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HomeExecutive BriefDeconstructing the Presidency’s mind on national issues

Deconstructing the Presidency’s mind on national issues

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By Oludare Mayowa


The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, last week issued a statement condemning the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party governors’ position on some salient national issues.

The statement was in response to the position of the governors after their meeting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, where they called on the Central Bank of Nigeria to stem the rapid depreciation of the naira and ask the state-oil firm Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation to resume remittances into the federation account.

Other highlights of the governors’ resolution after their meeting include the call on the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to tame the rampaging herdsmen killing people and destroying farms all over the country; arrest the deteriorating security challenges in the country and ensure economic prosperity.

However, responding to the communiqué of the governors, Shehu on behalf of the President, lashed out at their position, noting that the governors and their party contributed to the nation’s woes.

On the call for the revaluation of the local currency by the governors, Shehu said such a call could lead to the damage of export and impact on government revenue.

On the issue of herdsmen and farmers clashes, the presidential spokesman said the governors had failed to recommend a viable option and failed to support the government efforts to address the challenges.

On the decision of the NNPC to stop remitting revenue to the federation account, Shehu blamed it on the inability of the PDP governors to see reason for the removal of fuel subsidy, which would have saved billions of naira and help boost the economy.

Deconstructing the position of the Federal Government on three key issues raised by the PDP governors shows that.

  • The Buhari regime does not believe in the revaluation of the naira, more or less supported the devaluation of the local currency.

    * The Federal Government is in favour of deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector and removal of subsidy on fuel to boost government income.

    * The Buhari regime believes in taking over other people’s land to create RUGA for Fulani herdsmen across the country as peace appeasement.

    * The recent ban on open grazing by the governors of the 17 southern states did not go down well with the regime, believing that it was targeted at the Fulani, the President’s kinsmen.

    * The reiteration of the President’s decision to dig out an outdated gazette on cattle grazing route and reserves, and plan to recover land from those who have encroached on the route.

First, the position of Shehu or the so-called presidency on naira valuation is strange in the sense that the President himself was once an advocate of strong naira. In 2015, Buhari advocated the sustainability of the value of the local currency against the dollar and it took his absence from the scene due to ill-health for the then acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, to approve the deregulation of the forex market.

Beyond the President’s position on the value of the naira, logically, Nigeria presently exports less products due to the absence of an industrial base and exploitation of the country’s mineral resources and agricultural products.

The economy is presently largely dependent on importations for food, finished fuel products, raw materials for few industries and medicals. This means with the weak value of the naira against the foreign currencies, Nigeria pays more to sustain the economy and derives no advantage from a weakened currency.

The country depends on about 90 percent of its forex inflow from the export of crude oil, which is priced in dollars and we have no control over the commodity value. It, therefore, bucks logic that government is now in support of a weak currency, which has translated to higher imported inflation in the last couple of months.

On the belief in removal of subsidy on fuel, it should be stated that the most viable option available to Nigeria is the full deregulation of the downstream petroleum sector to eliminate smuggling of imported fuel into the country and ensure that resources are well-allocated to priority areas of the economy.

However, the bulk of the subsidy payment on imported petroleum products are mainly on freight, port clearance and duty, demurrage and equalisation funding. The weakened naira has also contributed to the higher cost of domestic fuel consumption.

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The most logical thing is for the government to sell its four refineries to genuine investors who will fix and efficiently manage them to supply both local market and export to the West Coast to earn more foreign exchange for the country.

This will lessen the burden of subsidy payment on the economy as well as eliminate the bloated cost input in the imported product.

On the issue of herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, what has worsened the situation is more as a result of the President’s desire to apply an ancient solution to modern challenges. How are cattle being reared in other jurisdictions? Many countries that started with nomadic rearing of cattle have since moved on to more effective and modern methods for greater productivity.

First, cattle rearing is a private business and should be seen as such. Government should rather play a minimal role in providing conducive environment for animal husbandry rather than wanting to plug in and perpetuate the culture of open grazing, which has caused more trouble for the country since the advent of this regime than ever before it.

The past military regimes invested so much of the country’s resources to build dam all over the North with the aim of supporting cattle rearing and farming. Unfortunately, those dams have more or less being turned to private use of some powerful retired military officers who deploy them for their largescale farms to the disadvantage of the poor.

The regime should encourage herdsmen roaming around the country to start thinking of modern method of carrying out their business without causing pain to farmers across the country. They should be ready to invest in their business through buying of land; the same way crop farmers buy land to sow their plants.

The plan to set up Ruga or cattle grazing reserves would amount to diverting resources that belong to all to help few people to grow their business and this will be unfair to other businessmen and women who could not enjoy such support from the government.

The government should rather direct the Bank of Agriculture to create a portfolio of loans to support cattle breeders and rearers to take such advantage to grow their business through modern methods and save the country the pain of the wanton killing currently going on across the country.

~First published in Punch Newspaper of June 23, 2021

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