Two years after President Muhammadu Buhari administration came on board having been sworn on May 29, 2015, certainly, all socio-economic indicators show that the average Nigerian is not faring better but groaning today under severe hardship and unable to meet basic necessities of life.
Therefore, we challenge government to redouble efforts to alleviate if not totally eliminate the suffering.
The incumbent government, we recall, rode on the change mantra to power, promising to give the economy, insecurity and war against corruption topmost priority attention. After initial long procrastination, Buhari constituted his cabinet before settling down to business of governance and the score card of federal ministries, departments and departments (MDAS) so far clearly, has fallen short of expectations of the people who voted overwhelmingly for positive change and life in abundance.
In the economic front, the nation is still reeling on the web of recession with all the resulting negative symptoms like high inflation rate, cost of goods and services hitting the roof top beyond the reach of most Nigerians, rising job losses, dwindling industrial capacity utilization, high interest rate and workers’ low purchasing power.
Though the World Bank and the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) have been quick to predict an early recovery from the recession (latest June), we note with concern that current indices on ground do not corroborate such assertion by the two institutions.
For instance despite several assurances by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, and Finance Minister, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, the economic recovery process has not created the touted many jobs; not relaxed the inflationary rate put at 17.24 per cent year-on-year as at April 2017, while local industrial utilization has remained abysmally low.
Regrettably also, prices of staple foods that constitute daily menu of most Nigerians including garri, rice and yam are still on the very high side with a plastic size of garri selling for N1000 in the market and a bag of rice going for as much as N18,000 in some places which unfortunately is the national minimum wage.
We also observe in the last two years that both the CBN and the Finance Ministry have not demonstrated extraordinary synergy and competence expected of drivers of a major economy and this must change if the economy must improve its fortune.
Specifically, management of the foreign exchange regime by the apex bank has been anything but satisfactory until lately and a matter of regret that the United States dollar is exchanging for almost N400 in the parallel market with far-reaching negative implications even though the naira is faring better in the official interbank market presently.
And more worrying dimension is the fact that under the current floating exchange regime as experience has shown, those who access the dollars at the official window would definitely fall to temptation of not lending to the real sector which is also the productive sector, considering that finished goods from imported raw materials will be more expensive for consumers who are at liberty to go for imported items. The urge to also channel their dollar to the parallel market where return is higher and immediate is irresistible.
We further observe that the biting recession had taken a further heavy toll on the nation’s aviation sector such that two local airlines- Arik Air and Aero Contractors- were on the brink of total collapse but for prompt government’s intervention through the Assets Management Corporation of Nigeria (AMCON), which saved the day. Similarly, there is virtually no local content addition in the sector with aviation fuel becoming more expensive in the country than anywhere else in Africa if not the world.
Therefore, we challenge the Buhari administration to take another hard look at its economic policies with a view to alleviating hardship in the land, reducing the cost of borrowing in commercial banks and further lowering the cost of doing business in order to create the enabling environment required for private businesses to thrive. This is the only way to stop continued job losses and create new jobs.
Reducing the interest rate without doubt, would serve as stimulus to local industries because they will be able to access funds cheaply, build capacity and buy more raw materials for production of goods both for local consumption and possibly export and these will have multiplier effects on the economy.
We are deeply worried also that the tottering economy has further aggravated security challenges across the country, a development that has resulted in upsurge in kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, rape and other criminal activities.
However, the tremendous successes by our gallant officers and men of the Armed Forces in the war against Boko Haram is commendable though the North East zone earlier overrun by the criminals has not been totally liberated of the insurgents.
Heart warming too is the rescue of about 106 out of 270 girls kidnapped in April 2014 by the Islamic sect in a dormitory in Chibok Girls Secondary School, Borno State. We demand that no stone should be left unturned by the security forces in recovering the remaining girls who are still trapped in Boko Haram den.
The high number of defenceless Nigerians lost daily to rampaging fully armed Fulani herdsmen across the country especially in Southern Kaduna and Benue State is heartbreaking and requires an immediate solution.
We demand adequate protection of lives and property of all Nigerians in line with section 14: 2(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) which stipulates that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government in the country which is the sole essence of government.
More importantly, policemen should be recruited as earlier promised by government and state of the art equipment and vehicles be procured as part of security architecture to tame the herdsmen and address other criminal activities.
We further demand more action on the part of the Police Service Commission that is statutorily charged with the recruitment to wake up from its current slumber to fast track the process as continued security breaches and pervasive threats to lives and property in the land will scare potential investors from investing in the country while those operating here have no choice than relocate elsewhere with conducive industrial climate.
In our opinion, the war on corruption by the Buhari administration has recorded tremendous successes with total recovered cash according to the Federal Government so far is over $160 million and N8 billion and several convictions made in the law courts.
The whistle blowing policy has not only added a new impetus to the anti-graft campaign but also aroused public consciousness while state officials are becoming better informed that there are dare consequences for looting of public funds.
However, we strongly believe that there is room for improvement in the anti-graft campaign being waged by operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as well as the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) particularly by raising their game, enthroning more accountability, transparency, making full disclosures on recovered looted funds and its utilization by government.
There is also an urgent need for the EFCC to make the war total to address the current negative perception that it is selective and targetted at the opposition which is why some politicians with corruption cases on their neck are defecting daily from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) perhaps to escape the commission’s searchlight and justice. Therefore, the APC must not harbour the corrupt and criminally-minded defectors.
In the power sector, the incumbent administration has fared manifestly woefully as the epileptic power supply has remained same if not worse than it was before May 29, 2015. This is apart from not adding any new infrastructure since coming on board. Though the APC had in course of electioneering in 2014, boasted it won’t take more than six months to fix the power sector, it is regrettable and shameful that even the government-owned Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) has facilities to distribute only 4,000 megawatts of electricity irrespective of the quantum generated by generating companies that had been fully privatized.
We reject the existing hiccups in gas supply to GENCOS and demand full turn-around for the sector in the months ahead as only stable electricity supply can guarantee sustainable socio-economic and industrial growth in the country.
It is also a truism that little or no visible meaningful impact has been made in upgrading public utilities like roads, rail and health facilities so far. The situation is even very pathetic given that the President is currently on indefinite medical vacation in London where he had initially spent 49 days for treatment.
Government has also fared below average and not proactive enough in the international arena such that Nigerians continue to be easy prey in South Africa where many have been killed. This must stop. We challenge the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be very proactive and should take more active interest in the overall well-being and welfare of Nigerians wherever they may be across the globe.
By and large, we believe the Buhari administration though has made some gains in some sectors so far, much work is required for government to alleviate current hardship facing the people and this could only be achieved by thinking outside the box, implementing plans and programmes that will transform the economy in conjunction with the National Assembly which before now has not acted as reliable partner in progress with the executive. Though we commend recent passage of Petroleum Industry Governance Bill after 14 years, it is only such transformation that will engender the real change the citizens desired and life abundance for all before the APC can ask for their votes in 2019.
For a better society