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March 5, 2024

Be patient, my economic reforms ‘ll stabilize Nigeria, Tinubu tells Nigerians

I’ll justify the trust Nigerians place on me – Tinubu

File: President Bola Tinubu

By Luminous Jannamike, ABUJA

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has urged Nigerians to remain patient as his administration’s economic reforms begin to take effect, promising a more stable and prosperous future for the nation.

Speaking at the 16th Edition of LEADERSHIP Annual Conference and Awards where he was honored as ‘Person of the Year’, Tinubu, represented by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris Malagi, argued that while the path to a more robust and stable economy may be fraught with challenges, Nigeria is on course to achieving lasting economic success with the government’s reforms.

He went on to address the audience with a bold statement about the country’s economic health, emphasizing that while the times are difficult, they present unique opportunities to build a more sustainable economy.

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According to Tinubu, the controversial removal of fuel subsidies has led to significant savings and increased government revenue, poised to positively impact Nigerians. He stressed the benefits this has brought to the nation’s finances, including funding various social and economic support programs, such as a new minimum wage, with negotiations already underway.

Furthermore, Tinubu announced the approval of a N200bn disbursement through three new special integration funds aimed at supporting Nigerian businesses, education, and vulnerable households.

The President explained the range of beneficiaries, from traders to transport workers. The second and third funds, totaling N150bn, are designed to assist small and medium-sized enterprises and manufacturing businesses, respectively.

In the education sector, Tinubu mentioned a federal student loan program that will soon offer interest-free financing to students in tertiary institutions and vocational skill programs.

Tinubu highlighted a N100bn investment in a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) initiative to reduce transportation costs and a 100 billion Naira allocation for the National Agricultural Development Fund to bolster the agricultural sector.

The President pointed to positive economic indicators, such as the $30 billion in foreign direct investments attracted to Nigeria and the significant GDP growth recorded in the last quarter of 2023.

While signaling confidence in Nigeria’s improving economic landscape, Tinubu stressed that these achievements are evidence that Nigeria’s economy is not in distress but is instead undergoing transformation. He urged the Nigerian media to balance their reporting by focusing on both the current challenges and the bright future ahead.

He said, “I should start by respectfully challenging the notion that Nigeria’s economy is indeed facing challenges. Describing our situation as ‘distress’ suggests helplessness and being at the mercy of forces beyond our control. However, that is not the case. We are certainly in challenging times, but these times are also marked by unprecedented opportunities to reassess costs and build a new, sustainable economy, moving away from the rent-seeking and wasteful practices that were once commonplace.

“The Leadership Group, as you yourself have alluded to, has made difficult but necessary decisions. Since the removal of fuel subsidies, our petrol imports have halved, saving about a billion liters according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics. Moreover, revenues accruing to the federal, state, and local governments have grown by 50 to 100% since the subsidy removal. This increased revenue means more funds are available to directly impact Nigerians’ lives through investments in critical infrastructure, social security, and other areas.

“For instance, the additional funding is being directed to a new minimum wage, for which negotiations have begun between the federal government, state governments, organized labor, and the private sector. I have also approved the disbursement of 200 billion Naira through three new special integration funds to support Nigerian businesses. The first, a 50 billion Naira Youth Entrepreneurship Support (YES) program, provides business grants or loans to traders, artisans, ICT professionals, creatives, and transport workers. Verification of applications is underway, and disbursements will commence via the Bank of Industry once complete.

“The second is a 75 billion Naira MSME Intervention Fund, offering single-digit interest loans to small and medium-sized enterprises. The third, a 75 billion Naira Manufacturing and Export Fund, targets manufacturing businesses, with selected beneficiaries eligible for up to 1 billion Naira each. Additionally, our new federal student loan program will soon offer interest-free financing to students in tertiary institutions and those in vocational skill acquisition programs.

“To assist the poorest and most vulnerable, our Social Investment Program is being reviewed for maximum impact and will support millions of households with direct cash transfers. I have approved 100 billion Naira for a presidential initiative on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), which will deliver CNG-powered buses and engine conversion kits. This initiative promises to reduce transportation costs by up to 50%.

“In the realm of food security, I am pleased to report that our dry season farming program, launched in November 2023, is progressing well, with support from partners like the African Development Bank. To further support agriculture, I have approved 100 billion Naira for the National Agricultural Development Fund for 2024 and have commenced the repositioning of the Bank of Agriculture to fulfill its mandate.

“As I conclude, let me highlight figures that affirm our right economic trajectory since we assumed office in May of 2023. We have attracted $30 billion in foreign direct investments into sectors such as manufacturing, telecoms, healthcare, oil, and gas, among others. These investments are beginning to flow into the country. Just recently, during an official state visit to Qatar, I received assurances that a high-level government delegation will visit Nigeria post-Ramadan to action some of these investments.

“Our economy outperformed expectations in the last quarter of 2023, growing by 3.46% year-on-year compared to 2.54% in the preceding quarter, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Capital importation into Nigeria increased by 6% in the last quarter of 2023, reversing a 6% decline from the previous quarter. In January 2024, the Nigerian Stock Exchange All-Share Index surpassed 100,000 points, reaching its highest level ever.

“Considering these data, it’s clear that ‘distressed’ is not an accurate descriptor for the Nigerian economy. Indeed, we face challenges, but they are the result of necessary reforms. Considerable effort is being invested to alleviate these pains and place our economy on a sound and firm foundation. We’re also witnessing incredible investment opportunities, especially in the energy sector, as we stabilize our foreign exchange market and macroeconomic indicators.

“I ask for the continued patience and support of all Nigerians, including the elite gathered here today. To the Nigerian media, I urge you to report not just the challenges, but also the solutions and opportunities. Our story is one of a nation taking the correct measures, and feeling the fleeting pains that will come with this course of action. The glorious dawn is indeed assured.”