Speaking at the All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC) 2016 in Port Harcourt on Thursday, the Minister however urged the Editors to do more by becoming the Champions of Change.
”Permit me to start my remarks by commending the Nigerian Guild of Editors for the well-thought-out theme for this 2016 Conference, which is ”Economic Diversification: Agriculture as an option for a prosperous Nigeria”. As you are all very much aware, Agriculture is one of the sectors we have identified in our economic diversification programme, aimed at moving the country away from a mono-product, oil-based economy, under our Change Mantra.
”It is therefore delightful that you have chosen to deepen the discourse by the choice of your theme for this conference. Even more impressive is the fact that Editors have taken up the challenge of contributing their quota to the ongoing efforts by this Administration to revamp the economy and return Nigeria to the path of sustainable growth and development,” he said.
Alhaji Mohammed however said the NGE in particular and the media in general must do more by becoming the Champions of Change
”What I am saying in essence is that while the media owes 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 is 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.
”One of such efforts is the unprecedented massive investment in infrastructure – roads, railways, power, etc. Road Contractors have been mobilised to sites, many of them long abandoned. Any contractor who is not on site is waiting for the rains to stop, not due to lack of funds. The Administration has kick-started the programme to link all state capitals by rail. All these efforts are creating jobs and putting money in the pockets of Nigerians.
”We must give hope to our people, while also giving encouragement to those who are working non-stop to revamp our economy. In one country that failed to save for the rainy day like Nigeria did, citizens are now having to cross to neighbouring countries to get essential commodities. The only reason we have averted such fate here is the committed, honest and disciplined leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari, the prudent management of the little resources that are accruing to the country now, thanks to the Treasury Singles Account, the unrelenting war against corruption, the rooting out of ghost workers and the increasing emphasis on agriculture that is sure to massively reduce our scandalously-high food imports in a short while,” he said.
The Minister said Nigeria’s economy is hard hit by the fall in the price of crude oil because the country failed to save for the rainy day, coupled with the fact that the country did not invest in infrastructure
”Nigeria has nothing to rely on to cushion the effects of the lost earnings. Many other oil producing countries and fellow 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 dollars (which is 23 times what Nigeria has in foreign reserves). United Arab Emirates, with less than 10 million people, has 75 billion dollars in foreign reserves. Qatar, with 2.4 million people, has 36 billion dollars 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 dollars 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 dollars in foreign reserves. To compound this, the fall in the price of crude 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 North-east,” he said.