NIGERIA @ 57: Buhari’s 852 DAYS IN OFFICE,

As Nigeria marks her 57th independence anniversary on October 1, 2017, President Muhammadu Buhari's administration has released a list of “57 achievements” which it believes to be its positive contribution to this chapter of the nation's development journey beginning May 29, 2015 when it came to power.

The list of achievements, released from the office of the vice-president, is broken into three primary categories, namely: “Security & Related Matters”, “Economy” and “Anti-Graft War”. A fourth category listing two items was labelled, “Others”.

But the government's unequivocal list of achievements will most likely not be received as absolutes by discerning sections of the public who may instead approach the items on the list with a sense of proportion and balance, taking into cognizance the challenges that still persist in each stated category, and the great task ahead for the Buhari administration and the country at large.

On security, some important gains but much ground still to cover

While some important achievements have been recorded in the effort against insecurity in the country, particularly in the counter-insurgency war against Boko Haram and the widespread threat of crimes like kidnapping, Nigeria cannot be said to have won the war against insurgency or crime.

Recent daring and devastating attacks by Boko Haram, including the yet-to-be-resolved kidnapping of oil exploration workers in the Lake Chad Basin, point to the resurgence of the deadly sect.

Also, associated issues like welfare and resettlement of persons displaced by the insurgency still require much effort on a sustainable basis. The recent incident of military invasion of the lodging of aid workers in the North East, protests by IDPs over poor welfare, as well as reports of Nigerian refugees abused by Cameroonian government, raise serious questions about the level of government's commitment to the multi-faceted humanitarian crisis.

The spate of kidnapping and other crimes across the country continue to feature in news reports on a daily basis. The government must therefore appreciate the fact that crime-fighting is non-stop, and commit to creating an efficient security system based on continuous capacity enhancement in the areas of funding, training, manpower and equipment.

Out of recession but not out of the woods yet

Although the Buhari administration recently took Nigeria out of the recession it put the country into in the first place, there remain a lot of economic challenges which both preceded the recession and resulted from it.

Nigerians are still burdened by the high cost of items in the market and the challenge of poor infrastructure that impedes well-being and enterprise.

The Buhari administration must focus on sustaining its commitment to Nigeria's inclusive economic development marked by fiscal discipline, prioritization of impactful projects, strategic post-recession economic stimulation, diversification of the economy, as well as increased investments in education and innovation to bolster the growth of the knowledge economy in Nigeria.

Two years gone, an anti-corruption war still desperate for wings

An oft-stated cardinal focus of the Buhari administration, the anti-corruption war has recorded some gains but not without much challenge.

The corruption fight has been beset by political in-fighting involving its supposed vanguards. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has battled with the National Assembly and the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami.

Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, who has been in the eye of the storm repeatedly, only recently admitted to the failure of the anti-corruption fight, citing conflicting interests among leaders in government. To make matters worse, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) was suspended by the Egmont Group, with the threat of expulsion still dangling, while politics and power-play continue to hamper true constructive reform.

The challenges of poor investigation and prosecution, corruption in the judiciary and undue political interference continue to bedevil the fight against corruption. These issues have not only been repeatedly cited civil society advocates but by government and anti-corruption agency officials themselves. They merit urgent response!

The reputation challenge of the Buhari administration cannot go unmentioned. This has come to be epitomized by the president's handling of the allegations against the now-suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal. Months after investigations were concluded on the corruption scandal involving Lawal and the former National Intelligence Agency (NIA) boss, Ayo Oke, nothing has been heard regarding a final resolution. This remains troubling and continues to cement doubts in the minds of observers that the corruption fight is indeed sincere.

On a health sector challenged and the polio question

The Buhari administration has its work cut out for it in the health sector. And the president's frequent trips abroad for treatment has not helped in making an argument for the state of health facilities in the country.

As many experts have argued, Nigeria's health sector requires an overhaul. A state of emergency needs to be declared and massive intervention executed. This is the only way to halt the brain drain in the sector, reduce the mortality rate in the country and improve the life and well-being of people across the entire country.

It is interesting that the Buhari administration listed eradication of polio as one of its achievements. It must exercise caution on this. News of the re-emergence of two polio cases just last year in Borno State under the Buhari administration is still fresh on our minds.

The government must continue to work with international health agencies to ensure that effective polio vaccination regime is sustained especially in insurgency-ravaged areas in the North East.

No achievement in the area of national unity?

One major area where the Buhari administration has received much criticism is in national unity. President Buhari has been variously accused of choosing threats of force and actual force over conciliation, thereby deepening the divisiveness in the country.

A good example cited by critics of the president is his handling of the Biafra agitation spearheaded by the now-missing Nnamdi Kanu and his now-proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). For many, the widely condemned authorization of military force in the South East and the subsequent proscription of IPOB and its designation as a terror gorup, served as the surest proof yet of the president's rather uncompromising and inflexible approach to ethic tension fuelled by the question of marginalization.

As calls for restructuring and moves towards secession continue to grow across different sections of the country, the president, many believe, must appreciate the country's painful history and existing faulty structure and make far-reaching effort towards facilitating constructive dialogue that will create the atmosphere under which true peace can be achieved. This is a most sacred responsibility of the occupant of the highest office in the land.

Below is the list of 57 achievements of the Buhari administration as released:

Security & Related Matters

1. Release of 106 Chibok girls, as well as over 16,000 persons in Boko Haram captivity.

2. Tackling insurgency, decimation of Boko Haram in the North East.

3. Recovering 14 local governments and territories previously under Boko Haram control in the North East, rebuilding lives of citizens there; about one million displaced persons in the NE have returned to their communities in two years of this administration.

4. Curbing the incidence of kidnap across the country. (Arrest of kidnap kingpins and dismantling of kidnap cells across the country)

5. Restoring morale of the Nigerian military; re-organizing and better equipping the Nigerian Armed Forces.

6. Purchase of 12 Super-Tucano aircrafts worth $600 million to aid the Nigerian military's current operations in the North East.

7. Ensuring continued peace in the Niger Delta through consistent funding of the FG amnesty programme for ex-militants.

8. Introduction of an improved mechanism for distribution of aid to IDPs in the North East through the establishment of the Special Intervention Programme of the Federal Government. (Door-to-door strategy)

Economy

9. Implementing the National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) to aid economic recovery, taking the country out of her worst recession in 29 years, despite fall in oil prices.

10. N1.2 trillion expended on capital/infrastructure projects nationwide, a milestone in the nation's history.

11. Effective implementation of the Treasury Single Account, and increasing government revenue by over N3 trillion as well as entrenching transparency and accountability.

12. Implementation of the Bank Verification Number (BVN), thus tackling corruption by plugging loopholes for siphoning of public fund and tracking of illicit funds through multiple accounts

13. Ease of doing business: the Federal Government signed into law two bills from the National Assembly (Acts are the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act, 2017 (otherwise known as Collateral Registry Act) and the Credit Reporting Act, 2017) which has facilitated access to more affordable credit for Nigerians, fast tracked budget submissions and promotes Made-in-Nigeria products.

14. Establishment of the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum to enhance interaction and private sector participation in the development of the economy.

15. Institutionalizing E-governance setting the foundation for the creation of a truly digital economy.

16. Creation of opportunities for youths to leverage innovation in technology through the introduction of the Aso Villa Demo Day (AVDD) through which over N700 million has been disbursed to young entrepreneurs.

17. The revitalization of the Made-in-Nigeria campaign. (Emphasis on consumption of local products gain grounds)

18. Implementing reforms in the civil service which has led to the elimination of over 30,000 ghost workers, thereby saving the country billions of naira monthly.

19. Massive investments in agriculture, e.g., Anchors Borrowers Programme to improve local produce, improving fertilizer distribution and access across states through the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative.

20. Reduction in rice imports as a result of government's policies that has encouraged massive rice production across Nigeria.

21. Improving transport infrastructure (rail and road); construction work ongoing on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, renovation of Abuja International Airport runway, completion of Abuja – Kaduna Railway among others.

22. Social Investment Programmes (SIP): N-Power Volunteer Scheme creating jobs for over 200,000 (and still counting) unemployed graduates in all the 36 states and the FCT.

23. SIP: Ongoing Government Enterprise and Empowerment (GEEP) Scheme; commenced in November 2016 in collaboration with the Bank of Industry, where soft loans ranging from N10, 000 to N100, 000 have been given to over 189,000 market women and traders across different states.

24. SIP: Home Grown School Feeding Programme, where almost three million schoolchildren have been fed, while tens of thousands of cooks have been engaged in their respective states.

25. SIP: Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) scheme, under which about 25,000 less privileged Nigerians so far are now being funded with the monthly N5,000 stipend in 9 pilot States (Bauchi, Borno, Cross Rivers, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Osun and Oyo). More beneficiaries are expected to be added in more states.

26. The establishment of MSMEs Clinics, a small Business support programme to support entrepreneurs and small businesses in different states.

27. Establishment of One-Stop-Shops to support policies on Ease of Doing Business.

28. The take-off of the 2nd Niger Bridge.

29. phasing out subsidy for petroleum products, elimination of fuel scarcity and queues in petrol stations.

30. Implementation of the FG Niger Delta new vision, a comprehensive road map to improve livelihood and social infrastructure.

31. Improved power generation nationwide adding $500million to Nigeria's sovereign wealth fund and about $87million to its excess crude account.

32. The creation of the N30billion Solid Minerals Development Fund.

33. Encouraging the patronage of local contents and increasing export in agriculture.

34. Signing of Executive Order 001 which is the promotion of transparency and efficiency in the business environment – to ensure that public servants offer prompt service in a predictable and transparent manner, and sanction undue delays.

35. Signing of Executive Order 002 which is on prompt submission of annual budgetary estimates by all statutory and non-statutory agencies of the Federal Government including incorporated companies wholly owned by FG.

36. Bailout of cash crunch states; about N689 billion to 27 states of the federation to pay salaries in 2015.

37. Complete refund of Paris loan deductions to states (unprecedented).

38. Implementing the 2011 UNEP report for the ongoing Ogoni clean-up process after decades of oil spills and pollution.

39. Modification of the tax system so that it is more efficient.

40. Reforms in the airports (reconstruction of the Abuja airport runway and ongoing work at the Lagos airport).

41. Reforms at the nation's seaports (Issues with cargo clearance at the ports addressed)

42. Improved duration (under 48 hours) for visa approval especially for investors.

43. Resuscitation of the nation's refineries which are now working at 50 percent capacity for the first time in over a decade.

44. Eleven of the dead 33 fertilizer plants have been resuscitated while four others are to be revived shortly and this has profound impact on the ongoing revolution in the agricultural sector.

45. For the first time in more than 45 years, the Mambila Power Plant is set to take off with the allocation of $5.6billion for its realization and an expected 3,050 MW output upon completion.

46. Increasing external reserves to a 13 month high of $33 billion from $29.13 billion which has surpassed the ERGPs target of $30.56 billion despite global low oil prices and production challenges.

47. Cancellation of the Joint Venture cash calls with oil multinational companies operating in Nigeria (For the first time in the history of the industry) which has led to savings of billions of dollars lost to fictitious contract payments.

48. Release of N2 billion take off grant for the Maritime University as part of measures to address agitations in the Niger Delta region.

49. The new development bank of Nigeria (DBN) is finally taking off with initial funding of $1.3billion (provided by the World Bank, German Development Bank, African Development Bank, Agence Francaise De Development) to provide medium and long term loans to MSMEs.

Anti – Graft War

50. Improving Nigeria's international image and regional cooperation with neighbouring countries in fighting insurgency.

51. Anti-corruption war: Prosecuting alleged corrupt public officers and recovering billions of naira of stolen public funds; the successful establishment of the whistle-blower policy.

52. Signing of Executive Order 004 – Voluntary Income Asset Declaration Scheme (VAIDS). This aims to increase tax awareness and compliance, and reduce incidence of tax evasion.

53. Signing of agreements with a number of nations to provide Automatic Exchange of Information.

54. Signing of the Extradition Treaty between Nigeria and United Arab Emirates (UAE) toward strengthening Nigeria's anti-corruption campaign.

55. Establishment of PACAC – a think-tank that has provided leadership, direction and also built capacity of personnel in the fight against corruption.

OTHERS

56. Eradication of polio disease in the country.

57. The introduction of the One Primary Health Centre per ward programme of the Federal Government.