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Buhari’s scorecard on the slab, five years on

By Onyedika Agbedo
13 June 2020   |   4:22 am
On May 29, this year, when President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration clocked five years in office, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party...

President Buhari

On May 29, this year, when President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration clocked five years in office, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) had no kind words for the administration and the party that brought it to power, the All Progressives Congress (APC) as regards their achievements.

National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Uche Secondus, had described President Buhari’s five years in office as a waste and a road Nigerians should not have taken.

Secondus in a statement titled ‘Five years of Buhari: The road that should not have been followed’, argued that “in the last five years, all negative indexes in our socio-political and economic life as a nation were activated.

“Looking back as a nation at the progress recorded in this country’s democratic journey in 2015 and where we are today, it would be difficult not to have a regret. All gains after independence, the civil war as well as the era the PDP successfully midwifed the nation’s democratic evolution up to the point of successfully seeing an opposition win and transit into power, have been destroyed,” he added.

Aside from the PDP, many analysts had also scored the administration very low in the areas of fighting corruption and insecurity, and creating jobs for the teeming youths of the country, among others. Nevertheless, many were of the opinion that while the administration may not have completely met the expectations of Nigerians, it has impressed in certain areas.

A Presidency source who spoke with The Guardian on the issue noted that the argument about what Buhari has done or not done in the last five years was in order. He, however, faulted those who said the President has achieved nothing so far.

The source was quick to point at the anti-corruption and transparency drive of the administration, arguing that those saying Buhari has not impacted the area positively do so out of lack of facts. He noted that the introduction of the Whistleblowing Policy and the Treasury Single Account (TSA) have had far reaching positive impacts on the anti-corruption thrust of the administration and consequently on the economy.

The source said: “The Whistleblowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 2016 has since then yielded several billions of naira in recoveries from tax evaders and public officials. In the first two years alone, it yielded N7.8 billion, US$378 million and £27,800 in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistleblowers.

“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 (CBN) on or before September 15, 2015.

“The TSA system was launched in 2012, but failed to gain traction until President Buhari’s executive order in August 2015. As of May 2018, the TSA system has been implemented in 92 per cent of all 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 operationalise 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 CBN   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.”

He said the country has benefitted from the TSA in terms of improved transparency and accountability in the management of all Federal Government’s receipts by providing a consolidated view of government’s cash flow; blocked the leakages and abuses which hitherto characterised public finance management in Nigeria; and ensured availability of funds for the execution of government policies, programmes and projects, among others.

Another point raised is the administration’s commitment to upgrade and develop Nigeria’s transport, power and health infrastructure.

“Three major rail projects inherited from previous administrations have been completed and commissioned – Abuja Metro Rail and the Abuja-Kaduna Rail, and the 327 kilometre Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail, started in 1987, have been completed in 2020. A fourth rail project, the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, kicked off in 2017, and is due to be completed in 2020. The track laying for the main component of the project was completed in March 2020. Abuja’s Light Rail system has been completed; it connects the city centre with the airport, and the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Line.

“In May 2018, the Federal Government launched the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), under the management of the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority. The PIDF kicked off with seed funding of US$650 million, and has already disbursed funds for three critical road projects – Second Niger Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway,” he explained.

The source listed 25 road projects being funded by the Federal Government through SUKUK Bonds to include construction of Oju/Loko–Oweto bridge over River Benue to link Loko (Nasarawa State) and Oweto (Benue State) along route F2384; dualisation of Abuja–Abaji–Lokoja Road section I (International Airport link road junction–Sheda Village); dualisation of Suleja–Minna Road in Niger State Phase II (km 40+000-km101+000); rehabilitation of outstanding section of Onitsha–Enugu Expressway: Amansea–Enugu border; rehabilitation of Enugu–Port Harcourt dual-carriage Section I: Lokpanta–Umuahia in Abia; rehabilitation of Enugu–Port Harcourt dual-carriage Section II Umuahia tower–Aba Township Rail; and rehabilitation of Enugu–Port Harcourt Road Section III: Enugu–Lokpanta, among others.

On security, it is said that the Buhari administration has rolled out the most significant response to Nigeria’s multifaceted security challenges since 1999, with emphasis on how the country’s law enforcement agencies have significantly scaled up their footprints across the country. These comprise Operation Whirl Stroke in the North Central, Operation Ex-Swift Response in border areas, several new Forward Operating Bases, Quick Response Wings, Commando Training Schools, and so on, and deployments of Special Forces.

Referenced also is the revitalisation of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) towards combating trans-border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency which is believed to have been rewarding even though there are still challenges.

“Let me give you some instances. El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club returned to their home base in Maiduguri in April 2016, two years after relocating to Katsina State because of the insurgency. The Emirs of Askira and Uba returned home in May 2016, two years after fleeing their palaces on account of the Boko Haram insurgency. Public Secondary Schools resumed in Borno State on September 26, 2016, after two years of closure. Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno Roads reopened in December 2016 after being closed for three years. Arik Air resumed flights to Maiduguri in May 2017, three years after suspending operations to the city. Nigerian Military reopened Maiduguri-Bama-Banki Road in March 2018, four years after Boko Haram seized it.

“In the North Central and North West, in May 2018 the Defence Headquarters kicked off ‘Operation Whirl Stroke’ (OPWS) featuring a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), comprising Regular and Special Forces personnel from the Army, Air Force and Navy, and working in collaboration with the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Security (DSS) and Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) to counter armed herdsmen and militia groups operating in and around Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states. OPWS has been very successful in restoring calm to its area of coverage,” he said.

Another source who is very familiar with the administration’s footprints in the agricultural sector, told The Guardian that the nation was gradually attaining self-sufficiency in food production.

“The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the CBN launched on November 17, 2015, has made available more than N200 billion in funding to more than 1.5 million smallholder farmers of 16 different commodities (rice, wheat, maize, cotton, cassava, poultry, soy beans, groundnut, fish), cultivating over 1.4 million hectares of farmland. The ABP has substantially raised local production of rice, doubling the production of paddy as well as milled rice between 2015 and 2019. Between 2016 and 2019, more than 10 new rice mills came on-stream in Nigeria. Many of the existing mills have expanded their capacity; several new ones are under construction. More than a billion dollars of private sector investments in the production of rice, wheat, sugar, poultry, animal feed, Fertilizers, etc, since 2015.

“The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative was launched in January 2017, as a government-to-government agreement with the Kingdom of Morocco. More than a million metric tonnes of fertilizer has been produced since 2017. This translated to distribution of more than 18 million 50kg bags of NPK fertilizer in the first three years of the PFI. Twenty-two blending plants have been resuscitated with combined installed capacity of more than 2.5m MT. This has resulted in price reduction from N9,000 to N11,000 per bag to N5,500 and foreign exchange savings of $150m annually through the substitution of imported components with locally manufactured ones.”

The source added that the revolution in the agricultural sector has created millions of jobs in the same way the administration’s support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) has done.

“The Administration has launched a series of funding and capacity development initiatives designed to support MSMEs. The new Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) has finally taken off, with initial funding of US$1.3 billion (N396.5 billion) to provide medium and long-term loans to MSMEs. Since 2017, the DBN has disbursed a total of N100 billion through the bank’s 27 Participating Financial Institutions (PFIs) impacting more than 100,000 MSMEs. Fifty two per cent of loans disbursed in 2019 were to youths and women owned businesses,” he said.

From the foregoing, it is clear that while it is not yet uhuru for Nigerians under Buhari, it has not been all woes either.