Has Buhari Delivered on His Promises for the Economy?

Muhammadu Buhari

With the Presidential elections around the corner, Nosa Alekhuogie examines the string of promises made by President Muhammadu Buhari during his long campaign in 2015 and wonders, if he has delivered on them four years after

Between 1999 and 2015, Nigeria earned a whopping N77.348trillion from her oil and gas sector, according to recent data from the Ministry of Finance. Between 2010 and 2014 when oil price rose to $112 a barrel, the country reportedly earned $383 billion from oil.

Despite this massive oil revenue, Nigeria was bedeviled with energy crises, high unemployment, low exports, low foreign exchange reserves, low income level and other social, economic issues because successive governments failed to make judicious use of the oil revenue.

In fact, Nigeria was rated among countries with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty. The poverty figure rose from about 82 million people to about 112 million in 2012.

The devastating effect of the poor economic situation on Nigerians prompted the Muhammadu Buhari administration to initiate various programmes, including the social investment programme (SIP) to ameliorate hardship faced by the most vulnerable, poor and unemployed Nigerians.

The SIP has four components which are being implemented across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). They are: the N-Power, which caters for unemployed graduates. It also comprises the Technical Hubs springing up around the country as well as the N-Power Stem Junior, which is about to commence. The other components are; the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSFP), Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) and Government Enterprises Entrepreneurship Programme (GEEP), which comprises the MarketMoni, the FarmerMoni and the TraderMoni.

Providing an update on the SIP recently, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Maryam Uwais, said that since inception, government had provided N500billion for the programmes in the 2016, 2017 & 2018 budgets, with close to N250billion, being 23.63 per cent of the entire three years budget appropriated for N-SIPS having been released. For the 2018 budget, she said so far, 18 per cent of the amount appropriated for all the progammes had been received.

She explained that the Home Grown School Feeding Programme is a programme aimed at feeding young children in public primary schools, with the aim of improving their nutrition, increasing school enrolment and reducing the incidence of malnutrition. So far, government is feeding over 9,300,892 children in 49,837 government schools in 26 States. Also, 96,972 cooks with over a 100,000 small-scale farmers are being empowered through this programme.

Under the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme programme, N5,000 is given out monthly to 297,973 households in Nigeria. It is currently being implemented in 20 states. Beneficiary households are selected by the communities directly, with their household and community data being uploaded onto social registers by trained enumerators at State and LGA levels to ensure government monitors their progress.

The GEEP is managed by the Bank of Industry. It makes available to micro-businesses credit facilities to improve their businesses. So far, over 1.1 million beneficiaries across the 36 States of the federation have been provided with N27.4billion in interest free loans, ranging from N10,000 to N350,000. In particular, the aim of the TraderMoni programme is to take financial inclusion to the grassroots, considering the daily contributions of millions of petty traders to Nigeria’s economic prosperity and development.

Uwais further noted that N-Power, the largest post-tertiary employment programme in Africa is currently employing 500,000 youth graduates. The beneficiaries are paid a monthly stipend of N30,000 and are deployed as volunteers into various sectors of need in the public space, such as health, agriculture, education and public finance. The beneficiaries are given devices to facilitate their service delivery, and as a continuous learning avenue. So far, government has supported 20,000 N-Power non-graduate volunteers, who have been trained in skill centres in every state, and given tool boxes to enable them apply their newly-acquired expertise in the building and automative industries.

Checks revealed that the current administration has also recorded some achievements in the areas of agriculture, electricity generation, transport and infrastructure.

For instance, power generation has largely improved in recent times, rising from 4,000 to 7000MW, while distributable power was put at 5,000MW. Although this is commendable, a lot still needs to be done to address a plethora of challenges, which have hampered regular power supply to homes and businesses.

Nigeria, through her rice revolution programme, is inching closer to self-sufficiency in rice production. In fact, the country is on the verge of hitting her six million MT of milled rice production target. It is interesting to know that the number of rice farmers has risen from five million to over 11 million, creating a wave of new jobs in the economy.

The rice revolution has led to a drastic reduction in Nigeria’s rice import bill of $1.65 billion annually by 90 per cent.

The rice revolution was largely driven by the Anchor Borrower’s Programme. In a speech at the third anniversary programme of the ABP, which was held in Abuja recently, Governor of the Central Bank, Godwin Emefiele, had described the project as “changing the narrative on agricultural investments in Nigeria.” The ABP, which has been in operation for three years, “has significantly improved the productivity of our farmers, and by extension, cultivation of critical agricultural commodities in Nigeria,” he said.

Also, in the area of agriculture, the Buhari administration has delivered 10 million, 50kg bags of feritilizer at a low price N5,500 (for 2017 alone).

The country now has annual savings of US$200 million in foreign exchange and ₦60 billion annually in budgetary provisions for fertilizer subsidies.

Nigeria’s decade-long infrastructure deficit has been one of the major factors restricting her economic growth and damaging investment prospects. A well-developed infrastructure is not only essential for attracting foreign investment, it is vital for long-term growth and competitiveness of countries worldwide.

Besides, robust infrastructure helps to determine one country’s success and another’s failure in diversifying production, expanding trade, coping with population growth, reducing poverty or improving environmental conditions. According to the World Bank’s World Development Report (1994), 1percent increase in the stock of infrastructure is associated with a 1percent increase in gross domestic product (GDP) across all countries.

To address the infrastructure problem, the federal government in May 2018, launched the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. The PIDF kicked off with seed funding of US$1.3 billion to ensure that funding for critical projects will no longer be a problem.

Recognising that robust infrastructure is essential in the lives of the common man, this administration in 2014 upped the amount it was spending on critical infrastructure. The sectors included Transport (N14billion), Agriculture & Water (N34billion), Power, Works & Housing (N106billion). In 2017 those figures were increased as follows: Transport (N127billion), Agriculture & Water (N130billion), Power, Works & Housing (N325billion).

Also, the federal government issued a N100 billion Sukuk Bond in 2017, Nigeria’s first sovereign Sukuk Bond. Proceeds from that Bond are being used to fund 25 major road projects across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria.

It is worthy of note that many of these projects had been abandoned in recent years because of mounting debts owed the contractors by the federal government.

In the rail sector, the administration has revealed its plan to upgrade Nigeria’s 3,500km narrow-gauge railway network with an Interim Phase that will soon see passengers and freight businesses experience reduced travel time by rail between Lagos and Kano for the first time in over a decade. Already, the Abuja’s Light Rail system had been completed and has been in operation last year.

The health system has remained weak, inequitable and dysfunctional over the past decades. Poor Nigerians still lack access to basic health care. Recent checks revealed that even the National Hospital, Abuja currently has no functional CT Scan machines. This has resulted in preventable deaths. In March 2018, the NSIA invested US$10million to establish a world-class Cancer Treatment Center at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), and US$5million each in the Aminu Kano University Teaching Hospital and the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia, to establish modern Diagnostic Centres.

While this is laudable, government is advised to take more aggressive step to address the problem in the health sector. Anti-graft agencies are also enjoined to spread their dragnet to this all –important sector, where those at the helm allegedly corner the huge amounts released by the federal government to equip the hospitals. Those found culpable should be prosecuted.

Also, one of the core pillars of Buhari’s campaign in 2015 was his promise to fight corruption, which is the bane of economic growth and stability. In this regard, the federal government in December 2016, through the Federal Ministry of Finance introduced the Whistleblowing Policy, which has since yielded N13.8billion from tax evaders and N7.8billion, $378million, £27,800 in recoveries from public officials.

Also, N8.1 trillion was discovered to have been underpaid into the federation account between 2010 and 2015 by 15 revenue-generating agencies.

The Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are now remitting more money to the federation account. From its remittance of a paltry N51 million between 2010 and 2016, JAMB remitted N7.8 billion in 2017. As at March 2018, the TSA had recorded inflows of a total sum of N8.9 trillion from the MDAs.