Sunday, May 29, 2016

The pains and the gains of Buhari's one year in office

It’s May 29! So soon the Buhari administration is a year in office. Exactly this day last year, President Muhammadu Buhari was inaugurated as the fourth executive president of Nigeria in this Fourth Republic after his epochal win of the March 28, 2015 presidential election. It was a tortuous journey to victory as it was the president’s fourth attempt at becoming a civilian president even though he has been privileged to serve as Nigeria’s Head of State from December 31, 1983 to August 27, 1985. The man Buhari though a professional soldier have had the privilege of serving in various government in different capacities. He had been a Military Governor, a former Petroleum Minister, a former chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund among others.  Though the incumbent president rode to electoral victory on the mantra of change, many people are still wondering if indeed the change has come.

If we go by ‘Buharimeter’,  an online platform set up by the Centre for Democracy and Development in collaboration with BudgiT to track the delivery of electoral campaign promises of the president, there are 222 of such pledges made out of which only one has been fulfilled, 37 ongoing and 184 not rated. The only promise the CSOs believed Buhari has fulfilled is the public declaration of his assets. Going by this assertion, one would tend to write off this government as a colossal failure. Not so fast! The man has four year mandate and has just been a year in office. He still has three more to go and a lot more can be achieved in the remaining years.  Indeed, this administration started on a lethargic note. The president was rather too deliberative. He head-hunted for members of his cabinet for six months! His ministers were sworn into office on November 11, 2015. If that was his making, the National Assembly did not help matters as the two chambers went through a protracted horse-trading in the election of their leaders.

President Buhari promised among other things to fight insurgency, corruption and unemployment. How has he fared on these counts? I would say fair. In his inaugural speech, Buhari ordered the relocation of the command and control unit of the military task force against insurgency to Maiduguri. He embarked on diplomatic shuttles to all the countries sharing international boundaries with Nigeria to seek their support in the fight against Boko Haram, the Multinational Joint Task Force Against Terrorism was retooled and well-resourced and today, the MJTF has recorded unprecedented success by recovering all territories lost to Boko Haram as well as degraded the capacity of the insurgent group to launch attacks.

As at February 2016, the total number of persons rescued by the Nigerian troops during the ongoing operations in the North East came to 11,595, Just last week, news filtered in that one of the 219 abducted Chibok girls, Amina Ali Nkeki , had been rescued from Sambisa forest. Well, while it might be true that Boko Haram had been weakened, unfortunately other crimes like kidnapping for ransom, armed robbery, pipeline vandalism have soared in the last one year.  Of particular note is the emergence of Niger Delta Avengers who have been routinely blowing off oil and gas pipelines in the oil region.

On anti-corruption, it is on record that this administration has been baring his fangs against past and present corrupt leaders. Government spokespersons said that many people have voluntarily returned some stolen wealth into government coffers and that the president will name them in his speech today. Apart from that, many military top brass and political elites have been investigated, arrested and currently being prosecuted in courts on corruption charges. At present, a former National Security Adviser, former Chief of Defence Staff, high ranking military officials, former and present party chairperson and chieftains are all accounting for their stewardship in courts.

Even the current Senate President is standing trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal for false asset declaration. It is worth mentioning that the Peoples Democratic Party, majority of whose members are being tried for corruption, has alleged lopsidedness in Buhari’s anticorruption war.  PDP executive claimed that members of their party are being witch-hunted and selectively targeted in the current anti-corruption war. They alleged that some of the All Progressives Congress former governors have loads of corruption petitions against them at the Economic and Financial Commission, yet instead of prosecuting them, some of them were rewarded with ministerial portfolios.  They challenged the president to publicly name those who bankroll his election campaigns and order investigations into their finances and see if they would not be found culpable of corrupt practices.

Among other anticorruption measures put in place by the present administration is the enforcement of Treasury Single Account which was initiated by former President Goodluck Jonathan. According to Femi Adesina who is the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the President, “This intervention through the TSA provided greater visibility of government revenues and cash flows.  Between June 2015 and April 2016, the Federal Government TSA collection clocked N3tn.” Also through the use of Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System Nigerian government has been able to weed out thousands of ghost workers and saved billions of Naira. According to a May 25, 2016 news report, the Head of the Continuous Audit team of the Federal Government, Mr. Mohammed Dikwa said “Since we started the continuous audit programme, we have saved about N50bn and over 43,000 ghost workers have been removed from the payroll of the federal government.” That is no mean feat!

Buhari government has also been trying to cut down waste in government through the Efficiency Unit set up by the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun, last year. A 65 per cent reduction in the allowances for refreshment and meals of top officials of government is in the offing while the unit had in a statement issued last month barred all top officials of government from flying first class while on official trips. In the area of the economy, Federal Government has been greatly challenged by the dip in the price of crude oil in the international market. In fact many states could no longer pay salaries of their workers. Despite that, President Buhari had last year directed the Central Bank of Nigeria to disburse N689.5bn as bailout to 27 states of the federation to enable them pay salaries.

Ironically, despite the aforementioned bold steps, what many Nigerians will remember Buhari for at this point in time is the increase in the cost of living occasioned by the recent hike in the price of petrol from N86.50 to N145 per litre. This in itself is a bitter pill needed to be swallowed in order to ensure product availability and cut off wasteful subsidy regime under which trillions of Naira was paid to fuel import cabal yet the product is not readily available at official pump price. I only hope the N500bn meant for palliative measures in the 2016 FG budget will be judiciously used.