The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, says the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is doing immensely well, in spite of the dwindling revenues accruing to government.
The minister stated this while responding to questions on the state of the nation on an audience participatory programme of the language station of Radio Nigeria, Lagos operations, Bond FM 92.9 in lkeja.
The programme, aired in Yoruba Language, was monitored by the in Lagos.
Mohammed said the Buhari government was delivering on its election promises in spite of economic crunch due to dwindling price of crude oil and the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy.
He said that in terms of massive infrastructure renewal and delivery, Buhari’s government surpassed previous administrations which experienced oil boom but failed to effectively utilise it to better the lives of Nigerians.
Buttressing his position on the development in key sectors, Mohammed explained that since 1987, there was no definite investment in the railway lnfrastructure, until Buhari came in 2015.
He said many railway routes have been established, standard gauges inaugurated and many modern coaches acquired by the government, thereby transforming land transportation.
On the transformation of the Agricultural sector, the miinister said before the Buhari administration came on board, Nigeria depended solely on importation of rice from Thailand and India.
He said with the visionary leadership of Buhari, Nigeria has 34 integrated rice mills while rice production by local farmers has significantly increased, leading to many locally made brands of rice.
Mohammed said the lingering crises in the power sector, was foisted on the country by previous administration which sold the generation and distribution arms of the sector to private companies without capacity to run the facilities effectively.
To rescue the situation, the minister said the Buhari government has spent N1.7 trillion in subsidising electricity since it came into power.
The minister, however, said that government can no longer sustain the subsidy because of dwindling resources and the fact that it has not translated to steady power supply.
He explained that such funds are better used for other visible capital projects that would add value to the lives of Nigerians.
He urged Nigerians to be patient with the government with the ongoing restructuring of the power sector.
The minister assured that Nigeria will witness steady power supply with the implementation of the MOU signed with a foreign technology company, SIEMENS, to deliver 7,000mw by 2021 and 11,000mw by 2023.
He equally disclosed that the federal government spent N10.4 trillion on fuel subsidy from 2006 to 2009 reiterating that the regime can no longer be sustained under the prevailing economic conditions.
“Revenues and foreign exchange earnings by the government have fallen by almost 60 per cent due to the downturn in the fortunes of the oil sector.
“There is no provision for subsidy in the revised 2020 budget. So where will the subsidy money come from?
“Remember that despite the massive fall in revenues, the government still has to sustain expenditures, especially on salaries and capital projects,” he said.
The minister noted that the citizens are not the beneficiaries of the subsidy on petroleum products that has lasted for years.
He explained that the administration removed fuel subsidy because only few persons were benefitting from the money, which was having no positive impact on the nation’s economy.
Mohammed noted that with the removal of subsidy the price of petroleum products would be determined by market forces of demand and supply.
He assured that the deregulation of the petroleum sector would save the country trillions of Naira, which can be used to provide modern infrastructures for the benefit of the people.
The minister added that the deregulation would spur investments in the petroleum industry, especially in the building of local refineries, and result in lower fuel prices.
He said that the first modular refinery that has the capacity to refine 5,000 barrels of petroleum products daily would be inaugurated in October in Imo state.
The minister said when the Dangote’s 650,000 barrels capacity per day refinery and other modular refineries come on stream, they would help in reducing the price of finished petroleum products in the country.
He assured that the government under the watch of President Buhari will not derail in its electioneering promises of taking Nigeria to the next level
Importers cry out as duty, demurrage rise
Importers have decried the high cost of importing goods through the seaports. Many importers, investigation has shown, have abandoned their cargoes at the ports because of high exchange rate and demurrage charges at the port.
Investigation by The Nation revealed that the cost of importing cargoes through the nation’s sea ports has increased by over five per cent because the exchange rate for all imports has gone up from N361 to N381 per dollar.
An importer, Mr Segun Ogunjobi, berated a situation where the bank has banned middle men in the opening of form M.
He said dealing with manufacturers is not a tea party. “Although we are aware that rising level of imports and a growing trade deficit can have a negative effect on a country’s exchange rate, but we believe that the reason the CBN took the action is because the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) generated N1.341trillion last year, exceeding its target of N937 billion by 12 percent above N1.20 trillion generated in 2018.
‘’The Federal Government wants more money from Customs and other maritime agencies and that was why they took the action,” Ogunjobi said.
He further argued that if the move by the Federal Government was to assist NCS in achieving its projected revenue target of N2 trillion, the increase would lead to more demurrage as many importers would leave their cargoes unclaimed at the ports.
A maritime lawyer, Dr Dipo Alaka, said the CBN took the decision to save the economy from collapse. He added that N10 to N20 increment would go a long way to bridge the depleting revenue target, especially since the outbreak of COVID-19.
He urged the CBN to support importers through flexible loans with low-interest rates, adding that the maritime sector was the only place available for government to boost the economy and generate employment, especially at a time when the price of crude oil, which the country depends upon, had already collapsed globally. The maritime expert urged CBN to exempt all approved Form M in the port and high sea from the new import exchange rate.
The National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) has also learnt its voice to the development, calling for the review of the implementation of the CBN foreign exchange policy for duty payment by Importers operating at the port.
Similarly, the Shippers Association of Lagos State (SALS) said the increase in the exchange rate for cargo clearing has led to shortage of raw materials used by the manufacturing sector, saying that the decision by the bank to hike the exchange rate for importers is affecting the fragile economy, especially the manufacturing sector and other importers.
The President of SALS, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, fears that industries, importers and exporters would be forced to source for additional funds to clear their cargoes trapped in the ports due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Nicol said: “The new rate does not reflect on Form ‘M’s already approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria. It is the approved rate on Form M that is used to procure foreign exchange for each shipment and also effect transfers to suppliers.”