Despite being technically out of recession, Nigeria remains in economic conundrum till the government gets people out of poverty. An Islamic scholar, Alhaji Ahmed ‘Tunde Popoola, FCA, said this in a paper at an event organized by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), that the government needs to go back to address the building blocks of sustainable, inclusive and rapid economic growth and development. “As we discuss the management of our economy, it will not be out of place to benchmark our performance against the objectives spelt out in our Constitution, though we know it’s a journey.
The statistics point to the fact that, given all the circumstances, we could do far better. “Now that we are officially out of recession with a fragile GDP growth of 0.55% in quarter 2, 2017 we need to go back to address the building blocks of sustainable, inclusive and rapid economic growth and development.
We need to get people out of poverty; we need to get people to work again by creating jobs,” he said. “As the government formulates plans and policies to grow the economy on a path of inclusiveness and sustainability after the recession, there is a lot to adopt from Islamic economics and principles.
The primary objectives of Islamic principles and economic system are equitable distribution of wealth and social justice. “Islamic fiscal policy is used to achieve the objectives of economic stability, growth and acceptable distribution of wealth. Islam establishes a high degree of economic equality and conscious avoidance of wealth concentration. Secondly, since Islam prohibits payment of interest on loans, it implies that interest rate cannot be manipulated or become the instrument to achieve equilibrium in the money market.
Islamic economic principles can help and they are worth considering in the following areas: Providing and funding public infrastructure; Promoting free enterprise – SMEs and agriculture; Financial inclusion and social safety nets; Tackling corruption, and Human capital development.” Nigeria, according to Popoola, needs to increase and improve productivity.
“There is the need to mitigate foreign exchange shortfalls and stabilize the foreign exchange rate. We need to provide the required infrastructure and close the gap in infrastructure deficiency. Businesses need to get back to business. The economy requires to be stimulated. In other words, we need to set the agenda for inclusive growth and development.
“Diversification of the economy as a solution has almost become a slogan by government after government, but most past governments did not surmount the political will to implement the very fantastic and laudable plans they always put together and unveil. Since my days as an undergraduate in Economics, we as a nation have always talked about structural imbalance, heavy dependence on oil, need to promote exports, import substitution strategy, export-led growth, etc.
However, a review of our earnings and the composition of the sectoral contributions to the economy/ national budget by revenues, reveals that the contribution from oil remain as high as ever,” he said. Managing a post-recession economy, he continued, requires taking bold and coherent fiscal and monetary policy measures and putting the right people at the helm of affairs.
Hajj 2018: Fears over biometric data capturing
- Buhari tasks NAHCON on quick resolution
The confusion over biometric data capturing for 2018 Hajj operations has degenerated as more intending pilgrims from Nigeria expressed fear of being excluded in the scheme. Saudi Arabia had included the biometric data capturing as a part of conditions for all intending pilgrim to participate in this year’s Hajj rites, a move that has been seen by many as a threat, due to time factor and availability of centres, to thousands of intending pilgrims in the country. President Muhammadu Buhari had already met with top officials of the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), tasking them to resolve the matter before it gets out of hand.
The President raised his concern recently over the hardship being faced by Nigerian intending pilgrims over the new biometric policy when NAHCON Chairman, Barrister Abdullahi Mukhtar, briefed him on the 2018 hajj, and the new policies introduced by the Saudi authorities.
A group, which calls itself Independent Hajj Reporters, has also, in a reaction to the confusion, said that centres for the newly-introduced compulsory data capturing of intending pilgrims should be established in all the 774 local governments across the country. “About 80 – 85 percent of pilgrims from Nigeria come from rural areas and are mostly farmers.
To successfully capture the biometric data of all hajj pilgrim requires having data capture centres in all the 774 local governments,” the National coordinator and publicity secretary of the group, Ibrahim Muhammed and Abubakar Mahmoud, respectfully, said in a statement.
The civil society said the Travel Agents Association of Pakistan, the umbrella body of travel agents in Pakistan, had earlier protested against Etimad (Private) Limited — a travel company in Pakistan, which is processing the biometric enrolment for Pakistani applicants for the same reason.
“The hajj and umrah tour operators in Nigeria also expressed their concern saying the policy has caused its intending pilgrims to various challenges,” it said. The civil society said, “a large number of people who wanted to travel to Saudi Arabia to perform their religious ritual had been inconvenienced by the new policy as they had to spent days in Abuja, Kano or Lagos for their biometric verification, wasting precious time and resources.” “Since only Kano, Abuja and Lagos have the data capture centres, we wonder how the three centres will cater for a country with 95, 000 hajj and over 1.5 million umrah pilgrims,” Independent Hajj Reporters said.
“We are concerned that our pilgrims will be subjected to serious hardship unless the government of Saudi Arabia suspends this policy in the interest of the Muslim ummah,” the statement read. It continued: “Since the Saudi security officials have to screen and capture biodata of all pilgrims on arrival, it is our opinion that such biometric records be used for whatever security or other purposes this new policy is set to achieved.
“While we acknowledged the enormous security and logistics challenge faced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in her quest to make hajj a memorable experience for pilgrims, we urge them to consider the implication of this policy on millions of Muslims who may be discouraged from fulfilling their fifth pillar of Islam.”
Muslim students condemn FG’s silence over non-academic staff strike
The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria has expressed displeasure over the silence of the Federal Government on the ongoing nationwide strike embarked upon by non-academic workers of universities in Nigeria. The Amir (President) of the MSSN in Lagos State, Dr. Saheed Ashafa, in a statement, complained about the alleged poor attention paid to the striking workers by the Federal Government.
His reaction is coming few days to the organisation’s Sisters Empowerment Programme and Campus Interactive Forum scheduled for February 24th and 25th respectively. According to him, the ongoing strike had stayed too long and will further worsen the country’s standard of education. He wondered why the Federal Government would subject a segment of universities’ workers to hardship, urging that an urgent effort should be made to get the issue resolved.
Ashafa urged that President Muhammadu Buhari should react to the ongoing crisis like other national issues, saying “his not giving priority to the strike action is sending a bad perception about his administration”. He said, “In the first place, the strike is avoidable and needless. It is unpalatable to the hearing that a country like Nigeria still pays low attention to workers’ welfare.
The poor attention and undue silence of the Federal Government over the ongoing strike embarked upon by members of NASU, SSANU and NAAT is condemnable and highly demoralizing. “It is understandable that children of majority of those leading the education agencies and ministries that should engage the striking workers are studying abroad, but that should not mean that the sons and daughters of the Nigerian masses should be made to suffer for developing interest in education.
“As we speak, some of our universities smell and stink, others have their libraries, health centres, power houses and other strategic facilities shut down. Students now live on university campuses like they are in the jungle. This is pathetic and must be urgently addressed.
“We will not get the best from our workers if we continue to treat them like slaves; their commitment to work will be vacuous. Apart from having meetings with the striking workers, the generality of Nigerians deserve to know what the plans of the FG are in resolving this crisis and preventing subsequent ones.”
Nigerians’ 2018 Hajj participation faces threat
- Operators pick holes in Saudi’s new immigration policy
The Nigerians participation in this year’s Hajj operations is facing threat, Hajj and Umrah tour operators have said as they picked holes in the new immigration policy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which, among others, mandated biometric verification for all intending pilgrims. Declaring that the policy is exposing intending pilgrims to various challenges, the operators expressed concern over the newly introduced biometric data capturing by the Jeddah. Saudi Arabia had, in 2017, modified its immigration laws to make biometric verification compulsory for all intending visitors.
Only three capturing centres – Abuja, Kano and Lagos – were approved by the Saudi authority for the exercise in Nigeria. The Federal Government had, in an earlier reaction to the policy, assured Nigerian pilgrims of his commitment to address the problem along with its attendant consequences on Hajj and Umrah operations in the country.
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Hajiya Khadijat Bukar Abba Ibrahim who said this when she received the House of Representatives Committee on Nigeria-Saudi Arabia Parliamentary Friendship and Hajj Affairs in her office in Abuja, stated that her ministry was engaging the Saudi authority to ensure the suspension of the newly introduced bio-metrics for intending pilgrims of Hajj and Umrah from Nigeria.
The Association for Hajj and Umrah Operators of Nigeria (AHUON), however, desired a more speedy approach to addressing the threats posed to Hajj operations by the policy. The Vice President of the association, Tijjani Uba Waru, lamented that the unpreparedness of the company appointed to implement the policy in the country is affecting their businesses.
Waru who said he was a regular visitor to office of VFS Tasheel, the outsourced partner appointed by Saudi Arabia to facilitate visa applications for Nigerians, declared: “It is really bad. People coming here are spending hours, some even spend days before getting their biometrics captured.”
The delay, he added, is costing hajj and umrah operators ‘millions’ of Naira as intending pilgrims are already losing interest. “It is not easy especially for those coming from distant places just for finger prints. Some have to come by air, others by road. And we know the danger of kidnappings on the road.
“This period is the lowest season. If the situation continues like this, it will jeopardize preparations ahead of the 2018 hajj exercise,” he added. “If they are not able to capture few people here on time during this off season, what will happen at the peak period when 95,000 intending pilgrims from Nigeria will be preparing for the hajj exercise?”
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