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Experts Score PMB High On Economy, Infrastructure

Five years into the administration of the Buhari administration, economic experts have given a pass mark to President Muhammadu Buhari on certain economic policies, saying they are gradually reshaping the outlook of the nation’s economy.

The experts, who are of the view that even though there is room for improvement, said his imprint in infrastructure, railway and roads rehabilitation, agriculture, electricity, friendly monetary policies aimed at financially empowering active Nigerians, among others, have, no doubt, led to job creation, poverty reduction, as well as a more stable economy.

Some of the experts, who spoke to LEADERSHIP, applauded the president in the area of economic management, insisting that Buhari has retooled Nigeria’s economy through diversification from petroleum.

Manufacturing, agricultural and solid minerals sectors, they said, now contribute significantly to the country’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) under Buhari’s administration.

While giving him a pass mark on his first term of four years, they however noted that the last one year of his second term has been challenging, especially with the outbreak of coronavirus that has successfully infected over 10,000 people.

The energy sector witnessed significant government policy interventions, some of which are expected to produce multiplier effects if properly implemented.

In his submission, Yemi Oke, Associate Professor of Energy/Electricity Law, University of Lagos, with specialty in Energy and Natural Resources Law, noted that although power generation had been going down negatively as against achievements recorded in the last three years, there were few interventions that would reverse the trend.

In his comment, chairman, Momas Electricity Meter Manufacturing Company Ltd (MEMMCOL), Mr Kola Balogun, stated that the successful launch of the Meter Asset Provider (MAP), in the last one year was a giant step towards closing the yawning metering gap in the sector.

Balogun said apart from paucity of funds to accelerate the project, the COVID-19 pandemic unfortunately caused the implementation to move at a very slow pace.

On his part, president of Petroleum Products Retail Outlets Owners Association of Nigeria (PETROAN), Dr Billy Gillis-Harry, said government within the period sustained products availability and distribution across the country.

Gilles-Harry also said government began the process of deregulating the downstream subsector which, if well implemented, will engender competition and investment.

He urged government to set guidelines and legislative backing to ensure compliance in the area of standards, competences, transparency and investment protection.

Moreover, the head of Research at United Capital, Wale Olusi, noted that while the first tenure of President Buhari started out a bit slow with appointment of ministers coming late, since the ministers’ appointment, they have gained a lot of momentum.

Citing the Finance Act as a major milestone for the Ministry of Finance as well as reviewing the streams of income of the country, he noted that achievements of the Finance ministry have been unprecedented.

Olusi however noted that the Coronavirus outbreak had pulled back most of the gains of the first year of Buhari’s second term in office.

He stated: “I think he has done well in the first year of his second term. We have implemented minimum wage, giving dividends of democracy to the civil servants. Yields on debt instruments have also reduced considerably. Nigerian Treasury Bills yields are well below double digit which is good considering where we are coming from.

“It means cost of raising capital is cheaper and this has also led to a spike in investments by private sectors. We have seen a lot of bonds and for us at United Capital, we have issued commercial papers. Dangote has launched N300 billion programme, Lagos state has done N500 billion, Flour Mills has also raised funds and a lot more, they are all taking advantage of the low yield environment”.

In the insurance sector, economic experts said the peak of his achievement in insurance industry in the last one year was the passage of Finance Act 2020 into law, which has now lessened a lot of tax burden on insurers.

This, they said, has given a boost to the profitability of underwriting firms, as they translate the amounts they would have used to pay these monstrous taxes into profit.

Similarly, they noted that the ongoing recapitalisation exercise started during his second term in office, while the insurance industry, for the first time in history, united to provide free N11 billion life insurance cover for 5,000 health workers assisting in the curbing of the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Insurance analyst, Mr Tope Adaramola, said the insurance industry has benefited from series of infrastructural projects embarked upon by the Buhari administration, as underwriters have been able to insure the projects, equipment used and personnel involved.

The director-general, Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), Mrs Yetunde Ilori, said before now, insurance companies had endured years of excruciating tax burden under CITA 2007 which is obviously unfavourable to insurers.

Speaking on the Act and the provisions therein that deals with insurance, she stated that Sections 5 and 6 of the Finance Act 2020 repeals the punitive and outdated provisions of Section 16 of the Companies Income Tax Act on the taxation of insurance companies, thus resolving significantly tax issues identified on Insurance industry taxation.

Additionally, the new Act, she said, has eliminated among other things restriction of tax-deductible claims and outgoings to percentage of total premium, restriction of period to carry forward tax losses to four year and the special punitive deemed profit basis for minimum tax computation, even as the Act also resolved the issue of computation of deductible unexpired risk by adopting the use of time apportionment basis in line with the Insurance Act.

The national president of Agriculture and Allied Union of Nigeria, Comrade Simon Anchaver, while applauding the achievements of President Buhari in repositioning the agriculture sector, commended the administration for lifting Nigerian farmers by boosting agriculture, even though the gains of border closure is yet to be felt.

He lamented that Nigerian farmers who should have taken full advantage of border closure to feed the nation with local farm produce could not because of COVID-19 and other hurdles.

On his part, the director-general of Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Dr Timothy Olawale, however expressed dissatisfaction with the implementation of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC), saying improvement in the ease of doing business has not translated to an improved economy as the major indicators of the economy are still distressed.

Olawale, in his assessment of the Buhari administration from 2015, said his administration has battled to emerge from the aftershocks of the 2016-17 recession precipitated by a severe persistent decline in the price of crude oil from 2014, coupled with lacklustre economic policies, serious infrastructure deficits and continued weak consumer demand made worse by low purchasing power.

Similarly, the director-general of Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Muda Yusuf, said although there are positives and negatives to the president’s policy formulation and enforcement, the only way to make the Nigerian economy sustainable is to diversify the economy.

He noted: “Three critical factors are crucial to drive economic diversification in the Nigerian economy. These are the quality of infrastructure, the quality of policies and the quality of institutions.

“It is crucial to get these key parameters right.  It is equally critical to ensure proper alignment among these key variables to ensure sustainable economic diversification.”

He stated that the policy factor has many dimensions, including monetary policy, forex policy, interest rate policy, tax policy, trade policy, procurement policy and investment policy, adding that each of these policies has a major role to play in the economic diversification process.

He noted that the policy mix must be right for the desired outcomes to be achieved.

According to Yusuf, the monetary policy for instance should be designed to drive domestic investment through a moderation of the monetary tightening stance of the CBN.

In the aviation sector, the experts told LEADERSHIP Weekend that there are steady improvements in the development of the sector and railway systems in the first year of Buhari’s second term.

The airports are now wearing new look while Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Kano airports have been upgraded massively. Although, domestic airlines are not finding it easy in terms of commercial operations but the government has been working out various ways to assist the airlines.

On the post COVID-19 era, experts stressed that the pandemic will surely usher in new ways of doing things, even as they said like other setbacks of the past, the industry is expected to overcome a lot of challenges.

To survive the challenges, members of the Aviation Round Table (ART) appealed to the federal government to provide a stimulus package for the entire aviation industry to include single-digit interest loans, bank guarantees, taxes, charge and import duty waivers while also introducing subsidised cost of aviation fuel, a major cost component.

The president of ART, Olumide Ohunayo, stated that the government, through the Ministry of Aviation, should also consider introducing a travel insurance policy to spread aviation risks beyond the industry.

He further directed that the slow growth in Nigeria’s passenger traffic partly attributed to poor data records could be addressed through massive investment in durable, scalable, digital, data, and infrastructure for the industry.

Pointing the way forward, stakeholders posited that, airlines should not depend solely on government bailout packages but should look inwards, work together, thinking outside the box and observe good corporate governance practices.

According to them, airlines should review their current business models and evolve measures that could help them cushion the effects of Covid-19.

 

President Lists Achievements In Power, Food Security, Good Governance, Others

Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari said yesterday that his administration has recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing its nine priority objectives and establishing a solid foundation for future success.

The president who stated this during a nationwide broadcast aired on national television and radio stations to mark this year’s Democracy Day listed food security, energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, infrastructure, fight corruption and improved governance as key areas his administration has work to stabilised.

 

He said every single economy in the world has suffered a decline since the outbreak of Coronavirus, stressing however that the effect on Nigeria has been relatively moderate.

As part of the strategy to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on the youths, President Buhari noted that he has directed the employment of 774, 000 Nigerians.

“These youths will be engaged in Special Public Works Programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn. Each of the 774 local government areas in the country will be allotted 1,000 slots. I am pleased to report that this programme has commenced”.

He also disclosed that government has continued to work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information.

Buhari stated: “In my 2019 Democracy Day address, I promised to frontally address the nation’s daunting challenges, especially insecurity, economy and corruption. I therefore find it necessary to give an account of my stewardship on this day.

“We have recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing our nine priority objectives and are establishing a solid foundation for future success.

“On the economic front, our objectives have remained to stabilize the macroeconomy, achieve agricultural and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, develop infrastructure, fight corruption and improve governance.

“We have witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019 but declined to 1.87% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Noting that every single economy in the world has suffered a decline, the president said, “Ours has been relatively moderate. In order to stabilize the economy, the Monetary Authority took steps to build the external reserves which resulted in improved liquidity in the foreign exchange market. The external reserves grew from $33.42 billion on April 29th 2020 to about $36.00 billion in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments.

“Agriculture remains the key to our economic diversification strategy. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme continues to deliver significant quantities of affordable and high-quality fertilizers to our farmers. This initiative has also revived 31 blending plants and created a significant number of direct and indirect jobs across the value chain.

“Government is also revamping the cotton, textile and garment sector via a CBN Textile Revival Intervention Fund that would considerably reduce foreign exchange spent on cotton and other textile imports.

“Through the food security initiative, we are promoting “Grow What We Eat” and “Eat What We Grow”. I am also delighted that more and more Nigerians are taking advantage of the opportunities in the agriculture and agri-business sector. I assure you that government will continue to support the Agriculture sector through the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and similar schemes”.

To protect our farming investments, Buhari said his government has deployed 5,000 Agro-Rangers and employed 30,289 in para-military agencies in the country.

He continued: “We are also integrating rural communities to the formal economy by extending access to credit and inputs to rural farmers and building feeder roads.  Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from Cocoa and Sesame Seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million.

“Africa presents a huge opportunity for our export base diversification and we are developing our strategy to grow intra-Africa trade through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. Nigeria has risen by 25 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking from 146th to 131st and is now rated as one of the top ten reforming countries.

“This development is due to the Visa on Arrival policy, consistent promotion of initiatives that expand facilities available to Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, robust electronic registration and payment system, seamless processing of business registration and reduction of cost of registering business by 50%. We are confident that on-going efforts would result in further improvement of this rating.

“We remain committed to expanding our mining sector. To this end, I have directed the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant based on Government-to-Government financing and a Public-Private Sector financing.

“With foreign and domestic investments and the participation of Small Scale Miners, we are harnessing the supply value chain in gold production. We would also be launching a fully digitized mineral rights management platform for quick processing of mineral rights application, digitization of records and plugging revenue leakages”.

On the power sector, he said, “The Power Sector remains very critical to meeting our industrial development aspirations and we are tackling the challenges that still exist in the delivery of power through different strategies.

“We are executing some critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme including the: Alaoji to Onitsha, Delta Power Station to Benin and Kaduna to Kano; 330kv DC 62km line between Birnin Kebbi and Kamba; Lagos/Ogun Transmission Infrastructure Project; Abuja Transmission Ring Scheme; and Northern Corridor Transmission Project. Our agreement with Siemens will transmit and distribute a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023, to serve our electricity needs.

“On transportation, another critical sector to improving our economic competitiveness, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure. Through the SUKUK-Funded Road Projects, a total of 412km of the targeted 643km road projects have been completed, representing 64%”.

The president said his government has continued to recognise and harness the power of the media for positive development.

He expressed deep appreciation to members of the Press for their doggedness in the struggle for the attainment of democracy since the beginning of our nationhood.

He noted: “I must admit that the relationship between the media and successive governments has not always been perfect. But there is no denying the fact that you have been an effective watchdog for the society especially in holding public officers to account. It is sad that in the course of securing our democracy, some of your colleagues have had to pay a heavy price.

“We will continue to guarantee freedom of the Press as we place high premium on responsible journalism that is devoid of hate speech, fake news and other unethical professional conduct”.

He also stated that his administration is focused on ensuring that Nigeria will always be governed by the Rule of Law, just as he vowed to do his utmost best to uphold the constitution and protect the lives and property of all Nigerians.

He said, “Government has initiated a number of policies and programmes designed to promote the legal rights of Nigerians, facilitate the institutionalization of a responsive legal system, provide support to all constituted bodies in implementing their mandates and improve our custodial system of justice”.

President Buhari also attributed the recent spike in killings in Borno and Katsina States to Boko Haram and bandits taking advantage of COVID -19 restrictions.

 

He assured Nigerians that security agencies will bring the perpetrators of killings to justice.

According to him, ending insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones.

He said, “I regret recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno States as a result of criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions. Security Agencies will pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice.

“I must implore state and local governments to revamp their intelligence assets so that the Security Agencies can nip in the bud any planned attacks in remote rural areas. I send my heartfelt condolences to all the relatives and communities affected,” he added”.

Expressing regrets over the upsurge in rape cases in the country, President Buhari assured that the police will bring perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice.

According to him, Nigerian women remain a particular treasure to this nation and for this reason this Administration has continued to give them a place of pride in the affairs of the country.

He state: “I salute your courage, enterprise and resilience as well as your contributions to national development. I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation.

“I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape especially of very young girls. The Police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice”.

The President also stated that the 2020 celebration of Democracy Day marked 21 years of uninterrupted civil administration in the country, saying it has provided Nigerians the opportunity to reflect on their journey as a nation, as well as their achievements and struggles.

He regretted however that this year’s Democracy Day is being celebrated in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which has afflicted the country and the whole world.

Buhari said, “It is indeed a very difficult time for everyone especially those who have lost loved ones to the virus and those whose sources of livelihood have been severely constrained by the stringent measures we introduced at every level of government to contain the virus and save lives.

“The dedication of our health and other essential services staff towards containing this virus is a testament of our courage and resilience as a people and as a great nation, and I use this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for your service to the nation”.

The president further stated the year 2020 had been like none other, recalling that in January 2020, COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization.

According to him , there is no doubt that this pandemic has affected the global economy and all known socio-economic systems, adding that it has also brought grief and pain to families that have lost their loved ones.

“Like many Nigerians, I feel the grief and pain not only as your President but also as someone who has lost a close member of my staff and some relatives and friends”.

 

FG to Recognize Abiola As ex-President – Family

Meanwhile, the Abiola family yesterday demanded for an official recognition of the late chief MKO Abiola as an ex-president of Nigeria.

Speaking at the family house in Abeokuta, Ogun State, the head of the family, Chief Olanrewaju Abiola, implored President Buhari to give the late MKO the status of a president.

The late M.K.O Abiola was believed to have won the June 12, 1993 presidential elections.

Abiola said the recognition had become necessary for Nigerian leaders to rule in peace.

He commended Buhari for conferring a posthumous highest national honour of the Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR) on Late Abiola and recognising June 12 as Nigeria’s authentic Democracy Day.

He, however, urged the president to actualise the mandate that Nigerians gave to his late junior brother, Moshood, on June 12, 1993, by conferring an official status of an ex-president of the nation on him.

Abiola also demanded that all the entitlements that should have accrued to his late brother from 1993 to date should be fully paid to the family.

He called on Buhari to liase with the National Assembly to debate the issue and subsequently pass it as a law.

“On June 12, last year when I spoke with the president, he said he has given him the honour, but we want it in black and white.

“Let the members of the National Assembly debate it and pass it into law. Moshood was the bread winner of the family and since his death, the family members have been suffering,” he said.

 

Democracy Has Advanced Under PMB – Govs

Meanwhile, state governors yesterday lauded President Buhari for his efforts towards consolidating democracy and instituting good governance in the country.

Chairman North Central Governors Forum, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State noted that democracy has advanced under Buhari.

Bello, in a democracy message by his chief press secretary Mrs Mary Noel Berje, expressed optimism in the ability of President Buhari to continue to deliver service to the people and return the country on the trajectory of peace, progress and development.

He said the idea of changing Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12 by the president in honour of Chief MKO Abiola was not only an honour to the acclaimed winner of the 1993 election but to all those who struggled for the return of democratic rule in Nigeria.

The governor noted that the past five years of President Buhari had clearly demonstrated that Nigeria’s democracy has advanced through the respect of the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.

He urged Nigerians to support the president in his efforts to strengthen democracy and correct the institutional decay in the country by being law-abiding citizens and respect the constitution of the nation.

Yobe State governor, Alhaji Mai Mala Buni, said democracy has undoubtedly propelled speedy development in Yobe State which has to be sustained and improved upon for the betterment of the state and the people.

In a statement issued by his director-deneral of press affairs and media, Alhaji Mamman Mohammed, Governor Buni said Democracy Day should be used to appreciate Almighty Allah for the uninterrupted democratic governance enjoyed in the country.

“Yobe state has moved so fast with lots of programmes and projects executed by various governments which have improved the lives of our people,” the governor noted.

Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, assured Lagos residents that his administration was on course to deliver the ‘Greater Lagos’ he promised residents at inception.

The governor who reiterated his promise in a statewide broadcast to celebrate June 12, Democracy Day said the ‘Greater Lagos’ is a megacity that is fully and confidently a 21st century economy with modern infrastructure where everything works.

According to him, much has been done in fulfilling that promise in the past one year and that more still remains to be done to take Lagos to that envisioned great heights.

Kebbi State governor, Senator Abubakar Atiku Bagudu, commended President Buhari for including the state in the pioneer states to benefit from the presidential goldmining initiative, just as he vowed to continue to pursue an all-inclusive growth of the state.

According to the governor, “this has led to the healthy expansion of the state and had provided equal economic opportunities for all and sundry, across the state.

“We have deliberately mobilized the various sectors including agriculture, fisheries, agroprocessing and mining. There has also been massive employments generation, provided sustainable income and significant increase in outputs”, he added.

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