Economic Objectives (I)

Sun Nov 13th, 2022 -

It is, therefore, an extravagant, waste of manpower to compel a man or a woman to retire at 55. The explanation which was given in 1968 when the Government of the Western State of Nigeria reduced the retiring age from 60 to 55, was as inane as it was untenable. A spokesman of the Government had stated that the purpose of the reduction was to make room for thousands of young boys and girls who were leaving school every year. Surely, it cannot be maintained that the one hundred odd men and women who retired would make enough room for the thousands ~ indeed tens of thousands – of young school leavers who are looking for employment. In fact, as we now know, they made no room at all. And what is more, some of the retired officials were re-employed almost immediately, in other sectors of the public service. In an enlightened society and planned economy, the remedy to the unemployment of school leavers is to create more employment opportunities, and not to compel the premature retirement of public servants who are at the height of their efficiency.

For all these reasons, I am advocating that the compulsory retiring age should be raised to a minimum of 65 and a maximum of 75, all depending on the types of employment.

I have not chosen this range of ages arbitrarily. At the moment, judges of the supreme court, and lecturers in our universities do not retire compulsorily until they are 65 and 60 respectively, with option of 5 years’ extension for the latter. It will be generally agreed that no occupation demands more rigorous mental exertions than judgeship and lecturership. It is, therefore, unreasonable, in the extreme, to ask teachers in educational institutions below university level, civil servants and the like, state counsel, etc., to retire compulsorily at any age earlier than 65. Indeed, I am of the opinion that a teacher, lecturer, or judge, should be allowed to go on until he is 75, with provision for extension, in appropriate cases. If a teacher, or lecturer, or judge, for instance, is good, and keeps abreast of his particular field of speciality, the longer he remains in his post the better for all concerned.

It is within the experience of most of us that self-employed farmers or manual workers, using existing primitive tools, do not dream of retiring until they are 65 or more. No less should be expected from their counterparts in the public service. With the introduction of modern farming, and the increased mechanization of manual labour, it should impose no undue discomfort on any person to continue in farming or manual labour until he is 65 or over. More so, if the various processes or stages in farming and manual work are graded in descending order of physical exertions, and are allocated among the workers concerned in accordance with age distribution.

In the light of the points which have been made on this matter, an expert or team of experts should be appointed to consider and classify various categories of employment, with special reference to their peculiar nature, their relative pleasantness and unpleasantness, comparative conditions of work, and the physical and mental exertions demanded by them, and to determine at what age between 65 and 75 people should be required to retire compulsorily from each of the categories. Under the socialist system which we envisage for the people’s republic of Nigeria, voluntary retirement should not be permissible, save at the risk of the person opting for it. That is to say, if a person retires voluntarily at any age, he will not be entitled to any retiring benefit or pension, until he attains the prescribed age which automatically attracts old age pension. Between his voluntary retirement and this age, he will be expected to fend for himself.


  1. Modernization of Agriculture

In its report already referred to, the FAO correctly states that the tasks facing the agricultural sector in Nigeria are to provide:

(a) the food requirements of a rapidly growing population;

(b) the agricultural raw materials for Nigeria’s developing industries;

(c) the volume of exports needed to pay for the imports of capital goods;

(d) employment for the additional agricultural working population; and

(e) a substantial share of the capital to finance the development of the whole economy.


These tasks are inescapable, and speak for themselves. They proclaim, eloquently, the urgent need in Nigeria for the modernization of agriculture as well as of the storage, transportation, and marketing of farm products. Nevertheless, I would like, for the sake of emphasis, to make a few comments.

In the first place, our population is not only growing rapidly, but also it is fast becoming more and more enlightened and sophisticated.

The choice open to us is clear: to modernize our farming techniques and thereby give sufficient attraction and incentive to people to stay on the farm; or not to modernize, and leave people in rural areas to continue, as at present, to migrate to urban areas, out of sheer revulsion against the present primitive methods of tilling the ground.

In the second place, rapid increase in our population is not the only factor which demands greater agricultural output: the growing standard of living of our people is also a factor of considerable importance. In the third place, our efforts and drive towards self-reliance in consumer goods call for the production locally not only of all our foods, clothing and building materials, but also of the bulk, if not all, of the raw materials needed for the use of our growing and ever-expanding factories. For instance, in order to be self-sufficient in textiles and in the raw cotton required for their production, we need to quintuple our present output of raw cotton. In the fourth place, since 70 per cent of our present population engage in farming, any policy, which is designed to raise the people’s standard of living at all levels, must of necessity have a special and strong bias for great increase in the productivity of the Nigerian farmers. It must, that is to say, have a bias for mechanization of farming, and the education of farmers in modern farming techniques.

In the fifth place, enormous waste and artificial scarcity of food products occur, from time to time, simply because we have no modern storage, processing, transport, and marketing facilities to deal with them in and out of season. This ill must be corrected. In the sixth place, if we are to increase the output of our farm products generally, especially of our export crops, the present yield per acre must be considerably increased. This involves the introduction of higher yielding grains and seeds; more effective control of pests, insects, and plant diseases; the use of fertilizers where necessary; extensive irrigation in certain parts of the country; intensification of extension work; the education of the farmers themselves, practically all of whom are illiterate, to enable them to appreciate, employ, and benefit from modern techniques of farming; and the attraction of educated persons to farming occupation. It must be emphasized that it is idle and unrealistic in the extreme to expect educated persons to embark on a farming career under the present primitive system of cultivation.

In the seventh place, it is now well-known that the chief obstacle to the rapid rate of growth of our economy is agriculture. It constitutes 55 per cent of our gross domestic product, or COP, and over the period of 1958/59 to 1965/66, it has crawled forward at the average annual rate of 3.3 per cent. This is to be compared and contrasted with manufacture which, over the same period, has been making a leap forward at the annual rate of 9.4 per cent. It is imperative, therefore, that this obstacle to our economic progress must be removed, if we are to achieve the urgently desirable annual growth rate of 10 per cent, which I most seriously advocate. There is nothing extraordinary or unattainable about this rate. Indeed, according to a publication by the Federal Office of Statistics, Lagos, entitled Gross Domestic Product of Nigeria 1958/59-1966/67 not only did we achieve an impressive average annual growth rate of 6.6 per cent in our COP (excluding oil) over the period covered by this publication, but also in 1960/61 and 1962/63 we scored the high growth rates of 14.0 per cent and 10.5 per cent, respectively. The FAO Report is an excellent document. But the targets which are set for Nigeria to achieve by 1980 are Lilliputian and uninspiring.

Two examples are enough to substantiate this point. Firstly, the FAO envisages that, by 1980, our cotton output would increase by a minimum of 120 per cent, and a maximum of 200 per cent. However, our textile mills are prepared, and can expand sufficiently, within the next two years, to consume an increase of 400 per cent, in order to meet three-fourths of our requirements of textiles. We have the land, and we have the manpower to produce this quantity immediately. But we lack the techniques; and the expected returns from cotton on an acre of land do not provide enough incentive.

Secondly, the FAO also envisages that, by 1980, our COP would climb laboriously to £38 per capita. We can, and should endeavour to achieve more than double this amount by 1980. But this latter target is possible, only if, right now, we bring about an agrarian revolution which will usher in the modernization of all aspects of our agricultural activities, including the consolidation of small land-holdings in certain parts of the country, and the introduction of co-operative farming, storage, processing, transport and marketing.

For the sake of realistic planning, some of the inescapable results and necessities of the modernization of our agricultural economy must be noted and borne in mind. In the first place, it would be idle and an illusion, and courting a disastrous failure, to embark on the kind of agrarian revolution about which we have been speaking without having an adequate team of suitably qualified extension workers, in addition to equally adequate teams of competent agricultural engineers and managers. In the second place, agricultural modernization is bound to lead to a considerable reduction in the number of those engaged in farming. Invariably, this has been the outcome of agricultural revolution in other countries. In Britain, for instance, only 3 per cent of the 27 million people who are engaged in civil employment now do farming; as compared with 80 per cent in Nigeria-Le., 20 million out of our 25 million-strong active labour force. It follows, in the third place, that modernization of agriculture must of a necessity generate considerable expansions in the other five categories of occupation, namely: manufacturing, transport, distributive, banking, and infrastructural occupations which are clearly described at pages 125-127 of The People’s Republic. These expansions are essential in order that those displaced from primary occupation, as a result of agricultural modernization, may be fully absorbed into other gainful employments. In the fourth place, assistance to farmers, under the new agrarian dispensation, will take the forms of (1) technical aid, (2) education in the techniques and management of farming, storage, and marketing, (3) monetary advances on crops, and (4) subsidy. That is to say, farmers who conscientiously practise co-operative farming etc., will no longer need to be burdened with loans either from government institutions, or from money lenders; and the abuses connected with existing loan schemes for farmers will be eliminated.

NOTE: Since concluding the draft of this Section on 1 March 1969, I have had the gratification of reading the comments made by Professor Glenn Johnson, on 26 March 1969, on the Paper, entitled Agriculture and Rural Development, submitted by Professor H. A. Oluwasanmi to the CONFERENCE ON NATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA which was held at Ibadan from 24-29 March] 969. The following short excerpt from Professor Johnson’s comments is very apposite: ‘I want now to stimulate your imagination by presenting a few projections concerning the possible contribution of agriculture to Nigeria’s future. We estimate that Nigeria can be producing over three times its 1961 GDP by 1985. By then GDP from a properly managed agriculture ‘Would probably make up about one third of the total as contrasted to 55 per cent in 1966. Conservatively that one third, however, would be over twice as large as in 1966. It would contribute much more foreign exchange, larger amounts of raw material for industry, more and better quality food per capita for up to 100 million people, and more income for savings and investment in both the farm and non-farm sectors. From the stand point of social and distributive justice, we see the possibility of substantially improving the lots of millions of small holders and livestock producers to such an extent that the increase in their effective demand for the products of Nigeria’s urban and industrial economy would be a positive driving force for the industrialization of Nigeria.’


  1. Economic Freedom

At p. 301 of The People’s Republic I define economic freedom as follows:

‘Economic freedom exists when a politically sovereign country, independently of outside control or direction, organizes the exploitation and deployment of its total resources for the benefit of its entire people, under a system in which the forces of supply and demand and of marginal utility are controlled and canalized for the common good.’

In Chapters 12 and 13 of the same book, I have discussed this definition in extenso, and I do not wish here to repeat or add to what I have said. Some comments on the targets for self-sufficiency in consumer nondurables and durables and in capital goods are, however, necessary.

In the first place, I cannot conceive of any non-durable consumer goods, which we need, for which we cannot produce a substitute in this country, within a matter of two years at the longest. In this connection, it is apposite to recall what I have already said in The People’s Republic at pp. 193, 194, and 327 about the regulation of consumption to ensure that, production or utilization of resources is directed towards essential ends.’ For, though our wants are infinite and incapable of regulation, yet our needs for food, clothing, shelter, and knowledge, in such quantity and quality as to guarantee to us the enjoyment of sound health in body and mind and of human dignity, are limited, ascertainable, and amen-able to statutory regulation.

In the second place, there is not a single item of durable consumer goods which we cannot produce in this country within the next five years provided we proceed, forthwith, to the construction of our projected and much-advertized iron and steel complex, the preliminary work on which has been completed for some two years now. Again, as in the case of non-durables, the emphasis should be on our essential needs rather than on our infinite wants which include conveniently dispensable luxuries.

In the third place, I do not have the slightest doubt that, with rigorous detailed, and scientific planning, which is the cornerstone of socialism and of the materialization of all the objectives contained in this book, we can achieve self-reliance in capital goods and in technology, in twenty years’ time. To plan for less than this target is to proclaim our own intellectual and moral ineptitude and bankruptcy, and to sentence our great country to permanent or long-term economic subjugation. We have worthy examples by which our feet can be guided, in the pursuit of this target. Japan and the USSR achieved complete economic freedom and voluntary economic interdependence in all things inside that period. ‘What they achieved, we too can achieve; more so, as we have their experiences to learn from, in order to avoid their mistakes. It is imperative, therefore, that we should have a twenty-year perspective plan, divided into four operative plans of five years each for progressive fulfilment. To this end, we must, in the meantime, see to it that practically all the capital goods and know-how that are imported into the country are paid for by our exports, as already advocated in Chapters 12 and 13 of The People’s Republic, and in the preceding Section.


8.-10. Rail, Road, and Water Transport

With an area of 356,669 square miles, Nigeria is the size of France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom put together. But unlike each of these countries, it has in relation to its territorial extent, an extremely short coastline. The distance from Maiduguri to Lagos, which is the nearest port, is 1,103 miles. Nigeria’s ports also serve the Republic of Niger, one of our landlocked neighbours. More than 10,000 square miles of Nigeria’s coastal areas are water-and creek-logged.

We are aware of the evil effects of the lack of an efficient and sufficient transport system in most parts of the country. It compels enormous waste of resources, and puts us in the ridiculous position where we have to import in tinned or preserved forms, products which we produce in abundance locally, and which we could have obtained fresh and much more cheaply. It works hardship, and imposes abject poverty, on primary producers who live far away from the coast, and in the creeks, and who, even when they are not far from the coast, are served very poorly, or not at all, by roads. The need for improving and modernizing the Nigerian transport system, its railways, waterways, and roads, is, therefore, incontestable. Such improvement and modernization will much more efficiently serve our interests and those of the Republic of Niger and even of Chad. The mobility of resources which would result will help to accelerate our economic growth, with consequent phenomenal rise in the standard of living of all of us, especially of those living in the rural, creek, and remote areas.

Two points should be disposed of at this stage. Firstly, it has been said by critics of ‘Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution,’ where the objectives were first enunciated on p. 112, that a target of I mile of road to 2 square miles of territory is too ambitious, and unattainable.

The truth is that in the old Eastern Region, where there are 18,000 miles of road to 29,500 square miles of territory, this target is already more than achieved. And in the old Western and Mid-western Regions, the ratio is already I mile of road to 3 square miles of territory. In the particular case of the Midwestern State, if we took out the riverine areas, the ratio is increased to about I to 2. On the other hand, the ratio in the old Northern Region is 1 to 13. Here then is the rub. But the reasons for this low ratio are sparseness of population, and comparative deficiency in economic activities. Both must be corrected-the one as far as possible, compatible with optimal economic efficiency and sociological considerations; and the other as a matter of absolute necessity. With these corrections, and with the increase in productivity, throughout the country, which our objectives envisage, it should be possible to increase the length of our road construction from an average of 2,000 miles per annum (during the 10 years from 1956 to 1966) to an average of 7,550 miles per annum over the next 15 years.

Secondly, the opinion has been seriously expressed in certain quarters that from now on the emphasis in Nigeria should be on road construction rather than on railways. It is said in support that this is the present trend in developed countries and that this trend has been necessitated by the unprofitability of the railways generally, in the face of fierce and superior competition from road transport. I must confess that I cannot speak with authority on the alleged trend. I do know, however, that in Britain the railways are not profitable, and that in general, both theoretically and practically, the railways are no match for road transport, from the point of view of competition.

But where certain types of traffic are concerned, where long distances are involved as in Nigeria, where speed is of the essence of movement of goods from such distances, and when account is taken of the long-term costs of construction and maintenance, road transport is no match at all for the railways. Water transport will be a match only where speed is not of the essence, and cheapness in cost is expected to offset the inevitable loss in time.

It is also true that, with an average speed of 20 miles an hour, our railways are incredibly slow and clumsy. But I have been authoritatively informed that, by relaying our rails and realigning our tracks, we can achieve an average speed of 50 miles an hour. The cost of such relaying and realignment will be £34,000 per mile; and I strongly advocate that we undertake this exercise in our next development plan, on the line between Lagos and Kano. This undertaking will cost us about £30 million. But its immediate effect, on completion, would, in general, be a tremendous boosting of our economy and, in particular, a big rise in the standard of living of Nigerians who live north of the Niger.

It is necessary to point out that, in order to attain a speed of say 80 or more miles per hour on our railways, we would have to scrap the sure that just enough, and no more than just enough, was paid to these Nigerian workers, to enable them to maintain a measure of physical and mental fitness required of people whose role was to obey orders, push the pen, interpret the English language into the vernacular, draw water, hew stone, and, withal, look upon the white man as a god!

As we have shown, what goes for Government services goes for the business houses as well. One important difference should, however, be noted. Because their sole object was to make as big a profit as possible, European merchants and businessmen were always more inclined and more ready to encourage Nigerian talent, whenever they found one, to exercise a reasonable degree of initiative and independent judgment in any assignment given to him, and to reward him accordingly. By contrast, however, under the colonial administration, unquestioning obedience, cringing, and fawning, on the part of Nigerian civil servants, often counted more towards personal advancement than efficiency and initiative.

The result of all these is that, when we took over from the British, we inherited, at the senior service level both in government and in business, a salary structure strictly related to the economic and social circumstances which obtained in Britain and, at the junior and daily paid worker’s level, salary and wage structures which were strictly related to the appalling conditions which obtained in Nigeria at a time when our community was just emerging from primitive barter economy and slavery, and from the ravages of inter-tribal wars.

The Nigerian merchants and middlemen, who were among the most educated and most enlightened few in our Society, lost no time in exploiting the ignorance of their people as well as the complete lack of effective communications in all parts of the country. Quite legitimately but unpatriotically and unashamedly, they constantly and deliberately manipulated and rigged the market in export farm products and imported goods, and considerably enriched themselves at the expense of the farming classes, petty traders, and low-income workers. In spite of the passage of time, these nefarious methods of old are still being practised by Nigerian merchants and middlemen on a grander though more sophisticated scale, with the consequent further widening of the gap between the rich and the poor in our community.

It is our bounden duty, for the sake of new Nigeria, to make a clean break with all these ugly, evil, degrading, and dangerous legacies. And it is to this end that I am advocating the rationalization of the salaries and remunerations paid to or received by different classes of employed and self-employed persons, with a view to drastically reducing the existing gap between the higher and lower income groups.

In doing this exercise, five classes of people will have to be considered:

(i) those employed in the services of the government and its agencies;

(ii) those employed in the private sector;

(iii) self-employed persons;

(iv) landlords, and

(v) rentiers.

In regard to the first and second classes, the approach should be to appoint a team of experts to do a scientific classification and evaluation of employments, and recommend new salary and wage structures which will be in keeping with the socialist system that we want to see established in the people’s republic of Nigeria. In this connection, faithful regard will have to be paid to well-known job evaluation factors such as (1) educational qualifications, (2) period of training, (3) mental aptitude, (4) physical fitness, (5) degree of responsibility required, and (6) conditions of work, all of which vary from occupation to occupation, from vocation to vocation, and from profession to profession. After all these shall have been done, the new gradings, salaries etc., as approved, should be enacted in an Act or Acts of Parliament.

Concerning self-employed persons, none of them should be allowed to keep any income higher than that received by the highest paid person in the public or private sector. In other words, a self-employed person can make as much money as he can, but whatever he earns in cash or kind in excess of the permissible maximum would be taxed out of his hands.

In Chapters 6-8 of The People’s Republic, I have sufficiently dealt with rent and interest which are the incomes of the landlord and the rentier, respectively. Because both of these species of income are unearned, I have advocated their abolition. It is the modus operandi of such abolition that I now discuss.

It is my considered view that there should be no confiscation or expropriation of existing buildings or landed properties which are used exclusively or mainly for hire. But the emergence and growth of new landlordism should be prohibited and resolutely discouraged by every possible means in the people’s republic of Nigeria.

As regards existing landlords, the policy should be that, on their death, their buildings and landed properties should automatically be vested in the Government of the State in which the buildings and present narrow guage of 3ft 6 inches and go for a standard or broad guage of 4ft 81/2 inches or 5ft 6 inches. But this change would entail the scrapping of our present rolling-stock, or the complete re-construction of their axles, either of which together with the new guage, would be extremely expensive-several times more expensive than £34,000 per mile. Hence, the wisdom of contenting ourselves, for the time being, with the relaying and realignment of our existing rail lines.

There is also an urgent need for the widening and realignment of some of our Trunk A roads and bridges. In their present state, they constitute prolific sources of waste-both of human lives and of capital invested in motor vehicles. If at least the heavily trafficked portions of our Trunk A roads are widened and realigned, the lives of our motor vehicles would be lengthened, and the consequent reduction in the rate of accident would economize investment in road transport, and reduce the number of deaths on our roads.

Continues next week.





source: Tribune