Tinubu Didn’t Create Economic Problems — Presidency Replies New York Times ‘Jaundiced’ Article

Bayo Onanuga
The Presidency, on Sunday, addressed claims that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu did create Nigeria’s current economic problems.

Bayo Onanuga, Special Adviser to the President on Information and Strategy, in a statement addressing a report by the New York Times titled ‘Nigeria Confronts Its Worst Economic Crisis in a Generation,’ said Tinubu inherited the economic problems.

According to him, the report reflected the “typical predetermined, reductionist, derogatory, and denigrating way foreign media establishments reported African countries for several decades.”

He furthered that the publication painted the dire experiences of some Nigerians amid the inflationary spiral of the last year and blamed it all on the policies of Tinubu’s administration.

Onanuga added that the report did not mention the positive aspects of the economy.

His words: “The report, based on several interviews, is at best jaundiced, all gloom and doom, as it never mentioned the positive aspects in the same economy as well as the ameliorative policies being implemented by the central and state governments.

“To be sure, President Tinubu did not create the economic problems Nigeria faces today. He inherited them. As a respected economist in our country once put it, Tinubu inherited a dead economy.

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“The economy was bleeding and needed quick surgery to avoid being plunged into the abyss, as happened in Zimbabwe and Venezuela. This was the background to the policy direction taken by the government in May/June 2023: the abrogation of the fuel subsidy regime and the unification of the multiple exchange rates.”

Reacting in defense of petrol subsidy removal, Onanuga said it gulped $84.39 billion between 2005 and 2022 from the public treasury in a country with huge infrastructural deficits and in high need of better social services for its citizens.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, the sole importer of petrol, he said, had “amassed trillions of naira in debts for absorbing the unsustainable subsidy payments” in its books.

“By the time President Tinubu took over the leadership of the country, there was no provision made for fuel subsidy payments in the national budget beyond June 2023.

“The budget itself had a striking feature: it planned to spend 97 percent of revenue servicing debt, with little left for recurrent or capital expenditure. The previous government had resorted to massive borrowing to cover such costs,” Onanuga added.

To deal with the cancer of public finance on the first day, Onanuga said, Tinubu had to end the subsidy regime and the “generosity that spread to neighbouring countries.”