Rev. Jonathan Nicol, President, Shippers’ Association Lagos State


Importers and exporters under the aegis of Shippers’ Association Lagos State have expressed a deep concern over Federal Government’s silence on recent alarm by the Central Bank of Nigeria CBN that the country’s economy might slip back into recession if urgent steps were not taken, describing the development as worrisome.

Governor of the apex bank, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, who briefed newsmen shortly after the two-day meeting of the Monetary Policy Committee MPC members last week, had warned that the nation’s economy, which exited recession last year, has started showing signs of weakness, citing growth rate of 1.95 per cent and 1.5 per cent during the first and the second quarters of this year, respectively.

He had also cited the economic slowdown to the oil sector, with strong linkages to employment and growth, late implementation of the 2018 budget, weakening demand and consumer spending, rising contractor debts, and low minimum wage, the impact of flooding on agricultural output, continued security challenges in the North-East and North-Central zones, and growing level of sovereign debts, among several other indicators.

President of the association, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, who spoke in an exclusive interview, noted that such alarm, especially coming from the CBN, should give any responsible government sleepless nights, wondering why the relevant agencies of the government have yet to make any statement on possible steps being taken to avert this looming danger.

He however noted that besides the warning issued by the CBN, all the signs that led to the nation’s slip into recession in late 2005 are now prevalent in the country, an indication that the country may have already slipped back into economic recession.

“We completely agree with the CBN, when an expert like the governor of the Central Bank speaks, he is telling you that the country is already in recession because nothing is working. Some of the highlights suggest that. For instance the 2018 budget was passed middle of the year and I do not see how they can meet up with the implementation from middle of June to end of December or at most end of March 2019 and we are talking about fiscal policies. This is failure in terms of infrastructural development.

“Again, we agree with the CBN in terms of the rising debt profile, not just local debts such as contractors’ but sovereign debts because the government is borrowing massively as we have not witnesses before in this country and the question one asks is are we not generating funds locally? No country gives you sovereign loans without stringent conditions or you pledging something serious. We sincerely pray that this country and even future generations are not sold into slavery because of these loans”, he said.

The shippers-boss however noted that the situation is even more worrisome given that the government has yet to make any comment on the matter more than one week after the CBN raised the alarm but has rather dipped all its apparatuses into politicking and political activities that benefit the citizens little or nothing, saying that though President Muhammadu Buhari was making some efforts at fighting corruption, most people in his cabinet are very corrupt.

Rev. Nicol, who also predicted that there might be acute food shortage in 2019, cited the natural disaster of increased rainfall with the attendant menace of flooding that has destroyed many homes and farmlands as well as the insurgency in the North East and the massive killings in the North Central.

He said further: “We are even more worried by this deafening silence of the government because they are making large sums of money. The war in the north is progressing and the government cannot arrest behind it. Before now, we were looking at 2019 as a year of harvest but with what is going on, especially the flood issue coupled with the violence in the north, 2019 will likely be a very tough year for the country, especially in terms of food supplies”.