Nigerians x-ray gains, failures of Buhari’s administration
One issue that has dominated public discourse since President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) government came into being in 2015, is how well the “Change” mantra has transformed Nigeria.
Depending on whose opinion one seeks, the change the APC promised in 2014 when the party was canvassing for votes could be described as either negative or positive. Those who believe the change is negative have argued that the cost of living has not only increased, but that more Nigerians have slid farther down the poverty line. And to drive home their point, they readily cite the December 2018 report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) to support their position.
Daily Sun recalls that the report, which unveiled the Labour Statistics Report for the third quarter of 2018, indicated that unemployment rate, rose from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of last 2017 to 23.1 per cent. The report further said the number of persons in the labour force increased from 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017 to 90.5 million in the third quarter of 2018. It added that the total number of people classified as unemployed also increased from 17.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2017 to 20.9 million in the third quarter of 2018. These are few indicators critics of the administration point at to buttress the claim that Nigeria is heading in the negative direction.
However, the government says it has carried out lots of transformational activities in the country. It says that economic growth is back, and consolidating, recording a 1.95 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2018 after the recession of 2016 -2017. The government also says inflation fell for the 15th consecutive month, from 18.7 per cent in January 2017 to 12.5 per cent as of April 2018. It also says that External Reserves is at its highest in five years at $47.5 billion double the size as of October 2016. These are also few of the achievements the government say it has recorded. Proponents of the administration say its achievements are underreported or out rightly blind-sighted because of partisan political reasons.
As the Buhari administration prepares for its second term when ‘Next Level’ will be unfolded, some Nigerians are apprehensive on what to expect. Already, President Buhari has said his second term will be tougher than the first and asked Nigerians to tighten their belts.
Regardless, last Thursday, issues relating to the government, its activities and the development of Nigeria were in focus at the 2nd Annual Lecture of Freedom Online, an online publication held in Lagos.
The lecture chaired by Senator-elect and former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, had Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi as Guest Lecturer and former Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel and Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina as guest.
Other dignitaries at the lecture include Prof. Akin Onigbinde and Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Otunba Gani Adams.
The lecture had the theme ‘Fixing the Economy: Less Politics, More Substance’.
How to develop Nigeria
According to Kalu who introduced the lecture, only a private sector driven economy will develop the country. Kalu said the government should concentrate on policy formulation as it has no business doing business.
He said, “I see our economy as one that needs to be expanded. Government has no business doing business. You cannot do policy formulation and implementation at the same time. It doesn’t matter if it is one person buying, what matters is that things are made to work.”
He blamed the stagnation in the country on politicians who he said have abandoned governance to pursue politics.
“Nigerian politicians have abandoned policy implementation. They are busy talking about 2023 without concentrating on what we have now. We need to consolidate on what we have now”, Kalu added.
Government’s score card
Unveiling some of the administration’s achievements, Adesina insisted the administration has made meaningful progress since coming to power. He said only those who chose to be wilfully blind would not acknowledge such achievements.
Adesina said under Buhari’s watch in 2017, the government has grown the external reserves and that the agricultural export grew by 180.7 per cent; while raw materials export in the same year rose by 150.2 per cent. He added that rice importation had reduced by 90 per cent, saving the country billions of dollars on a daily basis.
He said, “External Reserves of US$47.5billion are the highest in five years, and double the size as of October 2016. Total exports in 2017 were 59.47 per cent higher than the one for 2016. In 2017, agriculture exports grew 180.7 per cent above the value in 2016.
“In 2017, raw material exports grew154.2 per cent above the value in 2016. In 2017, solid minerals exports grew 56.5 per cent above the value in 2016. In 2017, exports of manufactured goods grew 26.8 per cent above the value in 2016.
“The first quarter of 2018 saw the fourth consecutive quarterly increase in capital importation since Q2 2017. The total value of capital imported in the quarter stood at US$6.3.”
Adesina also boasted of major economic gains by the administration, saying “the new forex window introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) in April 2017 now sees an average of US$1 billion in weekly turnover, and attracted about US$25 billion in inflows in its first year (and a total turnover of $47.14 billion) – signalling rising investor confidence in Nigeria.
“Nigeria’s Stock Market ended 2017 as one of the best- performing in the world, with returns in excess of 40 per cent. Five million new taxpayers added to the tax base since 2016, as part of efforts to diversify government revenues. Tax revenue increased to N1.17 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, a 51 per cent increase on the first quarter 2017 figure.
“Fourteen moribund Blending Plant revitalised so far under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI); with a total capacity of 2.3 million MT of NPK fertilizer. The contribution of Solid Minerals’ to the Federation Account rose five-fold from N700 million in 2015 to N3.5 billion in 2017. The Buhari administration’s priority sectors of agriculture and Solid Minerals maintained consistent growth throughout the recession.”
Security, cooperation of state governments
According to Fayemi, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Investment and Trade, Mr. Akin Oyebode, Nigeria must commit huge investment to health care and education.
He said, “no economy can develop without a healthy and competent workforce. Therefore, education and health care are critical social investments required to develop our nation. This is why we must continue to expand the health insurance and ensure that the poorest people get coverage.”
He also stressed the need to improve on security of lives and property, saying that “the fact that we are able to gather today, to discuss steps towards sustainable economic development, is only possible because of the greatly improved security situation around the country. While the task of securing our country completely is not done, it is important to ensure we continue to place the required focus on this very necessary issue”, he added.
Oyebode also stressed the need for the various state governments to partner the Federal Government for the development of the country.
The reality that can’t be seen
On his part, Onigbinde described Adesina’s analysis of government’s gains as “the reality that we cannot see.”
He said, “I welcome my friend, Adesina, telling us the reality we cannot see; we are not wearing glasses, these are things I encounter on a daily basis. I have heard about the Metro Rice in Ogun State; I saw it only on television; it is not in Daleko Market and the rice is also not in Kuto.
“I live in Bodija, I can’t see this rice. But Femi is my brother, he has a duty to direct our gaze to what we cannot see and we begin to see things in our imagination.”
The Aare Onakakanfo, Adams, while making his own contributions, said the claims of economic gains by the government are not felt by the people.
He said he has travelled wide and that in other countries “they won’t tell you what they are doing theoretically but you will see what is happening. I am a regular traveller; I’ve travelled to about 46 countries and I know what is happening in the developed world and when you see most of their economic analysts, they won’t tell you what they are doing theoretically but you will see what is happening.”
He said Buhari may not be aware of the reality on ground and asked Adesina to tell the president that the citizens are hungry.
He added, “I want you to pass this message to the president because I remember when President Goodluck Jonathan was in power, he said when they are in that Villa, it’s just like being in a cage; you don’t know what is happening at the grassroots. We need to pass this information through you; tell Mr. President that Nigerians are suffering; the people are hungry.”
Adams added that the government needs to tackle the security situation in the country and address challenges in the power sector, adding that when the government takes care of these two challenges, it would have created the enabling environment for foreign investment and businesses to thrive.