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Economic Resurgence: Key Takeaways from the 2nd Chronicle Roundtable with Nigeria’s Leaders

Kashim Shettima (right) and Alh. Mohammed Idris at the event

By Ese Ufoma

At the Ladi Kwali Hall of the Abuja Continental (Sheraton) Hotel, a distinguished gathering of key figures from the political, media, and economic spheres convened for the 2nd Chronicle Roundtable, hosted by 21st Century Chronicle. Among the notable attendees were, Vice President Kashim Shettima, Minister of Information, Alh. Mohammed Idris, and Special Adviser to the Vice President on Political Matters, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed. Also present were esteemed leaders in the media industry, including Dr. Ishaq Moddibo Kawu, Mallam Garba Shehu, Mr. Segun Adeniyi, and Malam Mahmud Jega, among others. The focal point of discussion revolved around the economic and social agenda of the Tinubu administration, under the theme: “Tinubu Administration’s Economic and Social Agenda: How It Will Transform Nigeria.”

In his opening remarks, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, Chairman of the Ministry of Finance Incorporated (MOFI) and former Finance Minister, set a tone of insightful deliberation by commending the depth and coherence of the Tinubu administration’s Renewed Hope Agenda. He emphasized the necessity of integrating this agenda into the country’s long-term development framework, stressing the importance of policy coherence and alignment with strategic objectives to drive progress across vital sectors of the economy.

The discussion took on a unique dimension as it delved into the assessment of the Tinubu administration’s economic policies. Dr. Shamsudeen shared a revealing anecdote from his tenure as Minister of Finance under former President Umaru Musa Yaradua. He recounted instances where ministers would commend presentations by aligning them with the vague notion of a “seven-point agenda,” despite lacking clarity on its content. This practice, he noted, was a mere facade aimed at ingratiating themselves with the president. Similar observations were made during the tenure of Former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, with references to the “Transformation Agenda.” Dr. Usman voiced concerns that such superficial allegiance might also pervade discussions around Tinubu’s “Renewed Hope Agenda.”

Dr. Usman further emphasized the need for a critical review of the campaign document as it approaches its first anniversary. He underscored the importance of aligning short-term policy objectives with the broader medium and long-term interests of the nation. While acknowledging the value of strategic planning, Dr. Usman stressed the paramount importance of effective implementation and rigorous evaluation of outcomes. Drawing from President Tinubu’s stern directive at a presidential retreat, Dr. Usman urged for decisive action to hold ministers accountable for their performance, advocating for swift repercussions for underperformance.

Using the dysfunctional state of Nigeria’s electricity system as a poignant example, Dr. Usman lamented the lack of tangible progress despite numerous promises. He proposed the adoption of a performance-based mechanism wherein ministers commit to deliverables within specific timeframes or face resignation in cases of failure. Dr. Usman highlighted the prevalence of self-serving interests among political actors and urged for a culture of genuine commitment to Nigeria’s welfare.

The former minister reiterated the imperative of leadership by example, emphasizing the need for President Tinubu to uphold his pledge of accountability and consequence-based governance. His remarks served as a sobering reminder of the challenges confronting Nigeria’s socio-economic landscape, calling for a concerted effort to steer the nation towards a path of sustainable development and prosperity.

Also speaking at the event, Nigeria’s Vice President, Sen. Kashim Shettima who was also the Guest Speaker at the roundtable, in his speech titled, “Because These Shortcuts Are Not The Right Ways,” explained some key policy decisions taken by the Tinubu led administration as well as its Economic and Social Agenda, including the removal of subsidy on petroleum products, which he described as the ‘biggest elephant in the room’ before President Tinubu took charge.

While acknowledging the challenging times in Nigeria, Sen. Shettima expressed confidence in the nation’s resilience and the capable hands of its leadership. Drawing an analogy to weathering a storm at sea, Shettima emphasized the importance of courage in leadership, citing President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as a shining example. On the issue of fuel subsidy removal, Sen. Shettima refrained from blaming previous administrations and instead focused on the current administration’s resolve to confront challenges head-on. He highlighted the complexity of the subsidy issue, noting the administration’s dual challenge of clearing debts and addressing subsidy concerns.

The VP noted that though the decision to remove fuel subsidy was quite tough considering its negative impact on the lives of the citizens, it became an inevitable option when it was discovered that the immediate past administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari did not make provision for it in the 2023 budget.

He explained: “His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, chose the option that would save the life of the nation, instead of one that would merely prolong its imminent and predicted economic death. Before we took charge, the biggest elephant in the room was the question of fuel subsidy removal.

“We understood why our predecessor made the decision to remove it and refused to budget for it in their final fiscal year. The year before we took office, Nigeria’s debt service-to-revenue ratio had grown to 111.8%. The anticipated debt crisis may sound like a fancy economic jargon to the man on the street, but you and I are in a better position to understand how such miscalculations have played out in other countries. It’s an economic death sentence.

“In plain terms, our debt servicing was such that if you earned, say, N100, 000, the entirety of the money wasn’t only paid to your debtor; you were forced to borrow an additional N11, 800 to pay the debtor. How do you intend to survive this, and how many more loans before you become a pariah?

“We are not even discussing the nation’s budget deficits, diversions of resources from critical sectors of the economy, and corruption masterminded in the subsidy regime.”

Acknowledging that government is a continuum, the VP said whoever had “succeeded the previous government would have either chosen to steer the ship through the storm as President Tinubu is doing or jumped ship and let the country implode.”

He observed that those who contested the presidency with President Tinubu did not feel morally justified to question the decision to remove fuel subsidy because it was part of the solutions they also tabled before Nigerians.

“This was because, whether in handling the subsidy matter or the forex crisis, they had also promised the solutions we had adopted. Those who attempted to eat their words were instantly proven wrong by data, history, and their antecedents—those emotionless reality checkers,” he pointed out.

The administration’s priorities were outlined across eight key areas, including job creation, economic development, insecurity eradication, poverty alleviation, and technology development.
Efforts to combat inflation and ensure safety and optimism were underscored, alongside the urgent need for improvement in critical sectors such as energy, power, education, security, and youth employment.

Highlighting the administration’s commitment to lead by example, Vice President Shettima emphasized measures such as reducing travel expenses for ministers as a demonstration of prudent governance and implored Nigerians to be patient with the administration of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu as he steers the ship of leadership through the economic turbulence and storm he met on ground on assumption of office.
“Soon, Nigeria’s economy will experience significant growth once we’ve overcome these sacrifices. Positive changes will soon be evident across all economic indicators – inflation, per capita income, GDP numbers, poverty reduction, food security, and all aspects close to the hearts of our people,” he declared.

Appealing for patience and time to address the serious challenges they met when they took over office, especially the nation’s ailing economy which was already tottering towards an eclipse, Shettima said, “We look forward to the positive impact on the economy that will be brought by some of our new initiatives in the oil and gas sector, creative arts sector, the newly rejigged steel and solid minerals sectors, our housing sector, the blue economy, and the digital sectors, to mention but a few.
“There is no doubt that there’s a time to plant and a time to reap. In between those times, we appeal for patience and seek collective sacrifice from all, especially from us. We wish there was a way to treat this ailment without surgery”.

The Vice President commended the efforts of the Governor of Central Bank, Yemi Cardoso in combating currency manipulation, calling for unity, and a focus on governance over politics. Senator Shettima regretted that for long, Nigeria had endured economic sabotage, leading to the resolve by Yemi Cardoso and the National Security Adviser, Malam Nuhu Ribadu, “to take matters into their hands to neutralise the overpowering influence of currency manipulators who had conspired to frustrate our reforms.

“Today, I stand proud to say that their interventions have translated into desired results, and Naira’s pushback against all odds is an inspiring journey that doesn’t have to be learned in Buenos Aires, as some would want us to do,” he added.
Vice President Shettima, in conclusion, expressed optimism that Nigerians would come to appreciate the administration’s efforts over time, highlighting the President’s sincere intentions to leave a legacy of a more developed country.
On his part, the CEO of 2nd Chronicle Newspaper, Malam Mahmud Jega while welcoming guests to the event, said the need to critically analyse government policies and programmes was not just an expectation from the media but indeed borne out of the necessity to collectively contribute in shaping the nation’s development trajectory.