Economic Recession: Senate Invites Buhari To Address Joint Session Of NASS

The senate on Thursday invited President Muhammadu Buhari to brief a joint session of the national assembly on his plans for getting the economy out of recession.

The invitation is in concurrence with that of the House of Representatives which passed similar resolution on September 22, inviting the president to explain to the legislature his plans to deal with the economic economy.

When the question of whether to invite the president was put by the President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, the senators answered in the affirmative.

The Senate however did not specify a date on which the President Commander in Chief is to brief the joint session.

The Senate also recommended the need for true federalism and amendment of section 162 of the constitution to review the sharing formula between the Federal Government and State governments.

 

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South East Youth Economic Summit; Israeli Investors To Support Ndigbo

By Obinna Akukwe
Israeli investors and business leads who attended the South East  Youth Economic Summit (SEYES) have promised to assist in the development of Igbo land if the government gives them the much needed support. This was contained in the speech delivered by Dr Kaspi Yoram at the South East Youth Economic Summit first day event. Dr Kaspi said that “Israelis are interested in helping establish businesses that will create employment in the South East, including skills transfer but the government has to give them the support to be able to do that”
The well attended event kicked off yesterday at the Dome , New Haven Enugu  kick started with programme overview on why the economic summit delivered by Rev Obinna Akukwe, Director General, Igbo Mandate Congress, IMC. Rev Akukwe said that the coming of the Israelis is purely for economic purposes and asked the youth “to leverage on the world class advantages the Israelis have in areas ICT, agriculture, solar power technology, global skills accounting and entrepreneurial prowess to become Africa’s leaders in these areas and reduce unemployment in Igbo land”.
The Chairman of the occasion and former Minister of Power, Professor Chinedu Nebo told the participants that the youth are the bedrock of the economy and they should learn new skill that will make them relevant on the economic market. He described the Israelis as world class technologists in many fields and asked the participants to : do everything within their reach to grab as much awareness as possible”
Father of the Day and former Governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife said that the summit is all about developing the South East. Dr Ezeife also posited that “if a tiny Israel can convert the desert to a place of wonder, then the same thing can be replicated in Alaigbo”. He told the audience that there is no political power without economic power.
Former Israeli Ambassador to Nigeria. Ishak Oren, in his goodwill message, asked the participants to partner with Israel to develop the economic potentials of the region.
Mrs Perl Dora Anat, an Israeli agriculturist spoke on facts about Israel and emphasized that the South East of Nigeria has all the advantages in terms of climate, water and human resources, and has the capacity for great industrial expansion. Perl Dvora Anat listed all the advantages the Israelis have attained technologically in the areas of agriculture and water resources and expressed hope that these are applicable in Nigeria with the coming of the Israelis.
Dr David Day , taught on the Jewish entrepreneurial spirit which had made their businesses last for many years. He also expressed hope that the Igbos of the South East will rise to the occasion and lead the industrialization of Africa.
The President of Diamond Youth Transformation Initiative, organizers of the event, Ambassador Uchechukwu Ekpere Paul, in his opening remarks, said that the summit is aimed at speedy industrialization of the South East. He asked the parrici[pants to make good use of the visiting Israeli expertise to improve on the well brrng of the South East.
Hon Ikpeama Felicia, Special Adviser to the Governor on Water Resources and Dr Anayo Agu represented Governor Ugwuanyi at the event.
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#SenateEconomicPlan: 6 Major Takeaways from Saraki’s Economic Speech

On Tuesday, September 20th, the Senate resumed its plenary activities after its yearly recess. For his resumption speech, the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, delivered opening remarks that centred solely around the economy. Saraki stated that over the next few months, the focus of the Senate would be to save Nigeria’s economy from collapse. 

Find below six of the major highlights of his speech:

#1. Saraki on Why the Economic Debate is Important

“… the simple question for our debate must be; how do we tame the widespread hunger in the land? How do we save our businesses from collapse? How do we save jobs for the majority and create even a lot more?… How do we arrest this drift so that our businesses can compete and our children can go to school wherever they may find opportunities?”

#2. Saraki On Why an Urgent Response is Needed to Fix Nigeria’s Economy

“Therefore, our response to the current challenge must be dictated by the urgency of the hardship that the people suffer on a daily basis. I say this to urge us that we must have an urgent debate on the way forward. But in having this debate we must resist the temptation of drowning the debate with apportioning blames that will neither bring solutions to the problem or reduce the cost of rice, maize or oil in the market.”

#3. Saraki on Why a Bipartisan Approach is Needed to Fix Nigeria’s Economy

“Nigerians don’t care about our politics; they don’t care about our political affiliations; they don’t care if we are APC OR PDP; north or south. What they want is for us to lead the way out of this [economic] crisis and deliver on the promises that we made to them.”

#4. Saraki on Why the Legislature and the Executive Need to Work Together

“We will work in concert, not at cross-purposes. Our goal is clear; to work together with the Executive to get our economy out of recession. We will proffer our solutions on policy issues, and where necessary enact necessary legislation to ensure that investor confidence returns to the market.”

#5. Saraki on What the Executive Needs to Do Immediately…

On Leadership: “The Executive must immediately put in place leadership-level engagement platform with the private sector. This must be one that is pro-business and shows unequivocally that government is ready to partner with the private sector towards economic revival.”

On Assets: The Executive must raise capital from asset sales and other sources to shore up foreign reserves. This will calm investors, discourage currency speculation and stabilize the economy.”

On Pension Funds: “The Executive must consider tweaking the pension funds policy within international best practice safeguards to to accommodate investment in infrastructure and mortgages.”

On Monetary Policy: “The Executive and CBN must agree on a policy of monetary easing to stimulate the economy we must ensure local government borrowing does not crowd out credit for the private sector.”

On Export Incentives: “The Executive must retool its export promotion policy scheme with export incentives such as the resumption of the Export Expansion Grant (EEG); and introduce export-financing initiatives.”

On the Niger-Delta Avengers: “The Executive is urged to engage in meaningful dialogue with those aggrieved in the Niger Delta and avoid an escalation of the conflict in the region. The National Assembly is very ready to play any role in the process and offer ideas on approaches that will deliver quick win-win in order to move the region and the economy forward.”

On Release of Funds: “The Executive must as a deliberate response consider immediate release of funds to ensure the implementation of the budget for the near short term to inject money into the economy.”

#6. Saraki on What the Senate Plans to Do Immediately…

Petroleum Industry Bill: We must ensure the passage of the PIB as soon as possible to stimulate new investment and boost oil revenue. As we all know, this bill is long in waiting and is very crucial for vital investment in the oil and gas sector. The impasse of not passing the bill is doing great harm to the industry and the Nigerian economy as a whole.”

Mortgages: “Mortgages remain key for us in the National Assembly and we will immediately begin the process of accelerating bills aimed at reforming the subsector for growth and accessibility in a manner that deepens our peoples access to housing.”

Economic Reform Bills: “…the Nigerian Ports and Harbours Authority Act (Amendment) Bill 2016; National Road Fund (Establishment, etc); National Transport Commission Act 2001; Warehouse Receipts Act Bill 2016; Review of the Companies and Allied Matters Act (CAMA), Investment and Securities Act (ISA) and Customs and Excise Management Act; Federal Competition Bill 2016; and the National Road Authority. In my view, these bills and some of the other economic reform bills we will be considering in the coming days will be critical in the creation of a basic framework to free up capital and provide the opportunities to get us out of this recession.”

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Recession: 10 Steps To Fix Nigeria’s Economic Crisis, By Perry Brimah

Nigeria needs to rapidly apply solid solutions to rescue the nation from its current recession. Millions have lost their jobs – 4.6 million according to the national statistics bureau – and millions more are suffering severe hardship and dying and at risk of death. The further down Nigeria sinks, the steeper will be the climb out of the hole.

Sadly, most of what we read from so-called economic experts is advice for the Nigerian government to consult them or others to address the economic recession. None of them has opened up in the public space, if they have the ideas, and proffered the solutions to the current economic quagmire. They keep talking like it’s some sort of riddle and as though Nigeria is not their country and they are not part of those who got the nation where it is today. Indeed we are all responsible, but most especially those who have been in governments in the past; however blaming is disingenuous and counterproductive. What Nigeria needs now is solutions.

The solutions for an economic recession, if it can be solved, are not private or secrets of any kind. This is why anyone who keeps it a mystery does not have anything good to offer. The U.S. recession was solved with simple open processes including for a big part, the “2009 Stimulus”.

A few “solution” comments I have read which include, flooding the economy and diversifying, are palliative and long-term and not to address the fundamental, acute and chronic issues that are not peculiar to Nigeria. While I am not an economist by training, as an educated Nigerian with preservation of my nation at heart, it is my duty to contribute my researched analysis on the solutions for the current problem(s).

How Did Nigeria Get Here?

While the Obasanjo and Jonathan governments definitely played a major role in getting us here by selling (Obasanjo privatization frenzy) all of Nigeria to cabal and looting all its earnings, it is counterintuitive to keep blaming them. The truth is that there is more to this recession than the tens of billions of dollars they and their private cabal partners looted and the infrastructure they failed to build. We must recognize that the recession is not limited to Nigeria. Venezuela is feeling it too; even Saudi Arabia is laying off workers in the thousands.

Two global factors played the biggest role in bringing on this economic famine.

The first was the Saudi oil war-games. By pumping oil at above quota, Saudi Arabia single-handedly determined to crash oil prices and punish all oil producers. Saudi pumps oil at under $10 a barrel which makes low prices still profitable for them, unlike Nigeria where the Obasanjos, Babangidas and other semi-intelligent, money worshipping lowly organisms exploited the country permanently with deals that produce our oil at as much as $33/barrel. Low oil prices, with oil being Nigeria’s mono-economic singular export, naturally crashed the Naira. Unfortunately when teased during an Al-Jazeera interview, President Buhari said he will never challenge Saudi Arabia on the kingdom’s crippling decisions and will not even dare threaten to pull out of Saudi-run OPEC in order to push for Nigeria’s survival. So we are stuck here as far as oil prices go.

The second factor that really triggered this recession, most specifically, the tissued Naira was a U.S. decision made public – and thus, operative– as early as March 2014, to increase interest rates. Floating this decision alone caused investors to buy-up the dollar and through 2014 before the rate was even increased, the Benjamin appreciated the most it ever had in a decade, rising as much as 12% in value that year alone. Naira crashed as did Cedis and other currencies. By December of 2015, the U.S. Fed finally increased interest rates to between 0.25 and 0.5% and the fortunes were sealed. The Dollar continued to appreciate, investors in the U.S. would get more money on their bank deposits and mortgages would rise. The rates are on course to further increase to about 0.875% in 2016. It’s summer for the dollar and winter for the Naira.
It is important to always compare what is happening in Nigeria to peer nations. Our analysts compared the changes to the Naira to the Cedis. Like the 2012 fuel subsidy removal which was not a puppet Jonathan thing per se but a mandate from the IMF as we noticed that the same subsidy was removed across West African nations at the same time on the instance of Lagarde, so also the Forex crash has been virtually identical in Nigeria and Ghana. While the Cedis dropped over the past three years under highlight, gradually, reaching a 1:4 value from the initial 1:1.7 it was in early 2014 post revaluation, the Naira was artificially retained at an inflated value and crashed in one swoop, also downgrading from about 1:160 to 1:425. Both have crashed the same proportion.

Bearing this in mind, next are frank solutions to Nigeria’s recession:

1. Actual Devaluation of the Naira

Why is there a black market, BDC in Nigeria? Why does the country have two dollar rates? This is supervised corruption and main reason why the Naira remains in free and turbulent fall.

Central Bank, CBN’s Godwin Emefiele continues to play games with Nigeria, refusing to fully devalue the Naria. A rate duplicity is maintained with the current interbank dollar rate at N305 while the parallel market sells this at N425. This dual rate is corruption and set up to favor the cabal who have been dashed billions of dollars via CBN subsidized dollar sales. Godwin and his friends are able to make N115 on every dollar. The dual rate also maintains a competition for dollars which hikes the price at the parallel market with rebound effects on the interbank rate. A recent Reuters article highlighted how corrupt governments-made billionaire Aliko Dangote was literally dashed $100 million in just over two months of Buhari’s tenure in review. Extrapolate that to a year and you get a total gift of as much as $500 million dollars.Nigeria can only come out of the recession if the Naira is truly devalued, and there is no longer pressure on the BDC (Bureau de Change). While the federal government of Nigeria is seeking a $1 billion Eurobond, it has within the same period dashed Dangote half a billion dollars in the span of a year and the cabal as a whole some several billion dollars in subsidized forex for their personal ventures while small businesses were shut out to die. This cannot continue. As Senator Ben Murray-Bruce said, the central bank is for all Nigerians and not only the cabal.

2. Recover Nigeria’s USD Billions And Do Not Borrow

The Federal government of Nigeria should not borrow money. It has no need to do so as this has no long term benefit. Rather the Buhari government should employ the services of Nigeria’s best lawyers including Attorney Femi Falana to exigently go after the more than 100 billion recoverable dollars Nigeria has abroad and with bailed-out local banks.

With the right legal maneuvers, Nigeria can immediately secure several billions of dollars in hard cash air lifts, just like Iran recently is reported to have. Nigeria must face its challenges from a position of power and not one of defeat. He who goes out with a begging bowl lives to tell a sorry tale. There are ways to twist arms and repatriate moneys rapidly. Every tool must be used.

Falana explained in February of this year, “From the information at our disposal, the federal government is owed not less than $66.5 billion (about N13.3 trillion) which ought to be recovered without any further delay…In addition, following the crisis of global capitalism… in 2008, the Central Bank of Nigeria gave a bailout of $4 billion (N600 billion) to the commercial banks in the country… The CBN has not deemed it fit to ask for the refund of the total sum of $11 billion injected into the banking system…”

Delete security vote: It must be mentioned that waste must be cut in the government. The security vote must be cut both at the federal level and at state levels. This runs into trillions of Naira mostly wasted or used to finance political, hate and terror campaigns including to pay for media attacks of individuals and groups which continue to promote deadly strife in Nigeria.

3. Take Advantage of the Devalued Naira

If it can’t be a win, win, it doesn’t have to be a lose, lose. Foreign investors are leaving Nigeria not solely because of the devalued Naira, but because of the government posture. Whereas, the crash of the Naira as all economic predicaments, should be exploited to Nigeria’s advantage with aggressive marketing of the opportunities for investors but most importantly with a strong government posture; the shaky and uncertain body-language of Buhari and his cabinet are making a double loss where there should be gain. This is the time for foreigners to invest dollars in Nigeria, most especially in its vast natural resource opportunities. A dollar goes 250% further than it used to.

Now is the time to set up quarries, to invest in mining, farming, fishing and other available opportunities in Nigeria. Now is the time to build and own estate. But why are foreign investors not coming? It is time Nigeria hones in on the opportunities of the low Naira by assuring of security of investment for foreign entities and governments. It is time Nigeria showed confident and eager leadership. We should at least turn it around into a lose, win, situation.

4. Scrap Import Ban List, Open The Market

The CBN’s import ban list has been described as a sham that has always been prompted by the cabal, the likes of Obasanjo and Dangote who typically institute these bans on products Dangote and other cabal manufacture. The import ban lists have always been set up in Nigeria’s history to promote the oligopolies of the cabal. Late Umaru Yar’adua opened the markets and prices fell. He dared to “disentangle” Obasanjo and Dangote till he was killed.

It is poor economics to force dependence on a monopoly. This is why the rich get richer in Nigeria and the poor get poorer till there is chaos. Former CBN governor Charles Soludo has lambasted this policy. It is highly fraudulent and reeks of corruption.

You cannot invite investors and expect trade cooperation while you lock out goods to promote a certain exploitative cabal. In spite of successive government promoting the same cabal, Nigeria buys cement at the highest global prices, at least double the world average. Nigeria’s “.ng” domain name sells at $100/year by these same Obasanjo-related cabal, the highest cost in the world. Virtually every product the Nigerian cabal are assisted to have monopolies on end up exploiting the masses and put money in one pocket only – the cabal’s. Markets can grow on open competition. The cabal must be encouraged to be competitive and not “it’s so much it’s like voodoo money” exploitative.

5. Lower Interest Rates And Promote Small Businesses

Small businesses employ as much as 80% of labor. As small businesses are being killed, there will continue to be mass unemployment, no purchase power and economic recession. The current CBN policies are tailored to corruptly give undue advantage to the cabal and to exterminate small businesses. While cabal buy forex at CBN subsidized rates, small businesses get none. Small business entrepreneurs have limited access to loans and when they do, they get them at unreasonable interest rates.

The federal government must immediately create alternative sources of capital for small businesses. The cabal utilize stashed loot and launder money for former administrators to run their businesses while small businesses are forced out of existence. It is better the Buhari government supports 1000 micro industries than it supports one cabal company. Cabal must be properly taxed and the taxes used to build small industry. Rather the Nigerian government currently taxes the small people to give to the cabal who further exploit the small people with highest prices in the world for goods and utilities.

The cabal have been bailed out numerous times and given waivers and dashed subsidized forex while all governments including the current fail to bailout small businesses. Interest rates must be lowered and government cash must be pumped in an organized and supervised fashion at SMEs (small and medium enterprises). Local fruit juice companies, local chemical factories, metal works, parts plants, recycling plants, solar panel assemblies, mushroom refineries and the like must be encouraged by the government aggressively and immediately.

6. Promote And Standardize “Made In Nigeria”

It is past time for a #MadeinNigeria culture. But this must be more than just a slogan. There are reasons why Nigerians do not patronize made in Nigeria goods. These include reliability. The Federal government must update the standardization boards. All manufactured goods must have warranties that are enforced, with customers being 100% protected by the government. Nigerians should be able to see the warranty label and know that it is backed and protected by law. Failure of companies to fulfill the warranty must be treated seriously as a crime with the companies being immediately shut down and the customers compensated.

Furthermore the ministry of industry must certify products. Product certification in China has boosted the country’s manufacturing sector as its goods are better regarded in global as well as local markets. Nigerians need this assurance as do potential foreign markets where Made in Nigeria goods can be sold. A portal with licensed manufacturer names and information must be available online through which goods and parts can be sourced and Nigerians companies’ accreditation by the government can be reviewed.

Only the federal government has the capacity to develop piecemeal manufacturing where parts of products are made by various small manufacturers and then later combined by other small enterprises, i.e. “division of labor.” The government must do this. The importance of the government recognizing and promoting small entrepreneurs as it currently only does the cabal can not be overstated. The government must set-up to be the link between small piecemeal manufacturers and the market.

It is time for the federal government to actively promote, support and protect a Made in Nigeria culture.

7. Naira: Think Strength Of The People, Poor Economics

Forget strength of the Naira. Think strength of the people. When the people are strong the Naira will get strong; when the people are weak, the Naira will be weak. Nigeria must forget about its Moody rating. Countries have endured tough sanctions and come out superpowers. This is not even sanctions. The Federal government of Nigeria should put the cap on people suffering and dying and not the Naira devaluing. Pull reserves if needed to strengthen the people.

The Naira will continue to drop when the government gives a single cabal $500 million dollars in 12 months then seeks to borrow $1 billion for the entire nation. This corruption makes the people weak and the Naira weak. The Naira cannot appreciate when the Presidency hugs 10 wasteful presidential jets. The people will not be convinced. The people will not have strength, sacrifice and patronize when Lai Mohammed walks in, clad in a loud diamond-sharp starched agbada, to advertise “Change” a slogan copied from Obama, and the President reads more words copied from Obama. And the Naira will not be strong. The Naira will be as weak as the weakening people when they see the circle of power sporting $40,000 watches and $100,000 bags. This government must be serious about change, or/and must immediately partition the country into pieces that will have the chance to as serious as is demanded, and to compete which each other in this.

Contrary to what capitalist economists say, the strength of the economy and currency is determined by the strength of the people and not the other way around. We must study economics for the poor and not always the predominant hegemonists’ brand of economics. Economics of the wealthy has not worked anywhere. Europe is in a perpetual recession even after deriving and the continued derivation of billions from the exploitation of Africa. America today is trillions of dollars in debt in spite of the slave trade and colonisation largesse and continued military economic escapades around the world. The late Thomas Sankara believed in and built the capacity his people. The results were shocking and immediate. We have already wasted the first year and a half of this administration building only the corrupt cabal, it is time to build the people. The Naira will follow.

8. Never Again Use a Banker As CBN Governor

Remove Godwin Emefiele and never again use a banker as CBN governor. Each of the times Nigeria appointed bankers as CBN governors, they built the banks and cabal and extinguished the masses. It is a clear conflict of interest to put a banker with vested interests and friends in the banks, as head of the Apex bank. That is like putting a wolf to protect your chickens.

With the two famous recent banker governors, crippling bank charges and fees were added upon each other to fund the banks and drain the masses in a continuous and progressing ponzi scheme. Some policies were more directly exploiting than others, but all gave the banks many free passes to make earnings off of the poor masses with no value added to the Nigerian economy. And these were done while the cabal were given humongous loans on hand shakes and billions of dollars gifts in subsidized forex. As I wrote July this year, “Recession: Nigeria’s Economy Cannot Improve So Long As Godwin Emefiele Remains In Charge.”

9. Strengthen And Decentralize The Police

Insecurity has cost Nigeria billions in economic loses from the northeast, now a humanitarian catastrophe and a drain to the economy, and continues to do so in the Niger Delta. The fastest and best solution to the continuous breakdown of law and order is stronger and local police. The Nigerian army has no role in domestic maintenance of law and order and as it continues to unconstitutionally police the state, it gets involved in more violations and provokes more deadly crises as it has done in the past. The army is not trained in investigating and arresting. It has no training in disbursing riots and protests and presenting cases to the court. The Nigerian constitution reserves its use as a back up to the police and ONLY when  and if approved by the national assembly.

There is no economy without security and there is no security without a police command that has capacity and understanding of the region. Nigeria will not be serious about economic recovery till it returns the army to the barracks and builds police capacity.

10. Find A Vision For Nigeria

I do not know the vision of Nigeria so far and if the current government has one. What does Nigeria want to be? We know the vision of Dubai and Dubai took itself there. Does Nigeria want to become a tourist center? Does Nigeria want to become the West and Central Africa central manufacturing capital? Does Nigeria wish to become the food basket of Africa? Does Nigeria wish to become the information technology capital in the world? Or does Nigeria wish to become a combination of these or some of them and others?

It is important a central vision or visions for Nigeria is developed and Nigerians are made cognisant of this vision for the future of the nation. Let’s know where we are going so every one can pick an oar and row in consonance. Today we just hear that the new administration wants to build a country, but what country will that be? It is OK to just build a country, but it is better to build a country with a particular primary vision. The world is moving away from careers as we know them. Soon all jobs will be taken over by machines, even medical jobs are at risk. Nigeria can choose a vision that places it at an advantage in the future that has already begun.

Nigeria will survive by God’s grace.

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What Buhari Told Experts, Others At The Emergency Economic Retreat

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday, September 15, held an emergency meeting with experts and ministers of the federation, to look into ways exiting the present recession facing the country.

Delivering his speech, the president gave insight into what to expect in the 2017 budget being proposed by the ministry of budget and national planning.

The president said the proposed budget, which has already been approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) but has not yet been presented to the national assembly, is focusing largely on pumping funds into capital projects to get the economy running again.

Below is the full text of his speech:

I am delighted to be here with you at this Ministerial Retreat on the Economy and the Budget.  The theme of the Retreat which is “Building Inter-ministerial Synergy for Effective Planning and Budgeting in Nigeria” is very apt and timely, especially as we are in the process of developing the 2017 Budget.

Over the years, there has been a mismatch between planned targets and budgetary outcomes at the National and sectorial levels.  The Federal MDAs have not also benefited significantly from working together and building consensus around common national objectives.  This has impeded growth and development of the country.

It is in this context that this Retreat has been designed to discuss issues around the State of the Economy and build consensus amongst Cabinet Members and top Government officials.  The Retreat will also serve as an opportunity to have a general overview of the economy and discuss the framework for the 2017 Budget, its key priorities and deliverables.

This Retreat is coming at a critical time in our economic history, when the Nigerian economy is in a recession, with significant downturn in performance in various sectors.  It is with regard to the importance of this Retreat that I decided to sit through the first part of the session to listen to the views from experienced economists and development experts on how best to implement our plans to rid the country of its oil dependence and to diversify the economy and bring the country out of the current economic recession.

This is in line with our Administration’s determination to lay a solid foundation for growth and development as outlined in the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) of our Change Agenda.

Given that this Retreat is a lead-up to the 2017 Budget, my expectation is that we will come out of the these sessions with a determination and common position on how to have improved synergy amongst the various Ministries and Departments for the effective formulation and implementation of the 2017 Budget.

I also trust that the breakout sessions will enable you to discuss extensively amongst yourselves, the details of the four sub-themes and come up with practical solutions on the way forward in order to come out with a set of prioritized projects and programmes that will fit into the 2017 Budget.

In this regard, let me inform you that because of the need to focus on our key priorities, some Ministries may get significantly less capital allocation than they received in 2016, while others may get significantly more.

You may notice that some key non-spending agencies, such as the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), the National Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and the National Pension Commission (PENCOM), are participants at this Retreat.

This deliberate inclusion underscores the commitment of this Administration to leverage on private sector resources, through Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and other arrangements, in order to augment the scarce budgetary resources at our disposal and to accelerate investments in building critical infrastructure.

Indeed, the challenges we face in the current recession require ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, to deploy strategies that involve engaging meaningfully with the private sector, to raise the level of private sector investment in the economy as a whole.

We are confident that the level of private investment will grow as we are determined to make it easier to do business in Nigeria by the reforms we are introducing under the auspices of the Presidential Committee on Ease of Doing Business.

Let me reiterate that this Government will continue to strategize on how we can turn the current challenges into opportunities for our nation and especially for our vibrant youth on whose shoulders lies the future of this nation.  This is why we have embarked on measures and actions that will open up the opportunities we have seen in the Power, Housing, Agriculture, Mining, Trade and Investment, Information Communication Technology (ICT) Sectors, Tourism, Transport and other sectors.

I wish to reassure its teeming youth that this Government would remain steadfast in its effort to ensure greater progress and prosperity for you.

While Government is taking the lead in the task of repositioning our economy for Change, we cannot achieve this completely by ourselves. We will need, and we ask for the support and cooperation of the private sector’s domestic and foreign investors, the States and Local Governments, the National Assembly and the Judiciary as well as all well-meaning Nigerians in this important task. We are confident that working together, we shall succeed.

Finally, I trust that the cabinet members will learn from the experiences of the Resource persons and facilitators to prioritise their sector programmes and projects to bring the country out of the current economic recession and place it on the path of growth and development.

I therefore urge the Honourable Ministers and other senior government officials here present, to actively participate in the Second Technical Session, which I believe will provide you with deeper insight into the complex issues that will open opportunities for you to identify critical priority projects and programmes for the 2017 Budget.

At this juncture, may I formally recognize and acknowledge the presence of the array of experts invited to serve as resource persons and facilitators at this Retreat.  I am confident that Ministers and Senior Government officials will benefit immensely from your expertise and wealth of experience.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations and look forward to receiving the report of the Retreat.

Thank you.

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Okonjo-Iweala Proffers Solutions To Nigeria’s Economic Crisis

Former Minister of Finance and coordinating minister of the economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, has proffered solutions to the current economic crisis facing the country.

Speaking on Aljazeera TV programme, AJStream on Monday, the former minister said that having a handle on Nigeria’s spiralling inflation, foreign exchange problem, fiscal deficit and debts control were key to resolving the country’s current economic crisis.

According to her, “If you don’t pay attention to the fundamentals of having a stable and good exchange rate policy, inflation under control, manageable fiscal deficit and debts, there will continue to be trouble in the economy,” she said.

She says she remained optimistic that solutions to the country’s economic decline could still be found, stressing that she would prefer the current managers of the economy to talk about the solutions.

“I have contributed the best I could to the country. It is still the most interesting country in the world. It is better to leave those who are managing now to say what they would do.

“All I can say is that there are solutions. Nigeria is a vibrant country. I love it so much. I know it is going to come out of this one way or another,” she said.

On whether she will be willing to work with the buhari government if called upon help in resolving the country’s economic crisis, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala said: “One of the things you learn as you get wiser is to talk less as you grow older.

“I have spent my time contributing to the country. It will be better to leave those managing the economy to do what they know how to do.

“I served my country for seven years and it was a great honour. The second time was very tough, but it was still an honour. I am not the only person who is a repository of knowledge. There are other people who can equally try their hands in running the economy.”

On the continental scale, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala, expressed regrets the economic gains recorded in Africa have started being eroded in the last two to three years.

“On the continent, we have seen a period when the economy was doing relatively well. It’s only in the last two to three years that things have started to go a bit south.”

She spoke about the job initiative of the Goodluck Jonathan government, YOU-WIN.

“The whole idea was to have a business plan competition. Beneficiaries were expected to create jobs to employ six people or more.

“Each created 9-10 jobs. The World Bank did an evaluation of it and found it good. I do believe the government should come in. We started a peer to peer mentoring. Now, one of the things I want to say is that creating employment is not only about struggles, it is about managing success,” she said.

On how the anti-corruption war was fought during her time in government, Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala described it as “a very tough fight”.

“It was tough. I must thank my team. You don’t do it alone. I had the support of an economic team in the Ministry of Finance. At the end of the day, you need to have some principles,” she said.

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Despite Economic Challenges, There’s Silver Linning In The Horizon, Says Tambuwal

Despite the current economic challenge confronting the country, there’s hope that measures put in place by the government will yield positive result and return Nigeria to path of growth and financial stability, Sokoto State Governor, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, has said.

In a message to commemorate this year’s eid-el-kabir sallah celebration issued in Sokoto by his spokesman, Malam Imam Imam, Tambuwal said reforms instituted by the APC-led federal government were necessary in order to halt the drift and kick-start the journey to development and self-reliance.

“We may be facing tough challenges now, but I believe they are just for the short term. Measures put in place by government will have positive impact in the medium and long term. This administration has shown strong will to diversify the economy and reduce reliance on oil. That measure has started yielding result,” he said.

The Governor said in Sokoto, various initiatives have been implemented to mitigate the effect of the economic downturn, with majority of the people of the state answering government’s call to return to farm.

“Because our citizens accepted our calls and incentives to return to farm, we expect to have bumper harvest this year especially in crops like rice, wheat, onion and millet. This will go a long way in enhancing their income and at the same time tackling other socio-economic challenges confronting them.”

While urging all Nigerians and especially the Muslim faithful to continue to pray for the country, Tambuwal also prayed to God for a hitch-free sallah celebration in Sokoto and all over the federation.

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Emir Sanusi Cautions Buhari Against Jonathan’s Economic Policies

The Emir of Kano, HRH Muhammad Sanusi II, has cautioned the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari against behaving like that of immediate past president, Goodluck Jonathan, or risk ending up like that administration.

Sanusi made the call yesterday, while delivering a lecture titled “Nigeria in search of new growth model,” at the ongoing 15th meeting of the Joint Planning Board and National Council on Development Planning in Kano State.

He attributed the current economic recession in the country to the failure of past administrations to diversify the economy.

The traditional ruler also spoke about the urgent need for the country to return to the drawing board and expand the economy through wise investments capable of yielding economic growth and development.

He said the current economic policy and its inconsistency does not favour business and investment in the country.

Sanusi also advised President Buhari to be wary of the activities of “voodoo economists at the corridors of power,” even as he implored the federal government to copy from Lagos State in formulating policies that can boost trade, business and attract investors.

He said, “If we do not expand the economy through wise investment, we can end up in classical Malthusian situation. If this government continues to behave the way the past government behaved, we will end up where Jonathan ended,” Sanusi said.

“We are always blaming the past administration, but we have also made mistakes in this administration. The problem is that there is nothing we are facing today that we did not know what happened. That is the truth.

“We made mistakes, many of them deliberate. We ignored every single warning. Not building roads, not building power and other necessary infrastructure that can boost the economy and development of the country.”

He added that a system where someone sits down and with a telephone call and make N1 billion without investing a single Kobo is wrong and unsustainable.

“We are spending 30 to 40 percent of every Naira we earn servicing debt. The new borrowings were simply recycled into much higher recurrent expenditure. The GDP was growing largely due to consumers items”.

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Nigeria: Tackling Food Insecurity Amid Economic Turbulence By Olawale Rotimi Opeyemi 

Despite millions of cultivatable land, good rainfall, sun light and weather, high population strength and millions of dollar voted to various agricultural schemes in Nigeria over the years, food insecurity remains a major battle to win. The discovery of oil led to a dramatic shift from agriculture in Nigeria; agricultural productivity dropped significantly following oil boom during the 80s into 90s, Nigeria that formerly exported palm oil among other agricultural products to other continents started relying on importation of food items she can produce.

Though global food commodity prices rose 4.2 per cent in June, their steepest monthly increase of the past four years according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, political instability, insecurity, speedily growing population, flooding and drought, rural-urban migration, lack of funding for farmers, economic instability, ethnic and religious rivalry are some causes of food insecurity in Nigeria. However, agriculture if done right can provide food for all Nigerians, create decent jobs and incomes while ensuring rural development and environmental preservation.

Globally, of the one in nine people in the world today (795 million) who are undernourished, the vast majority of world’s hungry people live in developing countries where at least 12.9 percent is malnourished. While 23 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry in Africa alone, one in every two-child death in Nigeria is from malnutrition, with over 1, 219 children dying daily as reported by the Head of Nutrition at Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health. Food insecurity is a major cause of malnutrition.

As defined by the United Nations World Food Programme, people are considered food insecure when there is no “availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.” Following the definition, as reported by The Cable-a foremost Nigerian digital newspaper, a survey assessing the socio-economic state of Nigerian households conducted by Philips Consulting between May and June 2016 revealed that 51 percent of Nigeria’s 183million people (i.e. 93million Nigerians) lack access to adequate to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to maintain health and active life.

The survey conveyed the strong link between unemployment and food insecurity in Nigeria; about 40 percent of employed respondents in the survey had never experienced food insecurity compared to 20 percent of unemployed and 28 percent of self-employed respondents. Due to lack of financial inflow, unemployed people are more vulnerable to food insecurity; in recent months, following economic turbulence in Nigeria, high and rigorous foreign exchange process, many businesses are closing down while several others are laying off staffs in hundreds.

Unemployment in Nigeria has increased significantly, up from 10.4 percent in the last quarter of 2015, Nigeria’s unemployment rate stood at 12.1 percent at the end of 2016 first quarter, the highest since December 2009. The National Bureau Statistics reported that 518,000 Nigerians became unemployed within 3 months in 2016.

As Nigeria’s population grows exponentially with no sign of relent and the economy faced with more turbulence, millions of Nigerians are faced with serious food insecurity. The surge in cost of food items has made it more difficult for unemployed and underemployed Nigerians to access food needed for healthy living.

While the population keeps growing speedily and economic crisis remain prevalent, Nigeria must tackle food insecurity which can be described as ‘time bomb’ before it explodes. Aside the fact that people facing food insecurity may die of hunger and live in unhealthy condition, hunger may equally lead to anger-motivated vices in the society. Even though the government has major roles to play in this, over the years, indications show the need for strong and purposeful collaboration between the government and private sector in solving this major issue in the nearest future.

Since Nigerian land is cultivable and the nation has good farming population, investment in agricultural sector must be taken seriously in order to cut food importation and boost local production. Nigeria spends $11 billion on food importation annually, if invested into the nation’s agricultural sector; it will increase productivity and make food available to millions of Nigerians at lesser prices.

Thousands of Nigerian farmers are small holders; they are unable to increase production due to lack of access to finance, capacity building training and modern trends in farming. 500 million small farms worldwide provide up to 80 per cent of food consumed in a large part of the developing world. This implies that, increased investment in smallholder farmers will increase agricultural productivity in Nigeria. This chain is important to make adequate food supply available in local markets. Engaging women farmers is also key, giving them access to finance and training would reduce food insecurity in Nigeria drastically.

Apparently, with shrinking oil revenue which has weakened Nigeria’s economic strength, deliberate and purposeful investment in the agriculture sector offers key solutions for development, and it is primal for hunger and poverty eradication in the nation and beyond.

(Olawale Rotimi Opeyemi is a writer/journalist; he can be reached via +2348105508224 or olawalerotty@gmail.com)

 

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Buhari’s Economic Team In Special Meeting With Experts, Consider Quick Recovery Options

…Challenges Many, But Opportunities Much Greater, Says Vp Osinbajo

Concerted efforts to address the country’s economic challenges intensified as President Muhammadu Buhari’s Economic Management Team, EMT, held a consultative forum with a team of notable economic and financial experts at a meeting presided over today by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

At the parley which held at the Presidential Villa, strategies and suggestions on how best to reflate the economy, bring it out of recession and promptly restore growth topped the agenda, with the Vice President expressing the President’s determination to continuously consider and adopt policies that would boost business, increase employment and provide succor to the poor and disadvantaged.

Speaking at the forum, Prof. Osinbajo said “we will continue to engage with experts and other stakeholders so we can measure progress of the economic policies that have been put in place. The challenges are many but the opportunities are much greater, we are clearly on the path to building an economy that will create jobs and ensure inclusive growth.”

The EMT meets weekly and also hold special consultations with members of the private sector and economic experts from time to time.

Experts who attended the four-hour long special meeting were Mr. Bismarck Rewane, Mr. Bode Augusto, Prof. Akpan Ekpo, Dr. Ayo Teriba and Prof. Badayi Sani.

Issues discussed at the consultative forum include the review of the new foreign exchange regime and its effect on the economy as well as the draft Medium Term Economic Framework for 2017-2019. The EMT members and the experts made a plethora of suggestions on how to reflate the economy, especially through massive infrastructural spending with active private sector participation, ensure pro-people economic policies, increase the supply of dollars to the forex market among other issues.

Also speaking with reporters at the end of the meeting, Minister for Budget & National Planning, Senator Udoma Udo Udoma said “we’ve just finished a special meeting of the economic management team, as you know, we are in the middle of consultations to develop the new mid-term economic framework, M-TEF.”

He further disclosed that the meeting is “part of a comprehensive consultation process that we are embarking on to make sure that we reach out to a wide spectrum of Nigerians to get a feed back in terms of how best to makesure that we come out of this recession.”

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Osun Monarch Lauds Aregbesola’s Commitment to Good Governance Despite Economic Recession

By Waheed Adekunle, Osogbo

The Oluwo of Iwo kingdom, Oba Abdul-Rasheed Adewale Akanbi has applauded Osun state governor Rauf Aregbesola for drifting the state towards economic prosperity.

The renowned traditional ruler also commended the state government for being focused and determined in piloting the train of the state to promised land even in the face of the present economic realities.

Oba Akanbi gave the commendation why receiving a Grand Royal Eminence Award from the indigenes of the ancient town.

The award presentation and launching
of historic movie titled “Adekola Telu” was organized to honour notable dignitaries in Iwoland.

The monarch who described the current economic situation in Nigeria as ever the worst in history, however extolled governor Aregbesola’s foresight towards socioeconomic, political and religious sustainability in the state.

Oba Akanbi who attributed the present economic adversity to lack of good leadership, therefore called on government at various levels to always prioritize the welfare of the masses.

The monarch who described worldly things as ephemeral, said the time has come for Nigerian leaders and traditional rulers to look beyond their noses and rise to rescue the present economic situation in the country.

Oba Akanbi said the traditional rulers and traditional institutions remained notable mechanism to avert the nation from the current economic woes, thus called on his counterparts to deploy their wherewithal to rescue the country.

He said the traditional institutions should not fold arms till country collapses just as he assured that no stone would be left unturned at ensuring the continuity of the corporate existence of Nigeria.

Oba Akanbi said the time has come for every institution to live up to expectation especially at a time the nation is being ravaged with myriads of challenges.

While itemizing some of the landmark achievements since he ascended the throne of his forefathers, the traditional ruler held that his reign has brought many developments and transformations to the ancient town in the last eight months.

Oba Akanbi said within his few months on the throne, he has been able to bring a study centre on National Open University (NOUN) to the ancient town.

He assured his subjects of continued commitment to pro-masses’ plights, adding that no opportunity would pass-by without being judiciously utilized.

Other awardees include: the spokesman of Osun state governor, Mr. Semiu Okanlawon (Golden Media Ambassador Award); Former Special Assistant to governor Aregbesola on Legal Matter, Barrister Bola Abimbola bags Legal Icon Award, Former Special Adviser to the Osun state governor on works and transport, Engr. Sabitu Oladepo Amudah bags Community Service Chief Award, among others.

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We Need An Economic War Room, By Simon Kolawole

The worst kept secret before the 2015 elections was that Nigeria’s economy was heading for a rough weather. Following a sharp drop in oil price, the 2015 budget was based on a benchmark of $65 per barrel, compared to $77.50 for 2014. Oil was selling for $115 in June 2014, but was down to $58 on December 17, 2014 when Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, then finance minister, presented President Goodluck Jonathan’s last budget to the National Assembly.

Despite the prevailing price of $58, we still fixed the benchmark at $65 — on the expectation that oil would rise to between $65 and $70 in 2015. In medical language, that budget was brought in dead (BID).

Indeed, late 2014 when the exchange rate was still N155/$1, it was predicted that the naira would exchange for over N200/$1 in 2015. Domestic and external debts were over $40 billion. The bills for on-going and uncompleted projects were over $50 billion.

With lower oil prices, reserves had gone down from a little over $34 billion in December 2014 to $28.6 billion in May 2015 when Jonathan handed over to President Muhammadu Buhari. In fact, Okonjo-Iweala revealed that the federal government had to take loans to pay workers for April and May 2015. There was no better indication of deep trouble ahead. That’s what happens when your life depends on oil rents.

The real catastrophe of the 2015 electioneering was that we never really debated issues. There was plenty to discuss on economic policy, falling oil prices, pressure on FX reserves, the fate of the naira, fuel subsidy, power sector and unemployment.

Instead of discussing ideas, PDP and APC were busy swapping insults. PDP was severely disadvantaged anyway, having been in power for 16 years and produced a mismatch of resources and results. What promises could it make again? Who would listen? Meanwhile, APC, mouthing “change”, seized the stage and promised Nigerians heaven on earth: free this, free that. The only thing they didn’t promise was free jollof rice.

In an article I wrote on December 21, 2014, titled “May We Now Discuss the Issues, Please?” I expressed worries about the vagueness of the campaigns. I wrote: “I am one of those Nigerians who cannot be easily moved by political slogans.

I love the music of ‘change’ as rendered by the APC, but talk is cheap. What we need to know now is the content of this ‘change’. Jonathan has said we should move ‘forward’ not ‘backward’. Whatever! Let Buhari and Jonathan come out and tell us to our face what they want to do about the Nigerian condition.” For some reason, Nigerians seemed to be more excited by gutter fight. And they got it in abundance.

In his widely circulated article, “Buhari vs. Jonathan: Beyond the Election”, published on January 27, 2015, Prof. Charles Soludo, former CBN governor, did warn that whoever won the presidential election would face a mountain of economic problems, caused partly by declining oil prices.

He wrote: “The tragedy of the current electioneering campaigns is that both parties are missing the golden opportunity to sensitise the citizenry about the enormous challenges ahead and hence mobilize them for the inevitable sacrifices they would be called upon to make soon.” Soludo got a fair dose of abuse for his effort. But after the assault, his prediction is here with us.

With the economy suffocating Nigerians, what now? In my last article, “Where do we go from here?” I traced our current economic challenges to the state of affairs inherited by President Buhari, compounded by his own ideological hangover. I said recovery would be slow and painful and there would be no easy answers.

I also posed three questions: One, how do we first stabilise the economy and stop this bleeding? Two, where is the recovery roadmap so that the average Nigerian can hope for light at the end of the tunnel? Three, how do we ensure that if there is another oil boom, we will utilise it intelligently and escape from the “petropathetic” syndrome?

CBN Governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, has been carrying the can for the economic wreckage since Buhari came to power. We all know that monetary policy, which he oversees, cannot on its own address the historical structural defects in the economy. Monetary policy can be more urgently implemented and immediately visible in exchange and interest rates, but can it lead to economic growth on its own? Can it improve trade on its own? Can it industrialise Nigeria on its own? Can it create jobs on its own? In the absence of a cabinet and important policy instruments to complement monetary policy, local and foreign investors despaired.

With the naira sleepwalking to the gulag, Emefiele started throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the forex market. But it would appear the more he did, the more the naira was determined to slide into the bottomless pit. Although the capital controls, the restriction of forex sale to 41 items, the restriction on the use of naira cards abroad and the dollar swap deals with the banks have combined to keep our reserves within reasonable range to maintain our access to international trade, we remain desperately in the woods. It’s like a vehicle on a long journey without enough fuel. It will stop breathing at some point. The naira started devaluing itself without waiting for anybody.

Debate went on for long over whether or not the CBN should officially devalue the naira. For 16 months, Emefiele — with the full backing of Buhari — resisted the pressure. Apparently, there was this hope that oil would miraculously recover to ease the forex crisis. It did recover at some point, but the Niger Delta Avengers made sure we did not reap the benefit. Forex inflow, which averaged $3.4 billion per month in previous years, kept nose-diving. In 2016, it has been undulating between $500 million and $400 million per month! There is no way the massive shortfall will not destroy the naira in an import-dependent country.

Boxed into a corner, the CBN finally introduced a “flexible” exchange rate to attract foreign capital. Now we cannot even recognise the naira anymore. From the official rate of N197/$1, it is going for N311 at the interbank market. Everything has gone haywire. The foreign investors we tried to attract by “floating” the naira are yet to board the plane, and we’re beginning to wonder if they are aware we still exist. Many economists say we are paying the price of delayed adjustment — which I agree with to a large extent — but, let’s be honest, monthly forex inflow cannot drop from $3.4 billion to $400 million without crippling consequences on the naira.

What next? We need to renew confidence in the economy. Last week, I proposed that Buhari should draw up a roadmap with timelines and milestones on his recovery plan. This will create a sense of urgency and direction. I have listened to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, Mr. Udoma Udo Udoma, minister of budget and national planning, and Kemi Adeosun, finance minister, articulate plans to broaden the economy, eliminate inefficiencies, reduce waste and block leakages. These, to me, are good but not suited for the problems at hand. The economy is in A&E. What we need urgently is an emergency recovery plan. It doesn’t stop long-term planning, in any case.

That is why I am now thinking Buhari actually needs an economic war room, made up of experts from outside the government who would regularly advise him and his economic team on the way out of this crisis. It shouldn’t be party-based. Buhari needs the best talents he can get from anywhere, and he shouldn’t go for the usual suspects. The “group think” in Aso Rock needs to be subjected to some modulation from the outside. He should get competent advisers and pull them into the war room. This bleeding must stop. We are in a war situation, economically, and the president must look outside his immediate circle for ideas.

During the global economic crisis in 2008-2009, Mr. Barack Obama, on winning the US presidential election, appointed an economic recovery advisory board in spite of the White House structures. The board reported regularly to him and his economic team. It was chaired by former Federal Reserve chairman, Paul Volcker, with members drawn from business, labour and academia. Obama said he wanted to “pierce the insularity” of Washington decision-making processes. The American economy did not start recovering until his third year in office, but at least Americans knew he had a clear-cut recovery plan. Buhari should consider a similar support system.

“Buhari needs the best talents he can get from anywhere, and he shouldn’t go for the usual suspects. The group think in Aso Rock needs to be subjected to some modulation from the outside”

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS

HOUSE OF WAR
Pardon my gloating, but I am always excited when members of the Nigerian political elite enclave take on each other and let us into their dirty secrets. I am enjoying every second of the on-going public drama between Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin, the former chairman of the house appropriations committee, and Speaker Yakubu Dogara. I’m inclined to believe everything I’m hearing about the budget padding and the pillaging. Unfortunately, because it is an “in-house” matter (pardon the pun), we are never going to get to the bottom of this. Nevertheless, I want to keep hearing the salacious details of what our leaders do with our money. More!

FILM FURY
I wept after reading Malam Jafar Jafar’s take on the scrapping of the proposed N3 billion Kano Films Village because of protests by clerics. The 20-hectare village, modelled after Indian and Chinese film centres, was to have a cinematography centre, a 400-capacity auditorium for training, a three-star hotel and a shopping mall, among others. In the view of the clerics, this is an invitation to sin, and an attempt to fast-track the end of the world. In the view of President Muhammadu Buhari, the clerics are right. So he has cancelled the project. I hereby advise the Plateau state government to lobby Buhari to relocate the “sin city” to Jos. Hell!

TRAIN OF THOUGHT
As President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Kaduna-Abuja rail on Tuesday, my heart glowed. The project was conceived by President Olusegun Obasanjo. President Goodluck Jonathan did the bulk of the work. Buhari completed it. Thank God it was not discarded. APC, characteristically, does not want to give any credit to Jonathan because of the narrative that he achieved nothing in five years. Does it matter — as long as the rail will make life better for millions of Nigerians, irrespective of tongue, religion and party affiliation? The Yoruba would say a woman spotted a snake and a man killed it, and so what? Progress!

TEENS TALK
Celebrated columnist and bestselling author, Mr. Olusegun Adeniyi, is not a deacon for nothing. He is working seriously to justify his “anointing”. He is co-ordinating the Teens Conference holding in Abuja on August 13, 2016, organised by The Everlasting Arms Parish of RCCG. The teens, who have to register at www.rccgteapteens.org to participate, will be listening to priceless advice on career choices from Mr. Godwin Emefiele, CBN governor; Mrs Ifueko Omoigui-Okauru, former chairperson Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS); Mrs Chinelo Anohu-Amazu, the DG of PenCom; and Ali Baba, ace comedian. Inspirational!

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