The current state of oil prices in the international market is a divine blessing for Nigeria. It represents a unique opportunity for Nigeria to re-discover itself and diversify its sources of national revenue or slump into deeper financial crisis and poverty.
It has been proven in the lives of individuals, organisations and nations, that certain negative experiences or consequences spurred them to innovations and critical thinking, and led them to greater heights. It is our hope that such could become of our own country.
After decades of ill-advised dependence on oil revenue, the bitter truth is gradually coming home to the government and people of Nigeria that falling revenue from falling oil prices is the price the country must pay to finally do the right thing. There is no doubt that the current situation has placed a heavy burden on government finances, creating in the process, inability to meet obligations to citizens, and other relevant corporate bodies for services duly rendered.
It is important to state that heavy reliance on oil has made it difficult for the economy to grow at a pace consistent or at par with the resources and dynamism that the people of Nigeria are known for.
It is noteworthy that every administration in the country has mouthed the essence of diversification of the economy as one of its cardinal objectives. Unfortunately, not much has been achieved in that regard over the years.
As expected, many government agencies and initiatives have equally been created and unveiled respectively to achieve the objective of diversification. In terms of evaluation, what we have on the ground presently does not paint a robust picture of such efforts by various governments in the country.
As we welcome the Muhammadu Buhari administration into office, there is renewed hope for immediate and effective development of the non-oil sector to provide alternative source (s) of revenue for the country and in the process, generate more jobs and reduce the present high level of unemployment in the system.
Nigeria is richly blessed with a long list of sources of non-oil revenue such as tourism, solid minerals, services and agriculture etc. In our opinion, effective development of these non-oil sectors will bode well for the economy and the nation.
Today, many nations are earning billions of dollars through tourism and generating thousands of jobs, example of which includes South Africa, Kenya etc. Nigeria can do more in this area if the tourist resources we are endowed with across the country are effectively harnessed and developed for optimum value.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), tourism remains one of the builders of sustainable economies today across the world. For instance, the current developments and forecasts by the UNWTO include:
• International tourist arrivals grew by 4.4 % in 2014 to $1.135 billion
• In 2014, international tourism generated $1.5 trillion in export earnings
• UNWTO forecasts a growth in international tourist arrivals of between 3% and 4% in 2015
Such economic transforming opportunities are not limited to tourism. It also exists with other non-oil sectors as solid minerals, services, technology and industrial agriculture. The days of $100 per barrel of oil may be over for good. Or it might return in the lifetime of the next generation.
For now, we no longer have the pleasure of predicating or benchmarking our national revenue and budget on prevailing price of oil in the international market. We must summon the courage to rapidly develop our non-oil sector potential for sustainable economic growth or decline. The choice is ours.