I’m compelled to say a few words on the attempt by some people to apportion blame on President Muhammadu Buhari on the state of the economy and also share my view on the call by Senator Dino Malaye on the President to sack some ministers and Central Bank Governor as the solution to the problem.
As a former Chairman of the House Committee on Finance, and until recently Appropriation, I am in a good position to contribute and proffer solutions to the problem.
Let me state very categorically that the President is not to blame on the state of our economy today. It is unfair and very wicked to push such blame on a man who just came on board barely a year ago. Not even a magician can turn around the economy within a period of one year. The biggest spending in our economy, that is the budget, hasn’t even run a full course of one year. Yet, some people want to crucify President Buhari. Haba! Let’s face reality!
We all know how badly oil price has gone, a situation that adversely affected our foreign reserves and mounted pressure on the naira. No matter what approach we adopt to manage and deal with the situation, recovery will be slow. It is not President Buhari’s fault. Everyone seems to forget when the whole country was supporting more spending as against saving. But here we are today, soaked in the rainy day. President Buhari should not be used as anybody’s scape goat!
The recurrent expenditure, which has escalated and constituted a huge burden on our yearly budget rose from N950.32billion in 2006 to N1.372.20 trillion in 2008 and N2.593.62 trillion in 2015. This was not created by President Buhari.
Similarly, the total cash call (oil production cost) which rose from about N200 billion in 2006 to about N1.2 trillion in 2015 was not a creation of President Buhari. The cash call has remained another tale of burden on our yearly budget. Statutory transfers including that of the NASS are not left behind. Statutory transfers rose from just about N100 billion in 2006 toÂ N375.62 billion in 2015. President Buhari was not the President then.
Debt servicing also rose from about N300 billion in 2006 to N953.62 billion in 2015. These expenditures have over the years constrained the budget and made it difficult to channel sufficient funds towards productive sectors that can sufficiently grow the economy. Domestic borrowing also skyrocketed during this period and created devastating consequences on the economy.
Government at that time continued to mop up money from commercial banks at a rate considered one of the highest in the world, while the real sector is left with nothing. And even when they were able to access funds, it came with an unbearable interest rate. President Buhari met this situation on ground. He did not create it, but is doing his very best to take us out of the economic quagmire. We should all support him.
On the call by Sen. Melaye on Mr. President to sack some ministers, I disagree with that proposition. Nigerians are of the habit of asking for the sack or removal of public officers, often for sentimental reasons, envy or simply for an opportunity to join the fray. In my assessment, I have not seen any member of the President’s cabinet today — from SGF, HOS to ministers — that is not good enough to hold the office. At worse, the President may wish to reshuffle a couple of or more ministers based on their strength and weaknesses for better service delivery.
A minister doesn’t have to know everything. A minister has an ample latitude to draw knowledge from the MDAs staff or within the larger society to achieve result in his ministry. I believe that most of the present cabinet ministers can source information or knowledge from these reservoir when the need arises. I have worked very closely with most of them and I am convinced that they have proved their mettle despite managing a very difficult situation that they did not create.
I am sure nobody can question the competence of Udoma Udoma. Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun is also doing her best, and having worked with her, I am convinced she has all it takes to turn around the economy. The Central Bank Governor is managing the most challenging period the apex bank has ever witnessed. I think the president has worked with this team for about a year. His cabinet team understands him better and vice-versa.
I believe if they stay focused and refuse to be distracted, we shall soon start seeing the dividends. The President must not fall for the trap of people trying to distort the progress made so far. Whoever he appoints again, the call for sack will never stop.Â
I am therefore calling on my colleague, brother and friend, Senator Dino Malaye that we should rather look inward and address our own contribution to this problem as lawmakers. We can start by addressing the budget and other monumental fraud under the watch of Speaker Yakubu Dogara, a systemic corruption that affected and continued to derail the economy of our dear country. That is the appropriate place to start. Remember, charity begins at home!Â
Hon Abdulmumin Jibrin
Kiru-Bebeji Federal Constituency