·President not practising voodoo economics, says APC, blames PDP administrations
·Makarfi advocates economic team to salvage the country
Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja and John Shiklam in Abuja with agency report
Following the grim economic data released on Wednesday by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) confirming Nigeria’s slide into recession, rising inflation, unemployment and plummeting foreign capital importation, President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday pleaded with Nigerians to be patient with his administration, assuring them that the pains they are currently going through would soon give way to development.
Buhari, who reminded Nigerians that his administration’s “change” mantra was aimed at restoring the nation on the path of integrity and prosperity, said this in Osogbo, the Osun State capital, during the inauguration of the Osogbo Government High School built by the administration of Governor Rauf Aregbesola.
The president urged Nigerians to be patient and persevere for a while, promising that the pains would soon give way to development.
He said his administration was working hard to avoid the mistakes of the last administration in tackling insecurity and corruption and to revamp the economy, which has been badly affected by the drop in the price of oil, reported the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
Buhari said: “We promised Nigerian people positive and progressive change during our campaign. We are not and shall not be deterred from that noble undertaking.
“But as we have learnt from history, change has never been attained by any nation on a bed of roses, but rather through patience, perseverance and steadfastness.
“We are quite aware of the pains and inconveniences that have been the lot of the citizenry in the past one year as we strive to faithfully implement our programmes in fulfilment of our change agenda.
“We are however comforted by the real change and progress we have made in fighting corruption and restoring integrity to government; providing security for lives and property; and positioning the government for effectiveness and especially deregulating the oil sector.
“We must also not forget the fiscal discipline that has now characterised government business at all levels. This indeed is how it should be and we are determined to introduce and implement actions and measures that will entrench the change mantra in our individual lives, just as we are doing in curtailing excessive waste and rent seeking in governance.
“We are determined to remain on track as we strive to deliver to rescue the country from past mistakes in fulfilment of our promise of improving the conditions of our people and making Nigeria a prosperous country.”
Also rising in defence of the administration, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) said yesterday that the country’s economy under Buhari could not be equated to the reckless fiscal policies that were the vogue when the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was in office.
Reacting to the call by the PDP for Buhari to resign on account of the dire economic situation, APC blamed the present state of affairs on the reckless policies of the previous administration.
APC assured Nigerians that the Buhari-led administration was solidly committed to resuscitating the economy in the quickest possible time and in the best interest of the people.
A statement by the National Secretary of the APC, Hon. Mai Mala Buni, criticised the PDP for trying to divert the attention of Nigerians from the genuine efforts being made by government.
“The statement by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday was the latest in the party’s insensitive plot to deflect attention from the voodoo economics and reckless fiscal policies the country was subjected to during its 16-year rule.
“For the umpteenth time, the PDP lacks the moral basis and credibility to comment or condemn the government on the economy after the mess it left behind. Instead, the PDP must apologise to Nigerians.
“The warning signs were glaring to the immediate-past administration but it chooses the path of economic sabotage by looking the other way and squandering the country’s commonwealth – a reckless decision that has brought the country to its knees.
“Nigerians will recall that even the immediate-past Finance Minister and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, confessed that the zero political will to save under the immediate-past administration was responsible for the challenges facing the country.
“Happily, the President Buhari administration has embarked on a well-thought economic agenda, policy actions, appropriate fiscal governance, and socio-political reforms to revamp the economy and tackle the nation’s current challenges in the short to long term.
“Under the new flexible foreign exchange policy introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in June 2016, we now have a single market-determined exchange rate which enables suppliers of foreign currencies to bring in their money and take the same out at market-determined rates.
“The new foreign exchange policy being implemented will ensure our economy recovers in the medium to long term.
“As contained in the assented 2016 National Budget, the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is aggressively formulating and implementing policies aimed at diversifying Nigeria’s economy from oil to other sectors such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing.
“The administration is also proactively tackling increased attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta region which has led to disruptions in crude production,” it observed.
The party noted that in line with the critical infrastructure focus of the Buhari administration, it voted an unprecedented 30 per cent of the 2016 budget to capital projects.
“As the administration works assiduously to build a new solid foundation, credible image and pull the country out of the present hardships, the APC appeals for patience and cooperation from Nigerians,” he said.
The ruling party also announced that it had constituted a caretaker committee to run the affairs of the Gombe State chapter of the party.
A statement by Mai Mala Buni said that it had accepted the resignation of Mr. Karu Ishaya and Mr. Sallau Manu Pindiga as the state deputy chairman and secretary, respectively.
The party also said that it had decided to relieve Muhammad Magaji Doho and Dauda Manu of their positions as state chairman and state legal adviser, respectively.
The caretaker committee is headed by Hon. Lawan Shetima with Alhaji Sule Yakubu as state secretary.
Also, the Governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Muhammadu Badaru Abubakar, said yesterday that the way out of the economic downturn is for Nigeria to expand its economy and make it more competitive.
The governor, who spoke to journalists at the APC national secretariat in Abuja, shortly after being inaugurated to chair the committee of the Ondo State governorship primary, said the present hardship would have been averted if past leaders had started cutting their expenditure and import bill to save for tomorrow.
“The problem with the past leaders was they should have started cutting expenditure. For instance, what Obasanjo did with cement was good. We stopped importation of cement into Nigeria. Why do we have to import rice, why do we have to import maize, why do we have to import wheat? Why do we have to import milk?
“At the time the going was good, the government was supposed to have given credible intervention like what Obasanjo did with the cement to encourage the production of rice,” he said.
Also commenting on the nation’s economy, the former governor of Kaduna State and the Caretaker of Committee Chairman of the PDP, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, advised Buhari to assemble an economic team, irrespective of party affiliations to find a solution to the present economic situation in the country.
Makarfi, who spoke in an interview in Kaduna yesterday, said there was need for all hands to be on deck to find solutions to the economic hardship facing the country.
“We are all Nigerians, we must know that things are tough today. I read a letter written by Cardinal Olubunmi Okojie to the president in the newspapers expressing the same concern.
“This is not an issue for one political party alone. Long before that letter, and as a matter of fact, before the president was sworn into office and to be candid, my personal belief was that the country was facing a serious problem and that we were heading into more serious problems.
“So all hands needed to be on deck. There is a time to play politics, and there is a time, whether you are the party in government or not, we should not play politics with certain issues,” Makarfi said.
Making further reference to Okojie’s letter to Buhari, Makarfi said: “If the economy is bad, it is the political class that is to be blamed.”
He was of the opinion that other than the political class, the military, which was in power for several years, should also share part of the blame, “because they did a lot of damage to the system”.
He said: “Let us own up to the wrong we have done and let us collectively repent and come together for the sake of the ordinary man and woman and even those that are not ordinary and save our nation from economic doom.”
He said working together to salvage the country “doesn’t mean we should become a one party state and it doesn’t mean we should agree on political matters, but we should realise that the country’s survival is foremost”.
He said he shared the views expressed by Cardinal Okojie in his letter to the president on the state of the nation, noting the problems of the economy were more structural and had been there for a long time, even before 1999.
“Of course, there are issues that you can reduce to the last five, seven or 10 years or so. That is why I say it is a collective thing if it is failure, because you can extend this failure to as far back as you can remember,” he said.
He however stressed that this was not the time to start apportioning blames, “rather it is time to come together and salvage the country and do the needful”.
“In any case, people voted for this government, because they were dissatisfied with the last administration. If they were satisfied they would have returned all the past administration at all levels.
“Having not returned them, because people believed that things will improve with this government, it will be good to go forward and see what we can do and improve on our economy.
“It should not be seen as failure to say look, ‘the issue at hand now requires that we should come together and salvage our country’, in fact it is not a sign of failure,” he said.