In spite of the hue and cry about the economic challenges, which is occasioned by bad economic management, profligacy, corruption and rabid financial mismanagement of past leaders, which to a large extend the present government led by President Muhammadu Buhari has been able to turnaround and bring the country out of excruciating economic recession.
This government has achieved this feat as a result of strict fiscal discipline, waging effective war on corruption, saving for the raining day, accelerated infrastructural development, diversification of the economy through huge investment in agriculture and SME’s, social security and social intervention programmes, prudent management of the national economy, determination to serve the people in spite of distraction, as corruption keeps fighting back and putting place policies that will halt and expose corruption and corrupt practices and veritable external relations that helps the inner dynamics and domestic economy grow amongst several other policies.
It is imperative to underscore the fact that, without any iota of contradiction or equivocation that President Buhari is still the best option for leading and managing the affairs of Nigeria at this stage in the historical evolution and development of the Nigerian pluralistic trajectory. He is also the best choice to lead Nigeria through the 2019 elections and take the country to the promise land.
Without doubt, corruption has been the bane of the Nigerian state, be it institutional corruption, public sector corruption, private sector based corruption, societal corruption and what have you, have permeated all facets of the Nigerian state, to the extent that over the years, graft became the official policy of the state.
Corruption had become a way of life, culture and acceptable norm before the advent of the present administration.
So bad was the situation that a former president of the country said that, stealing was not corruption, besides he shielded and protected top officials government of his administration from investigation with obvious and proven cases of corruption.
No matter how bad the situation may look like presently, it is important to know that, one, the present economic mess in which the country is enmeshed is not caused by the present administration, however, the government is working round the clock to come up with lasting solution to the problems, caused by the mismanagement, financial recklessness, bad governance, corruption and inept leadership of past administrations.
In the past, the nation was groping in darkness, not knowing where it was heading to, as corruption and greed held sway; people who were hitherto not particularly very well to do, became multi-billionaire overnight, and as they became richer by wantonly fleecing the commonwealth of the nation; as a result the nation became poorer, as poverty and unemployment became ubiquitous. It was the same set of people that stole the country blind that won elections, by using the ill-gotten money they got to illegally purchase people’s voters card as well as manipulate the electoral process, hence, what took place in the country for many years was election without voting and in such instances, they were not accountable to the people but to themselves. These are the same set of people who are painting the current government black and accusing it of not working well enough, because the government has blocked all avenues through which these looters can continue to steal endlessly, they are being daily exposed and put on trial through legitimate due process.
Hence, they place a high premium on power, they accumulated power by all means, did everything to secure it and prevent others from getting it. As rulership became permanent, politics became Hobbesian. Power was pursued by all means and kept by all means and the struggle for power became the overriding concern. Indeed, politics became the only game in town, it was a game played with deadly seriousness for the winners won everything and the loser lost everything. Development does not occur in the framework of a political style which essentially institutionalizes warfare.
Therefore, democracy in Nigeria was not democracy properly so-called but a combination of kleptocracy and plutocracy; more worrying was the fact that, they ruled with the iron law of oligarchy. Therefore, having abandoned democracy, for political repression, our leaders are delinked from our people.
Operating in a vacuum, they proclaim their incarnation of the popular will, hear echoes of their own voices, and reassured pursue with policies that have nothing to do with the aspirations of our people and which cannot mobilize. It is for this reason that it has been argued that, it is clear even from the behavior of leaders that most of them have no respect for themselves and do not take themselves seriously. That is why they have converted us into the mimic people.
Lacking confidence and self-respect, they cannot develop any sense of efficacy. So even with the best of intention, they are forever confused and perfunctory. More worrying still, our leaders suffer from self-contempt.
This underlies their alienation from themselves and from us and it is manifested in their prickly impatience with their environment, their fondness for things foreign and disdain for the local and so on. Their self-contempt has been projected into contempt for their people, unless one remembers this it will be difficult to understand how our leaders relate to their people; why they manipulate us so cynically; exploit us without mercy and brutalize us to no end.
The situation in the past was bleak and a case of complete hopelessness and every policy was predicated on conjectures and happenstance; the darkness was all-encompassing, as it completely enveloped the country in its entirety and there was no silver lining in the horizon; governance was in abeyance, as it was not about the people, but about a few privileged few at the corridors of power, worse still, they managed the economy based on the conditionalities of the International Monetary Fund IMF, which encouraged the removal of subsidies and social welfare measures that helped the poor and insisted on the drastic reduction of government expenditure and public consumption.
However, as soon as President Buhari became president of Nigeria, he said corruption is the worst form of human rights violation, he went on to explain that, the country must move fast to deal decisively with corruption or else, corruption will kill Nigeria; and from all intents and purposes, this government has been working assiduously to exterminate graft from the country. But the point must be made that, indeed, corruption is seriously fighting back and creating all sorts of problems in the country.
In the words of the former minister of finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala, when you fight corruption, when you touch the pockets of people who are stealing money, they do not keep quiet. But the country is being gradually reoriented presently on the right kind of values and moral ethos, which the generality of the people are imbibing, save for a microscopic few, who are have been used to stealing public funds and looting the treasury, who are working hard to thwart all the efforts of the present administration aimed at fixing the country’s numerous problems.
We all know President Buhari as a very modest and austere person, who lives a simple, deeply religious and straightforward life.
He has held several juicy positions in the past and did not taint his reputation or soiled his fingers; he is a man of very high moral standing, integrity and credibility. It is therefore, very obvious and glaring that, he would never embezzle or do anything untoward that would invariably tarnish is image.
Not only this, he is telling Nigerians all the truth about the position and reality of the country in all spheres as they are presently, he is not telling them half-truths or what they love to hear, thereby taking practical and realistic steps that would assist in solving the contradictions in the system permanently and lay the template that galvanize the country to greater heights in all ramifications, amongst the comity of nations.
President Buhari more than any other leader Nigeria has had, is committed to the all-round growth, development and prosperity of the country, without shortchanging Nigerians in any way.
After President Buhari must have completed the socio-economic and political re-engineering of the country things will generally look up for Nigeria and Nigerians alike. Hence, out of all the options possibly available to Nigeria, President Buhari is still the best option for Nigeria moving forward.
In the country today, very good examples of president Buhari’s good governance are all over the place, for instance, President Muhammadu Buhari says his administration has prioritized the repair and construction of roads within the country, unlike his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, who earmarked very little for infrastructure.
“To illustrate our renewed commitment to infrastructural development, the 2016 budget allocates over N200 billion to road construction as against a paltry N18 billion allocated for same purpose in the 2015 budget,” President Buhari said.
The president said his administration earmarked N350 billion for capital construction projects, with the hope that figure ill help stimulate the country’s ailing economy.”
The signing of the budget today will trigger concerted efforts to reflate the Nigerian economy, a key element of which is an immediate injection of N350bn into the economy by way of capital projects,” he said.
Again, it is imperative to underscore the fact that, Treasury Single Account (TSA), which this government introduced, is meant to halt corruption in government and has helped in no small measure, to stop the reckless diversion of public funds into private pockets. We must have it in mind that, corruption is the number one problem that is responsible for the continued underdevelopment of the country, given its vast natural and human resource endowments; also, the Biometrics Verification Number (BVN) has exposed not less than 65,000 ghost workers in the federal payroll and several other ghost workers were discovered in various states of the federation in the country; thereby saving the country billions of naira that would have been illegally stolen.
Similarly, at the inception of the present administration, several ministries and parastatals were merged to drastically reduce the high cost of governance, so that, money saved can deplored to other critical sector of the economy, in the same vein, corruption in the military has been fought to a standstill and the process is still on-going, also professionalism is been gradually restored to the military and properly equipped too, while the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents has been rendered largely ineffective, while the scourge of the Fulani herdsmen be curtailed squarely.
The present government has equally made adequate provision for intervention fund to cater for the socio-economic needs of the downtrodden. Again, through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Bank of Industry (BOI), the small and medium scale enterprises are funded as the engine of economic growth and development. In the same token, stolen funds which is over N3 trillion is kept with the CBN for the rainy day as well as for economic resuscitation; however, much more stolen/slush funds are still coming into the coffer of the government.
The Federal Government recently announced a policy, which offers a five percent financial reward to any whistle blower whose information leads to recovery of looted funds and other monies obtained through fraudulent means.
Tagged ‘Whistle Blowing Programme,’ it is aimed at encouraging anyone with information about a violation, misconduct or improper activity that impacts negatively on the Nigerian people and government to report it. Official reward for whistle blowers will strengthen the fight against corruption by encouraging more Nigerians to identify with government’s efforts in that regard.
The Federal Government will protect and reward whistle-blowers who provide information that leads to the recovery of stolen funds or assets, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has reiterated. In a statement issued in Lagos, the Minister said the Federal Government will protect the identity of all whistle-blowers, whether in the public or the private sector, and also ensure that the information they provide is kept secret.
”For those who may have suffered any backlash as a result of the information they provide, their cases will be reviewed and appropriate mitigating actions taken,” he said. Alhaji Mohammed said the assurance followed the presentations made to the Presidential Assets Recovery Committee by concerned citizens and groups about the safety of whistle-blowers.
”Whistle-blowers have nothing to fear, because the committee has put in place the necessary measures to safeguard those who give useful information. As a matter of fact, whistle-blowers have everything to gain and nothing to lose,” he said.
The Minister said any whistle-blower whose information leads to the recovery of up to 1 billion Naira will receive 5% of the amount; that the reward for any amount between 1 and 5 billion Naira will be 5% for the first 1 billion Naira and 4% of the remaining 4 billion Naira, and that any amount over 5 billion Naira will attract 2.5% reward.
”For example, if a whistle-blower provides information leading to the recovery of 10 billion Naira, he or she will receive 5% of the first 1 billion Naira, 4% of the next 4 billion Naira and 2.5% of the remaining 5 billion Naira. ”What we have done by making this information public is to reassure potential whistle-blowers that the plan to reward is real. We are not just saying we will pay all whistle-blowers, but we are letting them know in advance what they are entitled to, once the information they provide leads to the recovery of looted funds,” he said.
There is also the trial of high profile political figures and politically exposed persons for cases relating to graft, embezzlement, misappropriation of public funds and other related offences before courts of competent jurisdiction.
The government has also improved and modernized its tax collection system, as a very important instrument of positive economic change and development; the government has similarly refurbished the four refineries in the country which is at present working at about 40 per cent capacity, but government is working hard to ensure that the refineries are working at full installed capacity, so that, full domestic production can start earnestly and importation of refined crude oil will stop.
Then new refineries can be built and licenses given to private individuals and organizations to venture into oil business in the country.
Also, while addressing judges recently, PMB said among other things that, the judiciary is a public institution whose job is to provide fundamental checks on other public institutions. Therefore, a fair and efficient judiciary is the key to all anti-corruption initiatives. The noted that Article 11 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption simply means that a corrupt judicial system not only violates the basic right to equality before the law but also deny procedural rights guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution.
In carrying out its role in the fight against corruption, the judiciary must remain impartial. It is incumbent on the judiciary to analyze facts based on the applicable law without prejudice and penchant regarding the case they are dealing with, and without acting in any way that would favour the interests of any of the parties.
Where judicial corruption occurs, the damage can be pervasive and extremely difficult to reverse. It undermines citizens’ morale, violates their human rights, harms national development and depletes the quality of governance.
He added, the eradication of corruption is a joint task involving not only judges and members of the legal profession, but literally all stakeholders, including all branches of government, the media and the civil society. The challenge is to come up with an integrated approach that balances process and substance, promote clarity to ensure a coherent and realistic formulation of objectives. A corruption free Nigeria is possible therefore let every arm of government be the change we want to see in our country.
Moreover, since, PMB became the president, he has worked relentlessly with his team to technically defeat Boko Haram insurgency and rendered them largely functionary impotent, all the territories of the country that were hitherto taken by the terrorists have been taken back, a large number of them have been arrest, and the strategic cooperation between Nigeria and her immediate neigbours at the instance of PMB paid off, as the different countries worked in sync, with oneness of focus and sincerity of purpose.
This sub-regional arrangement and agreement is partly responsible for the weakening and disorganizing the Boko Haram threat, the flip side of the issue, has to do with the sagacious, methodical and perspicacious reorganization of the armed forces in the country, by re-professionalizing the force, ridding the armed force of ubiquitous graft, equipping the armed forces, putting round pegs in round holes, putting paid to the issue of incessant mutinies of the past, restoring confidence to the rank and file of the armed forces, enforcing long lost discipline in the armed forces and showing exemplary leadership by example. In the courts today, various trails are on-going of senior military officers who abused their priviledged positions by wantonly embezzling trillions of naira meant to equip the military and bolster the counter insurgency efforts.
It would be recalled that only recent, one of the officers on trial volunteer to refund the whopping sum of N4 billion to the coffers of the Nigerian government.
The government is not in any way resting on its oars, but day and night, it is patrolling the length and breadth of the North-East geo-political zone to ensure that the vestiges of terrorism in the area would be completely routed. On the issue of armed robbery and kidnapping, the Nigerian Police are been funded and equipped to deal decisively with the scourges in our midst, granted that such anti-social behaviour cannot be totally eradicated from any human society, but at least, it can be reduced to the barest minimum, incidents of this has reduced drastically but more can still be done. In the past, issues of kidnapping and armed robbery graced the front pages of various national dailies, but now the are very few and far between; and have even gone to the inner pages of the newspapers.
Interestingly, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) said that, Nigeria has huge agricultural potential with over 84 million hectares of arable land of which only 40 per cent is currently cultivated.
The country has some of the richest natural resources for agricultural production in the world. The urgency of unlocking our agricultural potential is even more pertinent because Africa spends $35billion annually for food import. Agriculture must cease from being treated as development programme; agriculture must henceforth be treated as a business. The president explained that, he would shift attention from oil to agricultural and mining sectors to create jobs.
It is also on record that, the present administration in what is the first roll-out of its N500 billion social investment programmes, has commence taking applications online for positions in the 500,000 direct teachers jobs scheme. Aside, there will be training programme for 25, 000 people in the area of technology, another 75,000 people will be trained in the areas of building services, construction, utilities, hospitality and catering, automotive vocations, aluminum and gas services, all trainees will be paid for the duration of their training. Also, the teacher corps initiative, which will engage and train 500,000 young unemployed graduates programme; is a paid volunteer scheme of a two-year duration.
There are other schemes in the Buhari’s presidency social investment programme that will soon be rolled out, these include, conditional cash transfer that pays N5,000 monthly to one million Nigerians, the Micro-Credit scheme for more than 1.5 million Nigerians, the Home Grown School Feeding programme that will serve 5.5 million Nigerian pupils in primary school a free hot meal per day this year and the Education Support Grant Programme for 100,000 tertiary students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM and education. Similarly, the government recently launched through the Bank of Industry, a N10 billion Youths Entrepreneurship Support (YES) project to empower youth with loans to start businesses.
The present government is therefore working round the clock to ensure poverty reduction amongst the teeming Nigerian population as well as creating viable employment opportunities and making people business owners, while at the same time creating wealth that will positively influence the socio-economic indices of the country.
The Presidency also recently listed 57 achievements recorded by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the last two and half years.
The achievements, according to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant on media and publicity, Laolu Akande included Release of 106 Chibok girls, as well as over 16,000 persons in Boko Haram captivity. Also on security was Tackling insurgency, decimation of Boko Haram in the North East. Recovering 14 local governments and territories previously under Boko Haram control in the North East, rebuilding lives of citizens there; about one million displaced persons in the NE have returned to their communities in two years of this administration.
Curbing the incidence of kidnap across the country. (Arrest of kidnap kingpins and dismantling of kidnap cells across the country). Restoring morale of the Nigerian military; re-organizing and better equipping the Nigerian Armed Forces. Purchase of 12 Super-Tucano aircrafts worth $600 million to aid the Nigerian military’s current operations in the North East.
Furthermore, ensuring continued peace in the Niger Delta through consistent funding of the FG amnesty programme for ex-militants; Introduction of an improved mechanism for distribution of aid to IDPs in the North East through the establishment of the Special Intervention Programme of the Federal Government. (Door-to-door strategy)
On economy, the achievements are Implementing the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to aid economic recovery, taking the country out of her worst recession in 29 years, despite fall in oil prices; N1.2 trillion expended on capital/infrastructure projects nationwide, a milestone in the nation’s history; effective implementation of the Treasury Single Account, and increasing government revenue by over N3 trillion as well as entrenching transparency and accountability.
Implementation of the Bank Verification Number (BVN), thus tackling corruption by plugging loopholes for siphoning of public fund and tracking of illicit funds through multiple accounts; ease of doing business: the Federal Government signed into law two bills from the National Assembly (Acts are the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act, 2017 (otherwise known as Collateral Registry Act) and the Credit Reporting Act, 2017) which has facilitated access to more affordable credit for Nigerians, fast tracked budget submissions and promotes Made-in-Nigeria products.
Besides, the establishment of the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum to enhance interaction and private sector participation in the development of the economy; Institutionalizing E-governance setting the foundation for the creation of a truly digital economy.
Creation of opportunities for youths to leverage innovation in technology through the introduction of the Aso Villa Demo Day (AVDD) through which over N700 million has been disbursed to young entrepreneurs; The revitalization of the Made-in-Nigeria campaign. (Emphasis on consumption of local products gain grounds); Implementing reforms in the civil service which has led to the elimination of over 30,000 ghost workers, thereby saving the country billions of naira monthly.
Massive investments in agriculture, e.g, Anchors Borrowers Programme to improve local produce, improving fertiliser distribution and access across states through the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative. Reduction in rice imports as a result of government’s policies that has encouraged massive rice production across Nigeria.
Improving transport infrastructure (rail and road); construction work ongoing on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, renovation of Abuja International Airport runway, completion of Abuja – Kaduna Railway among others.
Moreover, social Investment Programmes (SIP): N-Power Volunteer Scheme creating jobs for over 200,000 (and still counting) unemployed graduates in all the 36 states and the FCT. SIP: Ongoing Government Enterprise and Empowerment (GEEP) Scheme; commenced in November 2016 in collaboration with the Bank of Industry, where soft loans ranging from N10, 000 to N100, 000 have been given to over 189,000 market women and traders across different states.
SIP: Home Grown School Feeding Programme, where almost three million schoolchildren have been fed, while tens of thousands of cooks have been engaged in their respective states. SIP: Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme, under which about 25,000 less privileged Nigerians so far are now being funded with the monthly N5,000 stipend in 9 pilot States (Bauchi, Borno, Cross Rivers, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Osun and Oyo). More beneficiaries are expected to be added in more states.
The establishment of MSMEs Clinics, a small Business support programme to support entrepreneurs and small businesses in different states; Establishment of One-Stop-Shops to support policies on Ease of Doing Business; The take-off of the 2nd Niger Bridge; Phasing out subsidy for petroleum products, elimination of fuel scarcity and queues in petrol stations; Implementation of the FG Niger Delta new vision, a comprehensive road map to improve livelihood and social infrastructure. Improved power generation nationwide adding $500million to Nigeria’s sovereign wealth fund and about $87million to its excess crude account.
The creation of the N30billion Solid Minerals Development Fund; Encouraging the patronage of local contents and increasing export in agriculture; Signing of Executive Order 001 which is the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment – to ensure that public servants offer prompt service in a predictable and transparent manner, and sanction undue delays. Signing of Executive Order 002 which is on prompt submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies of the Federal Government including incorporated companies wholly owned by FG.
Also, bailout of cash crunch states; about N689 billion to 27 states of the federation to pay salaries in 2015; Complete refund of Paris loan deductions to states (unprecedented); Implementing the 2011 UNEP report for the ongoing Ogoni clean-up process after decades of oil spills and pollution; Modification of the tax system so that it is more efficient; Reforms in the airports (reconstruction of the Abuja airport runway and ongoing work at the Lagos airport). Reforms at the nation’s seaports (Issues with cargo clearance at the ports addressed). Improved duration (under 48 hours) for visa approval especially for investors.
Again, there is the resuscitation of the nation’s refineries which are now working at 50 percent capacity for the first time in over a decade. Eleven of the dead 33 fertilizer plants have been resuscitated while four others are to be revived shortly and this has profound impact on the ongoing revolution in the agricultural sector. 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. Increasing external reserves to a 13 month high of $33 billion from $29.13 billion which has surpassed the ERGPs target of $30.56 billion despite global low oil prices and production challenges; Cancellation of the Joint Venture cash calls with oil multinational companies operating in Nigeria (For the first time in the history of the industry) which has led to savings of billions of dollars lost to fictitious contract payments.
In the same vein, there is the release of N2 billion take off grant for the Maritime University as part of measures to address agitations in the Niger Delta region; The new development bank of Nigeria (DBN) is finally taking off with initial funding of $1.3billion (provided by the World Bank, German Development Bank, African Development Bank, Agence Francaise De Development) to provide medium and long term loans to MSMEs.
On the anti-graft battle, the presidency listed the following as achievements: Improving Nigeria’s international image and regional cooperation with neighbouring countries in fighting insurgency; Anti-corruption war: Prosecuting alleged corrupt public officers and recovering billions of naira of stolen public funds; the successful establishment of the whistle-blower policy; Signing of Executive Order 004 – Voluntary Income Asset Declaration Scheme (VAIDS). This aims to increase tax awareness and compliance, and reduce incidence of tax evasion; Signing of agreements with a number of nations to provide Automatic Exchange of Information; Signing of the Extradition Treaty between Nigeria and United Arab Emirates (UAE) toward strengthening Nigeria’s anti-corruption campaign; Establishment of PACAC – a think-tank that has provided leadership, direction and also built capacity of personnel in the fight against corruption.
Health achievements are Eradication of polio disease in the country; the introduction of the One Primary Health Centre per ward programme of the Federal Government.
Ayobolu, a public affairs analyst contributed this piece from Lagos State