The plan by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, to reopen all Nigerian borders if elected president in 2023, would worsen insecurity, escalate hunger and make nonsense of the nation’s economy, Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed has said.
The minister spoke against the backdrop of the recent statement by Atiku during his campaign in Katsina Tuesday, where the former VP was reported to have promised to reopen all the Nigerian borders if given the mandate.
Countering this Thursday December 22, 2022 in Abuja at a media parley on the PMB Administration’s Scorecard (2015-2023) series, Mohammed described the statement credited to the PDP flag bearer as s a red flag to Nigerians.
He said: “By that statement, Alhaji Atiku has simply informed Nigerians that he will reverse all the efforts made by the PMB Administration to achieve self-sufficiency in the production of many staples, especially rice. By that statement, the former Vice President has informed the country’s millions of rice farmers that they will soon lose their jobs when imported rice floods the country.
“By that statement, His Excellency Atiku Abubakar has told the hundreds of thousands of Nigerians working in the various rice mills that have sprung up under this Administration that their jobs are over. By that statement, Alhaji Atiku will shut down most, if not all, of our new fertilizer blending companies, with thousands of jobs going down the drain. And by his declaration, the former Vice President has told Nigerians that he will worsen security in the country by allowing arms and ammunition to flow unhindered into the country.
“In case His Excellency Atiku Abubakar is not aware, the PMB Administration has increased the number of fertilizer blending plants in the country from 10 in 2015 to 142 today; the rice mills in the country from 10 in 2015 to 80 integrated rice mills today. In addition, 10 large scale integrated rice mills are currently being built across the country.
“His Excellency Atiku Abubakar may also want to know that while Nigeria was the number one export destination for rice in 2014; our country has now moved to number 79, according to Thai Authorities. By throwing open the borders indiscriminately as he has pledged, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has simply announced that he intends to return Nigeria to the number one importer of Thai rice in 2023!”
“It is now clear that in his desperation for power, the presidential candidate of the PDP will not hesitate to export Nigerian jobs, put millions of Nigerians out of job, and ruin the fertilizer companies and the rice mills that have grown exponentially in number since Nigeria shut its land borders in 2019 (with some of them later reopened) due to the smuggling of rice as well as arms and ammunition into the country.
“For sheer expediency, Alhaji Atiku, a former Customs Officer who rose to the pinnacle of his career, is ready to erase the gains made since 2015 in pushing Nigeria closer to self-sufficiency in the production of staples. Out of desperation, he is ready to worsen the security situation in Nigeria by throwing open all the borders and allowing a massive inflow of small arms and light weapons into the country.
“Only an inordinately-ambitious candidate will wish to return Nigeria to an era of massive importation of food, to the detriment of local farmers, and an era of unbridled inflow of weapons. This is a red flag to Nigerians who, in line with the admonition of President Muhammadu Buhari, have been striving to produce what they eat and eat what they produce.”
‘APC failed woefully on security’
Replying the minister however, Atiku Abubakar campaign organization said it won’t allow any form of distraction in its way, noting the APC-led government failed woefully in the area of security.
The campaign spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, said “in spite of the opening of the borders that the cost of local rice is different from the cost of the imported rice. Imported rice sells for between 40,000 and 50,000 (Naira) or above, while locally milled rice sells between 30,000 and 40,000. So, that same differential pooh-poohs the argument and contemplation of Alhaji Lai Mohammed.”
“Is Lai Mohammed claiming that when the borders were shut by President Muhammadu Buhari that we didn’t have insecurity? Or is he saying that now that the borders are open, we have more of insecurity than when it was shut?
“Alhaji Lai Mohammed is an old man. I know his proclivities; I know why he tries to come out always to come and engage with Atiku. He’s doing all that in order to be seen to be working for the failed ambition of his friend, Bola Tinubu.
“Atiku Abubakar is never going to be drawn into that arena because Atiku is speaking to Nigerians, he’s addressing the challenges of Nigeria and realistically, Nigerians are agreeing with him that he’s responding to their needs, to their desires.
“So, we are not going to allow any form of distraction. You had eight years to speak to Nigerians on the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari. He failed woefully in delivering on that.
“But now, he’s looking at every flimsy opportunity to drag with Atiku Abubakar. We are not cut out for that,” Ologbondiyan said.
Tinubu on fuel subsidy
In a related development, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has promised entrepreneurs that he would turn Nigeria’s present challenges into opportunities for growth and development if elected president.
He specifically promised to remove fuel subsidy no matter the protest by Nigerian workers.
The former lawmaker also promised to work towards creating a better security in the country to allow them an enabling environment to do their businesses.
Tinubu spoke Thursday at the business luncheon with business owners titled “Business Forward” at the Wings, Victoria Island, Lagos.
The APC candidate said since it is the responsibility of government to secure lives and properties of citizens, if elected, his administration would make that its priority, the same way he did when he was Lagos state governor.
According to him, business and insecurity cannot thrive side by side.
He was joined at the event by Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-olu, Group Chief Executive Officer of Oando Plc Wale Tinubu, former House of Representatives Speaker Dimeji Bankole, former commissioners in his administration in Lagos, Messers Yemi Cardozo and Dele Alake, former chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Nuhu Ribadu, and former managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman among others.
The business entrepreneurs raised issues around education, healthcare development, electricity, investment climate, multiple exchange rates and prevailing oil subsidy, asking how he would deal with the challenges.
Tinubu in his address specifically addressed the pressing issue of fuel subsidy and what he would do as president.
He promised to take bold decisions that would turn the economy around and one of such would be a firm decision on fuel subsidy, saying Nigeria would not continue to subsidise fuel consumption in neighbouring countries.
“How can we be subsidising fuel consumption of Cameroon, of Niger, of Benin Republic. No matter how long you protest, we are going to remove subsidy,” he said emphatically.
On security he said: “First, the primary responsibility of government is to protect the lives, properties, and prosperity of its citizens.
“As Governor of Lagos, fixing the difficult security situation I inherited was the first item on my list. Only after we secured the state and changed its reputation for the better, could we embark on the economic reforms that have ultimately produced the vibrant and active megacity of today.
“I am committed to securing Nigerians from violence and the fear of such violence. Terror, kidnapping and banditry have no place in the society I envision. Upon entering office, we will move to implement several measures:
“We will increase the numbers of our military and non-military security forces. Specialist anti-terrorist battalions with integrated special forces units shall also be established.
“Our Critical National Infrastructure Protection Plan will deploy aerial and ground surveillance technology to survey the most dangerous areas and secure our country’s vital national infrastructure and installations.
“We shall acquire and upgrade the tactical communications and mobility of our troops and security personnel. We must also devote greater attention to the care and welfare of our military and security forces who put themselves in harm’s way to keep us safe.
“In sum, our objective is to be able to outmaneuver, outwit and outflank the terrorists and criminal groups. They want to defeat our democratic and good society. We shall defeat their evil one. We did it in Lagos with the RRS Scheme. We can do it again for Nigeria.
“As we fight insecurity, we must deal with our economy at the same time. We know that business and insecurity cannot thrive side by side.”
He said his government would give room to allow the private sector thrive by not interfering, while opening rooms for collaborations.
“Thus, where the private sector is doing well, my government will not interfere. Our guiding principle regarding economic policy shall be to provide the right policy framework so that business can flourish.
“But I want to do more than help existing businesses to exist. We must create the space where new sectors and lines of business can open. We must grow this economy so that it can accommodate over 200 million people with a decent standard of living.
“My government will collaborate with the private sector to bring about massive infrastructural renewal that enhance economic opportunities, lower business cost and overheads while producing jobs that spur further growth and development through increased consumer demand. This is the virtuous economic cycle we seek to create,” he added.
He then shared his plans for boosting the country’s economy. “From our national infrastructural campaign to our national portable water campaign and plans to reticulate major dams, our intention is to leverage public private partnerships to attract private sector investment along the critical path leading from modernization of infrastructure to realisation of sustainable yet significant economic growth.
“Please also note the various sectors in which we have promised fiscal incentives, tax breaks, tax credits, rebates and access to finance.
“My aim is to develop local manufacturing and value-added businesses. My aim is to deepen consumer lending, increase affordable housing and provide business owners with low-cost loans to modernize operations and improve productivity. My aim is to reform the structural foundation of our economy. To accomplish this major feat, government and the private must work hand in hand.
“Our policy will further stimulate our world-leading start-up ecosystem. I want our brilliant entrepreneurs to continue to innovate our people out of poverty and lead us towards the path of prosperity.
“But I must also say we shall not be afraid to regulate wisely. We cannot allow instances like the collapse of FTX to happen here. We must protect business, consumer and investor confidence in equal proportion,” Tinubu added.
The former Lagos state governor also touched on improving the nation’s power sector which he said is critical to any economic development and strengthening the health sector.
On the demands and inputs of the participants, Tinubu said: “Indeed, I have been assured by the organizers that the secretariat is already collating your inputs so that your contributions can be melded into our plans.”
Okowa slams APC
Notwithstanding the promise and hope expressed by Tinubu, the PDP vice presidential candidate, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state, has expressed optimism that the party would win the 2023 general elections, saying there would be no room for the APC to occupy the Villa again.
Speaking during the of the party’s governorship local government campaign flag-off at Patani, Patani local government area of the state, Okowa said the PDP was out to repair the destructions and damages inflicted on Nigerians by the APC-led federal government.
He said: “As a party, we have done well for our state and country but its unfortunate that the APC came in 2015 and destroyed all the achievements we recorded.
“Because they are ashamed of their performance in the last seven and half years, they have resorted to lies and propaganda. They have nothing more to offer than inflicting poverty, hunger, insecurity and a collapsed economy on Nigerians.
“I have been going round the country and I can assure you that PDP will win the 2023 Presidential election. Atiku and I will repair the damages caused by the APC, everything PDP did before they crashed and they still have the effrontery to campaign.”
He urged the people to vote for the governorship candidate of the party in the state, Rt. Hon Sherrif Oborevwori, to ensure continuity in the development of the state.
“I have worked very hard for this state and many more work still need to be done. So what remains to be done Sheriff Oborevwori will continue from where we will stop,” Okowa said.