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Let’s Ponder on the Buhari Administration

By  Chinwe Ugwu:

Since his inauguration on May 29, 2015, some Nigerians have not clearly understood the philosophy behind his administration. This started right from the day he took oath of office, when he declared that “I belong to everyone and I belong to nobody”. Many Nigerians could not comprehend exactly what the president was trying to pass across to his countrymen. It was however not in doubt that he came to office with an unprecedented goodwill, which no president has ever commanded in the history of this country. He is loved among Nigerians across board and revered by the Talakawas and patriotic and good spirited people; respected for his integrity and proven credentials to tackle corruption, dreaded by corrupt officials and sometimes feared for his taciturn disposition.

It is axiomatic that one of the reasons why majority of Nigerians cast their votes for President Buhari was because of his avowed commitment to the fight against corruption and the belief that he would revive the nation’s economy and bring in some form of sanity. Besides, the president had made promises of tackling the security challenge facing the nation. Two years on, the dreaded Boko Haram has been degraded and all territories hitherto occupied by the insurgents have been recovered. Almost half of the Chibok girls who were abducted in April 2014, by Boko Haram have also been rescued, rehabilitated and reintegrated into the society. Peace has returned to the North East region of the country and with the recent signing into law of the North East Development Commission bill, this administration has adequately taken measures to rebuild and resettle people displaced by years of Boko Haram devastation.Apart from Chibok girls, more than 12,000 Boko Haram hostages have been freed from Boko Haram captivity.

The Buhari Administration has mobilized International Support for the War against Boko Haram, forging strong partnerships with key countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, ECOWAS, the AU, the UN, and others. The Government has also revived the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) which has contributed significantly to the weakening of Boko Haram.

In the South South, the government has been able to reach an accord with the restive youths and the elders of the region. The peaceful initiative of the Buhari administration led by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has yielded results. Government has embarked on massive development of the region beginning with the implementation of the UNEP Report by commencing the cleanup of Ogoni land. This is indeed a landmark achievement by the present administration considering the fact that the UNEP Report predates Buhari’s ascension to office.

The government has consequently initiated a new vision, which has ushered in a robust set of promises, solutions, targets and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta benefit maximally from the region’s oil wealth and offered a detailed response to the 16-point Demand Agenda submitted to Buhari by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in November 2016. The results include: the official take off of the hitherto stalled Nigerian Maritime University in Delta State; approval by Buhari for additional 35 billion naira for the 2016 budget of the Presidential Amnesty Programme; approval for the establishment of Modular Refineries across the nine states of the Niger Delta and resumption of construction work on abandoned projects across the Niger Delta, especially the all-important East-West Road.

The Buhari Administration has also shown great commitment in the provision of critical infrastructure. Several road projects have been completed with many others ongoing across every state of the country. it must be noted that most of these projects had been abandoned due to mounting debts owed by the Federal Government to contractors. The Administration is also pushing ahead with the revitalization of Nigeria’s 3,500km network narrow-gauge railway. In March 2017 a consortium led by General Electric, and comprising Transnet of South Africa, APM Terminals of the Netherlands and Sinohydro Consortium of China submitted the sole bid for the concession of the Lagos-Kano Railway narrow-gauge Line. (Transaction Advisers were approved for the project in 2016).

The construction of the Second Niger Bridge has successfully taken off. The Abuja’s Light Rail system is due for completion before the end of the year. The first line will soon be launched to connect the city center with the Airport, with a link to the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Line. This Administration also successfully completed the reconstruction of the Abuja Airport runway within the scheduled six-week period (March – April 2017).

Government has also made laudable efforts in improving the power situation in the country. The average generation of power was 3,324MW as at May 2015, but this government has increased it to about 7000 MW today. Many projects that will enable government to achieve its target such as the Zungeru 700MW Hydro Power plant recently reported 40 per cent job done. For the first time in more than 45 years, the Mambila Power Plant is set to take off with the allocation of $5.6billion for its realization and an expected 3,050 MW output upon completion.

Some Nigerians perhaps for political reasons have picked holes in the anti-corruption drive of the Buhari Administration but a critical look would reveal that no government has ever tackled graft in the manner the last two years have been. For the first time in the history of the nation, the government has taken on alleged corrupt individuals head on and no one is spared no matter how highly placed. The judiciary which had before now been tagged no-go-area- has been subjected to scrutiny. Most importantly, It is on record that only Buhari has the guts to suspend, investigate and consequently sack senior serving members of his administration on account of corruption allegations. Again, the whistleblowing policy of this Administration has raked in billions of stolen government funds.

The Federal Government under President Buhari has engaged the governments of Switzerland, Jersey Island, United States, United Arab Emirates, and Liechtenstein among others, in an effort to ensure the repatriation of Nigeria’s stolen assets. So far, the Swiss government has agreed to repatriate illicit loot of about USD320 million, while another tranche is being expected from the Jersey Islands.

Budget implementation has been the major problem since 1999; but this administration has reformed the process of budgeting.  First, a Presidential Order was issued directing that all budgets of all Government Agencies be prepared in line with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), using a budget template developed for that purpose. Second, the 2017 Budget was collated using a web-based application developed by the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF). N1.2 trillion has been released for capital expenditure in the 2016 budget, since implementation started in June 2016. This is the largest ever capital spends within a single budget year in the history of Nigeria. This investment has enabled the resumption of work on several stalled projects — road, rail and power projects — across the country.

The full implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has resulted in the consolidation of more than 20,000 bank accounts previously spread across DMBs in the country, and in savings of an average of N4.7 billion monthly in banking charges associated with indiscriminate Government borrowing from the DMBs. As at February 10, 2017, a total sum of N5.244 Trillion had flowed into the TSA.

The Administration has through diligent and careful processes piloted the nation out of economic recession in spite of the dwindling oil prices. For instance, the recent launch of Economic Growth and Recovery Plan, EGRP, the efforts in rice production and other agro produce initiatives are helping to rebound the economy.

Buhari has also made commendable in roads in the area of job creation the government has initiated efficient Social Investment Programmes (SIP). The SIP is the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with more than 1 million beneficiaries so far — 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries (160,000 of them have had their details validated and are now receiving the monthly N30,000 stipend, while the rest are undergoing verification. 3,162,451 people belonging to 26, 924 registered cooperatives have been registered for the Government Enterprise and Empowerment (GEEP) Scheme. 57,234 interest-free (except a one-time low administrative fee) loans have been issued, across 28 States and the FCT. 56% of loans so far disbursed has gone to female beneficiaries. 1,051,000 Primary School Pupils are currently benefiting from the Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), in 8,587 schools across seven States. More than 11,000 cooks have been employed for the HGSFP. Under the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme, 26,942 beneficiaries are now receiving the monthly N5,000 stipend in 9 States and 84 Local Government Areas.

It is a fact that the Agriculture and Solid Minerals sectors have seen improved performance. The contribution of the Ministry of Solid Minerals’ to the Federation Account tripled to about N2 billion in 2016, up from N700m in 2015.The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), combined with a newly developed soil map designed to aid fertilizer application, substantially raised local production since 2015. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative has resulted in the revitalization of 11 blending plants across the country.  The benefits include annual savings of US$200 million in foreign exchange, and 60 billion annually in budgetary provisions for Fertilizer subsidies. The Scheme has also made it possible for Farmers to purchase Fertilizer at prices up to 30 percent cheaper than previously available.

The government has also instituted several measures for ease of doing business in the country thereby attracting more foreign investors. Similarly, the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (NERGP), the Federal Government’s medium-term Economic Plan, launched by President Buhari in April 2017, charts a course for the Nigerian economy over the next four years (2017–2020).

For the past two years, this Administration has stabilized the pricing and supply of petroleum products. The usual long queues have disappeared from our fuel stations and people drive in freely and buy their products. The three Refineries (Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna) are now producing; while the nation’s External Reserves have grown by around $7 billion in the last six months.

This is just a tip of the iceberg of what President Buhari has done in the past two years and six months. With the economy out of recession and all the indices pointing to positive growth, there is no doubt that by the end of 2018, most Nigerians will be singing ‘we want more of Buhari’. Buhari may be misunderstood by some but he is definitely fixing Nigeria.

• Hon.Chinwe Ugwu Executive Director Centre for Reform Education Initiative sent this contribution from Enugu.

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