The removal of fuel by the Federal Government got on Thursday the support of one-time Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who said the decision was taken in the nation’s interest.
Sanusi, who is also a former Emir in Kano, gave the support at “The PlatformNG60” organised by Covenant Christian Centre in Lagos, anchored by Pastor Poju Oyemade.
According to him, ongoing reforms by the Federal Government would yield positive results if well implemented, stating that the removal of subsidy was long overdue considering the current economic realities.
He said: “As a result of COVID-19, Nigeria has finally come round to been realistic; we were paying billions of dollars as subsidy.
“It’s been going on for 20/30 years and we complained about the economic situation we were in today, but there is nothing that surprises me.
“If we are honest ourselves and anyone who studied economies could see that this subsidy we needed to end it. It’s something we could have stopped as far back as 10 years ago not just with this government, but with the previous governments.”
He said that the government had commenced implementation of some reforms that needed to be continued to achieve growth and development.
Sanusi said: “In the last few months, this government has started implementing certain reforms that if we continue along those lines, we will begin to see the light.
“Removal of fuel subsidy is one; the adjustment in electricity tariff is another. But fundamentally, look at NNPC, this government has for the first time in more than a decade published audited accounts of NNPC for 2018.
“We may not like what we see in terms of the spending right now inside NNPC, but at least let us have some kind of visibility of what happens there?”
The former CBN governor also said that increased transparency in the oil sector and increased transparency in the energy sector should be maintained.
He said: “These are reforms that need to be pushed; we need to understand that the government does not have the balance sheet to continue with the father Christmas situation that we had over the last decade or so.
“I wish we have done this earlier but we are here now and this is being done and we need to commend it.”
He also commended the Finance Minister, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, for her bold reforms to keep the country from going totally bankrupt.
“The minister has been trying to manage finances of the government in an extreme situation,” he said.
Speaking on the way forward, Sanusi called for economic diversification and human capital development, adding that Nigeria needed to focus on human capital, stressing that human beings build countries.
He said: “All we need to do is to continue to eliminate avenues for rent seeking. When people understand that the way to make money is to produce real goods and services, build up Small and Medium Enterprises, build up manufacturing companies, they will provide the needed services.”
In his presentation, Works and Housing Minister Babatunde Fashola urged Nigerians pay more attention to the governments at the local and state levels rather than focusing on the Federal Government.
The minister explained the governments at both levels take responsibility for provision of basic education, primary healthcare, water supply, among other necessities of Nigerians.
He said: “Government is not magic and we continue to project hope. But some Nigerians must realize that what we expect of the Nigerian federal government perhaps lies more with the state governors and the local government.
“Some of the most basic things are with them. So, looking for it from the federal government perhaps is why we seem to have been disappointed because we are looking for the result in the wrong place. Waste management, water supply, primary healthcare, basic education, those are all things with the local and state government.
“Federal government does not own a primary healthcare centre. In Nigeria, the federal government has roughly about 107 secondary schools. I will urge people to go and read the constitution. The powers the president has are about 25, many of them are circumscribed by the national assembly and judiciary.
“The government that can transform us and give us the things we want most quickly are the governments closest to us – state and local government. Security is a shared responsibility. Going forward in choosing leaders, we must make sure that we pay even greater attention to who is governor, who is a local government chairman than we pay to who is president.”
Restating government’s commitment to the expansion of infrastructure in spite of the drop in oil revenue, noting that 671 road and bridge construction were on going in the country, Fashola urged Nigerians to participate in the economic development of the country by ensuring payment of taxes, stressing that government alone could not do the job.
Fashola explained that things required to fix the country had to do with leadership, adding that one could lead without title.
He said: “There are many duties that we owe ourselves and the country and this is captioned in Section 24 of the Constitution and we should adopt them. At 60, Nigeria is still relatively young in the comity of nations.”
The trio of Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese Matthew Hassan Kukah, Serving Overseer of the Citadel Global Community Church Pastor Tunde Bakare and Stanbic IBTC Bank founder Atedo Peterside, also spoke at the conference.
Kukah, who believed the leadership positions across political positions were skewed against Christians, said President Muhammadu Buhari was making it difficult for Nigerians to celebrate diversity.
Bakare said no nation can make progress when mediocre is on the driver’s seat.
He said the arrangement where the president, those in charge of affairs at the senate and house of representatives, as well as the chief justice are from the same religion, hinders celebration of diversity and betrays the principle of federal character.
He said: “I think even the most optimistic Nigerian must conceive that we are nowhere near coming to define the real sense of democracy. Beyond just going through the process of cycles of election, we have a very serious problem with recruitment methods,” he said.
“Reflecting federal character should be like viewing ourselves in the mirror and celebrating our diversity because the table is big enough to occupy everyone.
“But when you don’t have that and you put all your apples in one basket, naturally you cannot make headway, because you’re violating the constitution and thinking that we are in a democracy.
“We need to very quickly reset the template if we are to take our place after 60 years of independence. If we are unable to provide our people with water, food, light, security, then it is a tough call. I am not a happy Nigerian but I remain a hopeful Nigerian.”
Pastor Bakare said no nation can make progress when mediocre is on the driver’s seat.
The cleric stressed the need to ensure that the right people are in positions of authority to put the country on the right track.
Peterside said not should be spared to protect the nation’s hard-earned democracy.
He said: “In my generation, about the only thing we delivered through activism was democracy. That democracy is in danger because we decide if and where we have free and fair elections.”