The Economist reviewed the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari and concluded that Nigerians became poorer during his first four years in office. The magazine, in the publication, which was posted on its website on Thursday, said while the Nigerian economy was “stuck like a stranded truck,” average incomes fell during the four-year period covering 2015 to 2019.
Opposition parties led by the Peoples Democratic Party agreed with the magazine’s damning report, saying it confirmed their belief that Buhari was clueless and could not run the country efficiently. They advised Nigerians to prepare for another disastrous four years, which Buhari started on May 29.
The Economist in its report said based on the thinking of the International Monetary Fund, the average income of Nigerians “will not rise for at least another six (years).” The report partly read, “The Nigerian economy is stuck like a stranded truck. Average incomes have been falling for four years; the IMF thinks they will not rise for at least another six (years). “The latest figures put unemployment at 23 per cent, after growing for 15 consecutive quarters.
“Some 94 million people live on less than $1.90 a day, more than in any other country, and the number is swelling. “By 2030, a quarter of very poor people will be Nigerians, predicts the World Data Lab, which counts such things.” The report said the naira was overvalued, adding that this was because the government had spent decades neglecting basic public goods such as roads, schools and electricity.
It said, “Where urgency is needed, Mr Buhari offers only caution. Few are holding their breath for any more drive in his second term, which began on May 29th. “Yet officials are postponing a crisis, not averting one. Consider borrowing. The debt-to-GDP ratio is 28 per cent, but Nigeria collects so little in tax that interest payments swallow about 60 per cent of federal revenues.” The Economist said that public finances would be healthier if the government raised the price of fuel, which is imported by the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and sold on at a loss.
It said last year, subsidy was worth at least 0.5 per cent of the GDP, noting that this was almost what the government spent on health care. “Politicians are scared to end the subsidy. An attempt to do so in 2012 led to massive protests. “Although the government has expanded the school-feeding programme and is working on a safety net for the poor, most citizens get few benefits from the state,” it added.
For Nigeria to prosper, it said the government should harness the potential of its 200 million citizens. It said currently, the citizens were ignored except when politicians needed votes. Efforts by The PUNCH to get the Presidency to respond to the issue did not produce any useful result on Thursday. The PUNCH made enquiries through the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, and the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Garba Shehu, but got no responses.Text messages and emails sent to them by 5.42 pm and 6.09pm respectively, got no replies.
Efforts to reach the All Progressives Congress National Publicity Secretary, Lanre Issa-onilu, did also not yield any result.
Calls placed to his phone were not answered and he had yet to reply a text message sent to him by one of our correspondents. He was also not available in the office when one of our correspondents visited on Thursday. Report confirms President’s cluelessness, say PDP, ADC, SDP
In its reaction, the PDP warned Nigerians to be prayerful, saying the second tenure of Buhari would be disastrous for the country. It said that the aspirations of Nigerians would not be met under the leadership of the President. The National Chairman of the PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, said the report by the foreign magazine was a mere confirmation of what Nigerians knew and had been passing through.
“We all know the millions of people whose jobs had been lost; we also know that retirees are not paid while workers are praying daily to get paid for jobs they have done. “We do not need any prophet to tell us that the last four years had been traumatic for Nigerians. But the sad thing is that, there is nothing on the ground to show that the next four years under the President will not be worse. It will be disastrous, especially when nothing is being done to secure the country and its people,” Secondus said.
Also, the African Democratic Congress and the Social Democratic Party agreed with the PDP that the report by The Economist only confirmed the position of opposition members that the present administration had no clue on how to manage the nation’s economy.
The ADC’s National Publicity Secretary, Yemi Kolapo; and her counterpart in the SDP, Alfa Mohammed, said this in separate interviews with one of our correspondents on Thursday. Kolapo on her part claimed that the present government came into power unprepared. She said, “It should not really take The Economist of this world to tell Nigerians that the economy was so poorly handled under the All Progressives Congress government. “The sad reality is that those who should know in the APC government have chosen to politicise everything at the expense of Nigeria and Nigerians. Look at all the economic indices there are to watch, they are all sloping downwards. This government came into power unprepared.
“Even if we excuse that, the fact that they have shown cluelessness in 80 per cent of economic affairs, and know-how in only about 20 per cent should signal to them that they need to hand over the baton to those who know how to turn the economy around and also genuinely fight corruption. “Nigerians made their choice by voting against President Buhari and the APC, but they have chosen to continue to inflict pain on the poor masses by sitting tight fraudulently. God will surely deliver His children.”
Mohammed, on his part, agreed with Kolapo that the magazine stated the obvious. He said there was no way there would not be poverty in a country where there was insecurity and government policies were not favourable to investors. He said, “The Economist is only stating the obvious. Every Nigerian knows that in the last four years, Nigerians have continued to be poorer. “It is obvious for everybody to see. The genesis of the poverty the magazine talked about is known to all of us. Where there is insecurity and the people cannot carry out their business freely, there will be poverty.
“Where big businessmen who have the capacity to create jobs and employ people are being humiliated by the EFCC, there will be poverty. When you don’t create enabling environment for investment, there will be poverty. “People now take their money outside Nigeria to invest, therefore, making those who are unemployed here to remain unemployed while providing jobs abroad. “We in the opposition have been saying it that the policies of this government have been killing investors. “Nigerians had the opportunity to make a change during the last elections, but unfortunately, they did not do that, just because of sentiments.” Punch
Pix: President Muhammadu Buhari