By Abiola Daisy Igaga & Bartholomew Okuodo
Since the swearing in of the present government in May 29, 2023, the economic index of Nigeria has become worse in all respect. The country is witnessing heightened inflation, social facilities and infrastructures are in a state of pitiable decay, the rate of unemployment is getting worse, criminality including terrorism remains unchecked. The government has shown obvious incapacity and helplessness in evolving micro and macroeconomic policies that effectively addresses the imbalance in the economy, a factor that has adversely affected the value of the Naira. To argue that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu seems unprepared for the task of giving national direction to the Nigerian state is not out of point. Kidnapping and the preponderance of terroristic activities in the country have witnessed resurgence. The Naira depreciating to over N1000 to $1 is the worse level of economic degradation that Nigerians ever expected. With the present rate of the Naira in competition at the Foreign Exchange Market, the level of inflation is menacing with devastating impact on the lives of individual Nigerians and the country as a whole. It is painful for Nigerians to witness the terrible state of our roads in the rural and urban areas presently. Nearly all major and minor roads in the country are in shambles. As one travels on our roads in recent times, the point at issue is whether patriotic governance is still the hub in our country politically? In recent times, the question of checking corruption is gradually become less prominent in the news. Even if it is mere window dressing, Nigerians hearing and reading news in the immediate past, about institutional actions targeting corrupt individuals and entities are psychologically impacted. Beyond the fact that anticorruption activities are becoming less visible or imparting, there is growing infrastructural decay from access to functional electricity to telephone network, internet access etc. This, in juxtaposition with the poor policy enforcement in checking the economic rape that comes with poor services from our internet-based facilities including the telephones, makes Nigerians look like orphaned children.
It is not out of place to note that Nigeria is in apparent decay and regression in all fronts since May 29, 2023. While this does not justify our past which offered poor inheritance and transmission to successive governments, the truth is that this government has failed totally in proffering solutions to our lingering problems from independence. No doubt, that pre-election, Nigerians had immense faith in the capacity of His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu to deliver. That makes the disappointment more horrifying.
The Exchange Rate Crises: No doubt the government has tried to address the depreciation of the Naira, but it become mockery when Nigerians are told that a loan of $10b will be used to stablilise the Naira and give it higher value content. It is obvious to any discerning mind that this approach amounts to postponing the evil day with greater consequences. Nigeria is already suffering from a terrible debt overhang that gets worse with every manifestation of devaluation as the loans are quantified in dollars. It is apparent that the $10b being loaned to reflate the Naira comes with interest and a repayment plan that further weakens the Naira in the nearest future. This, quite obviously, reflects the shallow mental and intellectual approach to getting the country out of its present quagmire. The loss of faith in the government derives from the very shallow and hollow dimension of fundamental recovery policies and perspectives orchestrated in various climes of expression. Borrowing more money from the International Finance Capital holds a worse, perhaps ominous future, for the Nigerian people and country. It is not in any sense the solution to the depreciation of the Naira.
The state of our roads: We must appreciate that with poor roads, we are unable to coordinate economic delivery and activities between the rural areas and our urban infrastructure. With the high cost of conveyance, the price of our commodities even in the international market leaves investors with less profit. This is particularly of fact as it bothers on the agricultural sector which is rural based and peasant driven. Thus, apart from the effect of the poor roads on movement of persons in the country presently, it delivers cumulative impact on profitability of trading activities deriving from operational overhead costs. The present state of our roads diminishes the volume and speed of haulage and negatively impact on our economic delivery holistically. We note that the Nigerian economy is dependent on the informal sector where agriculture plays prime. The nation’s agricultural industry is largely rural driven. Therefore, in the supply chain for local consumption and export, the state of our roads is critical to services delivery and profit. We must mention that the various bad spots in our roads have come to be helpful to kidnappers and armed robbers broadening the dimension of insecurity foisted on the citizenry.
The removal of fuel subsidy: We note that the removal of fuel subsidy was received by most Nigerians with a positive air. But its accompanying inflationary impact on goods and services has engendered a contrary perception for the Nigerian people. We appreciate that the removal of fuels subsidy helped manage the level of corruption that the subsidy window accentuated. But if to close that window was to visit suicide option on the Nigerian people, perhaps another alternative for dealing with that infraction would have impacted better. We believe that the government needed greater depth and imagination in evolving policies and managing them. The policy dimension of the present government shows lack of depth and creative imagination on policy formulation and implementation.
Conclusion: We urge for concrete policy options and perspective in dealing with the present economic crises plaguing our country. We affirm that the only concrete solution to the depreciation of the Naira is to move the country from a consumption economy to a production economy driven by technology. The government must effectively tackle the problem of Nigeria being a dependent country. Pursuant to this, we must move rural agriculture to the level of industrial capacity in food and cash crop production. We recommend the upscaling of private sector and government investment in the solid minerals sector. We must institute concerted drive in actualising conversion of our agricultural and solid mineral products from the state of primary harvest to secondary layer production delivery.
Borrowing from the above, the refineries of the country must be made productive and feed both local consumption and export. Nigeria can only achieve the needed advantage in balance of trade by driving these areas of effective policy delivery. Strengthening the Naira in the foreign exchange market is best realised through a balance of trade advantage. For the purpose of emphasis and clarity, this demands a highly improved agricultural sector that will significantly reduce our importation of basic food and their consumables including sea foods. It calls for evolving a sophisticated second order conversion of our agricultural and solid mineral harvests to save us from purchasing converted or finished products as imports. In fact, it will make us net exporters of finished products in diverse regards to solid minerals as well as food and cash crops. Finally, Nigeria must pursue an active industrialisation policy as well as high tech capacity in technological development to effectively take over the supply of technology in the West Africa sub region for a beginning. We affirm that the faith and confidence of the Nigerian people on the present government can only find province in this depth of delivery.
Finally, we urge the federal government to seriously review its policy thrust and approach to governance as the present seeming quiet in the social order is a grave yard silence that is fundamentally ominous. With the present exchange rate of the Naira in the forex market, Nigerians leave in the theatre of parlous existence with its perilous delivery on the social whole. It is predictive that there is an extent to which people can endure suffering laced in starvation, institutional ineptitude, material deprivation and governmental apathy. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
Igaga, (President), Okoudo (Director of Administration) are of the Conference of NGOs in Edo State.