The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry and analysts on Tuesday joined a number of industry stakeholders to fault the economic policies of the Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
The industry groups were reacting to recent comments by the President, who claimed in an interview with Bloomberg that his administration’s economic model had been an alternative model that put people at the heart of policy.
He said his successor would inherit a far more resilient economy due to investments in infrastructure and policies that had bolstered local production.
According to him, under his watch, the government had recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in stolen state funds, built new transport links and weakened militant group, Boko Haram, Buhari said in written responses to Bloomberg questions.
With Russia’s war on Ukraine disrupting global supply chains, the government had been vindicated on its support for farmers and manufacturers, he said.
However, industry stakeholders, in response to the President’s claims, have disagreed with Buhari’s assertions. They held that this administration’s economic policies had been toothless, insensitive, harsh and incapable of stimulating growth of industries and commercial entities.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with The PUNCH, the Director-General of the Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce, Mr Sola Obadimu, said Buhari’s assessment of his administration’s economic policies had not mirrored the monumental failures it had been fraught with.
According to him, the thrust of the administration’s purported economic model had brought unprecedented levels of hardship on the private sector.
He said, “Statements like that are debatable at best. In the past seven years, we have witnessed the most volatile phases in our industrial life. For instance, if we pick the naira valuation as at when he came in and now, you will see the difference. That has been unfriendly to industry.
“If you look at the interest rate payable by borrowers, you will understand. I said the last time that when you were paying back the interest rate of 13%, you would notice it was not practicable.”
Obadimu further stated that with the disparity between exchange rate at the official and parallel markets, it was obvious that the government had created certain opportunities for round tripping in the system and consequently put a strain on business entities who needed foreign exchange for business.
Also, the Deputy-President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mr Gabriel Idahosa, while reacting to the President’s comments, said the reality was at variance with the claims of the President.
Idahosa said, “He (Buhari) may well be speaking to himself. We don’t really need any complicated analysis to see whether the policies are addressing the issues of the business community. Whether it is power supply, the foreign exchange market, whether it’s a model that enables the private sector to invest in infrastructure in a manner that enables business to thrive, it is clear for all to see.
In the same vein, the Chairman of the Gas Group, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr Ola Adebayo, described government’s policies as lacking the needed proactiveness to effect tangible impact in the commercial industry.
Adebayo said, “In Nigeria, one thing is to formulate policies but another thing is implementing it. With the recent events, I don’t think the government has passed. We only have very good policies on paper, but the implementation has been lacking. Once there is no implementation, it becomes just an idea.”
A Professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ago-Iwoye, Ogun State, Prof Sheriffdeen Tella,on his part, countered the president.
According to Tella, the CBN should not be engaged in direct interventions but work alongside with specialised banks. Tella said, “I don’t know the model that the CBN governor using. What I know is that part of the developmental objectives of the Central Bank is intervention in development of banks and the economy. As regards the intervention in the development of the economy, it is not properly stated how that can be done. But what we are saying is that the central bank cannot directly intervene in the economy because that is called retail banking.