Buhari: Ending the era of rent
In his characteristic nature, when he had made up his mind to work against President Muhammadu Buhari’s leadership, former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo put his pen on paper and wrote a derogatory letter that castigated the incumbent government on many fronts.
In the letter, Obasanjo accused Buhari of performing below expectations and advised him against running in 2019. But today, the All Progressives Congress (APC) is re-presenting the president as its standard bearer in the coming election.
So, the first question now is, could Obasanjo have been justified in naming Buhari as a non-performer and urging him to quit the race? The second question is: does Buhari have enough to show for his achievements, such that he would convince the Nigerian electorate that he deserved their votes come 2019?
The second question has been answered over and over by the Minister of information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who disagreed with Obasanjo on the achievements of Buhari.
He once said to Obasanjo: “We have no doubt that in the face of massive challenges in this area, this administration has availed itself creditably. We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.”
While the government critics have opted to look away from some of the things the government did that have helped sustain Nigeria, those in government circles pride themselves as achievers for some successes recorded.
One of such is that Nigeria exited its worst recession in decades. After five quarters of negative growth, the economy bounced back into positive territory. Agriculture was one of the stars of 2017, posting consistent growth levels even throughout the recession. Also, Inflation fell for ten consecutive months during 2017 (February to November).
Nigeria saw bumper food harvests, especially in rice, whose local production continues to rise significantly. States like Ebonyi, Kebbi, and Kano led the pack, with Ogun joining at the end of 2017. The price of a 50kg bag of rice – a staple in the country – has fallen by about 30 per cent since the beginning of 2017, as local production has gone up.
It was not an easy task that the naira stabilised against the dollar, after the Central Bank introduced a new forex window for Investors and exporters. The stability has attracted billions of dollars in portfolio investments since April 2017.
On the back of a stable naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 per cent.
The federal government launched a N701 billion Intervention Fund (Payment Assurance Programme) aimed at supporting power generation companies to meet their payment obligations to gas and equipment suppliers, banks and other partners.
The impact is being felt as the amount of power being distributed is now currently steady at around 4,000MW – higher than previously recorded.
As a way of making peace across the nation, the federal government began paying pensions to police officers, who were granted presidential pardon in 2000 after serving in the former Biafran Police during the Nigerian Civil War. These officers, and their next of kin, have waited for their pensions for 17 years since the presidential pardon.
Nigeria has continued to improve on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings. It has climbed about 45 places lately and earned a place on the list of top 10 reformers in the world.
Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves keep growing. As at June 2018 the reserves rose with some 0.27 per cent, thus increasing the figure to $47.62bn. This is going by the Central Bank data. This more than tripled the $12bn highest level since 2014.
With the approval by the National Economic Council for a fresh cash injection of $650m (N198.25 billion) into the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), managers of the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), Nigeria’s savings in the fund since its establishment seven years ago has risen to $2.15 billion and this amount is less income generated by the NSIA from investments in various asset classes across the three funds managed by the authority.
Nigeria successfully issued two Eurobonds (US$4.5bn), a Sukuk Bond (100 billion Naira), a Diaspora Bond (US$300m), and the first Sovereign Climate Bond in Africa, raising billions of dollars for infrastructure spending.
The federal government launched a tax amnesty scheme, Voluntary Assets and Income Disclosure Scheme (VAIDS), to raise hundreds of millions of dollars and when the nine-month tax amnesty programme closed in March 2018, it had achieved the desired remarkable strength in raising the federal government’s tax revenue and voluntary tax remittance by individuals and corporate organisations.
In June 2018, the chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), Babatunde Fowler said the country has raised N30 billion from individuals and corporate establishments through the tax amnesty scheme.
He said 90 per cent of the amount was collected by FIRS, while the remaining 10 percent was recovered by the states and that the national taxpayers’ database had increased from 14 million in 2016 to over 19 million in 2018. So, he was optimistic that it would translate into a positive growth in the country’s tax revenue to GDP ratio.
The federal government implementation of whistleblowing Programme has so far led recoveries of tens of millions of dollars and it has curbed impunity.
Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever was rolled out across dozens of states. Currently, 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily; 200,000 unemployed graduates enlisted into the Npower Job Scheme, and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the number of Nigerians facing food insecurity in the North-east dropped by half.
The Nigeria Customs Service recorded her highest-ever revenue collection, crossing the One Trillion Naira (N1, 000, 000, 000) mark. The target for 2017 was 770 billion Naira (N770, 573, 730, 490); 2016 Collection was just under 900 billion (N898, 673, 857, 431. 07).
As an indicator of the change of attitude among the president’s lieutenants, the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the federal government whereas the total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was N51 million.
Two thousand and seventeen was also the year of Nigeria’s agriculture revolution. The Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI) and the Anchor Borrowers Programme were successful. More than a dozen moribund fertiliser blending plants were revived under the PFI last year.
As the government approaches the 2019 general election, it boasts of a number of important infrastructure projects in power, rail and road, and they are expected to come on-stream or inch close to completion this year.
Therefore, it is right to conclude that this government has not done enough, especially considering the extent of corruption and the systemic decadence it had to contend with at the onset of the tenure, but certainly, it has not failed. Indeed, it has been able to tame the rent culture and the future of the country will be better for it.
Onochie wrote from Enugu
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