As the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari enters its second half, analysts contend that it’s time to make legacy-defining projects and policies.
To speed up the implementation of the president’s programme and policies the office of the secretary to the government of the federation organised a midterm ministerial retreat.
The retreat was also an occasion for the president to give his report card for the last six years and also layout targets for the next two years to leave behind a lasting legacy.
Since 2019 when the President formed his cabinet, only two ministers have been relieved of their appointments- the ministers of power and agriculture.
Interestingly, the nine priority areas set out by the administration include: building a thriving and sustainable economy, enhancing social inclusion and poverty reduction; enlarging agricultural output for food security and export as well as attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products.
Others are expanding transport and other infrastructural development, business growth, entrepreneurship, and industrialisation; access to quality education, affordable healthcare, and productivity of Nigerians.
The administration has also prioritised building a system to fight corruption, improve governance and create social cohesion as well as security for all.
In giving an appraisal of the last six years of President Buhari, secretary to the government of the federation, Boss Mustapha disclosed that President Buhari’s administration approved 878 contracts in the past six years.
According to him, most of the contracts are targeted at the country’s infrastructure to boost economic growth and development.
In terms of the performance of the Federal Executive Council, the SGF acknowledged that the last two years have been most productive.
He said “during this 2nd Term of Mr. President from May 29, 2019, to August 31, 2021, the Federal Executive Council held 52 Meetings and granted 579 Approvals comprising of 381 Contracts, 110 Policies and 88 Briefs/Notes.”
Similarly, on his part, President Buhari assured Nigerians that the 11.9km Second Niger Bridge, 120 km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and other key projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) will be completed within the second term of this administration.
He used the occasion of the retreat, the third edition since the second term of his administration, to highlight some of the Federal Government’s notable achievements in the last two years.
He listed accomplishments in the areas of infrastructure, transportation, economy, electricity supply, the petroleum industry, among others.
On security, President Buhari announced that the Ministry of Defence has been instructed to create a modest military-industrial complex for the local production of weapons to meet some of the requirements of the country’s armed forces.
The President explained that the establishment of the industrial complex would address Nigeria’s over-dependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics.
He said the project is being implemented under the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), a military department responsible for arms manufacture.
However, the most controversial highlight of the retreat was the call by vice president Yemi Osinbajo on the Central Bank of Nigeria to allow the naira to reflect the realities of the market. According to him, the exchange rate is artificially low, saying this is deterring investors from bringing foreign exchange into the country.
The vice president’s comments were met with knocks and criticism from experts who questioned the motive behind calls for naira devaluation in view of the present economic realities.
The vice president had to make clarifications that he never called for the Naira to be devalued rather he said he argued, at all times, against a willy-nilly devaluation of the Naira.
His spokesman, Laolu Akande said “For context, the Vice President’s point was that currently, the Naira exchange rate benefits only those who can obtain the dollar at N410, some of who simply turn round and sell to the parallel market at N570.
“It is stopping this huge arbitrage of over N160 per dollar that the Vice President was talking about. Such a massive difference discourages doing proper business, when selling the dollar can bring in 40% profit!
“This was why the Vice President called for measures that would increase the supply of foreign exchange in the market rather than simply managing demand, which opens up irresistible opportunities for arbitrage and corruption.”
One of the keynote speakers at the event, president of the African Development Bank Group, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, stated that Nigeria must decisively tackle its debt challenges.
Adesina said the debt service to revenue ratio of Nigeria is high at 73 per cent.
He further stated that what is needed for sustained growth and economic resurgence is to remove the structural bottlenecks that limit the productivity and the revenue earning potential of the huge non-oil sectors.
The AfDB president further said Africa should be producing and not begging for vaccines.
According to him, the African Development Bank will invest $3 billion in support of local pharmaceutical industries in Africa, including in Nigeria.
He also said it is the lack of rain that is leading to low food production.
“A little, maybe. That it is insecurity. Yes, maybe, to some extent. That it is middlemen. A little, maybe.
“But, Mr. President, the main reason is that farmers no longer have access to quality improved seeds, fertilizers, and farm inputs at scale.
“Farmers across the country are asking for the federal government to restore in their words “the popular Growth Enhancement Support Scheme and the e-Wallet system.
“I would like to urge, Your Excellency Mr. President, please relaunch the ‘Growth Enhancement Scheme’ and the e-wallet system and put millions of farmers at the heart of agriculture – at scale. If this is done, and run well, I can assure you that you will see a dramatic turnaround in national food production,” he added.
He also advised that Nigeria should make its youth the drivers of the new economy through the creation of Youth Entrepreneurship Investment Banks, that put new financial ecosystems around them to fully unleash their potential.
According to him, one of the industries that will dominate the future is the FinTech industry. By 2030, 650 million Africans will have smartphones, and 50 million will have 5G phone networks. Digital payments, mobile money accounts, savings, credit, and money transfers will revolutionize businesses.
“Nigeria’s FinTech is surging as one the leaders in Africa today. Google recently announced plans to invest $1 billion in Africa. That tells you something: they see the demographic and mobile tech growth and how this will rapidly change the future of e-commerce, trade, health, and finance.
“The African Development Bank will support the Federal Government efforts, being led by Vice President Osinbajo, on Digital Nigeria. The Bank is preparing investment in the Digital and Creative Enterprises (I-DICE) program, a $600 million investment to be co-financed with several partners, which will promote entrepreneurship and innovation in the digital technology and creative industries.
“Nigeria should take the FinTech industry as a major driver of the economy and invest heavily in digital infrastructure, ”he added.
In his closing remarks at the retreat, President Buhari Tuesday directed cabinet ministers and permanent secretaries to redouble their efforts and work in synergy toward total delivery of this administration’s set target to improve the livelihood of all Nigerians.
The president also instructed the ministers to ‘‘ramp up implementation’’ of their mandates along with the Nine Priority Areas of this Administration.
The President also stressed the need for synergy between the fiscal and monetary authorities in the country to keep the economy on the trajectory of growth.
Buhari noted that intensive discussions at the retreat provided an opportunity to reflect on what this administration has done and areas it needs to improve and refocus attention.
President Buhari, therefore, directed the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) to immediately begin the process of convening quarterly coordination meetings for each priority area based on the collaborative results framework.
He explained that these meetings aim to ascertain the status of implementation across the nine priority areas, identify bottlenecks, and proffer immediate solutions.
‘‘All Ministers and Permanent Secretaries must be in attendance. These are not meetings to delegate,’’ he said.
Further, the President instructed the Office of the SGF to immediately commence engagement with stakeholders to agree and push forward a framework for the institutionalization of the Central Delivery Coordinating Unit.
Similarly, the President directed the Head of Service too, as a matter of urgency, invest in capacity strengthening of the Planning, Research, and Statistics departments in all MDAs.
‘‘This should be done in collaboration with the Central Delivery Coordinating Unit,’’ he said.
Underscoring the need for synergy between the fiscal and monetary authorities, the President assured Nigerians that this Administration will continue to implement fiscal measures to improve domestic revenues and mobilize external funding support to build a more resilient economy.