When Buhari shared facts, figures of governance for public scrutiny
With about a year and half to the end of its tenure, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration recently opened its books for public scrutiny. The event was meant to provide the opportunity for independent evaluation and appraisal of the federal government since it began its reign.
The event, held at the State House Conference Centre, Presidential Villa, Abuja, attracted the presence of President Buhari; Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha; President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing; cabinet ministers; permanent secretaries, representatives of foreign countries and special guests from all walks of life.
The government used the mid-term ministerial performance retreat, the second in the series, to showcase facts and figures about its performances, and in the bid, attempted to score a point on accountability and transparency.
For those saddled with responsibilities of implementation, they seized the moment to identify where they stood, provided the national leadership with fresh insight and gave members of the public opportunity to track and understand development in various sectors of the economy.
According to the government, “Total number of contracts, policies and briefs/notes approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) between November 2015 and August 2021 stands at 1,403, comprising 878 contracts, 319 policies and 206 briefs/notes. The 878 contracts approved by FEC have mostly targeted the provision of infrastructure, with a view to fast-track economic growth and development.
While underscoring the fact that his government strived to recover from the slowing down of the economy as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown, President Buhari, in his opening speech, noted that there were adjustments to policy approaches and methods of working to achieve the objectives of his government in the nine key priority areas.
Those nine listed priority areas are: to stabilise the macro-economy, achieve agriculture and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, improve transportation and other infrastructure, drive industrialsation focusing on SMEs, enhance social inclusion and reduce poverty, fight corruption and improve governance as well as provide security for all citizens.
The president went on to list some of his government’s achievements, which included, among other things, the establishment of InfraCo Plc in 2020 as a world class infrastructure development vehicle wholly focused on Nigeria, with combined debt and equity take-off capital of N15 trillion, to be managed by an independent infrastructure fund manager.
He noted also that the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) was also established in 2020 with more than $1billion in funding and there was also the Nigeria Innovation Fund by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), which was designed to address investment opportunities in the domestic technology sector: data networking, datacenters, software, Agri-tech, Biotech, and the likes.
Buhari listed the 11.9km Second Niger Bridge, 120km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 375km Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano expressway and the East West Road as some of the efforts targeted at improving transportation in the country.
“Our administration has made tremendous progress on railway projects in the country. Upgrading of our railway network is being extended with the recent completion of the Lagos – Ibadan line. The Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line has finally been completed and commissioned after 30 years of its conception,” he said.
The President assured people that work would soon commence on the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri line and Calabar-Lagos Coastal Line to connect the southern and eastern states of the country, adding that there was noticeable progress in the upgrade of the country’s airports, with the state-of-the-art facilities in line with world class safety standards.
“On the economy, we witnessed three consecutive quarters of growth, after negative growth rates recorded in the second and third quarters of 2020. The GDP grew from 0.8 per cent in 2017 to 2.2 per cent in 2019, but declined in the first quarter of 2020, as a result of the downward trend in global economic activities triggered by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“As at Second Quarter 2021, GDP growth rate was at 5.01 per cent, the highest since the inception of this administration. On the power sector, implementation of a ‘Willing Buyer-Willing Seller’ policy has opened opportunities for increased delivery of electricity to underserved homes and industries.
“We are also executing a number of critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, which will result in achieving the national goal of improved power supply by 2025,” Buhari noted.
The President, however, reckoned that by signing the Petroleum Industry Bill, 2021 into law on August 16, 2021, and directing the implementation committee to complete processes for successful operation of the Act within 12 months, his government had put in place, a legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, and for the development of host communities.
According to him, “As part of the efforts towards strengthening our national security, we have increased investments in arms, weapons and other necessary equipment; expanded the National Command and Control Centre to 19 states of the Federation; and established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund, which will significantly improve funding for the Nigeria Police Force.
“We have also approved the sum of N13.3b for the take-off of community policing initiative across the country, as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at enhancing security nationwide.”
Expressing satisfaction that Nigeria recently received six A-29 Super Tucano aircrafts as part of efforts to boost the nation’s campaign against insecurity, Buhari stated that in the bid to address Nigeria’s over-dependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics, he has instructed the Defence Ministry 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.”
Buhari highlighted the official database for the implementation of Conditional Cash Transfer programme, by one million additional households and the establishment of N75b Nigerian Youth Investment Fund created to boost the Nigerian economy through leverage and access to finance for youths. He said this was part of government’s efforts to empower the youth and other vulnerable groups through the expansion of the National Social Register.
He implored ministers to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries to ensure accelerated and effective delivery of the policies, programmes and projects in their respective priority areas.
An important takeaway from the programme was the content of a slide presentation that showed the performance indexes of corresponding ministries with the priority areas in the context of the deliverables set for 2023.
The presentation tracked performances of government agencies in actualising set goals. While some of the policy projects are up and running, there were some yet to be kickstarted or were not moving at expected speed due to specified conditions.
It was against this backdrop that the retreat advised ministries to reprioritise and focus more on deliverables that have the highest impact on respective priority areas that could be delivered by 2023, ensuring capacity, strengthening the PRS department in MDAs, while focusing on target setting, tracking and reporting.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) was also urged to expand their scope to include key outcome metrics that measured the impact of nine priority areas, while ministries and their agencies were encouraged to set up mini delivery units to improve systems and process of tracking and reporting on their deliverables.
The SGF, Mustapha, expressed optimism that through the bilateral meetings and high-level engagements organised earlier in 2021 to sensitise leadership of all federal ministries on the new results framework and the performance management system, there were reliable evidence that MDAs had a better understanding and appreciation of how their ministerial mandates contributed directly to the priority areas and the possible impact of their activities on the lives of Nigerians.
Itemising some of the performances of the Federal Executive Council, SGF said during this second term of President Buhari from May 29, 2019 to August 31, 2021, the FEC has held 52 meetings and granted 579 approvals comprising 381 contracts, 110 policies and 88 briefs/notes.
“In the same vein, the analysis also showed that the government remained focused on its cardinal responsibility of responsively addressing the myriads of needs and challenges of its citizens through the 319 approved policies initiated during the period.”
Speaking outside of the retreat, where he analysed the importance of the exercise, SGF said, “The objective of the retreat was to remind ourselves of the three cardinal objectives of the administration: security, economy and corruption.
“Prior to the retreat, in 2019, we developed nine priority areas, which were supposed to deal with the myriads of problems we have in this country. That’s from stabilising the economy – macro-economy to security for all. The objective of the retreat was achieved in evaluating and analysing, and how we have come thus far. We were quite satisfied that we have done remarkably well and as for that, by independent assessors.
“If you noticed, the entire workings of the retreat was facilitated by my office in terms of attendance and ensuring that all the submissions were made. A British agency helped us in developing the dashboard – the performance management. So, what we have done is to coordinate this thing and ensure government is run as one business, so, everybody knows what is happening in terms of the nine priority areas and to also evaluate, where we are in terms of the deliverables and routinely, I’ll make that available to the President. So, that’s the objective of the retreat and I can say to a large extent, that we have succeeded in that.”