For a nation that has already had
one quarter of negative economic growth and is in danger of having
another negative quarter (which would invariably put us officially in a
recession), I was shocked, like many right thinking people, when the
Federal Government extended the Eid-el-Fitr holidays which had initially
been declared for Tuesday the 5th and Wednesday the 6th of July, 2016 to now include Thursday the 7th of July.
This record three day holiday
effectively rendered the week beginning on Sunday July 3rd, 2016, a
wasted week because Nigerians would naturally spend Monday the 4th preparing for the holiday and no right thinking person would expect any serious business to hold on Friday the 8th after the whole nation had been on holiday for the three days prior to that.
The economic implication of this
decision is that when the Gross Domestic production of the third quarter
of 2016 is being calculated, Nigeria would not be able to count on any
meaningful production for one business week.
Flowing from the above, no one needs
a crystal ball to predict that Nigeria is headed for another round of
negative economic growth when the next quarterly GDP data is unveiled.
Yet this is the same country where
18,000 babies are born everyday and it is doubtful that up to 1,800 new
jobs are created everyday. With this grim statistic, no one around the
President thought it wise to advise him against making the small
percentage of Nigerians who are employed to be underemployed by at least
one week because of a holiday.
Is it that we do not understand the
economic implications of our actions and how they effect the financial
and economic well being of our nation?
Nigeria should be doing everything
it can to ensure that it does not have consecutive periods of negative
economic growth for the simple reason that having an economy in
recession would lead to our economy being further downgraded. The
implication of a downgraded economy is that we will not be able to
attract the level of Foreign Direct Investment we need to drive growth.
Further implications are that we would only be able to access credit at
higher interest rates. The resultant effect of that would be loss of
value in our stock exchange and a downward pressure on the value of the
Naira (further devaluation) and when that happens, it would mean more
people out of work and a worsening of Nigeria’s Human Development
The question is this-aren’t there
people around President Muhammadu Buhari who can explain this to him?
Should Nigeria be holidaying while Rome burns?
The United States has eleven federal
holidays while England has eight holidays (known as Bank Holiday). In
contrast, Nigeria’s holidays are discretionary, meaning that you cannot
ascertain how many days would be holidays. Holidays can be declared at
the whims and caprices of the government in power, as has just been
demonstrated, such that as at the first week of July when we should be
entering only the second half of the year 2016, Nigeria has already had 8
public holidays which is equal to the number of holidays England would
have throughout the year 2016!
We had a holiday on January 1st for New Year’s Day. We had two days holidays on Friday, March 25 and Monday, March 28 for Good Friday and Easter. We had another holiday on May 2nd for May Day (workers day) and we had a holiday on May 30th to mark Democracy Day. And now we have just had a three day holiday.
Is it then any surprise that
Nigeria’s production is seriously below par? If you quantify the lost
man hours that have been frittered away in these unnecessarily long
holidays we would be talking hundreds of billions. How do I know? It is
simple mathematics really.
According to the National Bureau of
Statistics, Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product for the first quarter of
2016 stood at ₦22.26 trillion Naira. This means we averaged a daily GDP
of ₦245 billion (when you divide ₦22.26 trillion Naira by the 90 days in
an average quarter).
In today’s Naira, ₦245 billion is
$867 million dollars. In essence, for every holiday Nigeria observes, we
lose almost a billion dollars or to be more exact $867 million!
This is a lot of money for a country
that borrows to pay the salaries of its civil servants and is still
sourcing for loans to finance its 2016 budget when we are already passed
the middle of the year.
The other day, the Federal
Government called for prayers for the precarious state of the economy
and now the same government that wants divine intervention to help
rescue the economy is itself taking actions that are at cross purposes
with its own prayers. What is happening in Nigeria?
Eid-el-Fitr is an Islamic holiday. Though I am a Christian pastor, I have read the Quran. It says as follows in Quran, 4:29 ‘O
ye who believe! Do not squander one another’s wealth in vanities, but
let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good will.’
As a matter of fact, in one of the
hadiths of the prophet, he was asked a question about what type of
earning was best for a man and he responded ‘a man’s work with his hands
and every (lawful) business transaction.”
Are we then good Muslims if we
ignore these ecclesiastical commandments and directions in order that we
may holiday and play when we ought to be at work?
Nigeria can not afford the luxury of
what we have just done. If anything at all, we should not have more
than one day to observe either a Christian or Muslim holiday.
the Naira depreciates in value, the government would blame economic
sabotage, the previous administration or the slump in the price of oil
and all the usual suspects. Hardly remembered will be the time when
Nigeria holidayed while Rome was burning.
Religion is not a license for
laziness. Quite the contrary. Religion is the means by which man, by
careful observance of the rules given us by God, lives a life that
ensures his physical and spiritual wellbeing.
That is the part we forgot when either missionaries or conquerors brought the two great Abrahamic faiths to Nigeria.
May God help us all.