Civil Society Organizations under the aegis of the Coalition of Human Rights Groups have expressed concern over the increasing cost of living in Nigeria orchestrated by the removal of subsidies by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu which has resulted in unprecedented hardship for Nigerians particularly for the low-income earners, warning that more Nigerians may resort to suicide if the government does not take urgent step to address the situation.
The groups lamented that successive administrations had not paid adequate attention to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) which are the livewire of viable economies as they employ thousands of people, adding that any government that abandons small businesses will fail.
Recall that President Tinubu had announced the removal of subsidy in his inaugural address to Nigerians after being sworn in on May 29th, 2023.
The coalition which made this submission on Saturday in Lagos while addressing a press conference on the state of the nation called on the federal government to urgently address the issue of inflation and high cost of living which has resulted in unprecedented suffering for most Nigerians, stressing that more Nigerians would definitely be frustrated and may resort to taking their lives.
The groups include Ambassadors for Peace and Enlightenment Foundation, AMPEF, represented by its National President, Comrade Prince Saviour Iche, Comrade Daniel Oguine who represents Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Comrade Olusegun Adeeko, who represents Know Your Rights for Justice, Comrade Muritala Kezeem for Coalition of Human and Civil Right Leaders, and Comrade John Ezenwa for Know Your Rights Initiative. Strong Bridge Human Rights Initiative was represented by its national president, Comrade Chris Chukwuka Emelifionwu, and Comrade (Mrs.) Agnes Ohiero.
Comrade Iche stated that Nigeria as a country is in a comatose state and may not survive if nothing is done urgently and that Nigerians started crying from the first day President Tinubu was sworn in, stressing that the promised Renewed Hope has turned to hopelessness because of the effect of the policies of the present administration.
According to Comrade Iche, “Many families can no longer feed and send their children to school, businesses are collapsing on a daily basis even children are developing high blood pressure due to frustration because their parents cannot take care of them.
“We are here to express our displeasure on what is going on with Nigerians as the masses continue to experience suffering even more than it was in the previous administration. Nigerians are in a very tough situation and the Government that just came in promised a positive change for Nigerians. In the last 8 years, we had a President, Muhammadu Buhari, who promised to champion the country’s development but instead, the country was in disarray after his tenure ended.
“The Government closed borders claiming arms were being trafficked to Nigeria for terrorists but terrorists still get arms and food prices have increased; we are suffering as a Nation. The borders should be opened. Our ports are so exorbitant that clearing goods has become so expensive. Rice importation was stopped so as to patronize homegrown rice, unfortunately, the rice has been made to full production yet and can’t meet up with the masses, which has made rice very expensive. It has now gotten worse because farmers are packing up due to insecurity.
“There is no doubt that removing subsidy have plunged us into poverty. The dollar is very high now and since we are a consuming nation, it can never fall against the Naira. Youths after University and NYSC can’t get a job, and companies are folding up because of the high price of diesel. Grants and loans to entrepreneurs as claimed by the Government are all fallacy.
“The Government does not value Small businesses so how can the country grow? Small businesses are the largest employers of unskilled labour. We are still importing fuel because we don’t have a refinery. We have so many resources including gold but cannot control its economy without the directive from the World Bank.”
In his contribution, Comrade Adeeko said, “We fought for Buhari and in his first six months, he fought corruption by bringing the most corrupt politicians we know as Ministers. At the end of his 8 years tenure, he left the country worse than it was with no significant improvement.
“Citizens were impoverished and couldn’t afford basic amenities and infrastructures built by them through unnecessary foreign borrowings. Banditry became the order of the day and terrorists, who had spilled the blood of civilians and soldiers, were pardoned and brought back to the society.
“This immediate past election had different parties in contention for the Presidency and they all promised a change but only the APC candidate promised to continue where the previous president stopped. It is disappointing to know that the previous government did nothing and put us in chaos like insecurity and inflation.
“We never had it that bad. Unfortunately, the human rights groups were part of the people who campaigned against Goodluck Jonathan in 2012 for Muhammad Buhari to take power because we were convinced by his change mantra.
“We sent a letter to the Governor of Lagos State requesting him to ease the suffering of the masses in Lagos by subsidizing food, transport, drugs in public hospitals, and so on. They know what they are to do but the Government’s way of keeping people from challenging them is by keeping them impoverished through bad economy and inflation.
Also speaking, Comrade Daniel Oguine said, “Elections happened in February this year and APC won and now the Supreme Court of Nigeria gave the verdict and declared Tinubu as validly elected President. Despite the citizen’s reservations, we are powerless to stand against the verdict. He immediately removed fuel subsidies without putting measures in place to ease the effect on citizens, promising and failing to meet up to the promises has been the order of the day.
“We are having problems with democracy, governance, and the rule of law. The President appoints the INEC Chairman and the CJN, who in turn appoints the judges to work with him. The President puts people that will favour him and we, therefore, have a compromised judiciary.”
“We are worried that the rate of inflation on food, fuel, gas, and paying rent and school fees in this present economy has become more difficult. It appears that the Government is doing absolutely nothing to ease the pain of Nigerians.
Comrade (Mrs.) Agnes in her contribution appealed to the federal government to urgently intervene and save Nigerians from the excruciating suffering.
In its demand, the CSOs stated that:
1. All borders should be reopened and allow the inflow of goods to come in to reduce the cost of food in Nigeria.
2. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has no more excuses as the Supreme Court has given a final verdict on the election, he should as a matter of urgency, resolve the ugly situation we found ourselves.
3. Establishment of small-scale entrepreneurs to boost production and employment.
4. Giving licenses for export to boost the economy which will strengthen the Naira.
5. Transportation issues should be addressed immediately because it contributes to the high cost of goods and services.