A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Prof. Kingsley Moghalu has warned that the "monster of millions of young men and women with no jobs is a fundamental threat to Nigeria's future."
Moghalu, who gave the warning in a presentation titled: "The Challenge of Economic Growth in Nigeria," which he delivered at the fifth Goddy Jidenma Foundation public lectures in Lagos yesterday, however, pointed out that the challenge could be defeated with the requisite political will, economic know-how, and strategy.
He urged policy makers in the country to stop underestimating the sheer scale of challenges of economic growth facing the country, saying Nigeria does not have a mere economic slowdown, but "an existential economic crisis that could eclipse the future of our children, given our rapidly growing population in a competitive world economy, if we do not get serious about our economy."
He added: "Nigeria has not achieved qualitative and sustained economic growth and development because we do not have a philosophical foundation or vision of economic development.
"If you have no compass, you have no direction. Activity alone is not a substitute for real vision. All countries that have achieved economic progress have had a clear vision."
According to him, there was the urgent need to face the reality that Nigeria would not achieve economic development and transformation on the current trajectory of its politics.
"The present political leadership class simply does not have the skills and the background that are fit for purpose. Technocratically competent and visionary political leaders are what it will take to reposition the Nigerian economy for sustainable growth and transformation," he stressed.
Furthermore, Moghalu pointed out that the future of oil on which Nigeria depends for 80 per cent of its total revenue and 90 per cent of its forex, was bleak.
"To address and overcome these challenges and create a radically different economic future from our past and present, we must understand, and apply this understanding to leadership, governance and public policy, the shades of meaning, differences and relationships between economic growth, economic development and economic transformation.
"The challenge Nigeria faces is that a developmental state requires very strong leadership vision, political will, and a deep bench of intellectual and technocratic competence in economic management. This is lacking in the governance of Nigeria today.
"We also do not have sufficient intellectual understanding and interrogation of capitalist economics. We are attempting to achieve development with a market based-economy but have paid insufficient attention to understanding how to unleash the three requirements for successful capitalism - property rights, innovation and, of course, capital.
"The result, as we see in the Nigerian economy, is a high degree of poverty for a majority and the concentration of a capitalist wealth in the hands of very few," he said.
Among other recommendations, the former central banker said there was need for Nigeria's policymakers and political leaders to establish an economic philosophy from which their economic vision would be derived, and set out a vision that would drive economic policy and management.
"Such a vision must make clear the respective roles of the state and the market, and its position on capitalism and its various adaptations - entrepreneurial, crony capitalism, state capitalism, and welfare capitalism. The economic ecosystem will operate and be managed within this framework.
"Economic management should be overhauled. The President should establish a full-time Council of Economic Advisers, headed by a Chairman that will serve as Chief Economic Adviser that researches and monitors the economy 24/7 and advises the President on actions to take to enhance economic growth.
"This council, composed of five or six members, should be Nigeria's economic team. Ministers holding economic portfolios should not be members of this team; rather they should focus on execution and the achievement of targets set by the President, as advised by the Council of Economic Advisers.
"The Council's members should have expertise in the main areas of economic growth ambition or policy such as fiscal policy (in particular taxation reform), industrial policy, trade policy, energy economics, and economic history, economic philosophy and political economy.
"From 2019, the Federal Government of Nigeria should establish a concrete economic diversification plan with a concrete path to a post-oil future for Nigeria, based on emerging global trends," he added.