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Editorial

Saving The Naira

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These are not the best of times for the Nigerian national currency, the Naira. It is buffeted on all sides by a fast depreciating value. Already, the weak local currency is taking a toll on the nation’s economy which is now encountering declining industrial production, massive job losses, escalating cost of living, worsening insecurity and difficulties in transportation, among others. When condensed, they present a hazardous slide towards a comprehensive economic meltdown. The flit needs to be stalled.
The Naira has been in a free fall. It plunged to a new low of N620 to US$1 last week in the parallel market, heightening fears of a further devaluation by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). According to data published by FMDQ Group, where forex is officially traded, the Naira, which opened trading at N426.63, closed at N430.33 to a dollar last Friday. Experts say this is the weakest the Naira has exchanged this year. This upturns fiscal planning in the public and private sectors.
As businesses and citizens fussed over the foreign exchange volatility and its attendant negative effects, the CBN raised the benchmark interest rate from 11.5 per cent to 13 per cent for the first time in two years. This will invariably push inflation further up. The local currency is diminishing steadily following increased speculation, receding external reserves, and low forex inflows.
External reserves fell by $313 million in March, says the CBN. The rise in the acceleration of political activities is seen also as a key factor in the depreciating exchange rate. Meanwhile, politicians are reportedly mopping up dollars for the 2023 electioneering. The Federal Government is not managing the headwinds effectively. The country remains import-dependent and relies on crude oil for over 80 per cent of its foreign earnings.
Nigeria is not profiting from the increasing oil prices fuelled by the Russia-Ukraine war. This is because of a lack of capability to heighten production as a result of enormous crude oil thievery and dwindling investment. Diaspora remittances, which depict an important source of forex inflow into the country, have been on the fall recently from $12.3 billion in the second half of 2018 to $9.3 billion in the first half of 2021, according to CBN data.
The collapsing Naira is a huge trouble for our nation. The random way the CBN has been overseeing the economy is a reason for worry. The system is replete with contrariety, patronisation and corruption.  Analysts fear the currency may wreck farther N1,000 to $1 shortly. The apex bank’s many exchange rate regimes power massive fraud. Connected operators generate tremendous profits, while those in the real sector can scarcely procure forex. They are compelled to get dollars from the parallel market, as the official sources rarely satisfy a fraction of their demands.
This is further worsened by the CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele’s recent involvement in politics which has corroded the modicum of faith Nigerians and international investors had in the CBN’s capacity to navigate the economy on the corridor of advancement and oversee inflation, forex, and interest rates. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said inflation jumped to 18.6 per cent this month, the highest this year, following a comparable uptick recorded last month on the back of higher energy and food prices.
Again, Nigeria’s cumulative debt burden rose to N39.55 trillion in December 2021, denoting N1.55 trillion or a 4.1 per cent increase in three months from N38 trillion in September 2021. The regime’s craving for borrowing is phenomenal. Last April, President Muhammadu Buhari solicited authorisation for an upswing in the 2022 budget deficit to be financed through domestic borrowing a few days after the Debt Management Office (DMO) disclosed a schedule of the Federal Government’s N720 billion domestic borrowing plans for the second quarter of 2022.
Industry cessations and the attendant job losses, congestion at the ports, and rising JET-A1 price that has almost incapacitated the domestic aviation industry are unmistakable signs of a falling economy. The Federal Government should put a stop to borrowings in another phoney bid to rebuild the doomed refineries, the Ajaokuta Steel Company and other unreasonable overheads.
For the Nigerian Naira to grow, the exchange rate must stabilise. The current situation has already affected the country’s manufacturers significantly. For instance, how do manufacturers who import raw materials strategise in a regime of volatile exchange rates? Many of them have complained bitterly about how the plummeting exchange rates impacted their planning and put them in a most difficult situation.
Furthermore, foreign investors have to be attracted to the nation’s capital market. The problem requires a multi-pronged solution, and it is achievable if more seriousness is attached to it. The concerns that make capital importation dwindle must be addressed. The absence of foreign investors is drying up the source of foreign exchange which could have provided succour to the waning currency.
The highly exorbitant political system Nigeria runs is not boosting the Naira. For example, presidential aspirants under the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) paid a minimum of N100 million to obtain the party’s presidential form, while the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) expended N40 million. At the just concluded convention of the two leading parties, it was reported that delegates were reimbursed profoundly in dollars.
Meanwhile, the electioneering span has just begun, and now the Naira is exchanged for N620/$ at the parallel market. More money will still be injected into the political space in an election season such as this. Therefore, there is no assurance that the exchange rate will not worsen. The economy cannot experience any meaningful growth if this particular trend is not stopped.
Efforts are also needed in demand management to promote Nigerian-made goods, manufacturers source raw materials, and eliminate political interference in foreign exchange allocation to qualified end users. If these policies and many others are not adopted, the rapid depreciation of the Naira would prolong indefinitely, with its concomitant effect on the inflation rate. These would not be in the overall best interest of the palpitating Nigerian economy.

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Editorial

IYD: Tapping Youths’ Potentials For Dev

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The world designated last Friday, August 12, 2022, as International Youth Day (IYD). IYD is held annually to bring youth matters into the consideration of the global community and to celebrate the financial power of youth as partners in today’s world. The day also provides an opportunity to commemorate and mainstream the voices, actions and initiatives of young people and their meaningful, universal and appropriate participation.
Likewise, the occasion concentrates on the troubles that some young people are experiencing throughout the world. Half the children between the ages of six and 13 lack basic reading and mathematical skills, and childhood poverty is still a prevalent problem globally. Hence, IYD was established to help draw awareness to these issues. It is a day for reflection and acting.
In 1965, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) began making a collective effort to impact the youth. They endorsed the Declaration on the Promotion among Youth of the Ideals of Peace, Mutual Respect and Understanding between Peoples. They began devoting time and resources to empowering the youth by recognising up-and-coming leaders and offering them resources to meet global needs.
On December 17, 1999, the UNGA endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth, and IYD was formed. It was first marked on August 12, 2000, and ever since the day has been used to educate society, mobilise the youth in politics, and manage resources to address global problems.
The theme of this year’s IYD is “Intergenerational Solidarity: Creating a World for All Ages”. It aims to enhance the message that action is needed across all generations to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), leaving no one behind. The day also raises awareness of certain barriers to intergenerational solidarity, notably ageism, which impacts young and aged people, while having detrimental effects on society.
Nigeria also joined other nations in the celebration. Sadly, an increasing number of youths in the country continue to face economic uncertainty and social exclusion, compelling the majority of them into gambling and crimes, while the rest languish in penury and deprivation. While the multitude of youths entering the labour market yearly increases, the economy’s job-creating capacity is on the decline.
Nigeria was ranked 161 out of 181 countries on the 2020 global youth development index, which measures the status of young people around the world. In 2016, the nation ranked 141. According to the triennial report released by the Commonwealth Secretariat, Singapore rated top, followed by Slovenia, Norway, Malta, and Denmark. Chad, the Central Africa Republic, South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Niger took the last five positions, respectively.
The index ranks countries according to development in youth education, employment, health, equality and inclusion, peace and security and political and civic participation. It looks at 27 indicators, including literacy and voting, to showcase the state of the world’s 1.8 billion people between the ages of 15 and 29. This year’s IYD offers Nigeria an opportunity to implement timely policies to harness the innovative talents of the youth for advancement.
With increasing technology, the resourceful minds and skills of young people can serve as the energy for development. Youth unemployment is a global challenge. Even the International Labour Congress (ILC) estimated that employment among the demographic dropped by 8.7 per cent last two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Nigeria’s challenge far exceeds the global average. Youth development in the country is horrendous.
Nigerian youth comb the streets for jobs in vain. As the old saying goes of an idle mind being the devil’s workshop, some have taken up arms against the state while a large number have found solace in Internet scams, otherwise called “Yahoo Yahoo” or “Yahoo Plus”. Others have embraced quick-rich gambits such as sports betting, and risky investments like cryptocurrency and Ponzi schemes.
Young people face a catastrophic situation that could push the country to a cliff. Unfortunately, the government recently started actions to make life more difficult for them. For example, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cracked down on digital currency investors last year as it prohibited financial institutions from facilitating transactions. The Federal Government then banned Twitter, where thousands of youths make a living through content management.
With no less than 10.5 million children missing from school, Nigeria has the largest out-of-school population in the world. Poverty, insecurity, and gender barriers are among the reasons for this worrying record in a country where primary education should be free and compulsory. If quality education is provided to Nigerian youth, it will be difficult for them to be influenced by the selfish interests of the political elite, and thus have a positive impact on the growth of the country.
State governors should show greater commitment to youth empowerment and poverty eradication. They can partner with global financial institutions like the World Bank in providing sustainable development projects for young people, among others. They should consolidate youth-focused programmes to accelerate endurable growth and development of their states.
Rivers State is doing well in this regard. Governor Nyesom Wike, through critical investments and comprehensive empowerment programmes, is positioning the youth. The governor’s vision has always been to restructure the state to a phase where youths would grow with the assurance that their future is secured. Currently, they are being built up with critical life skills in sports, communication, and needed entrepreneurial leadership skills.
Before formulating development policies, the needs of youths should be considered. Young people and their organisations should be given grants. What this accentuates is the need to get the youth to utilise their enormous potentiality, priorities, and passion to deliver the SDGs. Young people can change our world. And this moment of ‘Peak Youth’ can be a historic opportunity for that positive change.

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Editorial

Kudos To Wike On Projects Delivery

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Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital and other urban centres have been agog with major activities since
last Monday, as the state government started another round of projects’ commissioning and flag-off across the state. The inauguration started with the unveiling of the Orochiri/Worukwo (Waterlines) Flyover in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Similarly, Governor Nyesom Wike’s administration unveiled the Ogbunabali-Eastern Bypass Road, also in Port Harcourt. The former Sokoto State Governor, Senator Aliyu Wamakko, performed the commissioning. On August 11, the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brig-Gen. M. K Fadah, unveiled the 5,000-capacity NYSC auditorium, while the new State House of Assembly Quarters would be inaugurated by the Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila today, August 12.
Recall that last Wednesday, August 10, the former Ondo State Governor, Dr Olusegun Mimiko, flagged off the dualisation of Azikiwe-Iloabuchi Road at Diobu in Port Harcourt City. Between August 16 and 26, 10 more projects would either be commissioned or inaugurated across the state. They include the Government VIP Lounge at the Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa, in Ikwerre Local Government Area on August 16.
Others are the unveiling of the remodelled Waterlines Building on Port Harcourt/Aba Express Road by Waterlines Junction in Port Harcourt on Wednesday, August 17; flag off of the construction of the 11th flyover at Ikwerre Road by Rumuokwuta/Rumuola Junction in Obio/Akpor Local Government Council on Thursday, August 18; and the inauguration of the 12th flyover at Mgbuoba-Ozuoba/Ada-George Road by Location Junction in Obio/Akpor Council on Friday, August 19.
Additional milestone projects lined up for special commissioning or flag off are the construction of Omagwa internal roads on Saturday, August 20, flag off of Igwuruta internal roads on Monday, August 22, both in Ikwerre Local Government Area, and unveiling of land reclamation, shore protection, road network, drains, power station and water reticulation, as well as housing complex at Ogbum-Nu-Abali sand fill, Port Harcourt, on Tuesday, August 23.
The others are the unveiling of a police station at Ogbum-Nu-Abali sand fill Eastern By-pass area on Wednesday, August 24; Eneka internal roads in Obio/Akpor on Thursday, August 25; and Community Secondary School, Obuama (Harry’s Town), in Degema Local Government Area, Friday, August 26.
Remember that last year, Rivers State was enthralled for about three weeks as distinguished Nigerian citizens joined Wike to either commission or flag off projects in 11 local government areas of the state. They included the Abonnema Ring Road in Akuku-Toru Local Government Area, Bolo internal roads in Ogu/Bolo Local Government Area, Isiodu Road in Emohua Local Government Area, Isiokpo internal roads Phase 2 in Ikwerre Local Government Area and Aluu-Rumuekini Road in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area.
Others were the Mother and Child Hospital, Real Madrid Academy, the 16.6 kilometre dual carriage Saakpenwa/Bori Highway in Khana Local Government Area, and the Sime-Nonwa-Kira Road in Tai Local Government Area, among a host of other projects. Several others were also commissioned. This remarkable development, taking place at a time when most governors use politicking, insecurity, dwindling economy and COVID-19 as excuse for non-performance will remain legendary.
All completed projects are milestones that support meaningful developments. They stand out and have continued to garner credit for the Wike administration from well-intentioned Nigerians and residents of the state. The flyovers, especially add beauty to the Garden City and its surroundings, and their unveiling accentuates another dream realised by the government. They will end the long struggle against the severe traffic congestion at their locations.
Undoubtedly, the projects would restore activities in the inert localities. To claim that the entire people of Rivers State are better off with these projects is to specify the obvious as they would go a long way to promote their socio-economic well-being. Indeed, walking in such splendid structures evokes euphoria and fulfilment in the subconscious of Rivers’ people.
Indeed, The Tide is satisfied with the unfettered initiative by the state governor. We recount how the shattered walls of development and brotherliness were revamped in Wike’s first tenure with sectorial performances and services furnished by strategic institutions of government which have remained efficient under his leadership into his second tenure without any relapse.
The various projects initiated and executed by Wike’s government in parts of Rivers would create employment for a good number of youths in the state. The quantum of civil construction work undertaken by the present administration in developing the state might be cost-intensive, but the overall benefits remain a driving force.
Anyone in the state can attest that the construction of strategic road projects and flyovers has progressed despite Nigeria’s fiscal crisis. We sue for understanding and cooperation from all Rivers people who desire good governance which Wike provides, and urge them to remember the inglorious past when the state was on its knees from where the governor took it up to chart a new course.
Obviously, the government is not neglecting any effort to improve Rivers State. To say that Wike is rapidly transforming the landscape of the state with its gigantic development steps is to affirm the tangible. Within a limited time, the governor has whirled around the entire state into a massive construction site that in every path, substantial development projects are either ongoing or have been finalised.
We join all well-meaning people of Rivers and Nigeria, business organisations and individuals in saluting and exalting the governor in this auspicious celebration of commissioning and launching of projects. The projects on the ground so far indicate an unprecedented transformation of the state, making it a preferred refuge for investors. This gesture is proof of His Excellency’s determination to leave Rivers State better than he met it.

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Editorial

No To Total Ban On Motorcycles

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To combat the current nationwide insecurity in Nigeria, the Federal Government recently proposed
a ban on the operations of commercial motorcyclists, otherwise called “Okada” riders, across the country. This recommendation is another indication that deep or scientific thinking does not characterise how decisions are taken in the nation’s corridors of power. This is a problem any competent government can solve without throwing the baby away with the bath water.
The Federal Government, through the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, AbubakarMalami, had declared openly that the National Security Council, chaired by President MuhammaduBuhari, might be compelled to ban the use of motorcycles and mining activities after the discovery that it remained a major means of movement by bandits and source of amassing ransom from kidnap victims.
Painfully, these are people whom the government has dismally failed to provide with meaningful employment or any form of sustainable empowerment, even though many of them are well-educated with families and dependents. Besides the economic and security implications, the scheme, if enforced, will impoverish millions of Nigerians, and further compound the anti-social vices the authorities are striving hard to contain.
Commuters regard motorcycles as a great relief to their transportation difficulties while bike riders see their adventure as a source of livelihood. Undoubtedly, the use of motorcycles has enhanced mobility for the middle-class and other income earners, which by extension has contributed immensely to an increase in production through a boost in man-hours. Many commercial motorcycle riders are in the business because they have no options neither are they interested in the commission of crime.
Bikes offer certain advantages of easy maneuverability, ability to travel on bad roads, and responsiveness to demand. We cannot wish them away as a means of transportation. The government should be circumspect in their decision. States should undertake repairs of all damaged roads where “Okada” activities thrive because of the refusal of commercial vehicles to ply such routes. LGs should repair inner roads. Of the country’s total road network of 195,000 kilometres, only 35,000 are federal, leaving the rest to the states and LGs.
If all the people to be rendered jobless by this plan take to crime, how can the government cope? It is wrong to attribute all the movements of terrorists to motorcycles, as criminals also operate with vehicles. When terrorists attacked Kuje prison, was it the motorcycle riders that caused the failure of intelligence? How did they beat all the security checkpoints to get to such a fortified facility? Was it motorcycles that enabled them to overwhelm the security agents attached to the correctional centre? Were motorcycles also responsible for the late re-enforcement?
Although placing a ban on the use of motorbikes may cut the supply of logistics and source of funds for the purchase of arms to the terrorists, there must be well-thought-out alternatives to lessen the effects of the attendant loss of livelihoods on those to be affected. It must not worsen the country’s dire economic situation.
A World Bank report noted that the number of poor individuals in Nigeria will rise to 95.1 million in 2022. In 2020, the figure was 89.0 million people. Over 6.1 million more persons would have fallen into the poverty bracket between 2020 and 2022, a 6.7 per cent increase. With the projected 2022 figures, the number of poor people in Nigeria has had a four-year increase of 14.7 per cent from the 2018/19 figure of 82.1 million to the projected 95.1 million in 2022. The poverty rate has been aided by the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, the growing population, the high inflation rate, and the harsh effects of the Ukraine-Russia warfare.
This development is coming after the Nigerian government said it lifted 10.5 million citizens out of poverty between 2019 and 2021. The President has repeatedly said that the Bank of Industry has created nine million jobs in the country since 2015, and different schemes to generate jobs and tackle poverty have been launched; these have failed to stem poverty. Therefore, if the suggested ban is effected, many Nigerians will be directly impacted including their families.
Motorcycle ban may not be new to some states in the South-East and South-South where commercial bikes had been prohibited long ago. Moreover, Lagos State has restricted “Okada” in some local government areas. States like Kebbi, Sokoto, Borno, Yobe and Zamfara have placed a total ban on their activities while Katsina restricted their operations in some frontline local governments. Selective proscription of this transportation mode in troubled areas is the way to go, not a nationwide ban.
However, the Federal Government’s proposition is beyond its constitutional purview. In a federal polity, it is the states and local governments that should impose and carry out such a ban. The federal authorities can only enforce the ban in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), on federal interstate highways and in any state where an emergency rule is in force. At best, it can only persuade the states of the overriding urgency of such a sweeping embargo to combat insecurity.
A blanket prohibition must result in a provision for alternatives. Otherwise, the government will merely be expanding the army of criminals and terrorists. Handling the criminality of motorbike operators is a matter of competent governance. They can be trained, licensed and allocated areas of operations. They should be compelled to belong to unions that are accountable to the government so that felons among them can easily be nabbed.
In parts of the country where motorcycles have become the mode of transport for terrorists and other criminals, tricycles, bicycles and mini-buses can be used to replace them, at least for now. That will enable the easy isolation of terrorists on bikes. Also, the Federal Government should stem illegal immigration from the Sahel into Nigeria. This is because many of the insurgents are foreigners working with their Nigerian cohorts.
“Okada” riders should conduct themselves orderly with proper means of identification. Doing such will assist the security operatives in checkmating insecurity and fish out criminals using motorcycles to perpetrate evil. The security status of the country is unstable. It has to be realised that in overcoming the threat, the aftermath of every decision must be properly evaluated. The unemployment and insecurity haunting Nigeria will exacerbate if the government proceeds with its proposal.

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