New Telegraph

Hunger Protest: FG Holds Urgent Meeting

The Ministers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Wednesday held an emergency meeting over the economic challenges, insecurity and food price hikes experienced across the country.

New Telegraph had earlier reported that President Tinubu-led federal Government came under criticism following the protest of high living standards in Niger State and other parts of the country on Monday.

The demonstrators, mostly women and youths, blocked a major road in the state capital, Minna to demand help over living costs.

Since his emergence as the 16th President of Nigeria on May 29, 2023, Tinubu has put an end a fuel subsidy and currency controls, leading to a tripling of petrol prices and a spike in living costs as the naira slides sharply against the dollar.

Ministers of Finance, Information, Budget and National Planning, and Agriculture as well as the National Security Adviser (NSA), Central Bank Director and other senior aides took part in the meetings which began on Tuesday.

“By the time these meetings are concluded, we’ll be able to issue a definite statement on what the position of government is in this regard,” Information Minister Mohammed Idris told reporters.

“All I can say is that discussions are ongoing, and very soon a solution is in sight for Nigerians.”

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Ministerial meetings scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday were announced as Tinubu returned to Nigeria after a brief private visit to France.

Government officials have repeatedly urged Nigerians to be patient over the reforms, which Tinubu says will bring in more foreign investment to Africa’s largest economy.

But the short-term impact is hitting Nigerians hard: Inflation was at 28.92 per cent in December, with food costs at 33.93 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The naira currency has fallen swiftly against the US dollar since the government ended a multi-tier exchange rate system and freed up the local currency.

Before the reforms, the naira was trading at around 450 to the dollar, but on Monday it was trading at 1,400 to the greenback, according to the central bank.

That is close to the rate on the parallel black market.

A weaker naira makes imported goods more expensive as businesses pay more for the dollars they need to bring goods into the country.

In a research note, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) said the central bank effectively devalued the naira last week, which could bolster investment, but it believed that the country’s foreign reserves would remain under pressure.

Africa’s largest oil producer, Nigeria has long struggled with foreign currency liquidity as its petroleum output lags and foreign investors remain skittish.

“We believe the improvement will take time to bed in and Nigeria will still need an IMF programme,” the EIU note said about the naira.

“The currency is now trading close to the parallel market rate. This alone will not encourage large hard currency inflows without oil industry reform and other policy measures.”

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