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PDP, BMO lock horns over ‘palliatives’ in Buhari’s broadcast  

The parable over the variegated definitions of an elephant as given by ten blind men appears to be repeating itself in the perspectives coming from different quarters over the President Muhammadu Buhari’s nationwide broadcast last Sunday.

The parable of the ‘Blind Men and an Elephant’ originated in the ancient Indian subcontinent, from where it has been widely diffused. It is a story of a group of blind men who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualise what the elephant is like, by touching it. Each blind man feels a different part of the elephant’s body, but only one part, such as the side or the tusk. They then describe the elephant based on their limited experience and their descriptions of the elephant are different from each other. In some versions, they come to suspect that the other person is dishonest and they come to blows.

The President during the broadcast, said: “For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks.

“Furthermore, although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies. The Minister will be contacting the affected States and agree on detailed next steps.”

According to him, “Furthermore, I have directed that a three month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect.

“For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.”

But flatly faulting the Federal Government for not making appropriate plan for every citizen of the country at this critical period, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), through its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan said the address did not touch on the real necessities of majority of Nigerians who reside in the states where President Buhari had ordered a lockdown.

The PDP said that it was unfortunate that President Buhari failed to respond to demands on hope for medications, direct social palliatives, cut in taxes as well as reduction in the pump price of fuel even with the cut in the price of petroleum and crude oil in the international market.

“Our party notes as saddening that even in areas where President announced an ambitious intervention, such remained largely cosmetic as there are no clear palliative content but moratoriums on loans with no clear data for implementation, it said.

The opposition party further said: “President is reminded that already, the COVID-19 had affected the performance of those loans. Granting them moratoriums is therefore of no consequence to the capital and interest on them.

“It is rather unfortunate that Nigerians had to wait this long for an address that came out empty and failed to respond to anxieties.

“Moreover, Nigerians expected President to articulate an across-the-board and far-reaching strategy that would have captured the need of each state of the federation as they were today, instead of a parochial approach to a national anxiety.”

It directed the President to go back and “listen to the nation, retool his policy framework and implementation strategy to properly address the fears as well as the needs of Nigerians, including health safety measures and the real remedies that meet the anxieties of our nation at this critical time”.

However, the Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has sharply disagreed with the PDP, rather applauding the content of the broadcast and assuring Nigerians of government’s commitment to their wellbeing at this trying period.

BMO urged Nigerians not to panic as the government was working round the clock to put in place far-reaching measures to contain the spread of Covid-19 and to facilitate citizens’ comfort and economic stability in the face of the global economic crisis caused by coronavirus.
In a statement signed by its Chairman, Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary, Cassidy Madueke, the group said: “Aside the interest rate cuts on all applicable Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) intervention facilities, the one-year moratorium on loan servicing, the N20 naira cut from the price of petrol the N50 billion targeted credit facilities through the NIRSAL microfinance bank for households and small and medium-sized enterprises among others, Nigerians should be expecting more robust measures to strengthen the fight against the dreaded disease.

“Some of these measures include a downward review of NNPC’s expenditures associated with oil to include cuts of under-recovery payment from 457.5bn to zero, reduction of other federally funded upstream projects in such a way that aggregate NNPC deductible expenditures are cut by 53percent, and revision of the 2020 budget using a $30 per barrel price benchmark with oil production volume still remaining at 2.18mb/per day.”

“Other measures are revving up of oil production on shut down wells, reduction of budgeted customs revenues from N1.5tr to N943billion, cut in proceeds of privatisation by 50percent from N252billion to N126bn, reduction of MDA’s Administrative Capex by 20percent, reduction of administrative Capex and overheads for top 10 government-owned enterprises (GOEs) in FGN 2020 budget by 25percent and similar cutting measures to all other GOEs and thereby increasing FGN revenue by N67billion”.

It also listed additional measures as, restructuring of the social investment programmes, control of the fast-growing personnel cost by efficiency measures such as non- essential recruitments, design and launch of other policy measures to be agreed with the strategic MDAs, Provision of fiscal relief for Taxpayers and Key Economic sectors, incentivise for employers to retain and recruit staff during the economic downturn and also stimulate investment in critical infrastructure.

“Other important measures in the package are a review of non-essential tax waivers to optimise revenues and complementing of Monetary and Trade Interventions to respond to the consequences of Covid -19,” it said

“It should be noted that other incentives and laws proposed include granting job creation tax rebates for employers, accelerating the construction of over 70km of roads and bridges under Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme and Review of sectors eligible for pioneer tax holidays.

“There is also the negotiation of a break on debt servicing with multilateral and financial institutions, import duty waiver for essential input for pharmaceutical firms, tax waiver on new health equipment, deferment of tax to increase production, the release of N6.6billion in two tranches to NCDC to fight Covid19, and release of N1billion for pharmaceutical firms and the release of yet another N10bn to support Lagos State government’s effort to combat Covid19,” it said.

BMO added that implementation of tax holidays and import duty waivers in the Agricultural sector to enhance production and job creation and accelerating the ease of doing business-related reforms are also part of many other stimulus packages.

 

Zebulon Agomuo

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