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7 years of Buhari dwindling expectations 7 years of Buhari dwindling expectations
by Kola King
2022-06-08 06:57:41
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The Buhari administration clocked 7 on May 29 having clinched power in 2015. Back then the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was defeated in the presidential elections by General Muhammadu Buhari who ran on the platform of the All Progressive Congress, APC. That election was Buhari’s fourth shot at the presidency. He went on to win reelection in 2019 against the opposition candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party.

buha0001_400_01Buhari’s 2015 upset victory was the first time an incumbent at the centre had lost elections in Nigeria’s political history. Naturally, there were a lot of inflated expectations and high hopes that the Buhari administration swept into power on the mantra of change will clean the Augean stable and set the nation on the path of rapid growth and development. Besides as a former military head of state, many believed he had the magic wand to rid the nation of insurgents and restore peace to the northeast region that had become a hotbed of insurgency. Seven years after the jury is out there. His scorecard is anything but flattering. The question many are asking is whether Nigerians are better off or worse off today than they were in 2015. 

From all indications, the general state of affairs has taken a turn for the worse. Instead of moving forward, Nigeria seems to have taken several steps backward in terms of security, economy, and employment. Nigeria is now the sixth most terrorized country in the world based on the global terrorism index.  Moreover, the threads of national unity have been further loosened and eroded rather than being strengthened. Worse there are general outcry and agitations for separation from the southeast and shrill cries from the southwest as well based on perceived marginalization of those parts of the country.

In any case, Buhari promised to secure the nation and rid Nigeria of insurgency. Also, he promised to fix the economy, create employment and fight corruption. But in seven years insecurity has become more widespread extending to the northwest and parts of the north-central regions. Though the armed forces seem to have contained the security challenge in the northeast. However, the southeast is reeling under separatist agitation for Biafra with gunmen on the loose creating another security challenge in the region. In the Niger Delta, constant vandalization of pipelines and sabotage has crippled the oil industry, leading to a dwindling output in oil production from about 1.9 million barrels per day to 1.2 million barrels per day. Even so, oil theft has assumed an alarming dimension to the extent that the nation lost about 1 billion US dollars to oil theft between January and March 2022. In addition, about nine million barrels of crude oil were lost to theft within the same period.

On the economy, Nigeria has earned the dubious distinction as the poverty capital of the world with a steady and progressive deterioration in the standard of living. As it is, the cost of living has skyrocketed while runaway inflation has made nonsense of salaries and wages. Inflation has hit 16.82 percent while the exchange rate is now 606 naira to the US dollar in the parallel market. The promise to lift 100 million people out of poverty remains a mirage. Still, public debt has ballooned to 94.2 billion US dollars. Recently the Director-General of the Budget Office, Mr Ben Akabueze disclosed that the nation spends 76 percent of its national budget on debt servicing, with the rest spent on recurrent expenditure and capital projects. Already the International Monetary Fund, IMF has warned that debt servicing may gulp 100 percent of government’s revenue by 2026 if the government fails to implement measures to improve revenue generation. In short, Nigeria has become a debtor nation. The fact is the economy is in dire straits.

As well, the war on corruption was Buhari’s battle cry when he campaigned for office in 2015. He had declared back then that “If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” Under his watch corruption has not only grown but it has firmly entrenched its roots in the system. The final nail in the coffin in the battle against corruption was the recent presidential amnesty granted to two former governors namely Joshua Dariye of Plateau State and Jolly Nyame of Taraba who were earlier convicted on corruption charges and sentenced to varying jail terms by an Abuja High Court. By this act, the president has further eroded whatever gains made in the war against corruption. The recent arrest of the Accountant General of the Federation, Ahmed Idris by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on alleged money laundering charges and diversion of public funds estimated at 80 billion naira further underscores the rot that has become a common occurence in recent years.

Again the promises to revive and revitalize the four major refineries have not been fulfilled. The refineries have remained comatose despite billions of naira spent on their rehabilitation. The NNPC spent 100 billion for the rehabilitation of the refineries in 2021. According to records, in 2019, NNPC spent 218.18 billion naira on refineries maintenance without a drop in refined crude oil. Regrettably, Nigeria continues to import refined crude despite being a major oil-producing country. As an oil-producing country, Nigeria has not been able to take advantage of the current high prices of crude oil to build reserves. At the onset, Buhari had insisted that the subsidy of petroleum products was a scam but the oil subsidy regime has since doubled guzzling about 500 billion naira monthly.

 

What’s more, unemployment has doubled with many manufacturing companies closing down due to the harsh economic climate as well as the rising cost of diesel, gas, and LPFO which are the main source of alternative power for many manufacturing companies. Actually, manufacturers spending on alternative power is estimated at 425 billion naira in the past four years. Also, the aviation industry is virtually on life support as a result of the skyrocketing price of aviation fuel.

At the same time, both the health and education sector has further deteriorated with the nation losing skilled healthcare workers to advanced countries. It is estimated that over 9000 Nigerian doctors have relocated to Europe and the United States of America in search of greener pasture in the past few years on account of general neglect of the health sector. On the other hand, the education sector has been wracked with strikes due to poor funding by the government. The spat between the government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) is due to the government’s non-committal to the implementation of the agreement reached with the union on the release of 200 billion naira grant meant for the revitalization of universities. As a result of this, ASUU has been on strike since January and the universities have been shut down due to the government’s negligence.

On balance, the Buhari administration has made some strides in infrastructure delivery, with particular reference to the Second Niger Bridge at Onitsha due for commissioning by end of the year. The administration also completed the Lagos-Ibadan railways which was commissioned last year. Kaduna -Kano railways is ongoing as well as the Kano-Jibia rail network. Ajaokuta- Itakpe railways is now operational. Also, roads and bridges are being built apiece

The $2.8 billion Ajaokuta–Kaduna–Kano (AKK) pipeline is a 614km-long gas pipeline project being developed by Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). The 1,300km-long Trans-Nigerian Gas Pipeline (TNGP) project is part of Nigeria’s Gas Master Plan to utilise the country’s surplus gas resources for power generation and consumption by domestic customers. The TNGP project also forms part of the proposed 4,401km-long Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline (TSGP) to export natural gas to customers in Europe. The project is due for completion in 2023.

Electricity supply still remains erratic and epileptic. The national grid collapsed thrice this year plunging the nation into darkness. However, the Minister of Power, Engr. Abubakar Aliyu, said last January that in18 months, the Siemens power project will add 2,000 megawatts, MW, to the national grid, raising it to 7,000MW. “The objective of the Presidential Power Initiative, PPI, is to increase the end-to-end grid operational capacity of the power system to 25,000MW,” Abubakar stressed.

Also, the Zungeru Hydroelectric Power Project estimated at $1.3 billion and expected to add 700 Mega Watts of electricity to the national grid will be ready by end of year, the Deputy Project Manager, Li Xiao Ming said recently.

Beyond all that, Buhari was swept to power on account of his perceived capacity to bring an end to insecurity and fight corruption, yet on both counts, it has been seven years of widespread insecurity and lip service to the war on corruption. Without a doubt, he has made some positive marks in infrastructure development but this pales into insignificance when security of lives and property which is central to the purpose of government has been upended making society ungovernable and life nasty, brutish, and short.

The widening expectations that marked the beginning of the Buhari presidency has shrunk and dwindled beyond measure. In the short run, President Buhari has another twelve months to restore hope to a beleaguered nation. In the long run, his ability and sincerity to midwife a smooth transition programme may well mitigate the perceived shortcomings of his administration.


    
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