Peter Uzoho writes on the remarkable achievements of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government in the past three years
Election season is upon us already and the drums and banners and chants and catchphrases are already being rolled out. While President Muhammadu Buhari has announced his intention to run in next yearâ€™s polls, he is not short of candidates who are enthusiastic to take his job. It is worth exploring what the President has been up to over the past three years.
Fixing a broken economy
While the nation suffered one of its most devastating recessions in its recent history between 2016 and 2017, things are now picking up, as the economy recorded a 1.95 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2018 and inflation has fallen for the 15th consecutive month from 18.7 per cent in January 2017 to 12.5 per cent, as at April 2018; external reserves of $47.5 billion is also the highest in five years and is double the size it was in October 2016.
In 2017, the countryâ€™s total exports were 59.47 per cent higher than 2016; agriculture exports grew by 180.7 per cent, raw material exports grew by 154.2 per cent, solid minerals exports grew by 565 per cent, and the exports of manufactured goods also grew by 26.8 per cent.
One of the main characteristics of the recession was the foreign exchange crisis. But the new foreign exchange window introduced by the CBN in April 2017 now sees an average of $1 billion in weekly turnover and has attracted about $25 billion in inflows in its first year, practically stabilising the market and signaling rising investor confidence in the country. In 2017, the Stock Market ended as one of the best performing in the world, with returns in excess of 40 per cent.
A main criticism of the Nigerian economy has been its over-reliance on oil proceeds, a phenomenon that has resulted in a weak tax base. In its efforts to diversify the economy, the federal government has embarked upon a vigorous drive to strengthen the countryâ€™s tax system. As a result, since 2016, five million new taxpayers have been added to the tax base and tax revenue has increased to N1.17 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, a 51 per cent increase on 2017â€™s first quarter.
This administration, also, has worked hard to increase the countryâ€™s capital expenditure, as stipulated in the budget. In the 2016 and 2017 fiscal years, N2.7 trillion was spent on infrastructure, an unprecedented allocation in Nigeriaâ€™s recent history.
This administration economic strategy is based on a landmark policy, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (EGRP), which was launched by Buhari in April 2017. This document, which has been lauded by economic experts across the country, charts a course for the Nigerian economy over four years (2017 â€“ 2020) and its vision is to restore economic growth, invest in Nigerians and build a globally competitive economy.
One of the goals of its design is to help the country better manage its debt as it embarks on a massive infrastructure drive. Thus, the Buhari administration has implemented a new Debt Management Strategy which targets a ration of 60 per cent to 40 per cent between domestic and external debt. This strategy has been implemented through increased external raising of capital to finance the deficits in the last two recent budgets and the refinancing of short term, high cost Nigerian treasury bills with lower cost external debt. Through the implementation of the strategy the Domestic to External Debt Ratio which stood at 84 per cent to 16 per cent as at June 30, 2015 improved to 73 per cent to 27 per cent as at December 31, 2017. The government has, also, successfully issued several international bunds which have been well subscribed to, pointing to a renewed confidence in the future strength and health of the Nigerian economy.
Driving a food revolution
If the Buhari administration will be remembered for one thing, it will be for its radical insistence that the country be able to grow what it eats, in other words, to be feed itself with little or no recourse to international trade. This idea has spurred the government to invest in several programmes that promote and support local agriculture.
One of such programmes is the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), a Central Bank of Nigeria scheme which has made available N82 billion in funding to 350,000 farmers of rice, wheat, maize, cotton, cassava, poultry, soy beans and groundnut; these farmers, in total, have cultivated about 400,000 hectares of land.
Remarkably, the ABP has substantially raised local production of rice; yields have doubled from 2-3 tonnes per hectare in some areas, doubling Nigeriaâ€™s paddy production compared to 2014 levels.
Also, between 2016 and 2018, eight new rice mills have been set up within the country and private sector investments in the production of rice, wheat, sugar, poultry, animal feed, fertilizers, etc, since 2015, has risen up to more than a billion dollars.
Filling an infrastructure gap
Meanwhile, the Buhari administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading and developing Nigeriaâ€™s Transport, Power and Health Infrastructure. In May 2018, the federal government launched the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). The PIDF is kicking off with seed funding of US$1.3 billion.
In March 2018, the NSIA invested $10 million to establish a world-class Cancer Treatment Centre at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) and US$5m each in the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, to establish modern Diagnostic Centres. These Centers are expected to be completed before the end of 2018.
In 2014, the federal government spent these sums on the following sectors: Transport (N14 billion), Agriculture and Water (N34 billion), Power, Works & Housing (N106 billion). In 2017 those figures jumped to: Transport (N127 billion), Agriculture and Water (N130 billion), Power, Works & Housing (N325 billion).
Across the country, there are a plethora of ongoing road projects, many of which had been abandoned by past administrations.
To further demonstrate its commitment to infrastructure development, the Buhari administration, in 2017, issued Nigeriaâ€™s first sovereign Sukuk Bond, which is worth N100 billion; proceeds from the bond are funding 25 major road projects across the six geopolitical zones.
Also worth noting is the upgrade of Nigeriaâ€™s 3,500km network narrow-gauge railway network, which has commenced with the signing, in April 2018, of the interim phase of a concession agreement between the Government of Nigeria and an International Consortium led by General Electric (GE). The target of this Interim Phase is that within the next 12 months, passengers will experience reduced travel time by rail between Lagos to Kano, and, for the first time in over a decade, contracted and scheduled freight rail services will be available. The Abuja Light Rail system, too, has been completed and will go into operation this year. The first line to be launched will connect the city center with the Airport, with a link to the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Line.
In terms of improving and standardising the power sector, a problem that has defied the wisdom of past administration, the Buhari administration has made excellent strides. By the end of 2018, the country is now expected to have an additional power generation capacity of more than 2,000MW, some of derived from publicly owned power plants, others through private sector investments supported by the federal government.
Also, because the administration is bent on supporting local industries, it has launched the Energising Economic Programme, which is bringing reliable and efficient power to economic clusters/markets across the country; pilot projects are currently being implemented in Aba (Ariaria Market), Lagos (Shomolu Printing Community, (Sura Shopping Complex), Kano (Sabon Gari Market) and Akure (Isinkan Market).
Building social security
The Buhari administration is currently implementing Nigeriaâ€™s ever largest and most ambitious social safety net through its Social Investment Programme, which has seen N140 billion released to the direct benefit of more than nine million people, so far.
Some of the nine million beneficiaries include 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries, who are being paid a N30,000 monthly stipend; another 300,000 are expected to enroll this year, taking the number to 500,000 beneficiaries.
The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) has also disbursed N15.183 billion in interest free loans, ranging from N50,000 to N350,000 to more than 300,000 market women, traders, artisans, farmers across all 36 states of the country. Some 56 per cent of these loans have gone to women. In terms of advancing the financial inclusion goals of the Buhari Administration, GEEP has led to the opening of 349,000 new bank accounts/wallets for beneficiaries and intending beneficiaries. In November 2017, GEEP was chosen as the pilot programme for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Policy Innovation Unit in Nigeria.
The Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) has benefited a total of 8.2 million pupils in 45,394 public primary schools across 24 states; the programme has also created over 80,000 direct jobs, with 87,261 direct cooks currently engaged in the 24 participating states.
Plugging the loopholes
One of the tripod-leg upon which Buhari campaigned in 2015 was corruption â€“ he swore to free the country from the corruption plague and three years after, the administration has recorded some major successes.
The new Whistleblowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 2016 has since then yielded N13.8 billion from tax evaders and N7.7 billion, $378 million and Â£27,800 from public officials targeted by whistleblowers.
The Ministry of Finance has received a total of 8,373 communications on contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitment and misappropriation of funds, as a result of the Whistleblower Policy. Of this number of communications, 1,231 are specifically whistleblowing tips. The ministry has now undertaken 791 investigations and completed 534 of those investigations. Ten are presently under prosecution and four convictions have been secured.
Under Buhari, there has also been an increased oversight of federal government ministries, departments and agencies. The National Economic Council (NEC), under the Chairmanship of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, approved the audit of key federal revenue generating agencies, with revealing results: a total sum of N526 billion and US$21 billion was underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015. NEC has now 23 approved the extension of that audit to cover the period until June 2017.
Also, the Buhari administration is addressing the issue of poor levels of remittance of operating surpluses by MDAs. From remitting only N51 million between 2010 and 2016, JAMB went on to remit N7.8 billion in 2017, and is on course to remit a similar amount in 2018.
Winning the war on terror
Recently, the countryâ€™s security has been threatened by herdsmen conflict, but this administration has made some progress in safeguarding the lives and property of Nigerians, especially as it relates to the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.
The Buhari administration revitalised the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) and succeeded in bringing relative peace in troubled areas; El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club returned to their home base in Maiduguri in April 2016, two years after relocating to Katsina State because of the insurgency; Emirs of Askira and Uba returned home in May 2016, two years after fleeing their Palaces on account of the Boko Haram insurgency; also, public Secondary Schools resumed in Borno State on Monday September 26, 2016, after two years of closure; and Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno Roads reopened in December 2016, after being closed for three years.
The capture of Boko Haramâ€™s operational and spiritual headquarters, â€œCamp Zeroâ€, in Sambisa Forest, in December 2016 was a highpoint of success against the insurgents.
Following this the Nigerian Army conducted its Small Arms Championship from 26th to 31st March 2017, a measure aimed at enabling the Armed forces to dominate the area, and avoid regrouping by the terrorists.