FG’s N90bn hajj subsidy is setback for Nigeria’s economy — Atedo Peterside

The founder of Stanbic IBTC and ANAP Foundation, Atedo Peterside has described the Federal Government’s N90 billion subsidy for the 2024 Hajj as a setback for the nation’s economy.

Peterside stated this in an interview on Channels TV’s Politics Today on Thursday.

Recall that the Vice President, Senator Kashim Shettima, said the Federal Government subsidised this year’s hajj pilgrimage with N90 billion.

He stated this while flagging off the 2024 inaugural flight of Pilgrims to Saudi Arabia at Sir Ahmadu Bello International Airport, Birnin Kebbi.

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According to him, the move has a political undertone ahead of the next 2027 general elections.

He said, “This is not about religion but about politics. We are mixing religion and politics.

“So, what do we now expect Christians to do? To say they want their own share of this subsidy?

“How are you going to refuse them? This is all about politics. Perhaps someone feels that ‘it is time for me to score some cheap political points’.

“You now come and send the wrong signal about our economy at a time when our economy is in deep trouble. We need to bring ourselves out of the hole.

“Each time you turn around and do something insignificant like this (hajj subsidy) and throw away N90 billion, you set back the process by which investors and others can take you seriously.

“For me, it is not just about religion and pilgrimage. It is the setback of the economy by sending the wrong signals. The government should stop sending the wrong signals.”

Forex saga

Speaking on the depreciation of the naira against the dollar, the economist asked President Bola Tinubu’s administration to take steps for the local currency to rebound.

He warned President Tinubu’s administration that hurrying to make the currency gain strength wouldn’t work out.

According to him, the best approach would be for the central bank to stabilise the naira to a level where they can sustain it for some time and gradually build the reserve.

He said, “I will be fair to this government. They inherited the exchange rate problem and what they have been doing is trying to manage it.

“Recently, I would have thought ‘let’s get some stability around N1,300 or N1,400’. Don’t be in a hurry to appreciate the exchange rate.

“Going to sell dollars to bureau de change at N1,000, N1,050; those guys will turn around two weeks later and sell it at N1,400, N1,500. And they will go away laughing. What’s the point of that?

“It’s better to have some stability they can sustain. Keep between N1,300 and N1,400 which looks to be the natural equilibrium band today. Keep it there for a while, and build up your reserve to let confidence come back.

“So stop trying to appreciate the naira in a hurry. It’s not going to work,” he said.

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