The Founder of The Latter Rain Assembly and convener of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare, says the Central Bank of Nigeria must change its foreign exchange policy and lower the interest rates to get the country out of recession. According to him, the country’s multiple naira exchange rates are confusing and discriminatory, while the interest rates are punitive and stifling creativity.
Bakare said this in his ‘State of the nation broadcast’ on Sunday, during which he noted that the hardship Nigerians were facing had led many of them to associate the change promised by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government with “retrogression and suffering.”
He, however, explained that the government could turn things around by reviewing some of its economic policies.
He said, “The way forward is not so complex for those interested in genuine change.
“To begin with, the confusing and discriminatory multiple dollar to naira exchange rates – favourable to some and not so favourable to others, and without doubt confusing for potential investors – must be discarded while a more reliable and predictable exchange rate, mutually beneficial to our people and economy and attractive to foreign investors, should be put in place.
“Similarly, prohibitive and punitive interest rates must be lowered in order to liberate the creative ingenuity of our people as well as encourage those who can access mortgages at affordable rates to become homeowners, especially if our pension scheme is up-to-date and robust,” Bakare said.
He explained that the multiplier effect of the removal of the bottlenecks in the economy would cushion the effect of the current recession on the people.
“These are just two low hanging fruit solutions that demonstrate a commitment to turning the tide of decline,” Bakare, who was Buhari’s running mate in the President’s unsuccessful bid in the 2011 presidential elections, said.
Bakare also traced the woes of the nation to the Unification Decree made by a former military Head of State, the late Gen. J.T.U. Aguiyi-Ironsi, on May 24, 1966.
He said this Unification Decree was what killed Nigeria by bastardising true federalism, which the then regional administrators agreed to at the London Conference which led to the Lyttletton Constitution of 1954.
He said though five years later, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.), reversed the Unification Decree and created 12 states, Nigeria, till today, had yet to recover from the negative impact of the Unification Decree, which, he said, derailed the country’s true federalism.
Any positive change in the country’s fortune, therefore, Bakare said, must begin with restructuring, which he urged President Buhari to summon the courage to immediately undertake.
He argued that the collapse of Nigeria’s true federalism was what had continued to fuel sectional agitations because the nation now lacked a national vision.
He said, “This deviation from the landmarks set by the fathers is a crucial reason for our disjointed nationhood and the perennial socio-economic decay.
“It is why efforts at economic diversification by government after government, including the present government, have failed to yield the expected results.”
Bakare called for the collapse of the 36 states into only six regions to be governed by mayors, arguing that the recurrent expenditure in the administration of the 36 states had become a major drainpipe in the nation’s resources.
He said, “These 36 states should, in fact, become districts headed by mayors within the framework of six geopolitical zones, because they will be stronger and more productive within a zonal structure.
“As zonal structures, they can pool resources to build transportation infrastructure; as zonal structures, they will empower local governments to bring effective governance directly to the people. As zonal structures, they will efficiently coordinate socio-economic policies for the benefit of every Nigerian.”
Illustrating his argument with the scenario in the education sector, Bakare noted that at independence, the three regional education ministries, headed by only three ministers, engineered rapid educational advancement in their regions by competing through policies such as free education.
Now with 36 states and 36 ministries of education and 36 Commissioners for Education, Bakare argued that a large chunk of the funds allocated to education now went into administration.
“This is a very huge drainpipe in our economy. It ranks pari-passu with the cancer of corruption in hampering our growth and development as a nation.
“Imagine how much we could save with six efficient and effective ministries in education and other relevant socio-economic sectors in six geopolitical zones,” Bakare said.