By this time last year, many Nigerians started the year 2023 on a positive vibe, with the optimism of a change in government, on the back of the general elections.
Sadly, they ended the year with regret, as their expectations were not met, due to the worsening economic realities that left many Nigerians poorer in 2023.
Now in a new dawn and still optimistic, Nigerians are expecting much from the Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led government.
This time, they want action, commitment and sincerity from the government in addressing the many challenges that made life difficult for most Nigerians last year.
Top on the list of their expectations is for the government to checkmate the high cost of living in the country, whilst hoping for sustained economic growth and development that would positively impact their lives.
Some Nigerians who spoke with BDSunday highlighted the areas they want Tinubu’s administration to give priority in 2024.
They desire to see good governance from leaders at all levels and policies that are masses-driven and that can be felt by ordinary Nigerians.
Many also want a more diversified economy,and increased investments in sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, technology, and renewable energy, which could create employment opportunities and enhance prosperity across various industries.
For Chris Finebone, the immediate past Commissioner of Information and Communications, Rivers State, the Federal Government should rethink the forex policy and the role of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
“I believe that our present situation that leaves NNPC to do what it likes with forex inflow should be discontinued. It is not working and cannot work. The CBN should receive and manage all inflows of forex directly by itself, the way it was before,” Finebone, an Opobo crown chief and economic thinker, said.
My-ACE China, CEO, Construction & Housing Mayor Limited, is asking the government to boost oil exportation and security in 2024.
“There are three fundamentals the Federal Government must fix to boost the economy on a long-term basis. Fixing security will liberate Nigeria, attract investors and also boost diaspora remittances.
“Providing basic welfare, including infrastructure and wages is crucial in 2024.
“The government seems to trail behind, while some private sector groups, especially some banks have done 100 percent upward review of wages already,” he said.
The third demand from the real estate guru is the urgent need to improve efficiency in oil export in order to generate more forex to supply to the economy equitably. “It will help to stabilize the economy this year,” he insisted.
Ekama Emilia Akpan, CEO, Showers Group, wants the government to establish a graduate skills scheme or revamp graduate training for industry and others to pursue self-employment.
“There is also a need for an increased budget for education and technical training. Nigeria lacks skilled workforce, and this is part of the reasons for the high unemployment rate in the country.
“There is a need for tax rebates for SMEs and companies employing a certain minimum number of workers to help reduce unemployment.
“Also, the government should reduce by 40 percent, the high emoluments of National Assembly members instead of the talk about over 100 percent increase,” Akpan said, while insisting that servant leadership is what is needed for transparency in leadership.
Uche Aniche, a startup strategist, urged the government to make local manufacturing a priority in 2024.
“The government should prioritize production factors and incentivise local manufacturing as a way to create new and safeguard existing jobs, prop up the currency, and arrest and cushion the impact of inflation. A situation where local manufacturers are shutting down or relocating production to other neighboring countries will not augur well for Nigeria.
“Following China’s example, it is possible to ramp up local production both for local consumption and for export. It requires sincerity of purpose in dealing with the root issues including insecurity,” Aniche said.
Fyneface Dumnamene, executive director, Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC), wants the government to boost oil production and issue modular refinery licenses.
“In the next six months, the government should give attention to addressing issues in the oil and gas sector to make the economy better. It should ensure that the Port Harcourt Refinery, said to have been mechanically completed, is fully operational with a full capacity of 60,000 barrels per day.
“The government should also issue modular refinery licenses to willing investors and provide an enabling environment including guaranteed feed stock for their operation. This will help in addressing the crisis in the energy sector with a view to crashing the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) and other petroleum products to improve economic activities and better the economy, ”Dumnamene said.
Making more demands, Dumnamene said that the federal government should also ensure the availability and accessibility of grants and loans with single digit interest rate for Nigerians, especially those engaged or willing to go into small and medium scale enterprises to boost local businesses and economic activities that will better the economy.
On security, he said that the government should focus on improving security of lives and properties to protect individual citizens and businesses to thrive and attract both local and foreign investments.
“For me, the prices of essential commodities are too high. Whatever policies you are doing in Abuja should impact lives positively.
“It is so sad. I could not afford to buy a bag of rice this yuletide, because of the cost. Tinubu must check the astronomical rise in food prices this year”, Eno Essang said.
However, in 2024, better infrastructure and functional transportation remain many people’s priorities.
“An enhanced infrastructure will facilitate trade, improve living standards, and attract more domestic and foreign investments in 2024,” said Michael Onu, a financial analyst.
“I also aspire for a more transparent and accountable government. I hope that by 2024, the country will make significant strides in combating corruption, ensuring good governance, and strengthening democratic institutions”.
Similarly, some people also expect the economic reforms to yield fruits and address challenges such as high food prices, unemployment and high inflation rate.
“The daily hike in the prices of goods makes it look as if nobody is in charge of our economy. By 2024, we expect the government to curb inflation and price hikes.
“The driver of Nigeria’s economy is petrol. Nigerians seek strategies to mitigate the high cost of petroleum, hoping for transparent pricing mechanisms.
“Recent incidents, like the security issues in Plateau State where close to 100 people were killed on Christmas eve, underscore the urgent need for enhanced security measures for the safety of lives and properties.
“Specifically, we call for strengthened security and conflict resolution initiatives. Finally, we want 2024 to be a turning point for a better Nigeria because we cannot wait for more promises of hope upon hope,” Adisa Taiwo, a lecturer, said.
However, Biodun Olatunji, an economist, urged the government to try and fix the exchange crisis in the country, noting that it had affected business stability in recent years.
He said: “With the 2024 budget, the generality of people expects to experience an improved standard of living, more jobs, stability in foreign exchange, and a secured business environment.
“As an economist, I know what a lot of entrepreneurs faced last year. I am more concerned about the stimulus in the development of the housing sector, especially the affordable homes, which I believe will provide jobs for artisans and improve skills in housing development”.
“In my own opinion, the reopening of the Seme-Idiroko border should be given priority,” Badru Saleh, public affairs commentator, told BDSunday.
He insisted that not much has been achieved since the ban on rice importation was implemented by the federal government.
“The embargo placed on rice importation must be lifted in order to crash the high price of rice. The food/rice palliative of Mr. President would not have been possible had the previous administration not closed the border,” he said.
According to Saleh, local farmers had been protected enough without anything significant to show for it. Hence, the call for the temporary lift of ban on rice importation to enable the marketers to flood the market with rice. “There will be a sharp fall in the market price of a bag of rice, which is a much sought after food by the masses,” he said.
Emmanuel Udofia, the immediate past primate of the African Church, told BusinessDay that the government should look inward at those things that affect the lives of the citizens positively. “It is true that the budget has been passed but I believe there are areas that the government can look into that affect the entire populace of Nigeria positively”.
According to him, not much will be achieved by the government if it fails to implement policies and take actions capable of transforming the lives of Nigerians. He said that people will continue to agitate for government intervention that will affect their lives positively.
“Nigeria government advisers should look at what other countries are doing that Nigeria is not doing, in spite of all the natural and human resources in Nigeria. How come that other countries that do not have what we have are better off than us? How come people who do not have what we have; we don’t have their children coming to work in Nigeria? Nigeria has all the things that God has bestowed us with, and we have a situation where everybody is looking for an opportunity to leave Nigeria”.
According to Udofia, the government should tackle the remote cause of the japa syndrome among Nigerians. He said further that the government should also seek support from individuals with more knowledge about turning the economy around.
The clergy and elder statesman said no meaningful investment will happen in an unsafe environment, and called on the government to provide the needed security for the citizenry, and ensure that lives matter in 2024. “Any nation in the world where there is banditry, and killings here and there; no meaningful person will ever go to such a place to invest”.
Charles Adewale, lecturer, Caleb University, Lagos, said the government should pay more attention to exchange rate, infrastructure, food subsidy and price control. According to him, the government both at the federal and state levels should fulfill its own part of the social contract with the citizens.
“Yes, they can if they fulfill their part of the bargain. If the economy is stable, price can be controlled: for instance, a kg of beef in Benin Republic is sold at the same price across major markets, Adewale said.
In conclusion, Nigerians are asking for a government with human face in 2024, they are asking for dividends of democracy and that the government should not allow situations to further push them to wall this year.