- FG punishing Nigerians for politicians’ sins with subsidy removal – Analysts
- Others maintain complete turnaround of economy can’t be achieved overnight
- Tinubu inherited battered economy – FG
BY BRIGHT JACOB
Nigerians have expressed mixed reactions over the performance of President Bola Tinubu’s administration as the government marked its first 100 days in office on Tuesday.
President Tinubu was sworn in on May 29, following the expiration of the two-term tenure of the immediate past President Muhammadu Buhari.
During his inaugural speech, Tinubu had announced the removal of subsidy on petrol in the country, resulting in almost 200 per cent increase in the price of the product.
Consequently, the associated increase in transport fare and the attendant inflation in the country have led to most Nigerians groaning over what they described as the unbearable economic situation.
Assessing the situation, a petroleum engineer and politician, Martin Onovo, described the decision by the president to announce the removal of fuel subsidy as reckless.
Onovo noted that since economic growth was determined by productivity, there was no way Nigeria could grow its economy under the current situation.
Onovo, who was the presidential candidate of National Conscience Party in 2015 said, “Subsidy removal was not only reckless, it is also senseless. When you consider the fact that the Buhari government removed the subsidy in 2016 and it failed woefully, then you will see how senseless it is to do so now. Who advised Tinubu to remove the subsidy? He took the decision on the day he was sworn in. Which national economic management team advised him to do so? He did not have any at that time.
“The United States is rated as having the largest economy in the world because it has the largest GDP. While would you, in order to grow an economy, take a step that will undermine GDP? Subsidy removal has no gain. During the Obasanjo military regime in 1976 when he increased fuel price he said it was meant for infrastructural development.
“Again in 2016, when Buhari removed fuel subsidy he said it was for infrastructural development. Which infrastructure did Buhari develop after removing the subsidy? There is no way you will grow an economy by undermining your GDP. Economic growth is by productivity.
“China grew its economy by productivity. Globally, economic growth is measured by GDP. We must understand the critical role of fuel in the economy. Fuel is energy. The US alone consumes 25 per cent of the world’s energy. So, why won’t the US have the largest GDP? It is because energy is the capacity to produce. Ordinary welders need power. If the Disco doesn’t supply him electricity he will use his generating set. Outside energy, the second most fundamental thing is transportation because of the need for the distribution of goods and the movement of personnel. Fuel is critical to this, but that is what Tinubu decided to tamper with.”
The former presidential candidate pointed out that the decision to remove the fuel subsidy plunged the citizens of the country into the current hardship, saying that it is tantamount to punishing the Nigerian masses for the sins of the political class.
He submitted that the only solution to the problem was to fix the refineries in the country.
“Why is Nigeria importing refined products? It is because the refineries are not functioning. The refineries have been grounded because of corruption. Before 1989, our refineries were working at world’s class level and they were manned by Nigerians. But the corrupt people moved in and kicked out the competent hands managing our refineries and replaced them with sycophants and inexperienced people. And now the place has been run down. So, why should the Nigerian people be made to pay for the failure of the political class? This is what I meant when I said the decision is senseless and reckless. The way forward is to fix the refineries,” Onovo said.
There are, however, those who consider the government’s decision to remove fuel subsidies as a step in the right direction.
The Dean, Faculty of Law, Adeleke University, Ede, Osun State, Prof Tayo Bello, pointed out that the fuel subsidy regime must be done away with if Nigeria must make any meaningful progress.
He was quick to identify the over N1 trillion the government claimed to have saved in two months after fuel subsidy was removed, as one of the major gains of the policy.
According to him, “President Tinubu has taken a few steps, which personally, I consider to be in order. First is the removal of subsidies. This is very commendable. I have always maintained that the subsidy must go if we are going to make any progress. Since the subsidy was removed, the government has succeeded in saving a lot of money which would have gone into payment of the subsidy. This is possible because fuel smuggling out of the country has been curtailed.”
As a way of justifying its decision to remove fuel subsidy, the government had claimed it had been able to save over N1 trillion two months after the fuel subsidy was removed.
This, Bello considered a laudable benefit of subsidy removal.
Security of lives and property is another area Nigerians are expecting a miracle from the new administration.
But since coming to power, the Tinubu government has seen itself grappling with one of the major challenges that have continued to threaten the peace and unity of the country to its very existence.
But in spite of this challenge, security experts are of the opinion that it is too premature to assess the readiness and the seriousness of the new administration in battling insecurity in the country.
A frontline security expert, Jackson Lekan-Ojo, who lauded the choice of Service Chiefs appointed by the president, was quick to point out that the emergence of the new Security Chiefs would not magically change the situation.
He said, “The problem on the ground is so enormous. From all indications, the Service Chiefs are really working to ensure insecurity is addressed, but the damage on ground is quite enormous. So, we should not expect the Service Chiefs to perform magic within the period they have been in office more than we have seen now. I believe that with the support of all Nigerians, they will perform to our expectations.
“But then we must not forget that the more the economic hardship in the country, the more the possibility of seeing more people going into crime. If the hardship persists and it is only the poor that are being forced to sacrifice while the rich continue to live in affluence, definitely there will be little or nothing the Service Chiefs will be able to do.”
In the same vein, another security expert, Rotimi Aromolaran, opined that it was too early to assess this administration in the area of security despite the prevailing security challenges in parts of the country.
He noted, however, that some of the moves made so far by the new Security Chiefs had been able to ignite hope of better performance from the new service heads.
He said, “I believe it is too early to give a comprehensive analysis about the security situation. As relatively peaceful as it appears, the herders are still wreaking havoc in some states. Criminals are still removing and stealing railway tracks, pockets of kidnapping are still happening all over the nation and the prevalence of cultism and other related crimes have yet to abate. While kudos should be given to the security operatives for stemming the tide, they still have a lot of work to do in bringing permanent peace to the nation.
“We would have to wait for a little bit to be able to properly assess the security situation in the country objectively. But having said that, the Service Chiefs have shown inspiring capacity by visiting their commands and trying to motivate their men and officers to achieve the desired results. I think all that is needed now is the heart and the willingness to make good judgments.”
Aromolaran urged the nation’s security agencies to synergise and be more proactive in their operations.
He also called for more investment in technology and tasked the government on an improved welfare package for the nation’s security operatives.
According to him, there should be more effective policing of the nation’s borders.
A popular economist and former President and Chairman of the Council of Chartered Institute of Bankers, Segun Ajibola, said Tinubu, in the last three months, had taken so many bold steps and touched those grounds where for decades’ angels fear to tread’.
“The 8-point Agenda, which is bending radical policies and pronouncements on many critical sectors of the economy such as agriculture, industry, tourism, have added to the growing trust in the President’s ability to turn around the fortunes of the economy of Nigeria.
“The will to fight corruption and eliminate underhand dealings in the critical sectors of the economy in the first 60 days of this administration is worthy of mention.
“The President works using the hands of his aides, ministers and others. The quality of these hands will surely impact the delivery of the President. One can see a promising future for Nigeria’s economy with the engagement and hopefully continued employment of the right calibre of technocrats, bureaucrats and professionals into the President’s cabinet and other layers of governance.
“But Nigerians must appreciate that the complete turnaround of the fortunes of a traumatised economy like that of Nigeria cannot be achieved overnight. The task is, therefore, deserving of the understanding and cooperation of all and sundry.”
“And I believe the government is fully on the right course towards achieving the greater good for the greater number of Nigerians going forward,” he stated.
Also, the Chief Executive Officer of SD & D Capital Management, Idakolo Gbolade, said the first three months of Tinubu’s administration had been tough for the masses.
However, he said the policies had breathed a new life into the economy.
“The Bola Tinubu administration took over governance at a critical period in the country’s life when the economy was almost bankrupt.
“The bold measures taken to remove the fuel subsidy and float the Naira were geared towards stabilising the economy. The suspension and probe of the former CBN Governor was expected because of his dangerous activities against the people and economy of Nigeria.
“The first 100 days of the Tinubu administration have been tough for the people, but it has breathed a new life into our economy.
“In the short term, the government should use the quick wins of the subsidy removal and floating of the Naira to provide impactful subsidy palliative to the people and implement its policies on agriculture, manufacturing and SMEs sectors by disbursing the various loan facilities to these sectors to jumpstart the economy.
“The long-term plan of the government should be to ramp up revenue by investing in critical sectors of the economy like oil and gas, mining, energy and agriculture with special interest in SMEs to encourage more homegrown businesses in technology and services.
“The government should also speed up its plans to provide alternatives to petrol in our transportation network by ensuring the aggressive implementation of the petrol to gas conversion and the use of the Compressed Natural Gas to provide cheaper fuel for transportation and provision of additional avenues for youth employment.
“The government should also desist from the borrowing model of the previous administration that brought us to our present situation,” he stated.
On his part, an accounting and financial development Don at Lead City University, Ibadan, Prof Godwin Oyedokun, said he hoped that the eight-point agenda would not end up like an academic exercise.
He said that the government must do everything in the medium term to revive the economy.
“Well, the eight-point agenda, no agenda is bad or good; they should follow it to the letter and ensure it wasn’t just an academic exercise again.
“With all these, I hope Nigeria should move forward in terms of economy. I hope that now that the federal ministers are on board, we should have better things to say about Nigeria.
“I have seen them starting to work; they are experienced people who know what to do. This government should work on the economy in a short time, make things easier for people, and let the country be conducive.
“I will continue to say it: if you want to give a palliative, look into the area of taxation, a tax cut could do wonders; this will go a long way other than distributing money for people, at the end of the day, you will not know who and who got it,” he noted.
Tinubu inherited battered economy – FG
On its part, the Federal Government on Tuesday said President Tinubu inherited a battered economy but changed the narrative within his 100 days in office.
While describing the fuel subsidy removal as “a Sword of Damocles that hung over Nigeria for decades”, the Federal Government said that although the challenges had been tough, the President has planted seeds of national transformation, growth, and all-round development.
“This period may be challenging, but the President has planted the seeds of national transformation, growth, and all-round development. Our appeal to Nigerians and the labour unions is to continue to support the government and show more understanding. We must continue to work hard and confidently press forward to the glory of a greater Nigeria,” the Federal Government said.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said these in a statement titled, ‘President Tinubu’s 100 days of steady progress and national rejuvenation’.
According to him, exactly 100 days ago, President Tinubu assumed office following the mandate bestowed on him by Nigerians, who elected him as the 16th leader of Nigeria.
Idris said, “Since May 29, President Tinubu has been at his duty post, working assiduously to deliver on his campaign promises as enunciated in his Renewed Hope Agenda for a better and greater Nigeria.
“The President began the journey to rebuild our battered economy, realising that our country was in a difficult situation with our public debts – both local and foreign – coupled with an unsustainable fuel subsidy regime that created, for several decades, a galling hole in our public finance, rendering the three tiers of governments insolvent and incapable of meeting the needs of the citizens.
“President Tinubu took a bold and courageous decision to remove the fuel subsidy to avert a national economic catastrophe of epic proportions. Fuel subsidy was a Sword of Damocles that hung over Nigeria for decades. It stunted growth and set the country a-borrowing.”
While describing the adverse effects of fuel subsidy removal and the unification of the exchange rate on Nigerians as “momentary discomfort”, the statement affirmed that the President had not failed in his appeal to Nigerians to accept the current realities.