Rivers State Governor and the Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, declared on Thursday that the Nigerian economy had gone comatose.
Amaechi explained that contrary to the rosy picture painted on Wednesday by the Minister of Finance and the Coordinating minister for the Economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, about the nation’s economy, Nigeria was battling to survive economically.
Okonjo-Iweala had while responding to a call for her resignation by the Amaechi-led NGF told journalists in Abuja, that in spite of the revenue challenges facing the country, all macro-economic indicators showed that the economy was performing “reasonably well.”
“The economy is doing reasonably well. It is not perfect but it is doing reasonably well. I say this because actual realities on the ground are bearing this out,” she had said.
But at an event organised for future leaders by Rotary International, District 9140 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Amaechi recalled that the minister once disagreed with him when he said that poverty rate in Nigeria had risen to 70 per cent.
The governor, who also flayed his Delta State counterpart, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan’s advice that opposition against President Goodluck Jonathan should not come from the South-South, stated that Okonjo-Iweala had insisted that the country’s poverty rate was not 70 per cent, but 68 per cent.
He said, “In 1970, the poverty rate in Nigeria was 30 per cent. How many of you know the poverty rate now? I was in a meeting where I said it was 70 per cent; the Minister of Finance said it was 68 per cent. What’s the difference between 68 and 70?
“We are giving you a nation that is in a state of coma; that is what we are handing over to you. If it is a nation that is progressing from 30 per cent in 1970, we should be talking about 15 per cent now.”
Amaechi also explained that the Federal Government had yet to pay fully the Rivers State allocation for July, 2013.
“We (NGF) asked the Minister of Finance to resign if she is not able to manage the economy and she replied that ‘I dey kampe’. As of now, we (Rivers) have yet to receive in full the federal allocation for July.
“How strong is an economy that cannot fund its statutory state governments’ federal allocation? Our entitlement as Rivers State Government in July was N19bn.
“They have paid us only N14bn. The Central Bank of Nigeria published receipt of N1.05 tn in July; so, why did they say that there is no money? If we receive N1.05tn by July, why are they saying there is no money?
“Let me paint our image; corrupt and poor leadership. These are what you are coping with. We produce oil and yet,we are one of the poorest nations in the world.Are we not?
“Which nation would allow a Commissioner of Police like (Joseph) Mbu to continue to be a Commissioner of Police other than Nigeria, Iraq, Syria? So, you see our peers? Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.”
On Uduaghan’s remarks that opposition to Jonathan should not come from the people of South-South, Amaechi pointed out that he considered national interest far above regional or any other interest.
He expressed dissatisfaction that those fighting a just cause were constantly maligned, adding that Nigerians suffer from their refusal to ask questions when necessary.
Amaechi said, “Let me start replying him (Uduaghan) from here. First, I am a Nigerian. The reason why you have South-South, South-West, South-East, North-West, North that, is that in Nigeria, what you have in leadership is a wreck culture.
“I would have brought you a book from Kenya titled, ‘It’s our turn to eat.’ In Nigeria, it should be what? Now, the reason why you have this South-West, South-East, North-West, North this, North that and all that, is that you have a wreck culture where all we care about is how to share the till.
“So, South-South has shared for four years; how many of you have benefitted from the sharing for four years, raise your hands, how many of you? None. How many of you passed through the East-West Road, how was the road?
“And our President is from the South-South. So, do you see why I should support the President? So, the basic rule is that none of us should oppose our President if you are from the South-South; that is what the man (Uduaghan) tells us.
“When you are principled in Nigeria and you stand on your principles, what do they call you? They expect you to compromise at a point but when you refuse to compromise, you are a very stubborn man.”
He, however, appealed to the youth to arm themselves with education to revive Nigeria as he expressed sadness that the country’s poverty rate had risen to a level where many Nigerians hardly get enough to eat.
“Now for you as young men and women, we present you a nation that is yearning for repair. For me, the nation does not only need repair, it requires change.”
He explained that his administration introduced free education in the state to afford everyone, particularly poor parents the opportunity of sending their children and wards to school.
Earlier, the District Governor of Rotary International District 9140, Dr. Charles Oniawan, said Rotary was uniting people from all nationalities and backgrounds.
Oniawan pointed out that the programme was designed to give the youth the necessary leadership skills to serve humanity.
When contacted, Okonjo-Iweala insisted that the Nigerian economy remained strong.
In an emailed response through her Special Adviser on Communications, Mr Paul Nwabuikwu, she said, “In spite of challenges such as the recent revenue shortfall, this country is paying her bills, financing roads, rail, power and other critical infrastructure and even saving for the rainy day.
“So the position that the economy is in dire straits is simply not supported by available evidence.
“The committee on tackling oil theft chaired by Uduaghan is making good progress on securing the key Nembe and Trans-Niger pipelines and hopefully the shortfall will be significantly reduced soon and things will improve even further.
“We are happy that Nigerians are generally supportive of the efforts of the government to strengthen the economy and improve their welfare.”