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‘Nigerians need financial literacy to cope with current economic reality’

OLUMIDE EMMANUEL is a wealth creation and investment coach who sits atop The Billionaire Initiative as its global president. In this interview with CHUKA UROKO, he advises Nigerians to get financial education to enable them to reduce expenditure and increase income in 2023. Excerpts

The global economy shrank in 2022 and In Nigeria, it was even worse. Looking back to that year, what would you say about the economy?

When we look at what has happened with the economy in the last seven years plus, we find that we’ve gone through two recessions, and we are right now on our way to another one. Apart from going through two recessions within a short period, the economy has shrunk tremendously.

The value of our currency has been completely eroded and damaged, and its purchasing power is low now. We have also seen a lot of people plunged into poverty and unemployment.

The debt to GDP ratio of the country has gone off the mark, and looking at what we pay as subsidy, which is a fraud, you see that there are so many negatives around the economy.

The principles of wealth creation are universal and they are not new. The question is: How can you increase your income or reduce your expenditure? My advice is that every Nigerian should start from reducing expenditure

What should the country be doing to get out of this situation?

One of the things that I’ve come to realize is the fact that there is nothing new under the sun. As far as finance is concerned in this world, there are only two ways that you can make more money and they are: increase your income and reduce your expenditure.

So I have itemized some ways that Nigeria can do both. To reduce its expenditure, Nigeria should deal with inflated contracts and routinely audit government agencies, and parastatals including the NNPC Ltd.

We should audit all their contracts and ensure that the right prices are quoted. We have seen in Nigeria where they build an airport and another African country will use about 30 percent less to build the same size facility.

Secondly, there are a lot of unreported and unremitted revenues from all the ministries, departments and agencies. You remember that Jonathan came up with a Treasury Single Account (TSA). Now do you know that by the time they went into TSA, one parastatal had 42 accounts, 56 accounts, and some of those accounts were signed by individuals. So, by the time you go to the port authority, for instance, they will give you invoice accounts. You will see seven accounts and they will tell you to pay into anyone. Maybe only two are the government’s own while five are for other people.

The third one is misappropriation. Do you know that there is a high level of misappropriation going on in different areas in this country, such that money that is supposed to go to the government is going to individuals?

You need to ask yourself what are security votes for? This is money that you are giving to people that they cannot give account of. They can spend the money any time and they are misusing it. They have to justify the spending of security vote.

The way forward is to make sure that we increase our income and reduce our expenditure.

Let me say it quickly here that revolution is never the answer because it has never solved any problem anywhere. After the revolt, you will still have to sit around the table to discuss. During revolutions, you use your hand to destroy what you have built. And then you will use your future to build your past that you have destroyed. So, revolution is not the answer. If there is going to be any revolution, it will be a mental revolution and it will be a revolution of civic responsibility.

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How can Nigerians survive this period in terms of income or creating wealth for themselves?

The principles of wealth creation are universal and they are not new. The question is: How can you increase your income or reduce your expenditure? My advice is that every Nigerian should start from reducing expenditure; they should sit down as husbands and wives or individuals. Some people do not have records; data don’t lie, rather they educate, and so we should keep them.

As an individual you have to sit down. What are the main items of expenditure in your life and what can you reduce? You start from what we call the basic needs like food, clothes, education and shelter. One needs to cut down unnecessary spending.

The second thing we need to do is to explore new income streams. I did a series on migration popularly known as ‘Japa’ and found out that a lot of people think it’s by relocating out of Nigeria that they will be blessed. You can stay local and earn global. Everybody should be thinking of what else to do to earn extra income.

I hope you know that we now have a 24-hour economy. But because Nigeria is not a 24-hour economy, many of us don’t know that we are in a 24-hour world which has become a global community. The internet is the village square. For lack of power and security, Nigeria is not running a 24-hour economy. There are nations of the world where economy runs 24 hours and because of time difference, you can be in Nigeria and work in three different countries and three different companies and be making your dollars from Nigeria

There are now courses on data management, data analysis, editing, and project management. There are all kinds of content and other things you can do. You don’t have to go into coding; there is so much you can do on IT and all you need is one to three months training.

There are organizations that do this training free of charge. They will not only do it for free, they will also bring you on board, train you and give you jobs to do and they will share profits with you. But people are not ready because they don’t know that these things are available.

How do you manage these realities in the midst of public expectations and social limitations?

Everybody should be concerned about helping their fellow human beings and the way to do that is to budget for support. So, out of every money you make, you should have to help people.

There is something we call the 20, 40, 60 principle. When you are in your 20s and 30s, you are so concerned about what people say. Many of your choices and decisions are based on how people feel and what people say. By the time you get to 40, you will know that life begins, because you don’t care what anybody says. By the time you get to your 60s, you realize that nobody was even saying anything; you were just the one putting yourself under unnecessary pressure.

When I started my foundation 13 years ago, one of the principles of the foundation was eradicating poverty and establishing a positive legacy for others to follow.

And people are asking if it’s possible to eradicate poverty but I am not into poverty alleviation; I am into poverty eradication. And you can eradicate poverty by empowerment and empowerment means give them the knowledge that they need so that they can help themselves. We made the policy that any problem we cannot totally solve we will not be involved. I know things are tough and challenging, but there are problems you are not created to solve; solve the one you can solve and leave the rest.

What will you advise the government to put in place to restructure the economy and make it work?

We have to practice true federalism; it means that power and resources must be decentralised. So every local government should have autonomy. Same thing for every state. And they should have the power to control. We should be the United States of Nigeria.

Nigeria has 36 states plus the federal capital. Each state is like a country on its own. So we are supposed to be the United States of Nigeria. So Lagos should have authority over its resources and assets and pay to the center a certain percentage of what comes from these. This should apply to every state.

We will be safer this way because there must be local government police, state police, and federal police. We have seen this done everywhere in the world. We have to decentralize the government so that everybody is not going to the center every month cap in hand. With that, each state will grow at its pace. And each governor will put on his thinking cap.