Development economists in the country are agreed that the abandonment of the national development and rolling plans has left Nigeria like a rudderless ship -wandering with no sense of direction. Successive governments from the 1980s have abandoned national development plans and, since then, the discipline of planning has also been thrown out the window. The result is there for all to see: economic stagnation leading to degradation of infrastructure, education, health and other sectors of the economy.
Nigeria seems to be in a race against itself. Transparency International's Corruption Perception Index, the United Nations' Human Development Index and other competent authorities have all put the country at the bottom of all political and socio-economic league tables of the world's nations. The country is still struggling to meet some of the targets of the Millennium Development Goals. Despite its huge human and natural resources, especially oil, the major foreign exchange earner, the nation lacks proper planning for its socio-economic development. Where there is any semblance of planning, poor implementation renders it useless.
Previous development plans were well thought-out with objectives aimed at specific sectors. No doubt, many laudable projects achieved from the 1960s, after the colonialists had left the country, were attributable to national development plans. These included building of oil refineries and the federal universities. Despite the civil war, government worked within the framework of comprehensive, mainly five-year development plans with sector-specific goals.
Nigeria's confusion began with the abandonment of these national plans. There have not been sustainable socio-economic programmes for the country since the introduction of the liberalisation policy in 1986. National development plans were replaced with three-year rolling plans that were also later abandoned for what could best be described as ad-hoc plans.
It is said that he who fails to plan plans to fail. Any wonder that our much-touted economic growth has no essence? The so-called growth is not complemented by jobs or social development. Every leader we have had so far from the mid-1980s to date has hit the ground crawling with no sense of direction and not an inkling of what to do with the power he fought vehemently to gain. Even the Economic Management Team that has been in place in the Fourth Republic seems not to understand the importance of planning and developing a framework from which budgets can be properly prepared. This has contributed to waste of resources and corruption. Projects worth billions of naira are often conjured up and executed without regard to priorities.
This situation does not augur well for the country. We therefore wish to lend our voice to the call for some form of medium- to long-term plans which should guide the development of annual budgets. From then, perhaps, the problems of budgets that are not implemented or even conflicts between the legislative and executive arms of governments would abate.