Nigeria Experiencing Worst Economic Recession Ever, Says Gowon

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  •  Buhari: I will ensure 2017 budget is not padded

By Tobi Soniyi and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja

Former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, yesterday said the country was faced with the most troubling economic recession ever.

Gowon, who was represented by his brother, Dr. Dauda Gowon  made this known at the Annual Lecture/Gold Service Award 2016 organised by the Centre for Democratic Governance in Africa (CDGA), with the theme; “Global Recession as it Affects  Good Governance: Need for Proactive Action-Nigeria as a Case Study, The Way Forward.”

This is just as President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to remove from the 2017 Budget any project or figures sneaked into it as was done in the 2016 Budget.

Gowon said the present economic situation demanded collective effort as the federal government alone would be unable to solve the problems.

 Regardless, on the recession, Gowon said, “As we speak, we have on our hands in one of the deepest and most troubling economic recessions ever to plaque Nigeria.”

He noted that the challenge was multifarious, in part, by the fact that the flow of oil money into the Nigerian economy had triggered an avalanche of imported consumer goods that have virtually knocked down domestic production.

Gowon stressed that this in turn had caused unemployment and also led to escalation in crime and other social conflicts.

“Government has shown a deep understanding of these problems and exhibited a strong resolve to contribute to tackling them.

“I believe the troubles we have gone through over the past few years have helped Nigerians to note clearly the difference between self-sustaining economy and one that relies on wasting assets such as oil. We have also seen the extent to which corruption has made governance virtually impossible,” the former head of state stated.

He emphasised that corruption had rendered public institutions, including regulatory and judicial agencies sterile, and that it had also caused deterioration in the quality of infrastructure, health care delivery and education, among others.

In his contribution, constitutional lawyer, Mike Ozekhome said in a situation where the followership or the civil society was weak, the tendency was for the government to see itself as a supernatural being that could trample on the rights of the people.

He said that “the civil societies need to be up and doing; we cannot live government alone, the people must hold this government accountable. We cannot allow the government to use its anti-graft agencies as it has always done to go after perceived enemies and antagonists. It is for the people to rise up and enforce their fundamental human rights by saying no to injustice, by saying no to oppression, by saying no to marginalisation, and once we begin to do that then the government will begin to be careful.

“So we need the people to serve as a guard against the praetorian guard; we need the guard to guard the guard otherwise power that corrupts will corrupt absolutely,” he said.

Earlier, the DG of the Centre, Dr. Dafe Akpocha said, “We are not trying to change, we are trying to contribute, when we have leadership problem and it affects the economy, it affects everything about good governance, we have to get the leadership structure right, if we get the leadership structure right, then other things will follow.”

Buhari on Budget Padding…

President Buhari made the promise to ensure a credible budget 2017, while receiving in audience members of the Governance Support Group (GSG), led by Hon. Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, at the State House, Abuja, yesterday.

“I am waiting for the 2017 Budget to be brought to us in Council. Any sign of padding anywhere, I will remove it,” said the president, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina.

Buhari re-iterated that he had been in government since 1975, variously as governor, oil minister, head of state, and Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), “and never did I hear the word ‘padding’ till the 2016 Budget.” He promised that such would never happen again under his watch.

The president said the government stands by its tripod campaign promises of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption, but lamented that some people were deliberately turning blind eyes to the prevailing realities in the country.

“They don’t want to reflect on the situation in which we are, economically. They want to live the same way; they simply want business as usual,” he said.

On violence that attend rerun elections in the country, Buhari stated: “I agonised over the elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers states. We should have passed the stage in which people are beheaded, and killed because of who occupies certain offices. If we can’t guarantee decent elections, then we have no business being around. Edo State election was good, and I expect Ondo State election to be better.”

Speaking on the anti-corruption cases before the courts, the president said he believed the cleansing currently going on “will lead to a better judiciary. When people are sentenced, Nigerians will believe that we are serious.”

The president equally told his guests that the progress being made in agriculture and exploitation of solid minerals “gives a lot of hope,” adding: “Our grains go up to Central African Republic, to Burkina Faso, but they can’t buy all the grains harvested this year. And next season should be even better. We will focus on other products like cocoa, palm oil, palm kernel, along with the grains. We can start exporting rice in 18 months, and we are getting fertilizers and pesticides in readiness for next year.”

Speaking on behalf of members of GSG, Nwajiuba said the government had succeeded to a large extent on the security and anti-corruption fronts, adding that the group was positive that the economy would soon experience a turnaround, “as the government is working very hard in that direction.”