As many as 91 million Nigerians, nearly a half of the country’s population, now live below the poverty line, according to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).

The Chairman of the Group, Mr. Asue Ighodalo, disclosed this, yesterday, at the launching of the 2022 Macro-Economic Outlook of the Group, in Abuja.

“The World Bank estimates that an additional one million people were pushed into poverty in Nigeria between June and November 2021, resulting in a total of about 8 million people being relinquished to poverty in 2021 and bringing our nation’s poverty headcount to about 91 million,” he said.

“That is 91 million Nigerians afflicted by the ‘poverty virus’, which is every bit as deadly and more infectious than SARS COVID-19, judging by the numbers.”

He noted that with campaigns for the 2023 general elections beginning to manifest, the economic gains recorded so far could be easily eroded, especially if the government focused on more politics than governance.

According to him, ‘‘the current administration must strive to leave behind a positive lasting legacy, saying that the government still has the time, if it has the will, to create a solid foundation, and catalytic growth base for this country; and must continue to work hard to deal decisively with the challenges of poverty, unemployment, insecurity, social cohesion and macroeconomic instability.”

‘‘We believe that policies that directly impact the welfare, gainful employment and safety of our citizens and the performance, sustainability and job-creating potentials of our businesses, in the short term, must be at the forefront of government policies and actions in 2022.

‘‘Being a pre-election year, the group feared that 2022 will likely come with increased election spending, which could motivate a tighter monetary policy stance to curb inflationary pressures.

‘‘Secondly, it envisaged that attention may shift from effective governance to outright politicking with the pace of decision-making usually slows down in a pre-election year and reform pronouncements and implementation becoming difficult.,’’

Mr. Ighodalo advised the electorate to vote for a presidential candidate with a track record and a reformer who would drive the nation’s economic growth.

‘‘We must only reward with our votes those parties that put forward knowledgeable reformers; reformers who are creative, passionate, courageous and have shown with evidence of their life’s work, a genuine love for the people of Nigeria.

“At this time in our country’s trajectory, we cannot afford to be delinquent in this most basic civic responsibility. The cost of getting it wrong in 2023 is more than this great nation can or should bear,” he said.

The NESG in the outlook noted that the challenge of foreign exchange availability persists and urged both monetary and fiscal authorities to take steps to boost inflow, especially, with the commencement of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

The group advised the government to ensure “effective border control; removing capital controls and encouraging the inflow of stable investments; prioritizing non-oil forex sources; enhancing the quality of import substitutes and the fixing of local refineries and constructing of new ones.”

On the vexed issue of fuel subsidy removal, the outlook noted that fuel subsidy was conceived initially as “a short-term support tool, has endured over time, thereby becoming a threat to fiscal sustainability”.

The NESG said that the removal of petrol subsidy “will come at a cost,” as “ Tough reforms are costly and the cost of inactions is also enormous”


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