FG’ 2020 Report Card Dismisses Doomsday Predictions

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Vanessa Obioha writes that Information Minister, Lai Mohammed has condemned the antics of critics of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration by presenting a plethora of achievements to Buhari’s credit

With a tumultuous 2020 behind, the future of Nigeria in the new year is still precarious. But the Federal Government in its usual tradition of taking stock of the previous year as it prepares for another year dismissed such thoughts. Rather, it basked in the achievements of 2020, a year riddled by the coronavirus outbreak and the #EndSARS protest. Conveyed by the Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, the 2020 report card is filled with numerous accomplishments of President Muhammadu Buhari administration. From the arguably prompt tackling of COVID-19, economic recession to insecurity, the minister in his gentle tenor reeled out glowingly the different feats attained by the administration.

For instance, the minister revealed that the President has extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19
until the end of March 2021, “bearing in mind the new surge in the number of cases and the bid for vaccines. This is further evidence of the administration’s untiring efforts to tame the pandemic and protect Nigerians.”

He further allayed fears that a fresh lockdown will be imposed even though the President has expressed dissatisfaction in the way Nigerians are ignoring the health guidelines to curb the spread of the capricious virus.

No doubt, COVID-19 affected the economy like most countries in the world. Mohammed highlighted this when he spoke about the economy. According to him, the positive economic developments the nation recorded in 2020, was overshadowed by economic recession.

“Nigeria officially entered recession at the end of the third quarter (Q3), after the country’s Gross Domestic Product declined for the second consecutive quarter in 2020
(Q2 and Q3). That’s in line with the traditional definition of recession. The main reason for this is the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said, adding that Nigeria is not alone in this recession as countries with better economies such as the United States and the United Kingdom have suffered a similar fate in a pandemic-driven era.

But critics of this administration will not easily buy into this thought as it is not the first time the country was subjected to an economic decline under this administration. In 2016, the economy went into recession without a COVID-19 presence. Nevertheless, the minister maintained that indeed Nigeria enjoyed some economic developments in 2020, citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)

“The decline of -3.62% in Q3 is much smaller than the -6.10% recorded in Q2. The economic conditions are actually improving, with 17 activities recording positive real growth in the third quarter, compared to 13 in Q2. Also, 36 of 46 economic activities did better in the third quarter of 2020 than in the second quarter of the same year. The -3.62% contraction recorded in the third quarter of 2020 was better than the -6.01% earlier forecast by the NBS, and outperformed several domestic and international forecasts.”

He pointed out that the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) was named the best-performing stock market among the 93 equity indexes being tracked by Bloomberg across the world.

“The all-share index, which opened at 38,800.01, moved up by 310.16 points to close at 39,110.17 – crossing the 39,000 mark, while the market capitalization rose by N167 billion to close at N20.446 trillion. Returns are currently at 45.7 per cent; the best annual return since 2013.”

Despite the triumphs recorded, the Minister offered no timeline on when the nation will survive the current wave of recession. Rather, his only words of elixir were that the recession will be short-lived.

“Thanks to the several complementary fiscal, real sector and monetary interventions proactively introduced by the government to forestall a far worse decline of the economy and alleviate the negative consequences of the pandemic, the current recession will not last long, and Nigeria will soon return to positive growth.”

In 2020, Nigeria witnessed a spate of insecurity cases. From banditry in the North-west to insurgency in North-east and kidnappings in South-south. But in all of this, the Minister insisted that the administration tackled insecurity headlong.

“Despite the antics of those who have constituted themselves to another ‘fighting force’ against our country, we have indeed made tremendous progress in tackling bandits and the terrorists of Boko Haram,” he said, pointing accusing fingers at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Amnesty International which he said are frustrating the administration’s efforts to tackle insecurity.

“Nigeria is fending off attacks on many fronts, not just from terrorists and bandits, but also from some human rights organizations and the International Criminal Court (ICC) which seem to have colluded to exacerbate the challenges facing the country in the area of security. While our security agencies continue to battle these bandits and terrorists, the ICC and some international human rights organizations, especially Amnesty International, have constituted themselves to another ‘fighting force’ against Nigeria, constantly harassing our security forces and threatening them with investigation and possible prosecution over alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

He continued: “The Federal Government frowns at this unbridled attempt to demoralize our security men and women as they confront the onslaught from bandits and terrorists. Nigeria did not join the ICC so it can become a pawn on the court’s chessboard. It beggars belief to see that a nation that is fighting an existential war against bandits and terrorists is constantly being held down by an international body which it willingly joined,” he said, emphasising that “Nigeria is a sovereign state and will not surrender its sovereignty to any organization. ICC, Amnesty International and their cohorts should desist from threatening our troops and putting the security of our country in jeopardy. Enough-is-Enough.”

These malicious allegations according to the minister stems from fake news and disinformation perpetrated by the media, notably international media, CNN which reported that the Nigerian army shot at unarmed protesters at the Lekki tollgate during the EndSARS protest last October. Expressing regret that such a reputable platform will stoop so low to rubbish the image of the security personnel, Mohammed warned that the government will not take the report by CNN lightly. “I can assure you that the matter is far from over.”

A resounding statement from the Minister’s speech was his insistence that Nigeria is not a failed state. He considered the term propaganda by “some jaundiced analysts and their lapdogs’.

“Nigeria is not and cannot be a failing or failed state. Of course, you would remember that for the past two decades or so, some pseudo-analysts have been predicting the country’s implosion. That has not happened, hence they have found a new tag line: failing or failed state! It’s all a ruse aimed at depicting Nigeria as being in a constant state of anarchy, just so they can achieve their nefarious objectives for the country.”

“If Nigeria was not a ‘failing’ state when a large slice of its territory equivalent to the size of Belgium was under the occupation
of Boko Haram, which collected taxes, installed and deposed emirs, is it now that no territory is under the terrorists that Nigeria will be a failing state? If Nigeria was not a failed state when bombs were raining on towns and cities in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Borno, Yobe, FCT and other states, is it now that such bombings have stopped that Nigeria will be described as a ‘failing’ state? If Nigeria was not a ‘failing’ state in those years that Christian and Muslim worshippers had to be screened to even enter their places of worship, is it now that the siege on places of worship has ceased that Nigeria will be
described as a ‘failing’ state?” he queried.

For Mohammed, this present administration has done far better than previous administrations. He cited the Christmas bombings which are no longer ubiquitous, the swift rescue of the abducted schoolboys in Katsina and other killings and kidnappings which have somewhat trickled since the president assumed office. Interestingly, the Minister did not mention efforts by the government to rescue Leah Sharibu, a young girl who has been held hostage since 2018 when Boko Haram stormed the Government Girls’ Science and Technical College (GGSTC) Dapchi, Yobe state and kidnapped over a 100 female students. While others later reunited with their families, Sharibu is still a long way from home.

“The stoppage of the attacks didn’t happen by accident,” remarked Mohammed “It is therefore mischievous for anyone to discountenance the progress we have made in tackling insecurity, in building and upgrading infrastructure and in diversifying the economy, among others. The federal government rejects this characterization of Nigeria as a ‘failing’ state, which is a combination of the wishful thinking of naysayers and the evil machinations of those who don’t wish Nigeria well.”

In 2021, Mohammed assured that security will greatly improve as the President is keen on providing the armed forces and other security agencies “with whatever they require to function better, both in terms of platforms, logistics and capacity development. The good news is that a number of the platforms we have been expecting to pep up the battle against terrorists and bandits are due to arrive in the new year.”

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the Minister maintained that indeed Nigeria enjoyed some economic developments in 2020, citing data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The decline of -3.62% in Q3 is much smaller than the -6.10% recorded in Q2. The economic conditions are actually improving, with 17 activities recording positive real growth in the third quarter, compared to 13 in Q2. Also, 36 of 46 economic activities did better in the third quarter of 2020 than in the second quarter of the same year. The -3.62% contraction recorded in the third quarter of 2020 was better than the -6.01% earlier forecast by the NBS, and outperformed several domestic and international forecasts