Tinubu’s Lagos magic spreads hunger, dollar hits N1825

PRESIDENT Bola Tinubu’s much-touted “Lagos magic” is not working as the dollar hit N1,825 in the parallel market on February 20, 2024, with hunger spreading across Nigeria.

President Tinubu has been controversially advertised as the man “who built Lagos,” a catchphrase used by his supporters to woo voters during the 2023 campaign.

Lagos is Nigeria’s biggest economy and is currently estimated at $133 billion. It is believed to be sustained by Mr Tinubu’s political mentees, who have been governors since 2007. Mr Tinubu was Lagos governor between 1999 and 2007 and has been instrumental in installing his predecessors since he left office.

READ ALSO: Ibadan blast, widespread kidnapping show no part of Nigeria is secure under Tinubu

However, nine months into his government as Nigeria’s president, protests have spread over the rising cost of food and fuel as well as the inability of the majority of over 200 million population to feed themselves.

Also, the naira collapse is well reported, with the local currency depreciating against the dollar, the pound, the euro and other major currencies since he became president.

Naira collapse

Naira is collapsing against other currencies, closing at N1,710 against the dollar, N2,120 against the British pound and N1,815 to the euro on February 19, 2024.

At 11.50am on February 20, the dollar strengthened to N1,825, with the pound sterling selling at N2,210 and the euro going for N1,855 at the parallel market.

READ ALSO: For shutting down economy 4 times in January 2024, South-East Nigeria loses N355bn

At the official market FMDQ market, the dollar closed at N1,574.62 on February 19, fuelling speculations that it may hit N2,000 by the first week of March.

“What I suspect is that the dollar may hit N2,000 mark by the first week of March 2024, except something extraordinary happens. That will be a record high and will result in more misery for Nigerians, especially the poor,” said an international currency analyst, Mr Edwin Udofia.

The naira has weakened by 58 percent in the parallel market between May 29, 2023 when Mr Tinubu became president and February 20, 2024.

In the thinly-traded official market, the naira has weakened by 71 percent within this period, Economy Post’s calculations have shown.

Hunger spreads

Protests over hunger have spread in Mr Tinubu’s home base, the South-West Nigeria, where he got more votes than any of his three biggest rivals in the 2023 presidential election.

READ ALSO: Forget sentiments, Tinubu right to relocate CBN departments, FAAN to Lagos

Mr Tinubu, a standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Nigeria’s 2023 general election, got 2.54 million votes in his South-West region against Mr Atiku Abubakar’s 942,000 votes and Mr Peter Obi’s 849,000 votes, according to The Cable.

Mr Abubakar and Mr Obi were candidates of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the Labour Party (LP) respectively.

On February 19, 2024, protesters in Oyo State, southwestern Nigeria, converged at Mokola Roundabout before moving to Sango, University of Ibadan and Bodija market to decry the rising cost of food and other essential items in Africa’s biggest oil producer.

Premium Times quoted the leader of the protest, Mr Emiola Solomon, as saying that the poor management of the economy was hitting them hard.

“This is all due to the bad economic policies of President Bola Tinubu. The masses are suffering due to the hike in prices of food items. Buying food has become difficult now. All food items are costly.”

READ ALSO: Nigerians question NNPC’s $2.8bn deal with Dangote Refinery

A group of youths had on February 9, 2024, protested in Osogbo, Osun State capital, southwestern Nigeria, over the rising cost of living, urging the government to immediately intervene and save lives.

Apart from the South-West Nigeria, protests have occurred in Niger and Kano states over the rising cost of food, Economy Post earlier reported.

Roads were blocked on February 5, 2024, as residents of Minna, Niger State capital, protested the high cost of living in the country, chanting angry songs while police officers and other security personnel watched.

One of the protesters, Mr Abubakar Ciroma, told Economy Post on the phone that “he is disappointed with the way President Tinubu has managed the economy,” stressing that he was struggling to feed his 8 children.

Another protester, Mr Danladi Umar, noted that he voted for Mr Tinubu on the understanding that he would bring his Lagos formula to Nigeria but was regretting that cost of living was getting worse and the ‘Lagos magic’ had failed.

Inflation rising

Inflation has skyrocketed since May 29, 2023, forcing many Nigerians into thinking that Tinubu’s “Lagos magic” may be failing.

Inflation rate in June 2023 – one month after Mr Tinubu became president- stood at 22.79 percent but it rose to 29.90 percent in January 2024, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

READ ALSO: Fact-Check: Contrary to Tinubu’s claim, Nigerian economy can’t grow to $1trn by 2026

Food inflation, which shows price movements of basic food items, stood at 35.41 percent in January 2024 as against 25.09 percent reported in June 2023.

An economics lecturer, Mr Tobias Etilokwu, said Mr Tinubu must “immediately provide some form of subsidies to farmers and suspend the dollar float to arrest the weakening state of the naira.”

He argued that “the United States provides subsidies to its people,” wondering why people criticise subsidies as if they were never provided in the West.

The inauguration mistake

On May 29, 2023, Mr Tinubu had announced that “subsidy is gone,” which was targeted at putting an end to years of opaque petrol subsidies in Nigeria.

READ ALSO: Tinubunomics: Naira loses 48% value, economic team struggles

“We commend the decision of the outgoing administration in phasing out the petrol subsidy regime which has increasingly favoured the rich more than the poor. Subsidy can no longer justify its ever-increasing costs in the wake of drying resources.

“We shall, instead, re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions,” he had said.

But Mr Etilokwu said that this was the beginning of Nigerians’ problems, wondering why Mr Tinubu chose to announce that at his inauguration.

READ ALSO: Mr President, Nigerian economy must grow by 42% annually to hit $1trn in 2026

“The removal of subsidies is good, but it should not have been announced during the inauguration. It created an unnecessary shock in the economy.

“Secondly, it should have been done in phases. By so doing, he would not have created shocks in the economy, especially on the poor and the middle-class, which is what is happening at the moment,” he added.

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