By Temitope Owotoki
Muhammad Sanusi, Emir of Kano, has lamented over the state of poverty in Nigeria, while calling on the Federal government to act fast to correct the situation.
Sanusi spoke at a workshop by the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation at Kano.
“So, let us talk about the state of public finance in Nigeria. We have a number of very difficult decisions that we must make, and we should face the reality. His Excellency, the president, said in his inaugural speech that his government would like to lift 100 million people out of poverty, it was a speech that was well received not only in this country, but worldwide.
“The number of people living with poverty in Nigeria is frightening. By 2050, 85 percent of those living in extreme poverty in the world will be from the African continent. And Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo will take the lead.
The Emir opposed subsidizing petroleum products and electricity tariff and advised President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to take a different stance, saying for 30 years, successive governments “have had this project called petroleum subsidy”.
He said the time had come to stop subsidy so as to save the nation’s economy, saying the country is on the verge of bankruptcy following “unfavourable economic policies”.
“Since I have decided to come here, you have to accept what I have said here. And please, if you do not want to hear the truth, never invite me,” he said.
“We are heading to bankruptcy… what happened is that the federal government pays petroleum subsidy, pays electricity tariff subsidy, and if there is rise in interest rates, federal government pays,” he said.
“What is more life threatening than subsidy that we have to sacrifice education, health sector and infrastructure for us to have cheap petroleum.
“If truly President Buhari is fighting poverty, he should remove the risk on the national financial sector and stop the subsidy regime which is fraudulent.”
The Emir advised President Buhari to face the stark realities of the Nigerian economic situation and act quickly on this.
“Two days ago, I read that the percentage of government revenue going to debt services has risen to 70 percent. These numbers are not lying. They are public numbers. I read them in the newspapers. When you are spending 70 percent of your revenue on debt servicing, then you are managing 30 percent.
“And then, you continue subsidising petroleum products; and spending N1.5 trillion per annum on petroleum subsidy! And then we are subsidizsng electricity tariff. And maybe, you have to borrow from the capital market or the Central Bank of Nigeria to service the shortfall in the electricity tariff, where is the money to pay salaries, where is the money for education, where other government projects?”
Sanusi is known for speaking his mind, even when highly-placed government officials are involved.
In 2014, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan suspended him months after he raised the alarm that $20 billion was unaccounted for under the government of Jonathan.
Presently, the monarch is having a running battle with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano, who broke the emirate led by Sanusi into five, appointing four new emirs while the state anti-graft agency also probed the monarch and recommended his suspension.