Economic policies may hurt ‘in short term’, says Buhari

To match Interview NIGERIA-BUHARI/

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday reviewed his administration’s economic policies, warning that they may be hurtful “in the short run”.

In the long run, things will be better, the President said in New Delhi, India, where he is attending the Third Indian-Africa Forum. He was addressing the Chief Executives of Indian companies with interests in Nigeria.

Despite the fall in oil prices, his administration, he said, remained committed to maintaining macro-economic stability and improving investors’ confidence in Nigeria.

The economy, the President said, should not suffer unduly from low oil prices because Nigeria is blessed with human and material resources.

“What is required of us, to which we are strongly committed, is the implementation of tight expenditure controls, effective fiscal and monetary policies, including the husbandry of scarce resources which our introduction of the Single Treasury Account has began to address.

“We are aware some of these measures may hurt operations of some businesses in the short term, but we believe they are right for a sustainable economy,” he said.

Stressing that India has been a dependable ally of Nigeria, Buhari urged the Chief Executives to expand their companies’ investments in Nigeria  ”so that we can, together, turn our engagements into a win-win situation for our two countries.”

He added: “We can increase and diversify the current volume of our bilateral trade beyond US$16.36 billion, and diversify to other critical sectors such as agriculture; green technologies in power generation; infrastructure; information and communications technologies; the services sector; education; industry, especially textiles and solid minerals among others.”

Buhari also urged the Indian CEOs to accept the changes in policy being introduced by his administration and observe all extant Nigerian laws in running their businesses in the country.

The President warned that his administration would not tolerate the importation of sub-standard goods, especially foods and medicines, into Nigeria.

The government’s plan to sustain the current naira value was criticised by Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II as unsustainable.

He also warned against retaining petrol subsidy. But labour has taken the emir up on his position, saying  removal of subsidy and naira devaluation will hurt the poor.

The President also yesterday had bilateral talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India pledged to buy more oil from Nigeria without intermediaries to make the process more transparent.

The Prime Minister begged Buhari to help repatriate India’s 11-man crew in detention in Nigeria.

In the alternative, he surged that the trial of the crew can be fast tracked.

Also, at a meeting with the Nigerian Community, Buhari said there was no going back on the trial of looters.

He said his government may turn the tide against Boko Haram by the end of this year.

The Joint Secretary (East and Southern Africa) of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs,  Amb. Tanmay Lal, said: “The bilateral talks were smoother because the President of Nigeria has long-standing association with India. He trained in India when he was a military officer.

“The President of Nigeria said India has become the largest oil importer of Nigeria’s crude oil, replacing the United States. There was discussion on oil sector in the meeting and the prospect of India buying more oil from Nigeria.

“ Also there was strategic discussion on cooperation in the field of defence.

”The PM raised the specific issue of 11 crew members who have been in jail in Nigeria for some time. He made a personal request, if the judicial process can be expedited and if they can be repatriated. The Nigerian President said he will immediately look into it.”

A high-ranking diplomat said: “The  Prime Minister said India is ready to double its oil imports from Nigeria if there is more transparency. The Indian government wants to buy directly from the Federal Government and pay through the Single Treasury Account (TSA) instead of the practice of directing us to intermediaries.”

Buhari  also said there was no going back on his anti-graft war.

He told the Nigerian Community in India: “We will continue to prosecute those who have been indicted for corrupt practices and ensure  that stolen funds are recovered, to serve as deterrent to others who nurse the ambition of seeking public office solely for illegal personal gain.

”The anti-corruption campaign will be on-going for many years. We are  committed to the enthronement of good governance that plugs the loopholes in public sector accounting, and the use of scarce resources for public good.

”We are determined to demonstrate exemplary leadership that will make our citizens to change their ways in a manner that lays a solid foundation for reconstruction and development.

”I am confident that our approach to fighting corruption through value re-orientation, improved internal processes and systems and  the rule of law, as well as  enhancing the capacity of the various anti-corruption agencies and institutions, will prove more enduring in addressing this evil.

The President said he was aware of the expectations of Nigerians who elected him on the platform of change, integrity, probity and accountability, and was therefore doing his utmost best to meet those expectations.

”I wish to assure you that we shall do our best  to  fix the economy, create jobs for the teeming population of our youths and make the home environment safe, secure and more attractive to Nigerians outside the country like your good selves.

”On the economy, our aim is to address the challenge of infrastructure in all its ramifications, especially power and transportation. We are seeking to create jobs through agriculture, mining, industrial value-addition and the promotion of small scale enterprises.”

“I wish to assure you that we shall do our best to fix the economy, create jobs for the teeming population of our youths and make the home environment safe, secure and more attractive to Nigerians outside the country like your good selves.

On Boko Haram, Buhari said: ”We are also  taking steps to address criminality across the country. We are tackling the menace of terrorism posed by Boko Haram head on and  I am pleased to note that though sporadic attacks on soft targets have not stopped, the over-all capacity of Boko Haram to hold territory and determine the course of the conflict has been severely degraded.

”If the current positive trends are maintained, we are confident that by the end of this year, we would have succeeded in permanently turning the tide against the Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria.”