Many of us who read the recent story of a parent who pledged his child for a bag of rice in Kano felt scandalised. I have been searching for clues from the current government in Abuja on how the nation’s precarious economic situation will be solved. I have seen little or nothing. Rather, what comes out as news everyday frightens me the more.
A few days ago, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) gave us some bad news. According to the world body, plunging oil revenues and weakened investor confidence will push Nigeria’s economy into recession. The IMF said it expected Africa’s largest economy to contract by 1.8 per cent this year, after having forecast a 2.3 per cent expansion in April.
Finance Minister, Kemi Adeosun, confirmed this recession story. But as she put it, it would be short and there was no need to panic.
Mrs. Adeosun said the Federal Government had released N247.9billion for capital expenditure in the last two months and that N60billion would be released for capital vote in a few weeks time.
Today, a lot of people are living on their reserves. Some are selling their property in order to pay school fees and house rents. Many others have been ejected from their homes by landlords. A good number of children are at home because daddy could not pay school fees. Prayer houses are booming. Simply put, people have lost hope in the government.
Our Senators, for instance, have continued to shed crocodile tears. The other day, they reportedly acknowledged the pains many Nigerians are facing. Thus, they summoned the Finance Minister to come and brief them on the way out.
Hypocrisy. That is the name of the game. These same lawmakers take home jumbo salaries and allowances. What they give Nigerians in return are in-fighting, budget padding and inconsequential bills.
The current altercation between the former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, and the Speaker of the House, Yakubu Dogara, speaks volumes about the state of affairs in the National Assembly.
Jibrin had asked Dogara, Deputy Speaker, Yusuf Lasun; Minority Leader, Leo Ogor; and Chief Whip, Ado Doguwa, to resign for allegedly padding the 2016 budget. Jibrin further alleged that these principal officers illegally inserted and allocated projects worth over N20bn to their constituencies in the budget. And that he was removed as the Chairman of the Appropriation Committee recently because he refused to inject another N30bn into the budget for the Speaker.
Dogara, though, has denied the allegations. He has threatened to sue his accuser. While we await the legal actions, may I implore the legislators to pass a law that will make national assembly membership a part-time affair. Once they initiate the move, the executive will be forced to embark on other radical changes. This will be the beginning of our revolution.
President Muhammadu Buhari, we hear, lives a Spartan life. He frowns upon wastage and corruption. His Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been very busy pursuing looters of our national treasury. Whether this fight against corruption is holistic or sectional is another topic entirely. For now, our major concern should be that the President and his team should give us a clear-cut direction on how to wriggle out of this economic quagmire.
All we have heard is that the Federal Government cannot finance the 2016 budget because the economy is down. The blame goes to the immediate past government and the Niger Delta Avengers.
Yes, the Niger Delta Avengers have caused some havoc. But the government at all levels have caused more havoc to our economy. Why has President Buhari not done away with large presidential fleet? Why did the President travel to London to treat an ear infection after budgeting N3.87bn for Aso Rock clinic? Why do some state governors still waste a lot of resources on mundane travels with a retinue of aides and sycophants?
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State sums it up. He described his colleagues as lacking vision, leadership skills and creativity.
The governor recently noted, “When there are challenges, people are forced to think out of the box and they will get results. If I have my way, I don’t want oil price to rise beyond what it is so that all of us will be forced to get it right.”
Amosun is correct. Or how else can one describe the plan by the governors to embark on vocational training to Germany. About 27 of these governors find it difficult to pay salaries. So, what vocation are they going abroad to learn that will impact on the economies of their states? Soap and bead making? How to produce insecticide and germicide? What a joke!
Nigerians should wake up from their slumber. From the local government to state and to the federal level, we need to ask questions. We need to tell the governors going for vocational training that enough is enough. Civil society groups should go beyond press releases. They should organize protest marches whenever things are going wrong.
This is why I doff my hat for some civil society groups that protested alleged illegal recruitment and nepotism in some government agencies last Wednesday in Abuja. They marched to the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation where they submitted their protest letter.
We need to change our mindset. We need to be more prudent and less extravagant. We need to minimize our penchant for the consumption of foreign items. We need to patronise more made-in-Nigeria products so as to help boost our economy.
Above all, we need to learn the culture of protesting the inanities of our leaders. This is the revolution we need in Nigeria today.