With confidence that they are doing everything right, the Ministers for Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Minister for Budget and Economic Planning and the Central Bank Governor assured members of the House of Representatives that the economy is on the path of recovery. On the hot seat were Mr. Wale Edun, Finance Minister;
With confidence that they are doing everything right, the Ministers for Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Minister for Budget and Economic Planning and the Central Bank Governor assured members of the House of Representatives that the economy is on the path of recovery.
On the hot seat were Mr. Wale Edun, Finance Minister; Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, Minister for Budget and Mr. Yemi Cardoso, Central Bank Governor. and the Chairman of Federal Inland Revenue, Mr. Zach Adedeji. They responded to queries from members of the House of Representatives explaining that the economy is in a better place than it was on May 29, 2023, when the Tinubu administration took over the reins of power.
Finance Minister said the country was on the road to disaster before President Tinubu came into office, though did not dispute the fact that Nigerians are groaning in pains due to a rise in the cost of living across the country. He opined that that decision on removal of fuel subsidy was inevitable adding that the government would continue to seek interventions to ameliorate the effects of the biting economy on the poor masses of the country.
They spoke at a sectorial debate hosted by the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Abbas Tajudeen had in November 2023, initiated the House sectorial debate. The idea was to bring sectorial leaders to brief the Representatives of the people on the performance of the different sectors. Then, the topical issue in the country was security challenges. Now, it was the escalating prices of food stuffs , unprecedented economic suffering in the land and unemployment.
Last year, it was the security sector that attracted the attention of the federal lawmakers with the appearances of the service chiefs, the Comptroller General of Customs, Mr. Bashir Adeniyi and the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Kayode Egbetokun.
The Speaker had last week announced that the sectorial debate for the financial sector “will assess the nation’s readiness to mobilise the necessary financial resources for implementing the budget”, thus, they were fully prepared when the Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria Mr. Olayemi Cardoso entered the hallowed chamber to speak on the state of the economy and the free fall of the naira and other issues affecting the monetary side of the economy.
The Minister of Finance and coordinating minister of the economy Mr. Wale Edun further informed the federal legislators that the country’s expenditure before the current administration was wasteful and unsustainable.
His words: “We had expenditure which was wasteful and unsustainable by way of the subsidy not just on fuel but the subsidy on foreign exchange which confused the incentive framework and people were chasing cheap dollars in other to make an instant profit”.
Explaining how pressure piled on the nation’s legal tender, Governor of CBN Mr. Cardoso said for 10 years, between 2010 and 2020, Nigerians spent over $40 billion to access educated health care abroad. Mr Cardoso said the number of Nigerian students schooling outside the country has increased exponentially and is estimated to be above 100,000 students.
According to him, the high number of Nigerians in foreign schools and medical tourism are two of the major factors putting pressure on the naira. He said the demand for dollars by these students and those travelling for medicals abroad is hurting the naira.
The CBN boss added that the amount spent on education and healthcare outside Nigeria is more than the foreign reserve of the country at present.
His words: “Another report projects the number of Nigerian students studying abroad to exceed 100,000 by 2022. Given this data, it’s crucial to highlight that between 2010 and 2020, foreign education expenses amounted to a substantial US$28.65 billion, as per the CBNs’ publicly available Balance of Payments Statistics. Similarly, medical treatment abroad has incurred around US$11.01 billion in costs during the same period. Consequently, over the past decade, foreign exchange demand for education and healthcare has totalled nearly US$40 billion.
“Notably, this amount surpasses the total current foreign exchange reserves of the CBN. Mitigating a significant portion of this demand could have resulted in a considerably stronger Naira today,” he added.
Also, Mr Cardoso explained that the government spent $58.7 billion on Personal Travel Allowances(PTA) within the same period and disbursed an additional $9.01 billion to Nigerians for personal foreign travel between January and September 2019. He said his take on medical tourism and education was not to condemn anyone, but to explain the factors putting pressure on the Naira.
Shortly after his preliminary remarks, legislators fired questions at the banker. First was Hon. Ali Madaki (NNPP, Kano) asked the CBN governor about the relocation of a department of the CBN to Lagos State.
Responding, Mr Cardoso said the decision was not political, but rather operational action to ensure efficiency. Hon. Sada Soli (APC) raised another question on the removal of 43 items from the FX ban. It was raised by Sada Soli (APC).
Mr Cardoso said the issue is a fiscal matter that the minister of finance should address, adding:”CBN does not have a responsibility to determine who imports or not, for that reason we want to ensure that we abide by our remit.
“The issue is not for us to determine. That is a fiscal issue, it has nothing to do with us. We are going back to do what we are supposed to be doing,” he said.
In his intervention, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr. Wale Edun said the country is on the path to recovery, stressing that Nigeria was heading to economic disaster before President Bola Ahmed Tinubu came to power on 29 May 2023.
“Before the implementation of the 8-point agenda of the President began, we were in an unsustainable place in terms of the fiscal situation of Nigeria. We were on the road to economic disaster”, he said.
While acknowledging the hardship in the country, Edun reassured Nigerians of the President’s commitment to making life easier for all.
“Likewise, there have been other benefits which have accrued as a result of the changes that have been made. However, inflation has increased, the cost of living has spiked, and right from the onset, Mr president is committed to making sure that the poorest and the most vulnerable are not left behind. The palliatives, the interventions have been rolled out”, he stressed.