By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – A coalition of over 60 Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in Nigeria, yesterday, decried what they termed “steady and continuous decline of the Nigerian economy” under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The groups, at a strategy meeting they held in Abuja yesterday under the aegis of Nigeria Civil Society Situation Room, said there was urgent need for President Buhari to evolve a sustainable economic plan that will attract foreign investors into the country.
The leader of the coalition and Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Center, PLAC, Mr. Clement Nwankwo, in his opening remarks, said the “dwindling economic fortunes of Nigeria” could be a function of the inability of President Buhari to appoint his Ministers six months after he assumed office.
He said: “The major challenge we are currently facing is that we cannot see the urgency of this administration to improve the situation. It was unfortunate that after the six months that it took to come up with list of proposed Ministers, those we saw are those that have always been around the hood.
“Why it took so long to forward their names to the National Assembly is quite a puzzle to us.
“Why Ministers who have been cleared have not been sworn in is also a puzzle to us. We are almost in the first week of November. The laws are clear that government should have submitted its budget projections for 2016 by now.
“We would have thought that Ministers would have been around to help finalise budget for presentation to the National Assembly.
“Everyday we hear on social media that some people have returned money they stole from the treasury. The government should do well by telling us who they are, the amount returned and since the money is unanticipated, we should be told what it will be used for.
“So much information and misinformation is a major worry for us. We are desperately concerned to see the government begin to function”.
Nwankwo also faulted the current foreign exchange regime operating in the country, saying, “person who is attune with modern day economics cannot recommend such”.
According to him, “We want to see change reflect in proper understanding of the Nigerian economy”.
Likewise, the Chief Executive Officer of Economic Associates, Dr. Ayo Teriba, in a paper entitled ‘Towards a Policy Framework For Economic Inclusion in Nigeria”, noted that President Buhari inherited so many economic problems from the past administration.
He however maintained that “this regime should do quick, wake up and address the problems”.
He said: “Using six months just to share portfolios is not how to go about it. Currently, there is fiscal disconnect. The revenue of the government has declined, relative to the Gross Domestic Product.
“Nigeria has the highest economy, yet the lowest revenue. The revenue has steadily declined. The revenue to GDP in 2014 was 11%, while 25% is what non oil producing economies like South Africa, Egypt and Morocco, have. Other countries like Angola and Algeria that have oil, have higher revenue level of 33%.
“Nigeria should have about 40% like it use to have in 2004. The reason for the decline is not that revenue are not collected, but the leak-out from government processes, e.g, crude oil theft, subsidy fraud, wide spread abuse of administration of import duty and tax waivers, abuses by autonomous income revenue collecting agencies that spend what they collect as they wish, only remitting about 80% to the Federal Government.
“There is also the issue of sectorial and regional exclusion. We currently have one of the worst unemployment rate in Africa. Our economy today compared to 1960 is weaker. Nigeria needs an orderly plan to raise revenue. There is need for this administration to not only stop the leakages, but to also institute periodic watch on impact of fiscal reforms on revenue inflows.
“The new regime should have told us the situation they met at least by May, and what has changed within the first quarter since it took over. It should tell us if there is no more crude oil theft.
“Currently Nigeria has not been attracting foreign investment, we urge this administration to make the economy more attractive. Steady currency regime is required to spur growth”, he added.
Aside PLAC, other members of the Situation Room that met in Abuja yesterday included CLEEN Foundation, Action Aid Nigeria, Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), Enough is Enough Nigeria, Wangonet, Partners for Electoral Reform, JDPC and Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth & Advancement (YIAGA), CWAE. Others are Development Dynamics,Human Rights Monitor, Election Monitor, Reclaim Naija, Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, Centre LSD, CITAD, Stakeholder Democracy Network (SDN), CISLAC, WREP and Proactive Gender Initiative, among others.