By; NIYI OGUNGBOLA, Abeokuta.
Former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo Tuesday stated that the only way available to President Mohammed Buhari to take Nigeria out of the current economic recession is to urgently approach the two major financial institutions in the world for borrowing to enable his administration meet up with the country financial demands, blaming former President Goodluck Jonathan for economic recession.
Obasanjo stated this while delivering his goodwill message at the official opening ceremony of the National Council on Finance and Economic Development (NACOFED) held in Abeokuta, the state capital.
The former president, who spoke at the event with the theme: “”Enhancing Revenue Generation and Obtaining Best Value for Money in Expenditure”,
He declared that Nigeria at this period needs to borrow, spend less and earn more revenue to get out of the present economic recession.
He however lamented that the major problem with Nigeria is that “we are spending more than we earn and we have not been able to save for the rainy day”.
He said the need to borrow from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) becomes necessary in view of the fact that other alternatives available for the diversification of the economy, particularly the much talked about agriculture, would take time before it starts yielding the desired result.
He explained that Nigerian cannot reject the financial assistance from these two leading world financial institutions, but must be weary of their antics and proposals which could further sink the country’s economy into further recession.
He said since Nigeria is not in control of the oil price, it however, becomes exigent for the country to diversify and concentrate on the things it could control.
Obasanjo who stressed on the need to develop agriculture, frowned at policies which tended to turn the nation into a dumping ground for other countries’ products.
Former president however, took a swipe at the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan whom he said ignored his advice on the looming economic crisis two years ago.
According to Obasanjo, Jonathan’s administration lifted ban on importation of toothpick, which could have been taken over by local industries with any encumbrances.
Obasanjo, who is the Father of the Day at the opening session, said he had warned the former President, on the impending recession in November 26, 2014, “when I joined others to celebrate the birthday of retired Justice Akanbi.”
“What I said about Nigerian economic is now a matter of public glare that economic was in recession. I then reminded the government that as a lay man, the situation we are is that we are spending more than we are earning”.
“That very soon, the country would not be able to fund
the budget; that salaries will not be paid again; that capital
projects would be executed and that naira would be devalued and livelihood will be difficult for citizens except those who may have stockpiled money somewhere.
“Unfortunately, the government then refused to listen to my advice. That was about two years ago”.
Obasanjo shocked the gathering when he recalled how it was discovered that the ban on the importation of tooth pick was reversed by the Jonathan administration.
“During the first term of my government, we were facing a problem similar to what we are facing now. We were importing too much, even things we don’t need. I asked for the list of all items we import to Nigeria. They brought it and I saw toothpick on the list”.
“We used US$ 2. 5 m to import common toothpick that we get for free in my village. I then asked how much did it cost to produce common toothpick? And they told me the machine cost just US$25, 000. I banned it immediately because I knew we can afford to produce that item and the toothpick remained banned until four years ago when the government of that time un-banned toothpick again.
“I was shocked when the ban on importation of toothpick which we imposed in 1977 was lifted four years ago and when I asked, why this policy reversal, the answer was more shocking. They said ‘I didn’t read it before I signed it’.
“How can a nation seeking to rank among the best in the world continue like that? We must begin to do away with things that we can do without and if we must import them let them attract very high duties”.Obasanjo stressed.
Speaking on the call for the sale of national assets to raise money, Obasanjo described the call as natural act.
He also identified the Port Authorities and Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) as part of assets that Nigeria could partly sell to generate fund.
“I do not see why 49 per cent of NNPC cannot be privatised. I think the problem is in the coinage “selling of asset” as if we want to throw out our inheritance.
“What we are actually doing by that is simply re-organising. It should however be done transparently and let it actually go public and not to cabals, relations and friends. This is always the fear of Nigerians when issues like this arise,” he said.
Speaking earlier in her welcome address, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun noted that the federal government had till date invested over N700 billion to stimulate growth in the economy.
Adeosun stated that the Buhari led administration has set out plan to reposition the economy in a way that will ensure that “what we are experiencing today will never recur in the history of our nation”.
“Specifically all Nigerians, irrespective of their political persuasion are agreed that our past policy choices have led us to where we are today. Our decisions and deliberations of today will directly impact the Nigeria that our children will inherit.
“We are working on an economic model that will change Nigeria from being consumption focused to investment focused.”
By; NIYI OGUNGBOLA, Abeokuta.