Three things happened in the past week that signpost the looming frosty relationship between the press and the regime of Nigeria’s President, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The government is already struggling with the widespread deleterious effects of its own policy missteps of the removal of the so-called petrol subsidy and the ‘floating’ of Nigeria’s national currency, the naira.

In their different ways the ill-conceived and badly implemented policies have ensured the destruction of the Naira, spiralling inflation and pauperization of more Nigerians than at any other given period in our 53-year history as an Independent country.

The sad irony is that in spite of the crushing burdens caused by the twin policies, the federal government is still ‘subsidizing’ petrol and controlling the exchange rate of the Naira. A national newspaper published a detailed report late last year on how the government had been subsidizing petrol. But the regime promptly and perfunctorily dismissed the story. About one month ago, the International Monetary Fund [IMF] said categorically that petrol subsidy was still alive and kicking and urged Tinubu to scrap it. This time there was no denial by the regime in Abuja. Instead a presidential assistant tamely responded and confirmed the existence of petrol subsidy. However, she quickly added that her principal reserved the right to hearken to the cries of Nigerians by retaining elements of petrol subsidy. On May 29, Tinubu had said with oracular finality that petrol subsidy had gone. As it were the president lied. This regime’s lies couched as propaganda are common place, anyway.

The same thing applies to the so-called floating of the Naira. The hand of the Biblical Esau is all over the foreign exchange market. The regime through its central bank manages, or better still manupulates, the ruling rates in the official market and the bureau de change semi official sector. The CBN fixes those rates daily in spite of their claim of adherence to ‘willing buyer and willing seller’ principle. Every dealer in the foreign exchange market agrees that the real Naira exchange rate against the United States Dollars or any other currency for that matter can only be found in the streets of the country. So, as it stands today those privileged Nigerians who have access and connection to the inner sanctum of the Tinubu government are living off FX rents and cashing out as we are wont to say here in Nigeria. It’s no use asking where this administration gets the funds to pay for petrol subsidy since there was no budgetary provision for such in the 2024 fiscal document. In addition, the regime is subsidizing the exchange rate of the Naira for the privileged to cream off the difference between the official rate and the parallel market rates. Nigerians are left to carry the can.

Regimes in Third World countries are usually touchy when all economic indicators point south.

That is where Nigeria has arrived. Exchange rate is concerning in spite of the fact that the Naira has been appreciating against other world currencies in recent weeks. Many Nigerians are not confident that resort to portfolio investors or hot money and the excessive borrowing from domestic lenders are sustainable over the long run. Inflation, especially the food segment of it, is gallopping away. Though it’s ‘morning yet’ on our economic day but there are no indications thus far that the central bank’s Inflation rate target of 24% by year’s end is attainable. Even if the CBN achieves the target we will still be in a bad place. We are in April and the rate stands at about 30%. Food Inflation is worse at about 36%. Unofficial sources put the food Inflation rate at over 40%. The CBN has already gone mad in its quest to tame Inflation. It has been mindlessly and frequently increasing the base line for the cost of funds.

Related News

Some experts have argued that a borrower will need to pay from between 40-45% interest to secure a loan from any local lending financial institution. What business will you do profitably with a facility which attracts this high interest rate? Even drug dealers won’t have the need for a bag man if they sourced money at the prevailing interest rate in Nigeria. Unemployment at over 30% is also crushing our people. It’s worse with youth unemployment which is estimated to be around 60%. To think that the youth account for almost 70% of our population.

The Tinubu regime is under pressure which it brought upon itself. The pressure is leading to desperation. And the next logical thing is a reign of repression and muzzling of the press.

Nigerian journalists will soon be increasingly labelled as bandits and terrorists. Tentative steps have already been taken in this regard. First, but not in the order of what happened, was the assertion last week by the information minister, Alhaji Mohammed Idris, that the regime will respect press freedom as long as journalists do not publish falsehood.

“You cannot report issues with the intention to create disharmony and discontent that will ultimately lead to a breakdown of law and order for our citizens and say you are exercising press freedom”. Well said Idris, but only the courts of law should determine what’s offensive and then prescribe punishment not the operatives of the regime’s security agencies.

My reading is that this regime will be inclined to adopting the style of abducting journalists in gestapo method as was done to Segun Olatunji, editor of First News online. He was stolen from his home, dumped in an underground dungeon, tortured and left for dead. The military kept him for two weeks and didn’t bother to acknowledge that Mr. Olatunji was in their custody. They showed no evidence of a warrant of arrest. He said he was blindfolded for two weeks while he  was chained. Mr. Olatunji said that a part of his body especially his right arm appeared damaged for life. The military woke up after two weeks and in the wake of pressure by global journalism bodies, took Olatunji out and dumped him somewhere in Abuja.

To the best of my knowledge neither the military high command nor Tinubu, the commander-in- chief of the Armed Forces had spoken to this act of terrorism by the military. They have just tested the water and they are getting away with it. Could the regime’s ‘see no evil’ be regarded as an endorsement of the military’s action?

Then it was the turn of the police. They pretended to be civil by inviting the board chairperson of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism [FIJ], Bukky Shonibare. Operatives of The Nigeria

Police Force National Cyber Crime Centre [NPF-NCCC met their match in Shonibare who in spite of being a lawyer took another lawyer along with her. She made her interrogators look small. And foolish. When the nitwits were out of breath trying to extract information about the sources of some of FIJ’s news stories, they let her go and then turned around to declare wanted the editor of the publication, Mr. Fisayo Soyombo. How do you declare a person wanted when you have not even extended an invitation to him? The sole idea is to frighten, intimidate and terrorise the subject. Are the military and police competing for which will become the terror-in- chief of Nigerian journalists. Journalists survived Gen. Ibrahim Babangida’s draconian Decree 4 and Gen. Sani Abacha’s gunmen. They will survive an apprentice dictator if, as it seems, Tinubu decides to take that route.