Prudently managing the economy and bringing Nigeria out of recession By Jide Ayobolu

Prudently managing the economy and bringing Nigeria out of recession

By

Jide Ayobolu

 

Of the N6.06 trillion budgeted for the 2016 fiscal year, the Federal Government has released and cash-backed the sum of N2.5 trillion for the budget implementation. The disclosure was made recently by Udoma Udo Udoma, Minister of Budget and National Planning, who appeared before the Senate Committee on Appropriation in company of Kemi Adeosun, Minister of Finance. Both were invited by the upper legislative chamber to give explanations on the challenges of revenue generation to support financing of the budget. Udoma gave the breakdown of releases so far as N753,633,667,404 as capital releases; personnel, N1,299,995,393,317; pension and gratuity, N142,310,883,893. 00; overhead cost, N108,498,498,278. 00, while service wide vote had the sum of N195,488,914,105. Giving explanations on the challenges of raising money to fund the budget, Udoma stressed that since January this year, production of crude oil went down abysmally due to crises in the Niger Delta, adding that it was gradually picking up and would soon hit 2.2 million barrel per day as projected.

Udoma noted that government was paying salaries as at when due, while overhead and capital releases were being effected despite shortfall in revenues. Adeosun in her comment disclosed that the Federal Government has exhausted the N900 billion local borrowing in the 2016 budget. This comes as she disclosed that the government has so far captured 700,000 new companies under its tax payment. The N6.06 trillion 2016 budget which has a deficit of N2.2 trillion consists of N1.84 trillion borrowing plan. “All the local borrowing has been undertaken in the local market and we have been utilizing that money.“On the tax collection side, the FIRS has worked very hard. We have over 700,000 companies in the tax net who had not paid tax before.” According to her, the nation would reap the benefits of the addition of the 700,000 new companies captured in the tax net once the economy improves.“We believe this forms a very good basis. Right now, we are not seeing the numbers but we believe that revenue collection is a function of data. And as far as they are getting more and more companies into the net, as the economy improves, our tax revenues will improve and we will be less dependent on oil, which is one of our stated objectives”.

Furthermore, it would be recalled that only recently, President Muhammadu Buhari in New York, assured potential investors that Nigeria would soon be one of the most attractive places to invest as his administration has embarked on significant economic reforms. The President gave this assurance to a large gathering   of political and business leaders from the U.S., Africa and other regions of the world at the Second U.S.-Africa Business Forum in New York. The forum was organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Bloomberg Philanthropies. The Nigerian leader said that the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council headed by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, will soon come out with wide-ranging business environment reforms on ports, visa-on arrival, improving the speed and efficiency of land titling, business registration among others. Other fiscal incentives he noted, include, up to five years tax holiday for activities classified as “pioneer;” tax-free operations; no restrictions on expatriate quotas in Free Trade Zones; and a low VAT regime of five per cent. “We intend to make Nigeria one of the most attractive places to do business,” he declared, even as he noted that Nigeria remains the number one investment destination in Africa. Buhari added that his administration will continue to strengthen government institutions in order to address the concerns of investors and ease investments in the Nigerian economy. “We are weaning ourselves from a historical dependence on crude oil, diversifying our economy, and putting it on the path of sustainable and inclusive growth. To this end, we have embarked on policies aimed at establishing an open, rules-based and market-oriented economy. We will continue to actively engage with the private sector at the highest levels to listen to your concerns and to assure you of our commitment to creating enabling policies in which your businesses can survive and thrive,” Buhari said.

He urged participants to “take advantage of this Forum to establish and strengthen business relationships, share valuable experience and collaborate for mutual benefits.” Buhari, while stressing that enormous potential exists for foreign investment and for the local economy, he listed sectors which have barely been exploited to include Nigeria’s 170-million population and abundance of labour; arable land; forest waters; oil and gas; solid minerals; livestock and huge tourist potential. According to him, “These are no doubt challenging times for the Nigerian economy. “But let me use this opportunity to boldly affirm our conviction that there is no crisis without an accompanying opportunity. “In our case, we see Nigeria’s ongoing economic challenges – occasioned mainly by the fall in oil prices – as an opportunity to set the economy firmly on the path of true diversification, sustainable economic growth and shared prosperity,” he noted.

The President said that the reform measures taken by his administration since inception in 2015, have started yielding fruits especially in the areas of security, anti-corruption and revamping the economy. He said the priority investment sectors for his administration now are improving infrastructure, industrial productivity, agriculture, mining and digital economy where young Nigerians are increasingly demonstrating that they have the talent and the passion to leverage. On U.S.-Nigeria business relations, he announced the commencement of the U.S.-Nigeria Commercial and Investment Dialogue with a focus on infrastructure, agriculture, digital economy, investment and regulatory reform to be jointly led by the Nigerian Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and his US counterpart. The President said that with this Business Forum, he looked forward to increased trade and investment flows between Nigeria and the U.S.

President Muhammadu Buhari has said past looters of the treasury are behind the resurgence of militancy in the Niger Delta region. According to him “Those who stole Nigeria dry are not happy. They recruited the militants against us in the Niger Delta, and began to sabotage oil infrastructure. We lose millions of barrels per day, at a time when every dollar we can earn, counts. It is a disgrace that a minimum of 27 states, out of 36 that we have in Nigeria, can’t pay salaries.

The Nigerian professionals were in New York to meet with the Nigerian President. Top flight aeronautics engineers, physicians, I.T experts, a Judge, a top policewoman, entrepreneurs, an Import Specialist at Customs and Border Protection, professors, two straight A students, and many others. The parley provided President Buhari opportunity to bring them up to speed on how and why Nigeria got into trouble, with an assurance that with all hands on deck, including the best brains in the Diaspora, the country would bounce back in the shortest possible time. “I am very pleased with this meeting,” President Buhari stated. “Wherever you go in the world, you find highly competent and outstanding Nigerians. They not only make great impact on their host countries and communities, their financial remittances back home also help our economy, particularly at a time like this, when things are down. “We got into trouble as a country, because we did not save for the rainy day. For example, between 1999 and 2015, when we produced an average of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, and oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel, we did not save, neither did we develop infrastructure. Suddenly, when we came in 2015, oil prices fell to about 30 dollars per barrel. “I asked; where are the savings? There were none. Where are the railways? The roads? Power? None. I further asked; what did we do with billions of dollars that we made over the years? They said we bought food. Food with billions of dollars? I did not believe, and still do not believe.

“In most parts of Nigeria, we eat what we grow. People in the South eat tubers, those in the North eat grains, which they plant, and those constitute over 60 per cent of what we eat. So, where did the billions of dollars go? We did a lot of damage to ourselves by not developing infrastructure when we had the money. “Talking of our military, they earned respect serving in places like Burma, Zaire, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, and then, suddenly, that same military could no longer secure 14 out of 774 local governments in the country. Insurgents had seized them, calling them some sort of caliphate, and planting their flags there; till we came, and scattered them. “We raised the morale of our military, changed the leadership, re-equipped and retrained them; USA, Britain, and some other countries helped us, and today, the pride of our military is restored.“Boko Haram ran riot, killing innocent people in churches, mosques, markets, schools, motor parks, and so on. And they would then shout Allahu Akbar. But if they truly knew Allah, they would not do such evil. Neither Islam, nor any other religion I know of, advocates hurting the innocent. But they shed innocent blood, killed people in their thousands. Now, we have dealt with that insurgency, and subverted their recruitment base.” “But I prayed so hard for God to make me President. I ran in 2003, 2007, 2011, and in 2015, He did. And see what I met on ground. But I can’t complain, since I prayed for the job. In the military, I rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Major-General. I was military governor in 1975 over a state that is now six states. I was head of state, got detained for three years, and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which had N53 billion of that time in Nigerian banks. “God has been very good to me, so I can’t complain. If I feel hurt by anybody, I ask God to help me forgive. He has done so much for me. “After 16 years of a different party in government, no party will come and have things easy. It’s human. We need quality hands to run Nigeria, and we will utilize them. I will like to welcome you home when it’s time. But I’ll like you to be ready.” All the Nigerian professionals pledged to contribute their quota towards re-launching their fatherland to a new dawn

The Buhari led government has been working round the clock to ensure that the suffering of Nigerians are assuaged and ameliorated, by laying a solid foundation for a greater and better tomorrow. The campaign of calumny against the government of President Buhari has been largely predicated on ethnicity and tribal particularism as well as politics of vendetta, especially by the opposition party that roundly defeated at the polls after many years of misrule, bad governance and monumental fraud. The other point which cannot be waved aside is the fact that, one of the cardinal policies of this administration is the war against corruption, and since this government came on board, never like before, it has consistently waged relentless war against graft in the country; and the high and mighty are not spared; now in a surreptitious manner, corruption is fighting back in a very dirty and desperate manner. It is germane to observe and rightly so that, since the present administration came on board under the leadership and watch of President Muhammadu Buhari, the president and his team has worked relentlessly to bail out the economy from the recession in which it is presently enmeshed, an economic situation which is self-inflicted as a result of bad governance, mismanagement, corruption and apparent lack of accountability of past leaders in the country. They dissipated the scarce financial resources of the country on conspicuous consumption as well as hedonistic and epicurean lifestyles; and refused to save for the raining day. It is this multifaceted errors of the past that the present government is trying to put right, unfortunately, the present government has been severally criticized by those who created the economic challenges in the first place, particularly members of the past administration, who mercilessly plunder and pillage the resources of the country on selfish individual desires, thereby neglecting vast majority of the people. With the body language and mannerism of some members of the present administration, it is obvious that they are not on the same page with the president in truly salvaging the country from economic ruination and quagmire. For instance, members of the national assembly, with all their economic preachments and sanctimonious claims, they have rapaciously refused to cut down on their illegal and immoral fat salaries and allowances, yet, they want Nigerians to make sacrifices, while they feed fat on the sweat and toil of Nigerians. As the government is working hard to resolve the fundamental economic contradictions with the economy, people who have illegitimately enriched themselves by pilfering the national treasury and are presently undergoing trails, are clandestinely sponsoring violence against the Nigerian state and painting the country black in both local and international media.

This is contrary to some spurious and erroneous claims in some quarters that this government is idle and doing nothing about the socio-economic miasma in which the country is presently enmeshed, unfortunately this unfounded and baseless claim is gaining currency because of the hardship Nigerians are presently going through. Those who created these problems are now behaving like the much needed messiah to rescue the country from this crisis, but what did they do for the country and they people in the last 16 years? The gang-up and conspiracy against the Buhari led government is because of the anti-corruption crusade of the present administration, hence, their inability to make cheap money and fleece the country of funds needed for development. Undoubtedly, this government is working hard and even world leaders know this fact, hence the need for all Nigerians to rally round the government and move the country forward; and stop the issue of violence, blackmail, vendetta, corruption and anything that can inhibit growth and development in the polity.

Only recently President Barrack Obama of the US said, his government has confidence in the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, the US leader said this during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the 71st edition of the UN General Assembly. Obama described Buhari as a man of “integrity and honesty,” and said his administration would assist Nigeria within the short period it has left. The 44th president of the US will be bowing out of office in January after serving two terms. “We have confidence in your leadership. There are some difficulties you face, but this administration is willing to assist in the short time we have left,” “You have made real progress in defeating the brutal organization called Boko Haram, and that was achieved because of your leadership.” Obama also offered a hand of fellowship to Nigeria “in the final and comprehensive defeat of Boko Haram, resolution of the Niger Delta crisis, which would help ramp up oil production and increase revenue, resolving the humanitarian crisis in the North East, recovering stolen money, and revamping the economy”. He described Nigeria as a big and important country in sub-Saharan Africa, and said his country looked forward to a framework for sustained partnership between the two nations. Earlier, Buhari assured Obama of the progress of his administration, and the efforts being taken towards resolving the economic crisis.

In a same vein, Mr. Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary General recently congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari on the anti-corruption war. Ki-Moon declared: “You are highly respected by world leaders, including myself. Your persona has given your country a positive image.” The United Nations’ scribe stated that the global body recognized President Buhari’s government’s achievements against the Boko Haram insurgents. He, however, urged that human rights be upheld always in order to prevent a repeat of the scenario being witnessed in Syria. Ki-moon also thanked the Nigerian leader for his commitment to issues on climate change, adding that the government should “own the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” for the good of its citizens.

Therefore, the present administration in the country should be commended and not vilified by the people, all that the government needs at the this time is the cooperation, support, solidarity, patience and understanding on the part of the people and anybody or group of people that wants to constitute themselves into a cog in the wheel of progress should be viewed as economic saboteur and should be dealt with, in accordance with the provisions of the law, after all, Nigeria is greater than anybody or group of people, and we should all join hands together and make it great.

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