They just always get their communication wrong in times of anger by the populace, at a time many, out of hunger and anger, breached the security of warehouses and looted food and other items.
Minister of Finance, Hajia Zainab Ahmed, said last week that the cost of transportation was at the heart of spiralling inflation, just as government’s deregulation saw the price of a litre of petrol, a core item for transport vehicles, and that determines the open market price of foodstuff, jump to 168 to N170 per litre.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s inflation rate rose by 14.23% (year-on-year) in October 2020 as against 13.71% recorded the previous month.
The October figures indicates a persistent increase in 14 months and the highest recorded since March 2018. Also, on a month-on-month basis, the Headline index increased by 1.54% in October 2020, this is 0.06% rate higher than the rate recorded in September 2020 (1.48%).
Her colleague in the same ministry, but in charge of Budget and National Planning, Prince Clem Ikanade Agba said on Monday that about 50 percent of Nigeria’s children were dying silently as a result of malnutrition.
Now President President Muhammadu Buhari’s deputy in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, thinks that Nigerians will get used to the deregulation of the pump price of petrol.
Answering questions from State House Correspondents on Monday, “Look at it, a situation where diesel has been deregulated long ago, a situation where kerosene has been deregulated long ago, and these are the fuels the poorest people in Nigeria interact with more. Why do I say that?
“If you want to transport food from the north to the south, it will be by trucks that are run by diesel, not with petrol. Those trucks that transport food from the north to the south are usually run by diesel.
“Kerosene is the preferred fuel at the lowest level of our society. These have been deregulated long ago. So, what is the problem with deregulating petrol, which is mostly used by the elite?
“Let us be fair to this country, let us be fair to the poor people in this country.
“If we have deregulated what they were using, then there is actually no reason why we should continue to subsidize petrol. I feel so.”
“Let us first agree, that these are not the best of times not only for Nigeria but for the global community.
“What we have said over and over again as a government is that government is no longer in the business of fixing pump price, that is the meaning of deregulation and stepping back on subsidy. Yes we are very aware that this will result to some increase but why do we have to do this, because it is clearly impossible for government to continue to subsidize.
“The money is not there now. Just take the example of our production levels, our crude oil production level was over 2 million barrels a day, today to comply with OPEC cut and quota, we have reduced production to 1.4 million barrels. Having reduced production to 1.4 million barrels, crude oil is also not selling at an optimal rate. Where do you get the money to continue to subsidize?
“I was just discussing with someone today that we just have to make a choice, if government were to continue with subsidy, it means for example that at some point we may not even have money after subsidizing petrol to pay salaries. You have no choice it is very clear that today things are not as they were before.
“The earnings of government has reduced by 60 percent and what is happening in the oil sector reflect what is happening elsewhere. Our FIRS collection has also reduced because less oil is being produced, there is less activity in the oil industry which is driving the economy. So you find out it is a double jeopardy from all sides. I am telling you if Mr President could have continued with subsidy he would have.
“But when you look at the facts before us, it is not possible and of course we are seeing some of the effects but I belive that at this point we are still trying to cross the first buck, we will get there, we will get used to it as Nigerians.
“…The only explanation to everything we have said is the country just could not afford subsidy anymore. It is unfortunate we are experiencing some of these things now. We will get by, I am sure when things stabilize our earnings begin to improve, we will begin to see the benefits of what this government has done.”
“I thought we’ve explained this over and over again and let us please listen to ourselves. Petrol is refined from crude oil, so petrol price is directly related to the price of crude oil in the market.
“So if I buy crude oil at a certain price and refine this month, if the crude price is low at the time, then my petrol price will become low because the feedstock from which I refined petrol was lower in price.
“If the price of crude oil goes up then it means the price of the feedstock has gone higher, it will also affect the price of the refined product and that is why you see that product prices are usually not static, it depends on the price of crude oil, which goes up and down. That is why we say deregulate so that as the price goes up or down, you will begin to go up and down as well at the pump.
“Before now we fixed it, which was not optimal for us as a country, so we said look, our earnings are not fixed because our earnings are dependent on crude oil price. If we fix it at this end then it becomes unsustainable at some point, so let us keep it floating so that if crude oil prices go up, then you’ll see a reflection of that, if crude oil prices go lower, you’ll see a reflection of that at the pump.
“Now what happened recently was because of the announcement of a vaccine for COVID-19 by Pfizer. With that crude oil prices went up a little bit. If you have been following crude oil prices you would have seen that crude oil prices went up a little bit, as a result of this announcement.
“So when crude oil prices go up a little bit, then you will see that it instantly reflects on the price of petrol, which is a derivative of crude oil. That’s why you see that there’s this movement and if we listen to ourselves, this is the same explanation we’ve been giving.
“Like when the pump prices came down, we reduced the pump price because it reflected, we saw that crude prices were lower, so we reduced the pump price when we deregulated.
“Then when the crude prices went up, it went up, when it comes down, it goes down. That is how it works.
“So that is why you will be seeing this, go up and down in the market place. Now we have introduced the alternative fuel, which is gas because we feel that it is important for Nigerians to have another option, which will be cheaper.”
On his part at the flagging off the 2020 Nutrition Campaign Week themed: “Nutrition the Bedrock for Economic Development,” Agba said, “Nigeria’s food and nutrition situation and the attendant poor global image in terms of economic and development milestones are major concerns to the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning.
“This, among others, necessitated the desire to carry out a week-long ‘Nutrition Campaign Week’ conceived to serve as a platform for mobilizing nutrition stakeholders towards addressing the challenge of malnutrition, which has been termed ‘the silent killer’.”
According to the Minister, failure in addressing malnutrition has high costs in term of higher budget outlay as well as lost Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which he said made investment in nutrition a must do.
Agba regretted that, despite concerted efforts by the government in recent years, particularly in the areas of child nutrition and breastfeeding, malnutrition had remained a challenge which must be addressed through the implementation of innovative policies and strategies that were appropriately funded, data-driven, sustainable and optimized in terms of transparency and accountability for the efforts to yield the desired results.
He maintained that “the nation must also continue to work collaboratively across all levels of governments, and hand-in-hand with the private sector and development partners to tackle the menace.”
Agba said that “the menace has been further accentuated by the new global normal occasioned by the outbreak of COVD-19 pandemic with its attendant economic impact leading to food insecurity.”
He continued: “Nigeria is reported to have the second highest burden of stunted children in the world, with an estimated 2.5 million children under the age of 5 years suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).”
According to him, “This is quite worrisome and calls for urgent measures to reverse the trend.”
He noted that “Over the years, this week-long annual event has proved to be a veritable platform for intensifying awareness on the importance of food and nutrition on child survival and its impact on development, productivity, economic growth and national development.
“This can be attested to by some of the achievements recorded in the past editions of the programme.
“Research has shown that investments in nutrition prevent undernutrition, build human capital, boost shared prosperity and improve health outcomes.
“Under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria has shown a clear commitment to the eradication of malnutrition through the adoption and domestication of policies and costed strategic plans, which emphasizes increased reliance on domestic funding; and a well-coordinated multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholders’ approach backed by sustained high-level political commitment.
“This is evident in Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (2017-2020), a medium-term strategic plan aimed at investing in our people, diversifying the economy and restoring growth, which places critical emphasis on strategic multi-sectoral interventions to address food security and malnutrition.
“Owing to the importance the current administration places on child survival, nutrition is one of the key thematic areas in the Medium-Term National Development Plans (MTNDP 2021-2025 & 2026-2030) and the Nigeria Agenda 2050 presently being developed by our Ministry.”
Agba stated further: “Our emphasis has been on protecting the economy and funding the country’s healthcare needs with the COVID-19 response spurring necessary transformation and innovation in the fiscal space and beyond.”
▪︎ Additional reports by Conclaveng.com