His. Excellency, President Muhammed Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, their surrogates and the All Progressive Congress continue to heap the blame on former President Jonathan for the economic downturn in the country today. They keep telling us that President Jonathan failed to efficiently manage proceeds from higher oil prices and left an empty treasury, the blame game needs to stop.
Before I go any further, let me make it very clear that I am apolitical, my loyalty is to the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the constitution and the truth. I wanted President Goodluck Jonathan to be defeated in the 2015 elections because of the monumental corruption in his administration and his inability to protect Nigerians from the evil that is Boko Haram.
It is very unfair to blame former President Jonathan for our current economic situation. President Jonathan and Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala wanted us to save when oil prices was at its peak. The duo on several occasions asked the 36 Governors to join the federal government in putting money aside, all 36 Governors were opposed to the idea, even going the length of taking the federal government to the Supreme Court in furtherance of their position. Our state Governors said the federal government had no right to compel them to save, this is all in the public domain.
President Jonathan and Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala were able to put some money aside even though the system we run makes it almost impossible for us to save. With our current system, the revenues that goes into the government’s till is shared by all three tiers of government (federal, state and local government).
President Jonathan and Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala actually did Nigeria and President Buhari a big favour by establishing the Nigerian sovereign wealth fund with $1B, some of our state Governors were opposed to this idea as well. President Jonathan and Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala left behind about $1.6B from the income and education tax remitted by the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas. President Jonathan and Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala also left over $2B in the excess crude account for President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo. About $30B controlled by the central bank remained in our foreign reserves in contrast to the $3.7B former President Obasanjo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar met in our foreign reserves when they assumed office in 1999.
In actuality, bailouts wouldn’t have been available to states if former President Jonathan and Mrs.Okonjo-Iweala didn’t leave behind billions of dollars for President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo when they assumed power in 2015.
We Nigerians have to hold second term Governors and immediate past Governors belonging to both the APC and PDP responsible for most of our current economic woes. Second term Governors and a huge majority of immediate past Governors failed to grow their respective ecomonies, failed to pay workers and pensioners, failed to create new jobs, failed to increase their internally generated revenue exponentially and they all failed to improve the lives and living conditions of the people they serve or served. Immediate past Governors also left behind huge debts for their successors. I commend President Buhari for giving states bailouts, Nigeria would have nose-dived into a catastrophic depression if he hadn’t.
The Niger Delta Militants also played a huge role in our economic downturn, they disrupted our oil production by blowing up pipelines and attacking oil facilities. Oil production was cut by half, from an average of 2.2 million barrels per day to about 1.1 million barrels per day. Nigeria was losing over $36M everyday, I am going to commend President Buhari, Vice President Osinbajo and Ibe Kachikwu for dousing the tension in the Niger Delta region and getting our oil production back to over 2 million barrels per day.
The last contributing factor in our current economic downturn was President Buhari, Vice President Osibanjo and their economic team. Very bad mistakes were made during this administration’s first 15 months in office. Fuel prices was increased by President Buhari’s adminstration from N87 per litre to N145. The N58 added to the previous pump price was an indirect tax imposed on all Nigerians and it caused severe hardship for most Nigerians. The price hike affected the cost of transportation, goods, commodities and services.
A beyond ridiculous FX policy imposed on Nigerians and the companies operating in Nigeria by President Buhari’s administration also had an adverse effect on our economy. The naira being devalued by the Central Bank when President Buhari was away in London treating an ear infection made things much worse, the exchange rate went from about N199/$1 to about N500/$1, a hike of N300.
Bad policies by the current administration, the exchange rate, unavailability of forex and banks refusal to restructure loans or issue new loans at a lower interest rate resulted in more than a few businesses exiting Nigeria and over 3 million jobs being lost in key sectors such as oil and gas, construction, aviation, banking, telecommunications and manufacturing.
Contrary to what we Nigerians are being fed on daily basis by our President and his surrogates, governors in their second term, immediate past governors, the Niger Delta militants and the current managers of our economy are the ones responsible for our economic downturn and the recession.
Our President and Vice President have to shake up their economic team if they are serious about putting us on the path to economic prosperity. 29 months into this adminstration, the members of our economic team have refused to come up with and implement innovative ideas that would create millions of new jobs, multiply our revenues exponentially, drive our export numbers up, improve the lives and living conditions of Nigerians and make Nigeria the number one hub for business, manufacturing, retail, entertainment, export and tourism on the African continent.
President Buhari and Vice President Osinbajo need to urgently recruit, interview and hire young, intelligent, innovative, audacious, mentally mature and forward thinking Nigerians to be members of their economic team and the drivers of our economy, our state Governors and local government Chairmen/Chairwomen should adopt this strategy as well.
Finally, the three tiers of government (federal, state and local governments) have to be fiscally responsible. All three tiers of government should start putting money into our sovereign wealth fund on monthly basis.
Nosa Eweka can be reached via email@example.com