• Monday, July 15, 2024
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Buhari, injury time and charting a new path for the nation

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Such indeed is the potency of time that it compels the recognition that the era of President Muhammadu Buhari, (PMB) will soon slip into the past tense. In terms of specifics, it is possible to contend that very shortly, a new election will be held and all things being equal, we will have in place a new and designated president.

As at today and even as this piece is being written, the foremost concern of all, irrespective of partisan leanings, is what must be done to contain the unruly trajectory of insecurity, to rein the economy from collapsing, to end the spate of national power blackouts and halt the headlong petrol subsidy-propelled fall into a fiscal crisis.

Take security for instance, it is no hyperbole to contend that we have never had it so bad. Right across the length and breadth of this besieged country, insecurity seems to reign supreme in the land. The buzzwords which continue to recur in the media are: kidnappings, banditry, terrorism and other untoward features.

Something more drastic must be done to show that the government has not fallen asleep in this important area. Enough of trying old tricks to combat insecurity. President Buhari must seek help from friends, near and abroad, on how to change tactics; intelligence in addition to Cobra attack helicopters and Tucano jets. Too many Nigerians have died. Shock statements and condolences are no longer acceptable.

As regards power, again the story is as dismal as it was prior to the advent of the Buhari administration. Even then, we even have a worse situation on our hands.

This is in the light of the recurrent collapse of the national grid which indeed hallmarks our life in these times. So at this juncture, it is pertinent to ask: What is really going on?

We believe that the government should take some urgent steps to revamp the current state of our power sector. One major step that needs to be taken is for PMB to put in place a new charter with the generation, distribution and gas companies.

There must also be a clear timetable for the government’s exit from the control of gas which is needed as fuel for power generation.

The State must also be ready to open the sector to more investors and at the same time remove the 1MW limit on mini grids. Moreover, more incentives should be given to producers of renewable energy so that they too can enter the market.

Similarly encouragement should be given to states like Lagos and Edo which have on their own taken some strides in this industry. Hopefully, other states in the federation will be inspired to emulate them. This multi-pronged approach may well turn out to be the solution to our problems in this critical area.

On the economy, the fate of the naira continues to decline with obvious consequences for life and living in contemporary Nigeria. At the inception of this administration, the naira was something in the order of 300 naira to one dollar. Today, the situation is very different.

This, it must be said, is despite the exertions of the Governor of the apex bank, who continues to exert himself in the cause of a better and healthier naira.

As well-meaning as the central bank appears to be, what we have on our hands is in reality, a structural problem. In specific terms, the economy is largely anchored on consumption and not production. In this kind of abysmal situation, there is only a way for the naira to go – southwards.

It is pertinent therefore, even at this relatively late hour, for the PMB administration to revamp the defining indices of the economy such that there will be a turn around from just consumption to production. In seeking to achieve this much-desired end, a lot of attention must be paid to the power sector and the oil industry.

As regards the latter, it is evident that much is wrong here. Such is the anomie in this critical sector that the buzzword at the moment is crude oil theft. According to some estimates, we are in such a terrible bind here that over eighty percent of the Nigerian crude gets stolen. An oil theft of the magnitude being bandied about cannot happen without the collaboration and connivance of some of the critical stakeholders in the industry.

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The oil companies with the formidable resources at their disposal are well placed to do something about this loss. We urge PMB to invite chief executives of international and local oil companies. Along with oil and gas experts, lock them up in a room and demand for a two-phase plan that can be used in weeks to take oil production back to OPEC+ quota as well ramp production to 2.5 million barrels per day.

Closely related to the immediate foregoing is the issue of petrol subsidy. According to the latest budget provisions, an additional sum of 4 trillion naira has been ear- marked for oil subsidy. Certainly, we cannot go on like this. We should put in place a judicious mix of politics and economics to give our oil industry a healthier life.

One way of doing this is to embark on the painful but necessary cum compelling path of doing away with the subsidies. For example, from 29 May, begin to phase out petrol subsidy with a 5 percent increase in price so that by 2023 half of the subsidy is removed. This might even be a short-term measure.

This is because once the refineries come on stream and they are fed with crude oil at market, non-OPEC prices, the price at the pump will automatically reduce. In the process, the PMB would have succeeded in scoring a bull’s eye by running the oil industry in a more efficient way and by forging a linkage between oil and social justice.

In saying all these, one particular situation which continues to be a sore point in the PMB administration is in the way the Nigerian Project has been handled or better still mishandled. Largely, through the presidents’ actions and gestures, the Nigerian Project has become imperilled.

These days, separatist and irredentist agitations continue to endanger the polity. To your tents, Oh! Israel, appears to be the rallying cry and refrain. Its proponents appear to have a good case when they point to certain features and developments in contemporary Nigeria under PMB.

As incurable and eternal optimists, we are of the conviction that PMB can still turn things around. One way of ensuring this is that careful and diligent attention should be given to the various issues raised in this piece.

Even in this late hour and as the president enters the home stretch of his tenure, PMB must admit that his economic policies haven’t worked; poverty isn’t decreasing despite efforts to reduce. This is evidence of failure. It is never too late to begin working anew to set Nigeria on an economic and political path that works for all.