Recently, the Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu, on his second state of the nation address, said the country is battling with the short-term economic hardship resulting from subsidy removal and exchange rate harmonisation. No doubt, the economy of the nation has suffered from shocks and other financial slides that require urgent attention. For instance, the President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), By Asiwaju (Dr.) Michael Olawale-Cole disclosed that the presidential address showed leadership, responsibility, and accountability, and he demonstrated empathy as he unveiled a broad plan to ease the cost of living pains for Nigerians.
He also provided clarity on the palliative measures and strategies for implementation. LCCI also commends the President on the palliative plan to support businesses, the working class, and the most vulnerable, as well as a policy intervention to check rising inflation and ensure exchange rate stability, saying the President covered most of the strategic sectors of the economy, but nothing was said about security, which is a critical factor in national development. Olawale-Cole described the plan to spend the N500 billion (US$652 million) package to boost the economy by easing transportation costs, boosting manufacturing, and enhancing food supply and that, it would also provide conditional grants to at least a million small businesses.
To ensure affordable food prices, it is good that strategic reserves of grains would be released to households, and support for agriculture, including farmland cultivation as a matter of priority. It maintains that these plans demonstrate that President Bola Tinubu is listening to Nigerians. The chamber supports the move to invest in the manufacturing sector. However, it states that would be pertinent to consider more enterprises as 75 enterprises would not significantly impact the economy. However, “we commend the effort to kick-start sustainable economic growth and improve productivity. We believe that if this plan is rigorously pursued, economic growth through the real sector of the economy would be achieved and could revive Nigeria’s sluggish industrialisation and expand the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“It may be judicious to stipulate that the total costs of funds is benchmarked to 9% regardless of the charges and fees. The focus on improving public transportation, including providing buses to be fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) for deployment in all the states, is a means to provide affordable transportation across Nigeria. This will help ease the problem of moving persons and goods across the nation. It will also reduce the cost of doing business which burdens most small enterprises. The Chamber hereby expresses concerns about the role of the State and Local governments as well as transparency in the implementation of the palliative strategies as the government plans to introduce an Infrastructure Support Fund for the states to invest in critical areas and revamp healthcare and educational infrastructure.
“We urge the government to ensure smooth and promising implementation of the measures and regularly engage the citizens and the organised private sector to ensure accountability. There should be proper monitoring and evaluation of the implementation process to ensure benefits to the people. We also wish to nudge the government to share in the sacrifice made by Nigerians by reducing the high cost of governance in all its tiers and ensuring fiscal leakages and corruption are strategically dealt with. As we commend the government’s courage in enacting a series of policies, we trust that government would be courageous enough to cut the cost of governance. This will demonstrate to Nigerians that the leaders share in the suffering and sacrifice of the people.
The LCCI further observed that the fuel subsidy regime is sometimes described as a scam due to the opacity and lack of integrity of the arrangement, and it had indeed become a burden on the economy and a source of enrichment for a select group of individuals. The chamber then calls on the government to make the required effort to identify and investigate the select group of individuals that allegedly plundered Nigeria’s national wealth and enriched themselves through the fuel subsidy regime, noting that they should be brought to book to prevent a recurrence of such criminal actions that had destroyed the nation’s economy and going forward, the system should also have sufficient transparency, accountability, and integrity, particularly with product pricing.
“We urge Nigerians to exercise some patience, as emphasised by the President. The degradation of our economy has occurred over several decades and it cannot be reversed within a few short months. It would take a concerted effort by all and focus on the strategic alignment of our national goals for change to occur. In reality, it is inevitable that we suffer some pain for these reforms to be successfully implemented. We all want a better and brighter future for Nigeria, so let us work together to make it happen”, the body said. In conclusion, there is high hopes that the country’s economic fortunes would become brighter as long as sustainable fiscal and monetary policies are evolved within the parameters outlined above. After all, the future is indeed bright for Nigeria.