Buhari Steadily Retrieves Nigeria from the Brink



Contrary to popular perception, Sunny Amadi argues that President Muhammadu Buhari has restored the derailed train called Nigeria

Being a professional in the oil and gas sector appears to have stripped me of emotions as in my daily routine; you either face reality or go under in accordance with the dictates of empiricism. That being the case, I am accused of lacking in emotions and dishing out compliments.  However, while the quantum rot robs the gains of the present leaps of President Muhammadu Buhari, a retrospective glance at what used to be and how far we had slithered into near abyss would enlarge the contemporary into a gargantuan.

However, since dwelling in the past has never produced any developmental advancement, I will resist reminding us where we were yesterday during the year of the locust but will bring before Nigerians who are albeit, a study in behavioural amnesia for forgetting too soon. We were actually very close to the gorge in all indices of development and good life.

Arguably, the central cause of lack of development has been fingered as corruption which appears a justified axiom as not even an extreme instance of kleptomania can explain the level of criminal capital accumulation which broke the glass ceiling in Nigeria. Those were times when the entire crude oil sales of the whole nation ended in the pockets of lackeys and minions who could before they were made lords of the oil sector, could hardly afford a first class ticket of any airline but suddenly transmogrified into controllers of our common patrimony. That was the level of sleaze which Buhari had to contend with. One could say without any fear of contradiction that corruption was the order other than exception which tarred the image of Nigeria even beyond the shores of the African continent.

One platform that earned him the ears and confidence of the international community was the fight against corruption as well as the fight against terrorism. Buhari came to the saddle with a strong will which he has amply demonstrated on both fronts. As at the time he took over power, Boko Haram insurgents were in control of most parts of the North-east. Perhaps, the best way to appreciate what difference he has made in leading Nigeria out of near comatose state would be a sectoral look at what it is now since it is easier to take things for granted once they no longer bug the people.

To underscore his seriousness, the President ordered that the Military Command Centre be moved to Maiduguri which yielded immediate results. Territories have been recovered and no fewer than 11,595 persons seized by the insurgent freed. This flowed from rijiging the security architecture of the country that included going for state-of-the-art hardware as against the former practice of buying scraps through phony defence contracts.

The transparency and seriousness of the government led to neighbouring countries joining a common platform where 8,500 strong Multi-National Joint Task Force based in N’Djamena, Chad, currently headed by a Nigeria military general was put in place. To underscore the commitment of the government to clearing the Boko Haram threat, it is committing over $100 million into the project. Several world bodies have already bought into it both to rehabilitate the displaced and to rout the insurgents who have been besmirched. Countries that refused to sell arms to Nigeria for myriad of reasons have, based on assurances and trust, commenced sales and supplies.

Generally, security was at its lowest ebb when he came to power but his sterling qualities also touched the police force where he ordered the recruitment of over 10,000 personnel to reduce the gap in the police coverage ratio in accordance to the best global practices. GSM tracking devices and a forensic laboratory which were hitherto thought to be wishful acquisitions have been put in place and yielding fruitful results.

Sea piracy which had made the Gulf of Guinea, 65 per cent of which is under Nigeria a no-go area has with reorganisation of the Navy and enthroning a responsive  regime in NIMASA, coastal and inland waterways have become safe. Again, illegal oil bunkering, gas and crude pipeline vandalism were the order of the day until through grit of diplomacy and valuable intelligence gathering, have been put in check while the crude oil output has crossed the 2 million barrels a day mark

Right from the 2015 campaign period, Buhari had been known as Mr. Integrity and by the time the elections were over, a leave township order had become the unwritten code for looters. He set up a frame work for tackling corruption and institutionalise probity by setting up an Advisory Committee on War Against Corruption. For once in a long while, justice against corruption wore the blind toga and strikes at anyone guilty of putting his hand into the till. He followed up with bilateral and multilateral agreements on repatriation of looted funds.

He operationalised the Treasury Single Account system to stop the bleeding of the treasure by revenue collecting agencies and banks. Within a short time, over a trillion naira was saved through that. To ensure that high profile cases are not frustrated in the court, special courts are in the works to expeditiously dispense with cases instead of the practice where corruption cases are stalled with interlocutory injunctions.

Already, several people who dispensed with the monies of the country without following due processes are either in detention or undergoing trail, a situation that has sent a strong signal that there are consequences for those who run against the law. Procurement policies of the country have been standardised leading to transparency and plugging of avenues through which the economy nearly bled to death. Individuals and companies have been refunding billions to the federal government.

One of the greatest shocks to the economy of the country is the overdependence on oil revenue which occasioned a debilitating shock on the economy when oil prices plummeted. While previous administrations had been paying lip service to the diversification of the economy, Buhari has gone a step ahead to put more items on the import prohibition list and thereby stopped the outflow of hard earned foreign exchange. While Nigeria imported what she ate, the present administration has ensured that the country produced what it eats. The import bill has dropped by more than half while agricultural products are even being exported.

The accounting system of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation NNPC which was at best opaque has been reconstructed to ensure transparency with the closure of more than 40 accounts; resolved suspicious oil swap deals that had cost the country billions of dollars and made oil money accruing to the country to only benefit a few people.

To put a human face to the his administration, Buhari on seeing that civil servants and pensioners were owed salaries and pensions, devised what would have qualified as a doctrine of necessity by creating bailout funds for states. The bailout served dual purposes of helping to reflate the economy which was in recession and put food on the table of the poor civil servants, pensioners and their dependents.

In line with his scrupulousness, he ensured that the federal payroll was cleaned up and no fewer than 40,000 ghost workers weeded off the list thereby saving nearly N3 billion monthly. The strict implementation of BVN with banks also pulled the rug off the feet of those who use banks to hide their illicit loots.

Apart from straightening the book of NNPC and cleaning up Joint Venture partnership agreements, he ensured that outstanding annual audits from 2011 to 2014 were put together and made public for transparency purposes. To further stem loss of revenue, he did away with Offshore Processing Agreement (OPA) and replaced it with the Direct Sales and Direct Purchase (DSDP) scheme with reputable off-shore refineries thereby yielding annual savings of US$1 billion.

Other interventions include turning around the Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Warri refineries thereby stimulating local refining and supply of products. Plans are also afoot to site modular refineries which will not only increase refining capacity of the country but will also transfer skills among others.

While most people appear to be concerned with how much power Nigeria generates little is known of the lack of transmission capacity of the generated power. However, Buhari has increased power generation which was at less than 4000 megawatts to over 6000 megawatts with possible increment to over 10,000 megawatts. As at the time he took over power, the transmission capacity of the country was less than 3500 megawatts but within the period, he has increased it to nearly 7000 megawatts.

Facilities are being garnered to address other challenges of the sector like the 50 million Euro (about N11.15 billion) loan agreement with French government for capacity-building and upgrade of power training facilities in Nigeria; the $237 million agreement with World Bank to improve power and signing of agreements with some Chinese companies for the incremental supply of electricity through solar generation.

The railway system that existed on contract papers are now running while areas yet to start are receiving attention. Narrow gauge lines are being expanded to standard gauge while the Lagos-Ibadan-Kaduna line will soon come on stream while plans for funds to get back the Port Harcourt-Aba-Maiduguri line are being sought for.

There are so many areas the president has positively touched on the lives of Nigerians which is restoring the country to its pride of place and deepening democracy especially through the policy of non-interference which has seen other parties winning elections based on appeal and popularity thereby consigning to the trash-can of history, the period where security forces and other government apparatchik were used to swing elections in favour of the ruling party.

Work has started in ernest at the abandoned East-West road while processing of the Ogoni remediation project is nearing completion for the exercise to begin. Works on abandoned road projects across the country are beginning to get attention again with proper funding of such projects.

To further give pep to his words on attending to the yearnings of the Niger Delta people, Buhari released N5 billion for the take off of Maritime University, Okerenkoko  and Assenting the Federal University of Petroleum Resources in Effurun as a university .
Buhari has really restored the derailed train called Nigeria so it can run on good tracks.

The best way to appreciate what difference he has made in leading Nigeria out of near comatose state would be a sectoral look at what it is now since it is easier to take things for granted once they no longer bug the people.