Call emergency economic confab, Soyinka tells Buhari

… YUF raises the alarm over declining economy

From Magnus Eze, Abuja and Segun Olatunji, Abeokuta

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to, as a matter of urgency, convene an emergency economic conference to enable relevant experts proffer solutions to the nation’s plummeting economy.

Soyinka, who made the call in Abuja yesterday during a courtesy visit to the Information and Culture Minister, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, blamed the current economic downturn on the rot perpetuated by previous administrations.

“I think the president needs to call for emergency economic conference with experts, manufacturers, consumers, labour union, university lecturers and other relevant stakeholders for rescue operations. The state of the economy is not very encouraging, it is parlous, quite frankly. I think those economic experts, chamber of commerce and private business, among others will agree with this. The economic condition of a nation does not deteriorate overnight, something came before that deterioration.”

Soyinka said prolonged and unchecked process of attrition, which was neglected in the past, was now knocking on the door.

“The consequences of past maladministration is what we are all under-going right now. So, don’t look to see a bonanza economy in the next few months to a year; recovery is going to take quite a while. And, at the same time, we must rely on our objective economic experts to tell the government when it is going wrong and when it is taking certain measures which might just compound the problem and in the end make the people the ultimate victims.”

The Nobel Laureate described the way the Federal Government was recovering looted funds as impressive and stressed that the tempo should be maintained.

Earlier, while welcoming Soyinka, the minister said with his level of fame and accomplishments, it was practically impossible for Prof. Soyinka to go anywhere unnoticed.

Meanwhile, a group, Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) on Thursday, in Ikenne, Ogun State raised the alarm over the current economic recession in the country. The YUF also said urgent steps should be taken to salvage the situation.

The group said at its general meeting at the Ikenne residence of the Awolowo family that it had become imperative for the Federal Government to act fast to restore investors’ confidence in the economy.

The YUF in a communique issued at the end of its meeting, expressed displeasure about the worsening economy, increasing dis-investment, youth unemployment and fast falling exchange rate of the naira to the US dollar.

The group argued that due to the current economic doldrums, perquisites of office of elected or appointed public office holders should be drastically reduced .

It also urged the Federal Government to reduce the size of government and ensure this year’s budget laid emphasis on capital projects rather than on non-productive expenditure.

YUF also advised government to reduce importation of non-essential goods and encourage home-made goods. The group also emphasised the need for the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to implement the reports of the 2014 national conference.

According to the communique, “Emphasis should henceforth be placed on the use of local engineers and artisans in the building of the nation’s infrastructural projects,to provide gainful employment for millions of unemployed youths.

“A single exchange rate of the naira be determined,to replace the present official and black market rates, in order to prevent round-tripping by those who have access to official foreign exchange.

“Government programme on diversification of the economy should give prime position to agriculture, solid minerals development and revamping of ailing industries.”

YUF deputy vice chairman, Right Reverend Emmanuel Gbonigi (retd), earlier in his opening address said 2016 would be a challenging year in view of the economic downturn.

Gbonigi noted that the fall in the value of the Naira against the US dollar had made it difficult for manufacturers to obtain foreign exchange, adding that the economy should be given the optimum attention in the interest of the country.

The cleric also lamented the declining revenue accruing to the three tiers of government due to fall in oil price in the world market, urging the government to consider diversifying the economy from oil to agriculture and establishment of agro-allied industries.

“The year 2016 will certainly be very challenging for our country Nigeria and indeed for us the citizens. With the US dollars exchanging in the parallel market for over N300 and foreign exchange difficult to obtain at the official rate by manufacturers,it is clear that the economy if not given the desired attention may begin to shrink leading to massive job losses.

“Also, very disturbing,is the declining revenue accuring to all tiers of government‎ and in particular the states and local government as a result of the fall in the price of crude oil. Even with the bailout, many states are still unable to pay salaries for several months. Equally threatening to go spiral is the raising rate of inflation resulting from the steady but unofficial devaluation of the Naira.

“I therefore call on the managers of the Nigerian economy to act decisively by putting in place necessary measures to restore investor confidence in the economy and save millions of jobs currently under threat.

“In this regard, the Forum recommends that the programme to diversify the economy of the nation should give prime position to agriculture and the establishment of agro-allied industries to add value to our farm products.

“In addition, solid minerals development and the revamping of our ailing industries should also receive increased attention. I wish here to single out the textile industry as an example of an industry which has the capacity of not only restoring in less than one year,tens of thousands of jobs lost earlier in the century,but also add tens of billions of Naira to the National Gross Domestic Product,” he said.

The YUF also backed Buhari’s anti-corruption war, warning that it should not be selective.

Gbonigi also announced to the meeting the appointment of the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, as the new Patron of the Forum.

The meeting observed a minute silence in honour of Chief (Mrs) HID Awolowo,who was until her death,the Chairman of the YUF and the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade.

The highlight of the ‎meeting was the election of Bishop Gbonigi, as the substantive chairman of the Forum following the death of Mama Awolowo.

Archbishop Ayo Ladigbolu (retd) is also elected the new deputy chairman three vice-chairmen ;namely, Senator Femi Okurounmu, Ambassador Tokunbo Awolowo Dosumu were also elected.

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