By EZE CHUKWU
BEFORE the last general elections which saw the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari from a newly formed political party take the centre stage as the new number one citizen, many Nigerians had already given-up hope on the then government. From issues relating to fuel subsidy to purchase of armoured cars which were allegedly over-priced, all that Nigerians wanted was a complete over-haul of the system. It did not really matter who was taking over. Change was sorely needed. From the north, south, east to west, everyone clamoured for change. Many Nigerians never queried the content of character of whoever was to bring the change, as long as the status quo was altered, care was let to the wind.
The coming to power of Buhari brought back confidence and rekindled the hope of Nigerians in the nation’s democracy which had eluded them. One could practically hear sounds of revelry from kilometers away, with chants such as Sai Baba! enveloping the atmosphere. The clergy was not left out as many who had prophesied victory for the president held wild crusades, with themes such as, ‘the triumphant return’, ‘the glorious awakening’, ‘victory is assured’, ‘the road to paradise’, to mention but a few. Most political appointees began to make last minute adjustments in readiness to be kicked out. Just the name Buhari, sent chill down the spine of corrupt public office holders, as they knew his antecedents. A new Nigeria was practically born, as the consciousness of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was again instilled in everyone.
However, sixteen months into this administration, Nigerians gnash their teeth as they wallow in elegiac moods. And the cause of the suffering? Economic recession. Experts say the hardship faced by Nigerians today is self-inflicted, as economic policies made by the present administration are not workable. For instance, how can one not have 100% access to his or her money in a domiciliary account meant for export after shipment of goods by the exporter and payment for same by the buyer has been made in foreign currency? You are simply cajoled into selling your ‘hard currency’ to the bank at CBN rates, whereas you bought same at black market rates abinitio.
Exporters have now devised a means of dodging this sledge hammer by either going to neighbouring countries to receive their payments in foreign currency or have opened a different domiciliary account other than that meant for export, to receive foreign exchange; a case of the hunter learning to shoot without missing since the bird now flies without perching.
The value of the naira keeps declining as its equivalent to a dollar in the parallel market today hover around 480 with prospects of a further decline. The neighbouring CFA keeps gaining grounds, as a CFA which used to exchange for around 35kobo now does same at about 70kobo, quite pathetic.
The removal of subsidy on petrol is another problem, as many had thought that the present administration would have tackled the alleged corruption in the subsidy scheme instead of an outright removal, which contradicts its stance on the issue when the previous government attempted to do so. The question is why protest the removal of subsidy in the first place? When Nigerians queried this move, the reply was that it never trusted the erstwhile administration to do the right thing. So, we now have a case of the kettle calling the pot…you know the rest. Nigerians now buy petrol and its allied products at almost double the previous price which ultimately translates to a hike in price of commodities in the market. Mind you, salaries are not increased.
The unfavourable economic policies led to the exodus of multinationals from the shores of Nigeria either back to base or to neighbouring countries like Ghana where they are easily berthed and an enabling environment with basic amenities provided for, to aid commencement of business which further boosts their economy. How then does the present administration plan to revamp the economy, such that other investors who have plans to move their businesses out to foreign lands can have a rethink, since they now consider Nigeria a bivvy?
It is pertinent to note that the first step to every solution is the identification of the problem and its cause(s). From the look of things, the present administration has not identified recession as a problem. Little wonder it was quoted as saying ‘…recession is merely a word’. This present government believes corruption tops the list in the list of problems facing the country, which one would beg to disagree. Bluntly, the issue with Nigeria is purely and squarely a problem of leadership. How can corruption top the list when the essentials of governance are yet to be provided? No good road network/robust transport scheme for trade to thrive, epileptic power supply which hinders optimal production. No robust housing scheme by government to cushion the effect of slums which is a breeding ground for miscreants, apart from those built by visionary leaders in time past, and so on.
In the spirit of a united Nigeria and that of ending the recession which has proved herculean for some time now, one would recommend that an invitation be given to the likes of Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iwela, and Mr Peter Obi whose dexterity in the management of the economy is second to none.
Chukwu writes from Nnewi
These individuals have proven records in the public sector and will be in the best interest of this administration and Nigerians at large, if these individuals are incorporated in the system not minding party affiliations, to help bring to an end the general suffering of Nigerians. If not, with the way things unfold on a daily basis, the proposed sale of national assets won’t just be enough to revamp the economy. Nigerians may have to pay with their nationality to end this economic tantrum.
Therefore, this government is urged to shelve pride aside and take the bold step to rejig the economy, except it has other tactful techniques of dealing with the situation which Nigerians are yet to see. After all, if these intellects help to bring to an end this recession brouhaha that has ravaged the pockets of many Nigerians, the glory yet goes to the present administration.
Chukwu writes from Nnewi