From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja and Adewole
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said the sudden drop in the price of crude oil has left Nigeria poor, leaving it to struggle economically and its people suffering.
Buhari however said his administration’s commitment to transparency and accountability was serving the country in good stead, despite severe shortage of resources in the country. He said despite economic challenges, transparency has made the country remain afloat.
The President spoke Thursday at the State House, Abuja, while receiving the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Executive Director and Under Secretary General of the United Nations, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin.
“It has been a very difficult year for Nigeria. Before we came to office, petroleum sold for about $100 per barrel.
Then it crashed to $37, and now oscillates between $40 and $45 per barrel. Suddenly, we’re a poor country, but commitment to transparency and accountability is not making people know that there is severe shortage,” Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, quoted the President as saying.
The President called for understanding from the UNFPA in whichever area the country could not live up to its responsibilities for now, adding that exploding population and different cultural practices in the country provide fertile ground for research to organizations like UNFPA.
Buhari thanked the UN agency for its commitment to saving lives in Nigeria, particularly of women and children.
On food security, Buhari described as encouraging reports from the North-East of the country that people were returning to their farmlands, with the guarantee of relative security.
Osotimehin, a former Minister of Health in Nigeria, said UNFPA was determined to promote health care facilities across the country, noting that reduction of maternal mortality was doable, if the country paid more attention to access to health facilities, and human resources to run them.
He also encouraged Nigeria to commit to providing resources for health care, on a rollover basis, pledging that the UN would work with the country to provide humanitarian assistance not only in the North-East, “but even extended to the Lake Chad basin.”
Asking UNFPA to bear with Nigeria in whichever area the country could not live up to its responsibilities for now, President Buhari said exploding population and different cultural practices in the country provide fertile ground for research to organisations like UNFPA.
Reacting to the president”s comments, President Committee for Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu said his position on poverty of the Nigerian state was not completely acceptable.
He said “Granted that the decline in global oil price affected most oil producing nations including OPEC members but the essence of the Nigerian voters investing power on the President and his team was for them to be able harness the goodwill he enjoys as an anti corruption crusader to diversify the economy to enhance their standard of living”
“We expect more than restating the fact that there is poverty in the land. What we expect is for the President to use ingenious, out of the box methods including use his enormous goodwill to create wealth for the people of Nigeria.
On his own part, legal luminary and human right activities, Chief Olisa Agbakoba while sympathizing with Nigerians for the crash in prices of crude oil, said President Buhari and his economic team should however not heap the woes of the economy on falling crude oil prices.
“I am not seeing a clearly articulated economic diversification programme or policy by President Buhari on how to deal with the rough conditions brought about by the crisis in falling oil prices,” Agbakoba said.