The Adegboyega Awomolo and Associates annual colloquium brought together most eminent personalities from the Judiciary and the academia to proffer practical solutions to the country’s troubled economy.
It was at the popular and elegant Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja, that the event took place, where the CJN who was represented by Justice Mary Odili, called for the harnessing of the immense potential of the country’s agricultural sector for food self-sufficiency and export, stressing, “there is the need to manufacture Nigerian products which can be consumed by the Nigerian market.”
Hon. Justice Mahmud Mohammed who is due for retirement next month, lauded the organisers of the colloquium for their focus in coming up with the theme: “Global Economy Beyond Oil: Challenges and Solutions; Nigeria in Focus,” which he described as apt in the light of the stark reality that Nigeria’s dependence and reliance on the proceeds of crude oil had exposed the country to an uncertain economic future.
Lamenting the sharp decrease of earnings from oil which is occasioned by the low price per barrel of crude oil and the attendant economic shocks, the CJN averred, “it is imperative to look inwards and innovate in order to survive as a nation.
“Let us trace back our steps to the numerous non-oil resources that this country has been blessed with,” he advised.
While further proffering solutions to the increasingly volatile economy, Justice Mohammed charged the Federal Government to look in the direction of the country’s youthful population.
“..Often unspoken is the unleashing of positive creative energies of our greatest natural resource, the youth of this nation who by all indications are amongst the most intellectually and creatively gifted.”
Highlighting the recent visit to the country by the Facebook founder, Mark Zukerberg, the CJN pointed out that the tour of various areas of Lagos, exposed the different technology hubs in Nigeria, declaring that “there is no reason for Yaba in Lagos not to be the e-capital of our continent, Africa.”
Chairman of the occasion, Hon. Justice Suleiman Galadima said the discourse with the topic could not have come at a better time than now, saying that the global economy would never have a breath of fresh air except its frontiers were expanded beyond petrol business.
Then there was a drama interlude to usher in the Keynote Speaker, Prof. Pat Utomi. The play-let which was weaved around the current socio-economic and political challenges bedeviling the nation, ended with a poster for Utomi to address in presentation.
Utomi being an economist and policy analyst, spoke on the topic ‘Global Economy beyond Oil: Challenges and Solutions; Nigeria in Focus’, noted that at the time investors’ confidence in Nigeria had waned, the blame game adopted by President Muhammadu Buhari did not help matters.
He explained that the world already knew the implication of the pillage of the national treasury that took place before Buhari came to power and there was no need for the president to keep on repeating it.
Utomi averred that: “… the matter on ground was how to keep confidence in the market till the balance of payment challenges could be overcome and fiscal modulation achieved in getting state governments to manage realistically. On the current account challenges, we compounded the problem by unnecessary comments that devaluation would never be accepted. That rigid position caused exporters to pause, lest the repatriate their earnings and get less than real value.
“It also held back foreign direct investments and even the more dreaded, but useful in context portfolio capital into stock market.”
The guest lecturer disclosed that the way out of Nigeria’s economic woes must include an open and candid conversation in policy choice. “A new national development strategy that inspires confidence, run by champions of competence and passion mobilising the young to build on their know how to build competitiveness on value chains that rest on Nigeria’s factor endowment.”
He disagreed with the ongoing debate on the sale of public assets as a way of generating revenues for the government. The trouble with the call for sale of public assets is how much it goes against what is most needed in Nigeria today; elite consensus on how to solve the problems. A clear example is in the power sector.”
Dr. Utomi underscored the role of lawyers in the economic development of the nation, describing it as “more central as lawyers often realized.”
He concluded by urging lawyers to see their professional calling as a vocation of sorts in which they do more to ensure that Nigeria becomes a more just society.
Also at the event was, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano who also gave insight into how his state has tackled recession while counselling on how the Federal Government could diversify the nation’s economy from crude oil.
Chief Obiano disclosed that through adequate planning, coordination of farming activities and by giving incentives to farmers, Nigeria would wriggle itself out of the current recession it is faced with.
He advised federal government to adopt a scientific approach to farming by building a data bank for farmers with a view to tracking their activities. “For Nigeria to truly change her almost pathetic mono-economic profile and take advantage of her rich arable land and excellent climate that favours farming, adopt a scientific approach to farming by building a data bank for farmers.
“This will help us identify the true farmers among us and their holdings and ensure a more effective distribution of farm input.”
While relating the Anambra State success story in agricultural export and job creation, Obiano further said government should develop clear export windows for the nation’s farm produce.
“It should create and sustain a synergy between commercial farmers and industries that need their produce as raw materials. These are just a few of the many things that Nigeria should do to break the yoke of over dependence on oil and carve out a sustainable pathway that will lead us out of the present recession,” Obiano declared.
In his remarks, the Chief Host, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) said Nigeria had enough resources to get out of the economic hardship through the blocking of leakages in public service.
Earlier, the Chairman of the occasion, Justice Suleiman Galadima had said the topic for the colloquium could not have come at a better time than now, urging the government to spur Nigerians towards taking to agriculture.
Delivering a communique at the end of the event, Prof. Awa Kalu (SAN) revealed that all the speakers were of the view that for “the purpose of deepening our democracy and sharpening our economic indices, conversations in the public space must be encouraged.”
The Colloquium agreed that: “The rule of law, property rights and regard for the sanctity of contracts were probably more responsible for the triumph of free enterprise capitalism and western industrial democracies than the bravado of frontiersmen and this should be the target of Nigerian lawyers.
“Lawyers are urged to see their professional calling as a vocation of sorts in which they do more to ensure that Nigeria is a more just society because one of the reasons there is much poverty in Nigeria is because Nigeria is one of the more unjust societies in the world and injustice has a way of increasing uncertainty which on its own raises transaction costs, makes enterprise less competitive and slows down man’s material advance as a result.”