In this concluding part of the overview of the first anniversary of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, Group Political Editor Emmanuel Oladesu highlights the achievements of the regime and examines the gaps between expectations and government’s projections.
President Muhammadu Buhari has an uncompromising position on the anti-graft war. The anti-corruption mantra is achieving results. The fear of Buhari has become the beginning of wisdom. Past functionaries are being asked to give account. The due process of law is being followed. The anti-corruption battle, besides, not selective. The targets are corrupt public officers, irrespective of political parties, ethnic backgrounds and religious leanings.
The anti-graft bodies have also risen to the occasion, unlike when there was a lull in the hunt for financial criminals. More rigorous investigation of past officials suspected of fraud have been embarked upon by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the ICPC without witchhunting the suspects. According to observers, the anti-graft agencies are responding to the President’s ‘body language’. The Federal Government has reiterated its resolve recover stolen funds. But, suspected corrupt officials are fighting back. They have resorted to propaganda and blackmail. However, the President has developed a thick skin, which has enabled him to stay focused.
There are many startling revelations in the EFCC’s office and courts in the trial of suspected corrupt officials. Investigations are still on over the diversion of money for arms and ammunition to fight the Boko Haram insurgency. Looted funds are being recovered by the Federal Government. There is a pressure on government to release the names of those who have returned looted funds and the amount returned.
Corruption has dented Nigeria’s image. Despite the activities of the anti-graft agencies and the courts, unpatriotic Nigerians still exploit the loopholes in the legislations to evade justice. Others also exploit the alleged vulnerability of some judicial officers to undermine the war. To lawyers, a new legal framework is required for the anti-graft war. Many Nigerians have saluted the President for setting up the Sagay Committee to make salient recommendations on the way forward. APC National Legal Adviser Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN) has also raised a poser: How many structures do we have fighting corruption all over the place? He said: “EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau, Police, SSS, DMI are all fighting corruption. I believe this must be structured. We need a format. The Sagay Committee needs to give us the legal framework; look at all legislations for fighting corruption in Nigeria, analyse them. I think there is a need for realignment.”
Diversification of the economy
The drop in oil earnings has exposed Nigeria as a country without solid alternative sources of revenue. This reality has made the diversification of the economy non-negotiable. A financial expert, Dr. Alaba Olusemore, warned against the danger of over-dependence on a single product for national earning. Olusemore, the Managing Director of Nesbet Consulting, said: “The monolithic nature of the economy is unsustainable. We must immediately begin to initiate and sustain policies directed at economic diversification. We must look at manufacturing and agriculture, which have the potentials to create employment opportunities.”
The Buhari administration has reiterated its determination to invest heavily in agriculture and make it an income yielding sector while also providing employment for youths. The administration has recently obtained 15 billion dollars from China in aid if the sector. The Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu said: “If a country like China, with a population of over 1.4 billion, can provide food security for her citizens through mechanised farming, Nigeria with less than 200 million people could do the same.”
Dr. Kuku shared the same opinion. But, he said the government needed to do more in the sector before it can thrive.
He said: “Agriculture should be made attractive and it can only be attractive if it is profitable. Farmers’ farm produce rot away on the distant farms, in the absence of feeder roads. There is lack of immediate market for the products, which are mostly perishable. Government can assist in facilitating the marketing of agricultural products. Canning is also very important. Youths will not embrace agriculture, if the rural areas are unattractive because of lack of social amenities and if agriculture is unprofitable.”
Solid minerals development
The reality has dawned on the Buhari administration that the country can no more be salvaged by oil. Thus, Nigeria is now emulating countries that are reaping the fruits of diversification. Examples are China, India, Mexico and Indonesia. Nigeria has natural endowments, which remained untapped. These resources include bitumen, tin, copper, zinc, coal, gold, celica, clay and limestone. Others are laterate, cassilitrite, koolne stones, columbite and marble.
The President of Nigerian Mining and Geosciences Society, Prof. Olugbenga Okunlola, said Nigeria could earn more from solid minerals than oil. The University of Ibadan (UI) don lamented that despite Nigeria’s natural endowment, efforts have not been made to harness the natural resources besides oil. He pointed out that of the 44 non-oil resources available, at least 20 are of economic value.
“We suffer in the midst of plenty. If government puts just about 10 per cent of what is in oil and gas into the solid mineral sector, our national income will be more than triple. The MDAs in the Ministry of Steel and Mining will be richer than the NNPC. We are talking about 44 minerals with many more being added. In 2006, we were talking about 34 minerals. In eight years, we are talking about 44.
“If we have adequate data acquisition, we will have more minerals that will generate more incomes for us. If there is close monitoring, no gold will be smuggled out. Investors will come in. So, we are endowed and it is a shame we are not tapping into them.”
The Minister of Solid Minerals, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has been up and doing. His ministry is working on a new policy and a legal framework that will guide exploration and mining activities. Due to the neglect of the sector, illegal miners have been on the prowl. To the minister’s consternation, five million Nigerians are engaged in illegal mining. The minister’s aide, Yinka Oyebode, said: “The ministry is putting in place a mining road map that will define the standard practice in the sector.” Also, the ministry is partnering with governors and the host communities to ensure that environmental safety is accorded a pride of place. A machinery is being put in place to coordinate miners as they organise themselves into cooperative societies so that they can acquire licences and work legally.
The Ministry of Solid Minerals is also trying to woo investors by granting them tax holiday and making their equipment duty-free. It is also working with the Central Bank, the Bank of Industry and other banks to make funding available to miners. Banks are being encouraged to set up mining desks and guarantee them lease on equipment because mining equipment are expensive. The ministry is also working with the ministries of works, transport and interior to ensure a better investment environment and security.
Buhari’s priority is the repositioning of the power sector. But, in the last one year, nothing has changed in the sector. He is concerned about the problem in the oil sector. The president has apologised for the poor service delivery in the sector. The recent deregulation policy, whereby fuel price is being pegged to N145 per litre has been received with mixed feelings. Generally, there is the dearth of infrastructure facilities. Many roads are still death traps, leading to avoidable accidents.
The energy crisis has become a national albatross and an embarrassment. Power generation and distribution are a mirage. Although there was a glimpse of hope when President Buhari was inaugurated, the relative electricity supply has now been displaced by acute darkness. This explains the limitation to the efficacy of presidential body language. The saving grace is the generator. Yet, not all Nigerians can afford it. Power supply is fluctuating. It has now dropped to 2,140 megawatts. This has led to a high cost of production. The manufacturing sector is groaning. The result is the recurrent capital flight. An official of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN), Babatunde Odunayo, said the expansion programmes of the sector are hampered, making it difficult or impossible to assist in resolving the challenge of growing unemployment.
Eko Distribution Company Deputy Managing Director Ramesh Narayanan has listed the factors that inhibit the supply chain at the level of power generation, transmission and distribution. The impediments include inefficient and outdated technology and the dearth of a national grid. “This is responsible for the bottleneck hindering access from power source to the point of use, resulting in poor quality of supply,” he said.
There has been no respite in this critical sector. It is still ailing. Paradoxically, the sixth largest producer of crude oil is also an importer of oil for domestic consumption. The scarcity of fuel has persisted, resulting in the unmitigated agony of long queues at filing stations. Last month, the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr. Ibe Kachukwu, attributed the scarcity to sabotage. He said the fuel was being diverted. “I have had sleepless nights. I work round the clock to solve this problem. Over 30 per cent of fuel is diverted to Chad and Cameroon. You see people making money out of agony of NigeriansGovernment has only overcome a hurdle. The amount of crude oil being lifted and actual earnings from the crude oil can now be determined. But, refineries are at a low ebb, despite the huge investment on turn around maintenance. Oil theft has become a lucrative business, fuelling suspicion of an institutional cover-up. President Buhari cried out in London last week that, unless oil theft is listed as an international crime, the trend may persist.
Kachukwu has embarked on some reforms. He has reduced the number of subsidiary heads from eight to four. In his view, cutting costs will reduce efficiency and profitability. Oil subsidy may have been removed. But, deregulation too will require adjustment.
Another area of focus should be the health and capacity of the refineries. Should Nigeria continue to import fuel as outrageous costs when the refineries can be rehabilitated and bridge the gap? What has happened to the huge investment on maintenance? Which is a better option-importation of refined fuel or domestic production and distribution? What time frame is apposite for full domestic production?
Lamentably, federal roads are an eyesore. Many of them are abandoned projects. Project sites have been deserted by contractors. Where they stay back, there is hypocritical commitment to the job. The Federal Government is owing huge amounts of money to states for federal roads constructed by the states. The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN) has reiterated the determination of the Federal Government to complete the rehabilitation of the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway. The Calabar/Lagos Rail Project is one of the projects expected to be executed as from this year.
The Boko Haram insurgency, kidnapping, armed robbery and the activities of armed herdsmen are the main challenges. The country is still grappling with the terror sect. Although much success has been recorded and the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are returning home, the Chibok girls have not been liberated. Some of their parents are dying of psychological trauma. The camps for IDPs are not even insulated from terror attacks. Many investors are afraid to come to Nigeria because the security climate is cloudy.
President Buhari has taken proactive steps. Following his inauguration, he directed the relocation of the Army headquarters to the battle front in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. Although he directed the Armed Forces to end the menace in December, last year, the deadline could not be met. The Commander-In-Chief is ambivalent towards the option of dialogue with the terror group. In his view, dialogue could only be meaningful, if the abducted girls are still alive.
The President has visited the neigbouring countries-Cameroun, Niger and Chad-to solicit their cooperation for the sustenance of the Joint Task Force. More weapons have been procured in aid of the war. Last week, President Buhari announced plans to buy fighter jets from the United States to combat the terrorists. Now, the sect now is on the defensive by going after soft target. The government is also proposing the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the ravaged Northeast. The President has also directed security agencies to curtail the nefarious activities of herdsmen.
The international community has started changing its views about Nigeria’s image under Buhari. His avowed commitment to repositioning the country and fighting corruption has received almost universal applause. World powers have also given an assurance to assist the country to combat terror, encourage investment flow and boost diplomatic ties. The most applauded was President Buhari’s recent visit to China. The trip brought instant dividends: 6 billion dollar loan to finance infrastructural development, 15 million dollar for agricultural development and currency swap. But, critics fear that the loans will increase Nigeria’s foreign debt.
There is no indication that the Buhari administration will consider the national question. The restructuring of the country, the devolution or decentralisation of power, and state police are not on its agenda.