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Summary: A lot has been said about Mr. President for his lackadaisical approach to the economy. Many people (especially the oppositions) accusing him of putting more effort in witch-hunting his political enemies, rather than implementing economic policies that would have solved the current economic challenges facing the country. Focusing on the agricultural sector would save the country from the present crisis in commodity, especially the high cost of foodstuff which can be attributed to our over-reliance on imported products.
A lot have been said about the present government on the tough situation the economy is in. Some people accused Mr. President for his lackadaisical approach to the economy. Describing his zealousness on fighting corrupt ex-government officials as nothing but witch-hunting; they insinuate that instead of too much concentration on pursuing the corrupt elements let him put the same passion to revive the economy which direly needs attention. They have virtually blamed him in all his style of leadership approaches on issues like, the devaluation, lopsided appointments, state inability to pay salaries, how to use the looted funds, Agricultural policy etc. Other groups blamed the successive Nigerian governments for failure to look outside the box in other word for their failure to diversify the economy from over dependence on oil as its mainly source of revenue; more so the government failure to save for the rainy days especially during the period of oil boom when we had more than what we have budgeted for, they also failed to use the funds they accumulated appropriately. To this group, Mr. president is doing all he can to revive and fix the economy through diversification especially, in agriculture; blockage of Loopholes where our money is being siphoned like the abolishing of oil subsidy regime, today it is based on market-driven forces; effective Tax regime and many other strategies that will improve the revenue generation and inflows into the national treasury.
While writing this piece, I try my best not to hurt anybody by my words, yet I know many will not perceive it the way I do; but that’s the beauty of democracy, everybody is entitled to his opinion. This piece of writing is not to itemise the laudable achievements Mr. President has so far made or the foundation laid so far towards restructuring the Nigeria’s economy but rather, to comment on some baseless, unjustifiable, biased and inequitable criticism which will not in any way help Nigeria as corporate entity. Though, I believe in criticism but a constructive, decent and civilised one for without constructive criticism, our democracy is bound to dictatorship.
The present crisis in commodity especially the price of foodstuffs can be attributed to our over-reliance on import products couples with the drop in the price of crude in the international market with which Nigeria accrue its foreign reserve to finance the economy and to subsidise the exchange rate of foreign currency to importers of these goods. The shortage of Forex in its reserve has forced the federal government to stopped issuing dollars to these importers at subsidised rates, allowing them to source dollars through Autonomous markets. This and many other factors have aggravated the problem we are in but I can assure you this will become history as effort is geared towards making this country sufficient in food production; just very recent President has directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to extend the Anchor Borrowers’ program in rice production to 14 other states in the country as part of the efforts to ensure food sufficiency in Nigeria. This was after a successful implementation of the same program in Kebbi State. Another program “Agriculture Promotion Policy (2016-2019)” was recently approved by the Federal Executive council. One of the outlined policies in this program is “The Green Alternative” aimed to achieving self-sufficiency in agriculture and also to become major exporter of agricultural products like grains, rice, maize and beans in the next one and half year, maximum.
Furthermore, to curtail the frequent crisis between herdsmen and farmers a pilot program was being planned in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to stop cows being moved around. The federal govt have brought a very good seeds of grass which will soon be planted. Eventually in the next one year, most of our cows shall be moved into ranches and reserves. The issue of ranches has popped-up a lot of tension in some states but, the Agric. minister (Audu Ogbe) has cleared this as he said, “Some people don’t want to hear about grazing reserves and government has no intention of forcing anyone to surrender one inch of land. Some states are willing, we shall develop these things in their domain, and cows will move in there, they will be given best grass for cattle. Most of these grasses contain 18 per cent protein and amino acid, so the cows can feed well, have the good water to drink and give us the best milk and beef.”
Of course, Nigerians are crying because we are feeling the heat, today most of the essential commodities have doubled or even tripled in price; while as the salary remained the same that’s for few of us that are earning salary; before, N6, 000 can fill my vehicle’s tank but today such amount can only buy me 40 litres of fuel; but that is the sacrifice we all have to made for our country to be better. We most to believe that this situation is only a provisional one, as the Nigeria’s economy will bounce back even stronger and all of us will laugh at last, -looking at the solid foundation Mr. President is putting into place measures which are progressively restoring sanity, assuring Nigerians that the days of impunity, lack of accountability and fiscal recklessness in the management of the country’s resources are over. Effective measures are currently being taken to plug the systemic leaks through which colossal amounts were siphoned; key among which is the introduction of Treasury Single Account (TSA); effectively elimination of the subsidy scam which had wrecked incalculable harm to the nation’s economy. In the previous governments, over twenty-five percent of the nation’s budgets were devoted to paying the doubtful and shady subsidy provision.
Nigerians will never forget president’s bold and historic fight against corruption, a fight against few but powerful minority group, this alone is a great achievement aimed at redirecting Nigerians minds and economy to a greater altitude. As Mr. President said in one these gatherings that, “What I think our people should know is that a process of change is difficult as it requires endurance and patience. China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and other great Asian countries had at different times passed through processes of change. They are far better off today. “And some of these countries were at par with Nigeria in terms of development some five decades ago. We are attempting to do the same here to say let us stop building individuals, let us stop making those who serve in government get stupendously wealthy at the expense of ordinary Nigerians they had sworn to serve”.
“Rather, we should concentrate on building strong institutions. Let us introduce economic prosperity by bringing in more investors to catalyse a sense of competition to grow our economy. Let there be law and order in our ways.”
As mentioned earlier, people are feeling the heat and of course they have every right to express their feelings so that govt can redouble its efforts to alleviate the hardship within the shortage possible time but, most of those crying and blindly criticising the govt are the looters who for their selfish aggrandisement have massively squandered our common-wealth for them-selves and family. These group of people and of course their relations, cronies and sympathisers perceive the govt as their common enemy hence resort to fight back using all the available means at their disposal especially, media platforms as their tools to incite citizens against govt. They try to condemn or reduce the present fight on corruption as nothing but witch hunting. What many people failed to understand is that, most of the investigation cases presently carrying out by our Anti-corruption agencies were as a result of revelations that, money meant for the prosecution of the war against the Boko-Haram (BH) insurgency were either diverted for electioneering purposes or embezzled by fat and ugly generals and other unscrupulous civilians.
It was president commitment towards fighting BH that led to this investigation. Our military are known world over to be brave, fearless and dedicated to their duty; their footprints are all over especially, how they assisted in restoring peace in countries like Liberia, Ivory Coast and Republic of Sudan among others but surprisingly, this resilience failed to manifest on our internal crisis. It was then discovered that all these while our military were in shortage of funds, weapons and other military hardware and equipment to successfully convert this war; there were little motivation as their entitlement have also not been paid for quite long. This shameful and unethical act was what triggered the investigation on Arms funds and I think no sensible person who meant well for this country will see this unpatriotic conduct and close his eyes like nothing happened; an action that has resulted in the death of thousands of people and left millions dispersed in Internally Dispersed Persons (IDP) camps all over Nigeria and even in our neighbouring countries.
Another baseless criticism is on the inability of most of state governments to pay salary. During the last election most of the governors have left the states treasury virtually empty with many of them are unable to clear accumulated salary arrears of teachers and civil servants, or settle many outstanding payments due to contractors and many service providers. How can a sensible person blame Buhari on this issue? President has no obligation on them as their allocation are timely granted to them without any stringent string but out of his wisdom, he has twice bailed them out of this financial embarrassment, predicament and quagmire.
Another tool the so-called critics employed that is baffling me and is negatively affecting our corporate existence as a country is sentiment, prejudice and bias on any step or action taken by the present government without x-raying and elucidating such action. Most of our media houses have today reduced to a regional/religious base; they twist and report events to favour the region and religion which they belong to the detriment of our unity, this poses a serious threat to our corporate existence. One example to buttress my argument is the present fight on security threat in Nigeria. When Mr. President aggressively started fighting the BH in the North East everybody hailed and applauded him; but at the same time when he resorted to fight the militia groups, the likes of Niger Delta Avengers (NDA, in the South-South) with even less strength he fights BH, the whole media turned against him, crying loud that he is going too far; that the fight is not the solution but dialogue; that no country has ever survive two (2) wars at a given time and won etc.
Not quite long from the issue of Avengers, Mr. President resorted to fighting the menace of cattle rustlers and Arm bandits in the North West. Over a thousand military troops and military hardware were deployed to those areas to fight these criminals who made life and business unbearable to the people of those areas. They maim, kill, rape and seize their cattle and other valuable properties. For me both, BH, NDA and cattle rustlers are criminals therefore should be treated as criminals; while BH and rustlers resorted to kill humans, the NDA are economic saboteurs destroying govt facilities, pipelines and terminals that are the bedrock of the economy which is as bad as killing human being. Their activities have reduced the crude oil output and hampered the Nigerian economy and destroyed our budget plan. Today oil production went down from 2.2 million barrels per day to about 1.5 million barrels or even less. This has also affected power supply due to low gas supply. So, you can imagine the impact of all these to the economy.
The approach taken by the govt in tackling the so-called Avengers l may be hash and unwise especially, when we look at the economic situation, we are in but, the terms and conditions they tabled to the government are unrealistic and no sensible government will succumb to these terms and threats. But I believe there is a room for re-negotiation on both sides. What baffles me here is that while the media came out and issued statement in cases of BH and Avengers, until now I have not seen/heard any of these media who came out and denounce or support the fight in the NW or may be is it because it’s happening in the north? This is a double standard on our so-called media and if care not taken this attitude plus many will cause the unity and corporate existence of this country.
Finally, I want to re-emphasise that no doubt Nigeria is in economic depression or recession which was as a result of cumulative factors both the avoidable and unavoidable, inherited and created ones. but despite all these, I want to call all of us to first see ourselves as Nigerians, eschew all religious, regional and ethnic chauvinism and support our President as he embarks on restructuring the economy of this nation for all of us and generation unborn to enjoy. These measures may be hash and unbearable but are transitory and with patience we will overcome them.
Nigeria has been left behind in the committee of nation; we cannot afford to be doing the same thing for long without any reasonable change, Nigeria has to change for good. Countries like, South Africa, Egypt, Brazil, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, North Korea, Singapore, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and UAE to mention but few who were at par with Nigeria, today by using any yardstick these countries have surpassed us in terms of development. As we all know, America as it is today were originally some 13 tiny and scattered British colonies but, determined to came together and gave birthed to a great nation that everybody is proud of. If 13 former British colonies can forget their differences and become one, I see no reason why only Three (3) other former British colonies and protectorates cannot do the same! As they said, together we progress and divided we fall.
• First, We need to see ourselves as Nigerians without considering our religion affiliation, regional and ethnic chauvinism.
• Secondly, we to support Mr. President as he embarks on restructuring the economy of this nation for all of us and generations unborn to enjoy. The restructuring measures may be harsh and unbearable but are transitory, and with patience, we will overcome the challenges.
About the Author: Sanusi Moyi is an anti-money laundering expert. He writes from Abuja.
Keywords: Government, Buhari, Criticisms, Protest, Economy, Corruption