The Vice President, Prof. Yomi Osinbajo, on Saturday reaffirmed the position of the Federal Government that the country’s currency would not be devalued in spite of pressures to act otherwise.
But the former Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Mr Joseph Sanusi, replied that delaying the devaluation was akin to postponing the evil day.
The positions were taken at a town hall meeting that the Vice President held with his co-tenants in the Victoria Garden City (VGC) on the Lekki-Epe axis of Lagos.
At the widely attended and thought provoking event, Osinbajo insisted that devaluation was not on the table, adding that, “that is the position of government”.
According to him, the CBN will operate in line with the speech delivered by President Muhammadu Buhari, after he was elected to come up with flexible exchange rate to be supported by strong monetary policies.
He said that the foreign exchange policy of government was to stop unnecessary consumption of imported goods and promote local manufacturing.
Osinbajo also said that government met a falling revenue profile in May 2015, which was down by about 70 per cent compared to the same period of the preceding year.
He also said that in spite of the high cost of about $22 to produce a barrel of crude oil now selling at about $33 dollars, no fewer than 38 per cent of the foreign reserve was spent on importing petroleum products.
He also said that the previous administration was spending about N20 billion on food importations annually, which reduced the nation’s foreign reserve drastically from about $40 billion to about $25 billion.
As a result, he said, the present administration was bent on diversification of the economy from crude oil to agriculture and solid minerals production.
Osinbajo said the focus on agriculture was to make Nigeria self-sufficient in rice, poultry and palm oil production as well as develop the entire agriculture value chain to create wealth and jobs for the teeming youth.
The vice president further said that the administration‘s targets 2018 for complete reliance on refined petroleum products, adding that the petrochemical industry, railway infrastructure and provision of other infrastructure were atop the priority of the federal government.
He told the VGC community that the major areas of focus of the Buhari administration were security, governance, anti-corruption and economic rejuvenation.
According to him, Boko Haram insurgency had been degraded as a “military might” although pockets of suicide bombings still take place.
“This is a challenge we must tackle going forward but the other challenge is the over 2 million people displaced by insurgency who need resettlement,” he added.
He said the idea was to re-settle the people back to their farming occupation first, but that would be after the entire North East land had been de-mined.
He said government was mindful also of the agitation by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), pipeline vandalism in the South-South and the Fulani- farmers clash in some communities, all which pose security threats.
Osinbajo restated that in governance, corruption was a critical issue because “the whole system, both public and private, is replete with corruption which has become the rule rather than the exception.
He recalled the armed purchase scandal “where a huge amount of money was spent but unfortunately it went into private pockets”.
He recounted that fake Armoured Personnel Carriers and fake bullet proof vests were purchased for soldiers thus endangering the lives of anti- terrorism combatants.
“Unless we seriously fight corruption through a systematic rebirth of our public system, the future of the country is in grave danger,” Osinbajo said.
He said the administration had a robust plan to uplift education standards through the recruitment of 500,000 additional graduate teachers to serve in the rural areas, development of materials for teacher education and focus on science, engineering, technology and mathematics education.
He said that Buhari had put together an asset recovery team, adding that looted assets and funds recovered would be returned to the federation account.
The vice president also announced that all idle mining licences issued by the past administrations were being mopped up, while the government was reviewing the contract signed between the CBN and Systemspec on remittances made into the Treasury Single Account.
However, Sanusi, a VGC resident, advised the government to either devalue the currency or stop the confusion between the official and parallel market exchange rates.
He said that allowing an official rate at N97 per dollar while the parallel market sold for over N300 was “distractive”.
“Naira is already devalued and government not accepting it is postponing the evil day,” Sanusi said.
The Chairman of the VGC Residents Association, Mr Olusegun Ladega, in an address requested Osinbajo to intervene in the flooding of the estate caused by the non-provision of ancillary drainage on the Lekki-Epe Expressway by the Lagos State Government.
Also, Dr (Mrs) Tochi Okwor, raised concerns about the high rate of communicable diseases, such as TB and HIV and AIDS, which she said might reach unacceptable proportion if nothing was done.
She also advised the federal government to remove the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) from the Health Ministry and make it an independent organisation to enable the NCDC play its role effectively.