Tomorrow, being May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari will clock three years in office. JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH, in this report, takes a look at the president’s scorecard vis-a-vis his three cardinal campaign promise of reviving the economy, tackling insecurity and fighting corruption.
On May 29, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari took an oath and was sworn in as the nation’s president. For his supporters, it was an anti-climax. Having contested for presidency three times earlier without success, Buhari was lucky the fourth time as he made history by defeating an incumbent president, a rare feat in this part of the world.
The president hinged his campaign promise on three cardinal points including reviving the economy, tackling insecurity and fighting corruption. In the last three years, it has been a topsy-turvy ride as the country had gone through some tough and turbulent times. Some political analysts have looked at the administration of Buhari so far from the angle of a half full cup or half empty cup depending on the side of the political divide they belong to.
The president faced a lot of criticisms in the early times of his administration over his lateness to constitute his cabinet. It took the president six months to form his team. The presidency had explained that the inability of the former administration to hand over notes was the reason for the delay in appointment of ministers. Some keen observers of the polity had alluded to the fact that the country slided into recession because the president didn’t appoint ministers on time.
One other criticism Buhari came under was his constant foreign trips in the first year of his administration. The president was nicknamed ‘Baba Ajala’ due to his penchant for foreign trips. But some keen observers moved in defence of Buhari, arguing that those trips were necessary to boost Nigeria’s image in the international community. The thinking was that some international engagements are best sealed at President-to-President level.
After a turbulent start, Buhari set the ball rolling gradually to this crucial stage of his administration. Analysts posit that three years are enough to assess the president in terms perfomance. The president himself would not mind such assessment, which, no doubt, will enable him guage how much ground he has covered.
At about the time President Buhari came into office, oil price slided below $30 per barrel and at the same time, militants in the Niger Delta region commenced bombing of oil and gas installations which further crippled the economy. It was case of double jeopardy as the economy which was hinged on oil prices and production was hanging on the precipice.
However, economic growth is back and consolidating three years down the line. The Economy is back on the path of growth, after the recession the economy was enmeshed in between 2016 and 2017 (1.9 percent in Q1 2018). This was made possible due to government policies and actions
The Buhari Administration’s priority sectors of Agriculture and Solid Minerals maintained consistent growth throughout the period of recession. Inflation has fell for the fifteenth (15th) consecutive month. External Reserves are at their highest levels in five years, double the size as of October 2016. The new FX Window introduced by the CBN in April 2017 now sees an average of $1 billion in weekly turnover, and has attracted about $45 billion in inflows in its first year, signaling rising investor confidence in Nigeria. Nigeria’s Stock Market ended 2017 as one of the best-performing in the world, with returns of about 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 N1.17trillion in Q1 2018, a 51 pet cent increase on the Q1 2017 figure.2.7 Trillion spent on Infrastructure in 2016 and 2017 Budgets, an unprecedented allocation in Nigeria’s recent history.14 Moribund Blending Plants revitalized so far under the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), with a total capacity of 2.3 million MT of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer.The contribution of Solid Minerals to the Federation Account tripled from N700 million in 2015 to N2 billion in 2016 and again rose to N3.5 billion in 2017.
The Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), federal government’s medium-term Economic Plan, was launched by President Buhari in April 2017. It was meant to chart a course for the Nigerian economy over the next four years (2017–2020). The Vision of the ERGP is to restore economic growth, invest in Nigerians and to build a globally competitive economy. The Plan aims to achieve these by focusing on five execution priorities: stabilizing the macroeconomic environment, achieving Agriculture and Food Security, ensuring energy efficiency (especially in power and petroleum products), improving transportation infrastructure and driving industrialization primarily through SMEs.
To fast-track the implementation of the ERGP, the federal government launched the ERGP Focus Labs, as a targeted 6-week intervention (March to April 2018) to unlock medium-scale and large-scale investment projects held back by bureaucratic bottlenecks. The just-concluded Phase 1 of the ERGP Focus Labs identified projects worth about $10 billion for fast-tracking, and the bottlenecks holding them back are now being resolved.
In boosting the economy, the Buhari-led Addministration has extended more than 1.9 Trillion Naira to State Governments, to enable them meet their salary and pension obligations, especially in the face of dwindling oil revenues over the last two years. The support has come in the form of the following: Budget Support Facility (Total of N606.55bn extended to the States as of May 2018; in exchange for reforms in budgeting, IGR, debt management, overheads, the Paris Club Refund, Infrastructure Loan, Loan Restructuring for Facilities with Commercial Banks.
One area the government has performed is in agriculture. The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria (details below) has substantially raised local production of rice in 2016 (yields improved from 2-3 tonnes per hectare to as high as 5 – 6 tonnes per hectare), and produced a model agricultural collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi States. Over N300 Billion Naira investments in the Rice Value Chain. Between 2016 and 2018, eight new rice mills have come on-stream and Nigeria’s paddy production and productivity has doubled compared to 2014 level.
Nigeria’s milled rice production has increased from 2.5MT to about 4MT, and rice exports from Thailand to Nigeria dropped from 1.23 million MT in 2014 to 23,192 MT as of November 2017.
The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (which involves a partnership with the Government of Morocco, for the supply of phosphate), has resulted in the revitalization of 14 blending plants across the country, with a total installed capacity in excess of 2 million MT. The benefits include annual savings of US$200 million in foreign exchange, and ₦60 billion annually in budgetary provisions for Fertilizer subsidies. The Scheme has also made it possible for Farmers to purchase Fertilizer at prices up to 30 percent cheaper than previously available.
The work of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (inaugurated by President Buhari in August 2016) and the Enabling Business Environment Secretariat (EBES) resulted in Nigeria moving up 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings in 2017, and earning a place on the List of 10 Most Improved Economies.
1.219 Trillion naira was released for capital expenditure in the 2016 budget, and 1.476 trillion so far in the 2017 budget, making a total of 2.7 Trillion (about $9 billion) in two years. This investment has enabled the resumption of work on several stalled projects — road, rail and power projects — across the country.
Even at a time of low oil prices (and by implication low government revenues), Nigeria’s External Reserves have doubled since October 2016, from $24 billion to $48 billion.The Sovereign Wealth Fund has seen inflows of US$500m in 2016 and 2017 (the first inflows since the original US$1bn which the Fund kicked off with in 2012) .
One of the major reasons Nigerians elected Buhari was that they believed he is the man to reduce corruption to the barest minimum in Nigeria. The country was regarded as a superstar when it comes to corruption. However some critics and opposition alike have labeled the anti corruption war as skewed, hinging their arguments on the premise that only members of the opposition are being arrested and prosecuted.
However, selective or not there have been progress in the corruption war as United States President Donald Trump praised Buhari’s effort in fighting corruption in Nigeria.
Some of the ways the administration fought corruption was the Whistleblowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 2016. It has since then yielded the following in recoveries: N13.8bn from tax evaders, N7.8bn, $378million, £27,800 in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistleblowers. 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 N526bn and US$21 billion was underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015. NEC has now 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.
The Buhari Government submitted an Executive Bill for the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between Nigeria and other foreign countries to facilitate the identification, tracing, freezing, restraining, recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of proceeds, property and other instrumentalities of crime, in February 2016. In May 2017 the Senate passed the Bill into Law. Nigeria has signed Agreements and MOUs with various countries to boost international cooperation for the investigation, tracking, freezing and return of stolen assets.
PICA was set up by President Muhammadu Buhari to strengthen controls over Government finances through a continuous internal audit process across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), particularly in respect of payroll. Through the activities of PICA, 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries have been identified, with payroll savings of N200 billion.
On August 7, 2015, President Buhari issued a directive to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to close their accounts with Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and transfer their balances to the Central Bank of Nigeria on or before 15th September 2015.
The TSA system was launched in 2012, but failed to gain traction until President Buhari’s executive order in August 2015. As at March 2018, 1,674 MDAs had enrolled into the TSA, up from 766 in December 2016. As at March 2018, the TSA had recorded inflows of a total sum of N8.9 Trillion from Federal Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs). The TSA allows the managers of the Government’s finances, including but not limited to the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, to have, at any point in time, a comprehensive overview of cash flows across the entire Government.
This decision to fully operationalize the Treasury Single Account (TSA) system—a public accounting system that enables the Government to manage its finances (revenues and payments) using a single/unified account, or series of linked accounts domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria — has resulted in the consolidation of more than 17,000 bank accounts previously spread across DMBs in the country, and in savings of an average of N4 billion monthly in banking charges associated with indiscriminate Government borrowing from the commercial banks.
It also ensures increased transparency in public financial management, as well as prevents a scenario in which some MDAs have idle cash while other MDAs are compelled to borrow exorbitantly from commercial banks.
The Ministry of Finance continues to fine-tune the system to improve its efficiency, and has also commenced an audit to ensure that all funds due to the TSA are remitted into it.
Considering that personnel costs are the federal government’s largest expenditure line, the federal government has given priority to the deployment of the BVN for payroll and pension audits. The use of BVN to verify payroll entries on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform has so far led to the detection of 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries.
In the last administration, Boko Haram, a small group in Borno State metamorphosed into one of the deadliest terrorist group in the world. They shot into international when they kidnapped over 200 girls from government secondary school, Chibok in 2014. Not contented with bombings, Boko Haram went a notch higher and started capturing towns and hoisting their flags, a move seen as a declaration of war on the Nigerian State .
One of the first places, President Buhari visited on assumption of office was the neighbouring counties of Chad and Niger to solicit cooperation in the fight against insurgency. Some weeks later it paid off as the insurgents group have been substantially degraded.
However, as the killings by the Boko Haram reduced , killings by herdsmen, cattle rustlers and bandits escalated, which the administration has been working tirelessly to curtail.
The administration has also been making some moves to secure the country, including the revitalization of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), aimed at combating trans-border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency. More than a million displaced persons have returned to their homes and communities across the Northeast, since 2015. More than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages have been freed from Boko Haram captivity, including 106 of the Chibok Girls abducted in April 2014, and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.
Following the capture of Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters, “Camp Zero”, in Sambisa Forest, in December 2016, the Nigerian Army conducted its Small Arms Championship from 26 to 31 of March 2017, a measure aimed at enabling the Armed Forces to dominate the area and avoid regrouping by the terrorists.
President Buhari has approved the creation of a new Area Command and two additional Divisional Police Headquarters in the Birnin Gwari local government area of Kaduna State. In May 2018 the JMIF kicked off ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’ to counter armed herdsmen and militia groups operating in and around Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara States.
The Nigerian Air Force established Quick Response Wings (QRW) in Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba States, and deployment of Special Forces to these QRWs.
Operation Lafiya Dole, and Operation Last Hold, were also established to defeat Boko Haram in the Northeast as well as Operation Whirl Stroke, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits.
Others are Exercise Crocodile Smile I (September 2016) and II (October 2017) to curtail the menace of militant activities in the Niger Delta; Exercise Obangame, a multinational operation aimed at securing and protecting the Gulf of Guinea; Operation Awatse, a joint operation between the Military and the Police in South West Nigeria to flush out militants and pipeline vandals; Exercise Python Dance I (November 2016) and II (September 2017) in the South East to tackle kidnappers and militant elements.
Diplomacy And International Relations
With the re-establishment of Nigeria’s position and influence in the regional and global arena, fragile/broken relations with the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa, and with neighbouring countries (Chad, Niger, Cameroon) have been revived and strengthened since June 2015.
Nigeria prominently participated in the London Anti-Corruption Summit and the Commonwealth Conference on Tackling Corruption, in May 2016 in London. Major outcomes of these events included the establishment of a Global Forum for Asset Recovery, hosted by the governments of the US and UK in December 2017 and focusing on assisting Nigeria and three other countries to reclaim their stolen assets.
Nigeria, in August 2016, signed an MoU with the UK Government on modalities for the return of Nigeria’s stolen assets in the UK. Nigeria joined the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and developed a National Action Plan, which is already being implemented. In 2016 Nigeria signed an Agreement on the identification and repatriation of Illicit Funds with the United Arab Emirates during the Visit of Mr President to that country.
The Federal Government under President Buhari has engaged the governments of Switzerland, Jersey Island, United States, United Arab Emirates, and Liechtenstein among others, in an effort to ensure the repatriation of Nigeria’s stolen assets. So far, the Swiss government has repatriated USD322 million in Abacha Loot. The money is currently being held in a Special Account in the CBN, and will be deployed towards the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme.
The Buhari Administration has mobilized International Support for the War against Boko Haram, forging strong partnerships with key countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, ECOWAS, the AU, the UN, and others. After years of stalemate, the United States has finally agreed to sell weapons to Nigeria, and the sale of 12 Super Tucano Aircraft by the US Government to Nigeria has just been finalized.
The Buhari-led administration has revamped the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) comprising troops from Nigeria and Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin; this revamp has contributed significantly to the weakening of Boko Haram.
Following Nigeria’s successful rallying of OPEC and Non-OPEC members to discuss stabilisation of the global oil market in Doha and in Algiers, and the successful negotiation of an exemption from the OPEC production freeze agreed at the 171st OPEC Ministerial conference in Vienna in November 2016; oil prices rose to US$55/bbl for the first time in 16 months. Nigeria has since then continued to engage fruitfully with OPEC.
CHINA: Billions of dollars in concessional infrastructure funding for critical road and rail projects. President Buhari’s April 2016 official visit to China has unlocked billions of dollars in infrastructure funding, primarily for road and rail projects; as well as yielded a Currency Swap Agreement between the Peoples Bank of China and the Central Bank of Nigeria.
UNITED STATES: Renewed cooperation in Security and Anti-Corruption. The US Government is supplying 12 Super Tucano Aircraft to Nigeria, as well as repatriating recovered looted monies and assets stashed in the US.
MOROCCO: The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (which involves a partnership with the Government of Morocco, for the supply of phosphate), has resulted in the revitalization of 11 blending plants across the country.
SWITZERLAND: 322 million in looted Abacha funds repatriated to Nigeria in December 2017.
DUBAI: Nigeria has signed and ratified an Agreement with the United Arab Emirates that allows extradition of Nigerians who stash stolen funds in the UAE.
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