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APC dressing Nigeria in borrowed robes, Atiku slams Buhari’s policies

By Femi Adekoya, Kehinde Olatunji (Lagos), Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja) and Rauf Oyewole (Bauchi)
14 September 2022   |   4:30 am
By spending more than 100 per cent of its revenue on debt servicing, Nigeria is breaching one of the applicable debt-sustainability thresholds, just as the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government is dressing Nigeria in borrowed robes.

President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Michael Olawale-Cole (left); presidential candidate, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar; Vice President, LCCI, Abimbola Olashore; Governor, Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; Chairman, Economics and Statistic Committee, LCCI, Ayo Teriba and Managing Director, BusinessDay Media Limited, Ogho Okiti at the LCCI private sector economic forum on 2023 presidential election in Lagos… yesterday. PHOTO: FEMI ADEBESIN-KUTI

• Vows to earmark $20b for Nigeria’s infrastructure financing if elected
• Presidential candidates accuse LCCI of bias over non-invitation to parley
• Atiku: I’ve never seen Lagos so mobilised for PDP
• Amid resignation calls, Ayu jets out of Nigeria
• Dogara, Babachir continue agitation against APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, meet 19 Northern CAN chairmen
• Halt gale of defections from APC, former aspirants beg Tinubu

By spending more than 100 per cent of its revenue on debt servicing, Nigeria is breaching one of the applicable debt-sustainability thresholds, just as the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government is dressing Nigeria in borrowed robes.

These were the words of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, during a meeting with the private sector in Lagos, yesterday.

Atiku, who stated this at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Presidential Economic Agenda Forum, also noted that if elected, he would establish an infrastructure debt fund of over $20 billion to bridge the nation’s huge infrastructure gap.

He berated the President Muhammadu Buhari-administration for what he described as excessive borrowing for projects that couldn’t finance themselves.

According to him, the present administration is driving key infrastructure programmes with very little private sector participation in the face of dwindling public revenue, adding that the quantum of financing required to bridge the infrastructure gap is neither feasible nor sustainable.

“We shall incentivise with regulations and tax incentives for a consortium of private sector institutions to establish an infrastructure debt fund of an initial carrying capacity of $20 billion. This will be for the financing and delivery of large infrastructure projects across all sectors of the economy.

“We will establish an infrastructure development unit in the Presidency with a coordinating function and specific mandate of working with MDAs to fast track and drive the process of infrastructure development in the country,” he added.

On debt accumulation, he said he would be more strategic and circumspect, saying that the revelation by Finance Minister that the cost of servicing Nigeria’s debt has surpassed Federal Government’s retained revenue by N310 billion in the first quarter of the year is very worrisome.

He said he would take immediate steps to slow down the rate of debt accumulation by promoting more Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) in critical infrastructure funding and identifying more innovative funding options.

“Specifically, our government will ensure that all borrowed funds are for priority infrastructure projects that would generate income, boost output, and put the economy on the path of sustainable growth. I will also review the country’s debt strategy by focusing on concessional and semi-concessional sources with lower interest rates and relatively long-term maturity,” he said.

He advised that government must reduce the issuance of short-dated debt instruments. “I will introduce reforms that will make the institutions you interface with more efficient. I will streamline their functions and ensure that they focus on their core responsibilities of policy coordination, facilitation and standardisation and enabling the appropriate legal and regulatory framework for rapid economic and social development.

“We will listen to the private sector more. Understanding the private sector and securing their buy-in when policies are designed will determine the success of our economic growth and development agenda. Through regular dialogue with the private sector, we will build consensus, improve trust between us and make new reform initiatives easier to implement and sustain.

“We will restore investor confidence in the Nigerian economy to take risks and invest capital by providing more clarity, coherence, and consistency in policy formulation. Nothing could be more threatening to investment flows than an environment that is full of policy flip-flops. Our monetary and fiscal authorities will be better coordinated and shall ensure a stable macroeconomic environment with low inflation, stable exchange rate and interest rates that will be supportive of businesses’ quest for credit.”

He lamented that Nigeria, under the APC-led government, has consistently run on budget deficits since it came to power in 2015, stressing that these deficits are often above the three per cent threshold permissible under the Fiscal Responsibility Law.

“Ironically, this has increased government’s appetite for more debts, now more than N50 trillion (if you add AMCON debts and Ways and Means),” he said.

“They leave potential investors confused and weary of the Nigerian economy. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has progressively declined since 2019. It fell sharply from US$8.5 billion in Q1 2019 to US$5.8 billion in Q12020 and US$1.9 billion in Q1 2021. We have lost our esteemed position as Africa’s preferred investment destination to less endowed nations.”

Earlier, LCCI president, Asiwaju Michael Olawale-Cole, said while the chamber is non-partisan, it is, however, interested in the economic agenda of the candidates and their plans to make a better Nigeria in the next dispensation.

He said the chamber is aware of the overshadowing effect of politics over economics in managing the Nigerian economy and would therefore wish to contribute to the setting of a new economic order that will take the economy from the doldrums.

He highlighted that new policy directions, institutional reforms, and sound governance are critical to creating a new economic order in Nigeria.

“For the past 16 years, LCCI has organised this session in every election cycle. This is part of its public policy advocacy to provide a first-hand opportunity for presidential candidates of the leading political parties to speak to the organised private sector on their economic blueprint for Nigeria. All patriotic Nigerians would like to know the plans and intentions of a future President and this will most likely enhance the choices people make at the polls.

“Beyond economic management, we understand that countries rise or fall through leadership and governance. Nigerians have another opportunity to decide who leads them in the next four years from 2023-2027,” he added.

He bemoaned that the Nigerian economy has been inundated with myriads of problems among which are oil theft, an unsustainable subsidy regime, insecurity, and a foreign exchange crisis, but however stated that despite all these challenges, the prospects and future remains bright for the Nigerian economy.

THERE was, however, a wave of discontent in political circles over LCCI’s decision to invite only three out of the 18 presidential aspirants vying for the position of Nigeria’s president in next year’s election, as only Atiku, Peter Obi of Labour Party and APC’s Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu were invited for the parley with the Organised Private Sector (OPS).

This has left candidates of the other parties expressing concerns, saying it portends a grave danger for Nigeria’s political future.

“We have always seen LCCI as an apolitical organisation that is only interested in furthering the overall economic aspirations of Nigeria through it’s policies,” a spokesman for one of the parties said.

“We are aware of how they have used their platform to expose candidates vying for top elective positions in the country, and how it has helped in shaping public opinion on the eve of important elections in Nigeria.

“That is why we find it difficult to comprehend why the LCCI would on this occasion deviate from the standards they have set in times past and decide to be partisan this time around.

“Otherwise, why would they decide to narrow the list of invitees to present their economic blueprint for Nigeria in this particular edition of the forum?

“We would have expected that for a big event such as this and which we learned would be streamed live on all social media platforms to allow for public discourse and participation, the LCCI would have adopted a neutral, non-partisan stance that would allow for a level playing field in which other interested contestants in the race for the country’s presidency could partake.”

The dissatisfied contestants, therefore, called on LCCI to review its policy not to damage its hard won reputation as a non-partisan organization, by being neutral while organising such future events.

MEANWHILE, Atiku yesterday said he was marveled by the level of mobilisation of PDP members in Lagos ahead of the general elections.

Atiku, who arrived the state early in the day to attend a series of activities, spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting with party members, leaders, and candidates for various positions in the elections.

“In all my political career, we are the people who established PDP, I have never seen Lagos so mobilised like this. This makes me believe that this electoral time, PDP is going to win Lagos,” the former vice president said.

Atiku, who promised to support the party to win the 2023 elections in the state, urged party stakeholders to work harder to achieve the feat.

In his remarks, the governorship candidate of PDP in Lagos, Olajide Adediran (Jandor), said people of the state had never been so hopeful with Atiku.

“We have spoken to ourselves and we have decided to say, regardless of whatever is happening anywhere, what is paramount to us is to deliver Nigeria and Lagos for the PDP.”

Atiku was accompanied by former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; Senator Dino Maleye, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, party stalwarts and some members of the National Assembly.

AMID calls for his resignation, PDP national chairman, Iyorchia Ayu, will today embark on a trip to Europe. Ayu, in a statement by his media aide, Simon Imobo-Tswam, said he has handed over to Deputy Chairman (North), Amb. Iliya Damagun, in accordance with the PDP Constitution.

The statement reads in part: “The PDP National Chairman will leave Nigeria for Europe tomorrow (Wednesday). He will be out of the country for about two weeks. While away, the Deputy Chairman (North) will act in his place.

“Already, the national chairman has communicated the handover to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). He is expected back at month-end.”

YESTERDAY, former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; ex-Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal and Senator Elisah Abbo met with the 19 states chairmen of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to further their consultation against the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, just as the ruling party prepares to commence its electioneering campaign.

Dogara, in a tweet via his handle @YakubDogara shared a group photograph of himself, Lawal, Abbo and former Kogi State deputy governor, Simon Achuba, in the company of all State Chairmen of CAN from the 19 Northern states and the Federal Capital Territory.

The tweet reads: “#NigeriaDecides2023 – The fight for justice continues. Today, we held a consultative meeting with Christian leaders from the 19 Northern states and the FCT on the Pan-Nigerian platform to adopt in 2023.”

The duo of Dogara and Lawal had kicked against the same faith ticket adopted by the APC presidential flag-bearer, Tinubu, who announced the former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate.

Tinubu’s announcement of Shettima had met with opposition from Christian leaders. The 19 Northern states Christian politicians had last month met in Abuja to reject the same faith ticket of the party, saying they would not campaign for Tinubu and Shettima.

FORMER aspirants of the ruling party under the auspices of APC360, have expressed concern over defections that have hit the party in recent weeks. The group called on Tinubu to urgently set measures to halt the massive defection of members, especially aspirants, to other political parties.

Members of the group raised the alarm after an emergency meeting in Abuja on Tuesday. National secretary of the group, Chris Enoch, in a statement, said APC supporters were deeply concerned about the fact that the party hierarchy has still not arrested the situation.

Aside thousands of supporters at state level, more than eight senators have dumped the APC, including the Senate Majority and Minority Leaders. At the House of Representatives, more than 25 lawmakers have also jumped ship.

According to Enoch, as critical stakeholder, the group cannot close its eves against the dangerous trend sweeping away party members.

The group said: ‘’It is also hazardous and harmful to the health and wealth of our great party, particularly when we are preparing for a national election.

“We as members of the only pressure group that has invested in this great party through the direct purchase of expression of interest and nomination forms, etc. are concerned because of our belief that the massive decamping which is being surreptitiously carried out is planned and calculated to frustrate the coasting to the victory of Tinubu at the general election by those who have scores to settle with the party or are holding grudges and to this end are working against the party.”