Open Letter To President Muhammadu Buhari: How To Aggressively Diversify The Nigerian Economy


By Bunmi Awoyemi, Ph.D

For our dear nation Nigeria, it has never been about how rich we are in natural resources. It has always been about lack of prudent management of resources.


The resources squandered so far are oil, gas and human capital. It is time to diversify our economy by developing other resources that we have in abundance such as solid minerals, agriculture, sports, tourism, and human capital. Each Nigerian state has tremendous amounts of solid minerals that can be explored and processed into finished products that we can market within Nigeria and across Africa.

We need to put a plan together that ensures that by 2019 we are refining 100% of our daily crude oil output. Eight separate 200,000,000 barrels per day oil refineries will refine 1.6 million barrels per day of crude oil and create at least 500,000 jobs. 10 to 20 petrochemical and fertilizer plants can also spring up around these refineries to create and additional 250,000 jobs. These jobs will cut across different fields of engineering and absorb unemployed graduates with top Nigerian engineers working in managerial positions in world class oil and gas firms called in from diaspora to come and run and manage these refineries with each of them having sweat equity in the oil refineries.

The Nigerian government can enter into joint venture oil refinery private public partnership arrangements of Build Operate and Manage. With arrangements like these, the government simply invests only a small percentage of the funds needed for the engineering procurement and construction of these refineries, while the rest comes from private equity investors and debt financiers.

With the kind of clout Nigeria has across Africa, excess white or refined oil produced can be sold in Africa via off take bilateral agreements with other African nations. We could end up becoming importers of crude oil should we decide to build additional refineries in the future. We will then export the finished refined oil products even beyond Africa to Asia and Europe. This will create millions of high paying jobs and will make our membership of OPEC unnecessary.

We must go beyond being a nation known for exportation of natural resources to a nation that adds value to those resources by using them to manufacture finished products that we can both consume and export to other African nations. No natural resources dependent nation can become a global economic power.


The government should invest in health, roads, bridges, electricity so that Nigerians can enjoy their lives in good health at affordable prices and to ensure that finished products can get to market on time. When all these infrastructure are put in place expect the entrepreneurial potential of Nigerians to be unleashed. The good news is that the government need not use the old model of just awarding contracts. Private Public Partnership models should be encouraged so that entrepreneurs can come in and plan and invest alongside the government in putting these infrastructure in place. This approach will create at least 500,000 construction jobs. It is not rocket science. Government must open up governance and remove bureaucracy from the system so that ideas and investments can come in. The government does not have the finances to go it alone on infrastructure.


If Buhari can maintain law, order and security the tourism potential of Nigeria can be unleashed. Based on my calculations Nigerian tourism sector can make $4b a year from tourism starting from October 2017 based on plans put in place from October 2015. This revenue is exclusive of revenues already coming in from existing hotels and tourism spots. Trinidad and Tobago is a Caribbean nation with vast gas resources but its annual revenue from gas cannot be compared to the huge revenue the Bahamas makes from tourism.

Florida has one of the highest GDPs among American states and arguably a larger economy than Nigeria yet it relies on tourism revenue with some hotels investing billions of dollars in expansion. We need to diversify our economy and tourism holds the key. UAE realized long ago that oil revenue has its high and low seasons and focused on tourism in the 1980’s, and they are reaping the rewards today. They are not feeling the effects of the shale oil dynamics in their revenue stream as Nigeria is feeling it. Buhari needs out of the box non-text book thinkers and visionaries to make this eagle fly again.

With over 70% of medical graduates since the 1970s working for hospitals in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Austria, Germany, Saudi Arabia etc, imagine what world class infrastructural investments could do for the healthcare sector. It will be a magnet for attracting our medical doctors back to Nigeria. They will come in with lots of experience and medical tourism will earn us higher revenue than crude oil. When they are coming back they will be coming with huge international financial backing for the purposes of building high quality general and specialist hospitals.

Written by Bunmi Awoyemi, Ph.D, a public Affairs analyst, a Corporate and Project Finance expert as well as an international lawyer.