Our expectations from Tinubu govt in 2024 – Labour, business owners, others list demands

As 2023 comes to an end, Nigerians from different walks of life have urged the Federal Government to improve the economic conditions and security outlook of the country in the New Year.

Across several sectors, stakeholders, including the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Nigerian Medical Association, Association of Small Business Owners, National Association of Nigerian Students, Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, and All Farmers Association of Nigeria, among others, have made their demands for 2024 known to President Bola Tinubu.

They asked the government to stabilise the falling naira, make the economy attractive to foreign investors and friendly to small businesses, and improve the living conditions of citizens, among other demands.

The year 2023 saw Nigeria elect a new leader to run the affairs of the nation for another four years.

It was also the year the country saw the end of petrol subsidy after the declaration of the President during his inauguration on May 29.

This caused unprecedented hardship for Nigerians, as the pump price of petrol skyrocketed, making transport fares, food and other essential goods’ prices to jump astronomically.

The economy, according to experts, is currently at a very low ebb.

For instance, the naira, on Friday, traded at 907.11/$ on the official Investors and Exporters’ foreign exchange window after falling to 1,043.09/$ on Thursday.

This is a 13.04 per cent appreciation from Thursday’s figure, according to data from the FMDQ Securities Exchange.

Trading on the last working day of 2023 began at N911.67/$, it rose to a high of N1,224.10/$ and fell to N700/$, before closing at N907.11/$. Forex turnover improved marginally to $89.30m, a 6.78 per cent increase from the $83.63m it was the previous day.

At the parallel market, the naira closed the year at N1,195/$. A Bureau de Change operator, who spoke to one of our correspondents, said, “The dollar is N1,195. The difference between the buying and selling rates today is about N6/N7.”

On Thursday, the currency fell to a low of N1,043.09/$, its second time hovering above N1,000 at the official FX window. On December 8, it fell to an all-time low of N1,099.05/$ on the I&E window.

Since the apex bank declared that it was reintroducing the ‘willing buyer and willing seller’ model for the currency, the naira has continued to be volatile due to supply issues.

The foreign exchange reserves dipped to a six-year low of $32.87bn at the end of December, according to the CBN data, with the naira becoming the third worst-performing global currency in 2023 due to a backlog of unsettled forwards, undelivered promises of dollar inflows and a two-decade peak in inflation, according to Kyle Chapman, FX markets analyst at London-based Ballinger and Co.

Inflation, poverty

Inflation, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, surged to 28.20 per cent in November from 27.33 per cent in October, underscoring a worsening cost of living crisis in the country.

In its new ‘Consumer Price Index: November 2023’ released on Friday, the National Bureau of Statistics revealed that headline inflation surged by 0.87 percentage points in November to a new record high in almost two decades.

Nigeria’s inflation rate is now poised to close 2023 at about 30 per cent, aligning with recent predictions by KPMG and Stears Business.

Nigeria, according to official data from the World Bank and United Nations, is the second largest host of persons living in extreme poverty.

The World Poverty Clock estimates the number of its extremely poor Nigerians at 71 million. Using the UN threshold of $1.9 per day, Statista says 12 per cent of the global population in extreme poverty lived in Nigeria in 2023.

The United Nations International Children’s Education Fund has warned that 25 million Nigerians are at risk of hunger in the New Year.

NLC lists demand

The Head of Information, NKC, Benson Upah, in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, said the congress was expecting the dividends of good governance from the Tinubu administration in the New Year.

“Our expectations are good governance, strong institutions, more accountability, less corruption, respect for law and order by the government, more citizen participation in governance, lower exchange and inflation rates, higher standard of living for the citizens, and renewed hope in the country,” Upah said.

He noted that the government must resist the urge to make Nigeria a one-party state, adding that such would have dire consequences for the country.

“Government should resist the urge to make Nigeria a one-party state. Our history teaches us that there are usually dire consequences for such political greed or inordinate political ambition,” Upah added.

‘Fix forex issues’

The President, Association of Small Business Owners, Femi Egbesola, demanded an improvement in power generation across the country.

He also said he expected the government to construct new roads and repair existing ones to make transportation of goods and services easier.

Egbesola said, “We hope that there will be an improvement in the country’s fiscal policy. To improve the economy, we expect that the government will work more with critical stakeholders.

“The government should not be the one formulating policies and implementing them. Policies should be developed in collaboration with stakeholders.

“We also expect the government to fix critical infrastructure, particularly power. All businesses depend on power. Having invested billions of naira in power and privatising it, the government should make sure that it works. We expect that power should have improved by now, but it is rather getting worse.

“We also expect the government to be able to make more funds accessible to MSMEs. One of the critical challenges of MSMEs is that they are unable to access affordable funds. This will help to awaken ailing and almost dead businesses.”

He also begged the government to make forex available, adding that MSMEs were currently buying foreign currencies from the black market at exorbitant rates.

Egbesola said, “The banks sell only to big companies at the detriment of micro and small businesses. Our economy will improve if we do more export and we will do more export if we have access to funding and forex.

“We also expect that the committee on tax and fiscal reforms established by the government will be able to bring out solutions that will mitigate against multiple taxes and other arbitrary charges by the government.  We also expect that the government will do more on intervention funds. One thing is to make funds available through commercial banks. Another thing is for the government to create more intervention funds for small businesses.”

‘End brain drain’

The Oyo State Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association, Dr Wale Lasisi, urged the Federal Government to improve the health infrastructure across the country and end the exodus of doctors from the country in droves.

The Nigerian Association of Resident Doctors revealed that no fewer than 1,417 doctors had left the country in 2023, compounding the doctor shortage.

Lasisi said, “We expect the government to invest more in the health sector and see to the proper implementation of the health sector policies.

“The government should also improve the primary healthcare centres and infrastructure across the country. Also, new teaching hospitals being proposed should be cited in places with wide coverage and population.

“We also expect the government to improve the remuneration of healthcare workers in a bid to retain the manpower and make available necessary equipment and gadgets that will make work easy.

“Health is wealth, so the government at all levels must prioritise delivering quality healthcare. Considering that most of the populace cannot afford the exorbitant costs of healthcare, and most cannot afford medical tourism.

“For a government that has the agenda of renewed hope, we expect that the renewed hope will also affect health and should be as quick and effective as they can do it.”

‘Reduce petrol price’

The National President, Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association, Magaji Sani, said, “We are all aware that many Nigerians are suffering currently, and the main issue is the petrol pump price. As long as it remains on the high side, the price of every other thing will increase.

“Motor parts will be high, and as you are aware, a lot of people have parked their cars. If that is the case, many of our members will not have jobs to do.

“We expect that more attention will be paid to reviving the refineries in 2024. The price of petrol should be reduced, and the cost of other products should also be reduced so that Nigerians can experience relief in the New Year.

“Our sector is very important in the alleviation of poverty because we are very close to the people. After all, those young ones who leave secondary school and can’t further their education are trained by us and this contributes to the area of job provision. So, we expect the government to help us ensure ease of doing our jobs in 2024.”

‘Ensure farmers’ safety’

Between January and June 2023, armed groups killed no fewer than 128 farmers and kidnapped 37 others across the country, according to the Nigerian Security Tracker.

The National President of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, Mr Kabiru Ibrahim, said the President needed to declare a state of emergency on food security, adding that the lives of farmers were now endangered.

He said, “We don’t have standard security for farmers; and without securing the farms, more farmers will lose their lives.

“We are expecting that security actions will be taken to make sure that they protect all farmers across the country.”

Ibrahim urged the Federal Government to give “proper subsidies to farmers for fertilisers,” adding that such should be made available for farmers in the New Year.

“We also expect the availability of all inputs so that we will be able to produce food at reasonable prices for the citizens,” he added.

No strike – NANS

The Senate President of the National Association of Nigerian Students, Mr Afeez Babatunde, said students did not need any episode of strike in the New Year.

He said, “We are not expecting any strike in 2024 as we are on our toes to make sure the government fulfils all its promises and do more.

“However, we are expecting the government loan promised to students and also the buses promised to all tertiary institutions in the country starting from January. Moreover, we want a year that will be full of activities on our campuses where students will go to school and perform their activities comfortably.”

Babatunde added that the students were still expecting the promised bursary scheme and the increment of government subvention to universities.

He noted, “We were present during the budget public hearing, and we told the lawmakers to increase the allocation to education to raise the standard of education in the country.

“So, we are expecting them to adjust the budget, and also deliver on the promise of the student loan scheme. The welfare of students and all academic and non-academic staff of varsities, polytechnics and colleges of education must be a major priority so that there will be a peaceful academic calendar.”

Increase salaries – Workers

A civil servant, Mr Segun Ajagbe, urged the Federal Government to consider salary adjustment and welfare improvement in 2024.

He added that civil servants would anticipate such reviews from the government and implement measures to enhance their overall welfare, considering the current realities of inflation and the high cost of living.

He said, “We want the government to review and adjust the salary structure because of the current inflation and the high cost of living. We also want them to implement policies that will improve our welfare, including healthcare and housing benefits.”

Another civil servant, who identified herself only as Atinuke, suggested continuous training and capacity building for workers at all levels of government.

She also noted that opportunities must be created to enhance the skills and capabilities of civil servants and ensure that they were well-equipped.

Another civil servant, Fiyin Akanmu, told one of our correspondents that the government should increase salaries and regularise the prices of commodities.

She said, “Things are so expensive. The government should, please, regularise the prices of commodities, and invest in infrastructure, particularly roads.”

An Information Technology expert, Mr Adekunle Oyelakin, said the Federal Government should enforce more stringent regulations and standards to boost cyber security and tame the current rise in the rate of cyber threats.

He noted that the government should work on expanding technology infrastructure like broadband connectivity to support the growth of the digital economy.

He added, “Our expectations include increased government investment in improving and expanding technology infrastructure, such as broadband connectivity to support the growth of our digital economy.

“The government should also foster a more tech-savvy population by promoting digital literacy initiatives to empower the people.”

Another IT expert, Chidinma Uche, corroborated Oyelakin’s stance, saying their expectation from the government was to introduce policies and programmes to enhance further innovation, entrepreneurship, and the growth of tech start-ups, adding that this would contribute to job creation and economic development in the technology sector.

Mr Kehinde Mukhtar, who is also an IT expert, said the Federal Government should ensure that pressing issues were addressed in the country.

He said, “My expectations from the Federal Government in 2024 revolve around fostering inclusive and sustainable development.

“I anticipate a commitment to addressing pressing issues such as healthcare, education, and environmental concerns. Specifically, I hope for policies that promote accessible and quality healthcare for all, initiatives to enhance educational opportunities, and a strong dedication to environmental conservation.

“Additionally, I look forward to transparent governance, economic policies that prioritise job creation, and efforts to bridge socio-economic disparities. Ultimately, my expectation is for a government that actively engages with the diverse needs of its citizens, ensuring a brighter and more equitable future for the nation.”

A schoolteacher, Alimo Anifowose, said the welfare of the masses should be the main focus of the government in the New Year.

She said, “In 2024, the Federal Government should pay attention to the welfare of the masses. First, there should be a significant increase in the salaries of civil servants and government workers.

“Security in the country should also be improved so that Nigerians can sleep well at night. The Federal government should also make sure that commodities become affordable.”

Stabilise economy – Experts

In an interview with Sunday PUNCH, a financial expert, Oluwasegun Alli, said the government should devise methods to ease the country’s financial burdens in 2024.

He said, “I expect that the government will roll out ways to ease the financial burdens witnessed in 2023.

“I spend a significant part of my salary on transport and food. Despite cutting off unnecessary expenditures such as visitation to friends and families, my monthly income still can’t take me to the next month.

“The government should find means of reducing food inflation, which is estimated at 32.8 per cent as of November, to save people from dying of hunger. Also, the onus is on the government to implement measures to improve power supply so one can save money for buying fuel every night. I hope that the New Year will be a rewarding one.”

Another financial expert, Kehinde Adekoya, said Nigeria witnessed considerable changes in every sector in 2023, adding that the government must ease the masses’ woes in the New Year.

“Nigerians have witnessed an increase in fuel pump price and exchange rates, which have affected the prices of every other goods and services.

“Besides the above concerns, there is the safety and security issue. Although there has been an existing level of insecurity in the country, the recently inflicted hardship fuels the crime rate in the country as many take to crime as their last resort for a livelihood.

“The government should create more job opportunities through foreign investors, establishing new businesses or state-owned industries in the country. This will, in turn, reduce the high rate of unemployment. The government must ensure that it makes the country a producing country rather than a consuming one.”

(Punch)

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