The Chairman of Nigeria’s Senate Committee on Privatization, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, has exonerated the President Buhari led government from the current foreign exchange crisis that has seen the naira losing its strength against the American dollar.
The Nigerian currency in the parallel market has recently been hovering around =N=300 to =N=345 against the American dollar, a record high rate. The official rate is at about N199 to the dollar.
Senator Bruce who was elected under the platform of opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, believes the government should not be blamed for the downturn.
Senator Bruce who was speaking with Voice of Nigeria on the state of the economy, attributes the foreign exchange crisis to the attitude of a few Nigerians, stressing that if this set of citizens do not change their attitudes, the problem could persist, irrespective of who the president is.
“What is happening to the currency. Right now we are 350, soon it would be 400. You cannot blame the government for it because it doesn’t matter who is the President of Nigeria as long as all we do is to take our naira, convert it to dollars, take it out of the country and live a life of stupendous wealth and luxury which is less than 1% of the population. The rest of us will live in abject poverty.”
He also threw his weight behind organized labour, which conducted nationwide protests against the recent hike in the electricity tariff, describing the increase as oppression of the poor.
The Senate had on Tuesday, demanded a reversal in the 40% tariff hike which took effect on the 1st of February, to allow a for comprehensive negotiation. Senator Bruce believes the move is justifiable.
“Look at privatization which I am chairman of. They made an agreement with the GENCOS and the DISCOS, that they can raise price of electricity by 70%. Raising price by 70%; has the income of any Nigerian gone up by 10%? So how are they going to pay that,” he quizzed.
“You are telling people to increase tariff by 70% to somebody who earns =N=10,000 or =N=20,000 monthly and the salary has not gone up by one penny.
You are telling them to spend 70% more on electricity that he doesn’t have, and your wages have not gone up.
If your wages go up by 10% every year, then power can go up by 3% because, your transport cost is fixed, your rent is fixed, your power cost is fixed. If I take 70% of what you are paying now, increase to pay for power, how do I expect you to have three square meals a day?” he asked.
The Bayelsa state Senator also criticized the privatization of the electricity industry.
“The privatization process is faulty, you cannot torture Nigerians anymore, and everybody is suffering. So, yes, the Senate is right, yes labour is right, yes Nigerians are right. If you don’t have the capacity to own a DISCO, then quit and give the business back to the government. We are not here to subsidize your lifestyle.”
The Senate committees on employment, labour and productivity, as well as power, are expected to call for a public hearing of all stakeholders, including organised labour, to re-examine the matter and ensure that Nigerians are not short changed.