Despite the availability of natural resources, population, and domestic markets, all sectors of the Nigerian economy performed below their potential during the nation's first 40 years of independence. The structure of
Most observers of the Nigerian scene—domestic as well as foreign—attribute the poor performance and the over-reliance on the oil sector to a variety of reasons, including political instability, prolonged authoritarian rule by the military, poor macroeconomic management, inadequate infrastructure, and external financing. In November 1996, the military ruler Abacha set up the VISION 2010 Committee which looked into the general situation and recommended targets for year 2010. No tangible progress has so far been made.
The civilian administration of Obasanjo has proposed substantial reform in its economic policy for 1999 to 2003. The main thrust of the reform is to deregulate the economy and to disengage the state from activities which are private-sector oriented, leaving the state to act as a facilitator. The plan also concentrates on the provision of incentives, policy, and infrastructure essential to the private sector's role as the engine of growth. The administration's industrial policy seeks to generate productive employment and raise productivity, increase export of locally manufactured goods, create a wider geographical dispersal of industries, attract foreign investment, and increase private sector participation. The policy places highest priority on the agricultural sector— to achieve both poverty reduction, especially in rural areas, and sufficiency in food production and surplus for use as industrial raw materials for export. Other areas of high priority include manufacturing industries, solid minerals, oil and gas, small and medium enterprises, and tourism. Also, the industrial policy includes partial privatization of government-owned enterprises in such sectors as telecommunications, electricity generation and distribution, petroleum refining, coal and bitumen production, and tourism, in which citizens as well as foreigners may freely participate.