Sliding Economy and Buhari’s 36 Trips in 18 Months

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RingTrue

with Yemi Adebowale; yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com; 07013940521  (text only)
The frightening pronouncement this week by the Minister of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma that President Muhammadu Buhari would inaugurate an economic recovery plan next month left me shattered. Nigeria’s economy has been sliding in the last 18 months and officially went into recession in the second quarter of this year. After 18 months of slithering, this administration is yet to conclude on a recovery plan. Nigerians are now being told to wait till next month for the salvage plan. This is a confirmation of my assertion all this while that this administration lacks any blueprint on how to turn around any sector of our nation’s economy. Udoma’s statement is a validation of ineptitude by an administration that assumed office with so much promise but has left Nigerians with blood, tears and pain.

This administration persistently talks about diversifying the nation’s economy, yet, there is no blueprint on how to attain this. The excuse for the sliding economy has remained the same: falling crude oil price and vandalism in the Niger Delta. They create the impression that Gross Domestic Product is all about crude oil production. This is preposterous. They fail to tell Nigerians that the manufacturing sector is the biggest contributor to the GDP and it is tumbling because of the warped policies of this administration. Average industrial capacity utilisation is down to about 10% from over 50% about 18 months ago. Manufacturers are gasping for breath. The fiscal and monetary policies of this administration, particularly the crooked forex policy is choking them. From Q3 2016 statistics, the manufacturing sector contributed 8.59 per cent to nominal GDP, lower than 8.95 per cent in Q2 2016 and 9.67 per cent in Q3 2015. Real GDP growth of the manufacturing sector slowed by 2.63 per cent to -4.38 per cent (year-on-year) from –1.75 per cent growth recorded in third quarter of 2015 and 1.02 per cent in the previous quarter.

Clearly, the Buhari administration runs the country with propaganda, while the nation’s economy tumbles. The statistics from the National Bureau of Statistics are terrifying.
The third quarter Gross Domestic Product growth data released this week by the NBS showed that the country sank deeper into recession, contracting by 2.26 per cent from -2.06 per cent in the second quarter of this year, and -0.36 per cent in the first quarter. This represented a 0.18 per cent drop from the growth recorded in the preceding quarter and lower by 5.08 per cent relative to the corresponding quarter in 2015.
Inflation accelerated for the 12th consecutive month in October as exchange-rate pressures persisted on the prices of goods and services. The inflation rate rose to 18.3 per cent, the highest in 11 years, from 17.9 per cent in September. Prices rose 0.8 per cent from the previous month.

This latest data is a confirmation of the flaws in Nigeria’s economy in the last 18 months, resulting in rising unemployment and job losses, declining industrial capacity utilisation and acute foreign exchange shortage. It is obvious that there is a need for fresh thinking on how to tackle the forex challenges of manufacturers in order to create jobs. The founder, Financial Derivatives, Bismarck Rewane, noted: “The latest NBS report showed that some things are definitely not working right.
This is bad news. We are in real trouble. With three consecutive quarters of increasing negative growth, that means we are getting deeper into recession. The stimulus package has to be increased and intensified and the interest rate has to come down and they have to make forex available. The forex market arrangement now is not working and something has to be done and very quickly.
There is no easy answer to it, but we must face the reality and find our way out of this situation.”

So, how do we find our way out of this situation, when the men around Buhari look incapable of offering fresh ideas on how to turn around our sliding economy? They have shown over the last 12 months that they lack the capacity to do this. The sloppy 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper presented to the Senate this week testifies to this. Buhari is surrounded by a legion of sycophants. This means that our president must rejig his cabinet. He must be ready to hire people who would look at him straight in the eye and say “no” to his antiquated mentality and policies. This is the only way forward for our dear nation.

This morning, I urge Buhari to reflect on the remarks of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who said: “Now that we have had change because the actors and the situation needed to be changed, let us move forward to have progress through a comprehensive economic policy and programme that is intellectually, strategically and philosophically based. Once you are on seat, you have to clear the mess and put the nation on the path of rectitude, development and progress leaving no group or section out of your plan, programme, policy and efforts.

“Economy neither obeys orders nor does it work according to wishes. It must be worked upon with all factors considered and most stakeholders involved. The investors, domestic and foreign, are no fools and they know what is going on with the management of the economy, including the foreign exchange and they are not amused. The Central Bank must be restored to its independence and integrity.”
Amidst this sliding economy, it is very unfortunate that Buhari has stepped up his valueless foreign trips. Our globetrotting President has made 36 overseas trips in 18 months. This is an average of two trips per month. See table below. His 36th trip was to Equatorial Guinea on Wednesday for an irritable Africa-Arab Summit. Buhari has visited 36 countries in search of foreign investors, looted funds and other humdrum things for poor Nigerians. There are no results to justify these trips while state resources are being depleted on them. Last year, we were told that he went to the United States and Europe to recover our stolen money stashed in foreign banks. So, how much of the loot has the United States and other European countries returned to us in 18 months? How many foreign investors have the trips attracted in the last 18 months? I very much doubt if Buhari has any positive story to tell us in this direction.
Buhari’s 36 Foreign Trips in 18 Months
1)  Niger Republic, June 2015
2)  Chad, June 2015
3)  Germany, June 2015
4)  South Africa, June 2015
5)  United Kingdom, May 2015
6)  USA, July 2015
7)  Cameroon, July 2015
8)  Benin Republic, August 2015
9)  France, September 2015
10) Ghana, September 2015
11) India, October 2015
12) Sudan, October 2015
13) Iran, November 2015
14) France, November 2015
15) USA, November 2015
16) South Africa, December 2015
17) Benin, December 2015
18) Benin, January 2016
19) UAE, January 2016
20) Kenya, January 2016
21) Ethiopia, 2016
22) France, February 2016
23) United Kingdom, February 2016
24) Egypt, February 2016
25) Saudi Arabia, February 2016
26) Qatar, February 2016
27) Equatorial Guinea, March 2016
28) United States, March 2016
29) China April 2016
30) United Kingdom, 2016
31) United Kingdom, June 6, 2016
32) Chad, August 2016
33) Kenya August 2016
34) USA, September 2016
35) Morocco, November 2016
36) Equatorial Guinea, November 2016
Musings on the Lion of Jada at 70
Former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, the man I love to call “the Lion of Jada” was 70 years old yesterday. For those who don’t know, Jada, in the present day Adamawa State, was where Atiku’s story from grass to grace started. His story remains an inspiring study in perseverance. Through hard work, and of course, the grace of Allah, Atiku rose above the limitations of his birth to become a huge success. Born in 1946, this warrior became an orphan at the age of eight, but overcame abject poverty to acquire education, and rose to the pinnacle of his career.

Growing up in Jada was tough. His was a struggling family. Getting three square-meals was a daily battle for the family. Worse still, Atiku’s mother who was helping with the family upkeep died when he was just eight. His father died much earlier. But the little Atiku refused to be intimidated. He was strengthened by his circumstances. He became a man when his mates were still boys. He worked very hard to help himself and his entire family. He also knew that education was going to be the key to his success. He never joked with it. In 1969, Atiku enlisted into the Nigerian Customs and Excise service, where he served for 20 years, retiring in 1989 at the rank of Deputy Comptroller. In retirement, he went into private business.
This Lion from Jada was part of the G18 pressure group, which later became G34 movement that spearheaded opposition to Abacha’s self-succession bid.

Following Obasanjo’s emergence as PDP’s presidential standard-bearer in 1999, he settled for Atiku who had already been elected governor of Adamawa State, as his running mate. The conversation that sealed the deal remains evergreen. “Turaki, are you prepared to take orders from me?” Obasanjo asked Atiku, calling him by his traditional title. “Ah, I have always taken instructions from you, sir” Atiku replied, “because you are a general.” “Okay you are my vice-president,” Obasanjo told the stunned Atiku; “go and break the news to the party leaders!” That was how his romance with Obasanjo started. It later went sour during the power tussle for 2003 Presidency. Atiku had openly indicated interest in the 2003 presidency, a move viewed by Obasanjo as disloyalty. He stayed on as vice president for another four years.

His Presidential bids in 2011 and 2015 were truncated. Atiku has his eyes on 2019. I wish him the best of luck. However, if Turaki wants my personal opinion, I will advise that he should remain a kingmaker in the match towards 2019. Age is another factor. By 2019, he would be 73. This great son of Adamawa should join other progressives in the search for a young man capable of uniting this country and running our economy effectively and efficiently. These are my 70 garlands for the Lion of Jada at 70.
Farewell to Lieutenant Colonel B.U. Umar
I am still waiting for the military authorities and the Nigerian government to give Lieutenant Colonel B.U. Umar and his men a hero’s burial. For those who don’t know, Umar, the Commanding Officer of 114 TF Battalion of the Nigerian Army and some of his troops were killed by Boko Haram about two weeks ago, between Bita and Piridang in Borno State. Just like Lieutenant Colonel Abu-Ali, who deservedly got a hero’s interment, Umar and his men deserve this treatment. They died for us to live in peace. They are heroes of our nation. Every soldier who dies in this war deserves a hero’s burial. This also goes to all our gallant soldiers who died when the Tank Battalion in Malam Fatori was sacked by Boko Haram. Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who has been doing a wonderful job in terms of compensation for our fallen heroes, should also do the same for Umar, his men and every other soldier that has fallen of recent. For our heroes, I will say, Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Raji’un.

On the flipside, Chibok Local Government Area of Borno State is virtually a no go area. Last week, Boko Haram terrorists burnt Thlaimaklama village, leaving hundreds of people displaced. Just as Yaga Yarkawa, the Caretaker Chairman of the local government noted, Chibok is under Boko Haram siege. The military authorities must be proactive here. May Allah give our gallant soldiers the wisdom to conquer these terrorists.