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Our economy not in distress, says Tinubu

The economy is not in distress and the current situation is not beyond redemption, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu said yesterday.

He stressed that efforts were on to navigate the country out of the current challenges.

According to him, the latest economic indicators do not portray a country in distress.

Former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Deputy Governor, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, who backed Tinubu’s reforms, said time was needed to address the issues.

They spoke at the 16th Leadership Conference and Awards held at the Transcorp Hotel, Abuja.

Its theme was: “An economy in distress: which way forward?”

The event was organised by Abuja-based Leadership Newspaper.

Tinubu, who received the Leadership Newspaper’s Person of the Year 2023 award, was represented by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris.

The President acknowledged that the country is faced with challenges but is not helpless.

He said: “I should start by respectfully challenging the notion that the Nigerian economy is in distress.

Distress suggests helplessness, being at the mercy of something we have no control over. But that is not the case here.

“We are in challenging times, no doubt, but these times have also been marked by unprecedented opportunities to reset the course and to build a new and sustainable economy, away from the rent-seeking and the waste that was once the order of the day.

“The Leadership Group has itself alluded to the ‘difficult but necessary’ decisions that we have taken.

“Since the removal of petrol subsidy, our imports of petrol have dropped by about 50 per cent, which translates to roughly one billion litres of petrol every month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

In addition, the revenues accruing to the three tiers of Government – Federal, State and Local – have grown by between 50 per cent and 100 per cent since the removal of the petrol subsidy.

“This means more funds are available to directly impact the lives of Nigerians through investments in critical infrastructure, social security, and other areas.”

Tinubu said the economy saw a better-than-anticipated performance in the last quarter of 2023.

He noted that it grew by 3.46 per cent (year-on-year), compared with 2.54 per cent in the preceding quarter.

Capital importation into Nigeria, he said, was up 66 per cent in Q4 2023, reversing a 36 per cent decline in the previous quarter.

In January 2024, the Nigerian Stock Exchange All Share Index (ASI) crossed the 100,000 points mark, its highest ever, the President said.

“There is no one who looks at this data who will conclude that ‘distressed’ is the accurate way to describe the Nigerian economy.

“Yes, we are challenged in a number of ways. But these are the outcomes of necessary reforms, and a lot of effort and energy is going into alleviating these pains and setting the economy on firm footing.

“And we are seeing incredible opportunities for investment in every sector of the economy, as we stabilize our foreign exchange market and our macroeconomic indices.

“I ask for the continuing patience and support of all Nigerians, including the elite that is very well represented in this room today.

“To the Nigerian media, I urge you to strive to report not only the challenges but also the solutions and the opportunities as well.

“Ours is a story of a country that is taking the right steps, and feeling the fleeting pains that will come with this course of action. A glorious dawn is indeed assured.”

The President also paid tribute to Leadership founder, the late Sam Nda-Isaiah.

He said: “Your memory will continue to live on, not only in our hearts but also in your brilliant writings and in the family and the business legacies that you left behind.

“To Madam Zainab Nda-Isaiah, thank you for carrying on so boldly and powerfully from where Sam stopped.

“We appreciate what you’re doing, and we will continue to support you.”

The award organisers said the Person of the Year honour was a recognition of Tinubu’s “undisputable can-do spirit” in defying the odds to emerge as the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate, going on to win the 2023 presidential election.

The award, the newspaper said, is also to acknowledge the President’s courage in taking many difficult but necessary decisions to reposition the country towards economic prosperity.

Moghalu backs ‘bold decisions’

The keynote speaker, Moghalu, backed the Tinubu Administration’s petrol subsidy removal and forex reform.

He urged the President to further cut down the cost of governance by reducing the size of his cabinet.

He recommended the setting up of a seven-member economic team comprising only economists.

Moghalu hailed the current fiscal measure taken by the Central Bank.

He said: “The past 10 years were particularly ruinous.

“They were the years of the locust, marked by unprecedented mismanagement of fiscal policy, unproductive external borrowing, unnecessary budget deficits, illegal Ways & Means lending by the Central Bank of Nigeria to the federal government to the tune of N30 trillion, and unprecedented corruption.

“Earlier, a combination of oil price shocks and an incompetent policy response from the CBN, in the form of an attempt to fix the exchange rate, all helped give us two recessions within seven years.

“Many of these things happened because, as we witnessed, there was a successful political assault on the independence of the central bank, with the storekeeper willingly handing over the store keys to the marauders.”

Moghalu said while Nigeria attempts to tackle its immediate problems, it must understand that they are simply symptoms of the long-ignored root causes.

We should not repeat the cycle of past crises that did not force us to fix our economy for good, to be productive and to create wealth and jobs for the average Nigerian.

“It is time to reposition our economy for the long term, out of the lessons of today’s challenges.

“I maintain my position, which is a matter of record, that the decisions to remove the petrol subsidy and forex subsidy were bold and correct.

“We have lived a lie for 40 years and the chickens have come home to roost.

“Given the country’s revenue challenges in the crude oil production and export sector, Nigeria could no longer afford to subsidise the importation of refined petrol, at least fully, and could no longer afford to defend the value of the Naira artificially.”

On the Economic Advisory Council, Moghalu said it should be composed of distinguished economists and economic thinkers with a strong track record.

“This full-time advisory council will recommend the reforms and implementation steps to truly diversify Nigeria’s economy and turn the country into a full Emerging Market economy such as Malaysia, Chile, Turkey and Thailand within the next 10 years.

“Of particular importance for the work of this council will be the challenge of poverty, how the government can take 100 million people out of poverty into the middle class in 10 years and advising on how the human development-GDP growth/GDP per capita-structural transformation continuum can be achieved,” he said.

Obi: no reason for country to be poor

Also, former Anmabra State Governor Peter Obi, said the country has no reason to be poor.

He urged governors to work towards making the country great again.

Obi said: “We have no reason to be poor considering what we have in Nigeria. There is no reason for Ukraine to give Nigeria grain. Let us invest in the north.”

Rain of cash for Salisu

 Leadership celebrated Awwalu Salisu, a tricycle operator who returned N15 million to a passenger in Kano.

It was a rain of cash for him as Niger State Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago gave him N250 million: N50million on behalf of the President; N50 million on behalf of the governors; N50million on behalf of APC; N50million on behalf of Niger State and N50 million for himself.

Obi, who was a presidential candidate in last year’s election and his former running mate Datty Ahmed offered Salisu a scholarship at Baze University, Abuja.

Chairman of Leadership Group Limited, Zainab Nda-Isaiah, described the event as “very special”.

“This conference and awards year after year provide an exceptional platform in setting the agenda and offering solutions and new insights to a range of the country’s problems.

“Today’s (yesterday’s) event coincides with the 20th anniversary of the founding of LEADERSHIP – the dream of one man, my husband – the Great Sam Nda-Isaiah,” she said.

Source:The nation