The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) on Thursday urged the Federal Government to declare a state-of-emergency in the power sector, saying electricity was critical to nation’s economy recovery. Director-General of the chamber, Mr Muda Yusuf, made the call in an interview in Lagos.
Yusuf said that adequate power supply was integral to recovery and diversification of Nigeria’s economy. “There is a need to think out of the box and deal with the power issue as an emergency. The nation cannot move forward with the current state of the power sector. “Whatever needs to be done should be done, and very urgently too, because the pressure of high energy cost on businesses and the citizens is becoming challenging,” he said. He said that the shocks of the declining economy were profound because policy responses to the trajectory of the situation were late in coming. According to Yusuf, government should fast-track opening up of infrastructure space for private sector investment to bridge the challenge of infrastructure deficit. “Although there have been policy pronouncements in this regard, time is of the essence.
“The increase in fuel price has taken a toll on transportation costs and many middle class car owners are not able to sustain their vehicles on the road. “There should be urgent investment in mass transit vehicles to mitigate the pains of the middle class car owners,’’ he said. He suggested that existing flexible exchange rate policy should be sustained to ensure liquidity in the foreign exchange market, restoration of investors’ confidence and global financial community. “This is the need to restore credit lines that have been lost in the last one year because of the credibility crisis,” Yusuf said. He also said that it was crucial to sustain the deregulation of the petroleum downstream sector through effective regulatory oversight to ensure quality of products. According to him, the measure would ensure the protection of the citizens from sharp practices by unscrupulous oil marketers. The director-general said that to ensure food security, support to agricultural sector should be intensified with emphasis on output subsidies in the form of guaranteed prices. “In the meantime,’’ he said, “there should be a window for augmentation of staple food supply from imports to mitigate the pains of high food prices on the ordinary citizens. “The supply and demand gaps are still major issues in the economy. “This is critical to ensure social stability and poverty reduction at this time. “We should ensure a balance between the commitment to self-reliance in food production and the welfare of the citizens.
” He urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to suspend its foreign exchange exclusion policy on the 41 items and concentrate on ensuring a stable and liquid foreign exchange market. “Fiscal policy apparatus should be allowed to deal with issues of imports and exports within a more inclusive policy formulation framework. Many sectors are currently adversely affected by the foreign exchange exclusion policy. “Besides, the policy will continue to put pressure on the parallel market and create distortions in the foreign exchange market,” he said. Yusuf also stressed that the issues of fiscal federalism should be addressed to bring the Nigeria closer to true federalism. “This is necessary to ensure equity in resource distribution and allocation,’’ he said, adding that revenue allocation should be reviewed in favour of the states and the local governments. He commended the government’s anti-corruption and anti-terrorism agenda, maintaining that sustained efforts would improve socio-economic development.