- Labour demands wage increase, prompt payment of salary
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Paul Obi in Abuja and Amby Uneze in Owerri
As the economic recession bites harder, spelling acute hardship for Nigerians, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) sunday sought to downplay rising worries over their wellbeing and asked the people to be calm as the economy would soon rebound.
The bank spoke through its acting Director, Corporate Communications, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, but said, however, that the quick rebound was only possible if Nigerians increased their productivity, patronise made-in-Nigeria goods and support measures being taken by it to manage foreign exchange.
He spoke in Owerri at a one-day interactive enlightenment meeting with organised labour where the workers told him that they want an enhanced wage and prompt payment of their salaries, saying it was the only way they could be shielded from the harsh effects of the recession, which the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) through a statement in Abuja yesterday, said was brought about by the incompetent handling of the economy by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Addressing stakeholders at the Owerri interactive enlightenment meeting, Okoroafor urged Nigerians to have the strong belief that with hard work the economy would rebound soonest.
“What is required from everyone of us is a strong belief that we can get out of it as hardworking people. There are things we need to do to get out of the recession: we are calling on all Nigerians to be calm, work hard enough and obey simple rules,” he said.
He encouraged Nigerians to support the federal government directives to ban the importation of 41 items that could be produced in Nigeria to save the country’s foreign exchange reserve.
“We should all support that policy, so that we can allow our people to produce those goods and supply to the people so that we can consume them and give employment to our people, instead of importing the same goods from abroad and creating jobs abroad for their people,” he said.
Okoroafor said Nigerians should support the central bank by exposing economic saboteurs who speculate against the naira.
Responding, the Deputy President of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Issa Aremu, admonished the political and economic class to cultivate a bipartisan and pan-Nigerian approach to overcome the current economic crisis instead of passing blame and giving excuses.
He said all Nigerians regardless of their callings are damned by the data on rising inflation, double digit interest rates, factory closures and general underdevelopment, adding that Nigerians must collectively confront underdevelopment instead of giving excuses and blaming each other.
On the critical views of the past two governors of the CBN, Mr. Charles Soludo and Emir of Kano Mohammed Sanusi II, on the policy thrust of the Buhari administration, Aremu said the two voices sounded too familiar, predictable but unhelpful for an economy begging for solutions.
“It’s time to work the recovery of Nigeria based on 1999 constitution’s provision that says the purpose of governance is welfare and security of the citizens,” he said.
According to him, “After 30 years of structural adjustment programme of privatisation, trade liberalisation and currency/financial liberalisation, Nigeria urgently must replace the current disjointed policies with sustainable national development agenda consolidated in various national discourses articulated in visions 2010, 2020 and 2014 National conference.”
He called for the realignment of Nigeria’s monetary and fiscal policies to drive sustainable development and hailed the current spirited efforts of the Governor of the CBN, Godwin Emefiele, to defend the value of naira through stringent capital control measures in the face of dwindling external reserves caused by the collapse of oil price.
He said the ban on 41 imported goods and services from the list of items valid for forex in the forex markets was desirable for import substitution.
He suggested that as part of the complementary efforts of the monetary authorities, Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo must quickly hit the ground running and convoke a stakeholders’ forum with all the manufacturers and producers of the 41 banned items with a view to removing the structuring problems facing them to produce these items at home and that if necessary, there should be sequencing and spacing of reforms to avoid the negative impact on the citizens.
PDP Blames Buhari
In its update on the recession, the PDP said there was no need for the federal government to beat about the bush over the cause of the economic downturn, pinpointing Buhari’s lack of vision as the culprit.
The party in a statement by the National Publicity Secretary of its Caretaker Committee, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said rather than continue to pass the buck to the President Goodluck Jonathan administration, the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government should blame its poor policies for the current economic stagnation and recession in the country.
“The major cause of recession is inflation and poor handling of the economy given that the higher the rate of inflation, the more impoverished people become, industrial production and GDP decline resulting in massive job losses,” it said,
Giving instances of remarkable turnarounds in the United States of America and Great Britain, the opposition party noted that world history was full of many examples where genuine leaders took over countries whose economies had stagnated and moved them to positive growth.
The party described the analogy made last Thursday by the Governor of Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru, blaming the recession on Jonathan as grossly ill-informed.
It said the PDP-led government under Jonathan saw the looming danger since 2011 and wanted to deregulate the sale of hydrocarbons in 2012, but that Governor Badaru and others in the APC vehemently opposed it.
Again, it said that the Jonathan administration also wanted to encourage more savings in the Excess Crude Account (ECA) and set up the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) but some state governors at the time took the federal government to court and did everything to frustrate the effort.
The PDP said it was disappointing that a notable personality as highly placed as a state governor could be drawn into making idle and pedestrian claims without the benefit of facts.
According to the opposition party, it was the ever challenging, unpredictable, unstable and energy sapping business environment being witnessed under the APC-led administration that had compounded the economic situation.
The party quoted the President of the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Larry Ettah, as having complained bitterly about the difficult operating business environment, adding that Badaru should have known that one could not plant grapes and harvest mangoes.
The PDP said: “It is no secret that the policies and statements made by key government actors have not been business-friendly and Nigerians and foreign business men took their hard currencies out of the country.
“It is either he does not realise the obligation of speaking responsibly in that position or he is grossly ill-informed; in which case, we could only try to put the facts before him, and hoping he would recognise them.”
The PDP pointed out that Buhari and his party at the advent of their administration spent more time de-marketing Nigeria all over the world rather than making efforts to woo investors.
Hunger Increases Suicide
A former Chaplain of Aso Villa Chapel and General Overseer of All Christians Fellowship Mission, Maitama, William Okoye, yesterday expressed concerns over the hunger and poverty in the country, stating that it had increased cases of suicide.
He said this in Abuja during an interview with journalists, after addressing his congregation on the state of the nation message entitled: “The Need for a Social and Cultural Security Safety Net.”
He warned that if urgent steps were not taken by the government, the number of people killing themselves because of poverty and hunger could increase, ushering in confusion and more devastation.
Okoye urged Buhari to listen to the voice of reason and urgently embark on the processes of restructuring the country in line with demands from the intelligentsia and leading bureaucrats.
He said: “Yes, Nigeria is in a serious problem now; people are dying and killing themselves because when they come to the end of the road and they don’t have anybody to support or encourage them, they think that the best option is just to give up by just killing themselves.
“It shouldn’t be happening in our society where we have responsible citizens, we should reduce that (suicide). We can’t be talking about government, government and government.
“The government has its roles to play but we all as individuals should also have our roles to play and when each of us take responsibility to play our roles in our own little ways and corners, those things add up to bring the stability for we are believing God.”
On the visit of the US Secretary of State John Kerry, which Christians complained they were excluded, Okoye warned that Nigeria should be careful because some US officials had been looking for a way to cause division in the country.
He said: “Well, it depends on the reason why he came. If the reason why he came was to meet with the Muslim community because of some challenges there and so on, I think it was okay.
“But I think like some people have already said, generally the western world has been doing some funny things to divide us, which is not healthy. I think we should also be careful so that we don’t push some of these things to the extreme.”