Buhari’s Foreign Trips And Nigeria’s Frail Economy
BEVERLY HILLS, February 25, (THEWILL) –Amid growing worries about the poor state of Nigeria's economy and related domestic challenges, the frequent foreign trips by President Muhammadu Buhari have come under sharp criticisms. With only nine months into his first term, the president has embarked on over a dozen foreign trips at the detriment of the home front.
It has become critical that the president stays more at home to govern the country and salvage the nation's near comatose economy. The value of the naira against major world currencies has fallen by more than 50 percent in the parallel market since he assumed office while oil revenue has been on a downward slope, reaching its lowest ebb in a decade.
THEWILL is committed to the recovery of looted funds and collaboration with other nations to fight terrorism, which the presidency has claimed to be hallmark of the trips. But this can only be done, side by side with proffering urgent solutions to the dwindling economy.
Only last week, Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka urged the president to convey an emergency economic conference to discuss the state of the economy. This clarion call is critical to the realities on ground, and only a president who sits more at home can steer the drift.
THEWILL therefore calls on President Buhari to immediately constitute an economic conference, in this regard to present his administration's economic blueprint and encourage a robust debate around it. We believe that no amount of diplomatic shuttles will solve the chronic domestic challenges plaguing Nigeria.
For instance, the manufacturing sector has become comatose, leaving the nation to depend on importation to sustain the people. The growing army of unemployed people has continued to escalate. It is lamentable to note that the country depends on importation for virtually every product. We have become a nation of people that cannot produce enough food to feed ourselves.
This is the time to diversify the economy, away from the mono-product oil revenue economy. The nation should retrace its steps to the sixties, where agriculture was the mainstay. Practical steps must also be taken to drive the solid mineral sector and only a President who is home can make these happen.
The looming return of militancy has compounded crude supply. Sadly, fuel queues have started to return to filling stations in some major cities in the country. This is coming at a time when electricity tariff has been jerked up by as much as 40 percent, without a corresponding improvement in energy output. These and many others, including the unpalatable fiscal and monetary crisis, have combined to put the nation on its knees.
Those who argue that the trips are frivolous, claim that about $1 million goes into each of these trips. The president is currently on a week-long visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia, having visited Egypt earlier. Countries so far visited by him are: Niger Republic, Chad, Germany, South Africa and United States of America, which he has visited twice. Others are Benin Republic, Ghana, France, India, Iran, South Africa and Benin Republic. Others include United Arab Emirate, Kenya, Ethiopia, France and United Kingdom.
At the current level, over $25 million may have already gone into these trips. That may imply that about 20 percent of the 2016 budget might go into financing foreign trips alone.
THEWILL posits that the entreaties by government spokespersons that the trips are structured under very stringent budget, cannot be sacrificed on the altar of pressing domestic challenges, all of which demand that the president stays more at home to drive the economy.