Economic recession: Sack Finance, Budget Ministers now -Ekweremadu begs Buhari…as Akume rejects call for sell of NLNG, others

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By CHRISTIANA EKPA, Abuja

The Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu has called on  President Mohammed Buhari to remove the minister of finance, Kemi Adeosun and that of budget Udo Udoma Udo in other to enable capable hands that could help Nigeria economy critical condition which has creates poverty and hunger in the land comes in.

Ekweremadu who disclosed this while, presenting his recommendation on the floor of the Senate, said the president needs to look at his cabinent with determination to put square pegs in square holes.

“At this critical time we need somebody who is more experienced to handle the ministry of finance so that he can be able to coordinate the strategies for this recovery”

“Secondly, the president needs to look at his cabinent. He has to put square pegs in square holes. Your Excellency, distinguished colleagues, Udo Udoma is my friend, an accomplished lawyer for that matter but in fairness to him I believe he can do better in another ministry especially like trade and investment certainly not Budget and Planning.There is need to also make probably the man in budget and planning to make to swop, my friend Udo Udoma. The minister for finance can do much better in another ministry”

According to him,  Nigerians found themselves in recession which has caused so much poverty in the land, to the point that the cost of rice, beans and everything had gone up and there is no money to buy them, adding that, the people’s loosing their jobs and those employed are not being paid and their is no employment for people that left school, as well as lack of drugs in  hospital.

“Yes we are saying that no money, the oil price had dropped but we were also told that through the TSA we have about N3 trillion somewhere. We were also told that the former minister of petroleum returned $20 million. We were also told that politicians have returned several billions of naira, dollars and pounds. It is either that this is not true or that the money is somewhere and if it is not true someone needs to apologies to us and state the correct thing and if it is true this money has to be released to contractors so that contractors can be able to go to work and those in the construction industries will be paid and then they will pay the school fees of their children and money will circulate. If we have money in the economy am sure that shortly we will also find some relief”

He said , the best thing to do in the present situation is to increase the budget for 2016 so as to enable reflate the economy

“We are almost at the final quarter and yet no release are being made. I think the best thing to do at this point your excellency, distinguished colleagues is for the government to consciously release as much money as possible into the economy.

” I also believe that we need to have all hands on deck right now. It does not matter their religion, it does not matter their party. We need to go all out and look for the best brain to come and help us to come out of this recession. America was in recession in 1930s they recover within 3 years. What did they do, all Americans came together irrespective of your political persuasion on and they are able to pass solution.

At this point it does not matter to us whether you are APC or PDP or you are non-align. The important thing is that the President has to look for the best people to come together to proffer solutions, it does not matter which party you belong.

He said , since oil is one of our major stay Government need to begin negotiate in terms of engagement with our oil majors,

“A situation where the production cost in Nigeria is between $18 to $24 is unacceptable and it is not happening anywhere in the world. If we meet with this people and negotiate it further down it means we are going to free enough money that will come to the federal government to now help us to deal with the issue of recession. This is the time to call our oil majors and renegotiate the terms of our engagement with them if we have to get money to deal with this issue”

It is also important to build confidence. A situation where we are telling our people that we are all corrupt that their is no hope for our economy it is not helpful. Few days ago I heard the CBN governor say that this recession will soon be over I commend him because it gives us hope whether it is true or not but it is our responsiblity here to ensure that it is true but our people need to hear not lamentations they want to listen and hear messages of hope. It is important that our people here the right message. International community heard the right message when investors are told that our economy cannot recover that our people are corrupt, that all of us are thieves, there is no way they can put their money in our economy. So, we need to have a change of attitude in the way we market ourselves. This is one fraud we need to deal with.

The next thing is that we need to sustain the fight against corruption but in doing so we have to be fair, we have to be just. We have to ensure that we put machineries in motion that will discourage corruption not waiting for the corruption to take place and then you are putting people in jail or detaining them. Right now the instrument of fighting corruption have been in place since 1999 or within the first four years of Obasanjo’s administration mainly the EFCC and ICPC. I believe that time has come for us to also look at the policy direction and see those things that we need to do to block all the holes that makes corruption impossible and that is what other countries are doing. Every country is fighting corruption but there is systemic way of doing it and is not sending people to jail that solves corruption. We need to change and improve on the strategies for dealing with corruption in this country.

He stressed that, the country has never being divided as much as divided now, noting that, senators have take a leading step,

This is the time for us to be United. This is the time for the president to ignore this issue of town hall meetings and go directly to the people. My people did not vote for Lai Mohammed or any minister, they want to see the president they voted for. The president needs to go round and visit this country and assured them that they are part and parcel of this country called Nigeria. I also believe that in the long term we need to also diversify the economy. Am happy that this is happening now and it is time for us to learn from the hardship that would enable us to look beyond oil, look at agriculture, tourism, investment, manufacturing, just like other countries so that we dont get back to where we are now and then we need to find ways of dealing with social safety nets so that the vulnerable we have something to eat at the end of the day. Let us redistribute income in our country so that the situation where the rich has to help to support the poor.

On the issue of selling of our assets, Ekweremadu said, there is a need to caution the Federal Government, adding that,  other countries are not doing the same.

“UAE does not even allow you to the oil wells talkless of selling them. And of course a country like Saudi Arabia their budget each year is run by investments from their oil revenue not even the air while other countries are investing and with all the investments we have and am sure we will not be fair to the next generation. So, if we must sell we have to sell the non-performing assets so that people can turn them around and create employment. We need to amend section 162 especially from 3,4,5,6 where each money in the federation account is enjoined to be shared among the other levels of government.

Senator George Akuma, in his recommendations said the blame game is not over, emphasizing something went wrong and the blame game is not yet over, stressing that those with huge pocket should not try to sell Nigeria assets.

“Most of us were governors and we knew what President Obasanjo did to create huge reserves for this country and save for the rainy day.

That was why by the time he was leaving, over $60 billion was in our foreign reserves: this was very important.

He said that a lot of money had been reported to have been stolen from the nation recalling that former CBN governor Charles Soludo had pointed to a stolen $60 billion, adding that another former governor of the CBN Sanusi Lamido Sanusi also pointed to another $20 billion that was stolen and could be recovered.

“From these and from monies going through other sources at least we should be able to recoup over $50 billion

If we succeed in doing this, do we still have to sell our assets as is being canvassed?

“The thing is very straight: there is a buyers market and there is a sellers market, if we want to dispose of your oil assets at this time when the prices of oil has crashed, precisely how much are you going to realize?

We are making a mistake here: what we are intending to do is to very unpatriotically ensure that those who are within the bracket of the stolen dollars will still come to buy”

I believe that this is not the time to strip these assets”

“Fortunately the CBN governor made a very powerful statement that the worst days of the recession are over and therefore we have to look elsewhere and not sell our assets.

We should rather focus on industrialization through agriculture and try to revamp this economy.

“I am worried because people who are telling us to sell these assets are people who have huge pockets.

There are other areas that we can tackle”

Also Senator Dino Melaye urged Buhari to sack all the ministers who are incapable of handling the affairs of their offices, adding that, the president must lead senate members to President Buhari to president their recommendations hand to hand.

“It is not out of tone to for the president to sack ministers who are incapable of handling the responsibilities of their offices”

He tasked Buhari to constitute board for CBN which he said operates without board. He emphasized that, Buhari must ban items such as rice, wheat, sugar, milk, cream powder, clothing’s frozen food among other things.

According to senator Shehu Sani, ” It is very unfortunate that we found ourselves here deliberately because we should have forecast that dependence on oil revenue cannot be sustainable. I must say this very clearly that the poor in Nigeria have always lived under recession. And what this recession has done is to increase their hardship.

“You can’t depend on one source of revenue and not find yourself in this kind of situation. We must cut interest rate, start diversification of the economy, empower small businesses so that they will be able to produce and export. The key to getting out of this is export of goods, services.

“This sharing formula federalism has seriously contributed to where we are. A situation whereby states come to Abuja every month to collect cheques and go back to execute capital and recurrent expenditure has made it impossible for any form of initiative and ideas to further boost our economy. And this is not the first country in the world that will be faced with this kind of problem. And I don’t think finding scapegoats and shifting blame can solve the problem. Removing the Minister of Finance will not be able to get us out of this problem because this recession is not Nigeria alone. It is all countries that are dependent on oil revenue”