Soyinka wants Buhari to fix economy, MAN decries taxes

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka (left), Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba, when Soyinka visited the minister in Abuja... yesterday.
Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka (left), Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed and the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba, when Soyinka visited the minister in Abuja… yesterday.

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NOBEL LAUREATE Prof. Wole Soyinka yesterday said the Nigerian economy was in such dire straits that President Mohammadu Buhari should convene an emergency economic conference to chart the way forward.

Answering questions from reporters when he visited the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed in Abuja, Soyinka described the state of the economy as ‘parlous’, the result of prolonged and unchecked process of attrition from past years.

In a related development, the Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) warned yesterday that many people would lose their jobs in the year if the Federal Government does not take immediate steps to check the drastic fall of the naira and rising inflation in the country.

The forum insisted that this year would be a challenging year to Nigerians if the managers of the economy fails to initiate quality policies to arrest the “worsening economic situation.”

Meanwhile, the Organised Private Sector (OPS) in Lagos State yesterday at an interactive forum with Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at the State House Ikeja decried the difficulties they encounter in the course of doing business in the state.

While acknowledging efforts of the administration to improve security and traffic flow, they, however, lamented the regime of multiple levies, harassment, from local council officials, touts and difficulties of commuting in the metropolis, all of which “are frustrating and crippling business initiatives and investments.”

According to Soyinka, what the nation is going through is the consequence of years of past bad governance .
Soyinka told reporters: “The state of the economy is not a very encouraging one, it’s parlous quite frankly and I think most economic experts, chambers of commerce and the private business will agree with this. I agree with those who say the economy is bad.It is so bad that the president should call an emergency economic conference to which experts , consumers, producers, labour unions, university experts will be invited .We really need an emergency economic conference, a rescue operation that will bring as many heads together as possible where we can chart the way forward.

“But the economic condition of a nation does not deteriorate over night, something came before that deterioration-a certain prolonged and unchecked process of attrition which was neglected in the past is now knocking on the door.What we are undergoing right now is the consequence of past bad governance”, he added.

Soyinka who said it would take a while before the economy recovers, said: “Don’t look to see a bonanza economy in the next few months to a year; recovery is going to take quite a while. But at the same time, we are going to rely on our objective economic experts to tell the government when it is going wrong, when it is taking certain measures which might just compound the problem and in the end make the people the ultimate victims.”

On his assessment of the Buhari’s administration so far, Soyinka replied: “I belong to a people who are very impatient for results. I have a very clear idea of governance tempo and if the government does one thing which is crucial without breaking the law, without ignoring the constitution, if that goal is attained, by constitutional means, if nothing else, we would have moved forward in this nation at least 10 years ahead.

“Right now, there is a very definite dedication up to that target and the tempo, for me, is very reasonable. It is the human rights side that we have to watch very carefully such that the goal is achieved without forfeiting the fundamental human rights which form the basis of free citizenship.

“The human rights will carry out their own responsibilities while governance moves in the direction which I believe most Nigerians absolutely approve and I am speaking of corruption.

“Get the money back, punish those responsible for the impoverishment of the people and ensure that such processes take a certain form such that others who are in trusted positions will hesitate before they rob the nation with contempt.

“While I will not ask the government to damn the consequences of their emotions, I hope that they remain within that zone of ethical rigor in which it doesn’t matter whose ox is gored. Governance to me is a complicated matter and there is a lot of debris to be cleared.”

The Chairman of YUF, Rev. Emmanuel Gbonigi, while speaking to journalists at the end of its general meeting at Ikenne, country home of the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, advised the government to diversify the economy by giving priority attention to agriculture as well as agro-allied industries.

In a statement read by its Secretary – General, Senator Anthony Adefuye, YUF deplored the increasing youth unemployment and insecurity across the country.

The Yoruba leaders urged the government to reduce the size and cost of governance in the country, implement the 2014 recommendations of the National Conference as well as restriction on import of non – essential items.

The body also called for the patronage of made – in – Nigeria – goods, use of local engineers and artisans for for governments’ construction jobs among others as a way making jobs available to Nigerians.

In attendance at the meeting were the YUF’s new Chairman, Rev. Emmanuel Gbonigi, the Secretary – General, Senator Anthony Adefuye, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, Senator Bucknor Akerele, Dr Tokunbo Awolowo-Dosunmu, among others.

According to the President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Nike Akande at the OPS meeting with Ambode , while the perfection of land titles and securing Certificate of Occupancy (C-of-O) in Lagos State takes an unduly long time, sometimes about two years or more, “the menace of ‘area-boys’ and ‘omo onile’ on land matters remains a major worry to investors.”

She observed that there were too many permits and licences to be obtained, a situation now so bad some delivery vehicles carry as many as 15 stickers on their windscreens some of which are: Lagos Drivers Institute Licence; Driver’s Licence by the Road Safety; Local Government Permit; Hackney Permit and Dual Carriage; Vehicle Licence; Certificate of Road Worthiness and Barge Permit .

“Your Excellency, these copious permits and licences will certainly create compliance problems. This has therefore created a problem of logistics for companies operating in the state, most of which are Short and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs).”

Akande added that though no one should be averse to paying tax, their worry, however, is the manner in which the local councils manage this aspect of their functions, citing several instances of arbitrariness in the imposition of levies.

“Again these come with a lot of arbitrariness with rates ranging from ₦ 50,000 to ₦200,000 per annum. On parking permit, many organisations have been served with various charges for parking permit ranging from ₦100,000 to ₦500,000 per annum depending on the locations and number of parking lots.

“There are instances where both the local and the state officials make demands on the same companies for parking fees. For companies in the small and medium enterprise categories, these demands could be very burdensome, “ Akande said.

The Chairman of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Apapa Branch, Folaranmi Odunayo, added that the menace of traffic gridlock in the Tincan/Apapa/Mile Two corridor has continued to remain “a bad comedy of human struggle and pain.”

According to Odunayo, notwithstanding the efforts of the administration, the gridlock has continued, which is the reason why their distribution agents, staffers, including business owners themselves try to avoid the axis.

Ambode in response to their concerns, assured of his administration’s commitment to ensure that the Blue Line of the Light Rail Project is up and running by December 2016.

He debunked claims that work had stopped on the first phase of the project connecting Mile 2 to CMS, saying the allegation was totally untrue.

“The truth is, you might not see the contractors but they are actually working on the waters for now and by December this year, the project will start running. So, work is seriously ongoing,” Ambode assured.

On the strategy to reduce traffic in Apapa and make life comfortable for people and businesses in the axis, Ambode said: “The idea is that when we open up the area and construct the Ishawo-Oke-Oko Creek road to connect the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway from there, we would have greatly reduced the traffic gridlock on the expressway and then finally put a stop to the activities of pipeline vandals. We can begin to directly pump petroleum products from Atlas Cove in Apapa to Mosimi and tankers will have no business to come to Lagos to lift product.”

The governor assured that he would work on perfecting a methodology for collection of rates, and that he would soon come up with a grand plan to permanently tackle the menace of touts

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