One of the aims of the founding fathers of Nigeria at independence on October 1, 1960 was to make the young fledgling country a giant among nations. They dreamt of a country that would rapidly grow and become very developed, a country with sprawling manufacturing concerns; a country that would become the leading nation in Africa. They realised that the citizens have the right to happiness as one of their inalienable rights and must be granted the rights. This brings the issue of economic prosperity of the nation. When a majority of the citizens prosper, the nation also experiences prosperity. Nigerians know their rights. They know that the citizens must prosper and that is why they often reject being subservient to foreign nationals who come around to milk the nation.
This brings to focus the issue of economic security of the country. Food security is strategically part of the country’s economic security. So also are the availability of petroleum products, communications, electricity and water for agriculture and drinking. Without each of these products, the citizens will suffer. In many countries, these strategic areas of businesses will not be left in the hands of foreigners. So, their governments do their utmost best to make sure that their nationals in these strategic businesses work in the interest of the country.
In many of the advanced economies, the main segments of monitored and protected economic security are energy security, financial, banking and non-banking security; the security of strategic branches of the national economy and companies of vital importance, including the prevention of emergency situations in these strategic businesses.
One of the major objectives of the Nigerian Investment Promotion Act was to open the Nigerian economy to local and foreign investments and accelerate the pace of economic growth and development of the country. Towards this end, the government allowed investors to invest in the economy without restraint. This was followed by deregulation of the economy, which encouraged investors from other parts of the world to invest in Nigeria. Admittedly, deregulation of the economy increased the quantum of inflow of Foreign Direct Investments, particularly to the oil industry and to some other parts of the economy, including communications, power and manufacturing, among others.
At the time deregulation of the economy was embarked upon, the issue of foreign domination of the economy was not given any serious consideration. Today, we know that those issues ought to have been seriously and thoroughly considered and settled, even before we embarked on deregulation of the economy. Today, Nigeria is facing a great influx of Indians and Chinese nationals into Nigeria and other African countries with no hindrance. The Nigerian terrain is familiar to Indian investors. Nigerians too know the after-effects of what Indian investors do when they come to any emerging economy. Simply put, Indian investors leave disgusting marks on their host nations and their economies. They leave trails of corruption, asset stripping and unconcerned attitude about their host economies. They borrow from local banks without problems, but they hardly pay back in full. When the bubble bursts and they cannot pay back the loans, they run away with their profits, leaving the banks to lick the wounds inflicted on them.
With the emergence of China as a global manufacturing power house, China established strong trade relationships with African countries, Nigeria in particular. Within the last one and half decades, both China and India have become major trading partners of Nigeria and are vigorously challenging the prime place enjoyed by the United Kingdom, while their nationals have become very visible as investors and traders in every sector of the Nigerian economy.
It is, however, sad that the large presence of Asians in retail trade in Nigeria is forcing Nigerians to forcefully challenge their involvement in the retail sector of the economy because it is forcing the Nigerian retail traders out of the market, to the detriment of the country’s economy.
Unfortunately, there is no law in the country that protects local retail traders from unfair competition, especially from the invading Asian traders in the retail businesses. If anything, it is bad for the Asian traders to bring capital from their countries to fight local traders out of Nigerian local markets.
Nobody doubts that liberalisation of the economy is good for the country, but there should be a limit to it. This is because liberalisation that enables foreign traders to stifle Nigerian retailers out of the market as a result of unfair competition is certainly detrimental to eradicating poverty among the poor in the country. Also, unguided liberalisation of the economy is inimical to economic emancipation of Nigerians and against the economic wellbeing of Nigerians, just as it is not good for the economic growth of Nigeria.