About a year ago, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to change Nigeria. At the time, his supporters had reeled out a lot of positives which were to be achieved in the first year. His opponents, however, derided him for not telling Nigerians the type of change he meant, whether positive or negative.
Some commentators who spoke to the Economic Confidential sought to know the difference between the Transformation slogan of the then President Goodluck Jonathan administration and Buhari’s Change Mantra. For them, it was simply a matter of semantics as there was no difference between Change and Transformation.
Nigerians would recall that security, corruption and job creation were the three main issues on which Buhari premised his campaigns. While he may have tried in the area of security, a lot still needs to be done in revamping the economy as well as creating jobs.
On May 29, 2015, when President Buhari took over the mantle of leadership of the nation, he said: “At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”
However, a lot has happened in the past one year, whether positive or negative, depending on the prism through which one may want to view the Nigerian situation.
Today, Nigerians are finding it difficult to identify tangible effects of governance on their national lives. The problems facing the nation ranged from drop in crude oil prices globally, fuel scarcity, drop in foreign exchange, insecurity, epileptic power supply, economic headwinds to corruption war.
To bear the cat out of the bag, the administration has been tagged “slow and steady,” but the implication of the slowness of government on the economy has been criticised by public affairs analysts. For instance, Nigerians had expected saints, more technocrats and people of high integrity as ministers as it took President Buhari about four month to name his lieutenants.
The assent of the President to the budget of change is a welcome development after all the loopholes associated with previous budgets had been identified and corrected. Nigerians are beginning to hope for a better economic change that would affect the standard of living of common man.
While signing the 2016 appropriation bill into law, President Buhari said: “Through the 2016 budget, aptly titled: “Budget of Change,” the government seeks to fulfill its own side of the social contract. The budget I have signed into law provides for aggregate expenditures of N6.06 trillion. Further details of the approved budget, as well as our Strategic Implementation Plan for the 2016 budget, will be provided by the Honourable Minister of Budget and National Planning.”
Some of the issues President Buhari had to tackle in the last one year were:
President Buhari fulfilled the promise made during his inaugural speech that the insurgency of Boko Haram is the most immediate problem which security forces cannot solve with the nation’s command and control centre based in Abuja. The government immediately relocated the command centre to Maiduguri and changed the service chiefs to win the war against terrorists. Today, the security forces have taken the fight to the sect and many Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have returned home. But many still hold that the insurgency war in the North-east cannot be over until Chibok girls are rescued.
Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the nation. The fight against corruption requires the support of the three arms of government (executive, legislature and judiciary) because if one is working towards creating policies to stop corrupt practices and others are non-supportive, it will be difficult for desired objectives to be achieved. For instance, the government intention to establish special courts for corruption cases has not seen the light of the day.
The corruption fight of the present administration has been challenged by many Nigerians. While supporters of the administration hail Buhari for this ‘feat,’ his opponents have said the battle is one-sided and more of a media trial cum political witch-hunt. An essential milestone recorded by President Buhari’s administration in fighting corruption in the public sector is the implementation of the Single Treasury Account (TSA), which government said generated N3 trillion ($15 billion) at the end of March.
Although questioned in some quarters, the foreign trips engaged in by President Muhammadu Buhari have continued to impact positively on the image of Nigerians home and abroad. On the economy and corruption fight, President Buhari had used the advantages of some of these trips to sign Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) that would, in the long run, result in repatriation of the stolen monies and encourage foreign direct investments in the economy to achieve the diversification projects.
Widening fault lines
With the battle taken to Boko Haram that tried to divide the country along ethno-religious lines, Nigeria’s existing fault lines, however, have widened in the past one year. The nation is currently faced with a resurgence of pasturalists/farmers clashes, Biafra separatists, Shi’ite clashes, kidnapings, armed robbery, sea piracy and militancy in the Niger Delta which have led to economic sabotage such as vandalism of oil and gas pipelines.
Unemployment is a challenge that government needs to address in order to reduce the insecurity, criminal and terrorism activities among the youth in the country. Government is yet to start employing Nigerians into the public sector. The private sector recently engaged in massive job cuts while those working are underpaid because of the economic woes. The unemployment rate has already risen above 20%. The recent Nigerian Police Force recruitment is an indication to Nigerian leaders that many people are unemployed. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo had promised that Buhari government would create over three million jobs in next three years.
The major problem facing Nigeria as Africa’s top oil producing nation is fuel scarcity. The recent fuel scarcity saw Nigerians buying Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) above N250 per litre. Ever since the Jonathan administration ended with a biting season of fuel scarcity, Nigerians have continued to grapple with the situation which became worse recently with many car-owners sleeping at filling stations. The incessant fuel scarcity has led to high inflation that hit commodity market and foodstuffs so hard that the prices double in the market.
Despite the increment in tariff of electricity by the electricity distribution companies (Discos), the nation’s power supply has continued to drop in the last one year. President Buhari’s administration met the power sector generating 4,000MW last year, but today, the activities of pipeline vandals have reduced the power generation to less than 2,500MW. This has made many firms to relocate their headquarters to other African nations with better power supply.
As at April ending, 25 out of the 36 state governments were unable to pay civil servants despite the bailout funds released to them by the Federal Government last year. Many of the governors diverted the funds meant for the settlement arrears of workers’ salaries and emoluments for other purposes, thus adding to the challenges facing civil servants rather than providing succour to them.
Despite these challenges, Nigerians have remained united. President Buhari has promised to diversify the economy, provide employment, tackle corruption and win the war against insurgents. Yes, the next three years look promising if the budget signed by the President is properly implemented, especially in the area of capital expenditure, to create employment for the teeming unemployed, but very qualified Nigerians.