loan. For him to have decided to take loan, it must have really been a very sad decision for him to take because it is not the best. But you take such decisions when you have nowhere else to run to. Maybe he knows details of what is going on and maybe, he knows the details of how bankrupt the economy is. And of course, he now wants to see how he can leave a legacy of development behind. So, if for instance, the $30 billion Dollars loan will give us a refinery, maybe one in each zone; if the loans will crisscross Nigeria with rail, if it will build our water transport system. If it can give us a twenty megawatt power capacity, I will say ‘take it’. But we have to know what the $30 billion Dollars is going to be used for. It has to be enshrined and understood by everybody because we can’t go into the debt trap that we fell into before Obasanjo came and bailed us from that trap. If the money will crisscross Nigeria with rail, fine, because we are tired of road traveling. Nigerians thinks that the best way to travel is by road but in most developed countries of the world, it is by rail. Because it is a mass transit and it is less expensive. Cars are supposed to take you within the city from point A to point B if there are no buses to do so because cars are a luxury and that is why it is called ‘luxury car’.
Another of General Sam Momah's book
But now, we are using luxury something for everything. If he can crisscross Nigeria with rail and if I can just join a rail and within two hours I am in my village, why not, something that should take me many hours why not? So, it depends what the loan is to be used for. And based on his integrity as a patriot, I believe he will give a good account of the money. If the money is going to be used for all of these things, let us be quite categorical and specific about them so that everybody can say ‘ok, let us support Mr. President on the loan issue’.
The General's most auspicious book 'Nigeria: Beyond Divorce'
 Security, Corruption and the Economy are the three cardinal agenda of President Buhari’s government, this he promised during his campaign. Do you think he has achieved all?
The General with his family & Eminent Nigerians including present Minister of Science & Technology during his 70th birthday in 2013
Well, there is definitely an attempt to try to achieve most of it. First is security; at least, Boko Haram has been virtually castrated and no longer a force to reckon with. Even though they are still having skirmishes here and there but I strongly believe Boko Haram has been well decimated and dealt with. But then, in terms of social security, armed robbery, kidnapping and of course, the distortion of government’s assets in the South, I think a lot ought to be also done, particularly in the Niger-Delta. I am happy that of recent there seems to be a lull in the destruction of pipeline and I want to say well done to those who have succeeded in convincing the Niger-Delta militants to drop their sword and at least, listen to the voice of wisdom and give peace a chance. We hope that will continue so that we will be able to have a more meaningful development of our economy. The other aspect is corruption; we can all attest to the fact that Mr. President is very, very serious about fighting corruption. He does not tolerate corruption in any fashion no matter who is involved.  For that, we doff our hats and hope that he tries to take it to a logical conclusion and try and make it all inclusive because now, the war seems to be purely on federal level. What happens to the states and Local Government Areas?
L-R: The GDA, Mr. Paul Ukpabio of The Nation, General Sam Momah, Mr. Jude Leonard of Daily Trust and Mr. John Alechenu of The PUNCH Newspaper
Are they also fighting corruption the way we are fighting in Abuja? No. so, it bothers me. Unless the base is broadened to cover the entire country, it looks like; eventually corruption will just bounce back. So, there is the need to broaden the base and ensure that every arm of government participates in the anti-corruption war. For instance, the Treasury Single Account (TSA), you know that the senate does not comply with it. The whole senate does not believe in it and that is one of the anti-corruption measures I believe government can use to block most of the loopholes of corruption. If the senate cannot even support the TSA, how much corruption are you fighting? Something ought to be done and that is why I am talking about ethical re-orientation of Nigerians.
Another of General Sam Momah's book
You think we need ethical re-orientation?
 It is an issue for the front burner and I believe that Nigerians should assist Mr. President to ensure that corruption is erased in our society because without that, we will find that the states will continue to get poorer than the citizens. Nigeria is a country where the citizens are richer than their country and that is a shame. And I think it is only this anti-corruption scheme that can stop this misnomer. Then, on the economy too, I can see that definitely, the economy is not doing well. We are hungry, there is no food on the table, things are expensive, inflation is over 80%, unemployment is over 50% and the indices are very poor.
The GDA & Mr. Paul Ukpabio listens to the General
The percentage of doing business in Nigeria is one of the poorest in the world. So, investors don’t come because our system of doing business in Nigeria is much roughed with so many obstacles to cross. Because of it, the economy is still in the woods and I believe we can still survive it. I pray the new budget will diffuse and nullify recession, I pray it does. I pray it does because the fears are there because if you look at the budget, almost 54% of it is still going to recurrent and 46% is for capital project, as long as recurrent is still higher than capital, it will be difficult to rise the economy. Most active economies in the world, the ratio is about 70-30. Recurrent will be 30% and capital 70%.
General Sam Momah gives Mr. Jude Leonard of Daily Trust a copy of his new book in Abuja
That is when you know that truly, capital development will take place, but because we are too many, there is problem. This is the problem I have been highlighting; there must be deliberate effort to control our population. Population of Nigeria is the highest growing rate in the world, 2.6% that is the growth rate of our population and it is the highest. Today, we are the 6th largest in population escalation in the world. And the prediction is that, by year 2050, Nigeria will be about the largest in population. After China, India, it would be Nigeria. Now we have USA, Brazil and Indonesia. And then, Nigeria coming in; but by 2050, we will overtake Brazil, Indonesia and USA because USA is the 3rd largest in the world now in population with two hundred and something million people. But if you look at Nigeria’s land space, it cannot take that kind of population unless there is a deliberate action to control our population.  I feel so serious about it because I know when I was in the secondary school in the 60s, we had only a class of 30 and out of which only about 25 or 20 will make it to take school cert. Then, our principal used to notice and mention every one of us by name; I mean the entire school, because the entire school was made up of a total of about 120 or 100 pupils. But now, go to schools, one class will have over 50 students. Some will have day and night class because population is exploding. Go to universities, the same thing. But this does not happen in Britain.
General Sam Momah with eminent Nigerians during the launching of his star book 'Nigeria: Beyond Divorce'
In 1960, our population was almost at par with Britain, about 30 million we were then. Today, Britain is just about 50 million but Nigeria is 180 million. So, you can see why the schools in Britain are stable, economy is stable because population rate is not off the roof. I keep saying there is no amount of re-structuring or anti-corruption whatever can save us unless we do something about our population. I am not saying government should kill people but let there be a dedicated effort like China did. Let there be incentives given to people to go and work. The truth is bitter but the truth has to be told.
General Sam Momah's book on the amalgamation of Nigeria

Right now, there is hunger in the land and people really feel that government has let them down. How do you think people’s hope can be awakened in line with the change mantra?
The General gives his book to Mr. Soni Daniel of Vanguard Newspaper, Abuja
Well, like you said, many of us believe in Mr. President because we happen to know his track record and we still believe that he still has that resilience in character traits. And the way he won the election was miraculous and I believe that, maybe, God has a plan to use him at this time and this is why I am making my appeal that he should buy the idea of the national conference, he should buy the idea of re-structuring and do certain things that will ensure that we lay a foundation for modern Nigeria. The Nigeria we have today is the old Nigeria; we want to see a modern Nigeria of which he should be privileged to lay the foundation. If he can do these things that are mentioned here (Inside his book), then, there will be hope for Nigeria.  But if the issues I mentioned here are not tackled, well, I hope there are other solutions. But, I believe these are cardinal issues. The National Conference and re-structuring are cardinal for the future survival of Nigeria and that is the fact, they must be taken seriously and I hope Mr. President will give it a good bearing and ensure that he puts in motion the machinery to have a fruitful national conference that will set the foundation for a modern Nigeria.
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'President Buhari must brief the electorate once in a month'
You were the former Principal Staff Officer to General Buhari in the 1970s when he was still an officer. Do you still have his ears on national matter and if no, what will you tell him if you are to meet him today? 
Let me put it simply, what I will advise Mr. President are many but I think I have mentioned five of them in my book. The first is I will advise him to be making monthly broadcast to Nigerians. It is important because there is communication gap. There is a need for a monthly broadcast as the people will like to hear from him because people so rely on him; they believe he has the magic wand. So, whatever word he utters is like gold to Nigerians. So, there is need for monthly broadcast. Secondly, I will advise him to start visiting the states so that he can interact with the state and know what is on ground in those states.
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'Nigerians love to see their President no matter how bad the situation is'
The people want to see their President. The Governors alone cannot do it; some of them might not even share his ideas. But by visiting their states, he can push them to work and carry out his ideals. Like Obasanjo did many years ago in Dodan Barracks, he got behind Dodan Barracks with a hoe and psychologically, everybody started having gardens behind their homes, doing farming. And of course, Shagari came and followed that same green revolution which was a partial success. We had rice silos and other farm innovation that brought surplus food to the country. People are hungry but the lands are there, you can put a few pieces of corn in the soil and it will bring multitude of harvest. Rather than going hungry, do something. That is where the economy is leading us to. Nobody will come and give you free launch any more. If you see the cost of ordinary garri and rice, you will be shocked. So, if you now sow something that will give your family daily bread, it is in your own interest. I believe government should find a way to ginger people to know that if all hands are on deck, we can feed ourselves and let’s not wait for the industrial farmers who will come with tractors or absentee farmers.
General Sam Momah to Asabeafrika....'Biafra broke the Spirit of Nigeria'
How Biafra broke Nigeria…
 Then, the second question on the Biafra thing, it is a pity some of you were young during the time of the Biafra War. I was born in the north, I grew up in the north and Nigeria was a country to belong, a country to really cherish before the military coup. As children, we just play around and we used to interact. Whatever your language is, I try to learn your language and you try to learn my language. That was what Nigeria was before Biafra. After the war, states were created and division started coming up. And up till now, people are still asking for their own state, which means there will be no end to this. That is why I am talking of provinces; so that we can now scatter the thing to enable each nationality have its own group. Biafra war ended but the intrigues was there. Then, the oil boom of the 1970s happened and people now started moving from the villages to the city. They became contractors, made money and some people became rich over night. So, those who couldn’t make it, now decided to go into armed robbery to get from those who have made it and that was how armed robbery started in the 1970s; and later on, they were able to checkmate armed robbery because eventually the oil boom started weighing down and there was not so much money again. So, the next thing is that we had some oil workers and people started kidnapping these oil workers—the white people, and used them to bargain for money, and that was how kidnapping started. Eventually most of those white men decided to leave Nigeria and when they now left, they now targeted Nigerians and they now started kidnapping fellow citizens. So, what I am saying is that the genesis of most of the things we have today started because of the consequences of the war. Law and order broke down, there was no control. The police force we had before the war was really a police you can be proud of but at the end of the war, many things happened because the quota system came, federal character came in; all sorts of divisions came in, merit was thrown overboard and therefore, the mess we are in here started because of the war. And like I said, Lagos State is the only viable state today. And I know that if we have remained three regions, by now, Nigeria will be like Singapore if not better. We will be in the first world class because the regions have little overhead, they have focus and they have the capital to develop. But when we now created states, we just ended up paying salaries. And when you now pay salaries, people now forgot about the farm. Before then, farm was the normal thing everybody will do because only few got government job. Majority were farming. But now, we have enticed them with government salaries, with government quarters, cars for you and now you are saying they should go back to farms. So, a re-orientation will be required to tell them ‘look, the party is over, Let us go home and hit the ground and be serious with our lives because the oil that was funding the party is no more, it is gone’. And that is the fact of the case; this oil thing will never be reversed. The other day I was reading a news item about Japanese engineers who are now trying to produce cars that will run on water. So, very soon, oil will just be irrelevant.
The GDA and others listens to General Sam Momah's deliberations from his new book
The party is over and this is what Nigerians ought to be told. The earlier they start alternative things, the better for them. Now, we take our oil to sell, we take it from continent to continent, nobody will buy. India will be pricing us next to nothing because it is only India that tries to buy. The US is virtually sufficient; oil is a glut. So, the party is over and Nigerians need to be told that in bold language so that we now know that we have to go and use what we have to develop the economy and feed ourselves and plan for the future.
(To get any of Gen. Momah’s books call 080-3-596-35-26 for delivery in any part of the world or for direction to e-copy)




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