President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), have been under immense pressure to deliver on campaign promises. The expectation on Buhari has been high right from the day he was declared winner of the 2015 presidential poll. Many believe that Buhari’s leadership credential and his pedigree will do the magic of reversing the hardship in the country.
Armed with the APC manifesto, which he coalesced into three broad based areas of tackling insecurity, fighting corruption and revival of the economy, Buhari set about the onerous task given to him by Nigerians.
Public Affairs analyst Monday Ubani said the assessment of Buhari’s administration in isolation of the challenges of empty treasury and the economy that has virtually collapsed under the past administration would be inaccurate, imbalance and subjective.
Ubani, former Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association, Ikeja branch, recalled that the Buhari administration got the handover notes from its predecessor just four days before the inauguration. He added that this hampered the new government’s effort to have a clear understanding of the situation on the ground before taking the necessary measures to address it. The transition was not smooth, he reiterated.
The Buhari administration, he said, had its first Appropriation Bill signed into law almost a year after its inauguration. It had all along been operating the budget of the immediate past government.
“The programmes and projects President Buhari planned to execute in his first year in office are captured in the 2016 budget. It is unlawful and an impeachable offence to spend public fund not appropriated for by the National Assembly. Nigerians are right to demand quick and sustained action in addressing challenges besetting the country but it is important we put things in proper perspective for a better understanding”, the civil right activist posited.
Ubani noted that Nigeria has never before witnessed transition from ruling party to the opposition. What the country has been accustomed to is transition from one government to another under the same ruling party. The implication of change of guard courtesy of last year’s presidential election is that this is a new learning curve, with its attendant hiccups, he added.
Civil Rights activist Comrade Mashood Erubami agreed with Ubani. According to him, “in the course of reforming, repositioning and re-establishing the country, the Buhari administration has been confronted with huge challenges which slowed down the speed with which achievements would have been made”.
Erubami, President, Nigeria Voters Assembly (VOTAS), said: “Evaluating Buhari as a personality, and his government in the last one year requires that we are dispassionate, fair, objective and patriotic. Buhari has started to run a new government of change with strong political will with which he is addressing multiple problems facing the country”.
Tackling insecurity and
fight against terrorism
Shortly after Buhari’s inauguration, it was evident that tackling the Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast was a major priority of his administration. He immediately ordered the relocation of the Nigerian Military Command Centre to Maiduguri, Borno State, the epicentre of insurgency. He made moves to seek help from outside, such as visiting West African neighbours, the G7 in Germany, the African Union during the summit in South Africa and he also visited the United States on invitation of President Barack Obama. All were aimed at restoring confidence in the country’s leadership with allies which had frayed under his predecessor.
The result is the decision to deploy the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), headquarters in N’Djamena, Chad, on July 30, 2015 to pep up the fight against Boko Haram. This is the same force the past administration could not get off the ground in six years. The U.S. has also pledged five million dollars assistance for the fight against Boko Haram.
Veteran politician Dr Junaid Muhammed was full of praises for the Buhari administration in curtailing the Boko Haram insurgents, noting that the blood thirsty group has been decimated by the federal troops.
“If not for Buhari, God knows, Boko Haram would have taken over some states in the Northeast. The situation was frightening under Jonathan’s regime because of his intransigence and non-commitment towards fighting Boko Haram. The diversion of money meant for purchase of arms to prosecute war against terrorists under Jonathan was inhuman.”
Muhammed, a member of the House of Representatives in the Second Republic, noted that though the Boko Haram have not been fully eliminated but they have been incapacitated; they lack the strength to embark on full scale suicide mission of wreaking havoc on lives andproperty as they used to do before the advent of Buhari’s government.
Ubani expressed similar view. He said: “Buhari had incapacitated the insurgents; they don’t have the strength of striking at will any more. Before the assumption of office by Buhari, Boko Haram had taken over some Local governments and hoisted their flags in Borno State. Thanks to Buhari for his military strategies, otherwise the insurgents would have taken over Borno, Yobe and Adamawa by now.”
However, he observed that the upsurge of criminality in the Niger Delta is political. According to him, the criminals are sponsored to embarrass, distract and blackmail the Buhari administration. “The Federal Government should crack down on the criminals blowing up oil platforms and pipelines. They are saboteurs and should be treated like insurgents. The military should not wait for the President’s directive in dealing decisively with any form of insurgence or terrorism emanating from any part of the country. No section should hold the country into ransom. Hence forth, the military must secure all our vital assets including oil platforms, oil and gas pipelines 24 hours daily”.
But a youth activist Mr Fidelis Osunbor wants the President to give the Fulani herdsmen invading communities and killing people the same treatment being meted out to the Boko Haram terrorists. He commended Buhari for restoring relative peace in the Northeast.
The fight against corruption ranks very high on the list of the Buhari’s administration’s priorities. The President realised that without putting an end to the prodigious and sickening corruption in the country, he may not succeed in other areas. That explains why he keeps saying: “If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria”. To minimise corruption in the management of public funds, Buhari ordered revenue generating agencies to close all illegal revenue accounts and introduced Treasury Single Account (TSA) for remittance of all generated funds. This is a momentous step considering that those multiple accounts were used to siphon public funds. Through painstaking efforts of this administration, it was discovered that out of N8.1 trillion earned by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in three years, N3.8 trillion was not remitted to the Federation Account.
The $2.1 billion meant for purchase of arms and ammunition to fight Boko Haram terrorists were allegedly diverted by the former National Security Adviser (NSA) Col. Sambo Dasuki to finance the campaign expenses of former President Goodluck Jonathan; $115 million slush cash linked to the former Minister of Petroleum Resources Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke meant to bribe election officials were unearthed by the Buhari administration.
As one analyst put it, “the rot in the system inherited by the Buhari administration is sickening; the unfolding drama on daily basis is mind boggling. The President should be commended for working hard to plug all loopholes for siphoning public funds, in addition to recovering looted public funds.
Muhammed lauded Buhari for appointing Mr Ibrahim Magu Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). He said the choice of Magu has largely contributed to the success made so far in the anti-graft war.
“Magu has been pro-active and made a clear difference since he took over the leadership of the EFCC. He has recovered more money and assets from looters than EFCC did in the past 16 years. This was made possible because Buhari gave the commission free hands to operate and deal with the corrupt elements in the society.
“Since Buhari’s election on March 28, 2015, Nigeria has been moving fast to regain its deserve place in the comity of respected nations. Leaders who once shunned Nigerians have been inviting, in droves President Buhari to visit their countries”, the Kano born politician asserted.
A PDP chieftain Alhaji Umar Kura said Nigerians irrespective of political leaning should support Buhari in his anti-graft war.
“The on-going probe and the startling revelations on how the public funds were misappropriated are in the interest of this country. As a member of the PDP and like many other Nigerians, I couldn’t imagine the kind of financial recklessness that took place during the 2015 general elections. If the funds in question were spent on infrastructural development, we will not be where we are today.”
Kura, a lawyer urged Buhari not to hesitate to launch a probe into campaign funds of the APC so that the fight against corruption will not look sectional. He also advised the government to ensure diligent prosecution of the looters. If some of them are convicted, the Nigerian politicians that found themselves in power will sit up because they will realise that one day they will be held accountable for their deeds.”
In Erubami’s estimation, “the promise made by Buhari is alredy yielding results. Corruption has been made to become an unpardonable offence in Nigeria and those saddled with the fight against corruption are now up and coming in their responsibilities. High calibres of offenders are being raked into detention and being queried on their stewardship and very soon will find themselves in jails where they belong”.
Despite the laudable achievements of the Buhari administration in fight against terrorism and corruption, Nigerians are not impressed with the non-challant attitude of the administration to the economic hardship they are passing through.
Public Affairs commentator Dr Etok Bassey said the absence of a clear cut economic direction of the Buhari administration has aggravated the economic challenges in the country. Local and foreign investors are afraid of investing in the economy they are not sure of government’s policy on doing business; many entrepreneurs have closed shops because of high cost of production and laid off workers.
According to him, “the 2015 World Bank report ranked Nigeria 169 out of 189 countries with ease of doing business. To ordinary Nigerians, the cost of living is unbearable as prices of essential commodities skyrocket on daily basis, yet the government could not provide palliative measures to cushion the effects of the economic hardship. It took the APC-led Federal APC government almost a year to come out with a clear economic policy”.
However, The Nation‘s Forum on the Economy held in April, this year provided a platform for Vice President Yemi Osinbajo to unveil the much-awaited economic direction of the Buhari administration.
Osinbajo disclosed that the Federal Government’s blueprint would be based on a strategic implementation plan for the 2016 budget under six thematic key areas adding that the plan would focus on about 33 priority actions. The key areas listed are: Lasting changes in the policy environment, national security and governance; Diversification of the economy by fast-tracking industrialisation, agriculture and agro-allied processing, attracting investment into the solid minerals, tourism and entertainment sectors. Others are Priority critical infrastructure, focused on increasing investment in power, rail and roads; restructuring of oil and gas sector and providing enabling environment for ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Economic analyst Dr Fred Onyeabuchi agreed that the Buhari administration kept the international community waiting for long on its economic blue print. According to him the government inaction could scare genuine foreign investors. On the other hand, he said if the economic policy was released immediately Buhari was sworn-in, it will not make any difference because there was no budget to implement his programmes.
“Buhari operated the 2015 budget prepared by the former administration till the day the 2016 appropriation bill was signed into law this month. His economic programmes were not captured in the 2015 budget. He has just got his own budget which he will use to implement all projects and programmes contained therein.
“Nigerians should give the implementation of the budget a chance before criticising the Buhari’s economic policy. I believe if the budget was fully implemented, particularly the capital projects, it will improve the lots of the people. It is an ambitious budget that would transform the country if implemented accordingly,” he added.