The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and economists on Wednesday countered the claim made by President Muhammadu Buhari, that the economy under him is better than it was in 2015.
The Chairman of the Gas Group, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr Ola Adebayo, said Buhari’s regime’s policies have not translated into positive economy growth and real sector development.
He faulted the regime’s implementation of policies under Buhari, stressing that his regime would not score a pass mark.
Adebayo said, “One thing I have observed is that policy formulation is different from implementation. With the recent events, I don’t think the government has passed. We only have very good policies on paper, but the implementation has been lacking. Once there is no implementation, it becomes just an idea.”
Also, the Deputy-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Gabriel Idahosa, said the reality was at variance with the claims of the President.
He said the current regime has not been able to attract the private sector to invest in critical infrastructures like railways and airports, saying that the government’s economic model is counterproductive and not in the best interest of the economy.
“The business community has been consistent in saying so. It’s not a matter of disagreeing with him. It’s a matter of looking at the facts at the table.”
Idahosa further said, “We don’t really need any complicated analysis to see whether the policies are addressing the issues of the business community. Whether it is power supply, the foreign exchange market, whether it’s a model that enables the private sector to invest in infrastructure in a manner that enables business to thrive, it is clear for all to see.”
On his part, Director-General, the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Mr Sola Obadimu, said Buhari’s assessment of his administration’s economic policies did not reflect the realities on ground.
According to him, his regime had failed in all economic indices and should be humble to admit it.
He said, “In the past seven years, we have witnessed the most volatile phases in our industrial life. For instance, if we pick the naira valuation as at when he came in and now, you will see the difference. That has been unfriendly to industry.”
He said the benchmark interest rate has been high at 13 per cent, making access to capital difficult.
Obadimu further stated that with the disparity between exchange rate at the official and parallel markets, it was obvious that the government had created certain opportunities for round tripping in the system and consequently put a strain on business entities who needed foreign exchange for business.
An economist and Chief Executive Officer, Center for the Promotion of Private Enterprise, Dr Muda Yusuf, said that between 2015 and now, the nation’s economy has recorded over 200 percent currency depreciation.
He said that the investors’ confidence has worsened within the period under review and major indicators show that the economy is lagging behind .
“I don’t agree with that. Let us look at all the major indicators in the economy. Look at inflation, look at how bad things are and you know the implication of inflation for investments and for welfare. The current situation now is almost unprecedented and, of course, you can’t compare that now to what the situation was in 2015. Look at our currency. What was the exchange rate even at the parallel market in 2015 and what is it now?
“We are talking of a depreciation of over 200 per cent or even more and that also has a very serious implication. Even the poverty situation in the land is much and the business confidence. Investors’ confidence has worsened between 2015 and now. So, I don’t agree with that assertion.”
Also speaking, the founder of Cowry Assets Management Limited, Mr Johnson Chukwu, said, “I will be belittling myself to comment on issues like that. Let me ask you, what is your take on it? If I were a journalist, I wouldnn’t even write about it. That’s how I feel about that comment. Because it just doesn’t make sense for me to be wasting my time talking about it. I need to initiate conversations higher than that level. Because even a daft and a person who didn’t go to school will discuss it. It doesn’t make sense. Somebody said I’ve done well and you want me to discuss it. I guess you understand how I feel about that. It doesn’t make sense for anybody to discuss it.
“It’s not a matter of feeling, it’s how you are living. How much do you buy bread? How much do you pay for transport? How good is light in your area? So, if you want me to comment and speak about the economy, the way forward and what to expect from the new president, I will, not this,” he said.
A scholar and an Associate Professor at Pan-Atlantic University, Dr Olalekan Aworinde, said that the only sector that is doing well is the oil and gas.
“We cannot say that the economy has fared well because we still have so many indices that tell us that the total values of goods and services produced in Nigeria are nosediving. The only sector that is doing well is the oil sector. It makes about 80 per cent of the revenue in Nigeria. If you take a look at the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, they are not at the level we expect.
“There might be some improvement in agriculture but the kind of farming practiced in Nigeria is still at the subsistence level. In the manufacturing sector, we have more firms folding up probably because of these infrastructures that we expect. There’s no stability in power. The rate at which the Gross Domestic Profit is growing in Nigeria is not at the fast rate. It’s increasing at a decreasing rate.”
He also said that the government has pushed a lot of Nigerians into poverty than it has taken people out of poverty.
“Let me talk about price stability, it is worrisome. I don’t know how this government is able to come out without looking at the statistics at the price level. The last figure that was released by the National Bureau of Statistics a few weeks ago tells us that inflation is close to about 18 per cent. So, before they were in government, what was the statistics?
“So, this government has brought a lot of people more into poverty, absolute poverty than they have taken people out of poverty. I’m not going to agree with President Buhari’s statement. Yes, price stability is the responsibility of the CBN so in an attempt to maintain this price stability, you would discover, particularly this year, that it has been worrisome. It has been on the increase”
“I do not know what the yardstick that he used. Look at the level of unemployment. If you say you want to reduce the level of unemployment, that means that the level of inflation will be on the increase.
“But despite the fact that there’s an increase in inflation, the level of unemployment is still increasing. It is very clear, this is not unconnected with the manufacturing sector that is not doing well. The manufacturing sector is not doing well, so which sector will be used to employ the teeming youths that are not employed in Nigeria?
“The unemployment figure in Nigeria is about 33 per cent. So before they assumed office, what was the percentage and presently what is it? This government has taken a lot of loans and the future generations will have to pay for these loans.
“I do not know where the statistics and the indices that this present government is using to better the lot of Nigerians because as at the last count, the World Bank told us that the present government has made so many Nigerians to fall into abject poverty.”
Director of Research and Strategy, Chapel Hill Denham, Mr Tajudeen Ibrahim, also said, “I think we should look at the major metrics to know if really the economy is doing better now than in 2015 and one major metric is the exchange rate. And for the exchange rate, the Naira has lost tremendous value in the past 7years. And that has led to several other factors such as higher consumer price index over the period. It has also led to great uncertainty for foreign investors in terms of investing in the country,” he concluded
What the numbers say
Under Buhari, Nigeria experienced two recessions – one in 2016 and another in 2020 fuelled by COVID-19.
As at the fourth quarter of 2014, Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 6.2 per cent, according to data by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS. As at the fourth quarter of 2021, the NBS disclosed that the rate in the economy had risen to 33.3 per cent, making it one of the worst in the world and signifying a 437 per cent increase over the seven-year period.
As at May 2015, Naira exchanged for dollars at N197/$ at the interbank market and N217/$ at the parallel market. Naira is N415-N420 to a dollar at the Importers and Exporters Window and nearly N603-N610 at the parallel market. Subsidy has since risen from N100 million in 2015 to N4 trillion in 2022.
Inflation is not spared as prices have risen by over 70 per cent since Buhari came to power. Inflation has since 2015 risen from 9.01 per cent (average number in 2015) to over 17 per cent in May 2022.
The Misery Index in 2015 was 47.7 points but it has risen to 50.48 points, meaning that more Nigerians are now more miserable than they were in 2015.
Similarly, in 2018, Nigeria was adjudged by the World Poverty Clock as the world’s poverty capital.
According to the World Bank, the poverty rate was 33.1 per cent by the end of 2014/ beginning of 2015, but poverty rate will likely sit at 42.6 per cent in 2022.
How Nigerians Can Access eNaira – CBN
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has disclosed that from next week, Nigerians will be able to transact on eNaira wallets through the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data code on mobile phones.
Godwin Emefiele, the CBN Governor, disclosed this at the Grand Finale of the 2022 eNaira Hackathon in Abuja on Thursday.
Aside from transacting, Emefiele said Nigerians could also open an eNaira wallet on any phone of their choice through the designated USSD code.
He explained that Nigerians would only have to dial *997# from their phones to carry out transactions on their phones.
He said, “Nigerians, both banked and unbanked, will be able to open an eNaira wallet and conduct transactions by simply dialing *997# from their phones.
“Shortly after this, both merchants and consumers with bank accounts can use the NIBSS Instant Payment (NIP) to transfer and receive eNaira to any bank account.
“This will further deepen the integration of the eNaira with the existing national payment infrastructure.”
DAILY POST reports that President Muhammadu Buhari unveiled the e-Naira last year.
Fuel Subsidy Hits N1.593tn, Refinery Rehabilitation Gulps N54.66bn
Latest data on the amount spent in subsidising Premium Motor Spirit, popularly called petrol, seen in Abuja on Monday showed that the government subsidised the commodity with N1.593tn between January and June 2022.
It was also gathered that the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited pumped N54.66bn into refinery rehabilitation during the six months period.
Figures obtained from the NNPCL’s presentation to the Federation Accounts Allocation Committee meeting for July 2022 showed that subsidies on petrol were implemented in June. The company transited from a public oil firm to a commercial entity last month.
It also made it clear in July that subsidy on petrol was now a burden of the Federal Government and not its own responsibility.
An analysis of the July presentation to FAAC showed that fuel subsidy or under-recovery/value shortfall, as described by NNPCL, rose to N1.593tn in the first half of 2022.
Figures from the report indicated that the amounts spent as subsidy on the commodity in January, February and March were N210.38bn, N219.78bn and N245.77bn, respectively.
A total of N271.59bn, N327.1bn and N319.18bn were spent as subsidy in April, May and June respectively.
On refinery rehabilitation, the oil company spent N9.11bn in January, made no expense in February and March. It invested another N9.11bn on the facility.
It spent N9.11bn in each of the months of April and May 2022 on refinery rehabilitation, while investing N18.22bn on the plant in June.
In April this year, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, said the April 2023 completion date for the rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery was feasible and that the plant would refine 60,000 barrels of crude by early next year.
“This project kicked off second quarter last year and where they are now is quite impressive. It is on schedule. The commitment is to deliver 60,000 barrels per day from this refinery by the first quarter of next year, and, of course, we are quite happy,” Sylva had stated while inspecting the facility.
The NNPC officially signed the contract with Tecnimont SPA for the $1.5bn rehabilitation programme of the Port Harcourt Refining Company in April 2021 and had promised that the facility would be completed in 18 months.
Meanwhile the company’s July presentation to FAAC stated that the sum of N391.529bn was the gross domestic crude oil and gas revenue for the month of June 2022.
It noted that the value shortfall on the importation of PMS recovered from June 2022 proceeds was N319.176bn while the outstanding balance carried forward was N1.01tn.
“The estimated value shortfall of N1,490,413,402,007.66 (consisting arrears of N479,688,823,026.00 plus estimated June 2022 value shortfall of N1,010,724,578,981.66) is to be recovered from July 2022 proceed due for sharing at the August 2022 FAAC meeting,” the company stated.
The Chief Executive Officer, NNPCL, Mele Kyari, had during the unveiling of the newly commercialised oil firm, stated that the company was now a private outfit and had nothing to do with FAAC anymore.
Responding to a question on what would happen to NNPC’s monthly FAAC contributions, kyari replied, “We are now a private company. Would MTN go to FAAC?”
When probed further to tell if there would be no more FAAC remittances from the company going forward, he said, “We will pay our taxes, royalties and deliver dividends to our shareholders.”
Asked about the arrears to FAAC that were not delivered by the firm over the years, the CEO said, “Which arrears? That’s Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.”’
On how the oil firm would handle subsidy on petrol being a commercial entity, Kyari replied that fuel subsidy was not a burden of NNPC.
The CEO had said, “Subsidy is not NNPC’s burden. Subsidy is the decision of the state and in every jurisdiction anywhere in the world, countries see them differently. In some countries, they put petroleum tax on top of the market price of these products.
“So, when decisions are to be made in some jurisdictions, they will reduce the level of taxation. That also is another form of subsidy. In some countries, you have zero taxation but you will pay the market price for the commodity. That also in a way, in fiscal system, looks at it from a subsidy point of view.
“In very many countries, a leader can decide that I don’t even want my countrymen to buy it at the market price. I’m ready to reduce that price for them so that they can buy.”
Kyari added, “In either case, whichever way the decision and the policy of the state decides, you know NNPC is there in the space to provide the product to the state at commercial value and, of course, it is also our duty to deliver to the customer at the price that the state wants.
“So it is no longer an NNPC issue. NNPC will have no issue with this. NNPC will be happy to supply because we will now see the state as our customer.”
Subsidy on petrol has remained an issue of concern among Nigerians and international agencies, as its humongous cost has continued to drain the treasury of the Federal Government.
Nigeria’s Debt To World Bank Rises By $660m
The total debt owed to the World Bank Group by Nigeria rose by $660m in the first six months of 2022, the Punch has learnt.
This is according to data from both the Debt Management Office and the financial statements of the World Bank.
According to data from the DMO, Nigeria debt to the Washington-based bank was $12.38 as of December 31, 2021.
The financial statements of the World Bank for fiscal year 2022 show that Nigeria owes the lending institution $13.04bn as of June 30, 2022.
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Development Association, which make up the World Bank, have, over the years, advanced loans to Nigeria.
The IBRD lends to governments of middle-income and creditworthy low-income countries while the IDA provides concessionary loans – called credits – and grants to governments of the poorest countries.
Nigeria’s debt to the IDA and IBRD stood at $12.55bn and $486m respectively as of June 30, 2022, compared to $11.97bn and $410.60m in December 32, 2021.
According to a recent Punch report, rising debt has pushed Nigeria up the World Bank’s top 10 IDA borrowers’ list.
The World Bank Fiscal Year 2021 audited financial statements for IDA showed that Nigeria was rated fifth on the list with $11.7bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2021.
However, the newly released World Bank Fiscal Year 2022 audited financial statements for IDA showed that Nigeria has moved to the fourth position on the list, with $13bn IDA debt stock as of June 30, 2022.
This shows that Nigeria accumulated about $1.3bn IDA debt within a fiscal year, with the country taking over the fourth top debtor position from Vietnam.
This debt is different from the outstanding loan of $486m from World Bank’s International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The top five countries on the list slightly reduced their IDA debt stock except Nigeria.
Nigeria has the highest IDA debt in Africa, as the top three IDA borrowers (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) are from Asia.
The World Bank disclosed recently that Nigeria’s debt, which might be considered sustainable for now, was vulnerable and costly.
The bank said, “Nigeria’s debt remains sustainable, albeit vulnerable and costly, especially due to large and growing financing from the Central Bank of Nigeria.”
However, the Washington-based global financial institution added that the country’s debt was also at risk of becoming unsustainable in the event of macro-fiscal shocks.
The bank further expressed concerns over the nation’s cost of debt servicing, which according to it, disrupted public investments and critical service delivery spending.
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