Nigeria: Minister urges editors to be 'Champions of Change' in Nigeria

Port Harcourt, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigerian Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has commended the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) for being part of the ongoing determined efforts to tackle the various challenges facing the country, especially in the area of the economy.

Speaking at the All Nigerian Editors Conference (ANEC) 2016 in Port Harcourt on Thursday, the Minister, however, urged the editors to do more by becoming the Champions of Change.

''I commend the Nigerian Guild of Editors for the well-thought-out theme for this 2016 Conference, which is 'Economic Diversification: Agriculture as an option for a prosperous Nigeria'. As you are all very much aware, agriculture is one of the sectors we have identified in our economic diversification programme, aimed at moving the country away from a mono-product, oil-based economy, under our Change Mantra," said the minister.

''It is therefore delightful that you have chosen to deepen the discourse by the choice of your theme for this conference. Even more impressive is the fact that editors have taken up the challenge of contributing their quota to the ongoing efforts by this Administration to revamp the economy and return Nigeria to the path of sustainable growth and development.

''What I am saying in essence is that while the media owes it as a duty to keep Nigerians well informed about the situation in the country, it must do so in context. We are not saying we should continue to lament about missed opportunities, the massive corruption or profligacy of the past, but it is important for Nigerians to know where and when the rain started beating them, that no provision was made for any umbrella to shield them from the elements, and that indeed genuine efforts are now being made to turn things around."

According to the minister, one of such efforts was the unprecedented massive investment in infrastructure - roads, railways and power.

Mohammed noted that road contractors have been mobilised to sites, many of them long abandoned.

"Any contractor not on site is waiting for the rains to stop, not due to lack of funds. The Administration has kick-started the programme to link all state capitals by rail. All these efforts are creating jobs and putting money in the pockets of Nigerians.

''We must give hope to our people, while also giving encouragement to those who are working non-stop to revamp our economy. In one country that failed to save for the rainy day like Nigeria did, citizens are now having to cross to neighbouring countries to get essential commodities.

"The only reason we have averted such fate here is the committed, honest and disciplined leadership provided by President Muhammadu Buhari, the prudent management of the little resources that are accruing to the country now, thanks to the Treasury Singles Account, the unrelenting war against corruption, the rooting out of ghost workers and the increasing emphasis on agriculture that is sure to massively reduce our scandalously-high food imports in a short while,'' he said.

Mohammed explained that Nigeria's economy has been hard hit by the fall in the price of crude oil because the country failed to save for the rainy day, coupled with the fact that the country did not invest in infrastructure.

''Nigeria has nothing to rely on to cushion the effects of the lost earnings. Many other oil producing countries and fellow OPEC members are faring better, because they saved for the rainy day," he pointed out, giving as example, Saudi Arabia with about one-fifth of Nigeria's population, but having foreign reserves of about US$600 billion (which is 23 times what Nigeria has in foreign reserves).

Also, he mentioned that United Arab Emirates, with less than 10 million people, has US$75 billion in foreign reserves. Qatar, with 2.4 million people, has US$ 36 billion in foreign reserves. Even Angola, with just 24 million people, has about US$25 billion in foreign reserves.

''Here in Nigeria, with oil selling consistently for over US$100 a barrel for many years, we simply failed to save for the rainy day, with the result that a country with a population of over 170 million today has just US$26 billion in foreign reserves.

"To compound this, the fall in the price of crude is having a ripple effect: the scarcity of forex, which has resulted from the oil price crash, means that industries are struggling to get forex to import raw materials and machinery.

"With falling imports, the Customs Service, which is another source of revenue, is collecting less duties. Taxation is also affected, as industries with no forex to import can neither employ more people nor produce more goods. Then, Nigeria has had to fight an existential battle to root out Boko Haram in the northeast,'' he said.
-0- PANA VAO/AR 4Aug2016

04 august 2016 17:27:44

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