As Nigerians continue to struggle under the prevailing economic hardship, groups and individuals have suggested a way out of the current situation.
The apex northern socio-cultural organisation, the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, yesterday urged the federal and state governments to secure Nigerians, pay salaries and pensions to retirees as a way to tackle the rising hardship in the country.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP on telephone, ACF national Publicity Secretary, Emmanuel Yawe, while describing the alarming hardship as unfortunate, said Nigerians are facing a tough time as some families go to bed hungry.
ACF said: “Our naira has depleted and it is one of the factors responsible for the hardship in Nigeria. Secondly, the insecurity is another factor causing hardship as many farmers cannot go to their farms even to harvest their produce. In some communities, bandits are taxing residents even as residents don’t have anything to take care of their families. The non-payment of salaries and pensions by the government is also fueling hardship. All these factors are responsible for the hardship Nigerians are facing today.
“Some state governments are not helping matters on insecurity; the state governments are closer to the people but they are not doing much in tackling insecurity. Also, some state governments are not paying salaries and pensions.
“One of the solutions is for the government to secure Nigerians. Those who are working and retired should be paid their salaries and pension as when due. It seems the government is not aware of what workers especially pensioners are passing through. Those retired civil servants and military have paid their dues, some even died for the country,” ACF said.
On its part, Ohanaeze Ndigbo yesterday advised President Muhammadu Buhari to rejig his cabinet.
The secretary-general of Ohanaeze, Okechukwu Isiguzoro gave the advice yesterday while reacting to the high cost of essential commodities in Nigeria.
He insisted that the people who are currently handling the economy for the president are not doing it well and do not have anything to offer.
Isiguzoro, however, said the federal government must be held responsible for the high cost of essential commodities and expressed dismay that people are suffering over the sad development.
He noted that the increment in tariff in electrical cost will be tough on the people, adding that the federal government had failed the people in the area of promoting their standard of living.
“So Ohanaeze Ndigbo is holding President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC-led government responsible for the high cost of essential commodities in the country,” he stated.
He further advocated that states like Ebonyi, Benue and others which are doing well in agriculture should be encouraged as part of ways to ensure food security.
On his part, the national president of the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF), Yerima Shettima said, “Well, the AYCF’s thoughts are no less different from those of the economic experts, who have repeatedly warned the federal government, and especially the office of finance minister, to be more creative.
“The economic reality staring Nigerians in the face can be found in the N33 trillion debt, rising unemployment, inflation and general cost of living. In recent weeks, Nigerians saw the federal government quarrelling with state governors over Paris Club deductions and both arms of government didn’t seem to care at all how the masses of our people are surviving the alarming poverty and insecurity.
“The economy was already in very bad shape before insecurity became worse. The truth is that the current economic realities are a reflection of bad governance along with our leaders’ very poor perception management.
“It is on record that this administration has so far taken more foreign loans and got deeply indebted than all its predecessors combined. This is disturbing.
“We, at AYCF, are as worried as every Nigerian of good conscience. We hope our leaders will wake up from their slumber to rescue the long-suffering innocent Nigerians,” he stressed.
PMB Can’t Rescue Nigeria From Current Mess, Says Afenifere
Reacting to the high cost of living, the acting leader of pan- Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said, ‘’The federal and state governments know what to do; how long have they been there? The government has failed; they have failed in many aspects, both economy and everything; we are just going from bad to worse. What do we do rather than to send the government in power away?
“The right thing is for the government in power to get out of office. I told the president to form national government because he can’t do anything to change the constitution; he doesn’t have clue to our problems, and the earlier he gets out the better.’’
Also commenting on the situation, the country and its citizens have found themselves, another Afenifere leader Senator Femi Okurounmu said, ‘’The inflation is at alarming rate; most people now find it difficult to feed their families; we Nigerians just talk, we talk till we all die; we don’t take any action.
Situation Alarming, Disturbing – PANDEF
On their part, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) and the Environmental Rights Action/ Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/ FoEN) have described as highly alarming and disturbing the cost of living in the country.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt yesterday, PANDEF’s national publicity secretary, Ken Robinson, said it was unfortunate that the government did not care about the situation despite the sufferings of the masses.
Robinson said: “Truly, the cost of living is alarmingly high and it’s quite disturbing. It all boils down to the dismal leadership we have in the country, and the woeful economic policies. It would not be far-fetched to conclude that the country is on autopilot, heading for the rocks. “Look at the debt profile, the continued reckless borrowing and the mortgaging of the nation’s future. On top of that, the National Assembly a few days ago approved another loan request by the president, and citizens are not seeing the impact of the loans.
“Speaking with LEADERSHIP, the executive director of ERA/FoEN, Chima Williams, said: “The economic situation of this country is a very unfortunate one because it creates a clear show of disparity between the rich and the poor whereas those that are in political offices are pillaging the nation, robbing the country, making all the money, taking away the resources of the nation.
“The general public are impoverished the most, a situation where everything is astronomically rising in terms of cost implications, with the government increasing tariffs.
“Petroleum products’ prices are increasing, electricity tariffs are increasing and all these have an excruciating effect on how citizens respond.
“And of course, once there is an increase in one sector, it affects other sectors. The only side that has remained constant is the earning capability of Nigerian citizens.”
President of Kano Civil Society Forum and chairman of Conference of Northern State Civil Society Networks, Comrade Ibrahim Wayya, has described the present economic situation in Nigeria as highly unfortunate.
Wayya told our correspondent that the present situation where prices of essential commodities keep skyrocketing is constituting a serious threat to the socio-economic development of the nation.
He said the hike in prices is not in any way commensurate with what salary workers are earning today as their monthly take-home cannot take them home any longer.
Experts Call For Policy Overhaul To Curb Inflation
Speaking on the situation, the president of Nigeria Political Science Association (NPSA), Prof Hassan Salihu, blamed the nation’s economic quagmire on lack of proper planning.
Salihu who teaches Political Science at the University of Ilorin spoke with LEADERSHIP in Ilorin, Kwara State, yesterday.
He described the economic situation of the country as very unfortunate, but not totally surprising. “We ought to have embraced the culture of realistic planning but we did not.”
He lamented that things are tough for Nigerians, including university lecturers, whose salaries, he said, were last reviewed in 2009.
“The economic realities of the country are very unfortunate but are not totally surprising. I maintain this position against the background of what we have left undone as a nation.
“We ought to have embraced the culture of realistic planning but we did not.”
“We ought to have been serious with arresting the inclination to be corrupt but we have failed. Poverty is spreading, so also is unemployment that has fed it but we also did nothing concretely to stop them.
“In the midst of the unnerving situation, Boko Haram, banditry and kidnapping are threatening to destroy the country with their manifest impacts on the level of farm production in Nigeria. For me, I am seeing the slowness of action and unwillingness to apply today’s solutions to solve today’s problems.
“The Buhari government is trying it’s best but it needs to do more, including its promise of embracing dialogue. I cannot wait to see it happening. As a keen observer of the Nigerian scene, I can confirm that things are really tough for Nigerians, including university lecturers whose salaries were last reviewed in 2009.”
On his part, a professor of economics at the University of Benin, Hassan Oikhenan, said the present state of the economy is a fall-out of the poor management of the economy, especially since the present administration came onboard.
According to Professor Oikhenan, the excruciating impact of the economy explains the progressive deterioration in the quality of life of the average Nigerian citizen, resulting from high and rising inflation rates even though the NBS, in publishing the official inflation figures, wants Nigerians “to believe the direct opposite of what we see around us on a daily basis: collapsed exchange rate, collapsed infrastructure, especially road infrastructure, with its ripple consequences for the economy, inexplicable high, rising and crushing debt and debt service burden.”
The professor said “the totality of the government’s poor economic management policies has resulted in the elimination of what used to be the middle class.
“The wind of economic meltdown across the globe is blowing across African continent with its devastating effect in Nigeria and it’s harsh realities affect the financial outlay of the citizenry.”
This position was corroborated by a renowned economist, Dr. Desmond Emechetta of the Imo State University, Owerri.
According to him, this emerging trend invariably pushes towards eliminating the middle class in the socioeconomic equation such that one is either described as poor or rich due to the disparity in socioeconomic standing.
He submitted that the somersault in economic policies and lack of professionalism resulted in rag-tag policies which have resulted in the near total collapse of the economy.
In his response, an All Progressives Congress (APC) chieftain, Dr. Fidel Onyeneke noted that, for now, nobody talks of choice as anything goes.
“We are living from hand to mouth due to the harsh economic realities facing the nation,” he said, adding that even when one manages to purchase food, the means of cooking presents challenges due to the high cost of cooking gas and kerosene.
These products, he revealed, are out of the reach of the common man.
Similarly, a human development expert and director of programmes, Development Dynamics, Dr .Jude Ohanele, advised the federal government to set up a sound economic team and put policies in place to revitalise the economic situation of the nation .
According to him, what we have for now entails uncoordinated economic policies and non-experts manning the strategic economic base of the nation.
Dr. Ohanele also cautioned the federal government not to use positions meant for experts for political patronage and stressed that the time has come for technocrats to take over the economic space and other strategic national positions.
As Nigerians continue to lament the high and rising cost of living amid non-increase of the income of the average Nigerian, LEADERSHIP spoke with a media consultant and native of Gombe State, Alhaji Dahiru Kera, on the present economic.
He blamed the situation on the economic policies of the present administration, saying they are not working.
He particularly faulted the idea of sharing money to citizens for temporary relief, saying government needs to buckle up in investing hugely in areas that can boost the economy, provide employment, increase revenue and gross domestic product.
“The insecurity in the country is affecting the economy also; trading within the areas affected is frustrating and farming has been halted by about 50 per cent,” he said.
The chief executive officer of Centre for the Promotion of Private Enterprise (CPPE), Dr Muda Yusuf agreed that the cost of living is alarmingly high today, saying that inflationary pressures remain a key concern in the Nigerian economy, both for businesses and the citizens.
He noted that food prices are on the increase and this has impacted adversely on citizens’ welfare and aggravated poverty.
He explained further that major drivers of costs in the economy range from exchange rate depreciation, which has significant impact on headline inflation, especially the core sub index; liquidity challenges in the foreign exchange impacting adversely on the manufacturing output; security concerns affecting agricultural output; climate change effects on agricultural production; structural constraints affecting productivity in the agricultural value chain; and high transportation costs affecting distribution costs across the country.
Poverty, Unemployment Worse In The North – Jega
Former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Prof. Attahiru Jega has lamented that poverty, unemployment, insecurity and other social challenges are worse in the North.
He therefore urged northern youths to rise against the high rate of indexes of social challenges in the region.
Jega made the appeal yesterday at the Maitama Sule leadership lecture series organised by the Coalition of Northern Nigeria (CNG) in Katsina.
He described Dan Masanin Kano as a selfless and patriotic Nigerian who served the country well and protected all northerners.
While commending the CNG for its creativity in realising the need to start engaging the youths to salvage Nigeria and in particular the North from the social crisis bedevilling the region, he said the northern states have the major indexes of crimes in Nigeria.
“But, of course, the major indexes of these crises manifest themselves in the northern part of this country, whether it is poverty, unemployment, insecurity or whatever you think as a fundamental challenge, whether it is maternal mortality, out-of-school children, poor girl-child education, or even it is early marriage challenges of our female folk. Everything you can think of, the terrible statistics always come from the northern part of this country,” he said
We’re Working To Crash Food Prices – Minister
Meanwhile, the federal government says it is working tirelessly to crash the prices of food naturally between now and yuletide.
The minister of agriculture and rural development, Dr Mohammad Abubakar, stated this yesterday in Abuja when he visited the Agricultural Council of Nigeria (ARCN).
Abubakar said the government was not helpless over the skyrocketing food prices in the country.
According to him, the government was working with international organisations for the agricultural sector to be improved, to increase production that will be sufficient for Nigeria’s teeming population.
He said, “We are doing everything possible to bring up some kind of stimulant that will cause price reduction naturally. Nobody will just sit and watch”.
On the return of the Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES), Abubakar said the ministry would launch the programme soon, adding that the government had evolved ways to make the scheme work.
The executive secretary of ARCN, Professor Garba Sharubutu said the council would support the ministry to ensure there is the provision of necessary input for food security, poverty eradication and diversification of the economy.