• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

President Tinubu, please lead the battle in Nigeria’s soft war.

Explainer: What FG must do to save businesses

Nigeria is at war across many fronts. It is an insidious war that, luckily, does not involve ordinances.

We welcome President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who returned to Nigeria in a presidential aircraft on Tuesday, 6 February, after a two-week “private visit” to France. BAT returns to a nation grappling with a soft but fierce war on several fronts. The nation expects him to lead the charge against the many battlefronts.

Nigeria is amid a stagflation. Citizens grumbled quietly in the last eight months. They took to the streets in Minna, Kano, and Oshogbo and will likely do so in many other cities. The challenge is for the government to roll out short-, medium-, and long-term measures to curtail the cost-of-living increments, insecurity and unease that make living hellish for Nigerians.

Pardon the cliché, but we are now a nation at a crossroads. Nigerians seek and deserve solutions for our mounting challenges.

The confluence of rising insecurity, economic stagnation, and a cost of living that chokes ordinary citizens demands our immediate and collective attention. Ignoring these intertwined challenges risks not just economic hardship but the very fabric of our nation. This editorial serves as a clarion call to action directed at the federal government, businesses, and policymakers, imploring us to not only diagnose the problems but also chart a course towards a more secure and prosperous future.

The diagnosis is a multi-faceted crisis. It requires the leadership of a field marshal and the support of the legislature and other segments of society.

Firstly, the cost of living in Nigeria has become a crushing burden. Inflation soars, driven by supply chain disruptions, depreciating naira, and structural inefficiencies. President Tinubu followed the orthodox recommendations of Western economists to remove the alleged subsidy on petroleum products and float the naira. The result has been counter to the prescriptions.
As Businessday reported, the petroleum price subsidy has returned following the continual weekly depreciation of the naira. None of the promises about currency floatation has manifested. Instead, even corporate Nigeria has suffered heavy losses from currency adjustments.

Food prices, the lifeblood of most Nigerians, skyrocket, pushing millions further into poverty. This and stagnant wages create a suffocating reality for everyday citizens.
Secondly, the spectre of insecurity casts a long shadow. Banditry, kidnappings, and communal clashes plague vast swathes of the country, displacing communities, disrupting economic activity, and eroding the trust essential for a functioning society. Farmers cannot go to their fields. The fear this engenders stifles innovation and investment, further impeding progress.

Thirdly, stagflation looms large. Inflation rises while economic growth stagnates, creating a toxic mix that harms businesses and individuals. Businesses struggle to stay afloat, and job creation suffers, exacerbating social tensions and fuelling the cycle of insecurity.
Finally, a growing unease permeates the nation.

Frustration with unfulfilled promises and a perceived lack of direction breeds cynicism and despair. If left unchecked, this disaffection threatens the foundation of our national unity and social cohesion.
Addressing these challenges requires a multi-pronged approach that demands bold leadership, decisive action, and unwavering stakeholder commitment.

The Federal government must prioritise security by investing in intelligence gathering. It must strengthen law enforcement and institute a regime of consequences. Then, address the root causes of conflict, including poverty and lack of opportunity.

Next is to curb inflation. Government must implement sound fiscal policies, combat corruption, and address structural bottlenecks in critical sectors like agriculture and energy.

Federal, state, and local governments must set examples. There is pronounced profligacy that flies in the face of citizens’ deprivation. It sends mixed signals that exacerbate distrust.

The government must foster economic growth. Encourage private sector investment by creating an enabling environment, improving infrastructure, and promoting trade competitiveness.

Then, it must embrace transparency and accountability: Ensure open communication, combat corruption, and hold public officials accountable for their actions.

The call on businesses is counterintuitive. Now is the time to invest in social responsibility. The population of persons needing corporate social investment grows exponentially. Partner with communities to address local challenges, promote sustainable practices, and prioritise ethical conduct.

Businesses must innovate and adapt. Embrace technology, streamline operations, and seek new markets to remain competitive in a challenging environment. Advocate for policy changes: Work with government and civil society to create an environment conducive to business growth and job creation.

The challenges we face are daunting, but Nigeria’s potential remains immense. Overcoming these hurdles requires a shared commitment to a better future. Let us move beyond blame and finger-pointing and instead embrace a spirit of collaboration and collective action. By working together, with honesty, purpose, and a genuine desire for progress, we can navigate this critical juncture and build a more secure, prosperous, and equitable Nigeria for all.