•His interventions reasonable, well thought-out – PANDEF, Northern groups •President should be talking about fixing refineries – MBF
•It’s a speech; we’re waiting to see action – ACF
By Vincent Kalu and Noah Ebije
Some leaders of socio-cultural organisations and ethnic nationalities in the country are singing discordant tunes on the recent broadcast by President Bolas Ahmed Tinubu on Monday. While some described it as hollow and empty, others said it’ was an excellent economic blueprint to turn around the economy of the Nigeria.
Some Northern groups threw their weights behind President Bola Tinubu over the nationwide broadcast, saying that nobody should fault the president who they claim is trying his best to fix the country, considering the arrays of challenges he inherited from the immediate past government under President Muhammadu Buhari.
In separate chats with Saturday Sun, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) as well as Arewa Think Tank (ATTAK) submitted that President Tinubu was on the right track to salvaging the country from socio-economic crisis.
NEF categorically noted that Tinubu inherited the country in a mess and as such he needed enough time to work to remedy the situation.
Spokesman of NEF, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed said: “Before the President’s speech on Monday, we had issued a statement and raised a number of issues, one of which was that the President should improve on communication with the citizens so that we understand why we are where we are today. And what he is doing to get out of where we are.
“I am happy that the President substantially in his speech did what we asked him to do by talking to the citizens who needed explanation as to the current state of the nation. What he intended to do to improve the situation in the next few years. We saw a President who showed empathy on citizens. That is how leadership is supposed to be. We are glad and happier that the President did exactly what we advised should be done. I am not sure he was acting on our advice. But he spoke about things that we thought needed to be done.
“In our statement we appealed to Nigerians to show some levels of tolerance and patience from going on strike. The truth is that the President inherited the country in a mess and what he needs is to explain to every segment of the country, including Labour while it is not possible to meet every demand.”
In his reaction, Spokesperson, Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG), Abdul-Azeez Suleiman said: “First I think the most reasonable reaction is to be positive. The President, when compared to the eight years of draconian rule we passed through under Buhari, appears to be a listening President. He started with the offer of N8000 as palliatives but quickly cave in to public pressure and ordered a review.
“With regards to the current package announced in the President’s speech, quite a few of them are reasonable and well thought out. We are much more impressed by the package on education, particularly because the credit goes to our students’ wing which has held series of town hall engagements to sensitise students and parents and the authorities as well to the dangers of deregulating the education sector.
“The way the President responded to the issue of education is quite impressive, but much more needs to be done to ease the pains of the subsidy removal. We expect government to inject the sum recovered from the accrued subsidy into revamping education and take immediate steps to repair all our refineries, get stable electricity and everything else will follow.
“Until we get there, it will be President Tinubu’s lot to assemble the Nigerians to advise him and take forward his vision. He will need people who will convey his concerns and compassion; who will reach and bring comfort to millions who suffer in an economy under stress; and people who will combine his personal integrity with competence and commitment.”
On his part, the Convener, Arewa Think Tank, Muhammad Alhaji Yakubu said: “We are seeing a President that is concerned about the welfare and pains of its citizens, by putting out policies that have a human face, courageous with empathy. We are also seeing how the President has brought back the country to global limelight and recognition by honouring international invitations within the short period he assumed office.
“And also if you notice in his nationwide speech on Monday, he did not address the issue of labour strike because at that time he was still holding meetings with them. So nobody should blame him for not speaking on the issue at that time. But for now I want to advise that Nigerians should cooperate with the President because he has a convincing blueprint to take the country to the Promised Land, and his actions so far has confirmed that.”
National Publicity Secretary of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Professor Tukur Muhammad Baba, in his reaction, stated: “President Tinubu’s speech was a hurried speech designed to respond to the new emerging challenges in the country. Obviously things are looking gloomy and it is good that he rushed to address the country and that is the positive side. On the contrary note, I will say that it is a speech and we are waiting to see action, how issues he has rolled out will be implemented, and usually in Nigeria, that is the devil, the devil is in the details, the devil in our own is the distribution, and of course, the implementation of the proposed plans.
“Are they likely to be hijacked again by politically exposed persons? Are there likely to be discrepancies in the distribution such that some persons, some States get more than the other disproportionately or what? We are waiting to see details. So far what we have seen are round figures. They sound impressive. But of course, when you distribute these figures in a country of about 220 million people, the details will pale into insignificance.
“We have seen what happen to distribution of palliatives in the past. Governors were simply able to hijack everything. We hope steps will be taken so that whatever is done to the allocation, to resources, to industries, to individuals, the distribution will be transparent, fair, equitable and be seen to be so. Of course in the North here, we have every reason to worry about.
“When last year they released figures of assistance of Central Bank to industries, as a result of the COVID 19, it turned out that 47 per cent was allocated to Lagos alone. The whole of Northern Nigeria got about 12 per cent of the distribution. This is a recipe for disaster.”
In his own view, President of the Middle Belt Forum, (MBF), Dr. Bitrus Pogu, stressed that the president should be talking about how to make the nation’s refineries work rather than interventions to alleviate the sufferings of Nigerians.
Pogu, while asking for the real value of fuel subsidy, if there was any subsidy at all, noted that even when the palliatives are converted into hunger interventions, it is just the same thing,
Hear him: “Interventions here and there and whatever be the time frame cannot solve our problem. What is the essence of government, as contained in the constitution? It is for security and welfare of the people. Is he taking care of our welfare by flagging us with N617 per litre of petrol?
“All what he has said were interventions rather than addressing the real issue; lets repair our refineries instead of giving us palliatives or whatever. If that money is saved, let us refine our refineries with our crude, and our crude should not be priced at international level, that is the answer. Even these interventions he was talking about are long term, which are not immediate to resolving our refineries. Let’s export our refined products instead of importing them, and charging Nigerians with international prices. That is the answer.” The MBF president noted that those who hold the opinion that anaesthesia are applied before surgery in order to reduce the pains are right, because these measures were supposed to be in place before the subsidy removal. He wondered: how much would have been lost by Nigerians within this period?
He said, he was in Yola, the Adamawa State capital, last Sunday, when the governor imposed a 24-hour curfew, following the attack on and looting of foodstuff stores by the residents who said they were dying of starvation.
According to him, even Customs officers were blocking roads here and there to protect their facilities from being looted. The reason, he noted, was that some people got hungry on daily basis, and after discovering that because of the hike in petrol, one Mudu of corn jumped to N1, 500 from about N500, which the poor man can no more afford. They went and started breaking into stores which they knew had stocked food items and then started carting them away, which might spiral into other thing. Eventually, some people lost their lives in the process.
“If a proper planning had taken place, how long does it take to turn around one refinery in Nigeria? Two years ago, somebody was given a contract to fix the Port Harcourt Refinery. Has it been fixed? No. Why can’t the refineries work? We are being deceived and extorted. We don’t have government of the people for the people and by the people. This government is for the rich by the rich. Let the right thing be done because when people are pushed to the wall they would respond,” Pogu said.
In his own opinion, President of Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, said that, Tinubu, from his address, has unveiled the economic blueprint of the country, which if properly followed would turn around the economy of Nigeria. While urging Nigerians to cooperate with him, he reminded them that tough times never last but tough people do.
“This blueprint, which he said is the roadmap for the resuscitation of the economy, if followed to the latter, the economy of the country would be improved. I pray that Nigerians should just have some patience and bear the tough times, for the better days that are coming,” Sen. Essien said.
He noted that the N40 billion being proposed for cars for members of the National Assembly is part of their car loans. “It is constitutional for them to get car loans to be able to do the work. There is provision for that, which is given by the Revenue Mobilisation and Fiscal Commission (RMFC) for each office holder. The NASS is made up of 469 members.
“The ministers also get car loans; other officers get car loans as well, which is provided for by the RMFC. People should not be complaining; they should go deeply to understand where the money is going to, and where it is coming from before criticising. I think it is about 300 per cent of your annual salary; there is also furniture allowance.
“The bottom line is that everybody has to make sacrifice; if you have to improve your life, you must sacrifice something. Even Jesus Christ sacrificed his life on the cross for us to have forgiveness of sins. People should be able to sacrifice something to get something, just as Jesus sacrificed himself for us to get eternal life,” the PANDEF president said.