President Muhammadu Buhari will be three years in the saddle by tomorrow. State House reporter AUGUSTINE EHIKIOYA writes on the impact of the Buhari-led administration on Nigerians.
DISENCHANTED with the 16-year reign of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigerians voted for a change of government and the symbol of that change is Muhammadu Buhari, who won the presidential election in 2015 under the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
The inauguration of President Buhari on May 29, 2015 for four-year tenure rekindled the hopes and aspirations of many for a better Nigeriansere were great hopes and aspirations for a better Nigeria.
With one more year to the expiration of the four-year contract, many Nigerians are expressing mixed feelings.
To critics of the APC-led administration, Buhari has not lived up to expectation in the delivery of his campaign promises. They argue that Nigerians, who voted the PDP out of office, are yet to reap the much-expected dividends of democracy.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo is at the forefront of those who have scored the government below average.
In an open letter published in the media in January, Chief Obasanjo gave a damning verdict of poor performance on the Buhari government, alleging increasing poverty, insecurity, poor economic management, nepotism, gross dereliction of duty and tolerance of misdeeds.
Stressing that there was lack of progress and hope for the future, the former president counselled Buhari not to seek reelection next year.
But, to Buhari’s supporters, Nigeria has never had it so good. They argue that those opposed to the re-election of Buhari are those who plundered the nation’s commonwealth prior to the coming on board of the present administration.
The said the Buhari’s administration should be commended and not condemned. A ruin of 16 years under the administration of the PDP cannot be fixed in three years.
So far, it has been so good, they said, listing the achievements recorded in various sectors of the economy within the spate of three years.
According to them, the administration has delivered on its key promises of anti-corruption fight, security and economy.
Under the whistleblowing policy, a whopping N13.8 billion was raked in from tax evaders, N7.8 billion, $378 million and £27,800 from public officials who were exposed by whistleblowers.
The administration through its increased oversight on Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAs) has uncovered underpayment of N526 billion and attracted $21 billion to the Federation Account by revenue generating agencies between 2010 and 2015.
While addressing the issue of poor levels of remittance of operating surpluses by MDAs, the Joint Admission Matriculation Board (JAMB) remitted N7.8 billion last year as against the N51 million remitted between 2010 and 2016.
Through the activities of the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries have been identified, with payroll savings of N200 billion.
As at March, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) had recorded inflows of a total sum of N8.9 trillion from MDAs.
The TSA has resulted in the consolidation of more than 17,000 bank accounts previously spread across commercial banks in the country and in savings of an average of N4 billion monthly in bank charges associated with indiscriminate government borrowings from the banks.
The use of Bank Verification Number (BVN) to verify payroll entries on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform has so far led to the detection of 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries.
To boost the anti-graft battle, Nigeria, which joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in July 2016 and became the 70th OGP country, has been elected to lead the OGP alongside Argentina, France and Romania. All four new members of the OGP Steering Committee will serve for three years beginning from October 1 this year.
The Efficiency Unit
The Buhari’s administration created the Efficiency Unit (EU) to spearhead the efficient use of government resources and ensure reduction in recurrent expenditure. The EU’s efforts have resulted in N17 billion in savings on travel, sitting allowances and souvenirs.
With the quantum of stolen funds from the oil and gas sector, the Buhari’s administration pushed for oil and gas reform in line with best international practice,
The controversial Offshore Processing Arrangement (OPA) was cancelled and replaced with a ‘Direct Sales and Direct Purchase (DSDP)’ scheme with reputable offshore refineries.
The Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB) has been passed into law by the National Assembly. It is awaiting the assent of the President. The bill was in the National Assembly for 17 years.
In 2016, the Federal Government exited the cash call arrangement by which the NNPC traditionally funded its share of the crude oil exploration and production Joint Ventures (JVs) with International Oil Companies (IOCs).
The Cash Call obligations consistently put pressure on the government’s finances. A failure to fully fund them has resulted in the accumulation of debt arrears of $6.8 billion as at December 2015.
Besides the achievements recorded in the fight against corruption, his supporters believe the administration has secured the country in the past three years.
The critics, however, see the increasing herdsmen killings in the land since the beginning of this year as a dent on whatever achievement recorded on security.
To fight insurgency in the Northeast, the government revitalised the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) to combat trans-border crimes and the Boko Haram insurgency.
The President’s camp disclosed that more than a million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS) have returned to their homes and communities since 2015 in the Northeast, which they fled before this administration came into power.
More than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages have been freed from Boko Haram captivity. They include 106 of the Chibok schoolgirls abducted in April 2014 and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.
Under the Buhari administration, Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters “Camp Zero” in the dreaded Sambisa Forest was capture by troops in December 2016.
Following the feat, the Nigerian Army conducted its Small Arms Championship from March 26 to 31 last year, in the forest, a measure aimed at enabling the Armed forces to dominate the area and avoid regrouping by the terrorists.
As part of the achievements attained in security, public secondary schools resumed in Borno State on Monday September 26, 2016. It was two years after closure. Arik Air also resumed flights to Maiduguri in May last year, three years after it suspended operations to the city.
The Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno roads reopened in December 2016, after being closed for three years, while the Maiduguri-Bama-Banki Road was reopened in March 2018, four years after it was seized by Boko Haram.
The chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Borno State chapter was said to have declared the 2017 Easter celebrations in the state as the best and safest since 2009.
With increased insecurity in the Northcentral, the government deployed a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), comprising Regular and Special Forces personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy, the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS), and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC).
The administration recorded major arrests and dismantled other crime syndicates in the past three years.
Though critics of the battered economy inherited in May 2015 is far from total recovery, the Buhari camp believe the economy is on a steady path of growth, especially after coming out of recession between 2016 and 2017 and with the 1.95 per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate achieved in the first quarter of this year.
They also believed that the administration’s priority sectors of agriculture and solid minerals maintained consistent growth throughout the recession because of the commitment to diversify the economy.
Inflation has fallen for the fifteenth (15th) consecutive month, while external reserves have hit their highest levels in five years.
The government claimed that the new Forex Window (FX) Window introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in April last year, now sees an average of $1 billion in weekly turnover. It has attracted about $45 billion dollars in inflows in its first year, signaling rising investor confidence in Nigeria.
It also claimed that the stock market ended last year as one of the best-performing in the world with returns of about 40 per cent.
About five million new taxpayers have been added to the tax base since 2016 as part of efforts to widen government revenue sources.
Claiming that the tax revenue increased to N1.17 trillion in the first quarter a 51 per cent increase on the first quarter figure of last year, the N2.7 trillion spent on infrastructure in 2016 and 2017 budgets was unprecedented.
The administration claimed that 14 moribund blending plants have so far been revitalised under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) with a total capacity of 2.3 million metri tonnes (MT) of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer.
The benefits included annual savings of $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 per cent cheaper than previously available.
The contributions of solid minerals to the federation account have tripled from N700 million in 2015 to N2 billion in 2016 and to N3.5 billion in 2017.
President Buhari, who inherited N12.1 trillion in debt with N5.4 trillion annual service cost on the inherited debt, reduced the service cost to N3.9 trillion by 2016.
Under Buhari, there was $7.3 billion in Eurobond issuances in 2017/18, to fund the 2017 budget and to refinance maturing Treasury Bills and lower the cost of borrowing for the government.
This debt refinancing strategy is paying off as Treasury Bills rates have dropped from 16-18 per cent to 10-12 per cent over the last year.
The oversubscription of the recent Eurobond (the first issuance in 2017 saw orders in excess of $7.8 billion compared to a pre-issuance target of $1 billion) have demonstrated strong market appetite for Nigeria and showed confidence by the international investment community in the country’ economic reform agenda.
Nigeria’s first Sovereign Sukuk Bond, to fund 25 major road projects across the country; raised N100 billion, Diaspora Bond, Nigeria’s first ever Diaspora-targeted Eurobond, to fund part of the 2017 Budget; raised US$300m, while Green Bond, Africa’s first Sovereign Green Bond Programme, to fund infrastructure projects that tackle climate change; raised N10.69 billion.
In the past three years, the Buhari administration extended more than N1.9 trillion to state governments, to enable them meet their salary and pension obligations, especially in the face of dwindling oil revenues.
The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) introduced by the CBN substantially raised local production of rice in 2016 (yields improved from 2-3 tonnes per hectare to as high as 5 – 6 tonnes per hectare) and produced a model agricultural collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi states.
Besides attracting over N300 billion investments in the Rice Value Chain, the ABP has encouraged the establishment of eight rice mills. It has doubled the country’s paddy production to 2014 levels.
The milled rice production has increased from 2.5 MT to about four MT, while rice exports from Thailand to Nigeria have dropped from 1.23 million MT in 2014 to 23,192 MT by November last year.
To boost the ease of doing business in Nigeria, the Buhari administration has issued three Executive Orders within a year. The orders have positively impacted the local small scale business environment.
The administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading and developing the transport, power and health infrastructure.
In May, the government launched the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. The PIDF is kicking off with seed funding of $650 million.
In March, the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) invested $10 million to establish a world-class Cancer Treatment Center at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and $5 million each in the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia to establish modern Diagnostic Centres.
It launched the N701 billion Payment Assurance Programme (PAP) designed to resolve the liquidity challenges in the power sector by guaranteeing payments to Generating Companies (GenCos) and gas suppliers, transmission expansion and rehabilitation programmes.
All these have resulted in a 50 per cent expansion in grid capacity since 2015 from 5,000 megawatts to 7,125 megawatts at December 2017.
It is expected that more than 2,000 megawatts additional power generation capacity would be added by the end of this year.
The Energising Economic Programme (EEP) was launched to bring reliable and efficient power to economic clusters and markets across the country.
The Distribution Expansion Programme (DEP) was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in February to deliver 2,000 megawatts of unused power capacity to consumers.
Scoring the administration high, Buhari promoters believe that the government has invested in people, ensured justice reform, improved diplomacy and international relations and enthroned new vision for the Niger Delta region in the past three years.
They, however, added that with the support of the people, more progress would be made in the next 12 months.
COURTESY: THE NATION