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Petrol subsidy removal, forex policy desirable but poorly handled — Obasanjo

On the 365 days of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, the former president suggested ways out of the situation in the country, including a 25-year development agenda.

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Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has said that the petrol subsidy removal and the federal government’s forex policy were desirable but faulted their implementation.

He said fuel subsidy removal, flotating of the naira, and the military coup in the Niger Republic were “poorly handled.”

Obasanjo spoke at a colloquium, “Nigeria’s Development: Navigating the Way Out of the Current Economic Crisis and Insecurity,” delivered at the Paul Aje Colloquium, PAC, in Abuja at the weekend.

“Today, the government has taken three decisions, two of which are necessary but wrongly implemented and have led to the impoverishment of the economy and Nigerians. These are the removal of subsidies, closing the gap between the black market and official rates of exchange, and the third is dealing with the military coup in the Niger Republic.

“The way forward is production and productivity, which belief and trust in government leadership will engender. No shortcut to economic progress but hard work and sweat.

“Economy does not obey orders, not even military orders. I know that. If we get it right, we will begin to see the light beyond the tunnel in two years. It requires a change of characteristics, attributes, and attitudes by the leadership at all levels to gain the confidence and trust of investors who have alternatives.

“TotalEnergy has gone to invest $6 billion in Angola instead of Nigeria. If the truth must be stated, the present administration has not found the right way to handle the economy to engender confidence and trust for investors to start trooping in.

“They know us more than we know ourselves. And now they are laughing at us, not taking us seriously. We have to present ourselves in such a way that we will be taken seriously.

“If existing investors are divesting and going out of our country, how do we persuade new investors to rush in? Obasanjo said.

On the 365 days of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s administration, the former president suggested ways out of the situation in the country, including a 25-year development agenda.

He said: ’We can be serious if we choose to be, but we need to change from transactional leadership in government to transformational and genuine servant leadership.

“With change by us, the investors will give us the benefit of the doubt, and if security is taken care of on a sustainable, long-term basis, they will start to test the waters.

“With the right economic policies and attributes of integrity and honesty of purpose, all should be well, with all hands on deck, and the government should become a catalyst for development, growth, and progress.

“Tinkering with the exchange rate is not the answer. The answer is consistency and continuity in policy to ensure stability and predictability. That way, we will be sure to incentivize domestic and foreign investment.

‘’There must be honesty and transparency in government dealings and contracts, not lying with deception about these issues. When the government is seen as pursuing the right policy, the private sector will go for production and productivity.”

Obasanjo also said the government and the governed should look at the past and present and ask, “How did we get here?”

“Looking at the topic of today’s occasion, the question I would ask is, how do we navigate our way out of these crises and pave the path towards a more secure and prosperous Nigeria?

‘’ I believe the answer to this requires a multi-faceted approach that addresses the root causes of these challenges. The central questions are: Where were we? And how did we get to where we are today?

“Firstly, we must know where we are coming from. Our economy has consistently suffered from poor policies, a lack of long-term, sustainable policies, discontinuity, ad hoc arrangements, and corruption based on personal greed, avarice, incompetence, a lack of knowledge and understanding, and a lack of patriotism.

“For instance, the statement and proposed actions given forty-five years ago to stop fuel scarcity are the same statement and action being touted today.

“I recall when I made the statement that the refineries would not work, the sycophants and spin doctors of this current administration went out to castigate me for not being a petroleum engineer and that I did not know what I was talking about.

“They forgot that the attempt that was made in 2007 to partly privatise the refineries was made by me after a thorough study of the situation. But the decision was reversed by my successor, and the $750 million paid was refunded.

‘’ We take up the implementation on a five-year basis. In reality, that plan will have the effect of almost a constitution. The first priority in implementation will be education for all.

‘’The second should be food and nutrition security through agribusiness. The third should be energy for all. The fourth should be industrialization and manufacturing. And the fifth should be science, technology, innovation, and artificial intelligence (AI).

‘’ In all these, the government should provide a conducive environment for the private sector to operate and thrive. And where the government will be involved at all, other than as a policymaker and enabler, it should be based on a private-public partnership with the government as a junior partner,” the former president stressed.

On security, he suggested the stick-and-carrot approach to combat banditry and other violent crimes in the country.

Obasanjo stated: “Stick to deal with those who cannot be weaned out of criminality and evil deeds and for those weaned, they should be rehabilitated. There should be no Nigerian without being in school compulsorily for eleven years – secondary education level.

“Employment must be a right for all Nigerians from age 18 to 65. With such a carrot in place, the stick must then be made more severe for criminals. Five years must be set aside to ensure that every Nigerian child who is not in school is in school and no one is left out of popular education.”

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