As part of efforts to stabilise the economy, the Federal Government yesterday said it has released a total of N1.642 trillion to the 36 states of the federation in the last two years.
President Muhammadu Buhari who disclosed this in his speech to mark Nigeria’s 57th Independence Anniversary, explained that the disbursements include, N200 billion in 2015; N441 billion in 2016 and N1 trillion in 2017, all totalling N1.642 trillion. The president also promised to create 10,000 jobs for the unemployed youths in each state of the federation as well as ensure that power generation rises to 10,000 megawatts by 2020.
Recall that Buhari had on September 11, appealed to state governors to pay all out standing salaries of their workers, and accumulated pensions of ex-workers from the additional funds provided to them by the Federal Government from the paris club debt refunds.
The President made the appeal when he met with members of the National Council of Traditional Rulers at the new Banquet Hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja. He had frowned at the inability of the concerned state governments to pay retirement benefits and outstanding salaries of workers with their shares of Paris Club Loan Refunds paid to them.
“We have to digress this much because I would like to convince you that I’m living with the problems of this country day-by-day, and mostly those of the ordinary people. There are Nigerians that haven’t been paid for six months; there are Nigerians that have not been paid their retirement benefits for years.
“I’m appealing to the governors (that was why we voted money; we borrowed money), please make sure you pay anybody under you; pay them because most of them depend on that salary to pay rent, school fees,’’ he had asserted.
On the N500 billion Special Intervention Programme, Buhari noted that the programme targets groups like Home Grown School Feeding Programme, N-Power Job creation to provide loans to small-scale traders and artisans; Conditional Cash Transfer, Family Homes Fund and Social Housing Scheme.
The President also acknowledged the crisis posed to the economy by poor electricity generation and supply and promised that efforts were being made to increase investments and ensure that power generation rises to 10,000 megawatts by 2020.
“Power remains a huge problem. Government is increasing its investment, clearing up the operational and financial logjam bedevilling the industry. Key priorities include better energy mix through solar and hydro technologies. We hope to reach 10,000 megawatts by 2020,” he said.
He said the Federal Government’s agricultural Anchor Borrowers Programme, which was launched in November 2015, had been an outstanding success with N43.92 billion released through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and 13 participating institutions; 200,000 small holder farmers from 29 states of the federation benefiting; 233,000 hectares of farmland cultivating eight commodities, namely rice, wheat, maize, cotton, soya-beans, poultry, cassava and groundnuts, in addition to fish farming. He commended the governors of Kebbi, Lagos, Ebonyi and Jigawa states for their support to the rice and fertilizer revolutions.
According to him, since December 2016, Nigeria had produced over 7 million 50Kg bags of fertilizer, while 11 blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated.
“We have saved $150 million in foreign exchange and N60 billion in subsidy and fertilizer prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500.
“Furthermore, a new presidential initiative is starting with each state of the federation creating a minimum of 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths, again with the aid of CBN’s development finance initiatives,” he said.
The president also said the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements, had proved very effective, noting that since April, 2017 about $7 billion has come through this window alone. Buhari said the main effect of these policies is improved confidence in the economy and better investment sentiments.
According to him the country has recorded 7 consecutive months of lower inflation; naira rate is beginning to stabilise, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 today. Broad-based economic growth is leading us out of recession” the President stated.
Meanwhile, in his reaction to Buhari’s Independence Anniversary broadcast, former governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, wondered what Nigeria should be celebrating even when, at the very ripe age of 57, it is still lagging behind in all indices of development. Speaking during the programme termed, “One Nigeria: Embracing Our Economy” organised by the Dr. Tony Rapu House of Freedom Ministry to celebrate the nation’s 57th Independence Anniversary, Obi said that celebration presupposed that there were achievements recorded.
“Yes, we’re here to celebrate our nation’s 57th Independence Anniversary but I ask, what are we really celebrating? Failure? Nigeria is a failed State,’’ Obi decried.
To drive home his point about the failure of the country, Obi compared China with Nigeria. “Comparing with China that had a foreign reserve of $10 billion in 1980 when Nigeria had $10.5 billion of same economic index to present day where China’s GDP is $30 trillion while its foreign reserve stands at $3 trillion. Nigeria’s present GDP is $420 billion and savings of $30 billion. This is an index of failure” he said.
Obi said: “We were busy sharing oil money, the only thing we’re good at – sharing! Our politicians have failed the nation. I’m a politician too…so I’m part of it. No country survives without saving for the future but there’s no provision for savings in our constitution. It says every income of this country should be shared among the three tiers of government. Every other country plans for her future. But ours is a motor park situation. We share everything.”