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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Litany Of Probe: Welcome To 1983

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by Joseph Edgar

Ithink we are back to 1983 when the only agenda for the Buhari/Idiagbon junta was war against corruption and indiscipline. Nigerians were herded into various prisons with unimaginably long prison spells and this in itself further stunted the economy and turned us into a country of zombies.

Today in Buhari’s reincarnation, we see  the same cycle. All we hear are stories of probes, anti corruption, cleaning up the Augean stables, repairing the damages and destruction caused by years of looting by the last Government. What we have not seen, is a clear vision of the direction the Government will be taking on moving the economy forward, opening it more to investments and further preserving the middle class created during the Obasanjo regime.

I just woke up to the news that more probes are coming, parastatals  like NPA, NIMASA and the likes would be subjected to probes. What this does is that everything comes to a standstill as key officers are usually placed on working suspension, accounts frozen, and policy execution and implementation suffers a freeze and its effect on the economy cannot be quantified.

My question is, do we really need these probes? What are the economic benefits to us when we will still spend years to recover the looted funds. All the probes during Buhari’s military adventure are only just leading to some of the funds coming back almost 30years later. I think we have clear and present issues that this Government should tackle and leave all this probes alone. What I am seeing is a paucity of vision as to the way forward hence the need to hide under probe as the main focus of the Government while leaving all stakeholders guessing as to the direction the government will take on the economy.

The last visit to the U.S was an ample opportunity to open up the economic direction, seek the support of the international business community and push for favorable policies from the western Government towards our attempt at rebuilding our economy along very clearly stated economic angles. But no. What did we get, the continuous cry of the Jonathan government looting the country, a request for arms to fight Boko Haram (which in itself was ok), a list of economic looters and the earth shattering revelation that $6bn had been looted.

We need vibrancy in the management of the economy instead of the present situation where the CBN Governor has been left alone in the battle for the Naira without fiscal support. No cabinet to forge and endorse a workable economic policy thrust. Inflation is beginning to climb again, the Naira is taking a beating, the stock market is almost comatose and all other sectors of the economy are in their very last breath. The only sector still thriving is Nollywood, did you see the figures from the breweries sector, a sector that normally thrives in a slump. All indices are down and the government is busy probing and shutting down the economy.

As a money manager, I feel this directly as we are seeing the growth in FDI stall and also foreign money managers also taking their time to play in our markets because of this seeming uncertainty. Buhari’s recent instruction that the pipe dream of a National Carrier be immediately resuscitated, in my mind has further driven the death knell into my hopes of an economic resurgence under this government. What we are looking at is big government, centralised direction of the economy, government control and its  attendant inefficiency in managing what should be private sector driven. This shows very quickly that the military mentality is rife, that we are back to the 80s.

Another bad and gloomy sign is the resuscitation of the refineries and the sack of NNPC top honchos and immediate appointment of a new helmsman and refusal to take a definite position on fuel subsidy. A forward looking government should be looking at privatising all these dragons and limiting itself to a regulatory role. All these will lead to the continuous contraption of the economy and its adverse effect on the poor people who voted for this messiah.

We need to free up the economy that was what Obasanjo did. Open up the space, create an enabling environment, push very credible fiscal and monetary policies, plug leakages, pull back from the management of the economy and watch the 170 million highly productive Nigerians build an economy that should in ten years rival the economies of the Asian Tigers, till then we continue to wallow in the darkness and aimlessness of a newly minted democrat  who still act like a military despot. Welcome to 1983!

Let me  be very clear, I am not against an attempt to get back our stolen funds and also get justice even if the attempt is beginning to look lopsided and selective, all I am begging for is at least the same attention be placed on revamping the economy as we probe, investigate and jail. There should be a balance otherwise we would all be waiting for Godot.

Just as I was about to conclude this write up, we have been gleefully told that ‘looters will be prosecuted’ in a matter of ‘weeks’. Well, this is the change we voted for, so we must honker down and prepare ourselves for a season of probes and investigations while the economy continues to fester, bereft of any meaningful policy of containment aimed at halting the continuous slide in our economic indices.

Joseph Edgar is a social commentator and public affairs analyst.

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.

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