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Citizens wait on Buhari as Nigeria’s economy shuts down

By on May 24, 2015

Five days to the inauguration of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, it appears that the Nigerian economy has shut down as the outgoing government of President Goodluck Jonathan is more concerned with sacking and making new appointments than addressing pertinent national issues that could positively impact the lives of the citizenry.

But like prisoners approaching the end of their terms, Nigerians are full of expectations as only five days separate them from May 29 when a new administration, which they hope will translate dreams into reality and expectations into concrete and visible actions, will be coming on board.

Events of the past few weeks in the country are, increasingly, accentuating these expectations and there seems to be a sense of apprehension among the citizens as to whether the country is shutting down in preparation for the inauguration of the new government.

Prolonged fuel scarcity, which has been aggravated by an industrial action by Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), almost zero power supply nationwide and government’s morbid silence and inaction in the face of all these deepen the expectation and hope that the country and even life itself can only get back its essence from the in-coming Buhari government.

Nigerians have continued to groan under the weight of worsening economic hardship, occasioned by the current fuel scarcity.

Checks by BD SUNDAY revealed that many parts of the country have been experiencing fuel crisis which has since assumed a frightening dimension in Lagos and a few other cities.

In Lagos, the nation’s commercial capital, at the time of going to press, nearly all filling stations had run out of petrol. Analysts say the ugly development threatens the economy that depends almost entirely on imported petrol and diesel in the face of comatose public power supply.

Oil marketers under the aegis of the Major Oil Marketers of Nigeria (MOMAN) have continued to stick to their guns refusing to bring in any fresh consignment of petroleum products in protest against N200 billion they allege the Federal Government owes them in fuel subsidy from previous import arrangement which remains vague to the Nigerian public.

“We have not been paid, so we don’t have money to import. The Federal Government still owes us N200 billion,” Femi Olawore, the executive secretary, MOMAN, told BD SUNDAY on phone.

Isaac Abere, general secretary of NUPENG, denied claim in some quarters that tanker drivers were refusing to lift products from oil depots.

Abere said the fuel situation was basically a case between marketers and the government, and that NUPENG needed not be linked to it.

“Issue of fuel supply at this time has nothing to do with tanker drivers. There is no fuel to lift. We understand that major marketers involved in fuel import are scared that the incoming government might renege on payment of outstanding money owed them. That is the issue,” said Abere.

Corroborating Abere’s views, Comrade Abidoye, Lagos zonal secretary of the Petroleum Tanker Drivers (PTD), who told our correspondent that tanker drivers were employees of truck owners including Nigerian Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and had limited say over the current fuel scarcity.

Abidoye said they were ready to lift products once supplies were guaranteed at the depots.

“We are on ground, but we can’t do it alone. Lifting of products comprises marketers, NARTO and us. We are presently off the roads because Lagos State government said we should leave to allow motorists enter since there is no fuel to lift. We are waiting for fuel to come,” said Abidoye.

It would be recalled that a few days ago, Yemi Osinbajo, vice president-elect, said Nigeria’s local and foreign debts stood at $60 billion.

Osinbajo made the revelation in Abuja while declaring open the two-day Policy Dialogue on the implementation of the Agenda for Change organised by the Policy, Research and Strategy Directorate of the APC Presidential Campaign Council.

Painting a gloomy picture of the nation’s economy, the vice president-elect lamented that most of the states cannot pay salaries on account of the country’s dwindling resources.

“Local and international debt stands at US$60 billion. Our debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6 billion, 21 percent of our budget. On account of severely dwindled resources, over two-thirds of the states in Nigeria owe salaries. Federal institutions are not in much better shape. Today, the nation borrows to fund recurrent expenditure.

“This is also against the backdrop of a highly unequal society in which, by some reckoning, the largest chunk of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small percentage of our population. Our manifesto offered a vision of shared prosperity and socio-economic inclusion for all Nigerians that leaves no one behind in the pursuit of a prosperous and fulfilling life,” Osinbajo said.

All through history, Nigerians have not had it so bad; they have in the past couple of weeks experienced extreme hardship arising from acute fuel scarcity in a country adjudged the 6th largest oil producer in the world and it has been such that many have started consoling the country by asking citizens to regard this period as that darkest moment before the dawn.

The incoming administration of Muhammadu Buhari knows pretty well that it is coming to power with moral burden epitomised by the change mantra that earned the All Progressives Congress (APC) and its presidential candidate the resounding victory in the March 28 poll. How they are going to employ that change to right the many wrongs of yesterday forms the crux of these expectations that are not only pervasive but also obsessive among citizens.

Analysts who spoke with BD SUNDAY alleged that the outgoing administration may have been so overwhelmed by the problems of office that it is now anxiously wishing that May 29 were to be tomorrow for it to exit.

Meanwhile, expectations are high that the Buhari administration will be a cure-all, at least, in the long run.

Expressing optimism over the capability of the incoming administration to address the ills of the nation, Olisa Agbakoba, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), said: “I think we are tired of election promises, because this time, we have a new President who has come to office on the major campaign slogan of incorruptibility and public accountability. So, it’s our duty as citizens to speak out and for the media to hold him to account. In the first 30 days, we want to see results.”

Agbakoba also urged Buhari to give Nigeria a new deal.

“Nigeria reminds me of the great depression in the US, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the President. The country had collapsed and people were despondent. Nigeria has that same parallel. So, what Roosevelt did is what I hope Buhari will do. He should have a massive plan of action which he executes. Having been elected President, he must have come with a clear idea of who and who will assist him develop the plan. I have raised some issues which I feel are relevant for Buhari to address in the letter I wrote him. But if he doesn’t tackle the issue of national order and anti-corruption framework, the other issues such as the economic matters, financial services sector, aviation/space, legal/justice sector and housing/mortgage will fail,” he said.


[Business Day]