The June 12 nationwide broadcast by President Muhammadu Buhari expectedly evoked reactions in diverse ways. To some commentators, the President gave what could be regarded as a superlative score card. To people on the other side of the divide, the address failed to address the pertinent desires of the populace.
In his May 29, 2019 Democracy Day address, President Buhari had promised to frontally address issues of insecurity, dwindling economy and corruption. In the June 12, 2020 Democracy Day speech, he reeled out achievements including what he described as the “eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession”.
According to the President, Nigeria’s “GDP grew from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019, but declined to 1.87% in the first quarter of 2020, as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic. External reserves none the less “grew from $33.42 billion on April 29th 2020 to about $36.00 billion in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments”.
In agriculture which witnessed steady problems, especially among the crops farmers, who came under incessant attacks misinterpreted as “Farmers/Herders Clashes”, the President said government deployed 5,000 Agro-Rangers and employed 30,289 in the paramilitary agencies to take care of the issues.
Unfortunately, the facts as stated by the President, contrast sharply with reality. Farms are not just being destroyed by Fulani pastoralist herdsmen, farm settlements, communities inhabited by farmers have severally been attacked, farmers killed in their numbers, their homes and farm houses burnt, their barns set ablaze, while their livestock were either killed or rustled. In fact, such attacks unfortunately have been classified as mere banditry and casualty figures far more than recorded.
On the economy, the President explained efforts at growing non-oil exports, citing instances with revenue from Cocoa and Sesame Seed export which increased by $79.4 million and $153 million respectively.
In an effort to see that the country eventually becomes an industrial giant, he said he had directed “the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant based on Government-to-Government financing and Public-Private Sector financing”. Nigerians are left to see if this will be another failed promise, as issues on the Steel Plant have remained recurring but unfulfilled promises.
The ban on interstate travel and closure of airports which brought top government officials to appreciate the true state of the roads, is another area that attracted the president’s attention. On this score Buhari stated that through the “SUKUK-Funded Road Projects, a total of 412km of targeted 643km road projects have been completed, representing 64%”. But, Nigerians know that there are serious problems with this statement and statistical figure, as the nation’s federal highway network have never been so terrible in bad state as witnessed in the past couple of years.
The 2nd Niger Bridge, which had also become a recurring federal propaganda project, the President said, is being vigorously implemented through the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund and 48% of work on the bridge achieved. The President added that 102km of the 376km Abuja – Kaduna – Kano Road, representing 38%, and the 42.9km Obajana – Kabba Road is 87.03% complete. He added that the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency has completed routine maintenance on over 4,000km of federal roads out of the 5,000km targeted, while introduction of more locomotives, coaches and wagons for the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line, the Central Ajaokuta – Itakpe – Warri Line being extended from Itakpe to Abuja on one end and from Warri Town to Warri Port on the other, as well as the Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line which is 90% completed to be extended to the Lagos Port, would ease off transportation problems in the country.
The Kano – Maradi (Niger Republic) Single Track Standard Gauge Railway, Coastal Railway Project and Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Standard Gauge Railway, with its associated branch lines running through the South Eastern and Gombe States, industrial park and Bonny Deep Sea Port are all ready for concessioning and would add fillip to the Gamut of land transportation in the country. Except the Eastern Corridors of the nation’s railway project, which had become more of unfulfilled dreams, appreciable work has been recorded even by the ordinary folks on the aforementioned rail lines.
With airport Terminals in Abuja, Lagos, Kano and Port Harcourt being expanded, while work on the rehabilitation of the Akanu Ibiam Enugu Airport is almost completed, and the announcement that “our airports are being raised to international standards with the provision of necessary equipment, especially navigational aids, to guarantee world class safety standards”, there is hope in that sector, which Nigerians look forward to “leg and hand-marking”..
With open and competitive bidding for the oil and gas fields, which President Buhari said is first in 10 years, and with the disbursement of funds from the $200 million Nigerian Content Intervention Fund to indigenous manufacturers and service providers, coupled with authorised Forensic Audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), the nation is set to witness a quantum leap in the sector, except if these are bugged down by unnecessary delays that have characterised this administration, especially in implementing critical decisions that require urgency.
The silver lining on the emergency issues of insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is that the president said they are being accorded appropriate priorities and that hitherto Boko Haram insurgents occupied LGAs in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas in their ancestral homes.
He regretted recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno States but assured, as he had done previously, that security agencies will pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice.
Buhari however called in state and local governments to revamp their intelligence assets so that the security agencies can nip in the bud any planned attacks in remote rural areas, adding that government has expanded the National Command and Control Centre to 19 states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System, and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy.
The controversial Social Investment Programme were not left out as he said government had “engaged 549,500 N-Power beneficiaries; 408,682 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and 2,238,334 beneficiaries of the Growth Enhancement and Empowerment Programme”. Similarly, the other equally controversial “Marketmoni” and “Tradermoni” Programmes as well as the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, which he said had benefited over 9,963,729 children are areas he highlighted in the broadcast.
As part of reducing the effects of COVID-19 on our youths, the President said he had directed the employment of 774, 000 youths to be engaged in Special Public Works Programme with each of the 774 local government areas in the country allotted 1,000 slots. Similarly, he announced that the anti-corruption agencies secured over 1,400 convictions and recovered funds in excess of N800 billion, assuring that the monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.
All said, The AUTHORITY urges the President to pay more than a passing interest in the implementation of his directives. The laudable programmes he enunciated in the Democracy Day broadcast may be bugged down by tardy implementation, which have hallmarked this administration. But he can avert all these if he properly audits his directives and ensures that properly qualified, rather than people selected through the nepotic parameters, man his strategic project Monitoring and Evaluation processes.