IT is a good thing that Lagos State has finally been recognised as the 13th oil-producing state in the country. The good news also is that the Centre of Excellence is the only non-Niger Delta State that has discovered oil in commercial quantities. What this means for the economy of the state is that there will be more money rolling into the purse of the government, both at the state and federal level.
We must, however, not forget that the Federal Government, through the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), is also intensifying the search for crude oil in the North. If this succeeds, then the country will have more money being generated from crude oil. But we must also not forget that crude oil is unsustainable. This is the time we should focus less on crude oil, but look at other ways through which we can grow our economy.
While not saying that we should abandon oil altogether, we should, however, work hard towards making it contribute an insignificant percentage to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Crude oil has been the bane of our development in Nigeria, as it has made us lazy and unproductive. Until recently, it got to a stage whereby we were generating over 90 per cent of our revenues from crude oil, and at different periods in history, our over-reliance on crude oil had brought us nothing but economic woes. It has made us to neglect agriculture, which we built our pre-independence economy around.
However, the current fall in the price of crude oil is a lesson for us, as this is the reason our economy is falling of late. I hope we can refocus our attention on agriculture, which is more sustainable than crude oil. Agriculture will also provide employment opportunities for a larger number of youths than the petroleum sector can.
What is needed is just the right policy by government at all levels towards training youths in agriculture, and providing them with the necessary back-up capital for start-up. There are countries that only rely on agriculture for their economic advancement, and it is something we can also replicate in Nigeria.
One of the biggest benefits from taking this step will be that we will drastically reduce the price of our food imports, which runs into billions of dollars annually.
Therefore, as the Lagos State government is celebrating the discovery of oil in the state, and the Federal Government is still prospecting for the black gold in the North, we should not forget that crude oil will not help us attain economic prosperity.
Apart from just a few oil-producing countries that are stable economies, the majority of these resource- rich countries are battling economic challenges today. Nigeria must, therefore, start working towards getting to a stage where oil will be insignificant to the country’s economy.
- Odole Silas,