Premium Times (Abuja)

27 February 2013

Nigeria: Presidency Attacks ACN's Economy Remark as 'Blind Politicking'

Photo: allAfrica.com
Lagos central business district.

The presidency says ACN's criticism are myopic.

The Nigerian presidency, severely criticized lately for its performance and accused of lying and lacking in integrity, issued a fiery response to an opposition party, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Wednesday, accusing the party of "blind politicking" in its prediction that the nation's economy was facing collapse.

The presidency said in a statement that the forecast by the leading opposition party early this week, was "lacking in substance", "myopic and jaundiced", in what is one of the Jonathan administration's hard-hitting remarks recently.

"The only conclusion one can draw from this is that the opposition has once again chosen the myopic and jaundiced path of public policy analysis rather than base its assessment on verifiable, objective indices," presidential spokesperson, Doyin Okupe, said in the statement. "Unfortunately, a matter as sensitive as a nation's economy ought not to be subjected to this fashion of blind politicking."

The statement came as a response to remarks by the ACN criticizing the government's handling of the economy and proffering ways of redeeming it.

The ACN had warned the government may not be able to pay its bills, including workers' salaries, within the next few years, if urgent steps were not taken to diversify the economy, sanitize the oil sector, and invest more.

While the statement by Mr. Okupe refuted those claims, it also provided a seeming response to similar concerns about Nigeria's economic structure that puts wealth only in few hands -a concern raised on Tuesday by former U.S. president, Bill Clinton, who visited Nigeria.

Mr. Clinton said the differential in wealth is to blame for the nation's terrorism troubles-a remark that has stirred debates.

The administration's first response came from the Finance minister, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who reeled out statistics, acknowledged by international rating agencies, reflecting a booming economy.

The figures came no different from those rejected over the years by analysts who argue that the impressive numbers have failed to translate to jobs, housing and improved living for the citizenry.

While Mrs. Okonjo-Iweala's statement somehow conceded that the administration's job creation performance remained dismal and needed more work, the presidency's statement, also basing its evaluation ratings by Fitch, Standard & Poor's, Moody's and JP Morgan, was unmindful of such.

The statement by Mr. Okupe, however, acknowledged that there is need to reduce the cost of governance, but immediately cited even that as part of the government's achievements-pointing at marginal reduction in the recurrent budget, but not actual spending which critics often point to as wastages of public fund.

"One wonders if the ACN would have ignored the ratings by FITCH, STANDARD & POOR'S, MOODY'S and JP MORGAN if those bodies had turned in a negative verdict on the Nigerian economy," Mr. Okupe said.

He also pointed at the effort of the administration to reverse oil theft.

"For a fact, there are incidents of crude oil theft which had existed for several decades before this administration came on board," he said.

"However, the truth is that this is currently being tackled through pro active steps by the government. The opposition is most probably aware of the fact that President Goodluck Jonathan recently secured the co-operation of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and French President on measures to prevent refineries in Europe from buying crude oil stolen from Nigeria."

The statement denied that the cost of oil production per barrel had surged to $35 from $4 in 2002 as claimed by the ACN. The amount stood at $17, Mr. Okupe said.

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