On Monday, November 21, 2016, the newspapers reported that allocations to the Federal, state and local governments had lost N31.8 billion compared to the September figure. The next day, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) disclosed that the economy had shrunk by 2.24 per cent in the third quarter, worse than the second quarter.
Two bad news reports in many days about our nation have, once again, driven home the idea that the Age of Oil is gradually coming to an end in Nigeria. The two reports are interlinked, as we head for the end of the worst year in our economic history in more than thirty years.
It is one of the accidents of both fortune and history that the same Head of State, Muhammadu Buhari, would be associated with the 1984-85 recession and the current economic downturn. Incidentally, a month ago, two of Buhari’s top economic policy managers were reassuring Nigerians and the global community that there were signs that an economic recovery was underway.
The report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) not only puts the lie to such re-assurances, it also leads to the question: does this government have any credible plans for economic recovery? Nigerians have been promised a Blueprint for Economic Recovery in December, 2016. We need this blueprint pronto, because most indicators look really gloomy.
Already, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) which is a weather-vane of sorts for confidence in the economy, has just gone through one of the worst weeks in its history, shedding over N280 billion in five trading days. And, there are fears that the next few weeks might follow that pattern
President Muhammadu Buhari should realise that delegating the headship of the economic management to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo is not synonymous with abdication of his leadership. The eyes of all Nigerians are on him, and he must prove that the mandate given him to lead the country to prosperity as he promised is actualised.
As we come to the end of November and with December in sight, we are very expectant of the Blueprint for Economic Recovery. This document, which is coming very late in the 19th month out of the 48-month lifespan of this administration, must be better handled than other financial documents that have emanated from the Presidency, which invariably got returned to the Presidency for lack of content and rigour. It must carry implementation timeliness. It must be a document that raises morale.
This expected Blueprint might well be the last hope for stakeholders. If it fails the basic requirements like other documents that have been rejected by the National Assembly, the economy might fall into a disastrous depression.
The consequences will not be pleasant.