The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed has declared that even though it pays no good to rue “missed opportunities” of the past, the previous administration of Goodluck Jonathan should be blamed for the problems of the country especially as there is an economic recession.
Representing President Muhammadu Buhari at the Hotel Presidential in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital, at the opening of the 12th All Nigeria Editors’ Conference (ANEC) 2016, Lai Mohammed said the failure of the previous government to save for the rainy days is the harbinger of the nation’s problems.
The conference was tagged- ‘Economic Diversification: Agriculture as Option for a Prosperous Nigeria’ was attended by eminent personalities from across the country and beyond.
Lai Mohammed said, “Nigeria has nothing to rely on to cushion the effects of the lost earnings. Many other oil producing countries and fellow Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members are faring better, because they saved for the rainy day. Saudi Arabia, with about one fifth of Nigeria’s population, has in foreign reserves about $600 billion, which is 23 times what Nigeria has in foreign reserves.
“United Arab Emirates, with less than 10 million people, has $75 billion in foreign reserves. Qatar, with 2.4 million people, has $36 billion in foreign reserves. Even Angola, with just 24 million people, has about $25 billion dollars in foreign reserves.
“Here in Nigeria, with oil selling consistently for over $100 a barrel for many years, we simply failed to save for the rainy day, with the result that a country with a population of over 170 million today has just $26 billion in foreign reserves.
“To compound this, the fall in the price of crude oil is having a ripple effect: the scarcity of forex, which has resulted from the oil price crash, means that industries are struggling to get forex to import raw materials and machinery.
“With falling imports, the Customs Service, which is another source of revenue, is collecting less duties. Taxation is also affected, as industries with no forex to import can neither employ more people nor produce more goods. Then, Nigeria has had to fight an existential battle to root out Boko Haram in the Northeast.”
He further challenged media houses and editors to become agents of change.
He said, “What I am saying in essence is that while the media owe it as a duty to keep Nigerians well informed about the situation in the country, it must do so in context.
“We are not saying we should continue to lament about missed opportunities, the massive corruption or profligacy of the past, but it is important for Nigerians to know where and when the rain started beating them, that no provision was made for any umbrella to shield them from the elements and that indeed genuine efforts are now being made to turn things around.”