• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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End our suffering, Nigerians tell Tinubu as another year begins

Tinubu and the delinquent economy

As President Bola Ahmed Tinubu begins his second year after the celebration of one year in office, Nigerians have urged him to do whatever is humanly possible to take them out of the deep suffering they have been experiencing since May 29, 2023.

Urge speedy action on Port Harcourt Refinery

Among other demands, they have specifically asked the President to urgently fix the Port Harcourt Refinery to enable it begin production without further delay, and also tackle head-on the problem of insecurity for farmers to return to their farms.

Looking back at the 365 days that marked President Tinubu’s first year in office, many Nigerians are wondering how they survived, as each day came with more challenges that left them begging for relief from the suffocating grip of the harsh economy.

Having barely survived in the first year, Nigerians do not wish to experience such an untold agony again, hence they plead with Mr. President to make their loads lighter or not to add to the already heavy load as he begins the second year of his four-year term in office.

While many traced the agony being experienced by the citizens of the country today to the eight years administration of Muhammadu Buhari, the pains escalated on May 29, 2023, when President Tinubu, in his inaugural speech, said petrol subsidy was gone.

That pronouncement turned out to be the worst gift for the citizens on an inauguration day by a Nigerian president, as the pump price of premium motor spirit (popularly called fuel) skyrocketed from N145 per litre to between N560 to N600 depending on the marketer. In some places across the country, it is sold for as high as N800.

Since then, it has been a tale of agony, amid economic reforms that seem to drain blood from the suffering masses.

With the above realities, Nigerians strongly wish for relief in this second year of President Tinubu.

Declaring the content of his wish list, Sam Onikoyi, a Nigerian academic in the diaspora, noted that the president should do whatever it takes to bring down food prices as hunger in the land is a big threat to security and even infrastructure development.

Nigerians’ wish list

“From my base here in Brussels, I always connect home to hear sad tales of persisting hardship, especially hunger because of the high cost of food items. If Mr. President can bring down the price of food items for the poor to, at least, afford something to eat, Nigerians will be grateful to him in this second year,” the researcher said.

Apart from food, he urged the president to also woo investments in cheaper cooking gas as the N1,200 per kilogram is outrageous, amid high probability of price increase soon.

In line with boosting investments in cheaper cooking gas, Onikoyi urged the President to mandate the NNPC to address all the challenges that are hindering the Port Harcourt Refinery from taking off after the huge turnaround and several deferments in its date of commencement of operation.

“The government can bring down diesel; kerosene and fuel prices by assisting the Dangote Refinery with steady supply of crude oil, ensuring that Port Harcourt Refinery is working at optimal capacity, encouraging and licensing modular and all illegal refineries to boost supply. This will crash prices, save the country huge forex for importation of refined petroleum products and boost the value of Naira against Dollar,” Onikoyi concluded.

Farmers must go back to farm

For Kabir Inusa, a tomato farmer from Plateau State, food insecurity will worsen this year if attacks on farmers are not urgently addressed by the President during this rainy and farming season.

Inusa, who was speaking at a smallholder farmers’ workshop in Abuja Thursday, decried that seedlings are rotting away in the barns and silos as many farmers are held back from farming because of the incessant attacks, kidnappings by bandits and killings by gunmen, especially in Plateau, Borno, Nasarawa and Benue states.

“Many of the villages sacked and people killed are farmers. Many are not going to farm again and our children are running to the cities for safety. Who will farm the food to feed Nigerians,” Inua asked rhetorically during an interview.

Also on insecurity, Simeon Oyiguh, a medical doctor, and former chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Kogi State, extended his urge beyond President Tinubu to the 36 states governors. He noted that the solution will come from the commitment of the governors to be more dedicated at resolving security issues in their domains.

He also urged the president to improve security presence in areas of continued conflict such as North East and North Central zones, while recruiting more security personnel and offering them the required training and good remuneration will boost security this year.

But Onyewuchi Akagbule, a senior lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, urged Tinubu to give the economy more serious and broader attention, with policies that have human face.

He is dissatisfied with many of the President’s policies on the economy and urged him to engage stakeholders more often this year before formulating policies on the economy.

“There is no need to rush in formulating policies or announcing a half-baked one this year because most of his policies in the first year have somersaulted.

“Fuel subsidy is back through the back door; the unification of the forex market did not work and the defence of Naira by the CBN has not worked. The President should consult more with the relevant stakeholders and think through his policies this year before making them public,” Akagbule advised.

Valentine Onwuanusi, an Nnewi-based industrialist, and a member of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), urged the President to offer incentives to manufacturers and SMEs that would reduce their unbearable cost of operation, save the companies from imminent collapse and employees from losing jobs.

“We need a tax holiday, interest rate should come down, stable exchange rate, boost supply of petroleum products from Dangote and Port Harcourt refineries to reduce and stabilise diesel price for our generators, and improved electricity supply.

“With these we can regain the manufacturing sector and curb our dependence on importation,” the industrialist advised.

Onwuanusi praised President Tinubu for signing the 2023 Electricity Bill, which removed electricity generation, transmission and distribution from the Exclusive List to the Concurrent List.

While that is to ensure more players and investments in electricity generation, transmission and distribution, resulting in stable and cheaper electricity for Nigerians, the industrialist urged the president to also remove the many bottlenecks that would discourage investors and make the move counterproductive.

No more plea for time

With one year of testing the ground and one year of patience from Nigerians, Tor Bemagha, an Abuja-based senior banker with the StanbicIBTC Bank, and an economist, expects to see positive results of the reforms introduced by the Tinubu administration last year.

“Last year, they said we should give the President time to settle down and for the policies to have impact. Now, one year is gone, are we going to wait until the end of his four years to see impact? I expect some results this second year because the economy is in a bad shape and businesses that will pull us back are suffocating,” Bemagha said.

In this second year, he expects President Tinubu’s policies to improve electricity generation, stabilise Naira, reduce inflation and fall in the price of food items.

Bemagha, whose late parents were teachers, also urged the president to pay workers’ wages that are commensurate with the economic realities of today.

“It is not about the back-and-forth negotiations between the Federal Government and labour union, but facing the reality that the proposed N65,000 minimum wage cannot buy a bag of rice. Our workers have earned peanuts for a long time. I think it is time to raise it well enough. There is fear of inflation if wages go beyond some limits, but we should consider the realities of today too, else these workers will do everything to make ends meet and tomorrow you will call them ‘evil servants,” he said.

However, the common items in the wish list of most Nigerians for the president to tackle in his second year in office include; no further hike in fuel price, reducing price of food items, stablising the economy, especially forex rate and strengthening the Naira.

Also, on the wish list are; need to address policy inconsistencies, relaxing stringent economic measures, seriousness at fighting high-level corruption, stopping wasteful spending and unproductive government interventions such as sponsorship of religious pilgrimages and duplicating appointments in Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

Lots of optimism

Asipa Olusanya, deputy chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), in Ikorodu, said Tinubu’s robust and encompassing Renewed Hope Agenda manifesto would be achieved.

He stated that the agenda shows a lot of promise; specifically, the thrust is to build Nigeria, especially for the youths, where graduates will be employed with decent wages.

Olusanya stressed that the Renewed Hope Agenda promises to assist farmers through enlightened agricultural policies and promote the digital economy and e-commerce to empower and train youths in digital technology.

“Today, we see China and all the big countries now engaging in artificial intelligence that can even predict what’s happening. All these are enshrined in the Renewed Hope Agenda.

“In all this, one may not be able to arrive at a very objective and analytical assessment to predict the performance delivery to meet the spectrum of the people you want in one year,” Olusanya said.

Kunle Okunade, political analyst said the at the level of economic growth, Tinubu’s policy is gradually making progress as it has taken monetary policy decisions that could shape the economy at the long run.

He added that at the level of economic development, the government has not done so well, as standard of living has dropped drastically, cost of living is very high and per capita income very low.

“Tinubu’s one year in office should be seen as a step-in progress and retrogression. How do I mean? Taking a closer look at the government and its policies, one will understand that his government makes progress and at the same time takes retrogressive steps.