Bakare to Buhari: Rejig of forex policy
Latter Rain Assembly Pastor Tunde Bakare yesterday called for the restructuring of the federation, the reform of the foreign exchange regime and an added pep into the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari’s former running-mate in the 2011 presidential election made his views known in an address to his church members in Lagos which he dubbed “State of the Nation’’ broadcast. It was with the theme: ”Looking into the future with the eyes of faith.’’
He said: “It is unfortunate that the ‘change’ mantra “that was once the rallying cry for progressive development has now become associated with retrogression and suffering.”
He recalled that Nigeria’s founding fathers agreed that Nigeria would be “a truly federal state with limited and specific powers allocated to the Federal Government, and residual powers inherent in the regional governments”.
According to him, this agreement was the social contract upon which the Nigerian state was formed.
Pastor Bakare said that this social contract was broken on May 24, 1966, through the Unification Decree by the late Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi’s administration.
He said President Muhammadu Buhari had the opportunity to provide the leadership Nigerians wanted by being at the forefront of the quest for change.
”Mr. President and his team must summon the courage to make hard choices, especially the choice to restructure and the choice to embrace the necessary self-sacrifice that precedes economic recovery.
“May 29 this year will mark two full years of this administration in government. We have no more time to waste.
“Mr President must galvanise his team to get the job done; square pegs in round holes must be removed or put in appropriate places.
“It is time to demonstrate leadership, wise judgment and astute public policy that guarantee stable and prosperous nationhood upon a foundation of peace, and build a well-ordered nation with strong institutions dispensing justice.
“It is time to arise with patriotic zeal, to build a great nation such that years from now, generations yet unborn will look back at their history, not with disdain, but with gratitude to God that our generation preceded theirs.
“May 2017 be the year we look into the future with the eyes of faith and take steps to accomplish all that we know is possible,’’’ he said.
Pastor Bakare explained: “To understand why we must restructure, let us take a quick look, for example, at the administration of education in Nigeria. At Independence, the entire Northern Region, which comprises the current 19 northern states, had one Ministry of Education headed by one minister.
“The entire Western Region, which comprises the current six states in the Southwest and roughly two states in the South South, had one Ministry of Education headed by one minister. The entire Eastern Region, which comprises roughly five states in the current South East and four states in the current South South had one Ministry of Education with one minister.
“Therefore, there were only three ministries of education headed by three ministers in the entire country and they were responsible for the rapid educational advancement that took place in that era as the regions competed through such policies as free education to achieve socioeconomic development.
“Today, we have 36 ministries and 36 commissioners for education which, together with the federal ministry of education, consume a huge chunk of the limited education budget through recurrent expenditure.”
Pastor Bakare said Nigerians were grappling with are the consequences of the economic policies of the Buhari administration.
He said the policies, especially on exchange and interest rate, should be discarded forthwith and more pragmatic ones implemented.
“To begin with, the confusing and discriminatory multiple dollar to naira exchange rates – favourable to some and not so favourable to others, and without doubt confusing for potential investors – must be discarded while a more reliable and predictable exchange rate, mutually beneficial to our people and economy and attractive to foreign investors, should be put in place,
“Similarly, prohibitive and punitive interest rates must be lowered in order to liberate the creative ingenuity of our people as well as encourage those who can access mortgages at affordable rates to become homeowners, especially if our Pension Scheme is up-to-date and robust.
“The multiplier effect of the removal of these bottlenecks in our economy will cushion the effect of the current recession on our people,” the preacher said.
The cleric also decried alarming levels of inflation in the country, which he said had seen the prices of everything —from staple food supplies to electronic appliances and automobiles — skyrocketed.
”It is time to demonstrate leadership, wise judgment and astute public policy that guarantees stable and prosperous nationhood upon a foundation of peace; it is time to build a well-ordered nation with strong institutions dispensing justice; it is time to arise with patriotic zeal to build a great nation such that, years from now, generations yet unborn will look back at their history, not with disdain, but with gratitude to God that our generation preceded theirs.
But Bakare gave a pass mark to Buhari on security, diversification of the economy and anti-corruption fight.
“On insecurity, Nigerian Security Tracker 10, a portal of the United States Council on Foreign Relations, which maps violence in Nigeria, reported a decline in deaths per month from violence perpetrated by a combination of state and non-state actors, including Boko Haram, from 767 deaths in May 2015 when this government came into power, to 250 deaths in December 2016, nineteen months into the administration.
“The group’s capacity had also diminished significantly from the control of 13 local governments just before the 2015 elections to a resort to suicide attacks by the turn of 2016.
“Under this administration, 21 of the abducted Chibok girls were also released to their parents in October 2016, and, last Friday, Rakiya Abubakar, the latest rescued Chibok schoolgirl, was reunited with her parents in Abuja,” Mr. Bakare said.
“To crown it all, at the tail end of 2016, Sambisa Forest was liberated and the Boko Haram flag was captured by our gallant soldiers,’’ Bakare said.
“The government’s diversification efforts have also propelled increased attention to agriculture with the sector growing by 4.54% in the third 10 quarter of the year despite the 2.24% year on year reduction in growth rate. The third quarter also saw growth in non-oil sectors including fishing and crop production.
“These are signs of a diversifying economy. Therefore, the assumption that the Buhari administration lacks direction is questionable. The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which aspires to a 7% growth rateand redirects budgeting and planning towards a made-in-Nigeria focus,16 is further indicative of the policy direction of the current administration.
“On corruption, we have seen some progress in the anti-corruption war, with the relevant agencies recently extending the fight to elements within the judiciary suspected to have been major impediments to the successful prosecution of the war. Be that as it may, it is my considered opinion that we are still fighting corruption – our nation’s perennial archenemy – with kid gloves.”