Huriwa To Buhari-: Your Economic Policies Not Well Thought Out, Breed Hunger, Crimes And Poverty:

By Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)

Riding on the crest of ‘change’ and ‘next level’ mantras into his first and second tenures of his administration, President Muhammadu Buhari made ssignificantly huge body of promises to the Nigerian populace, presenting the dividends the country stands to gain through his leadership. The Prominent Civil Rights Advocacy group HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has expressed disappointment that the Nigerian government is systematically driving Nigeria to unmitigated disaster, doom, instability and insecurity.

However, with an unenviable reputation as the world’s new poverty capital, about 40% (82 million people) of Nigeria’s population are living on less than 1 $US per day, according to figures from National Bureau of Statistics, it is evidently clear that the economic policies of this administration are anything but articulate, and are not well thought out just as the cabinet ministers and Directors General of ministries, Department and agencies of government are so dissonance and distant from the core economic policies of the Central government but are currently engaged in a free for all bonanza of corruption, ineptitude and crass opportunism thereby driving millions of citizens into intolerable cruelty and mass hunger. The failure of the Nigerian government to negotiate effectively with the striking University teachers who have being on strike for many Months shows how far removed from realities the ministers serving the current administration are and their high levels of incompetence.

Amidst the abysmal increases in the price of refined petroleum products and other essential goods and services the prominent civil rights advocacy group; Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has berated the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration for taking actions that has left the Nigerian economy prostrate for the last five years with rising inflation, contrasting GDP, unsustainable borrowing, a dwindling value of the naira, falling industrial capacity utilisation and frightening unemployment figures.

In a statement jointly signed by the National Coordinator; Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs; Miss Zainab Yusuf, the rights group raised concerns over a barrage of issues ranging from the fuel and electricity price hike, shut down of borders and opening only for two northern businesses, poor economic planning and heavy borrowings, which have combined to inflict poverty, high crimes, kidnappings, pains and pangs of hardship on millions of citizens.

Considering the economic downtown experienced by many Nigerians in a period marked by a remarkable loss of jobs and income, owing to the severity of the global COVID-19 pandemic, HURIWA bemoaned the decision to hike the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) and Electricity tariff, describing it as grossly insensitive to the realities on ground and generally an act in bad-timing.

"We are surprised that at a time other countries across the world are giving palliatives to their citizens to cushion the effect of COVID-19, Nigerians are asked to pay more for fuel and electricity. The COVID-19 situation had given Nigerians enough suffering, and hikes in electricity and fuel have reduced the purchasing power of Nigerians.

“How does the Government even expect the average citizen to survive in this country? Hike in electricity tariff and fuel price all in the space of two months. This is just pure wickedness and complete evil. The hike in fuel price practically affects the daily activities of everyone”, HURIWA lamented.

Continuing, the rights group revealed the significant relationship between the recent increases in fuel prices and economic growth in Nigeria, adding that the Nigeria economy is not developing because of the effect of fuel price hike on purchasing power, just as it said that there is significant relationship between increase in pump price of petroleum and food security, which in turn affects everything else – school fees, house rent, etc.

“Everybody appreciates the fact that when motorists pay more for fuel, the transport fare increases. This has been the case even when the increase is only marginal. In the particular case where the cost of fuel is expected to double, the increase in transport fare will be astronomical”, HURIWA noted.

Additionally, HURIWA observed that in the last five years, the price of food items has risen steadily, which has impacted disproportionately on the poor in a country that is said to be already hosting a high population of the world’s poorest citizens.

Therefore, the Rights Group stressed that considering the increasing prices of food commodities, Nigeria’s shut down of her borders and opening only for two northern businesses of Aliko Dangote and BUA Group, despite being a signatory to the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) may have been considered as something done in the country’s best interest, with the intent of improving local production and agriculture, but even with the continued closure of the border and huge investments in domestic agricultural production, nothing seems to have changed substantially.

While recommending ways out of the economic nightmares to avoid imminent collapse of Nigeria and prevent snowballing of Nigeria into anarchy, violence and doom, HURIWA called on the Government to retain fuel subsidy while expediting the construction of the three proposed refineries.

Fuel subsidy should be removed as soon as these new refineries are commissioned. The proposed rehabilitation of the existing refineries should be expedited and Government should vigorously pursue the revitalization of the railways.

“If only Nigerians had alternative to road transport, all this noise about fuel subsidy removal would not have been there and Private companies should be encouraged to start building refineries now with the assurance that subsidy would be removed before they start production”, HURIWA suggested.

Furthermore, HURIWA expressed regrets that the government could not ensure full value for the numerous Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) that where poorly and/or barely executed and the horrifying lack of interest in prosecuting public officials and private business people who have profited from the rot in the petroleum sector.

“Government should declare a state of emergency in the downstream petroleum sector; ensure that the cost of supplying of crude oil is negotiated away from prevailing international market rate and stamp out the smuggling of petroleum products out of Nigeria”.

Nonetheless, HURIWA stated that the major reason given by the government for the closure of boarder, which was to prevent smuggling of goods and illegal commercial activities are legitimate and logical concerns as Nigeria has every right to uphold her national interest above others, but has often simply overlooked infractions.

“Nigeria’s action was cowardly. It should rather be using its weight and political influence to persuade its neighbours to comply with the regional trade treaty agreed by ECOWAS. This has provisions for maintaining decent and legal businesses within neighbours’ boundaries. One such mechanism is the joint border patrol.

“Secondly, Nigeria should exercise tighter control of its borders. The government should be dealing with corruption among its security agencies, particularly Customs and Immigration. If officials did their jobs, there would be no need to close the borders. The Nigerian authorities should be purging the agencies of corrupt elements and inculcating professionalism in the agencies”, HURIWA stressed.