Nigeria’s economy not distressed, says Tinubu

President Bola Tinubu on Tuesday, Tuesday, March 5, said the country’s economy is not distressed, emphasizing that the current circumstances are not beyond repair.
This is as a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu said it will take between three to five years for the economic crisis to go away.

The president’s stance against the characterization of the economy as distressed is rooted in the ongoing efforts aimed at steering the country out of its current challenges.

He spoke at the 16th edition of the Leadership 2023 conference and Awards held at the Transcorp Hotel, Abuja with the theme “An Economy in Distress: Which Way Forward?

The president was awarded Person of the Year 2023 in recognition of his “undisputable can-do spirit” that marked him out as a quintessential politician who defied monumental odds to emerge as the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), after which he went on to win the 2023 presidential election.

The award, the Newspaper also said is to acknowledge the President’s courage in taking a number of difficult but necessary decisions in order to reposition the country towards economic prosperity.

Tinubu who was represented by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris accepted the fact that the country is facing some challenges but it is not helpless.

He said: “Interestingly, that last line offers itself as a perfect answer to the question that is the theme of today’s event, which is “An Economy in Distress: Which Way Forward?”

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“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 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 subsidies, our imports of petrol have dropped by about 50 percent, which translates to roughly 1 billion litres of petrol every month, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics.

“In addition, the revenues accruing to the three tiers of Government – Federal, State, and Local – have grown by between 50 percent and 100 percent 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.

“For example, the additional funding we are receiving is going into a new minimum wage for which negotiations have started, between the Federal and State Governments and Organized Labour.

“I have approved the disbursement of N200 Billion Naira, through three (3) new special intervention funds established to support Nigerian businesses.

“The first is a 50 Billion Naira Presidential Conditional Grant Scheme (PCGS) that will provide business grants and loans to traders, food vendors, transport workers, ICT businesses, creatives, and artisans. Verification of all submitted applications is ongoing, and disbursements will commence through the Bank of Industry (BOI) as soon as this verification is completed.

“The second is a 75 Billion Naira FGN MSME Intervention Fund that will provide single-digit-interest loans to our MSMEs.

“The third is a 75 Billion Naira FGN Manufacturing Sector Fund targeting manufacturing businesses, with selected beneficiaries eligible to access up to 1 Billion Naira each.

“In addition, our new Federal Student Loan program will take off within the next few weeks, providing interest-free financing not just for students in our tertiary institutions but also covering those in vocational and skill acquisition programs as well.

“For the poorest and most vulnerable among us, the Social Investment Programme, currently under review to reposition it for maximum impact, will support millions of households with direct cash transfers that will enable them to meet their basic needs.

“I have approved 100 Billion Naira for a Presidential Initiative on CNG, which will deliver CNG-powered buses and engine conversion kits. Let me ask Nigerians for a little more patience as we await the imminent rollout of these CNG-powered buses which will bring down the cost of transportation by as much as 50 percent.

“In the area of food security, I am pleased to say that our dry season farming program which kicked off with wheat in November 2023 is well on course, and we are already set for the first round of harvest. We have received tremendous support from partners like the African Development Bank (AfDB) in this regard. As part of our own commitments as a Government, I have approved 100 Billion Naira for the National Agricultural Development Fund for the year 2024, while we have commenced the repositioning of the Bank of Agriculture to better deliver on its mandate.”

The president further shared some numbers to buttress that the reforms and other steps taken by the administration were on the right track.

According to him, “Since we assumed office in May 2023, we have attracted $30 billion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) commitments into the real sectors of the economy, including Manufacturing, Telecoms, Healthcare, Oil & Gas, and others. Those investments have already started coming into the country.

“Just a few days ago, I was in Qatar on an official visit, where the Emir assured me that a senior government delegation would visit Nigeria after Ramadan, to begin taking action on some of the new investments they are looking at here. I have asked the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy to directly interface with the Qatari authorities to ensure that speedy progress is made.

“The Nigerian economy saw a better than anticipated performance in the last quarter of 2023, growing by 3.46% (year-on-year), compared with 2.54% in the preceding quarter.

“Capital Importation into Nigeria was up 66% in Q4 2023, reversing a 36% 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.”

He added: “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 a special tribute to the memory of the late founder of the Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah.

“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.”

Speaking earlier in his keynote paper, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria said he is behind President Bola Tinubu for his bold step in removing the fuel subsidy and forex reform.

Moghalu who expressed concern by the number of politicians in the current administration, urged the President to revamp his cabinet within the first year of his administration.

The presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP) in the 2019 General election also urged the president to set up a 7 member economic team comprising of only economists.

Moghalu who delivered a keynote paper titled “Nigeria’s distressed economy, which way forward” said this is necessary if the country is to get out of its current crisis.

He also applauded the current measure taken by the Central Bank to tighten cash liquidity.

Though belated, he said it was necessary given the level of assault carried out on the bank by the last administration.

He also suggested seven key steps that can help the country get out of the current crisis.

Moghalu stressed that it would take the country about three to five years for the country to get out of the current Economic crisis, which preceded the coming of President Tinubu.

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