Nige­ri­ans vent frus­tra­tions on Buhari as costs sky­rocket

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

With Christmas just weeks away, Do­lapo Beck­ley was among a throng of shop­pers hag­gling at a mar­ket in Nige­ria’s com­mer­cial cap­i­tal Lagos, where the prices of some goods have dou­bled in the last year. Beck­ley voted for Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari in the elec­tion that swept him to power last year on prom­ises to fix en­demic mis­man­age­ment and cor­rup­tion.

But 19 months into his term, pub­lic sup­port is crum­bling as peo­ple like the 34year-old baker blame Buhari for Nige­ria’s first re­ces­sion in 25 years and a rise in in­fla­tion to an 11-year high of 18.3 per­cent.

“I do re­gret vot­ing for Buhari. We wanted a bet­ter econ­omy and things are turn­ing up­side down, even worse than the way it was be­fore,” said Beck­ley, who was at the Lagos Is­land mar­ket to buy gifts for her chil­dren. Buhari’s aides say the woes of Africa’s big­gest econ­omy stem from the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to set money aside in the years when Nige­ria’s crude oil fetched over $100 a bar­rel, be­fore the price plunged in late 2014. It now stands around $56.

The OPEC mem­ber re­lies on oil sales for two-thirds of state rev­enue, and Buhari has said his gov­ern­ment is work­ing to diver­sify the econ­omy by boost­ing man­u­fac­tur­ing and farm­ing. Today he will sub­mit a record bud­get worth 7.2 tril­lion naira ($23.6 bil­lion) to law­mak­ers, draw­ing partly on for­eign bor­row­ing to pay for a boost in cap­i­tal spend­ing.

But in a coun­try where the UN es­ti­mates that 70 per­cent of the 180 mil­lion in­hab­i­tants live on a dol­lar a day, anger at the state of the econ­omy is tan­gi­ble. “We are no longer ask­ing Pres­i­dent Buhari to de­velop Nige­ria,” states a mes­sage shared widely on so­cial me­dia. “At this point, we are only ask­ing him to re­turn Nige­ria to the state it was be­fore he be­came pres­i­dent.”

De­spite a 40 per­cent de­val­u­a­tion of the naira cur­rency in June, a short­age of dol­lars per­sists, and they fetch a pre­mium of up to 40 per­cent on the black mar­ket. In Nige­ria’s im­port-driven econ­omy, this has pushed up the cost of ev­ery­thing from rice to spare ma­chine parts. —Reuters

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