For Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and exporter of crude oil, most of the economic indicators are currently not looking good, despite the removal of subsidy and unification of the exchange rate by the Bola Tinubu administration.
But most worrisome is the fact that despite continued impoverishment ocassioned by low disposable income, value of the local currency, rising unemployment, prices of goods and services, particularly food stuffs have gone beyond the reach of an average Nigerian.
Infact, the country’s inflation has surged to 26.72% for the ninth time in 2023 as food prices soared across the country, reaching 30.64 percent in September, according to the Bureau of Statistics, (NBS).
Amid all these, the decision of the National Assembly (NASS) to procure and distribute utility Prado jeeps worth N130 million to lawmakers has sparked uproar on social media.
Rep. Rotimi Akin, Spokesperson of the House of Representatives confirmed the procurement plans in a statement in Abuja on Sunday night.
Rep Akin confirmed that the NASS is in the process of procuring and distributing utility Prado jeeps, worth N130 million to lawmakers, coming at a time Nigerians are grappling with economic hardship.
Akin, defending the move, said the initiative aligned with existing procurement laws, adding that it was a customary practice in previous assemblies.
He said the distribution concerned vehicles tied to lawmakers’ oversight functions in the discharge of their duties within the standing committees, and they are not personal gifts.
“For the duration of the 10th assembly, spanning from 2023 to 2027, these vehicles will remain the property of the National Assembly.
”However, should the government’s extant assets deboarding policy still be in place at the end of the assembly’s tenure in 2027, lawmakers may have the option to purchase the vehicles before they become their property,” Akin said.
Nigeria spent about 96 percent of her revenue on servicing debt last year, facilities, that most Nigerians allege, were not judiciously utilized, particularly by the last Muhammadu Buhari administration.
Similarly, most Nigerians have kicked against the federal government’s plan to borrow $1.5 billion from the World Bank.
Wale Edun, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, while speaking with journalists at the 2023 Annual Meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Marrakech, Morocco, confirmed the loan.
Edun, who promised that there would be a coordination of monetary and fiscal policies, pledged that President Bola Tinubu’s administration will not breach Ways and Means limits.
“On the talks with the World Bank on $1.5 billion budget support, that is correct.
“The World Bank is the number one multilateral development bank helping developing countries or funding developing countries, projects and programmes, and sectors.
“It has free money through either International Development Association (IDA).
“It is for the poorer countries and right now I think we qualify as one of the countries that can borrow in the normal window of World Bank funding but also some concessionary IDA funding and that means that effectively the interest rate will be zero,” Edun stated.
But, on a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 5.94 percentage points higher compared to the rate recorded in September 2022, which was 20.77 percent.
This shows that the headline inflation rate (year-on-year basis) increased in September 2023 compared to the same month in the preceding year (i.e., September 2022).
It is the highest in rise in 18 years.
Taking retrospective look at the economy, some analysts say, the future looks bleak for Nigerians as successive governments have not shown real commitment to tackling some of these economic challenges.
Friday Ameh, Lagos based analyst says he does not expect inflation to come down when the same government that promises to reduce it goes to the same markets to buy food items to distribute to some Nigerians in the name of ‘palliatives.’
Also, Kingsley Moghalu, former Central Bank of Nigeria, (CBN) Deputy Governor has kicked against the federal government’s plan to borrow $1.5 billion from the World Bank.
According to the economist, who featured on Channels Television’s Politics Today, on Monday, despite the hardship facing Nigeria in the wake of the petroleum subsidy removal, the country’s governance culture encourages extravagance among political leaders and appointees.
“The culture of governance is a very important issue that needs to be addressed and the tone has to be set from the top – from the presidency down. It has to include the National Assembly because a lot of resources go there and they are supposed to be independent of the executive,” Moghalu said.
“So, they themselves must come on board, examine themselves, and say: ‘Look, even if we have been making this mistake in the past, we cannot continue this way. We have to cut our salaries.’
I recommend a 50% cut for all political office holders and all national legislators. It would make people a little bit more sober. It would make them understand that we are in hard times.”
While citing some Scandinavian countries where their leaders take mass transits and even ride bicycles to work, Moghalu argued that Nigeria’s governance culture puts self-service above people-service.
“So the culture of governance – all these excessive demonstrations of power and influence – is a very negative culture because it shows that government is not for service,” he maintained.
“It is for self-aggrandisement. It is for political power for its own sake, not for leadership and service.”
Moghalu wondered why everybody in the country wants a siren and a long convoy, berating the political leaders for not replicating what they see in developed countries in Nigeria.
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He faulted the country’s quest for more loans, saying the monies are not used for the right things.
“So, my comment is simply a reflection of the fact that the political class in Nigeria – more broadly – has prevented the economic progress of the country because of their own self-seeking and rent-seeking behaviour,” the former presidential candidate added. “This is the problem, not borrowing.”
Reacting earlier in the day, Moghalu on his X official page said Nigeria is becoming a carcass, “and our political class its scavengers.”
“There is a real problem when Nigeria is set to borrow another $1.5 billion from @WorldBank for budget support, and SUVs worth N160 million each are reportedly to be bought for 360 members of the House of Representatives. We are not yet serious as a country.
“Nigeria is becoming a carcass, and our political class its scavengers,” he wrote.