INTERVIEW: Tinubu’s administration continuation of Buhari’s govt — no clear economic policy, says Ambrose Igboke

 INTERVIEW: Tinubu’s administration continuation of Buhari’s govt — no clear economic policy, says Ambrose Igboke

May 29th remains significant for Nigerians as it marks Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s one year in office as Nigeria’s 16th president.

Tinubu’s first year as president has been described as a terrible start by some, while others see it as the president’s period of finding his feet, giving him the benefit of the doubt. However, there have also been cheers from supporters.

In this interview, Ambrose Igboke (PhD), the Chairman of the Enugu State Chapter of the Guild of Public Affairs Analysts of Nigeria, examines Tinubu’s first year as president and proffers solutions to move the nation forward.

How would you assess President Tinubu’s first year in office, looking at his achievements, if any, and shortcomings?

I’d like to say Tinubu’s government is a continuation of Buhari’s government because you need to judge according to the political parties that put them up. Political parties are basically made up of the same set of people with the same ideologies.

Tinubu had a hand in the last government, and some of Buhari’s men are also in this government because they are from the same political party. However, each government comes with its agenda or framework that enables them to run the government the way they envisage it.

On May 29th, 2023, the President was inaugurated, and in his acceptance, he made one of the greatest blunders by making a careless statement declaring “subsidy gone,” which turned the economic fortunes of the country for worse in a jiffy. The “subsidy is gone” statement was too early for a president sworn in just a few minutes before.

Immediately after that declaration, filling stations stopped selling fuel, leading to almost a week of fuel scarcity. Fuel pump prices went up immediately and increased over time, reaching 600 naira per liter within seven months. Countries don’t act that way, except in cases of disasters, wars, or other uncontrollable emergencies, but this wasn’t the case in Nigeria.

This caused protests because petrol and diesel are essential resources for running the economy. When the protests started, the government became jittery.

Despite that, the Naira’s parity with the dollar reached almost 2000 Naira at one point, fuel prices didn’t increase again for almost a year later. It’s said the government secretly resumed subsidizing petrol.

While struggling with the fuel issue, the CBN, run by Tinubu’s men, decided to float the naira without any prior arrangement or plans to mitigate the consequences. This action worsened the economy. Instead of rectifying it, the government started chasing shadows, blaming open market operators, money changers, and even cryptocurrency.

In terms of the economy, this government has no clear-cut economic policy. All we hear is the “Renewed Hope Agenda,” which was used for political campaigns and is not an economic blueprint.

During Obasanjo’s tenure from 1999 to 2007 and Goodluck Jonathan’s tenure, we had clear-cut economic blueprints. Obasanjo had the National Economic Development Strategy (NEDS). Now, we don’t have an economic strategy or team. Instead of looking for competent people to run the CBN, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economic Planning, and other parastatals, they are appointing politicians and political loyalists.

For example, the president appointed someone as Deputy Governor of CBN who was later removed due to political pettiness. We have capable Nigerians who can serve the country and contribute to its growth, but they are removed for not being in the ruling political party. This is the lowest we have gone since 1999.

In the past, other political parties were invited to join hands in building the country. In terms of the economy over the past year, I score the Tinubu government very low. In the Southeast, where I live, fuel costs between 830 to 850 Naira per liter.

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Another critical area of the economy is electricity. Tinubu’s government has increased electricity tariffs to almost 300%. Trying to decieve us by creating bands and including almost everyone in Band A. The minister for power, Chief Adebayo Adelabu threatened Nigerians on national TV that reversing the tariffs would plunge the country into darkness. Such statements amount to economic sabotage which should be addressed.

There have been questionable appointments, such as a 24-year-old with no experience being made chairman of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA), a decision reversed due to public outcry.

Similarly, the appointment of 29 people from Tahir Mamman, the Minister of Education’s state to the governing councils of federal universities and polytechnics, while some states got only one, contradicts the principle of federal character.

The president needs to face governance seriously. If he wants to be remembered for elevating the country, not for depressing it, he should fire many of his ministers causing him trouble.

What key areas should Tinubu’s administration focus on moving forward?

Tinubu should learn from Obasanjo, who took over in 1999 when Nigeria was under severe sanctions due to previous military regimes.

Obasanjo didn’t complain about the past government. Instead, he formed a think-tank team, brought back talented Nigerians from abroad, and appointed intelligent people like Ribadu, El Rufai, Oby Ezekwesili, Okonjo Iweala, Dora Akunyili, and Charles Soludo. These technocrats implemented sector reforms that are still benefiting us today. So, the first step is to hire competent technocrats, not political stooges.

Tinubu needs to focus on the production sector. Nigeria isn’t producing anything, which is why the government is heavily taxing its citizens. To prosper, we must revive industries such as Delta Steel Company, Ajaokuta, and the textile industry.

We need to open all ports for exports, not just rely on Lagos port. The refineries must be operational to stop the economic madness of exporting crude oil for international and local use and then importing refined products at international prices.

The government should take care of workers’ welfare, providing valid health insurance, housing, and mortgage. It should stop listening to the IMF, which has been detrimental to Nigeria since the late 70s. The IMF keeps pushing for naira devaluation, which is harmful.

We need to resuscitate our assembly plants and various industries to provide employment and stimulate the economy. Additionally, the government must ensure that Nigerian workers have proper welfare, including health insurance and housing.

The government should stop listening to the IMF, which has been a source of bad advice for Nigeria. The IMF’s constant push for naira devaluation has been detrimental. The current administration should focus on hiring technocrats and experts, rather than relying on political appointees. The welfare of Nigerian workers should be prioritized, with valid health insurance, housing, and mortgage support.

Conclusively, to address the issues facing the country, the government must bring back production, open all ports for exports, and ensure the refineries are operational. It must also focus on competent governance, putting national interests above party politics.

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