By Obinna Amaobi
All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential standard bearer yesterday vowed to scrap multiple exchange rates and petroleum subsidy, if elected in next year’s election.
He also promised to fix power, guarantee ease of doing business in the country, and introduce student loan.
The former Lagos State governor, who said a climate of security is germane to economic development, promised to mobilise Nigerians to turn current challenges into a big opportunity to foster development.
He emphasized that business and insecurity cannot be good companions.
The presidential candidate spoke in Lagos at a luncheon with business owners tagged: “Business Forward”. The meeting which held at ‘The Wings’, Victoria Island, was attended by eminent entrepreneurs.
At the event were Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Oando Plc Group Chief Executive Officer Wale Tinubu, former House of Representatives Speaker Dimeji Bankole, former Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Chairman Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, one-time Lagos State Finance Commissioner Wale Edun, and his Economic Planning and Information and Strategy counterparts – Yemi Kadozo and Dele Alake.
The entrepreneurs raised issues that are critical to investment survival, education, healthcare, electricity, investment climate, petroleum subsidy and multiple exchange rates.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) operates a multiple exchange rates regime with different rates adopted by different segments of the economy.
The operating exchange rates include the Nigerian Autonomous Foreign Exchange Rate Fixing (NAFEX), also called the Investors and Exporters (I&E) forex window, parallel market rate, International Air Transport Association (IATA) rate, Interbank Exchange Rate and Bureaux De Change (BDC) rate.
The parallel market rate is the most widely used rates for retail forex transactions, while the NAFEX window controls over 60 per cent of official foreign exchange deals.
The NAFEX is now the official rate, indicating a move towards exchange rate convergence.
The market has continued to digest the impact of the CBN adopting the NAFEX as its official exchange rate.
Tinubu, who acknowledged forex and the multiple exchange rates as challenges, said necessary actions should be taken to eliminate the menace.
He said: “I am no CBN, but I know that could go away, if I am the president. When you vote for me, write it down and confront me when it is time.”
Tinubu, who spoke on plans for ‘creating the path to a proud destination where Nigerians can be comfortably independent in a can-do society’, maintained that petrol subsidy must be removed.
The subsidy payment poses a challenge to the government. Figures from the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) report showed that fuel subsidy gulped N316.7 billion in 2015; N99 billion in 2016; N141.63 billion in 2017; N722.3 billion in 2018; N578.07 billion in 2019; and N134 billion in 2020.
Although the NEITI report did not state the amount spent in 2021 and 2022, industry figures indicated that fuel subsidy jumped to N1.43 trillion in 2021.
The Federal Government spent N1.9 trillion on oil subsidy in seven months.
Petrol subsidy has been a perennial problem of the Nigerian economy and it has gotten to a level where it is a danger to the country’s fiscal sustainability.
Between January and July 2022, Nigeria paid N1.9 trillion on subsidy that benefitted mainly rich Nigerians, and the citizens and governments of neighbouring countries.
However, Tinubu, who rejected the payment, said: “The era when petrol subsidy was fashionable is gone”.
Reiterating his promise to remove petroleum subsidy, he said: “The Petroleum Act is there for us to take a second look at to meet our obligations and no matter how much or long the protest, we will remove petrol subsidy. We will take tough decisions, but it will be done, and that is the truth. The era when fuel subsidy was fashionable is gone. So, it must be removed. We can invest the money wisely, for instance in health, as some of you have said. No matter how long you protest, we will remove subsidy. We can do it. We are educated enough. How can we subsidise fuel consumption of Cameroon, Niger, Benin Republic and some others?”
“Other economies are already building charged stations, but we are yet to generate electricity to even roast plantain. Electricity is the most important discovery for humanity in the last 1,000 years and so, we must have electricity whichever way and by all means possible. I can also promise you will not pay for estimated billing. We will talk and walk our talk.
“Please let us do it, we can do it, we are educated enough, we are courageous enough, we are great people. A promise made will be a promise kept.”
Unveiling his plan for education, Tinubu said: “We will establish student loans and take care of the variables, a four-year course must be four years. When do you start, when do you end, when do you stand to be employed, what aspect of the loan is to be written off during NYSC. we will answer those questions because they have answers.”
The candidate solicited the input of the business community to make his plans more robust and encompassing.
He said: “I have listened to your. When I am elected as president, we will create a committee from among you to compile all your ideas and couple you into circuit breakers so that together we can break the jinx of poverty and ignorance. A committee will be formed in the oil and gas sector to present a blueprint for the now and for the future of Nigeria. What I have come to promise is that my actions will speak louder than my voice.
“My aim is to develop local manufacturing and value-added businesses. My aim is to deepen consumer lending, increase affordable housing and provide business owners with low-cost loans to modernise operations and improve productivity. My aim is to reform the structural foundation of our economy. To accomplish this major feat, government and the private sector must work hand in hand.”
Tinubu added: “Our policy will further stimulate our world-leading start-up ecosystem. I want our brilliant entrepreneurs to continue to innovate our people out of poverty and lead us towards the path of prosperity.
“My discussion today is to inspire you to vote first. Recruit as many people as possible to vote for me so that the promise of today can be a reality tomorrow. It is only a strong determination, perseverance and consistency that can build a national edifice that we can call a nation; that is when we can bring prosperity to Nigeria. We promise you we will bring prosperity, fulfill your dreams, and please believe me hope is back here.
“But you have to vote first. With our PVCs, we will liberate ourselves and others from the shackles of poverty and turn Nigeria’s ship around for our prosperity.”
Sanwo-Olu urged businessmen to see things differently, adding that leadership is about vision, audacity to dream, gathering teams.
He said: “Tinubu encompasses all these and I can assure you that voting for him will ensure that everything works well. The rail line that was just opened was Tinubu’s brain child over from many years ago.
“You don’t have to go into the public service but you can have a voice. We can be strategic partners, critical stakeholders in which we influence conversations, policies and programmes so that as a business person, we will be able to fashion our visions clearer and it can be a win-win situation.”
Business tycoons and industrialists at the event reiterated that Tinubu is the best man for the job on account of his doggedness and ability to gather talents for development.
Oando chief Wale Tinubu described Asiwaju Tinubu as a lion who has been able to execute his ideas consistently, as well as leading an impressive team of like-minds to deliver.
He urged the business community to support the candidate because he has good plans for the country.
Wale Tinubu, who is also a lawyer, said: “I know Tinubu to be a stubborn human being who sticks to his convictions, no matter what. His strength and intelligence are unprecedented. I have been successful so far because Tinubu has been a strong support and I urge you all to give him your support. If you would be successful in life, love, family, country, please back a Lion, a courageous strong Asiwaju Tinubu for president.”
Cardoso, the first Lagos State Commissioner of Economic Planning and Budget under the Tinubu administration, praised the candidate for his vision in ensuring a prosperous Lagos.
He said: “Tinubu’s foresight in establishing the first Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget in the country served as a template, which other states copied.”