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Tinubu’s Reform Agenda Inflicting More Hardship – Catholic Bishops

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has said the reform agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not only inflicted more hardship on Nigerians but has driven millions into the act of begging in order to survive.

President of the CBCN, Most Rev. Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji who stated this in his welcome address on Sunday at the Opening Session of the 2024 First Plenary Assembly of the CBCN in Abuja, noted that Nigerians were experiencing the worst hardship in the nation’s history.

While noting that the end of the fuel subsidy regime and the unification of the foreign exchange market brought about a significant increase in the pump price of petroleum products and a steep decline in the value of the naira, the Bishop regretted that high-spiralling inflation has made it difficult for an average Nigerian to access basic commodities, including food items and medication.

He said : The reform agenda of the present government has added to the plight of Nigerians. With the withdrawal of fuel subsidies and the unification of the foreign exchange market, there has been a sharp increase in the pump price of petroleum products and a steep decline in the value of the naira. Indeed, there is a free fall in the national currency.

“As a result of the government’s reform agenda, millions of Nigerians have been reduced to a life of grinding poverty, wanton suffering, and untold hardship as never before in our national history

“In a bid to survive, an increasing number of the poor have resorted to begging. With more than 80 million Nigerians living below the poverty line of less than two dollars a day, our country, according to the recent disclosure of the World Bank, is the world’s second-largest poor population after India.

“While many impoverished Nigerians continue to suffer and die as a result of the hardship caused by the government’s economic reforms, the president has continued to urge the populace to make even more and more sacrifices with the assurance that brighter days lay ahead.”

Ugorji however stated that just as the government was demanding additional sacrifice from the struggling masses, so also are Nigerians expecting to see a drastic cut in the cost of running government at all levels.

“On the contrary, it is worrisome to watch top government functionaries live by the sweat, toil, and tears of the poor. They continue to spend huge public funds on ostentatious and luxurious lifestyles and seem incapable of feeling compassion for the outcry of the poor.

“It is no less worrisome to note that corruption among many public servants has gone beyond scale and measure. Corruption is a complex reality involving moral rottenness, defilement, and loss of integrity.”

On insecurity, the CBCN President lamented that despite the huge sums of money appropriated monthly as security votes, communities have continued to experience persistent insecurity which was worsening by the day with the recent upsurge in kidnapping for ransom and increasing incidents of senseless bloodshed across the nation.

“Unarmed citizens are brutally slaughtered on our highways, in their homes, and even in the sacred precincts of places of worship. Killer herdsmen, bandits, and unknown gunmen seem to be on the rampage.

“Many communities across the nation have been taken over completely by criminals. Families have lost their ancestral lands to armed invaders and land-grabbers. The social and economic lives of communities have been paralysed due to insecurity.

“Schools have been shut down, and children can no longer continue their education. Farmers are unable to access their farms out of fear of either losing their lives or being kidnapped,” Ugorji added

President of the Christian Association Nigeria (CAN), Archbishop Daniel Okoh, noted that as leaders of the church, they acknowledge the multifaceted challenges faced by churches on a daily basis.

“From a deliberate attempt to edge out Christianity in certain parts of the country through denial of Right of Occupancy for churches that want to erect their worship places to targeted serial attacks, arson and kidnapping of clergymen for ransom that have now become a daily occurrence

“The high level of insecurity, runaway inflation, and hunger are areas of serious concern as well. I am confident that the state of our nation will be exhaustively discussed with sincerity and humility at the plenary as usual.

“It is my hope that you will be guided by the Holy Spirit to come up with ideas that will truly make a positive difference in our nation and that God will make those in governance listen to the prophetic voice of the church.”

Also speaking, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume, said the country was relying on the Bishops for their unwavering encouragement of the Nigerian populace, adding that the Church’s engagement with Nigerians on matters of faith enriches the government’s responsiveness and strengthens the national fabric.

“Both the church and government are aligned in our shared commitment to a brighter future for all Nigerians.

“Through strategic policies, well-thought-out initiatives, and investments, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration aims to drive economic transformation, ensure security, enhance food production, harness natural resources, develop critical infrastructure, improve social services, foster economic diversification, and enhance governance efficiency.

“These efforts are geared towards building a prosperous, secure, and inclusive Nigeria for all,” Senator Akume added.

On his part, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr. Olayemi Cardoso who blamed the high inflation rate in the country on so much liquidity in the market, further argued that, in spite of all the difficulties, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

According to him, the efforts by the federal government to remove the subsidy on fuel would contribute towards a more positive outcome in future.

Cardoso who further noted that as a result of some of the recent reports from the CBN, over the course of the last week, about $1.8 billion came into the markets, maintained that as long as the country could sustain a positive trajectory, Nigeria would get out of its economic woes and the foreign exchange market would begin to moderate itself.

The CBN governor observed that in another week, the CBN would have the Monetary Policy Committee meeting, where very critical decisions would be made to continue making the economy more investor-friendly.

Cardoso also disclosed that an attempt to merge the outside rates with the official rates and the black market rate has been made, adding that the difference between the two was now significantly lower.

The CBN boss has assurances there was a positive outlook as a series of reforms made by the federal government and the central bank were now paying off in such a way that international investors were coming back into the country again.

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