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Surviving in ‘famine’: Business leaders point the way for Nigeria

While many economists think Nigeria is still recovering from the impact of the 2016 economic recession; nobody knew that tougher one is on the way.  Even President Muhammadu Buhari, in his second term inaugural speech, urged Nigerians to brace up for tougher times.

Yes, the tougher time is truly here with Nigerians, as Conoravirus has negatively impacted global economies hugely, with oil price slumping daily and causing panic to economies that depend on oil revenue like Nigeria. The realisation of the budget is threatened as the oil benchmark, which the budget was hedged on is fallen.

However, many are saying that Nigeria will survive the current situation as it has been living in such situations for a long time now.

Top business leaders in Port Harcourt have refused to see panic and danger in the crash of Nigeria’s oil economy caused by coronavirus and Russia oil price war with Saudi Arabia.

The President of the Rivers Entrepreneurs and Investors Forum (REIF), Ibifiri Bobmanuel, a tractor assembly plant CEO, called this a golden moment to do what is necessary. The engineer and globetrotter called for complete deregulation of the downstream sector and closing the foreign exchange differentials on different windows.

He said: “This is a golden opportunity to completely deregulate and develop the local economy. This oil price crash is another opportunity and the FG must immediately remove subsidy.”

Bobmanuel wants the forces of demand and supply to be allowed to decide the market just as he has urged the FG to close the rate differences in the various foreign exchange windows.

He said: “Let the private sector take over fully and run the economy. Borrowing to support infrastructure is no more viable. Instead, create conditions for private investors to come in and invest in them. Open up the space instead of borrowing to invest in infrastructure. Yes, scale back on the 2020 budget but allow the private sector to take over provision of infrastructure”.

The immediate past national vice chairperson and council member of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Ekama Emilia Akpan urged the FG to look inwards right now.

She joined in seeing this as an opportunity to readdress the nation’s situation. She urged the government to sit down with MAN on how to manufacture almost all national needs locally.

She went on: “Give easy loans to SMEs to support a new economy through a Do-It-Yourself scheme. She warned that importation is no more an attraction and that even of something is ordered from abroad right now, shipping may be an issue because importation has been endangered.

“This is a blessing in disguise, so manufacture things locally now especially foods and medicals. Let government agencies slow down on harassing businesses. Most schools abroad have closed down. The FG should find ways to keep children busy and alert in the brain.

“Let there be coaching on emergency approaches and use of things such as lime. Bring back retired health officials to help in a national emergency scheme ahead of serious epidemic in our land based on what we see happening around the world. Women and children should be given special attention in the coming days.”

She further said: “Finally, Israel prayed against Coronavirus and God seems to have answered them. Senegal has made progress also.”

“I did not see the ‘old good days’ neither my children. I have also adapted realities in the country from N1 to £1, N1-$150 for a long time to N1 to $360. If a dollar exchanges for N500, we will still survive, all it takes is to adjust our lifestyle”, Chumka Emordi, an economist said.

Adewale Ogini, a lawyer, noted that Nigerians are built to survive going by the harsh conditions they work in, earn their living and live in everyday.  “We will survive; all it takes is drastic adjustments. No more UK universities or Nigerian private schools if you cannot afford it. Overseas holidays are canceled, travel is now when it is very necessary and people will have to honorably leave Ikoyi and Lekki axis to areas they can afford. Nobody will care about what people will say again because everybody is impacted in one way or the other,” the lawyer said.

But Emordi advised Nigerians to truly tighten their belts as the government seems helpless because the fire brigade approach is unique to the government, but has never worked in Nigeria. “This is not time to assemble the economic team; it should have been from the day Nigeria officially declared economic recession. There is no magic about the situation than commitment to economic diversification and implementing policies and measures to achieve it. It is a long run, but there are easy wins to help”, Emordi warned.

In his sarcastic, yet realistic views, Itam Ekpo, a university don, said that hardship is for those who have not looted enough money. “Even if dollar exchanges for N1000, does it stop the senators from buying new cars, traveling abroad for party or living large? They have N37 billion renovation money to share. The poor is most vulnerable this time and government does not care until election time,” the university don said.

 

Ignatius Chukwu (Port Harcourt) and Obinna Emelike (Lagos)

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