In an effort to resolved looming food crisis that is threatening the Nigerian populace, the House of Representatives has yesterday called on the federal government to immediately take action of tackiling the rising cost of living threatening Nigerians. The lawmakers made the call when the Ministers of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Wale Edun; Budget and National Planning, Atiku Bagudu; the governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Olayemi Cardoso and the Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Zacch Adedeji, were sermon before the lawmakers.
The session was part of the strategy Dialogue newly introduced by the House to interact with heads of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) on government policies to ensure the country is not thrown into crisis.
Accordingly, the lawmakers deemed its necessary that steps be developed by the CBN, FIRS and the ministries as regards the current economic situation in the country.
Earlier, a motion was moved by Rep. Ayokunle Isiaka (APC, Ogun),where the lawmakers adopted as a matters of urgent public importance demanding the federal government to act fast and address the rising cost of living.
Buttressing the point Reps member, Ahmed Jaha Babawo (APC, Borno) said nobody needed a soothsayer to conclude that Nigerians were hungry and angry.
According to the lawmaker, government must take action, especially in terms of food security, to make things work better for Nigerians.
He recalled, from 2020 to date, the prices of staple food and other items have risen by over 500%, placing Nigerians in a precarious situation.
Rep. Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) said people were living in poverty, penury and pervasive insecurity.
Chinda said, “The least we can do is to tell the truth to power.”
Other lawmakers questioned the ministers, CBN governor and FIRS chairman over their policies that directly affect Nigerians.
Responding, the CBN governor said the country was at a turning point. He said though the reforms across different segments of the economy were initially challenging, they were aimed at addressing the challenges sustainably.
He explained, “I am confident that positive outcomes are already emerging and will become more apparent shortly. The dedicated and relentless efforts being made are certain to bring about significant and positive changes for our economy.
“Notably, recent reports from international rating agencies such as Fitch, Moody’s, S&P and commendations from multilateral banks like the World Bank reflect this positive trajectory, with upgrades to Nigeria’s ratings from stable to positive.
He added, “These reports acknowledge the potential reversal of the deterioration in the country’s fiscal and external position due to the authorities’ reform efforts. While recognising the painful adjustments, they all point to a direction that will unlock much-needed growth and development for our economy in the medium to long term”.
In his response, the CBN boss said that despite the commendations, the concerns regarding the cost of living and currency exchange rates remained.
Cardoso said, “Indeed, this is the major topic of concern in our villages, our towns and our cities. The urgency of the matter is not lost on us at the Central Bank and I assure you, we are working tirelessly with colleagues from across government, including with the leadership of this House to bring lasting solutions.
“Broader escalation of conflicts could disrupt energy markets, trade routes, and financial markets, leading to a slowdown in growth and increased inflationary pressures. Additionally, rising trade barriers, protectionist policies, and global value chain restructuring could exacerbate uncertainties in global trade.
“In this challenging landscape, key policy priorities involve ensuring durable inflation reduction, addressing fiscal pressures, and fostering sustainable and inclusive growth.
“Inflationary pressures are expected to decline in 2024 due to the CBN’s inflation-targeting policy, aiming to rein in inflation to 21.4 per cent, aided by improved agricultural productivity and easing global supply chain pressures.
“The CBN’s inflation-targeting framework involves clear communication and collaboration with fiscal authorities to achieve price stability, potentially leading to lowered policy rates, stimulating investment, and creating job opportunities”, he added.
“To address exchange rate volatility, Cardoso said, a comprehensive strategy has been initiated to enhance liquidity in the FX markets. This includes unifying FX market segments, clearing outstanding FX obligations, introducing new operational mechanisms for BDCs, enforcing the Net Open Position limit, and adjusting the remunerable Standing Deposit Facility cap.
‘Nigeria better than before Tinubu took over’
In his address, the minister of finance said despite the challenges being faced, Nigeria is currently better than in 2023 when the present administration took over.
According to him, although inflation had increased while the cost of living had also risen astronomically, President Tinubu was ready to protect the poorest and vulnerable Nigerians through various positive policies.
He said, “As things improve, there will be further intervention on behalf of the vulnerable to assist in the cost of living.
“Let us be confident, calm, and assured that Nigeria will change in terms of economic management and that there will be intervention in every sector..
The minister said inflation must be tackled head-on as it presently accounts for 33 per cent of the consumer price index.
He said the revenue collection target for 2024 was N19.2 trillion, adding that while the agency is not collecting new taxes; it had strategized to bring more people into the tax net.
According to him, there was a robust plan to put the country on the path to becoming a production economy as the president moves to address the challenges in the energy sector, especially the vested interests in the oil sector.
Similarly, Bagudu said the president was committed to national development.
On his part, Adedeji, said the FIRS was doing more to increase the nation’s revenue base through various positive reforms.
Meanwhile, the federal government has expressed measures it will take to tackle food shortages in the country.
A special presidential committee met at the presidential villa yesterday to articulate actions necessary to stem the tide, including the release of available food in stock.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, who spoke to journalists after the meeting, said the government was concerned about the cost of living protests, particularly the one that occurred in Minna, Niger State, and wanted to ensure that there was relief for citizens.