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By David Uka, Abakaliki
Governor David Umahi has said that with proper investment in physical and human development, Nigeria can survive without relying on oil and may even grow faster.
The Governor stated this in a lecture he delivered at the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State as part of the activities marking the 59th Founders day of the institution, noting that most nations of the world are not dependent on oil.
Umahi, who spoke on the topic ‘preparing Ebonyi for tomorrow’s zero oil economy’. warned that governments at all levels in the country must begin to ensure that all revenues from oil are applied only to infrastructure development.
“It is sub-optimal for Nigeria to be using its oil wealth to fund recurrent expenditure. This promotes a dependency culture that stifles innovation, creativity and productivity. It also encourages a bloated governance system with the attendant high cost of governance”
“If we are to insist that recurrent expenditure must be funded from non-oil revenue, it will focus the minds of governments a lot more and drive productivity. It will also make it imperative to improve tax collection more urgent, which will in turn drive accountability as citizens start to ask what is being done with the taxes they pay”, he said.
The governor noted that there is need to empower the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and other Development Banks to create soft loans for farmers and entrepreneurs
“Grants, subsidies and incentives should be made available to entrepreneurs and farmers and market should be provided for the goods and services provided by the farmers and entrepreneurs”.
“There is an urgent need to introduce at all levels mechanized system of agriculture to increase productivity and to reduce strenuous human labour and drudgery”
He said that in Ebonyi, his government have started preparing for zero oil economy.
“The journey will be a long and difficult one but we are laying the foundations for sustained economic growth and prosperity in our state, beyond the era of oil.
“We have made the modest strides we have made in our state through a combination of prudence, preparation for the future and diversification of our economy beyond oil”, Mr Umahi said.
“ln all, the most outstanding legacies our government will want to leave will be in lifting over 60,000 Ebonyians out of poverty with Profit and a Capital base of N1M each. This means that 60,000 Ebonyians will have a cash profit balance of 60Billion Naira by 2023.’
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the Institution, Professor Charles Igwe commended the Governor for choosing the topic which he described as apt and forward looking.
“It is a perfect topic-one that should preoccupy the minds of any visionary leader in Nigeria of today”
The VC who also commended the governor for the good job he is doing in Ebonyi state which he noted has earned him many admirers in the university.
He said the Our Founders’ Day Lecture has remained the most prestigious of the public lectures that take place at the University of Nigeria.
“Our Founders’ Day Lecture remain the most prestigious of the public lectures that take place at the University of Nigeria. It is an ideal platform for discussions on topical issues of national and international relevance. Thus, it is not only about celebrating the past, but also about preparing for the future”
“I am sure that reducing our dependency on crude oil will require a lot of research in policy and technological innovations. It is my desire that some of the required research in policy and innovations can be done here at the University of Nigeria”, Prof Igwe said.