The last one year of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has been traumatic and hurtful for millions of Nigerians.
This is according to the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, KOWA party, Ijaw National Congress, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, and Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among others.
The groups described Buhari’s first year in office as a disappointment for Nigerians who had expected so much from the President.
They said the economic conditions of Nigerians had gone worse rather than get better.
Already, investigation by Saturday PUNCH had revealed that the gloomy state of the economy had led to the astronomical rise in the prices of perishable and non-perishable goods even as citizens’ disposable income had drastically reduced due to the loss in the value of naira.
The situation, it was learnt, had exacerbated the country’s poverty and hunger levels.
The National President, Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, Yerima Shettima, said many people considered one year as too short to judge the government, but it is “big in the life of a nation.”
Shettima said excuses by ministers that previous governments should be blamed for Nigeria’s woes were not tenable.
“Some people think it is just one year but to me, I don’t look so,” he said, adding, “If you look at the way we run this country; every government in place works for two years, by the third year, people in government begin to reposition themselves for elections.
“To be honest, Nigerians have faced the most difficult situation ever in the history of this country. No matter how the government tries to convince Nigerians otherwise, the citizens have suffered and are still suffering.
“In one year, there is nothing to show and that is the truth. Even if the government starts action now, in one year, I do not think that it will be able to meet the expectations of Nigerians. Things are bad and terrible but I hope the government refocuses and thinks of what to do better as soon as possible.”
Also, the Spokesperson for the Ijaw National Congress, Mr. Victor Borubo, said there was little to celebrate in one year of Buhari’s government.
Borubo said beyond the success recorded in the fight against Boko Haram insurgents, the President had underperformed.
He said, “In the area of security, yes, the Boko Haram issue was brought down significantly; I have to give him credit for that. After that, issues started to arise from other parts of the country like in the Niger Delta and the worst of all is the problem of Fulani herdsmen, which has not been curbed up till now.
“Nobody can pretend to wipe out corruption in a country like Nigeria or in any other country of the world, you can only minimise it and you will not come into an administration and begin to make fighting of corruption your first priority.
“Anybody who is in the opposition seems to be harassed and there are lots of people in his cabinet who funded his election.”
According to Prof. Remi Sonaiya, the Presidential candidate for KOWA party in the 2015 election, the extent of damage done to the economy by the past administration was much.
Sonaiya, however, accused the Buhari-led government of failing to show any urgency in finding solution to the problem and adequately carrying the public along in its policies.
She said, “Lots of people have been saying that this is not the change that they voted for. There were lots of expectations that the people had while voting for the current President.
“However, one expects more responsiveness from the government. It is as if the administration is giving itself the luxury of time and that is something that we do not have.”
A recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that no fewer than 1.5 millions of Nigerians lost their jobs in the first quarter of 2016 alone.
The President, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Dr. Frank Jacobs, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the first one year had been very difficult for manufacturers and other employers of labour.
Jacob said, “Many of our members have either closed shops or operating below their capacity.
“The first one year has been full of uncertainties in the sense that the Federal Government has been slow in coming up with policies that could stimulate the economy.
“The uncertainties have affected businessmen and manufacturers; we were unable to plan because of the uncertainties in the economic direction of the government. This made things difficult for us. Essentially, what I can say is that the last one year has been a very difficult one.”
It was learnt that the uncertainties in the economic direction of the government affected many companies in the food, beverage and tobacco sector such as Guinness Nigeria Plc, Nigerian Breweries Plc, FrieslandCampina WAMCO Nigeria Plc, Flour Mills of Nigeria Plc, Nigerian Bottling Company Limited and SevenUp Bottling Company Plc, which have sacked no fewer than 450 of their workers between January and April, this year.
The National President, Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association, Mr. Quadri Olaleye, who confirmed this, said the fate of those still in employment was hanging in the balance.
The management of the Ikeja Electricity Distribution Company recently sacked about 400 workers.
The President, Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Tony Ejinkeonye, recently said that 50,000 workers lost their jobs within two months due to the scarcity of foreign exchange for the importation of raw materials by local industries.
On April 29, 2016, FBN Holdings Plc indicated plans to sack about 1,000 workers in a bid to address its 2015 financial year’s 82 per cent slump in profit.
The First City Monument Bank early this month sacked 400 workers and shut 40 of its branches.
This is as the National President, Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria, Dr. Femi Egbesola, expressed concern that more businesses would collapse unless the government stimulated the economy with necessary policies.
Egbesola said, “Quite a number of small scale companies are sick while some have closed shop and the reason is obvious. There is nothing to serve as incentives for growth for small businesses at the moment.
“The small businessmen and women spend a lot on raw materials from abroad for production. Immediately the rate of the dollar went up, the cost of the raw materials all went up.”
The Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Muda Yusuf, lamented that the economic situation in the country was inimical to business growth, including SMEs.
He said, “The major challenge many businesses have has to do with operating cost and access to raw materials. Power is one of the biggest problems that SMEs have.
“The cost of fuel has gone up and there is no power supply. So, it is almost becoming impossible for some of them to continue to operate.”
Chairman of MAN in Ondo State, Mr. Emmanuel Adewumi, and the Director-General, Niger Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture, Adamu Salihu, urged the Federal Government to save the remaining companies from total collapse by making foreign exchange available to businessmen who depend on imported raw materials.
According to them, the remaining companies may be forced to sack their workers if the enabling environment is not provided for business to thrive.
Salihu said, “What we are doing now is to lay off some workers to enable us to remain in business pending when things will improve. If the government wants the manufacturers to stop sacking workers, it must do something drastic to improve the economy.”
A member of MAN and the Managing Director of Olu Foam Industry Limited, Akure, the Ondo State capital, Mr. Tunde Olufowobi, expressed the fear that the poverty and the hardship inflicted on the people by the thousands of job losses might become worse unless the Federal Government collaborated with other stakeholders to revive moribund industries.
The Manufacturer of Hilma Plastics Limited in Minna, Aliyu Kuta, told one of our correspondents that his company had been making use of the raw materials bought last year and that once the materials are exhausted, the firm would stop production.
In Ekiti and Rivers states, the situation is the same. The Executive Secretary of MAN in Rivers State, Mr. Emmanuel Dogba, said many companies in the state had been struggling to survive and as a result, operating below 60 per cent instead of their usual 90 per cent.
Dogba said, “The cost of doing business now is very high. Apart from the foreign exchange hiccups, multiple taxations can be said to be another factor affecting manufacturers in Rivers and Bayelsa states.
Also, MAN Chairman in Ekiti State, Chief Kola Akosile, hoped that the economy would improve to prevent companies operating in the state from total collapse.
“Our members are finding it difficult to access raw materials and bring machinery into the country to support their operations,” he said.
According to the MAN Chairman in Kwara State, Mrs. Omolola Olubayo, high cost of energy and poor infrastructure, apart from the harsh forex policy, contributed to the collapse of many companies in the state.
However, the Convener of the Coalition of Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, agreed that the economy was in a bad shape but blamed the situation on the fall in oil prices and pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta.
But the Coordinator of the Federation of Middle Belt People, Mr. Manasseh Watyil, urged the public to give President Buhari more time to fix the rot in the country.