There is nothing wrong with fighting corruption. All those indicted must be severely punished according to the laws of our land. This has always been my position. However, running after treasury looters is a different thing from running the economy of a country. These are obviously two different things.
A government should not spend all its time and resources fighting corruption at the expense of its core mandate of running the economy of the country and providing succor to the people. Institutions set up to fight corruption should be allowed to do their jobs while the government concentrates on its core mandate.
The security and welfare of the people shall be the priority of the state, so says our constitution. A good government should be running the economy in such a way to actulise this constitutional mandate. This is what I was expecting from the Muhammadu Buhari administration and not taking up the jobs of the EFCC and other anti-corruption agencies.
Running the economy of this country should be about getting our manufacturing plants working at optimum capacity and providing jobs for our people. It should be about ensuring uninterrupted fuel and electricity supply, good roads, good schools and good health institutions. It should be about providing cheap food and affordable housing to our people and creating an enabling environment for businessmen to do legitimate business with functional infrastructure. It should be about government coming out with policies and programmes to reflate our depressed economy and rolling out pragmatic fiscal and monetary policies to revive our sliding economy.
Unfortunately, this has not been the case in the last seven months in this country. All we hear is the war against corruption while millions of Nigerians wallow in poverty.
Our jobless youth roam the streets with an uncertain future while they are told that billions of Naira is being recovered from looters. Many go to bed without food, yet they are told of billions of Naira being returned. Our schools, roads and hospitals remain in frightening state, unchanged by the anti-corruption songs. Because Buhari has neglected his core mandate of managing the economy, our manufacturers are shutting down and sacking workers. Over 100,000 have lost their jobs in the construction industry alone in the last six months. Over 120,000 have been sacked in the oil and gas sector. The number of people sacked at Airtel has jumped to over 300. Retrenchment of Nigerians at Virgin Atlantic has also hit about 150. So many companies are downsizing. The online stores are also badly affected.
Inclement economic environment has reduced industrial production across the country. Access to forex and frustrating economic policies are big issues. I have been making so much noise about the gale of retrenchment across the country for a number of weeks without a proactive response from this administration government. The embarrassment of fuel scarcity in an oil-exporting country has also continued for the 8thweek running across the country, with petrol selling for as high as N400 per litre in some states. A country that claims to be broke has just paid out N407 billion to fuel marketers as subsidy claims; a subsidy that never gets to the consumers.
This economy is in a mess.
We have never had it so bad. Virtually all economic indices are on the negative side. Inflation is at a level we have never experienced before. Our GDP is sliding. Industrial capacity utilization is dwindling. Small and medium scale firms are folding up. The capital market is crumbling. Unemployment is at a frightening level. A large number of unemployed youth is no doubt a time bomb that can explode at any time and consume this country. Nigeria’s crude oil production is falling. Last month alone, crude oil production fell by 250,000 barrels per day (bpd), making the country lose its status as Africa’s top oil producer to Angola. Nigeria recorded the biggest drop in output in November among its peers in OPEC. In the midst of all these calamities, all we hear is “war against corruption.”
The former President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Remi Bello recently spoke for many, when he said, “significant disruptions, distortions and dislocations have been created in the business environment as a consequence of the restrictions on the use of export proceeds, denial of access to foreign exchange market for many products, including critical inputs needed in manufacturing and service sectors, prohibition of cash lodgments into domiciliary accounts, tight exchange controls and administrative allocation of foreign exchange “which are typically characterised by lack of transparency, corruption and considerable abuse.”
The former LCCI boss added: “The economy is now faced with a scenario where there is much pressure to move funds out of the economy than moving funds into the economy. This can be likened to a run on a system. This is a typical scenario which a confidence crisis would create. Future international trade transactions, financial and investment relations are now at risk. Round tripping of forex has continued to flourish because of the disparity in the exchange rate between the official and parallel market. Inflow of forex into the two autonomous sources has been adversely affected. It is worthy of note that Diaspora funds into the country was about $23 billion in 2013.
The current policy will discourage the inflow of such funds which normally help to strengthen the supply side of the foreign exchange.”
No doubt, the sovereign risk perception of Nigeria has worsened over the last three months. Several credit lines for Nigerian investors have been cut off following the numerous cases of payment default to foreign suppliers. This forex policy is stifling. “Even reputable blue chip companies have defaulted for the first time in the several years of business relationship with their foreign suppliers. Considerable damage has been done to the image of many companies and the country in the international trade and investment arena. A major confidence crisis has been created for investors,” noted the LCCI.
The position of the Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Capital Territory chapter on Buhari’s “war against corruption” and our decaying health infrastructure is also instructive here. Dr. Isaac Akerele, President, of the association who spoke recently on behalf of the association said: “While we are not against the anti-corruption war, we call on President Muhammadu Buhari to invest greatly in health sector. Investment in health is the only way his government can be seen as working. It is not enough to fight corruption alone. There is urgent need to upgrade our facilities.”
Buhari has mopped up and locked up huge amount of money from the system through the Treasury Single Account. To just lock up the money is an archaic economic policy. The money is idle in the treasury of the CBN. This is quality money that should be expeditiously used to reflate the economy by investing in infrastructure and getting contractors back on site. Rather than do these, all we hear is the war against corruption while the economy degenerates. Can Buhari, in all honesty, point to a single sector of the economy that he has positively impacted on in the last six months? I don’t think so.
His legion of sycophants who go about saying ‘there is no money’ should please shut up. Almost N1.5 trillion has accrued to this administration in the last seven months from the monthly revenue shared by all the tiers of government. So, what did Buhari do with all the money? How has he impacted on our health, education, roads, housing and general welfare in the last six months? All we hear is “war against corruption” while the country slides. He has shown great ineptitude in the war against Boko Haram. Over 1500 people have been killed under his watch in the last six months.
It seems the offices of anti-graft agencies are now domiciled in the Presidency. Buhari has taken direct control of these agencies at the expense of running our economy. The other day, he was directly giving instruction to the DSS to arrest those indicted by a probe panel. Buhari should resign as the President of this country and take up the position of EFCC chairman, so as to fully concentrate on running the anti-graft agency. I strongly believe that he would perform very well as the Chairman of EFCC than as the President of Nigeria.
Thereafter, we can look for a President to run our economy and wage proactive war against unemployment, underdevelopment, poverty, disease, hunger, malnutrition, insecurity and other challenges ravaging our country. There is nothing wrong with fighting corruption but managing the Nigerian economy and providing security for the people require much more than running after treasury looters. Turning around Nigeria requires much more that fighting corruption. A man cannot give what he does not have. The truth be told; Nigeria has not experienced any change in the last seven months. Pain, blood and tears are still very much with us. There is too much suffering in our land. Nothing has changed.