Mr. President, You Are Suffocating The Poor. By Izuchukwu Ahuchaogu
It is now longer naysaying that no one is safe from bad government policies, including its cheerleaders.
The effects of a wrong-headed approach to governance are evident in every home, on every plate of food (if any), and on the quality of living; even on Abuja’s now near-empty streets, and the near collapse of small-scale businesses. We all bear the brunt of ill-advised and ill-timed policies, as recently enunciated by the new government of President Bola Tinubu.
Already Tinubu has lost the euphoria and initial advantage going for him. Going forward, he may have to do a lot to mitigate the negative impacts of his initial policies to prove his doubters wrong and make meaningful impact in a bleeding country.
It will be too bad to associate his regime with only enriching the rich and further pauperising the poor.
In contrast, the convoy of over 100 cars in the president’s recent movement in Lagos, the almost 50 SUVs seen earlier during his triumphant return to Abuja in preparation for the inauguration; the governors’ and lawmakers’ convoys, numerous aides and the flamboyance, lavish lifestyle, waste associated with them and their retinue — of staff, family members, appointees, all show the polarity in the lives of those in authority and the governed.
Most Stakeholders have warned that if President Bola Ahmed Tinubu fails to follow the recommendation of his policy advisory council by sequencing the reforms of his administration, more Nigerians will be plunged into poverty.
They said that while most of the initiatives of the president to revamp the economy are good, Tinubu must not “set the cart before the horse” so as not to at the end of the day erode any gains that might be recorded.
The stratified society being created by dimming the hope of Eldorado that Nigerians had thought the new president represents, speaks volumes, from his actions so far.
Welcome to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s republic. Within one month of his coming to power, everything has nosedived, for worse. The initial euphoria of ‘an action government’ has since given way to disillusionment.
Replacing President Muhammadu Buhari, who took almost six months to appoint some principal staff, with the same dullness dogging his government in eight years, the Tinubu regime was ushered in with open hands and excitement because he was at least proactive, having taken some salient actions and made key appointments early in the day. How good or bad those decisions are, are now measured and talked about in every home, office or street corner in the country.
Tinubu told us to tighten our belts and make sacrifices for the country. He removed petrol subsidy, the last semblance of government impact in the lives of the people, and floated the naira almost in one fell swoop, with devastating consequences.
These twin actions erased all pretensions about renewing our hopes in good governance, because there was no iota of thought for the poor.
Normally, before a new government unleashes terror, it tries to cuddle and romance the people with some positive vibes in friendly policy pronouncements, as a means of appreciation.
No, not with Tinubu. From the get go, he has shown the ugly signs of things to come. The cancellation of the official forex rate has raised the naira beyond the black-market rate that he inherited.
A group in the All Progressives Congress (APC) known as the League of Youth Voters for Tinubu and Shettima, has already begged the president to address the rising cost of living in the country as rise in the cost of living is unprecedented and unbearable. “The president is expected to revamp our ailing and critically dysfunctional economy” they said.
HERE ARE THE 30 CHALLENGES FACING PRESIDENT TINUBU AS PUBLISHED BY THISDAY NEEWSPAPERS
1. WHERE IS THE FOREX LIQUIDITY?
Despite the two laudable initiative by Tinubu, it is a common knowledge that the major issue with the country’s forex market remains the shortage of dollar supply as demand continues to surge. Therefore, the president must ensure that measures are taken by both the fiscal and monetary authorities to improve dollar liquidity in the country. Therefore, there must be deliberate efforts to address the massive crude oil theft as well encourage non-oil exports so as to boost inflows of dollar to the country.
2) WHERE ARE THE PALLIATIVES TO CUSHION POVERTY?
One area in which the Tinubu-led administration has been severely criticised is its inability to structure measures and palliatives to ease the pains suffered by Nigerians due to the removal of the fuel subsidy. The sudden fuel subsidy removal has caused untold hardship as Nigerians now grapple with the challenges of meeting up with not only the high cost of petrol but also the increase in the prices of goods and services. To many analysts, the new government ought to get the National Assembly’s approval of the World Bank’s $800 million and commence its rollout to alleviate the suffering of the masses. The NLC and TUC had suspended their planned protest in the hopes that the new government would address the adverse effects of the policy on workers. The government had directed the National Economic Council (NEC), led by Vice-President Kashim Shettima, to devise an approach and work on palliatives.
3. STATE GOVERNORS TO GET RICHER
With the removal of petrol subsidies, federation account allocations to the state governors are expected to increase. This could lead to wastage by the governors as there had been allegations of wasteful spending and money laundering by some of them.
4. HOW WILL TINUBU CAGE INFLATION?
Although the Consumer Price Index (CPI), used to gauge inflation, increased marginally from 22.22 per cent in April to 22.41 per cent, it is expected that inflation will accelerate further when the impact of the policy percolates. While the World Bank has already projected that Nigeria’s inflation would hit 25 per cent in the coming months due to the adverse effect of fuel subsidy removal, analysts at KPMG are projecting 30 per cent, with more Nigerians expected to be pushed into poverty.
5. HOW WILL TINUBU MANAGE RISING POVERTY?
The World Bank recently disclosed that no fewer than four million Nigerians were pushed into the poverty trap in the first six months of this year, with another 7.1 million more expected to join the conundrum if properly targeted measures are not taken to manage the impact of fuel subsidy removal. According to the Washington-based financial institution, “compensating transfers will be essential in helping to shield Nigerian households from the initial price impacts of the petrol subsidy reform.”
The multilateral development institution disclosed this during the Nigeria Development Update (NDU) launch last week. Dissecting the NDU, the World Bank Lead Economist for Nigeria and co-author of the report, Alex Sienaert, said four million more Nigerians were pushed into poverty in the first half of 2023. Sienaert, who stressed the need for a new social compact to protect poor and most vulnerable Nigerians in the aftermath of fuel subsidy removal, noted that about 7.1 million more Nigerians would further slip into the poverty quagmire at the end of the year if the right incentives were not properly channelled to help poor and vulnerable Nigerians. Commenting on the headwinds of the forex reforms, he observed a number of adverse consequences, including rising inflation and the increase of debt-to-GDP to about 46 per cent.
6. ANTICIPATED JOB LOSSES
As a fallout of the high energy cost, some businesses may find it difficult to retain their workers, which may lead to layoffs and unemployment in the country.
7. REDUCED PRODUCTIVITY
One of the effects of the fuel subsidy removal without emplacing measures to cushion the impact of the policy is reduced productivity, as some state governments have already announced a reduction in the number of working days. This they did to reduce the number of days civil servants commute to their workplaces.
Insecurity remains a challenge to the Tinubu administration as the spate of killings and activities of terrorists have continued unabated.
9. MASSIVE OIL THEFT
Beyond the fuel subsidy removal, the Tinubu-led administration would have to address the massive crude oil theft in the country that has for decades remained a huge drain on the economy of Nigeria. For this government to succeed, it must end crude oil theft and channel the funds to other critical sectors of the economy.
10. FIGHTING CORRUPTION
The fight against corruption at national and international levels continues to be a serious challenge. The Tinubu-led government must address this challenge as it erodes trust, weakens democracy, hampers economic development and exacerbates poverty.
11. ELECTORAL REFORM
There is a need for electoral reforms to encourage continuous participation in the country’s electoral process and address some irregularities observed during the 2023 general election that brought Tinubu to power.
12. WEAK HEALTH SYSTEM
Nigeria has a poor health system, especially at the local government level. This is responsible for the high death rate in the country, especially the high maternal mortality rate, one of the highest in the world. The Tinubu administration must work hard to fix this challenge. Also, Nigeria continues losing medical practitioners to developed countries due to poor working conditions and remuneration. The country’s doctors-to-patient ratio is about one to 5,000.
The previous government anchored its economic diversification agenda on agriculture with programmes such as the Anchor Borrowers’ Scheme. There is a need for the present administration to either maintain it or introduce other innovative initiatives to encourage agricultural activities.
14. NNAMDI KANU
The government must also address the issue of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader, as Nnamdi Kanu’s continued incarceration is believed to be part of the reason for the instability in the South East. In addition, the perceived injustice that has led to the rise of some separatist groups in the country must be addressed to ensure stability in Nigeria.
15. RISING DEBT PROFILE
At about N77 trillion, there are concerns that the country’s debt is becoming unstainable. Therefore, the federal government must take steps to shore up its revenue and reduce its appetite for debt.
16. ORONSAYE-JODA’S REPORTS
Steve Oronsaye’s report appears to be gathering dust on the federal government’s shelf. The Oronsaye Panel was set up in 2011, culminating in the submission of an 800-page report on April 16, 2012, recommending the disbandment and merger of 102 government agencies and parastatals. “Ahmed Joda’s Report is equally as important as Steve Oronsaye’s Report,” said Eric Teniola, a political analyst. He added, “On Ahmed Joda’s Panel Report, the full recommendations must be implemented by the next President. The recommendations summarised are for both the core and indirect poverty alleviation.”
17. MINISTERIAL APPOINTMENTS
Nigerians are watching to see how Tinubu would navigate this challenge and manage the expectations of the political class. Presently, the politicians who helped him to power are insisting that they want to be part of the government, while some others have advised the president to prioritise competence and experts. Specifically, some have warned the president to avoid persons like former Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, who appears to be forcing himself on the president.
18. SHORING UP REVENUE BASE
The federal government must initiate deliberate efforts to increase revenue. And to achieve this, there must be an alignment between the fiscal and monetary policy authorities.
19. NATIONAL COHESION
Nigeria is more divided since the 2023 general election, and the government must ensure that the divisions and fault lines pushing the country to the brink are bridged.
20. POOR FUNDING OF EDUCATION SECTOR
The government must address the education sector’s poor funding to improve the output level and address perennial industrial action by members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities and other unions in the higher institutions.
21. WEAK PUBLIC SERVICE
Reforms in the public sector are highly necessary to ensure efficiency and better service deliveries in parastatals, agencies and ministries of government.
22. DILAPIDATED REFINERIES
The federal government-owned refineries must be fixed to decrease imports, generate currency savings, fight inflation, and ultimately improve the country’s macroeconomic outlook.
23. INADEQUATE POWER SUPPLY
Nigeria’s power supply remains poor, a major factor constraining industrial development and production output. The new government must take steps to improve the power supply from its present level.
24. SUSTAINING ECONOMIC REFORMS
Inconsistent policy administration remains a challenge in Nigeria, and Nigerians would eagerly look forward to the government sustaining some of the policies it has introduced.
25. INSTITUTIONAL REFORMS
Nigeria has weak institutions and would require institutional reforms to implement its reforms and development programmes to achieve the desired outcome.
26. BAD ROADS
The government must commit more funds to road projects to reduce the travelling time and deaths on the roads.
27. POOR RAIL INFRASTRUCTURE
More funds are also expected to be committed to developing more railways in the country.
28. CREDIT FOR MSMES
Operators of micro, small and medium-scale enterprises (MSMEs) would look up to the government to initiate policies that would unlock financing to support their businesses and make them competitive.
29. MULTIPLE TAXATION
One of the challenges affecting businesses in the country is multiple taxation. Businesses face different taxes, levies and fees, which eat deep into their profitability.
30. ILLEGAL MIGRATION/JAPA
Lack of job opportunities, poverty, and corruption force thousands of young Nigerians to leave the country every year for greener pastures. Most of these persons go through extremely dangerous routes to Europe, and many die on the road.
The government must create a conducive environment for its citizens. There are even more concerns that millions of Nigerians disillusioned by the outcome of the last presidential election, which not a few strongly believe was systematically rigged, are bent on leaving the country by hook or by crook.
The disenchanted lot is torn between patriotism and partisanship, with several questions on their minds wondering if Tinubu’s presidency will be a departure from the norms associated with the establishment and tokenism. Or, will the new government, which they have declined to confer any legitimacy on, be more or less the same as the old order?