By Sen. Umaru Ibrahim Kurfi Senator, Katsina Central Senatorial District, National Assembly, Abuja.
For a long time I have contemplated writing this article in order to evaluate the performance and achievements of the APC-led Administration under President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR. My contemplation has been driven by two goals. The first is to evaluate the performance and achievements of the Administration so as to educate critics, opposition politicians, and the general public and have them to either change their minds, or be forced to depart from accusing the Administration to commending it for bringing about the transformative change Nigeria has so far witnessed. Secondly, I intend to draw the attention of Nigerians to the need to commend the APC-led Administration for changing Nigeria’s history from that of being a famous corrupt nation to that of an honest and faithful nation; from being a country whose corporate existence was threatened by galloping security and ethnic challenges to one that is acclaimed, even by the International Community, as a safe haven to foreigners and a choice destination for foreign investments; and from that of a country whose treasury was virtually empty with an economy on the verge of collapse to one whose economy is restored and buoyant, having strong and stable economic fundamentals.
Before I delve into my evaluation, I would like to review the state of the country just before the present APC-led Administration came on board. This review will make the reader appreciate the result of my evaluation. The review will also provide a good platform for the evaluation and a premise for a fair conclusion that the achievements are laudable in the face of prevailing suffocating challenges.
It was common knowledge that just before the Administration got to the corridors of power the country was in a worrisome pitiable state that loudly cried for rehabilitation. Nigeria was plagued by a weak economy characterized by a sub-optimally developed agricultural sector that could not guarantee national food security and provide industrial raw materials; a weak industrial sector known with closed factories, depleted foreign reserves, huge import bills, high rate of unemployment, and a heavy dependence on oil and gas for 65% of government revenue and 90% of foreign exchange needs; poor quality life depicted by low life expectancy at 52 years; high level of insecurity exacerbated by the insurgent activities of Boko Haram, armed robbers, assassins, and kidnappers; crippling, deep-rooted corruption in all facets of national life, and inadequate and decaying infrastructure evident in only 18% of the total 197,000km road network paved and motorable, an ineffective and inefficient railway system, the absence of a national airline, unreliable and unstable electricity supply that reached only 40% of households, citizens, and businesses for only 45 days annually, a wide digital technological gap, a battered education system having a very weak basic educational foundation and an unreliable tertiary framework.
Sadly, this parlous state of the country was the result of the 16 years of maladministration by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led Administration. It is salutary that within just three years, the All Progressive Congress, led by His Excellency President Muhammadu Buhari, has recorded achievements that have reversed the ugly national spectre.
The achievements recorded so far by the APC-led Administration have aligned with the manifesto of the Party, as summarised in President Muhammadu Buhari’s Covenant With the Nigerian People. This covenant was published just before the 2015 general elections. The document indicates that the Party was working to serve Nigerians in all areas of human endeavour with emphasis laid on three priority areas: restoring security in the country, fighting corruption, and repairing the economy. These were emphasised repeatedly during the campaigns and at the inauguration ceremony of the President. In consonance with this strategy, the Administration pursued the task of governance with great focus on the three priority areas. This focus has paid off with commendable successes recorded in those priority areas and the other aspects of governance, as indicated below.
It is a celebrated fact, today, that the APC-led Administration has significantly restored security all over the country, with special emphasis in the North Eastern Region of the country that had been ravaged by the insurgency orchestrated by the activities of Boko Haram members prior to the advent of the Administration. Within this short period of three years of being in power, the Administration has successfully degraded the murderous group, flushed them out of the territories they occupied, facilitated the return of displaced persons to their ancestral bases, and eased the resumption of economic activities. In addition, the Administration has secured the release of 103 of the abducted Chibok school girls, and all, but one, of the abducted Dapchi school girls. The militants in the Niger Delta region that vandalised oil pipeline infrastructure and hampered crude oil production and distribution activities were overpowered and their vandalism curbed. Consequently, the daily production and distribution of crude petroleum products were encouraged and increased, reaching 2.2mbpd from the 900,000bpd that the volume had fallen.
In the same vein, the unsettling activities of kidnappers, armed robbers, and cattle rustlers have been seriously addressed using special security squads that have been put in place. In addition, comprehensive efforts have been made to tackle and eliminate the deadly clashes between farmers and herders that have claimed thousands of lives and destroyed many valuable properties. The overall consequences are guaranteed safety and security on strategic routes and locations in the country.
The Administration has been able to achieve these through its systematic and methodical increase in the capacity, and the strategic equipping of the Nigerian Military and the other security agencies. The Tactical Command of the Nigerian Army moved its headquarters to the theatre of war in the insurgent-ravaged North Eastern Region. The Administration also deliberately funded, equipped, and enhanced the welfare of the military personnel involved in fighting the insurgents.
It is to the credit of the APC-led Administration that corruption has been fought headlong. So far, 35 top government officials of the regime preceding it are being tried for various charges of corruption. Many high profile personalities, including the Senate President, Sen. Bukola Saraki, and a serving Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, have been prosecuted for alleged corrupt practices. Also, one time Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. David Babachir Lawal, who is a bosom friend of the President, was removed from office when charges of corruption were levelled against him. To further demonstrate its sincere commitment to the fight against corruption, the Administration allowed a Former Governor of Adamawa State, Barr. Bala Ngglari, to be prosecuted and jailed, upon being found culpable of charges of corruption. Two other Former Governors, Senator Joshua Dariye, of Plateau State, and Rev. Jolly Nyame of Taraba State were also prosecuted, convicted, and sentenced to various prison terms for corruption and abuse of office .
The positive effects of this war include the re-orientation of the national psyche of Nigerians that has made the average Nigerian to loath being engaged in corrupt practices, and the discouragement of many Nigerians from flaunting their ill-gotten wealth through ostentatious expenditure. The propensity of public officers to abuse the public procurement procedure–an act that has hitherto given them access to enormous ill-gotten wealth, has been cut. Some of the corrupt public officers exposed have cooperated and facilitated the recovery of huge amounts looted which total over N3trillion.
To achieve this feat, the Administration enforced adherence to the provisions of existing financial guidelines, implemented approved guidelines, and formulated new policies. One of the approved policies implemented is the Treasury Single Account enunciated by its immediate predecessor. The administration directed all government establishments to close all their multiple bank accounts with money deposit banks, and operate one single account, along with other establishments at the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). A whistle-blowing policy was formulated to give citizens the cover to report suspected corrupt practices and their perpetrators.
Within these three years, the APC-led Administration has made appreciable efforts to diversify the economy by developing the agricultural, solid minerals, and manufacturing sectors, so as to dilute the dominance of the oil and gas sector in revenue generation and foreign earnings. It successfully formulated a Strategic Plan for the 2016 budget, Green Alternative: Agricultural Promotion Policy 2016 – 2020; Floating Exchange Rate regime; Roadmap for Solid Mineral Development; Manufacturing Policy; and Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP). Their implementation has resulted in the under-mentioned achievements.
The Administration has impacted positively on agriculture through many of its policy actions which include the reactivation of 14 moribund fertilizer blending plants in order to boost the supply of fertilizer. It has mounted two strategic credit schemes, the Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing Agricultural Scheme (NIRSA), and Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, through which N75billion and N40billion agricultural loans have been respectively granted to subsistent farmers all over the country. Consequently, agricultural productivity and products have increased, with rice production yield improving from 2-3 tonnes per hectare to 5 – 6 tonnes, leading to the attraction of N300billion investment in the rice production chain that has influenced the establishment of eight new rice mills, and a reduction in rice importation from Thailand from 1.23million metric tonnes a year to 23,192 metric tonnes. This has also led to increased agriculture-based earnings, the emergence of several local rural–based multi-millionaires, and increased engagement in agricultural activities by Nigerians. It is clear that Nigeria has commenced its march towards self-sufficiency in food production, food security, and nutrition security.
Solid mineral mining activities have increased as a result of the establishment of a regulatory institution to streamline activities in the sector; the plan to invest $7billion in the sector in the next decade; encouragement given to foreign investors with incentives including tax holidays; reclaiming Ajaokuta Steel Complex from the Indian Company, Global Steel Holding Limited, that had earlier acquired it; and the renegotiation of the concession agreement entered into with the Indians on the Nigerian Iron Ore Mining Company, Itakpe. The Administration has also assigned states the special role of granting consent before issuing mining licenses, and giving them 13% solid mineral-related revenues generated in their respective jurisdictions. These have combined to make the sector to increase its contribution to the Federation Account from N700million in 2015 to N2bn in 2016, and N3.5bn in 2017.
It is heart warming to note that the level of manufacturing activities has improved following the laying of a solid foundation for domestic manufacturing with N95bn loan granted to 400 enterprises as a segment of the N149bn Government Enterprises Empowerment Programme (GEEP), N426million loans granted to 253 NYSC members under the Graduate Enterprise Programme, easing doing of business in Nigeria that has led to the commencement and conclusion of business registration online within 48 hours, and effectively addressing and removing the impediments to access loans, certification of products, issuance of visas, and import inspection for prospective Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs). In addition, the Administration has issued Executive Orders aimed at promoting the procurement of locally produced goods and services by government agencies and increasing Nigerian content in contracts. This development has earned Nigeria an upward movement by 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rating, and has made the country to be on the List of 10 Most Improved Economies.
The tempo of manufacturing activities is expected to increase further, with the activities of the recently established Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN), which has been funded with an initial $1.3billion in order to provide medium to long-term loans to Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs).
Power generation and distribution, which have been one of the critical bottle-necks impeding development in the country, have improved, following the access of a loan of $237million from the World Bank for the improvement of power generation and supply, the repairs of strategic equipment at the Jebba, Kainji, and Shiroro hydropower stations, the installation of three 150MVA transmitters at the Shiroro, Oshogbo, and Kumbotso sub-stations, and the launching of two expansion programmes: the expansion and rehabilitation of grid capacity by 50% leading to an increase from 5000MW in 2015 to 7,125MW in 2018, and Distribution Expansion Programme (DEP) in February, 2018, to deliver 2000 MW of unused power capacity to consumers in need. When the Mambilla hydropower project, which has been resuscitated, is completed, the benefits from developments in the power sector to the Nigerian economy will be enhanced.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been made to be more profitable and prompt in remitting oil proceeds to the Federation Account, following the stepping up of reforms in the corporation, a sanitisation of the downstream and upstream sectors of the fuel supply and distribution system, increased reliance on NNPC for fuel with the goal of ending fuel importation in 2019, restoring peace in the Niger Delta Region, and securing exemption from the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) for oil production output cuts so as to stabilise the oil market, and boost global oil prices for six months– which led to oil price rise above $50pb. These developments also aided the stabilisation of fuel pump price at N145/litre. The gains recorded will increase with an effective operationalisation of the $80bn Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) entered into with Chinese investors for the development of oil and gas industry infrastructure.
Even though the value of the Naira has depreciated greatly, following the introduction of the floating exchange rate regime the exchange rate has stabilised around N360/$1 in the interbank market. The recent opening of a new window for exporters and investors has attracted $45bn into the country after one year of operation. This is an indication that there is now rising investor interest in Nigeria by foreigners. 41 items have remained banned for import, and are disqualified to be allocated foreign exchange.
Within these three years of being in power, the APC-led Administration has succeeded in reversing the ugly precarious national financial position which took the country to be on the precipice, about to collapse, by increasing the haulage of financial resources through improved tax administration, effective access to the capital market, and prudent deployment of available resources. Within this period, the tax base was broadened with 5million additional tax payers pooled into the tax net, thereby raising the tax base to have 19million tax payers, and making non-oil revenue generation to rise to N1.17tn in the first quarter of 2018. In addition, the Administration carefully modified its access to the capital market by de-emphasising its patronage of Treasury Bills in preference for lower-cost and longer-term external financing, especially Eurobonds and concessional loans from China. From these instruments, the Administration was able to raise $7.3bn by issuing Eurobonds in 2017/18 to fund the 2017 budget and finance maturing Treasury Bills and lower the cost of borrowing. It also raised $300m from the first Diaspora-targeted Eurobond, issued to augment the funding of the 2017 budget. N10bn was also raised from the African Sovereign Green Bond Programme in order to finance climate change-related infrastructure development projects.
Buoyed by these haulages, the Administration was able to spend N2.7tn on capital expenditure in 2016 and 2017, in an unprecedented manner. That enabled it to cater for the resumed execution of many capital projects that had been abandoned by previous administrations, and proceed to embark on critical infrastructural projects, like the dredging of River Niger, construction of the second Niger Bridge, upgrading of airports, and the Mambilla hydro power project.
The Administration also supported the 36 States with N1.9trn in order to enable them to meet up with their salaries and pension obligations. It also credited the Sovereign Wealth Fund account with $500m in 2016 and 2017. This credit happened to be the first credit to the account after the launching of the Fund with the seed $1bn. A new national carrier, Nigeria Air, has been established.
The APC-led Administration has mounted a housing programme that has led to the commencement of the construction of houses for low and medium income earners with N10bn in all the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory (FCT)
The commitment to making Nigerians healthy has been demonstrated by the APC-led Administration, with the formulation and implementation of the following health-based policies: Rapid Result Initiative Programme; Better Health For All; National Health Policy; the establishment of 10,000 Primary Health Care Centres (PHCs) distributed across the 109 Senatorial Districts in the country; and granting of N420m to each of the 36 States and the FCT, for the rehabilitation of their PHC centres.
Being people-centric, the APC-led Administration has deliberately embarked on programmes that will ease the burden of survival for Nigerians and lift them out of poverty. The programmes are components of a Social Investment Programme, consisting of Home Grown School Feeding Programme, Youth Empowerment Programme, Conditional Cash Transfer, and Microcredit Scheme. Through the Home Grown School Feeding Programme, 8.2m pupils in 45, 294 public primary schools in 24 states of the Federation are being fed, with 80,000 jobs created; making 87,261 cooks to be employed. Using the Youth Empowerment Programme, code-named N-power, 200,000 youths, mostly unemployed graduates, have been engaged to provide services in selected sectors of the public service, and paid N30,000 monthly stipends. Arising from the popularity of the programme, arrangements are in top gear to include 300,000 more youths in it.
The Conditional Cash Transfer component of the programme has afforded 297,973 vulnerable families, spread in 9 states covering 84 local government areas, to be receiving N5000 monthly. The programme is designed to cover all the 36 states and the FCT. So, the number of beneficiaries is expected to rise to 400,000. A total of 303,420 beneficiaries, made up of Market Women, Traders, and Artisans are enjoying loans ranging from N50,000 to N350,000 to boost enterprise development as part of the Microcredit scheme. It is interesting to note that 56% of the beneficiaries are women. The loans are being disbursed from a N15.183bn fund earmarked by the APC-led Administration.
The combined effect of these achievements on the economy is growth in the priority sectors of agriculture and solid minerals, falling inflation rates, increase in exports and reduction in imports, increase in the external reserve of the country to a 5-year high of $45bn in 2018; and the prevalence of a stable macroeconomic environment.
These achievements recorded by the APC-led Administration are eloquent testimonies to the possession of the will to take measures that yielded those achievements. Hitherto, previous Administrations lacked the will to take the steps that the APC-led Administration has taken. Prominent among the measures taken are the degrading of Boko Haram, fighting corruption, formulating and implementing policies directed at diversifying the economy, addressing the need for critical needed by the citizenry—like the provision of functional physical, health, and educational infrastructure; ensuring the prevalence of peaceful, secure, and stable economic, social, and political environment; the re-establishment of a national carrier—Nigeria Air; and making Nigeria business friendly. Other measures are the banning of the importation of 41 items that can be produced and provided in the country, and the promotion of the purchase of locally made goods and services. The possession of this critical attribute distinguishes the APC from the other political parties.
It is plain, from the details of these achievements, that the APC-led Administration has been innovative in its approach to governance since it came to power. This is shown in the creative manner the Administration has gone to seek viable ways of solving teething national economic problems, especially financing development projects. These creative ways include de-emphasising the use of Treasury Bills and focusing on external capital markets and its use of the components of the Social Investment Programme in order tackle biting poverty. A careful use of these innovative ways will guarantee the maintenance of an effective and stable socio-economic environment.
A very close study of the achievements recorded shows that the APC-led Administration is prudent in the use of resources, and has mastered the art of “doing more with less”. The Administration came to the corridors of power when there was dwindling government revenue that ended in the APC-led Administration inheriting a virtually empty treasury. Yet, it managed to use the available resources to fund the capital components of the budgets it drew up, in an unprecedented manner, and resume the execution of abandoned vital capital projects initiated by previous Administrations. Some of these are strategic roads linking many parts of the country including the popular East-West Road, the second Niger Bridge, and the Kano-Maiduguri Dual Carriage Way. In this group are the completion of the Abuja- Kaduna Railway Line that is operational now, and the Abuja Light Rail project. There are also some strategic but abandoned projects that have been taken care of. It is heart-warming that $500m has been deposited into the account of the Sovereign Wealth Fund account to bolster the commonwealth of the citizens. It is common knowledge that wasteful, misguided, and misappropriated expenditure by previous Administrations hampered the development and growth of the country. The display of fiscal fidelity by this Administration has enabled it to record these achievements.
Unarguably, the achievements have impacted positively on the country. This can be seen and appreciated from three angles: the citizens, the country, and the external image of the country.
On the citizens, the impact is positive. This is because their pitiable plight, especially those of the very vulnerable, is being addressed squarely and carefully, with a view to eradicating it. Succour has already come the way of many Nigerians whose needs are being met through Conditional Cash Transfers. Besides, employment is being provided through direct employment and the N-power scheme. Businesses and practices of traders, artisans, and farmers are also being boosted through many empowerment programmes. These have led to the enrichment of many Nigerians. In addition, health services have now been brought very close to the doorsteps of citizens, with the establishment of many PHC facilities, which have enhanced access to the services and their health. The multiplier effects are improvements in the productivity, earnings, and wealth of Nigerians. Added to these is the gradual cleansing of the psyche of Nigerians who are being made to abhor corrupt practices and embrace uprightness and integrity. It is clear, therefore, that concrete attempts are being fruitfully made to better the lives of all categories of Nigerians.
The impact on the whole country is very glaring: the economy is being diversified, with the dominance of the oil and gas sector in revenue generation being gradually diluted, the macroeconomic environment is being stabilised, and doing business in the country has been made easier. With these, the foundation for a sustainable development and growth is being laid and fortified. If the current efforts are refined and sustained, certainly, the country will reach its destination of being in the league of the top 20 economies of the world in the year 2020.
Nigeria’s external image has been positively impacted by these achievements. The country’s image has been laundered, with its full potentials made visible – that, it is a country that has all it takes to be a global giant. This has, however, brought to the fore the challenge of how these potentials can be effectively exploited. The achievements have portrayed Nigeria as a country that is courageously and successfully fighting the corruption demon. This perception has earned President Buhari the installation as the Anti-Corruption Champion of the African continent. In addition, Nigeria has secured a place on the List of 10 Most Improved Economies of the World. This makes the country to be an investors’ choice destination. These further show that there are bright prospects of the country emerging as a member of the top 20 economies of the world by the target year of 2020, provided the current drive is sustained.
Weighed against the criticisms by opposition politicians and other social commentators, the achievements of the APC-led Administration have rendered the criticisms baseless and made them to be perceived as being ill-motivated, borne out of mischief. Certainly, the APC-led Administration has performed commendably. It, however, needs to have a closer look at its modus operandi, sharpen them, deliberately smoothen them, and mitigate the discomfort associated with them. Doing so will enhance the visibility, utility value, and acceptability of the achievements; eliminate the criticisms,; and spontaneously ignite praises for the Administration.
The needful, logical action to take is to embark on an in-depth study of the governance mechanisms of the Administration so as to identify where modifications need to be made. As the adage “there is no smoke without fire” points out, the “cries” renting the national firmaments of Nigeria are pointers to some discomforting actions being taken somewhere. These need to be identified and discontinued. Once these have been done, the acceptability of the Administration will be enhanced. Nigerians will then overwhelmingly endorse the Party for continuation on the corridors of power on 29th May, 2019.
There is no gainsaying the fact that this record of numerous salutary achievements by the APC-led Administration has reversed the wreck and damage inflicted on the country by the PDP-led Administration in its 16 years of misadventure in power, thereby diminishing any achievements it has flaunted over the years. The achievements recorded by the APC-led Administration are bases for Nigerians to commend it for the positive impact of good governance it has exposed Nigerians to in these three short years. Let the truth be told, no administration has accomplished so much within such a short time as the APC-led Administration has done. The Administration will, therefore, remain one that has changed the course of history of the country, from a country heading to be eaten up by corruption to one thriving on honesty and faithfulness; from a palpably frightening insecure country to a very safe and business-friendly country; and from a country resting on a weak, vulnerable, unreliable economy to one that has a very strong economy secured by sound and stable economic fundamentals. These are credentials that certainly qualify the APC-led Administration to be commended and given the nod to continue in power.