The year is gradually grinding to a halt. In a few days, the momentous year will give way to new dawn; a year of decision and great expectations. But the year 2018 will be remembered for being that full of ups and downs. A year packed with events: the bad and the good in no small measures
As the nation prepares to enter a new year of promise, it is only trite to review the outgoing year in order to identify government’s achievements and point out its failures with a view to offering useful suggestions for the future. 2018 is instructive because it precedes an election year where stocks are expected to be taken. It is also the year of assessment of the incumbent.
Like a good teacher, who is also an examiner, President Muhammadu Buhari from the beginning in 2015 set for himself an examination and also provided the marking schemes for which he should be assessed. The time for the assessment has come at this twilight of his first tenure and grading of his performance would only spur him to better heights should he be fortunate enough to win the February 2019 Presidential election.
Just about four years ago, the President predicated his campaigns on the tripod of fighting corruption, insecurity and revamping the economy. Critics and admirers alike have constantly assessed him on these three issues and his success, and that of the ruling party’s All Progressives Congress (APC), at the oncoming polls will depend largely on the verdict of the people. In short, the outcome of the 2019 general election will be a referendum on his performance in office and other political office holders across the country.
Buhari became the President of the country when the security situation of the country was hanging on the cliff. The situation became so precarious that most privileged citizens considered the option of relocating abroad. In short, so many did. The dreaded Boko Haram insurgents had taken over certain parts of the country and the former President, Goodluck Jonathan’s administration seemed to have no solution to the challenges posed by the insurgents. The terrorists had succeeded in establishing their dominance in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states detonating bombs at will. They (Terrorists) have begun a southward invasion with Abuja not spared when the nation decided to vote for change and Buhari won.
In the last three and half years, the activities of the insurgents have been substantially curbed save for some isolated attacks on soft targets in the three restricted states. Sufficient troops have been deployed with international cooperation from the country’s neighbours of Niger Republic, Chad, Cameroon and Benin Republic to combat terrorism.
While ensuring the return of certain Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to their original communities, more than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages have been freed by the government from the insurgents’ nest, including 106 of the Chibok Girls abducted in April 2014, and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.
Others are the capture of Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters, “Camp Zero”, in Sambisa Forest, in December 2016 after which the Nigerian Army conducted its Small Arms Championship from 26th to 31st March 2017, a measure aimed at enabling the Armed forces to dominate the area, and avoid regrouping by the terrorists.
Even though the war is becoming difficult by the day because of its asymmetric nature, the troops are recording successes as it could have been worse had it been that the insurgents were allowed the liberty they had under the previous administration.
But the nation is far from being totally secure with different kinds of challenges coming at the heels on one another. Just when the troops were busy battling terrorists in the north east, bandits are striking hard in Zamfara state killing the innocents in hundreds.
While measures taken by the government to tackle this menace are acknowledged, there is the need to change tactics if the activities of these undesirable brutes are to be contained.
The issue of herders/farmers clashes leading to the decimation of the people, especially in Benue and some states in the middle-belt region requires more proactive measures. Critics are unanimous in their views that those service chiefs prosecuting the war against terror may have got to their wit’s end and therefore deserve to be rested and allow fresh minds to take over.
There seems to be an upsurge in the activities of kidnappers and increase in criminalities across the country and the government must put up its thinking caps to resolve this issue. To this extent, the nation’s security architecture must be overhauled. Neighborhood watch, state and provincial police are options to be explored.
In the fight against corruption, the government made landmark achievements by changing the status quo. People are now aware that there is a new sherif in town with success recorded with the Whistle-blower policy.
The policy, according to the government, has yielded several recoveries. These include N13.8 billion from tax evaders and N7.8 billion, $378 million, £27,800 in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistleblowers.
It also said the National Economic Council (NEC), under the Chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, approved the audit of key federal revenue generating agencies, which has so far yielded a total sum of N526 billion and $21 billion. The money was underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015.
Two former governors facing trial for graft have been convicted. Ex-governors Joshua Dariye of Plateau and Jolly Nyame of Taraba are currently cooling their heels in prison. Some aides to the President, including the former Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, were shown the way out of government owing to proven malfeasances. While Adeosun bowed out on the account of certificate forgery, Lawal got the boot for his alleged complicity in a grass-cutting scam.
Issues of poor remittances by ministries departments and agencies have also been addressed. For instance Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) which remitted only N51 million to government coffers between 2010 and 2016 turned in N7.8 billion in 2017!
The government has also signed agreements and MOUs with various countries to boost international cooperation for the “investigation, tracking, freezing and return of stolen assets”.
In order to stem the menace of financial hemorrhage in the payment of workers salaries in the name of ghost workers, the government gave priority to the deployment of the BVN for payroll and pensions entries. The use of BVN to verify payroll entries on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform has led to the detection of 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries.
It said it has also ensured the deployment of BVN system to serve as the verification basis for payments to beneficiaries and vendors in the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), the N-Power Scheme and the Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP).
But critics have continued to call on the President not to be selective in his avowed fight against corruption. They argue that he should adhere to the provisions of the rule of law even as he battle the menace. Critics maintained that any government that fails to obey court orders can not boast of fighting corruption in totality.
Due to the profligacy of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, there was little or nothing Buhari could do to save the economy from sliding into recession when he took over in 2015. But with suave management and prioritization of projects, the nation was able to exit recession in short while and was placed on the pathway of growth with the Economy Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) program.
The depleted foreign reserve inherited began to grow even with the dip in the price of crude at the imternational market. The government also diversified the economy by encouraging farming, especially rice farming. With this the importation of certain commodities including rice, millets, sorghum have since dropped with billions of foreign exchange saved. Millions of jobs have been created with noveau rich farmers emerging by the day.
The introduction of the Social Investment Program (SIP) has helped rejuvenate the economy thereby empowering the teeming unemployed youth in the country. Another variant of the program is the Tradermoni where indegent traders are accorded small loans to broaden the base of their businesses.
Not a few persons argue that there is hardship in the land with job loss being recorded. Figures coming from the nation’s National Bureau of Statistics indicated that the rate of unemployment in the country keeps bourgeoning. The latest is even are scary.
Many hold that the sudden increment in the price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) when Buhari took over affected the economy negatively causing hyper inflation and widened the poverty net. Already, the nation has been described as the world’s poverty capital. Extricating the country from this inglorious position is a task that must be done in this new year.