• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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BusinessDay

2024: Nigerians welcome New Year with cautious optimism

Imo, Adamawa, A’Ibom top states with more miserable Nigerians

…Govt assures better year

…Citizens urge human face in governance

As the year 2024 beckons tomorrow, there is general excitement across the country, especially for a new dawn.

Just like the dawn of every new year, Nigerians are already optimistic that the new year would be better than the preceding one, which was marred with violence and economic hardship, largely due to the reforms initiated by President Bola Tinubu’s administration.

Of course, tribal, religious affiliation and political differences will play little or no role in welcoming the new year.

Even the economic realities will for a moment be relegated to the background.

Not because Nigerians have nothing to worry about. But, the joy of being alive to witness another year naturally supersedes other worries of life.

The economic hardship of the outgoing year 2023, will take the backseat while hope and expectations fill the air.

However, Nigerians are also making demands from the government in the new year, as they hope that the newly elected public officials, both at the state and federal levels, would settle down to face governance and fulfill their campaign promises in the new year.

President Tinubu on May 29th, during his inauguration, announced the removal of subsidy on petrol, a development that has caused hardship for many Nigerians because of the attendant increase in the prices of goods and services.

Apart from the removal of subsidy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also announced the unification of all segments of the forex exchange (FX) market as part of efforts to engender transparency in the markets and boost investors’ confidence.

Although the policy has been widely applauded as well-intentioned and necessary, it has put additional pressure on the local currency and manufacturers, with ripple effects on prices.

Many Nigerians have had to face hard times in recent months as they continue to battle multidimensional poverty, misery, high cost of living and inflationary pressures exacerbated by the ripple effects of government policy reforms.

Across the country, there is a general feeling that the government must do more to improve the living conditions of the citizenry in the new year.

Many are sad that the palliative measures put in place by the Tinubu’s administration to cushion the effect of the economic reforms did not get to the people who need them most, hence they advised the government to initiate new strategies to fight poverty and alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians in 2024.

“I hope the government can do more to fight poverty in 2024 by bringing new strategies that can work. Obviously, what they have on ground is not working.

“The new administration’s economic reforms led to a rise in poverty and exacerbated hardship across Nigeria. I thought it should have been gradual, but even the palliatives that were promised did not get to the people. I don’t know anybody around me who got something”, Bisi Onabanjo, public affairs analyst, said.

Also making demands from the government, Cosmas Ilechukwu, national secretary, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), urged the government to spend less on pampering the elite class and commit more funds to make the public experience a little bit of a good life in 2024.

“I expect a new lease of life for a beleaguered nation to ameliorate the buffetings of the passing year. It has been tough on Nigerians and a measure of comfort resulting from well-thought governance policies to do us good in 2024,” Ilechukwu, who is also the presiding bishop and general overseer of Charismatic Renewal Ministries, said.

Toeing the same line James Adeshina, former gubernatorial aspirant in Lagos State, in the 2023 polls and an IT expert, said that the government should work with stakeholders to implement sustainable economic policies that would benefit the most vulnerable in 2024.

According to him, “The harsh economic realities and high cost of living have dampened the festive spirit for many as you can see.

“As a political stakeholder, I believe we must acknowledge the suffering and work towards alleviating it.

“We need proactive measures to address inflation, stimulate job creation, and ensure food security. This requires collaboration between the government, private sector, and civil society to implement sustainable economic policies that will benefit the most vulnerable in 2024”, Adeshina said.

Apart from the government playing its part to make 2024 a better year for Nigerians, many think that the citizens also have a part to play in alleviating their suffering in the new year.

Ilechukwu thinks that 2024 is a year to be prudent and live moderately.

“Nigerians should curb excessive conviviality and intentionally save funds for the essentials of life. Every person should work harder to make more income to support their families,” Ilechukwu urged.

Speaking further, he noted that Nigerians must stay committed to God in prayers and in the promotion of goodwill among one another in the new year for better things to come their way.

Taking a look at the anticipated respite in 2024, Bayo Sola Aremu, pastor at Yaba Baptist Church, Sabo-Yaba, Lagos, offered a spiritual solution to Nigeria’s economic woes.

“As we approach the end of the year and anticipate the new year, Nigerians irrespective of their faith should be encouraged to anchor their hope in God. “God has a plan for this nation,” he said.

According to Aremu, God’s grace has been sufficiently made available for sustenance even in the midst of the multi-faceted challenges befalling the nation.

Speaking further from the scriptures in Jeremiah 29:11, Aremu said God has given assurance saying, “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”.

According to him, this was God’s word to his people while they were in captivity in Babylon and suffering because of their sins and disobedience, just as Nigeria is experiencing currently.

“Despite the multi-faceted challenges, the plan of God stands sure. Nothing can change it. He has a plan and His plan is good. The whole essence of His plan is to prosper and give a glorious future,” Aremu said.

He noted that as a nation, Nigeria should play her part and leave the rest for God to handle.

“We must repent of our sins and humble ourselves before Him; so He can heal our land and usher us into a new era of refreshing experience.

“When we do our part, God will visit our land and carry out His own agenda. That is when we can know peace and experience genuine blessing from the most high. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year,” he concluded.

Like the clergy, many are also very optimistic about the new year. Adebola Olomo, CEO, Deefrent Media Agency, a public relations consultancy firm based in Lagos, is optimistic about Nigeria’s economic prospects, particularly in the tech and digital sectors in 2024.

According to her, the increasing adoption of digital solutions across various industries is not only enhancing operational efficiency but also opening new markets. “Over the past decade, I have witnessed the transformative power of technology in business and 2024 will not be different,” Olomo said.

However, she opined that Nigeria’s success hinges on continuous investment in digital infrastructure and regulatory policies that foster innovation. “As a nation, embracing this digital evolution is key to securing our position as a leading economy in Africa,” Olomo concluded.

Yet, some do not see reasons to be optimistic. Adenike Odusina, a 41-year-old rice retailer, expressed doubt on the capacity of the Tinubu administration to fix the country, noting that things may be tougher next year.

“Things are hard, I may not remain in business next year because when you buy something today, and go back to the market the next day, the price changes, how do we sell and remain in business,” she lamented.

Ifeka Ezemdi, a lawyer, noted that despite the optimism, economic reforms do not yield instant results, hence Nigerians may still face harsher seasons in 2024 as the policies of the new administration take hold on the economy.

“There is no magic in fixing the economy. It is a process and may take time and also expose people to more suffering before long term impact. What Nigerians need in 2024 is immediate solutions and not promises,” Ezemdi said.

He advised Tinubu’s administration to take drastic measures to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians in 2024.

But the new administration said they are aware of the current suffering of Nigerians.

Abdulaziz Abdulaziz, presidential aide, said some days ago that the government is working on reducing the burden to make life easier for Nigerians.

“The president is already taking measures to address the challenges courtesy of the reforms introduced by the new administration across all sectors of the economy,” he added.

He recalled that the federal government announced N5 billion as palliative measures for each state and trucks of grains to cushion the effect of the removal of subsidies.

Abdulaziz said that all the states have received N2 billion from the federal government, and the president approved student loans to make education more affordable for tertiary institutions.

Meanwhile, most Nigerians think that the palliative strategy did not work, hence they have urged the government to initiate new strategies to fight poverty and alleviate the suffering of Nigerians in 2024.