For a happier and more prosperous 2017 – The Sun

The year 2016 was a particularly difficult one for Nigerians. It must be a considerable relief for many people that the year finally drew to a close last night.  We, however, urge all Nigerians to approach the New Year with an open mind and a positive attitude.  No matter how dire the times, a strong determination to do what is right will go a long way in helping the country to overcome its many problems.
One of the few indications that the New Year is likely to be better is the timely submission of the 2017 budget, which is now awaiting the attention of, and passage by the National Assembly.  In 2016, the budget was actually six months late and that lateness was blamed for the economic recession. Had it been passed earlier and implemented, it probably would have had enough stimulating effect to stave off the recession.
Secondly, the budget was mired in controversies and scandals.  First, the document was reported missing, then altered, and finally padded.  Those controversies were never fully resolved to the satisfaction of the Nigerian citizenry.  The suspension of Hon. Abdulmumin Jibrin by the House of Representatives did little to reassure Nigerians of the integrity of the National Assembly and that of the budgeting process.  This year, we urge the National Assembly to spare the country the ugliness of these scandals and work assiduously to enact the budget at the earliest time possible.  The earlier it is done, the more likely the probability that it will help to pull the economy out of recession.
For us, getting the economy out of recession should be the most important task of the Federal Government this New Year. With the recession came the collapse of living standards and social services, a soaring cost of living, further impoverishment of the people and a gradual descent to penury.  The Naira took the gravest beating in recent memory in 2016, falling from the not enviable N167 to the dollar at the beginning of 2016 to a disastrous N485 at the close of the year.  There is no assurance that its slide has been arrested, as foreign exchange policies have been uncertain and controversial.
Another cheering sign is the international pact on oil production which seems to have eased the oil glut, thereby nudging its price upwards and holding the potentiality to boost our foreign reserves and, perhaps, ease the pressure on the Naira.
In 2016, Nigerians were confronted with the lamentable performance of government services, from bad roads to decaying health services.  It was the year hopes faded of reliable electricity supply as the national grid collapsed many times, and Nigerians had cause to view the Muhammadu Buhari administration in worse light than its predecessor in terms of electricity supply.
The year 2016 was remarkable for the resurgence of restiveness in the Niger Delta. A bombing campaign disrupted the nation’s economic life, especially oil and gas activities, leading to the loss of hundreds of millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubit feet of gas.
Securing peace in the Niger Delta must be viewed as a top priority by the Federal Government this year. Let there be fruitful dialogue to stop the unending restiveness in the region.  This is not to discount the dangers posed by the terrorist Boko Haram sect, which remains as dangerous as ever.  We must continue to give credit to the Federal Government for the release of 21 of the Chibok girls without concealing our anxiety about the continued captivity of the rest.  We had hoped that by now, the rest would have been released.  Again, the Fulani herdsmen have remained a dangerous group in many parts of the country.  In some parts of the South-East, farmers are scared to go to their farms.  In Southern Kaduna and Benue State, their attacks have been a constant threat to communal peace.
Year 2016 also featured renewed agitation for the Republic of Biafra in the South-East, with telling consequences for the agitators. The government should intensify dialogue with the geo-political zone with a view to addressing its concerns. It is necessary for the government to give all parts of the country a sense of belonging if it hopes to build a strong and united nation.
We believe the Federal Government can do more to strengthen its economic team and to ensure the proper management of the economy to stem the tide of unemployment and the closure of many companies.  The inflation rate of 18.4 per cent remains the highest in 30 years.  The base interest rate of 14 per cent is usurious and cannot encourage small and medium scale enterprises to grow and prosper. We are still considered one of the most backward in the world in the Ease of Doing Business.
The war on corruption should proceed with greater verve and transparency.  That the government is hampered by lack of resources for prosecution shows there is something unnatural and dangerous about the cost of litigation in Nigeria.
Our political parties are beset by internal squabbles which do not augur well for the political health of the country and which tend to infect governance.  We urge Nigerian politicians and government officials to bear in mind that service to the country is the essence of governance.  They should give Nigerians cause to hope for better times in 2017.

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