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FG blames opposition for food crisis, uncovers 32 smuggling routes

The Federal Government has blamed opposition elements for the food crisis currently ravaging the country.

This came as the government disclosed it had uncovered fresh 32 smuggling routes being used to take food items out of the country.

The Federal Government, however, described the current economic challenges as the handiwork of “forces that are hell-bent on…plunging this country into a state of anarchy.”

It blamed those who failed to clinch power in the last election for remaining in “political mode” and are now working against the country’s interest.

Speaking on Tuesday in Abuja during the inaugural Public Wealth Management Conference organised by the Ministry of Finance Incorporated, President Bola Tinubu, who was represented by Vice President Kashim Shettima, said, “Forces are hell bent on plunging this country into a state of anarchy. Those who could not get into power through the ballot box instead of them to wait till 2027, they are so desperate. If this country can fall apart, as far as they’re concerned, so be it. We are going to resist them.”

Since assuming office nine months ago, the Tinubu administration said it had removed long-standing subsidies on petrol to save the government monies for infrastructural expansion.

However, reports by the International Monetary Fund said the government had secretly reintroduced subsidies to stem an uncontrollable rise in cost of living.

He also unified the foreign exchange rates, moves that have sparked collateral instability in the value of the Naira and heaped hardship on Nigerians as food prices continue to soar.

However, the President insisted that the country was on a recovery path, refuting claims from governors elected on Peoples Democratic Party who likened Nigeria’s situation to Venezuela.

“We are on the path to redemption. Wherever Nigeria goes, it is worth repeating: that’s where Africa goes…We have to make this country work. We have to move beyond politics. We are now in the phase of governance.

“Sadly, some of our countrymen are still in the political mode. They are the practitioners of violence advocating that they are Nigerian, that our own country, our one and only Nigeria should go to Venezuela way.

“Some are agitating that we should go the Lebanon way. But Nigeria is greater than any one of us here. Nigeria will weather the storm,” Tinubu said.

The President cited the recent interception of 45 trucks of maize bound for a neighbouring country, urging Nigerians to unite against forces bent on undermining the nation.

Tinubu said, “Just three nights ago, 45 trucks of me maize were caught being transported to a neighboring country. In that Ilella axis, they’re 32 illegal smuggling routes and the moment those goods were intercepted, the price of maize fell by N10,000.

“It came down from N60,000 to N50,000 as the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security is here.

“So there are forces that are hell-bent on undermining our nation. But this is a time for us to coalesce into a single force and rally around our President, our government and each other. We have the resources. We have the intellect. We have the capacity to turn the corner.”

At the conference themed Championing Nigeria’s Economic Prosperity, Tinubu hinted at plans to create millions of jobs by unlocking the value of Nigeria’s vast public assets with a view to optimising and doubling the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

According to him, with economic revitalisation as its top priority, the Federal Government has a target of raising at least $10bn in order to increase foreign exchange liquidity that will, in turn, stabilise the naira.

“After coming on board, our revenue for sharing in FAAC was N1.9tn. In order not to overheat the polity and economy, we had warehouse N1tn and shared N900bn. We are not altogether in a very terrible bad shape.

“Yes. There is an FX challenge, in which all hands are on deck to see that we weather the storm. As I said, we know the consequences of unveiling the masquerade,” he added.

Tinubu highlighted a low-hanging fruit of identifying, consolidating and maximising returns on government-owned assets worth trillions of naira.

He explained, “The Federal Government set a goal to raise at least $10bn in order to increase foreign exchange liquidity, a key ingredient to stabilise the Naira and grow the economy.

“At the core of this is ensuring optimal management of the assets and investments of the Federal Government towards unlocking their revenue potential.

“This includes our bold and achievable plan to double the GDP growth rate and significantly increase the GDP base over the next eight years.”

However, he noted that decades of mismanagement and underutilisation have plagued the country’s assets spread across Nigeria and outside the borders, leading to revenue losses that have hindered economic growth.

He assured Nigerians that the newly restructured Ministry of Finance Incorporated, which is to act as custodian and active manager of these assets, will now take the centre stage.

Emphasising transparency and accountability as fundamental principles for attracting alternative investment capital, he noted that these improved returns would be directed towards “crucial funding for education, healthcare, housing, power, roads and other areas vital to lifting millions out of poverty” and stimulating sustainable economic development and job creation for the youths.

Tinubu stressed that this initiative transcends revenue generation to create inclusive and sustainable growth. By efficiently managing public resources, the government aims to build a more equitable society and unlock the full potential of its citizens, he added.

Therefore, he called on all stakeholders, including Ministries, Development Financial Institutions, and both public and private sector players, to partner with MOFI in optimising these strategic assets, expressing hope that the collaborative effort will unlock Nigeria’s full potential and create a brighter future for all citizens.

Earlier, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Mr Wale Edun, said President Tinubu was mindful of the pains of his administration’s reform programmes and is deploying appropriate mechanisms to address the challenges.

He affirmed that while 42,000 metric tons of assorted grains are being released with 60,000 metric tons to follow shortly, as part of measures to arrest food inflation, food prices would drop in the coming months as a result of government actions and policies.

On his part, Chairman of the MOFI Board, Dr Shamsudeen Usman, guaranteed that MOFI will, going forward, play a more active role in the management of assets under its purview, even as he urged operators of the assets to see MOFI as partners rather than competitors or regulators.

In a similar vein, the Chief Executive Officer of MOFI, Dr Armstrong Takang, announced the launch of a N100bn Project Preparation Fund by MOFI as part of its renewed mandate of ensuring professionalism in the management of public assets.

He said the overall objective is to deliver commercial value for the common good of the people, assuring that the company will transform the fortunes of public assets under its purview and restore investor confidence in both the operations and management of the assets.

Also, present at the meeting were the Governor of Cross River State, Sen. Bassey Otu; Senate Committee Chairman on Finance, Sen. Sani Musa; Ministers of Agriculture, Sen. Abubakar Kyari; Budget and Economic Planning, Sen. Abubakar Bagudu; Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs Doris Uzoka-Anite, and the CEO of Heirs Holding, Mr Tony Elumelu, among others.

Opposition kicks

Reacting, Chief Spokesman for Labour Party Campaign Organisation, Yunusa Tanko, described the statement from the presidency as ‘very hypocritical.’

Tanko stated that it was shameful of the current administration to be seeking for people to blame for the manner they allegedly mismanaged the economy.

He said, “Is it not shameful for them to be looking for people to blame? This government said they have the solution to all the problems including how to make the economy work. How can critics and opposition like us mastermind inflation or cause economic hardship in the country? After all, we are not controlling any government’s apparatus. Isn’t it laughable? We don’t even have all the indices to control this economy. They used their hands to destroy the economy because they were not prepared.

“During Buhari era, the petrol price was N145 per litre. But the day President Bola Tinubu took over the office, he immediately announced the removal of fuel subsidy and that was what skyrocketed the prices of commodities in the market. Was he not the one who also said he wanted a single line of foreign exchange?

“They should blame themselves and quit the office if they know they are incapable of performing. Why should they still be telling Nigerians to be patient after eight months in office? We are talking about a government that promised the people palliative of N25,000, increase in salary of civil servants, invest in agricultural produce and youth empowerment. They have failed to fulfill any of their promises. So why should Nigerians believe and be patient with them again?”

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