An Open Letter to President M. Buhari - Barr. Osita Oparaugo

An open letter to the President of Nigeria, His Excellency, President M. Buhari

A legal practitioner and the Managing Director of Footprint to Africa, a Pan-African company promoting intra African and foreign investments in Africa, published an open letter to the President of Nigeria last week.

Barrister Oparaugo stated that the letter was not published to appraise the government rather it was written out of his conviction that the Nigerian government needs to take proactive steps in tackling issues affecting the West African nation, Nigeria, head-on.

He said, "His Excellency, considering your desire and struggle to govern the Nigerian people for over 12 years and your previous effort while at the helm of the affairs as the head of state, your willingness/seriousness to succeed is not in question"

"Your efforts in trying to rally the international community to support our economy and your government at this difficult time is appreciated however, I and many other Nigerians are of the view that firstly, the home front needs to be well prepared"

Barrister Oparaugo is of the opinion that inadequate research around the domestic needs of the people is what has led to the very ambitious but unrealistic 2016 budget.

He said, "Your government’s plan to spend more money when the country’s revenue has reduced drastically is inconceivable and raises a number of questions such as, how did your economic team arrive at the overall debt profile of 14 percent of our GDP and how that remains well within the acceptable fiscal limits. Is this acceptability subjective or a conclusion by your economic team? Is your estimate of 2.2million barrels at $38 per day realistic when oil is at all-time 11-year low whilst showing no sign of a steady rise? Did your government consider the impact Iran will have on the oil market? It is a general saying in Nigeria that you cut your coat according to your cloth, but this has not been the case with your government. Just like the old adage says, if your outgo exceeds your income, your upkeep will become your downfall"

Barrister Osita Oparaugo, in the letter, pointed out on a number of issues that have been of great concern to many Nigerians.

He said, "The programme of the Central Bank Governor in the last six months has drawn the attention of so many people, especially investors. If the Central Bank does not rescind its decision to restrict supply of foreign exchange to some industries like aviation and power generation companies, it will lead to a total collapse of the economy. Yes, I agree that it is good to reduce Nigeria’s dependency on importation but the stringent policies have stifled manufacturing, which is the growth generator of the global economy. It is common knowledge that the manufacturing sector drives domestic and international investment. It also serves as the backbone to any economy and as such, should be encouraged by every institution in Nigeria. This has not been the case. The factors that reduce dependency on importation are neither the exclusion of some imported goods from accessing forex from the apex bank nor the limited access to foreign exchange but, rather, the competitiveness of the locally made goods and the attitude of the whole nation"

"Mr President, the country desperately needs power and infrastructural development, so much so that we need to start looking at the structure of expenditure to make it more consistent with the development initiative that you promised. I personally thought that your government would utilize the first 18 months to embark on a massive infrastructural development program that will support our industries – e.g., power to enhance manufacturing, road and rail network to transport goods from Aba to Kano. These issues and many more have to be taken care of before most of the hush hush directives can stand. With the right infrastructure in place to support the SMEs, Nigeria will thrive again. Development will not take place in Nigeria without a strong SMEs as they are critical for economic growth", said Barrister Oparaugo

Commenting about the introduction of the N50 stamp duty imposed by the Central Bank of Nigeria, he opined that the introduction of deducting N50 naira from any cash lodgment or transfers will draw Nigeria back 10 years because the most affected will be the local traders and farmers who will rather withdraw their monies and bank them under their pillows. He said that to understand the level of self-banking in the country, a little exercise would be for the Central Bank Governor to ask all the banks and other financial institutions including registered BDC’s to report the amount of cash in their positions as at close of work 29th February 2016. He claimed that over 40% of Nigerian currency printed is not in the banking circulation and said that the N50 charge is ill timed and will further encourage self-banking in Nigeria.

He also said, "Our education system has made our graduates unemployable and contributes to the international deficit. Our education system needs a complete overhaul so that the children of Governors, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Directors and National Assembly members can study here. The amount of money Nigerians spend annually on the acquisition of foreign education is sickening and is putting a major pressure on the naira than toothpicks"

Speaking of promoting local manufacturers and their goods, he said, "The government should look into the introduction of policy that will force government agencies to patronise local manufacturers. Government agencies must buy cars made or assembled in Nigeria. For example, the Government of India will not buy toilet rolls that were not made in India. The Toyota Land Cruisers and Hilux trucks that the presidency and the Ministers use are not assembled here"

"The issue of the National Assembly needs to be tackled head-on. If you leave the seat as President of Nigeria without addressing the issue of the country’s expenditure on the National Assembly, many will argue that your onslaught on corruption was skewed and incomplete. His Eminence, Sanusi Lamido can attest to the amount of pressure the National Assembly puts on the naira. A former two-time House of Representatives member and a former governor of Benue State are of the view that only 20 out of 360 members of the National Assembly are useful while the rest are uneducated and immature, Vanguard December 10, 2010", said Barrister Oparaugo

He said that the inability of the state governors to conduct local government elections is a major cause of unemployment in Nigeria, stating that if the Nigerian government strengthens the third tier of government, the youths in rural areas will be better engaged because the local government chairmen will receive their monies directly from the federal government, which will, in turn, spur competition amongst local governments. He said in Imo State where he comes from, no local government election has been conducted for the past 5 years. He attributes the migration of youths from the state to this.

The last point he raised went thus: "Mr President, manufacturers are shutting down because of the harsh investment/ business environment. The export business has become too risky because prices of locally made goods are more expensive in the international market, owing to the lack of incentives and high production costs in the country. Agriculture is still majorly carried out by hand tools. Many players in the mining sector are illegal and irregular. It is, therefore, important to say, on the final note that I am still at a loss as to how you can achieve your diversification mantra and take this country out of doldrums of monolithic economy if you don’t diversify now by first creating enabling environment through massive infrastructural development and engagement of private sector heads mostly the SME’s"

He ended the letter by saying, "It is my prayer that the Almighty God will give you wisdom and keep you in good health"