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Afenifere to Tinubu: Seek $13 Billion Debt Forgiveness from Creditors to Stabilise Economy

It advised that the president cuts cost of governance and halt hike in tertiary institutions’ tuition fees.

The pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, has called on President Bola Tinubu to take five-pronged approaches to prevent the country from total socio-economic dislocation, one of which is for the president to seek debt relief from the country’s major creditors.

The recommendation by Afenifere came just as the National Chairman of the South West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA), Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, appealed to Nigerians to remain calm in the face of current pains and hardship caused by the removal of fuel subsidy by the Tinubu-led administration.
The recommendation by Afenifere was contained in statement signed Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Jare Ajayi.

The recommendations also included drastic reduction in emoluments, slash in the size of government, ways to go about palliatives and to halt the recent hike in tuition fees.

Ajayi said the current economic quagmire facing Nigeria needed far-reaching and deep-rooted steps to be ameliorated.
Consequently, he suggested that: “One of such steps is to seek debt relief from our major creditors. Another is to drastically reduce the size of government at all levels. Third is to block areas of leakages of public resources, especially finance. Fourth is to embark on policies or programmes that are capable of engaging millions of unemployed people, old and young, in the country.

“The fifth step is to ensure that security and safety of lives and properties become permanent feature in the Nigeria firmament.”
Ajayi pointed out that, “Nigeria is the fourth most indebted country in the world, with a $13 billion debt burden as of June 30, 2022 according to the United Nations’ International Development Association (IDA).”

According to Ajayi, the five steps suggested would have to be pursued simultaneously for the inherent benefits to be harnessed effectively and on time.
He added: “At the moment, Nigeria’s debt profile is so huge that it is spending about 97 per cent of its revenue to service debts, according to many official sources including the Debt Management Office (DMO), Federal Budget Office, Ministry of Finance and the World Bank.

“The situation is such that very soon there may be no more fund for the provision of social services and infrastructure. To prevent attendant possible social chaos in this respect, President Tinubu needs to embark on diplomatic shuttles to get debt forgiveness from our creditors.

“Doing so would certainly be herculean in view of a similar benefit we enjoyed under former President Olusegun Obasanjo circa 2005 but which we later mismanaged.
“But given the potential of Nigeria and the possibility of President Tinubu to convince everyone that his own administration is going to be different, it is possible that the creditors may listen to the plea.”

The Afenifere spokesperson opined however that for such a plea to succeed, there was an, “urgent need to drastically cut down on the emolument of public officials, especially political office holders, block the holes through which public funds leak and wage a serious war against corrupt officers – presently in or out of office.”

It noted that it was only by doing these three things that “those we approach for debt forgiveness would listen to us.”
He pointed for instance, that, “the National Assembly cornering N70 billion out of the N500 billion announced for palliatives is not only uncalled for, it demonstrated clearly how insensitive our elected officers are to the plight of average Nigerians.
“The president should prevail on them to rescind their decision in this regard.”

He said the country’s debt burdens explains why infrastructural development stagnated, social services virtually grounded to a halt and cost of living spiked, unemployment soared – leading to an increase in crime rates and increasing loss of faith in the country as reflected in the Japa syndrome (the tendency by many to want to emigrate).

Ajayi called on the Tinubu’s administration to make the resuscitation of moribund industries in the country one of its major priorities, stating that doing so would create employment, reduce crimes, boost the nation’s economy, strengthen the naira and earn the country foreign exchange.

“Government should refrain from increasing taxes and fees for now but explore ways of enhancing productivity and reduce pains,” the group advised.
He commended President Tinubu for the decision to review the N8,000 palliative meant to cushion the effect of subsidy removal.

According to Ajayi, “Palliatives, to be really helpful and effective should be welfare-enhancing in nature and not be in form of unregulated cash dole-out. Such a money should rather be channeled towards the things that cash is used for.”

He said for instance, passenger and luggage vehicles could be procured and allocated to all the local government areas in the country and boats earmarked for riverine areas.

He suggested that the, “vehicles should be put at the disposal of local government authorities and transport unions across the country so as to be of benefits to the target audience – the masses. Fares for the vehicles should be about one-fifth or a quarter of the prevailing rates.

“The vehicles should be given to the transport unions at a highly concessionary rate. Similarly, government can buy food items directly from farmers and make them available at very cheap prices in designated areas”.

As a lasting solution to the high cost of petroleum products, he advised that conducive atmosphere should be provided for private importers to import them with relative ease while efforts are geared towards making the refineries in the country commence production for the commodities not only to be available, but to be cheaper. Their availability, he said, “would also boost the economy and earn the country foreign exchange.”

The Afenifere spokesman stressed the need for the president to prevail on electricity distribution companies to stop their attempts to increase tariffs for now.
“For one, there has been not much improvement in electricity supply to justify tariff increase. But more importantly, Nigerian masses are presently over-burdened with sundry taxes and high costs for services and commodities.

“The Discos must not be allowed to deepen the miseries of hapless Nigerians. Similarly, recent hikes in school fees across the country should be rescinded so as to prevent more hardship for the people and higher number of school drop-outs,” he added.
Meanwhile, Adeyeye has appealed to Nigerians to remain calm in the current pains and hardship caused by the removal of petrol subsidy.
Adeyeye, who was Senate spokesperson in the 9th National Assembly, made the appeal in a statement he personally signed and made available to journalists in Abuja, yesterday.

He explained that the hardship was much now because the decision taken by Tinubu should have been carried out by successive administration, in the last 15 years.
He, nevertheless, assured that situations would soon improve and that Nigerians would laugh last.
Part of the statement read, “The removal of oil subsidy and the new exchange rate regime of the President Bola Tinubu for now, has led to inflationary pressure. This is causing some hardship on the part of the masses.
“As the saying goes, there is no gain without pains. Like the president has said that while trying to give birth, one must go through the pains of labour, however when the child is born, the safe birth will keep the mother happy.

“Her pain of a few hours would therefore lead to everlasting joy.
“Nigerians should see the economic reforms of president Bola Tinubu from that perspective. If President Bola Tinubu has not taken those steps, it could have led to a complete crash of the Nigerian economy with its attendant social, economic and political implications.
“The pains we are currently going through, will soon go and by this time next year by the grace of God, Nigerians would begin to see the results of the steps that the president has taken.

“The president is just about 60 days in office. He still has over 46 more months to spend in his first term of 48 months, having spent just two.
“President Bola Tinubu is taking decisions that should have been taken over 15 years ago.
“Nigerians should give President Tinubu some time, to allow his policies to mature and for us to begin to see the positive effects.
“The president has said he understands the pains of Nigeria, we should just exercise patience, ultimately Nigerians would give glory to God, along the line,” Adeyeye added.

Emmanuel Addeh, Sunday Aborisade and Emameh Gabriel in Abuja

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