As many Nigerians groan in poverty due to the rising cost of living occasioned by unprecedented inflation, Vice-President Kashim Shettima has said the poor in the country are angry with government officials and other members of the elite, who constitute the minority.
The vice-president said this at the graduation ceremony of the Executive Intelligence Management Course 16 participants from different security agencies and nominees of state governments in Abuja on Saturday. The event was organised by the National Institute for Security Studies.
This is the first time a senior government official is admitting the biting hardship in the country, which has been aggravated since President Bola Tinubu took over the reins of government on May 29, 2023.
In his inauguration speech, the President had declared that subsidy on petrol was gone for good, and hours after that statement, the pump price of petrol jumped from N238-N263 per litre to a minimum of N500. It currently sells for between N580 and N615.
As Nigerians were adjusting to the new reality and the attendant increase in the prices of goods and services, including transport fares, the Federal Government announced the decision to allow the exchange rate of the naira to major international currencies float and be determined by demand and supply.
That decision immediately led to a significant depreciation of the local currency, which peaked at N465.07 against the United States dollar just weeks before Tinubu’s inauguration. The scarcity of dollars and other major international currencies led the naira to climb to over 1,000 against the greenback.
Just on Friday, the naira fell to an all-time low of N1,099.05/$ at the official Investor and Exporter forex window to cap what had been a turbulent couple of months for the national currency.
This signifies a 30.36 per cent decline from its closing rate of N843.07/$ according to data from the FMDQ Securities Exchange. That was the lowest rate that the naira had closed since the Central Bank of Nigeria moved to adopt the I&E window as the official trading channel for the currency.
That day, the currency began trading at N844.10/$ before closing at N1,099.05/$. Since June, the naira has lost more than 40 per cent of its value, adding to inflationary pressure in the country.
It was reported that many families risked celebrating the approaching Christmas and New Year in hardship due to the hike in the prices of goods and services, and were devising life-changing ways to cut costs.
Shettima, however, said on Saturday, “All of us here belong to a tiny segment of the Nigerian population. And you don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that the poor are angry with us. Go to the slums and mingle with the poor. I am a native of Maiduguri (Borno State Capital). Anytime a rich man brought a new car to his house, it (the house) used to be a place of pilgrimage.
“People (used to) go and see not out of anger, but out of admiration. But now, as we cruise around in our bulletproof cars, one will see contempt in the eyes of the poor. We have to improve the quality of governance. And what we have is a tiny window of not more than 10 to 20 years. Let’s improve the quality of governance.”
He also noted that creating jobs and giving hope to the populace would help curb insecurity in the country.
The VP added, “Let’s create jobs; let’s give hope to the populace. And once we create jobs, all this madness of insecurity will disappear. There won’t be Boko Haram and banditry if this is done, especially for us from the North. We can blame the bandits, but we in leadership positions owe it to posterity to address this.
“They (the poor) are the most neglected segment of our society. You can hardly differentiate between them and their animals. Even the animals they rear belong to those in the city. So, there have to be kinetic and non-kinetic solutions to all the problems. Be it the IPOB agitation in the South-East; be it the challenges in the South-South; be it Boko Haram or rural banditry in the North-East, North-West, and North-Central.”
He, however, urged the citizens to be patient with the President and support his efforts to reposition the country.
“I want to ask you to give the President the benefit of the doubt. Let us support you. Let us rally around and be reassured that he is determined to redefine the meaning and concept of modern leadership, and is ever ready to reposition the Nigerian nation. But without the support of you and I, he can’t do much,” the VP said.
He berated those seeking to secede from the country, noting that they “hardly think beyond their noses.”
Shettima said, “It’s easy to predict failure. But what about success, what is the end result of failure? It is destruction. Just two million Syrians knocking on the doors of Europe, and they caused Brexit. They caused the emergence of Trump in America. So, how do you proceed? Those people who are agitating for the breakup of this nation, or the implosion of this country, they hardly think beyond their noses.
“They don’t think beyond the depth of their pockets. Surviving their way on the growth of the innocent and the agonies of our people will not do us any good. “
Also at the event, the Director-General of the Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, said the service would soon commence the production of unmanned aerial vehicles, AK-47s, and other weapons that would be used by its personnel.
According to him, this is to reduce the heavy reliance on foreign countries for weapons and the huge resources for the procurement of such weapons.
He noted that when the plans materialise, the service would deploy the weapon across the country.
The DSS boss said, “We shall support the institute in its training programmes. I care for the welfare of our staff members, active and retired. We shall never go back on that. We’ll also continue to pay attention to our research and development.
“In fact, sooner or later, we shall start eating what we produce, and we will produce what we eat. This is coded. It means that we shall start deploying some of the assets we have or the platforms we produce by ourselves, including unmanned aerial vehicles. We are producing our AK-47.
“When we reach the destination, we will save the country from the pain of the resources being chunked out to buy such weapons.”
He also assured other security agencies of the DSS commitment to providing them with credible intelligence.
Bichi added, “We shall continue to appreciate all the agencies that partner with us in the journey so far. And I promise the other security agencies that the DSS will continue to provide you with proactive intelligence to drive your operations.
“We have achieved that in different parts of the country. And I have to thank the military and the police especially for giving us that opportunity and appreciating our own input in the fight against terrorism and insurgency in different parts of the country. We are going to sustain that by the grace of God and for the generality of the people.”
He also urged residents of Plateau and Kaduna states to shun their hostilities and convert them to jobs.
Bichi said, “Let me just advise us, especially the people of Plateau and Kaduna. It is now time for you and me to return Plateau to its 1970s situation where Plateau or Jos was seen as a tourist-attractive state or city. But with conflict, all the industries in Plateau are gone. No peace. You are idle. So please, turn your hostilities into jobs.
“We have seen that it happens in so many places. The Kanuri and Fulani turn their hostilities into jobs. Kano and Zaira also did. So, please do that and save the nation from disaster, because there is no point that from 1991 to date and at the interval of four years you are having ethno-religious conflicts.
“It’s not good. Talk to yourselves. Talk to your people. Be focused. See the development of Plateau. See development and security.
The DSS DG also urged Nigerians to desist from disparaging their leaders.
He said, “We have the indices of a great nation. So, it’s a question of how do you get out of that. Let us avoid simmering or disparaging our leaders. You can’t go anywhere by doing so. Most especially we are in a democratic dispensation.
“If you are patient enough, you will be able to achieve what somebody achieved now or in the near future. Let us talk to ourselves.”
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