Unfolding events around the national economy, security, general cost of survival in Nigeria in the past few days have once again sparked serious concerns over the direction the country is heading.
In particular, the recent announcement of the federal government’s decision to hike the prices of such essentials as petroleum products and electricity have ignited widespread discontent and anger across every segment of the Nigerian society.
Concerned about this mounting national anger, the Coalition of Northern Groups met in Kaduna to review the alarming rise in the cost of living in the face of pervasive poverty and fast spreading general insecurity of lives and property.
The meeting was also to underscore the failure of public policies on the key pillars required for building a strong national economy, security, unity and survival, which have resulted in enormous hardship to vast segments of the Nigerian population.
In the light of this development and the unfolding scenario in the country that is pregnant with unforeseen circumstances, the CNG observes as follows:
- That whereas the present administration had upon inception identified economic revival and security as major components of the three pillars of its change agenda, its entire national economy and law and order assets appear incapable of arresting an imminent drift towards poverty and the likelihood of the setting in of anarchy.
- That the government’s mismanagement of an economy already adjudged in a second recession, is characterized by significant loss of output, massive youth unemployment, a rising level of poverty, instability, and irregular migration of skilled and unskilled labour.
- That despite the administration’s claims to fighting a war against corruption, the entrenchment of mediocrity has left the country worse than it was five years ago in the global corruption perception index.
- That the present administration had been tolerated for too long even with its level of impunity in the dispatch of goods and services which gravely endanger the peace, unity and development of the country.
- That the administration’s audacious impunity climaxed with hikes in fuel pump prices from an initial N87 to N151.50k per litre; electricity tariff from N22 to N66 ; and Value Added Tax (VAT) to 7.5% from 5%.
- That these unjustified and unjustifiably indiscriminate increases with concommittant effects on life sustaining essentials like foodstuff and foreign exchange rates have resulted in exponential escalation of inflation, despair, crime and criminality.
- From the inception of this administration, the cost of a bag of rice for instance, had risen sharply to N28,000 from N8,500; bag of maize to N21,000 from N3,000 and fertilizer to N12,000 from N2,500.
- Dollar exchange rate has risen to N480 from N195; ECA to $2.5bn from $72m; external debt to $27bn from $9.6bn.
- Crime and criminality; insurgency and banditry; armed robbery and kidnappings; rampant rapes and sexual abuses, smuggling and corruption; poverty, hunger and destitution; IDPs; unemployment and school dropouts have thus escalated to totally unacceptable proportions.
- External reserve; value of human life, Naira value, International respect, citizens’ dignity, standards of education, health and life expectancy have fallen drastically.
- That government has lost the courage to assume sole responsibility for the regulation and control of market forces thereby abandoning Nigerians to the mercy of cutthroat multinational communication and sundry service providers, unscrupulous internal profiteers that infest the banking and other financial institutions and largely extortionist government policies of multiple taxation.
- This has reached a point where government looks on as oil marketers such as IPMAN become sole determinants of prices of fuel while banks impose ridiculous charges on customers at will and telecom operators extort Nigerians in exchange for low grade services.
- That whereas the accepted universal practice is for governments to subsidize costs of essentials in line with citizens purchasing power, the Nigerian government rather provokes more hardship on the population with inconsiderate, unregulated harsh economic and financial policies.
- That it is frightening for President Buhari to blame the current hike in commodity prices on middlemen in the same way he accused middlemen of his failure with the economy as Military Head of state in 1984.
On the basis of the foregone critical observations, the CNG hereby resolves to:
- Call on the federal government to announce an immediate and unconditional reversal of the prices of fuel to the earlier N145 per litre and electricity tariff to N23 with the assurance of regularity in quality and quantity of supply, assume full control of commodity pricing, jettison all aspects of unwarranted taxation, halt the current multi sectoral extortions by multinational service providers, banks and other financial institutions.
- Direct all our state chapters to mobilize other civil society and pressure groups in their states and address individual petitions demanding an immidiate and unconditional review to their respective state governments or houses of assembly for transmission to the presidency.
- CNG National Secretariat is to engage the National Assembly, the federal government and all relevant national and international agencies to force a reversal of these imposed harsh realities.
- Put the public on the alert for a possible prolonged nationwide resistance in the likely event of government opting to grandstand.
For the avoidance of doubt, government and all concerned institutions should note that the excesses and impunity by government have been tolerated for too long and the younger generation of Nigerians is no longer going to be disposed to their collective future destiny being taken for granted.
We are strongly convinced that the President’s desperation to shift the blame for this hardship on some middlemen only confirms failure to provide leadership.
We find it strange that the President would admit failure to learn from lessons of history after having made similar accusations against the same class of people over the same issue 36 years ago.
While President Buhari may be forgiven for certain shortcomings by reason of old age and poverty of ideas, Nigerians and indeed the whole world will never forgive him for refusing to learn from lessons of history.
We therefore warn the authorities to note that Nigerians are quite aware of the demands of the office of the president which primarily include providing economic, financial, political, social and security safeguards to citizens irrespective of class or status.
Another major demand for governance everywhere in the world is to regulate the application of the law on all categories of citizens to protect the weak from from the strong and uphold equality before the law which the president has contradicted with his admission of incapacity to checkmate the saboteurs he says he knows.
It should be noted that the rising citizen anger could only be managed with the immediate reversal of all the policies innumerated above. Anything short of that, would be unacceptable and stands to be resisted.