By Michael Ilechukwu Valentine
Recent events have brought to the fore the harsh reality of the state of the nation. One of them is the decision of the National Assembly to summon President Muhammadu Buhari to address it on his plan to salvage the nation’s economy that is in recession. The second event is the protest by Erisco Foods staff over the harsh economic environment that is threatening their jobs. These two events are a clear indication of the fact that the nation’s economy is indeed in recession against the persistent denial by the Federal Government. The result of this is that the ordinary citizen is finding it difficult to face the natural challenges of feeding, clothing, providing shelter, accessing medical services and, of course, paying for the education of their children.
Beyond this, the pressure of meeting with these statutory demands has led to strain in marriages which in turn leads to more broken homes. The spate of kidnapping and abduction, armed robbery and cheating will be on the increase. All these put together point to more social problems. As these social problems continue to increase, the security of both citizens and the state become equally threatened, leading to more pressure on the security apparatus of the state. The citizens, the leaders and the state are exposed to the fallout of the recession.
It is arguable that the present recession is not the making of the present regime, but the effect of mismanagement of the nation’s resources over the years. This means that those charged with the responsibility of this nation called Nigeria grew up selfish and impervious to ideas and consequently, the affairs of the nation degenerated into personal feelings and selfish aspirations. Consequently, corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement of the nation’s resources became the order of the day as the national interest was relegated to the background. This is evident in the media of the mind-boggling amount looted by individuals given the responsibility of managing the interest nation.
This gave credence to the change agenda of the ruling APC led by President Muhammadu Buhari. Given his antecedents, the citizens gave him their support on the grounds that, having contested in the past elections, he could have developed formidable strategies to tackle corruption, misappropriation and mismanagement of the nation’s resources and in turn introduce the change that will revive the economy and place the nation on its rightful pedestal. The report by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) about corruption in Nigeria is sufficient evidence. The administration of PMB is making serious efforts on the fight against corruption. It has exposed those who have been looting the nation’s treasury while we await the conviction of the people so far indicted.
However, the incidents referred to call to question the ability of the present regime to manage the nation’s economy. The recession which is occasioned by the depreciation of the Naira and the inability of the administration to stabilize it remains a worrying concern. More so, the inability of the government to present its strategy for economic growth points to the fact that some background work in this direction may not have been carried out prior to the election or that it was neglected. What is difficult to accept is the non-existence of one. Hence, the decision of the National Assembly to summon the president to make clarifications in this regard.
While we await the outcome of this meeting, it is pertinent to consider some of the palliative measures that can be considered for improving the lot of Nigerians. The government should as a matter of urgency design policies targeted at empowering the middle and lower classes. Empowering these classes has a lot of multiplier effects. It will aid the government in creating the desired jobs and consequently increase revenue generation through tax. In formulating such policies, the premium target should be the youth through the NYSC scheme. Funds could be made available to corps members that have business plans that are purely indigenous, which will be in the form of infrastructure, machines and raw materials. A management team from relevant parastatals should be assigned to the benefitiaries as to protect, nurture and ensure growth of the investment. As the investment begins to make profit, the loan so far accessed will be repaid over a period to finance another set.
The issue of oil refining has become a conduit for siphoning money, whereas a lot of Nigerian youths engage in illegal refining. Common sense holds that instead of arresting them, they should be given licences to operate while NNPC becomes the monitoring board. Like in communication, the immediate result will be mass employment, the crude oil that is taken outside the shores for refining may not be enough for the local refiners, the byproducts are raw materials for a broad range of products. This will finally put to rest the issue of pipeline bombing and agitations in the Niger Delta.
The reason corruption is difficult to curb is that the nation’s economy is not tax-driven. Hence, the citizens become so complacent about the management of public funds. If the nation’s economy is tax-driven, taxpayers will ensure that the taxes they pay are used judiciously. Imagine what the situation will be like for taxpayers to know that an individual has misappropriated a million naira of their tax. Corruption will be brought to its barest minimum and transparency will be entrenched in our system.
It is not just enough to expose looters of the nation’s treasury, the recovered loot should be judiciously used for the provision of electric power and construction of roads and other infrastructure that will enable businesses to thrive. This will motivate indigenous input in the nation’s economy against the foreign investors whose interest is to market phones and other products manufactured in their various countries of origin. One of such roads that urgently needs rehabilitation is Apapa-Lagos. The neglect of the nation’s major port is robbing us of income due to transactions that have been grounded by bad road network.
Ilechukwu writes from Enugu