By Levinus Nwabughiogu
ABUJA— Pentecostal Bishops Forum, yesterday, told President Muhammadu Buhari that there was hunger in the land.
The clerics made their feelings known after a closed door meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. Their cry came as President Buhari, at the campaign of All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship election rally in Benin City, Edo State, assured Nigerians that the nation’s economy would soon get out of its current doldrums, even as Vice President Osinbajo blamed the country’s economic quagmire on bad governance and corruption of past leaderships.
The bishops, however, appealed to the President to hire experts to help him fix the economy, saying Nigeria needed not to lose its greatness in the comity of nations.
Speaking to State House correspondents through their chairman, Archbishop John Praise Daniel, after the meeting, the bishops said it was imperative that Nigeria was brought back from the path of poverty and hunger.
He said they were in the Villa to tell the President about the effects of some social vices, including the killings by Fulani herdsmen.
“We came from all over the north, we came to pay a courtesy call on the VP. We came to congratulate him and thank the government for their efforts so far since they came in about a year ago, especially in stamping out the Boko Haram menace and in ensuring security all over the nation.
“We came to also talk to him on the need for the nation to work together in unity, to move on in peace, the disturbing factor of the Fulani herdsmen, and to give our advice on how the government can foster unity, peace and progress.
“We are a united nation and nobody should be thinking individually but collectively of making Nigeria great. And, also, let the government know that, yes, we have agreed we are in recession, the people down there who we lead are suffering.
“There are cries all over the place and let the government do whatever it can to alleviate the sufferings.
“We thank God that the President promised he will look at the hunger Nigerians are going through and we do believe that because the President is a man of integrity, he will follow up on his words to ensure that the sufferings of Nigerian masses are reduced. If we have all the infrastructure working, things will work.
“Agreed, we are suffering from the effect of misrule of past leadership. All the same, we believe Nigeria is a great nation, and we can work together with our genuineness, our commitment and our intellectual intelligence to move this nation forward. And they should not be afraid to look for economic experts.
“They should not stop to get who can help in our economic recovery to ensure everything goes on well so that this country can bounce back as a great nation that we have always been. We want to ensure this country remains the great nation we have always dreamt and talked about,” Daniel said.
We’ll come out of our economic doldrums
But the President at his party’s governorship campaign in Benin, said the economy would soon come out of its present parlous state, having also recorded remarkable improvements in security, especially in the North East.
He said: “I assure you that we are going to get out of our economic doldrums, we are almost out of our security problem and we are going to make Nigeria greater again.
“We are going to be very proud of our country once again, our size, our resources will not be for nothing. We will continue to grow.”
Osinbajo blames it on corruption, bad governance
Responding to the call of the bishops, Vice President Osinbajo said corruption and bad governance were responsible for the present economic quagmire in the country, but noted that there was great hope that the country would prosper.
He said: “This country has been badly governed. We are dealing, for instance, with the embezzlement of funds to the tune of $15 billion in one sector alone.
“We have not turned attention to the oil and gas sector, where the former CBN governor alleged that $20 billion was stolen. We must condemn and stand up against this level of corruption. It is the single most important reason of the current state of the country. We can’t ignore it.”
He called on Christian and other religious leaders in the country to condemn corruption “openly”, adding that “we can’t say because they are Christians or Muslims, we won’t condemn those involved in corruption.
“The country has been systematically destroyed. Our currency depreciated because we don’t have the reserves to back it. At the height of the oil boom, there were no savings,” Osinbajo noted.
He stated that the vandalisation of pipelines in the Niger Delta had worsen the situation, with the country losing about 1 million barrels of oil per day for up to six months now.
“That is the background for the sort of situation we find ourselves. God surely has a plan for this country. We (as a government) are open, honest, transparent and we shall use the resources of this country very well,” Osinbajo assured.