The Presidency on Sunday launched a verbal attack on former Vice President Atiku Abubakar over his statement about some economic indices suggesting that Nigeria is slipping into a failed state.
Atiku, who contested the 2019 presidential election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, had earlier on Sunday in a statement in Abuja expressed fears about the state of the nation’s economy.
Atiku in a statement titled, ‘World’s Highest Unemployment Rate: Time To Help This Government, Help Nigeria,” had lamented that his earlier warnings to the President Muhammadu Buhari administration were ignored.
“In a situation where we are simultaneously the world headquarters for extreme poverty, the world capital for out-of-school children, and the nation with the highest unemployment rate on earth, there is a very real and present danger that we might slip into the failed states index – God forbid!” he said.
He blamed Nigeria’s current economic woes on the decision by the Buhari administration to abandon “the people-centred leadership and free trade and deregulatory policies” of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
Atiku argued that Nigeria during the Obasanjo administration maintained an almost single digit unemployment rate.
He stated that the Buhari administration had been implementing discredit command and control policies that had resulted in “massive capital flight” from Nigeria.
Atiku said, “Even with the paucity of funds, we continue to ramp up government involvement in sectors that ought to be left to the private sector, with the latest being the ill-advised $1.5bn so called rehabilitation of the Port Harcourt refinery that has failed to turn a profit for years.
“What this government must realise is that the unprecedented insecurity Nigeria is facing is the result of youth unemployment.
“Idleness is the worst feature of unemployment because it channels the energy of our youth away from production and towards destruction, and that is why Nigeria is now the third most terrorised nation on earth.”
The former vice president, therefore, enjoined the Buhari government to ensure that all children of school age were encouraged to be in school by paying parents earning less than $800 per annum, a monthly stipend of N5,000.
Atiku said, “If we can get the 13.5 million out-of-school Nigerian children into school, we will turn the corner in one generation.
“If we do not do this, then the floodgates of unemployment will be further opened next year, and in the years to come.
“As a nation, we are better off privatising our refineries and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation through the time-tested Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas model in which the Federal Government owns 49 per cent equity and the private sector 51 per cent.
“Recall that in 20 years ending 2020, the NLNG had delivered $18.3bn dividends to government irrespective of taxes and other benefit accruals to the country. ”
But in a swift reaction, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, argued that about 30 million Nigerians were unemployed before Buhari’s election.
Adesina said there was nothing new in the recent report of the National Bureau of Statistics that 23.2 million Nigerians are unemployed.
The presidential spokesman spoke on Sunday on Channels Television’s ‘Sunday Politics.’
Unemployment rate was 8.9 per cent when Buhari took office in May 2015 but it has now risen to 33.3 per cent.
In his response to a question, Adesina said, “You will recall that in the build-up to the 2015 elections, when the APC was campaigning, the figure that was used by then candidate Buhari was that a minimum of 30 million Nigerians were unemployed, particularly youths and that his government was going to do something about it.
“That was in 2014/2015. So, don’t make it appear like a genie that just came out of the bottle. No, it had always been there. It had always been there.”
Adesina, therefore, deplored former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar for urging Buhari to sit up.
The presidential spokesman said, “The former Vice-President was in power for eight years. Now, he is in the opposition. You can’t take whatever he says as the gospel. The question is when former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar was in government with President Olusegun Obasanjo, where did they take the country?
“Where did they leave the country? I have seen clips on social media where he said some things they promised to do, particularly on power; some people collected some trillions and didn’t deliver… Former Vice-President is part of the rot this country became.
“He cannot exculpate himself; he cannot sit in judgment over anybody. He played his part for eight years and they left the country where they left it. He cannot like Pontius Pilate, begin to wash himself clean of what Nigeria has become.”