…Demands End To Politicians’ Wasteful Lifestyles
Civil rights advocacy group, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, (HURIWA), on Tuesday, faulted Monday night’s speech of President Bola Tinubu to Nigerians suffering the crushing economic effect of the abrupt removal of petrol subsidy.
HURIWA, in a statement by its National Coordinator, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, described the President’s speech as academic, highfalutin and totally detached from the realities of the 130 million Nigerian masses who have been further mired in the bog of poverty and lack with the President’s assumption of office on May 29, 2023.
The group said the President failed to tell Nigerians his plans to resuscitate public refineries after the previous All Progressives Congress (APC) government of Muhammadu Buhari spent billions of naira renovating the four public refineries.
HURIWA dismissed most of the proposed palliative measures as empty rhetoric for as long as the government decided to punish poor Nigerians but has no strategy to catch and prosecute crude oil thieves who according to the Rights ensured that even as a broke nation, Nigeria lost $10 billion to crude oil theft in seven months
Between January and July of last year under a government of All Progressives congress same as the party that produced President Tinubu. HURIWA lamented that Nigeria, which is presumed as Africa’s biggest oil producer, lost an average of 437,000 barrels of oil a day to criminals.
HURIWA recalled that around September 8, 2022 the Group Managing Director of NNPCL, Mele Kyari, headlined the State House media briefing, expressing concern about the menace of oil theft undermining Nigeria’s production and consequently fiscal capacity. The Rights group said this same head of NNPCL is the central character that pushed for withdrawal of subsidy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that has created atmosphere of deep rooted poverty amongst millions of Nigerians but the same government has allowed thieves of crude oil to continue to enjoy their loots.
Mr Kyari had blamed various sections of the Nigerian society for being complicit in the theft of millions of barrels of crude oil, mentioning even that make-shift pipelines and stolen fuel have been found in churches and mosques. Between January and July, Africa’s biggest oil producer lost an average of 437,000 barrels of oil a day to criminal entities and individuals who illicitly tap pipelines onshore and offshore in the Niger Delta region, accirding to a data analysis recently published by a media thinktank.
At current prices, the stolen oil is worth more than $10 billion, which is equivalent to N4.3 trillion (at N430 to a dollar). This financial loss is more than 50 per cent of Nigeria’s external reserves. It is also more than double Nigeria’s total revenue between January and April, a period when Nigeria’s total revenue was unable to service its debt and the country had to borrow for everything else including payment of workers.
On June 16, 2023 the Niger Delta ex-militant leader, Asari Dokubo, had accused the Nigerian military of being behind 99 percent of oil theft in the country.
Dokubo made the accusation after a private meeting with President Bola Tinubu in his office recently.
He Asari Dokubo stated that the President has promised to investigate allegations of huge oil bunkering by notorious naval commanders that are kingpins, and promised to take decisive action to halt the shameful act. Dokubo added that there are powerful cabals operating from Abuja, vowing that these powerful forces in place have now met their match and many people would soon be marching to Kuje.
HURIWA said the presidential broadcast was grossly deficient in details regarding the strategies already in place to confront economic saboteurs in the upstream and Downstream sectors of the petroleum industry but rather President Tinubu concentrates all his initial economic policies on inflicting existential pains on millions of Nigerians with costs of living still ballooning out of control even Twenty four hours after the Presidential broadcast.
HURIWA also asked that politicians lead by example and cut their excessive spendings even as they told Nigerians to persevere.
Tinubu had removed subsidy on petrol during his epic inauguration speech on May 29, 2023, with a litre of the petrol jumping from N184 to over N620 and food prices and general inflation galloping at an unprecedented rate.
In his address on Monday, Tinubu promised to review workers’ salaries and minimum wage.
He also announced a N75 billion palliative for the manufacturing sector, saying 75 businesses would benefit within a nine-month period spanning the third quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of next year.
The President also noted the administration’s recognition of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises and the informal sector as drivers of growth.
Tinubu went on to declare a N125 billion fund to energise “this very important sector”.
To boost the agricultural sector, Tinubu disclosed that N200 billion would be spent as part of its plans to support the cultivation of 500,000 hectares of farmland and all-year-round farming practice remains on course.
According to him, provision has been made “to invest N100 billion between now and March 2024 to acquire 3000 units of 20-seater CNG-fuelled buses”.
However, HURIWA’s Onwubiko said, “These measures are very academic and logically slippery. Where are the farms? Are the farms in Southern Kaduna/ Benue, Enugu whereby armed Fulani terrorists are destroying farmlands and the counter insurgency war hasn’t succeeded? So which farmlands will these foodstuffs be produced?
“The cost of living has ballooned out of control and these cosmetic, theoretical templates laid out in the speech such as supporting 1,300 Medium and small scale enterprises with paltry N50k each is like scratching at the problem because as Tinubu was reading his written academic speech, a small basket of tomato that was N5k on May 28th 2023 is N38k in Abuja and you can then imagine the cost in the South East with all the sit-at-home orders that traders are intermittently forced by armed gangs and terrorists to observe.
“What about North East whereby ISIS affiliated terrorists are killing cattle rearers and have chased away fishermen and farmers? Tinubu’s measures are a drop in the ocean.
“Furthermore, the decision to allow the vagaries of demand and supply determine the value of Naira shows that the government is incompetent and unwilling to defend the local currency just as there are no signs that the N1 trillion Tinubu said he saved from the withdrawal from fuel subsidy has been reinvested into building infrastructure.”
“The President is asking the dying masses to exercise patience whereas those who blew away billions of dollars of public fund meant to fix the local refineries have been left alone to enjoy their loots. Politicians who swim in opulence off the public funds should cover their faces in shame that thousands of Nigerians are dying from starvation and economic deprivation due to the thoughtless policies of the Tinubu’s administration.”
HURIWA said it aligned itself with the philosophical questions raised by the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association asked as follows: “Did the President in all sincerity confront the issues head-on? No, he only offered an improved form of palliative which was more structured and sensible. He should be commended for that. But to convince the discerning that he means well the President must do more than play to the gallery or engage in mere platitudes as he did in last night’s national broadcast.
HURIWA just like Chief JB Daudu is proposing that the President must as a matter of urgency (a) announce austerity measures targeted at the excessive spending and grandiloquent lifestyle of the Executive and Legislative arms of Government, (b) reduce exponentially the overall cost of Government, (c) ban the use of ostentatious and opulent tools of movement by Government officials, (d) direct the Ministry of Finance not to process any new foreign loans for the next 5 years and (e) develop a holistic plan to repay existing loans and fight corruption; not the current anti corruption fight, which is only targeted at perceived enemies.
HURIWA asserts that it fully adopts the position by JB Daudu that: “If politicians or the present political class fail to provide good governance devoid of kleptomania or kleptocracy then their use of democracy as an alibi or byword for bad governance is gradually coming to an end. After all, it is true that these politicians can fool some people all the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time.
HURIWA also faulted the futuristic palliatives promised to Students as mere academic propositions and wondered why all these steps were not implemented before any of such far reaching economic austerity measures are adopted. Moreover, HURIWA said aside providing paltry N50,000 credit to 250,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, the millions of other struggling Nigerians who have now been shoved aside to the margins of absolute poverty and on the verge of been sent to their early graves due to high costs of living brought about by devaluation of the Naira and excessive costs of petrol, were not captured in the Presidential address made by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. At best these palliative measures reeled out Monday’s night are soundbites of a politician desperate to win the by-in of the suffering masses who are best advised not to capitulate and be swayed by these sweet talks of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.