Recession’s Not Buhari’s Creation, Says Mohammed

  • Ambode seeks capital expenditure increase as panacea

Abimbola Akosile and Ugo Aliogo

As the country battles to come out of the current economic recession, the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has asserted that the ongoing recession was not a creation of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Mohammed stressed that the recession was brought about by the fall in oil prices, the crash in the volume of oil export, and the profligacy of the past government which in 2015 devoted 92 per cent of the budget to recurrent expenditure, 8 per cent to capital expenditure at a time oil prices had crashed.

The minister, who disclosed yesterday in Lagos at the 2017 Biennial Convention of the Nigeria Guild Editors (NGE) with theme; ‘A Nation in Recession: Whither the Nigerian Media?’ said the effect of the recession has led to a vast reduction in the country’s dollar earnings, depletion of the forex reserves, stating that this led the administration to take drastic measures over the ban of 41 items, and importation of tooth-pick.

Mohammed, who was represented by the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Bayo Onanuga, said the administration has succeeded in shaming doomsday prediction that the recession could worsen into a depression, adding that leading economies such as the United States have undergone recession, and noted that the tone of the narratives would soon change as efforts are in place reverse the situation.

Mohammed called on the media to be a conduit for a two-way communication between the government and the people which would present accurate and unbiased information to the people, adding that it is imperative that people are well informed about recession because of the impacts it has on their lives.

He added: “The boom in the oil sector didn’t bring any meaningful impact to the economy, but what was noticed was fat bank account, which brought to limelight by whistleblowers, private jets acquired by emergency billionaires. The media holds a duty to adequately educate Nigerians on the recession, and explain to them what government is doing to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.

“Most Nigerians barely understand what a recession means and no thanks to the media for this. The media has engaged more in blame game and finger pointing. This has not helped the situation. The media should desist from sensationalising recession, but report the issues as they are. ”

In her remarks, the President of NGE, Mrs. Funke Egbemode, called on editors to remain steadfast in their professional pursuit, adding that the nation depends on the media because of the power they wield in the areas of nation building, nurturing little businesses and enterprises to become large corporation and giving a voice to the voiceless.

She explained that the Guild has moved from been homeless whose operational address changed as its president and secretary changed, stating that the outgoing Executives have opened talks with the Nigeria Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru for partnership and training opportunities.

Egbemode added: “As professionals whose job impacts every facet of our national life, editors are more than qualified to have Managing Nigeria Intelligently (MNI) at the end of their names. Two of our former presidents, late Chris Okolie and Baba Halilu Dantiye have blazed the trail in this regard, and it is our desire that editors have slots at the NIPSS.

“The National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) has shown interest in working with the NGE. We have had meetings with the leadership of the institution and talks are at advanced stage to have a study centre for members and also editors as Examiners of NOUN.”

Meanwhile, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode yesterday said contrary to the view held by most people, recession was not a crime but a period that calls for government at all levels to rearrange its expenditure and give more priority to capital expenditure.

Ambode, who also spoke at the NGE programme in Ikeja, Lagos, cited an example of the steps the former U.S President, Barak Obama took few years ago to save the ailing American economy, saying that Nigeria must be ready to toe such line.

The Governor said, “Recession is not a crime, it’s just a notice to say that you rearrange the way you do your public expenditure. That’s what President Obama did. Yes, there was a bust in 2008 and 2009 but he was very bold enough to put public money into General Motors and even the airlines and that is what is missing in this country.

“You need to increase the capital expenditure to help companies, to help other people and even help the government to get the system out of recession. That’s the only template that works.”

Governor Ambode said the State stood in the gap for Nigeria during the period of the economic recession, assuring that his administration would continue to show leadership, demonstrate capacity and be relentless in its pursuit of excellence despite the daunting challenges.

He said the current recessionary climate not only taught some hard lessons but presented a new challenge as well as an opportunity to think outside the box to change Nigeria’s story from “business as usual” to “business unusual”.

He said with the recession, the rate of unemployment soared as a result of the economic outlook, lay-offs and shut-down of businesses, stating that the national unemployment rate rose to 13.9 per cent in 2016 from 10.4 per cent in 2015; while the unemployment rate in Lagos State increased from 18 per cent in 2015 to 27 per cent in 2016.

But the Governor said his administration took definite steps to arrest the trend, recalling that on assumption of office, he created new ministries while some while realigned in a bid to fashion out ways of creating job opportunities for residents.

He said what his administration did in the last two years was to commit huge resources to capital projects, premised on the fact that the nation had no choice but to spend its way out of recession and create platforms that will stimulate job creation and decidedly reflate the economy.

“Today, with our GDP at $136 billion, Lagos is Africa’s fifth largest economy just because we have been prudent and resilient as well as taking on board the useful opinions and analysis that the vibrant media have ceaselessly provided.,” the Governor said.

Ambode also said despite the shortfall of federal transfers occasioned by the dip in oil prices, his administration made conscious decisions to partner the private sector through Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) to bridge the funding gap to deliver key/strategic infrastructure projects especially the Fourth Mainland Bridge; Oshodi Transport Interchange; Badagry Deep Sea Port; Lekki free trade zone, and Lagos Smart City projects, among others.

While commending the Guild of Editors for its outstanding accomplishments and contributions to the growth and development of the media and free speech in Nigeria, Ambode tasked the media to live up to its major responsibility of advancing the cause of good governance.

“Your role in this pursuit of resilience, therefore, is to lend the needed support in bringing our noble efforts to public consciousness. With your vital partnership, we are hopeful that other governments can borrow a leaf from the Lagos Model and translate same in their respective domains to promote good governance to the greater benefit of humanity,” he said.

The event which attracted the who’s who in the Nigeria Media Industry also saw the Guild conduct elections into various offices.