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Bongo Adi Rates Tinubu’s Administration Below Average After One Year Amid Economic Hardship

Economist Bongo Adi critiqued Tinubu’s reforms, citing unpreparedness, trial-and-error methods and negative economic impact.

As Nigeria grapples with ongoing economic hardship, while marking President Tinubu’s one year in office, Maritime Economist Bongo Adi has described the administration’s performance as a “mixed bag,” citing the disappointment of many Nigerians.

In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Wednesday, Adi in delivering a critical assessment of the President’s tenure thus far, rated his performance in the last administration, a four out of ten which is below average.

“Tinubu’s performance, I think, is a mixed bag. On a scale of one to ten, I will put it at four which is below average. He came riding on very high expectations from Nigerians, especially given his campaign promises and where we were coming from, the Buhari administration dealt with the economy in a very harsh way. People really wanted something different. We knew or thought he was going to be better than the Buhari administration but right now, I don’t think that many Nigerians are feeling it and I don’t think things have turned around in a meaningful way.”

While acknowledging Tinubu’s bold reforms, such as subsidy removal and exchange rate harmonisation, Adi highlighted the government’s apparent lack of preparedness in managing the aftermath of these policies.

He criticised what he perceives as a trial-and-error approach, resulting in adverse effects on the economy and public perception.

“But again, I am not sure it is right to begin to blame the President, given the proportions of the reforms he is taking. He has been very bold to undertake the subsidy removal, the harmonisation of the exchange rate, these are not things you will begin to evaluate in just one year. So, I think we need more time to say if the president has done well or not in those areas.

“But there are some key dimensions we haven’t quite paid attention to, which is perception and the fact that I don’t think that the president has clearly articulated what the global situations require of us in Nigeria, how we should play, not just in politics but also in the economy. It is clear to me that they haven’t quite articulated the appropriate response to the kind of challenges that we have today both locally and globally.

“The subsidy removal was top of the manifestos of the top contenders of the last election. Infact every Nigerian wanted the subsidy gone especially if you understood what went on behind and the kind of burden it imposed on the physical system. But the real challenge here is how the aftermath of that removal has been managed. When he spoke on that inauguration day, everybody thought that the president had it all worked out and we wouldn’t have a situation where it would be a trial-and-error sort of thing.”

The removal of fuel subsidies, a central campaign promise, has been a contentious issue, with Adi noting widespread public support for its elimination. However, he lamented the government’s failure to mitigate the negative repercussions of this decision effectively.

“But what we have witnessed after the subsidy removal is a situation where everybody could see that these people didn’t prepare for this, so there wasn’t really a very serious plan on how to respond to the fall out coming from there. What we are now seeing is where they are trying to experiment with a lot of things, with each attempt trying to make things worse. So, I think that is where the failure has been and not whether the subsidy was supposed to be removed or not. The subsidy really needed to go but the timing may not have been right.”

Adi also commented on the floating of the currency, emphasising the need for a shift away from a fixed exchange rate regime.

He argued that the country’s mono-cultural economy and depleted revenue base necessitated a more flexible approach to currency valuation.

“When you talk about floating of the currency, you have to look at the fiscal situation of the country as well. Why would a country want to maintain a fixed exchange rate? Countries in the world, especially when you have a mono-cultural economy, and then you have a strong revenue base, you may attempt to do that because you have social agenda and so many public policies you really want to achieve and I think that is one of the motivations for having a fixed exchange rate and then Nigeria has operated on that for a very long time because we had our foreign earnings coming from oil which the government controlled.

“It made sense for them to control the exchange rate at that point in time because they had the capacity to defend when they had surplus revenue. But then we had a situation where that basket became dry, we know the reason behind that. So, it was a rational decision and I think it works simply because they don’t have the capacity to defend the naira anymore and you can’t give what you don’t have. We still have capacity in oil and gas. We have the capacity to leverage that industry and it is our lowest hanging fruit.”

 Expressing personal disillusionment, Adi reflected on his decision to return to Nigeria with optimism and a desire to contribute to national development. However, in light of the current economic challenges and perceived policy failures, he said he now questions the wisdom of his choice.

Chioma Kalu

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