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All Iffy on the Economy Front

By Isidore Emeka Uzoatu

Like a movie, President Muhammadu Buhari is slowly approaching the end of his second and final four-year tenure. Without mince, it can be posited that what zoomed in as a box-office blockbuster is now fading out as a low-budget experiment.

What with his mere body language that had calmed storms now being transformed into a barking dog that seldom bites. Indeed, a majority of Nigerians are left ruing the enthusiasm that had welcomed his historic ‘election’. As for the first time in the annals of our national democratic experimentation, an incumbent president ‘lost’ to an opposition candidate.

Alas, given his statement at a recent meeting with the service chiefs, it has apparently dawned on him that lest he waves a sudden magic wand, he may – in his own words – ‘leave office as a failure’. And for a man of his stoicism and impervious bent to admit that much, the implication must be enormous.

However, though he envisioned the statement from the security point of view, his more protuberant albatross may lie in the economy. Yes, true his perceived inadequacy security wise runs against the grain of the most prominent prospectus in his CV, the economy ended up most ruptured.

Perhaps the two actually worked in a tandem, like an analyst other than me had presented. Like the seniority battle of the hen and the egg. Viewed however, there is no way the economy could have coped without a secure polity and vice versa. One was bound to beget the other, I dare say!

Like we have cited afore now, the rot in the economy has since morphed from translucence to transparency. The most so when the indices of the statistics the president has left on his tracks are juxtaposed with that of his predecessors. And it’s lightening up by the day.

Even as I type, the Naira, our local currency, is still doing some gymnastics to the skelewu being drummed to it by the US Dollar. The recent debarment of BDC operators from the FX market that had appeared watershed has since paled.

Unemployment, though assumed to have peaked at a high of 33%, may have surpassed that imperfect ceiling. Yet the government of the day keeps creating double-digit millions of jobs daily on the yet-allowed social media modules.

On the flip side though, the inflation rate that had appeared to have lost some traction months past, has now traced a way to recovery avenue. According to reports released by the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) lately, it slowed to 17.38% in July; an index 0.38% lower than the 17.75% recorded in June.

Nevertheless, the prognosis is not brightening up elsewhere. As upheld at many fora by egg heads and technocrats alike. Their diagnosis of the problem is always belaboured with so many probabilities that the possibility of a cure ends up skewered on an indeterminate balance.

Like at the recent Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) 2021 virtual mid-year economic review and outlook organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN) Centre for Financial Studies, for instance. Auspiced by BAA Consults, it arrived at some unique conclusions.

According to its summations, a speedy revival of our domestic economy is increasingly far to fetch. And the truth is that since the economy recovered from recession in the last quarter of 2020 despite the ravages of COVID-19, it has tended to stagnate.

A continuation has been hampered some more by insecurity, exchange rate market pressure, declining capital inflows because of oil market volatility, high debt service payments and fiscal deficits.

In the words of Dr Hassan Mahmud Director, Monetary Policy Department at the CBN, ‘the country would experience some positive projections in 2021 and the beginning of 2022’ only ‘if certain things were in place.’ He was positive that only then would the CBN forecasts for GDP growth be sustained.

Top here will be an improved vaccination campaign and a recession of health hazards and no imposition of lockdowns. But then the GDP projection remains 3% by the end of 2021. However, it’s also hoped that if it’s sustained, inflation could number less than 17%, and possibly, get down to a single digit by 2022.

In his own paper, CIBN president, Dr Bayo Olugbeni, saw this as only coming to pass if the third Covid wave permits. All the more so, he argues, given how weighed down the economy has been by factors without its control. Such as the erosion of purchasing power by inflation, high unemployment rates and security issues – a la kidnapping, terrorism and banditry.

Ultimately, it was best captured by Dr Biodun Adedipe, the chief consultant at BAA Associates who hosted the event. According to him, Nigeria’s economic revival will only come ‘if the oil sector became positive in the areas of prices and production and export volume’.

Luckily, no other time has President Buhari hit the hammer on the nail than the same penultimate week. It was at the graduation ceremony of Course 29 at the National Defence College, Abuja.

In a speech delivered by his representative, he didn’t mince words in stating a herculean task needed done in the economic sector. Like he put it, effort in this regard will be geared towards maximizing the economic impact on citizens.

He highlighted job creation, employment generation, poverty eradication and the improvement of general living conditions. Without iteration, these remain the particular areas where the impact of his government has been arguably abysmal.

*Uzoatu, the author of the novel Vision Impossible wrote in from Onitsha, Anambra State.

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