Pan-yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF) and others have raised concerns about rising cost of living occasioned by recent policies of the Federal Government. Particularly, they complain about the impact of the rise in price of fuel price which they claimed has worsened economic woes. They accused govt officials of living in affluence while they tell the common people to make sacrifice.
Afenifere, in a statement, yesterday, raised eyebrows over the huge debts which the previous government plunged the county into and lamented that the situation is so bad that in servicing the debts, the President Bola Tinubu-led government may find it herculean raising funds for the provision of social services and infrastructure.
The organisation said infrastructure development in Nigeria had stagnated because government’s overhead costs have exceeded its revenue generation.
It also decried the high cost of living in the country tasking the Federal Government to embark on policies and programmes capable of engaging millions of unemployed citizens.
In the statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi, Afenifere also advised against increasing taxes even as he condemned the recent increases in the fees of government schools.
It recommended that to overcome the prevailing harsh economic conditions, government should seek debt relief from its major creditor countries, reduce the size of government at all levels, block areas of leakages of public resources, especially finance, create jobs through new economic policies, and ensure that security and safety of lives and property become a permanent feature in the country.
Afenifere called on Tinubu to resuscitate moribund industries in the country to provide jobs for youths and reduce criminality.
“Doing so will create employment, reduce crimes, boost the nation’s economy, strengthen the Naira, and earn the country foreign exchange. For now, the government should refrain from increasing taxes and fees but explore ways to enhance productivity and reduce pains’, it advised.
Part of the statement read: “Nigeria needs far-reaching and deep-rooted steps for the current economic quagmire facing the country to be ameliorated. At the moment, Nigeria’s debt profile is so huge that it is spending about 97 per cent of its revenue to service the debts according to many official sources including the Debt Management Office (DMO), Federal Budget Office, Ministry of Finance, and the World Bank.
“When the World Bank disclosed that Nigeria spent 96.3 per cent of its revenue to service its debt in 2022, the then Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed objected, saying that it was ‘only’ 80.6 per cent. If a person earns N100 and has to use N80.5 of it to service his or her debts, how would N19.5 be enough to take care of feeding, transport, health, education, care for the family etc.?
”Incidentally, the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr. Ben Akabueze, also at several fora, including when he spoke at a Retreat for the 10th National Assembly Members in Abuja in May, this year, confirmed that the country is servicing its debts with an amount that is above the revenue it is generating.
“The situation is such that very soon there may be no more funds for the provision of social services and infrastructure. To prevent possible social chaos in this respect, President Tinubu must embark on diplomatic shuttles to get debt forgiveness from our creditors. Doing so would certainly be herculean in view of a similar benefit we enjoyed under former President Olusegun Obasanjo government in 2005, which we later mismanaged.
“But given the potential of Nigeria and the possibility of President Tinubu to convince everyone that his own administration is going to be different, it is possible that the creditors may listen to the plea. For such a plea to succeed however, there is an urgent need to drastically cut down on the emolument of public officials, especially political office holders, block the holes through which public funds leak and wage a serious war against corrupt officers – presently in or out of office. Only by doing these three things will those we approach for debt forgiveness listen to us.
“For instance, the National Assembly cornering N70 billion out of the N500 billion announced for palliatives is not only uncalled for, but it also demonstrated clearly how insensitive our elected officers are to the plight of average Nigerians. The President should prevail on them to rescind their decision in this regard.”
Reacting through its President Dr. Pogu Bitrus, MBF agreed that Nigerians were really suffering because of the hike in fuel price and wondered why incumbent government and even the previous ones have remained adamant about fixing the country’s refineries.
He agreed that the debate around the subsidy and its removal has been a contentious issue from one government to the other, but expressed doubt about the reality of the term subsidy. He noted that even if there was anything like a subsidy, the removal was ill timed.
“Today, we are told that the subsidy has been removed and that we are going to pay for the cost of fuel at international price. The question is: where are we getting the fuel from? Is it not our own fuel? Why can’t the government instead be committed to building refineries and ensuring that they work? To me, it is all deceit.
“Secondly, is it the right time to remove subsidy if at all there is anything called subsidy, because the rationale is still being queried all over the place? If indeed there is subsidy, is it the right time for its removal right? I don’t think so because nothing has been put in place to take care of it and the government has not told us that there is anything being done to put the refinery in place.
“We have the petroleum products, why can’t we refine it. Which kind of government is this? One government after the other, the same game is being played. Why is it so? It means there is something; maybe this subsidy thing is a conduit pipe where governments at different levels find ways of siphoning Nigeria’s money into their pocket, otherwise why is it the same problem every time,” he stated.
The AYCF, which spoke through it president, Yerima Shettima, said government must be responsible enough to know that Nigerians were suffering because the essence of government is to make life easier for the people.
He advised the government to look inward and see how the leaders could cut the cost of governance. “To that extent, all hands must be on deck; everybody must have to face the reality. When we talk about sacrifice, it is not just about the people, the government or the leaders on their part must do something.
“Leaders must cut costs. This madness about convoy and allowances of all sorts, including cars, wardrobe, furniture and domestic staff must be stopped. The long convoy must be reduced. So many things must be reduced so that the money will be properly used for the welfare of the people; that is how it is done in other parts of the world,”
He decried a situation where only the citizens are urged to make sacrifices, saying, “you can’t ask citizens to make sacrifices while you continue to enjoy all the luxuries of this life, packing money from everywhere, moving with all kinds of convoys and putting security all over yourself and your friends. This madness must stop. The leaders must make sacrifices.
“The citizens know that they are already dead; it is just for them to be buried.
The fact still remains that you can’t govern people who are dead; you can only govern people who are alive and it is the responsibility of the government to provide for them. So, leaders must make sacrifices so that at the end of the day, we can move on, pending when things will be clearer. So, already they know that there is suffering in the land and people are dying on a daily basis. This must be stopped because if we all die, who are they going to govern.”