Barely a week after Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, urged Nigeria’s supreme leader to summon an emergency economic conference to brainstorm solutions to the problem facing the country, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the convocation of a national economic conference.
A presidency official in Abuja on Thursday, while speaking to pressmen, said NEC members had in their deliberations called for a major conference, where the current economic situation of the country could be thoroughly discussed by all the states and the Federal Government.
Soyinka, who made the disclosure known during a courtesy visit to the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Abuja last Thursday, had said;
“The President should call an emergency economic conference with experts to be invited – consumers, producers, labour unions, university experts, professors, etc. I think we really need an emergency economic conference, a rescue operation, bringing as many heads as possible together to plan the way forward.”
However, the top government official, who pleaded anonymity, averred that the idea of the economic conference, which may have been fixed for March 10 and 11, was first discussed at the 65th National Economic Council meeting held on January 28.
The government official stated, “The NEC retreat, as is being called by the Federal Government and the states, becomes imperative amid dwindling oil prices with a direct and significant impact on the money now available for federal allocation and sharing between the FG, states and local government councils.
“For instance, the FG states and local governments shared a sum of N370.4bn a few days ago for the month of January 2016, which is a drop of more than N17bn from the N387.8bn shared the previous month of December last year.
“That could be compared for instance with what was shared in January 2014, which was N629bn and N503.6bn the previous December, both higher significantly than the present situation.
“Another concern of the FG and the states necessitating the economic conference is the drop in foreign reserves of the country, which is now already below $30bn and compelling the CBN to adopt tough forex measures, including the ban on certain items from forex funding and rationing.
“The depreciation of the value of naira has also become an attendant impact of the foreign exchange scarcity.”
“It is interesting that a respectable Nigerian (Soyinka) recently raised the idea of a national economic conference earlier this month, the same idea that had been decided by members of NEC at their January meeting. It shows there is indeed a wide consensus on the idea.”
The economic conference is coming against the backdrop of a spiralling inflation in oil price and drastic fall of the Naira against the Dollar which has led to the stringent regulations by the Central Bank of Nigeria.