Barely a week after after Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, called on President Buhari to summon an emergency economic meeting to recommend specific solutions to the nation’s prevailing economic challenges to save the country’s economy from further drift, the president has approved the convocation of a national economic conference. A top government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, disclosed this to a group of journalists in Abuja on Thursday.
According to the government source, the idea of the economic conference, which had tentatively been fixed for March 10 and 11, was first discussed at the 65th National Economic Council meeting held on January 28. The council, presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had all the state governors and the Central Bank Nigeria Governor, Secretary to the Government of the Federation and some ministers as members. It has a constitutional role of advising the President on economic matters. The source said in approving the idea, the President himself would declare the conference open and participate fully in order to demonstrate his personal commitment to the idea.
The government official stated, “The NEC retreat, as is being called by the Federal Government and the states, becomes imperative amid dwindling oil prices with a direct and significant impact on the money now available for federal allocation and sharing between the FG, states and local government councils.For instance, the FG states and local governments shared a sum of N370.4bn a few days ago for the month of January 2016, which is a drop of more than N17bn from the N387.8bn shared the previous month of December last year. That could be compared for instance with what was shared in January 2014, which was N629bn and N503.6bn the previous December, both higher significantly than the present situation.
“Another concern of the FG and the states necessitating the economic conference is the drop in foreign reserves of the country, which is now already below $30bn and compelling the CBN to adopt tough forex measures, including the ban on certain items from forex funding and rationing. The depreciation of the value of naira has also become an attendant impact of the foreign exchange scarcity.It is interesting that a respectable Nigerian (Soyinka) recently raised the idea of a national economic conference earlier this month, the same idea that had been decided by members of NEC at their January meeting. It shows there is indeed a wide consensus on the idea.”