Which Economic Growth is Buhari Talking about?

Which Economic Growth is Buhari Talking about?

RingTrue  By  Yemi Adebowale, Email: yemi.adebowale@thisdaylive.com, Phone 08054699539

Nine days back, while inaugurating the Presidential Committee on the National Economy, which he heads, President Muhammadu Buhari celebrated an apparent fantasy growth of the Nigerian economy under his watch. He asserts, “Our economy continues to grow despite the adverse effects of rising interest rates, a stronger US dollar, higher inflation across the world, COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the loss of substantial volumes of oil.”

I guess Buhari was celebrating the voodoo Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth persistently pushed out by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), despite the waning in almost all sectors of the economy. The consumption end is also struggling due to the economic crunch. In the most recent second quarter 2022 statement, the ludicrous NBS reported that Nigeria’s GDP grew by 3.54 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms. The NBS has been reporting GDP growth since Q4 of 2020. How did this agency come about these results in a country witnessing its worst economic decline in almost four decades? Something is amiss somewhere.

Almost all sectors of the Nigerian economy have been experiencing excruciating strains for over seven years. In the non-oil sector (the biggest contributor to Nigeria’s GDP), the likes of agriculture, finance, insurance and transport are struggling. Nigeria’s inclement economic environment has slowed them down. A large number of farmers can’t access their farms due to the activities of terrorists; manufacturing continues to plunge while crude oil production is sliding – yet, the NBS is reporting GDP growth. I guess the GDP is no longer the monetary value of goods and services produced in a country within a given period of time.

The GDP report of a country is significant because it gives information about the size of the economy and how it is performing. The growth rate of real GDP is often used as an indicator of the general health of the economy. In broad terms, an increase in real GDP is interpreted as a sign that the economy is doing well. Unfortunately, the growth rate reported by the NBS for the Buhari government is not a true reflection of the health of the Nigerian economy. In practical terms, Nigeria’s economy is not healthy. I suspect that figures are being manipulated.

Our President has been celebrating an economic growth that is not impacting on the lives of the people in the real sense of it. There is so much poverty in our land amid the growth our President is celebrating. How would he reconcile the large number of people struggling for a meal a day amid the economic growth? Now, many go to bed with supper and wake up not sure of breakfast. The gloomy news is that under Buhari, and with the so-called economic growth, Nigeria surpassed India as the country with the largest number of people living in life-threatening poverty in the world. How would he reconcile this?

The fantasy growth of the Nigerian economy has also not impacted on jobs for the people. The last time the NBS picked up courage to release figures on unemployment was Q4 of 2020 and it reported that Nigeria’s joblessness rate rose from 27.1 per cent in the second quarter of 2020 to 33.3 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020, translating to 23.19 million unemployed people. In practical terms, let’s all look around us; in our homes and those of our neighbours. Of course, we will see an army of unemployed Nigerians in a country supposedly enjoying economic growth.

A World Bank report titled, “A Better Future for All Nigerians: 2022 Nigeria Poverty Assessment,” released early this year, noted that poverty reduction had stagnated in this country since 2015, with more Nigerians falling below the poverty line over the years. This is a validation that the lives of Nigerians are not being positively affected by whatever economic growth being celebrated.

How can Buhari be talking about economic growth amid decaying federal health institutions, roads and schools across the country? Even the President, his family and his cronies, with their families are regularly flown abroad to enjoy foreign medicals and schools.

The Naira, our symbol of nationhood, is now in shreds and our President is telling us about economic growth. The massive depreciation of our Naira is also contributing to the poverty ravaging the nation and the crisis in the manufacturing sector. As at yesterday, the Naira was trading for a record N700/$ in the real market. This is the same Naira Buhari inherited at about N220/$. I never in my wildest imagination thought that our dear Naira would ever depreciate to the level we are witnessing today. Now that the exchange rate has become extremely ridiculous, people who protested against N220/$ under the Jonathan administration are nowhere to be found. Our symbol of statehood has never been this badly battered in all our years as a country. Yet, Buhari is continuing with a muggy forex policy that has led to a record gap between the official and parallel market exchange rates.

Forget about those useless figures from the NBS. In practical terms, the Nigerian economy is under stress. This has been the situation for over seven years. The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry was apt when it listed forex challenges among factors putting a serious strain on the Nigerian economy. Insecurity, rising price of diesel and epileptic electricity supply are other factors choking businesses, with so many companies shutting down and throwing thousands of Nigerians into joblessness.

In a recent declaration titled, “LCCI statement on Nigeria’s economic growth performance,” and signed by its Director-General, Dr Chinyere Almona, the chamber noted: “The economy has continued to struggle with many inhibiting burdens like inflation, weak revenue generation, degenerated infrastructure, forex challenges, unsustainable cost profile seen in debt services and subsidy payments, and the daunting threats of worsening insecurity.

“The Chamber is concerned that if we continue in this trajectory, the economy may bleed away into a stagflation which will impact on production cost, job losses, worsened forex crisis, and dampened growth in the medium term. It is also worrisome that the 2023 budget estimations indicate that there may not be any significant allocation to capital projects in 2023. We urge the government to tackle oil theft to earn more foreign exchange, borrow from cheaper sources to reduce the burden of debt servicing, and take a decisive step towards removing fuel subsidies.”

How can anybody celebrate economic growth in a country planning to borrow over N11 trillion and sell national assets to finance the budget deficit in 2023? If the economy is actually growing in practical terms, the Buhari government will not be servicing debt with almost all its revenue.

No doubt, Buhari’s celebration of this weird economic growth is a debilitating mess amid so much pain in mother Nigeria. The Buhari years have brought untold hardship on Nigerians, whether the masses or middle class. Can our President honestly say that he has practically delivered on his promises of a better economy to Nigerians, with few months left of his tenure? Can he honestly say that Nigerians are better off under his government than that of his predecessor? The frank answer will be a big No! This is the truth that must be told. Enough of propaganda!

Birnin Gwari’s DPO Still in Abductors’ Dungeon

or those unaware of the heart-wrenching story, here is a quick recap. A Chief Superintendent of Police, Sani Mohammed was on his way to Birnin Gwari Police Division in Kaduna State on June 27 (this year) to resume as the new Divisional Police Officer (DPO). He did not make it to Birnin Gwari. The DPO was abducted by terrorists alongside many travellers on the notorious Birnin Gwari highway. Mohammed is today 83 days old in the dungeon of the terrorists. The abductors are communicating with relations of Mohammed, yet, the police can’t nab them. It is disheartening that the Nigerian Police Force can’t even rescue one of their own.

The terrorists have been milking relations of the DPO, with ransom running into millions of Naira already collected. They still refused to free Mohammed, while threatening to kill him if more money is not sent to them. On September 4, the younger brother of the abducted officer, Adamu Abdullahi, lamented: “We have sold our valuables for ransom but the bandits are still demanding more. The family members have done what we can, we paid N7 million to secure his release but the gunmen are still holding him, demanding N20 million. They have given us this coming Wednesday to complete the ransom payment otherwise, they will kill him.”

Well, they did not kill the DPO last Wednesday as threatened. Some frustrated relations of the DPO have been visiting the Kaduna Police Command, demanding action. They are begging the police to secure freedom for one of their own.

Abdullahi cries further: “We have met the police commissioner in Kaduna thrice, but it seems that there is no effort to rescue him (the DPO) and there is no delegation from the police to sympathise with the family of the kidnapped officer. We are appealing to President Buhari, the Inspector General of Police, and the Police Commissioner in Kaduna, to help rescue the police officer.

“The wife and children of the kidnapped officer are being tormented. We had to seize their phones because whenever the gunmen called and threatened to kill him, his wife often fainted. Our family members, including the father, who is about 90 years old are in critical condition.”

The Kaduna State Police Command claims to be working to liberate DPO Mohammed, adding that the actions taken by the police may not necessarily devolve to the public, including the family members of the kidnapped officer. Well, the truth is that there is no result. It is so sad that the police can’t free one of their own, 83 days after his abduction. The Kaduna State police should stop issuing useless statements and get down to work. This DPO must be rescued alive.

A Word for Ikpeazu, Ortom, Lalong

Civil servants in Plateau, Benue and Abia states are in anguish due to irregular salaries. The affected governors are going about as if all is well in these states. I am talking about Okezie Ikpeazu, Samuel Ortom and Simon Lalong of Abia, Benue and Plateau states respectively. Ikpeazu has a backlog of six months, Ortom has five months and Lalong has three months. The salary backlogs noted above concern just civil servants in the ministries. If we progress to departments and agencies, these governors owe workers between 10 months and two years.

Ortom, Ikpeazu and Lalong also owe pensioners huge backlogs. These governors are living big while civil servants and pensioners wallow in poverty. Ikpeazu and Ortom are often seen flying to Europe with Governor Nyesom Wike for useless meetings. They even go on holidays abroad with him. These two governors follow Wike around like errand boys instead of spending quality time at home tackling salary and pension challenges.

Ortom, Ikpeazu and Lalong are not fit for the offices they are occupying. This is my submission today.

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