Atiku’s economic blueprint portends hardship – DG, VON

A chieftain of the All Progressives Congress and Director-General of Voice of Nigeria, Osita Okechukwu, on Sunday took a swipe at the proposed economic plan of the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, saying it would further bring hardship on the masses.

A worried Okechukwu warned that the PDP presidential candidate was subtly striving to reintroduce an economic blueprint that is reminiscent of the unforgettable ‘Structural Adjustment Programme’ that brought about austerity measures in the country.

SAP was a set of economic reforms introduced in Nigeria by then-military President Ibrahim Babangida to secure a loan from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 1986.

The development is coming five days after Atiku vowed to resuscitate Nigeria’s ailing economy by launching a $10 billion Economic Stimulus Fund within his first 100 days in office once elected.

The former vice president made the statement at the “Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Presidential Economic Agenda Forum for the PDP” in Lagos.

Atiku said the fund would prioritise support to micro, small and medium-scale enterprises that offer the greatest opportunity for inclusive economic growth.

The PDP presidential flagbearer, who laid out his economic plan to salvage the country’s economic fortunes, said he would rather privatise Nigeria’s dilapidated refineries rather than spend $1.55 billion on their revitalisation.

Reacting to his glowing pitch on Sunday, Okechukwu noted that he found it odd for a man who could not unite his party to be talking about measures he believed can revamp the economic fortunes of the country.

The VON managing director made the clarification is a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday.

He said, “I watched with rapt attention, but in deep regrets that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar’s Economic Plan is more or less like the nebulous economic policy of Structural Adjustment Programme’s Pocketbook of 1986.

“The former Vice President harped profoundly on privatisation of State Owned Enterprises as the fulcrum of his economic revitalization programme, akin to SAP proponents of yore.

Whereas, one is not against private sector partnership; however what we have in surplus are rent-seekers and scanty industrialists. Therefore, I am not surprised that a man who breached PDP’s constitution and by extension failed to unite his party did not bother to do the needful assessment which posits that 80 per cent of State Owned Enterprises privatised under his chairmanship of National Council of Privatisation and indeed the 16 years of PDP leadership went into comatose.”

Okechukwu further explained that when it came to power in 1999, the PDP with Atiku as Chairman of National Council on Privatisation dusted up the SAP pocketbook and stripped our national assets including profitable companies like NICON Insurance, NICON Hilton Hotel, Niger Dock and unprofitable companies like Distribution Electricity Distribution Companies.

“For instance, Niger Dock a profitable pre-privatisation company has 6,000 staff under Nnamdi Ozobia, today it has gone under with less than 600 staff and the N1.72 billion proceeds allegedly missing.

“Secondly, NICON one of Africa’s leading Insurers originally owned by the Federal Government of Nigeria was privatised in December, 2005. With an asset base of N46.9bn gathered over a 52-year period of operation, 30 branches and six regional offices, it is therefore modest to classify NICON as a colossus in the insurance industry, but has regrettably gone under AMCON life support management.

“I make bold to say that what Atiku is proposing is by no means different from SAP policy thrust neither is his proposal on NNPC Ltd better than the giant steps that President Muhammadu Buhari has taken towards commercialism of NNPC.

“If you ask me, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar should first unite his party, and drop Senator Iyorchia Ayu who incidentally has crowned him Nigeria’s Odinga,” he said.

Defending his boss, Atiku’s media aide, Paul Ibe, noted that much as he wouldn’t like to join issues with Okechukwu, he wanted Nigerians to understand that Atiku’s proposed policies are well thought-out.

According to him, Nigeria needs fixing at a critical period when the masses are already losing hope.

“Where are we in Nigeria today? Total energy crisis, no money and even the FG is broke. We are owing globally with interests and still borrowing money. Atiku’s blueprint is an opportunity. What has the APC done in the last seven years? He is paying staff salaries of NNPC that have not refined one litre of crude oil for years. So what are we talking about?

“We need to be innovative. That’s what leadership is all about. What are the opportunities available to us as a country now? See how the energy sector has suffered on the issue of repairs and our refineries have become moribund. So why not bring in new people whose job it is to create businesses? These people just want Nigerians to continue to suffer,” he lamented.

Source: Vanguard