Abuja — THE Federal Government and the opposition, especially leadership of the new Peoples Democratic Party, nPDP, were at daggers drawn yesterday over the state of the economy.
While government said the economy was booming, though with some challenges, the opposition alleged that the economy was comatose and on the brink of collapse.
Speaking yesterday when he presented the score card of his ministry before the National Working Committee, NWC, of the PDP, Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Investment, Dr.Samuel Ortom, who noted the opposition was out to distract the government, said the allegation was a mere political propaganda by detractors to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan's administration.
He added that the economy was not in danger and that adjustments were ongoing to correct recent issues within it.
At the briefing, which was presided over by the PDP Deputy National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, the Minister noted that the decline in Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, from $8.1 billion in 2011 to $7.1 billion in 2012 was not enough to conclude that the economy was not doing well, even as he boasted that Nigeria's FDI was still the highest in Africa.
Ortom, who noted that he would not take criticisms against the government from the opposition seriously, said: "You see, the tendency to pull down government by the opposition had always been there. But I assure you that the economy is doing well. These are mere gimmicks by our detractors to pull us down.
"The economy is doing Well . Those allegations are mere gimmicks to pull us down and the economy is under internationally reputable technocrat led by the Finance minister.
"For instance, I appreciate that prices of Cement are still high because of the high cost of production which is partly due to some infrastructural deficit. But government is working very well so that in no distant future! The prices will come down."
He, however, admitted that some of the setbacks in FDI were caused by the security challenges in the country which, according to him, is not peculiar to Nigeria alone.
The minister said that based on steps being taken to address the challenges faced in the investment sector, government was hopeful that in 2015, Nigeria would be ranked among the first five in Africa and 34 globally, in terms of friendly and conducive environment for business investment.
He said the economy was growing, but admitted that more jobs needed to be created to meet the expectations of job seekers.
But countering government's position, the Abubakar Kawu Baraje-led new Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, warned that unless government quickly address the present situation with the economy, its collapse could throw the nation into a state of anarchy.
"Mr. President must act fast to rescue the situation as there is a limit to which Nigerians can be pushed. Anything short of this is an invitation to anarchy. A word is enough for the wise," said nPDP in a statement signed yesterday by National Publicity Secretary, Eze Chukwuemeka Eze.
The faction, which is made up of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governors Sule Lamido of Jigawa; Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara; Aliyu Babangida of Niger; Aliyu Magatakarda Wamakko of Sokoto state; Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers; Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano; and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa states, urged President Goodluck Jonathan to, as a matter of urgency, consider the report of Governor Chibuike Amaechi's Nigeria Governors' Forum, NGF.
Baraje's faction said: "With the massive scale of officially-induced oil theft, the dwindling returns from oil and massive looting going on at the federal level, Nigeria is surely on the brink of economic collapse.
"Despite claims to the contrary by the Administration in a futile bid to deceive Nigerians, the overwhelming evidence is that the Nigerian economy has been run aground by the present Administration and is now comatose.
"One manifestation of this is the Federal Government's inability to pay states their share of the Federal Allocation since July. The last time that states were paid was for part of July. The arrears continue to mount by the day.
"As at today, the states are being owed N336 billion, with the N75 billion being the balance of the July 2013 arrears, N121 billion from June augmentation and over N90 billion as July augmentation.
"The implication of this unfortunate development is that the 36 states have become impoverished and unable to meet up with basic obligations, including the payment of workers' monthly salaries, which many of the states have been unable to do due to lack of funds.
"Most states have also as a result been unable to meet their obligation to contractors. This dangerous scenario is complemented by the growing rate of unemployment, which presently hovers around 80 per cent.
"Let us ponder this: If states cannot pay their contractors - not to talk of entering into new contracts, if states cannot pay their workers because there is no money to pay them, what could result is a huge social catastrophe that will add to the social, economic and political inferno already ravaging Nigeria today.
"All these portend very grave danger for our dear country as youth and labour restiveness appears imminent. Nigerians should expect further worsening of the unemployment situation and the loss of jobs, which is inevitable should the Federal Government continue with the present shoddy management of the economy which leaves much room for abuse.
"Ironically, while the masses suffer, Government officials continue to feed fat, using various guises to fritter away our common patrimony. They continue to enjoy a life of opulence, which has blinded them to the realities of the monumental suffering to which the masses are being subjected on a daily basis.
"The question to ask is: Where has all the money gone? For an instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had revealed that the country earned a total of N1.05 trillion in July, but surprisingly, the minister had not been able to pay states their due statutory allocations. Where are the billions of dollars accruable from daily crude oil sales?
"Where are the billions of naira accruable from multiple taxation which is strangulating struggling businesses on a daily basis? And where are the billions of dollars which the Jonathan Administration claims to be saving from one so-called cost-saving measure or the other?
"Nigerians can no longer be deceived! The truth is that Nigeria is broke and it does that worse days are ahead under this inept and visionless administration.
"PDP under the leadership of Alhaji Abubakar Kawu Baraje strongly condemns this unfortunate situation which indicates that the managers of the nation's economy may be at their wits end. It is unacceptable for Nigerians to be subjected to this grand level of suffering even when their country is one of the world's leading oil producers.
"The Nigeria Governors' Forum (NGF) under the able leadership of Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi that includes the progressive G7 Governors of the authentic PDP recently raised the alarm, calling on the Finance Minister to resign in view of her shoddy running of the economy.
"As usual, the Minister, who is also the Coordinating Minister for the Economy, denied that the economy is running on troubled waters, but events have since proved her wrong. Since nobody has a monopoly of wisdom, we wish to advise President Jonathan to humbly consider the NGF report on the nation's economy and see what he can borrow from it to take the country's economy out of the woods.
"In conclusion, not minding the abysmal failure of the defunct Tukur's PDP to advise the executive on how to run a PDP government, based on the principles and vision of the founding fathers of the party; we sincerely thank Nigerians for their patience, even in the face of poverty in the midst of plenty bestowed on us by God.
"We have decided to keep this administration on its toes to ensure that dividends of democracy are rendered to Nigerians considering the massive votes that PDP received from them during the 2011 general elections."