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The economy started in recession and ended in chaos in 2017

By Dele Sobowale

”Every government is run by liars and nothing they say should be believed.” I.F Stone, American journalist.

On December 30, 2017, one of the national newspapers published a report titled “Presidency lists Buhari’s 17 achievements in 2017″. It was credited to one of his Special Advisers. He is a professional journalist. But he has become one of those about whom Julien Brenda, 1857-1952, warned us that “Journalists say a thing that they know isn’t true in the hope that if they keep on saying it long enough, it will be true.”

Economic recession

The fellow, we have been told is a Pastor – presumably “a man of God”. But Buhari’s government has been invaded by Pastors who are very active in bearing false witnesses. The pastors in Aso Rock have literally gone to the devil. The first item in the list of Buhari’s phantom achievements can be found in the twelfth verse of the list. It was pure drivel masquerading as an economic achievement.

According to Pastor/Journalist/Adviser, “”The Social Investment Programme – Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme – rolled out among dozens of states. Currently, 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily..”

It would have been wonderful if that was the truth. But, it was not. Instead what “Pastor” released was a tissue of half truths and absolute falsehood wrapped into two sentences. First, the programme undergoes a name change.

It has been called Social Welfare Programme, Social Intervention Programme etc depending on who is spreading the falsehood about it. Now, it has been re-warmed and served in the new plate of Social Investment Programme in order to disguise a senseless give-away programme as economic investment. It is not any such thing. The Special Adviser should go and read Buhari’s May 29 2015 inauguration address.

Furthermore, a dozen, any school kid knows, means twelve. So when Nigerians were served with the word “dozens”, they expect at least two dozens. In fact, there are only three dozen, 36 as a matter of fact, states in Nigeria. Surely, somebody working in Aso Rock, unless hell bent on dispensing falsehood, must know that 19 cannot be called”dozens”. But, some journalists never allow facts to get in the way of propaganda.

More importantly, the announcement that 5.2 million kids are being fed daily is a blatant lie. Buhari’s government has been telling this lie for over a year and has been challenged to provide the list of schools enrolled in the school feeding progarmme in the 19 states for verification. Till today, nobody has taken up that challenge.

Furthermore, over N100 billion has been released for the programme, but only N6.2 billion was supposedly spent on feeding school children. The Special Adviser was economical with the truth by failing to tell Fellow Nigerians what happened to over N94 billion which was not spent on feeding school children. Is there any connection with 2019 Election campaign funds?

There is no need to list seriatim all the false claims among the list of so-called Buhari’s achievement. Even if all are true, and they are not, they do not erase the overall impression of an economy which started in January in a recession; followed by the record breaking delay in getting the budget approved by the National Assembly and signed by the Presidency; and the late release of capital expenditure votes to Ministries, Departments and Agencies.

In what could be regarded by future historians as Black December 2017, it was in December 2017 that several Ministers (Transportation, Power, Information etc) went before the lawmakers to confess that they have received less than one quarter of their capital budget votes. It was in the same December that the Minister of Finance announced that only N700 billion, out of N2.3 trillion, had been released for capital expenditure for the year. She later promised to send more funds. But, even a dullard knows that any fresh funds sent in late December cannot possibly help the economy to grow in 2017.

Just as we thought that the avalanche of bad news had stopped we were confronted with two events. Several MDAs had even their overhead and salary votes trapped and could not be accessed before the year ended yesterday. Bleak Christmas for millions of public servants.

For the “Mother of All Chaos” which sent 2017 into history we need to turn to President Buhari. Read what the Head of State had to say about one of the worst tragedies to befall Nigerians in December 2017.

Recession

“At the beginning, I did address the press, telling the world that we have sufficient products that will last us 30 days through the New Year into January.” That was a solemn promise — on which millions of Nigerians would base their decisions regarding traveling for the Yuletide. We actually believed our President. We assumed that he would not give those assurances unless he had the facts – both as the de facto Minister of Petroleum Resources and President. We were mistaken. The hell, the chaos Nigerians experienced during the period has told us that we can no longer believe this President.

But, Buhari had an explanation for all that havoc created by his government. Read his explanation.

“But because the marketers wanted to inflict harm and pain on fellow citizens, they decided to hoard products, divert them and in some cases even smuggle products out of the country.” This is simply pathetic coming from the President of any country.

Instead of accepting responsibility for ruining our lives, messing up our Yuletide, Buhari has resorted to shifting the blame to “Ghost Marketers”. As usual, when this government is releasing half-truths and falsehood, Buhari did not name a single marketer who was caught perpetrating the evil they were collectively accused of unleashing on Nigerians. No single tanker was intercepted trying to smuggle fuel out of Nigeria.

At any rate, since the marketers paid for the fuel, is it not their property and are they not at liberty to do what they want with it? Were they not smuggling fuel out before December and did that create the bedlam we saw at filling stations nationwide?

And to impress us with how hard he was working, our Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, C-I-C, told us “This has been tamed by the actions we took, and I personally led the war around Abuja and other teams led the war in Lagos and other parts of the country. As of this morning, I had gone round the Abuja metropolis and I have seen that the queues have reduced significantly…”

Poor President, apparently nobody in his entourage had enough sense and courage to tell him that most of the people had gone away from Abuja and the crowd at the filling stations represented the remnants left behind – those with no places to go. If he had driven to Gwagwalada, Zuba, Suleija etc, he would have been shocked to observe the war being waged at every filling station in order to buy fuel selling for N200 to N250 per litre. One of the problems with dwellers in Aso Rock, summarized under the titled of   Aso Rock disease, is that they quickly lose touch with the reality of life outside.

While the President was deluding himself about the fuel situation on Friday December 29, 2017, I was on an extended tour, and I can prove it, which took me from Lagos to Uyo, via Owerri, Umuahia, Ikot Ekpene, Enugu, Lokoja, to Kaduna.

As of the morning of December 30, 2017, Kaduna was still locked down and fuel was selling for around N200 per litre – if it can be found. Readers should not forget that one of the nation’s scraps, called refinery, established when Buhari was military Minister of Petroleum is situated in Kaduna. There was bedlam even in the filling stations around the refinery – which is shut down.

This government should stop deceiving Nigerians. We don’t need a President leading a “war” to get petrol. We need a President who can lead without worrying about how we get fuel.

Have a pleasant 2018.


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Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.