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Presidency eats humble pie, admits economic challenges

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APC chieftain appeals to Tinubu to intervene in cooking gas price hike

Finally the chicken have come home to roost, and denials and disclaimers have given way to admission of reality on the part of the President Tinubu- led federal government.

Before the cost of living protests hit the streets, government spokespersons, such Mr. Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser on Media, had denied the challenges, and actually accused opposition parties of instigating the outcry. A minister even alleged falsely that the cost of living in Nigeria is cheaper than most West African countries.

Last week, however, there was a slew of admissions and sobriety on the part of the administration on the hardship and high cost of living Nigerians are experiencing in the midst of opulent lifestyle and decadence of elected and appointed officials of government.

The high point of marching word with action is the contents of 2024 budget, where the National Assembly members and the Executive allocated outlandish resources to themselves to fund their opulent lifestyle. And yet they admonished Nigerians to continue to make sacrifices in poverty, hunger and unemployment.

Last week, the Special Adviser to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Information and Strategy, Bayo Onanuga, gave his insight on the current economic challenges, the unification of the exchange rate, in reconciliatory tone and admission of current pain, which is a departure from his arrogant, dismissive and denying attitude he is known for. He stated that the removal of fuel subsidy was a painful necessity as Nigeria was heading towards economic cliff, saying Nigeria would have had it a lot worse economically if the subsidy on petroleum products had remained.

Onanuga made this known in an interview with ARISE PRIME TIME last Monday night, where he gave extensive, discursive appraisal of the President Tinubu’s policies and decisions he had made for the Nigerian government since his tenure began in May 2023.

According to him, all the presidential candidates in 2023 had campaigned to remove subsidy on petrol, adding that Buhari’s administration had already put mechanism in motion to remove subsidy by the end of June, further explaining that although the government knew that the removal of subsidy was going to be a problem, President Tinubu “probably felt that there is no need to postpone the evil day”, prompting him to make the announcement of the removal of fuel subsidy on the day of his inauguration.

“At that time, it was justifiable, because it had become an albatross, by the end of May or so, the government was already owing the NNPC about N4 trillion, which it was not willing to pay, it didn’t have the resources to pay,” he said.

Onanuga went on to say, “There might not be any country from June 2023 if that subsidy had remained. Things would have been far worse than we have it today. So it was a very very important decision, and government has been making efforts since then to try and see what they can do to improve things, to ease the burdens of Nigeria.

“The President empathises with our people, he understands that they are going through pain and he’s been saying so that he really understands the pain that people are going through and he is making efforts to make sure that he reduces the pain.”

Speaking more to the rising rate of inflation in Nigeria and the economic challenges faced, Onanuga said that what is being experienced in Nigeria is “hyper-inflation”, as the prices of goods and commodities in the market were increasing on a more rapid basis that it should.

He said, “Some of those price increases we are witnessing are very very artificial, everybody is just increasing prices. Because if you align it with the exchange rate, even if you want to dollarize your economy, you cannot really support the kind of very steep price increase we are going through in this country.”

Onanuga then said that more questions and grievances should be directed towards the state governments and local government councils rather than the federal government as the FG had increased the allocation of funds given to the lower tiers of government, but unfortunately, as of late, there is nothing to show for it.

On floating of the naira, Onanuga stated , “Under the last administration (of the CBN), according to reports in the media, the CBN was spending about $1.5 billion every month to support the naira at the official rate, which was about N450 to a dollar or so, whereas, in the parallel market, it was going for almost double that. So you find a situation, where some people, who are close to the former governor, who were close to some people in government, were collecting money at the official rate and then doing what people call an economic crime, arbitrage, selling this money, round-tripping, selling it in the unofficial market and then making a lot of money for doing nothing. These are some of the things that the government tried to stop.”

Another close ally of President Tinubu, who is now the Senator representing Edo North, Adams Oshiomhole, has also spoken in a conciliatory tone after admitting that there is hardship in the land. The former Edo State governor said that Nigerians are currently suffering from what he described as “reckless policies” of former President Muhammadu Buhari.

He said if Nigerians could recall, he (Oshiomoile) railed against some of the policies that he said were designed to dehumanise the population that was already in pain.

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He disclosed these while speaking on Channels Television recently. He blamed the current hardships on Buhari, saying the current hardship being witnessed under the current administration were the long-term consequences of those policies of Buhari’s administration.

“My first loyalty is to Nigeria. At some point, before the last President left office, I lamented loudly what I saw as reckless policies that were designed to dehumanise the population that was already in pain.

“I felt that it was not what the then-president promised. I dissociated myself from those policies and I’m happy that I was not the only one.

“There were governors, who approached the court to denounce some of those policies. It is the long-term consequences of those policies that we are still grappling with now.”

He said Tinubu should not be held responsible for whatever decisions embarked upon by the previous government.

“Yes, it is our party platform. Like Tinubu also said, he was not a minister or adviser. He never took a contract in that government and he cannot be held responsible for what the government did right or wrong,” he said.

Also, former Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria, Lamido Sanusi had said it is an injustice to blame the administration of President Bola Tinubu for the current economic hardship the country is facing.

Sanusi said the country is battling a failing economy due to mismanaged economic policies of the past eight years.

“If I am to be fair and just to President Bola Tinubu, he is not to blame for the current hardship; for eight years, we were living a fake lifestyle with huge debt from foreign and domestic debts. The Central Bank of Nigeria owes over N30 trillion, which resulted in debt service surpassing 100 per cent.

“I can’t join other Nigerians criticising Tinubu on the current economic hardship, and I am not saying he is a saint free from wrongdoing, but in this current economic situation, President Tinubu is not to be blamed. I will also speak if I see any wrong economic policy of the Tinubu administration in the future,” he said.

As if it’s a season of confession and soul searching, Oluremi Tinubu, wife of the president, assured that the economic hardship being experienced by Nigerians will soon come to an end.

She stated this at the State House, Abuja during a meeting with governors’ wives on her pet project: Renewed Hope Initiative (RHI).

“Times like this call for sober reflection, hence, all hands must be on deck. Moreover, the hardship situation is temporary, it will soon fade away,” she said. This was also the tune she sang in Kano during a visit to the Emir of Kano, Ado Bayero, after the Emir had lamented increasing hardship in the land. “I am sending you to the president, your husband; I know you will be able to deliver the message, as the person closest to him. We are suffering, there is hunger and then insecurity. He should do something as quickly as possible”, he said.

As many Nigerians celebrated Valentine’s Day on February 14th, in gloom and austerity, a group of people in lagos Island were seen in a viral video, queuing for bread. The narrator in the video could be heard saying that the price of bread at the location was N100. The group turned round as men at the location were seen flogging those, who attempted to jump the queue. The large number of Nigerians on the queue was a testament to the sufferings in the land.
Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist, said Tinubu’s handlers have not helped his case at all. There is a way you do your job of laundering the image of your principal without losing your dignity. “You cannot tell the people that black is blue, what you can say is that the blackness of black is as a result of this or that, but we are working round the clock to return to blue. It’s good that some of the president’s men finally admitted that there’s indeed hardships in the land”.

Dr Adamu Abdullahi, a public affairs analyst, told Business Hallmark that “What Tinubu’s government ought to have done was to admit that there was hardship and let the people know the efforts government are making to change the narrative. We know that a lot of what we are passing through happened because of the irresponsibility and recklessness of the Buhari era, but you are there now. It was because you thought you could do it that made you offer yourself to serve. So, Tinubu must do the needful, surrounding yourself with Lagos chaps a lone cannot work. He should bring on board experienced technocrats and outstanding economists, who know their onions”.

Dr Olufemi Omoyele, a public affairs analyst said “Tinubu is still playing the ostrich, he should go after the banks, they sabotaged the naira, discourage medical tourism, big men and women should send their children to schools in Nigeria, and all the top government officials, who buy dollars for useless reasons should be dealt with. The person that will tackle all these economic challenges must not be after second term.”

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Last Wednesday, Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu splashed N750 million on 15,000 thousand Lagos traders as part of the Lagos Market Trader Money. The governor launched the Lagos Market Trader Money initiative in Ikeja, with beneficiaries singing his praises. Sanwo-Olu acknowledged the current economic hardship in the country, saying the activation of such financial support would go a long way to improve the lives of the citizens and traders, who occupy strategic position in the State’s food distribution network.

Earlier, the presidential candidate of People’s Democratic Party, PDP, Atiku Abubakar had lashed out at Tinubu for subjecting the people to exacerbating poverty and hunger through his policies.

 

 

 

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