The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has said that the current administration’s reform agenda has increased the hardship being faced by citizens.

The President of the CBCN, Lucius  Ugorji, made this declaration during his welcome speech on Sunday at the commencement of the 2024 First Plenary Assembly of the CBCN, held at the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria Resource Centre in Durumi, Abuja.

The bishop noted that inflation had rendered it challenging for the typical Nigerian to afford essential commodities, such as food items and medication.

“The reform agenda of the present government has added to the plight of Nigerians. With the withdrawal of fuel subsidies and the unification of the foreign exchange market, there has been a sharp increase in the pump price of petroleum products and a steep decline in the value of the naira. Indeed, there is a free fall of the national currency.

“As a result of the government’s reform agenda, millions of Nigerians have been reduced to a life of grinding poverty, wanton suffering, and untold hardship as never before in our national history.

“In a bid to survive, an increasing number of the poor have resorted to begging. With more than 80 million Nigerians living under the poverty line of less than two dollars a day, our country, according to the recent disclosure of the World Bank, is the world’s second-largest poor population after India.

“While many impoverished Nigerians continue to suffer and die as a result of the hardship caused by the government’s economic reforms, the president has continued to urge the populace to make even more and more sacrifices with the assurance that brighter days lay ahead,” he said.

He said that as the government demanded additional sacrifice from the struggling masses, Nigerians were expecting to see a drastic cut in the cost of running the government at all levels.

On insecurity, the bishop said despite the money appropriated monthly as security votes, communities continued to experience persistent insecurity.

He said, recently, there has been an upsurge in kidnapping for ransom and increasing cases of bloodshed across the country.

Similarly, the president, Christian Association Nigeria, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, said “the high level of insecurity, runaway inflation and hunger are areas of serious concern as well. I am confident that the state of our nation shall be exhaustively discussed with sincerity and humility at the plenary as usual.”

The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator George Akume in his remarks, told the Bishops that the country is relying on them for encouragement to the Nigerian populace.

“Through strategic policies, well thought out initiatives and investments, the Bola Ahmed Tinubu administration aims to drive economic transformation, ensure security, enhance food production, harness natural resources, develop critical infrastructure, improve social services, foster economic diversification, and enhance governance efficiency.

“These efforts are geared towards building a prosperous, secure and inclusive Nigeria for all”, Senator Akume added.

Also speaking, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Dr Olayemi Cardoso blamed the high inflation rate in the country on so much liquidity in the market.

He argued that in spite of all the difficulties, there is light at the end of the tunnel and effort by the federal government to remove the subsidy on fuel will contribute to a more positive outcome.

Cardoso noted that as a result of some of the recent reforms of the CBN, over the course of the last week, about $1.8 billion dollars came into the markets adding that as long as the country can sustain a positive trajectory, Nigeria will get out of its economic woes and the foreign exchange market will begin to moderate itself.

The CBN governor observed that in another week, the CBN will have the Monetary Policy Committee meeting where very critical decisions will be made to continue making economy more investor-friendly.