AFRICA/NIGERIA - President of the Bishops' Conference: “Economic reforms lead to extreme poverty”

Monday, 19 February 2024 poverty   economy   bishops  

Abuja (Agenzia Fides) - " 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", says the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and Archbishop of Owerri Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji in his opening address at the first annual general meeting of the CBCN on the economic reforms initiated by the administration of President Bola Tinubu. " The reform agenda of the present government has added to the plight of Nigerians," Bishop Ugorji stresses, "and 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’ of the national currency. Nigerians are facing a tripling of fuel prices and rising food costs after President Tinubu, in office since May 29, 2023, lifted fuel subsidies and allowed the national currency, the naira, to be quoted on international foreign exchange markets. This means that the value of the naira against other currencies is no longer determined by the Nigerian central bank, but by the foreign exchange markets. Since Nigeria is dependent on the import of fuel (Nigeria produces crude oil, but has to import fuel as its refining capacity is not sufficient to supply the domestic market) and food, inflation in Nigeria has increased sharply, particularly affecting the poorer sections of the population. President Tinubu is of the view that the negative impact of the reforms will be temporary as the reforms will have a long-term positive impact and attract foreign investment into the national economy. " In a bid to survive, an increasing number of the poor have resorted to begging " says Bishop Ugorji. “With more than 80 million Nigerians living under 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,” he points out. “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”. The President of the Episcopal Conference then he also addressed the problem of insecurity and in this context pointed out that despite the monthly resources allocated to the security forces, kidnappings for the purpose of extortion, as well as massacres and murders, had increased throughout the country. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 19/2/2024)