Buhari Presidency: Five years on

In his Democracy Day, June 12, 2020 address to Nigerians, President Muhammadu Buhari summed up his stewardship in five years by declaring that he was “establishing a solid foundation for future success”. He maintains that what critics say are not enough to distract him from his style of nation building. In his first term in office, 2015-2019, he laid out the foundation for his legacies based on the tripod quest to revamp the economy, secure the nation and checkmate corruption. He now intends to consolidate.

*The Economy
The President has not hidden his soft side for the agriculture sector. The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) has made available more than N200 billion to over 1.5 million smallholder farmers of staple produce. Also, the administration has encouraged more than $1 billion of private sector investments in the production of rice, wheat, sugar, poultry, animal feed, fertilizers, etc, since 2015. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative launched in January 2017, in partnership with Morocco. More fertiliser blending plants have since been revived while the price of the commodity has reduced from N9,000-N11,000 per bag, to N5,500.

For Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), the administration launched the Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) with initial funding of $1.3 billion (N396.5 billion) to provide them with loans. Since 2017, the DBN has disbursed a total of N100 billion, impacting more than 100,000 MSMEs.

On the other hand, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council has been able to raise Nigeria’s standing up to 39 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business since 2016. It is equally instructive that almost all the Executive Orders signed by President Buhari has to do directly or indirectly with the economy or fiscal governance.

Three inherited major rail projects inherited have been completed and commissioned: Abuja Metro Rail and the Abuja-Kaduna Rail, and the 327km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail, started in 1987, have been completed in 2020. The Lagos-Ibadan Rail Project would have been completed this year but for the outbreak of Covid-19.

The initial phase of the Energizing Economies Programme – a public-private partnership led by the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) is being implemented in the popular Ariaria Market in Aba, Abia State (32,000 shops), Sura Shopping Complex in Lagos (1,000 shops), Shomolu Printing Community in Lagos (4,000 shops) and the Sabon Gari Market in Kano (12,000 shops).

*Human Face of Governance
The Buhari government’s Social Investment Programme (SIP) has turned out to be the largest social safety net programme in Nigeria, with 12 million direct beneficiaries so far. There are 500,000 N-Power beneficiaries currently deployed receiving N30,000 monthly stipends. Additional 40,000 are being enrolled. The Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP) has disbursed ₦36.9 billion interest-free loans ranging from N50,000 to N350,000 to over 2.3 million market women, traders, artisans, farmers across the country.

The Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) has rescued 9.9 million Primary 1 – 3 pupils in 54,952 public primary schools in 35 States. More than 107,000 cooks are engaged to deliver meals to these pupils and the scheme reduces hunger and malnutrition, boosts school enrolment; and improves incomes for farmers and produce ‘aggregators’. There is the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) which has registered more than three million poor and vulnerable households and more than one million of them receive N5,000 each, monthly.

*Anti-corruption War:
The Buhari presidency, whether for one year or for five years can hardly be discussed without a mention of the anti-corruption war. The Whistleblowing Policy was introduced in 2016 to encourage people who see corruption to report it for a financial reward. In the first two years alone, it yielded N7.8 billion, $378million, and £27,800 in recoveries from public officials. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has between 2015 and 2019, recovered over N800 billion from looters of the public treasury; in addition to hundreds of properties and other assets.

Besides, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Miscellaneous Offences Commission (ICPC) probed MDAs’ personnel cost from 2017 to 2019, yielding more than N41 billion in recoveries from inflated personnel budgets. In 2019 alone ICPC also recovered N32 billion worth of land, buildings and vehicles, whereas its audit of National Assembly Constituency Projects helped recover N2 billion of diverted funds and assets.

After inheriting the Treasury Single Account (TSA) fiscal accountability platform, Buhari directed all MDAs to close their accounts with commercial banks in favour of the Central Bank of Nigeria. It has been implemented in over 92 percent of all MDAs by 2018 and N4 billion saved monthly in banking charges. The 10-digit Bank Verification Number (BVN) for payroll and pension audits, has so far led to the detection of 54,000 fraudulent payroll entries.

*Security Issues
The equally significant leg of the Buhari’s tripod of governance is of course, Security. With some territories recovered from Boko Haram insurgents, security agencies scaled up their footprint across the country with engagements like Operation Whirl Stroke in the North Central, Operation Ex-Swift Response in border areas, several new Forward Operating Bases, Quick Response Wings, Commando Training Schools, and deployments of Special Forces.

Last April, a first batch of 17 military vehicles (VT-4 main battle tanks, ST-1 wheeled tank destroyers, self-propelled howitzers etc) arrived from China, for the fight against Boko Haram. The Nigerian Air Force has acquired 22 brand new aircraft since 2015, and is expecting another 16 aircraft, including the 12 Super Tucano currently on order from the United States Government, due for delivery starting 2021. The Nigerian Navy has conducted 34 successful operations in Nigeria’s waters. Operations, ‘Tsare Teku’ and ‘Calm Waters’ have resulted in reducing incidences of piracy from 51 successful attacks in 2016 to only two attacks as at May 2020.

In the Northeast of the country which has been the main theatre of terrorism, the government revitalised the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), aimed at combating trans-border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency. Many roads hitherto closed by insurgents have now been reopened. “More than a million displaced persons have returned to their communities since 2015. Thousands of hostages have been freed from Boko Haram captivity, including 106 of the Chibok girls abducted in April 2014, and 105 of the Dapchi girls abducted in February 2018”, an administration official enthused.

In the North Central and North West where banditry escalated, ‘Operation WhirlStroke’ (OPWS) a Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF), has been very successful in restoring calm to its area of coverage. Banditry, kidnapping and other crimes in the North West led to establishment of Operation Hadarin Daji (OPHD) by Defence Headquarters in May 2019; while Operation Thunder Strike has been tackling kidnappers, bandits, cattle rustlers, and other criminal activities along Kaduna-Abuja axis.

Having chalked up all these over the past five years, it would seem the country has become an El Dorado. But no. There is more work to be done, and even the President Muhammadu Buhari acknowledges so. Security situation, particularly, still gives him cause for concern as he constantly charges the security chiefs to up their game. This is particularly so as pockets of murderous attacks by dissidents and bandits continue to leave remote communities in anguish.

Nonetheless, the President has vowed to put an end to these incidents which he described as sporadic, especially spiking with the recent Coronavirus pandemic which necessitated some restriction of movements nationwide. Nigerians are looking forward to more efforts from the Buhari administration, just as he has pledged severally that he would leave legacies that the citizens would be proud of. They are counting on three more years to be worth waiting for.

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