10 THINGS PMB SHOULD DO BE­FORE 2019

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Fidelis Mac-Leva

The All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC) gov­ern­ment, led by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari, rode to power on the mantra of change, hav­ing won the hearts of Nige­ri­ans through mouth-wa­ter­ing prom­ises dur­ing the 2015 elec­tion­eer­ing cam­paigns. With about two years to the end of his first ten­ure, the question re­mains how far Buhari has gone in im­ple­ment­ing his cam­paign prom­ises. Daily Trust on Sun­day ex­am­ines the prom­ises and high­lights 10 things the pres­i­dent should do be­fore 2019.

OPay­ment of N5,000 to poor­est Nige­ri­ans ne of the strik­ing cam­paign prom­ises made by the APC dur­ing the 2015 elec­tion­eer­ing cam­paigns was that its gov­ern­ment would pay N5,000 each to poor­est Nige­ri­ans across the coun­try. But soon af­ter as­sum­ing power, the mat­ter be­came a sub­ject of con­tro­versy as there were claims and coun­ter­claims re­gard­ing this par­tic­u­lar prom­ise. While the op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) and other crit­ics be­gan to re­mind the pres­i­dent of the prom­ise, the Pres­i­dency came out to deny the prom­ise.

The Se­nior Spe­cial As­sis­tant to the Vice Pres­i­dent on Media and Pub­lic­ity, Mr. Laolu Akande, had told State House cor­re­spon­dents that in the 2016 bud­get, gov­ern­ment had made pro­vi­sion to pay N5,000 to 1mil­lion ex­tremely poor Nige­ri­ans monthly, not un­em­ployed grad­u­ates. He was speak­ing in re­ac­tion to a state­ment cred­ited to Pres­i­dent Buhari, in which he re­port­edly ruled out the pos­si­bil­ity of his gov­ern­ment pay­ing N5, 000 monthly al­lowances to un­em­ployed youths.

Ex­pect­edly, there were mixed re­ac­tions, with many crit­ics be­rat­ing the APC gov­ern­ment for reneg­ing on its cam­paign prom­ise.

Although the Pres­i­dency had, early Jan­uary this year, com­menced the pay­ment of N5,000 to one mil­lion poor Nige­ri­ans un­der its Con­di­tional Cash Trans­fer pro­gramme in nine pi­lot states, crit­ics have raised con­cerns over the ex­tent of cov­er­age, es­pe­cially in view of the pre­vail­ing re­ces­sion that has ren­dered more Nige­ri­ans poor and vul­ner­a­ble. It is against this back­drop that many say Buhari will do well to see to the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of this prom­ise be­fore the 2019 gen­eral polls. Im­proved power sup­ply An­other cam­paign prom­ise by Buhari that raised the hopes of Nige­ri­ans was on power sup­ply. Specif­i­cally, the APC promised the gen­er­a­tion, trans­mis­sion and dis­tri­bu­tion of at least 20,000 megawatts of elec­tric­ity within four years. This was in ad­di­tion to its prom­ise of in­creas­ing it to 50,000 megawatts, with a view to achiev­ing un­in­ter­rupted power sup­ply within 10 years.

Prior to Buhari’s as­sump­tion of of­fice, elec­tric­ity sup­ply had dropped by 2,000megawatts to about 1,000 megawatts. The elec­tric­ity mar­ket dwin­dled in sup­ply as 18 out of over 20 power plants were shut down fol­low­ing a strike ac­tion em­barked upon by staff of the gov­ern­ment-owned Nige­rian Petroleum Devel­op­ment Com­pany (NPDC).

Although hopes were raised as power sup­ply bounced back to over 3,000 megawatts within the first few months of the Buhari ad­min­is­tra­tion, it was dashed soon af­ter, and Nige­ri­ans have been com­plain­ing of de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in power sup­ply.

Early this year, the Min­is­ter of Works, Power and Hous­ing, Ba­batunde Fashola, had to ex­plain that Nige­ri­ans were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing ir­reg­u­lar power sup­ply due to in­sta­bil­ity in the na­tional grid, ow­ing to low gen­er­a­tion. He said Nige­ria was gen­er­at­ing less than 3,000 megawatts, which could cause the sys­tem to shut it­self off.

“It is like in your house when you have surges and your cir­cuit break­ers trip to pro­tect the sys­tem. Once it falls be­low a cer­tain thresh­old you then have those tripoffs. They are in a sense al­most nec­es­sary to pro­tect the en­tire sys­tem, so what then hap­pens is start-ups. We do black starts from var­i­ous power plants,” he said.

In his open­ing ad­dress as guest speaker at the Jan­uary, 2017 edition of the Nex­tier Power Dia­logue, he said his min­istry, along with other agen­cies like the Min­istry of Fi­nance and the World Bank, had put to­gether, a pol­icy frame­work that would help es­tab­lish stronger and bet­ter in­sti­tu­tional frame­work needed to tackle the chal­lenges in the power sec­tor.

But be­yond prom­ises by the rel­e­vant agen­cies of gov­ern­ment, Nige­ri­ans are look­ing up to Pres­i­dent Buhari for the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of poli­cies that would im­prove gas sup­ply and liq­uid­ity, as well as the com­ple­tion of sev­eral power projects by the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment so as to im­prove power sup­ply ahead of 2019. Flush­ing out rem­nants of Boko Haram One of the car­di­nal cam­paign prom­ises of Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari was on se­cu­rity. He promised the es­tab­lish­ment of a squad to com­bat ter­ror­ism, kid­nap­ping, armed rob­bery, mil­i­tants, as well as eth­nore­li­gious and com­mu­nal clashes in the coun­try.

Dur­ing a visit to Ni­amey, Niger Repub­lic, shortly af­ter as­sum­ing of­fice, Buhari said he was con­fi­dent that the Nige­rian mil­i­tary would flush out Boko Haram. Speak­ing with jour­nal­ists af­ter talks with Pres­i­dent Is­soufou Ma­hamadou, Buhari said the Nige­rian Army re­mained a vir­ile fight­ing force.

“I am four days in of­fice to­day and we have al­ready started the process of end­ing the in­sur­gency,” he re­port­edly said.

In Septem­ber 2015, the Nige­rian Army af­firmed its stand to end ter­ror­ism in three months as di­rected by Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari. The then act­ing Di­rec­tor of Army Pub­lic Re­la­tions, Col. Sani Us­man, while giv­ing an up­date on the counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions, said that of­fen­sive op­er­a­tions car­ried out by com­bined forces had dec­i­mated the cen­tral com­mand and lead­er­ship base of the in­sur­gents.

Although sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made in the counter-in­sur­gency ef­forts, with swaths of ter­ri­to­ries re­claimed from the Boko Haram in­sur­gents, their rem­nants still carry out at­tacks on soft tar­gets in parts of the coun­try, es­pe­cially in the North-East re­gion where they had a strong­hold.

It is against this back­drop that Nige­ri­ans are look­ing for­ward to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the re­cent di­rec­tive by the Chief of Army Staff, Lieu­tenant-Gen­eral Tukur Bu­ratai, to the The­atre Com­man­der, Op­er­a­tion Lafiya Dole, to dis­lodge the rem­nants of Boko Haram ter­ror­ists from their hid­ing places in the “next few weeks.’’

Speak­ing at the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the 2017 Nige­rian Army Small Arms Cham­pi­onship at the Sam­bia For­est, Bu­ratai said: “I want to give the fi­nal task to the the­atre com­man­der, Ma­jor-Gen­eral Lucky Ira­bor, to, within the next few weeks, flush out these crim­i­nals once and for all from their hid­ing places in this area, and in­deed, the whole North-East. Re­turn IDPs to their homes In a speech he de­liv­ered dur­ing the sixth Tokyo In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence on African Devel­op­ment (TICAD VI) in

Nairobi, Kenya, Buhari took time to brief the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity on Nige­ria’s progress in the fight against ter­ror­ism.

The pres­i­dent also used the oc­ca­sion to pledge that Nige­ria would dili­gently en­sure full re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of vic­tims of Boko Haram at­tacks and find last­ing so­lu­tions to ter­ror­ism in the coun­try.

“As I speak, the ter­ror group has been dec­i­mated and life is be­gin­ning to re­turn to nor­malcy in the af­fected re­gion. The chal­lenge we cur­rently face, which is also be­ing ad­dressed, is that of the in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons (IDPs), which num­ber over 2mil­lion. We must get them re-in­te­grated with their fam­i­lies and their

orig­i­nal homes,” Buhari said.

In­deed, the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis posed by the Boko Haram cri­sis is a big chal­lenge to Pres­i­dent Buhari. Now that the ter­ror group has been dec­i­mated and life is be­gin­ning to re­turn to the af­fected ar­eas, many are look­ing up to the pres­i­dent to keep faith with his prom­ise of re­turn­ing the over 2 mil­lion dis­placed per­sons to their an­ces­tral homes. Pro­vid­ing milk for chil­dren Dur­ing the 2015 elec­tion­eer­ing cam­paigns, Pres­i­dent Buhari promised that the APC would im­ple­ment a free school feed­ing pro­gramme as part of the ‘one­meal-per-day’ for all pri­mary school pupils.

In De­cem­ber 2015, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, in its bid to ýcurb mal­nu­tri­tion, said it was set to pro­vid­ing free milk for 30 mil­lion chil­dren in pri­mary and sec­ondary schools across the coun­try on a daily ba­sis.

The Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture and Ru­ral Devel­op­ment, Chief Audu Og­beh, dis­closed this dur­ing a meet­ing with a team from the West African Milk Com­pany (WAMCO) in Abuja. Ogbe said that based on the United Na­tions Ed­u­ca­tional, Sci­en­tific and Cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion (UNESCO) re­port, at least 24 per cent of Nige­rian chil­dren un­der the age of five were un­der­weight, while 37 per cent were se­verely mal­nour­ished. He stressed that the sit­u­a­tion had a se­ri­ous im­pli­ca­tion on the in­tel­li­gent quo­tient of the chil­dren.

In June last year, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment launched the strate­gic im­ple­men­ta­tion plan for the na­tional home-grown school feed­ing pro­gramme, ex­pected to pro­vide a “nu­tri­tious hot meal” per day to over 20 mil­lion pri­mary school pupils.

Vice Pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo, who launched the pro­gramme at a stake­hold­ers’ fo­rum held at the State House in Abuja, said about 5.5mil­lion Nige­ri­ans would ben­e­fit from the first year in the scheme that would have a mul­ti­plier ef­fect on the lo­cal economies in com­mu­ni­ties where those schools were lo­cated, by boost­ing agri­cul­ture, en­trepreneur­ship and em­ploy­ment.

Nige­ri­ans are, there­fore, look­ing for­ward to the full im­ple­men­ta­tion of this pro­gramme by the Buhar­iled APC gov­ern­ment, es­pe­cially with the count­down to the 2019 elec­tions. End­ing kid­nap­ping With the dec­i­ma­tion of Boko Haram, an­other se­cu­rity threat that re­mains un­re­solved in the coun­try is kid­nap­ping. End­ing kid­nap­ping and other forms of crime was also a prom­ise made by Buhari dur­ing his 2015 cam­paigns.

Ap­par­ently wor­ried by the ris­ing spate of kid­nap­ping in parts of the coun­try, Buhari, in Fe­bru­ary last year, lamented that de­lib­er­ate ex­plo­sions, kid­nap­ping and killings were the prin­ci­pal rea­sons why for­eign in­vestors did not want to come to Nige­ria.

The pres­i­dent, who spoke dur­ing a town hall meet­ing with mem­bers of the Nige­rian Com­mu­nity in Doha, Qatar, how­ever, promised that the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment would con­tinue to cre­ate the en­abling en­vi­ron­ment an­chored on peace and se­cu­rity for in­vest­ments in the coun­try.

“When peo­ple are be­ing ab­ducted and some are be­ing mur­dered, when in­stal­la­tions are be­ing blown up now and then, the in­cen­tives for peo­ple to in­vest in our in­fra­struc­ture is quite slim,” a state­ment by Femi Adesina, the pres­i­den­tial spokesman, had quoted Buhari from Doha.

In a story ti­tled, “Kid­nap­ping: Nige­ria’s Fastest Grow­ing In­dus­try,” The Street Jour­nal noted that the rate of kid­nap­ping in Nige­ria had risen con­sid­er­ably in the last 10 years as not less than 1,500 peo­ple were kid­napped on an an­nual ba­sis, thus mak­ing kid­nap­ping more or less a new “cot­tage in­dus­try” in which the na­tion is fast catch­ing up as the sixth worst coun­try.

Go­ing by its wide im­pli­ca­tions and neg­a­tive ef­fects on pub­lic im­age, kid­nap­ping is not only a crim­i­nal of­fence but a di­rect threat to Nige­ria’s na­tional se­cu­rity.

It is, there­fore, an­other se­cu­rity threat that Pres­i­dent Buhari must tackle be­fore the 2019 elec­tions. To this end, there is an ur­gent need for se­cu­rity agen­cies to re­view the ex­ist­ing strate­gies in han­dling kid­nap cases, with em­pha­sis on in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing. Fight­ing cor­rup­tion An­other car­di­nal cam­paign prom­ise made by Pres­i­dent Buhari in 2015 is the fight against cor­rup­tion. Be­ing a canker­worm that has eaten deep into the fab­ric of the coun­try, not a few Nige­ri­ans wel­comed the prom­ise to fight cor­rup­tion. His fa­mous state­ment: “If we don’t kill cor­rup­tion, cor­rup­tion will kill us,” there­fore, be­came a ref­er­ence point in the anti-cor­rup­tion war.

Soon af­ter he as­sumed of­fice, some of­fi­cials of the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion of Good­luck Jonathan started re­turn­ing some of the stolen loots they carted away. Many of them re­port­edly agreed to do so in the in­ter­est of Nige­ria, even as the new ad­min­is­tra­tion be­gan re­cov­er­ing stolen funds from oil mar­keters.

The in­tro­duc­tion of the Trea­sury Sin­gle Ac­count (TSA) by the Buhari-led ad­min­is­tra­tion was also de­scribed by fi­nan­cial an­a­lysts as a pol­icy that could guar­an­tee trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity.

Although sig­nif­i­cant progress has been made so far in the fight against cor­rup­tion, with many re­cov­er­ies made, many Nige­ri­ans have taken the Pres­i­dency to task over the pres­i­dent’s dither­ing pro­cras­ti­na­tion in deal­ing with mat­ters of al­leged cor­rup­tion con­cern­ing some of­fi­cials in his ad­min­is­tra­tion. For in­stance, while some al­le­ga­tions have been al­lowed to pass, crit­i­cal mem­bers of the pub­lic have, how­ever, con­tin­ued to question the Pres­i­dency’s de­ci­sion to pre­var­i­cate on the re­port of the Se­nate Ad-Hoc Com­mit­tee on Hu­man­i­tar­ian Cri­sis in the North-East, which in­dicted the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s top bu­reau­crat, Mr. Babachir Lawal.

The Se­nate’s re­fusal to con­firm the act­ing Chair­man of the Eco­nomic and Fi­nan­cial Crimes Com­mis­sion (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, is also seen as a set­back to the anti-cor­rup­tion war, es­pe­cially given his per­ceived pedi­gree. Nige­ri­ans are, there­fore, look­ing for­ward to a re­newed vigour in Buhari’s fight against cor­rup­tion, es­pe­cially with re­gard to more con­vic­tions.

Re­viv­ing the Ajaokuta Steel Com­pany

Pres­i­dent Buhari had, dur­ing his 2015 elec­tion­eer­ing cam­paigns, also promised to re­vive the mori­bund Ajaokuta Steel Com­pany in Kogi State, as part of ef­forts at cre­at­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Over the years, so much had been said about re­sus­ci­tat­ing the Ajaokuta Steel, but lit­tle had been done in terms of giv­ing the place a hu­man face; hence the fa­cil­ity is still in a state of dis­ar­ray de­spite the fact that about $7 bil­lion had been sunk into it since 1979, in a bid to get it up and run­ning.

The sorry state of the com­pany has be­come a source of worry to well-mean­ing Nige­ri­ans, es­pe­cially the youth, who are call­ing on the Muham­madu Buhari-led gov­ern­ment to sum­mon the po­lit­i­cal will and de­ter­mi­na­tion to get the plant back on its feet.

The Ajaokuta Steel Com­pany has suf­fered se­ri­ous ne­glect un­der suc­ces­sive ad­min­is­tra­tions. It has not only been aban­doned, it has de­pre­ci­ated in value. Ex­perts have said that re­viv­ing the steel in­dus­try could be the so­lu­tion to youth un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try.

Af­ter the re­moval of former Pres­i­dent Shehu Sha­gari from of­fice in 1983, the plant was aban­doned while most of its Rus­si­a­trained en­gi­neers left to join other com­pa­nies. This em­bar­rass­ing state of the plant was, per­haps, the rea­son why the sev­enth House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives di­rected its com­mit­tees on steel, pri­vati­sa­tion and com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion to in­ves­ti­gate the con­ces­sion fol­low­ing the con­tro­versy and non-per­for­mance of the in­dus­try from in­cep­tion. The question now is: Can Pres­i­dent Buhari ful­fill his prom­ise on job cre­ation by sum­mon­ing the po­lit­i­cal will to re­vive the mori­bund Ajaokuta Steel be­fore 2019?

N-Power: 500,000 grad­u­ates to teach

In Jan­uary last year, Pres­i­dent Buhari pledged that 500,000 un­em­ployed grad­u­ates would be ab­sorbed into the teach­ing pro­fes­sion to solve, in the in­terim, the prob­lem of grad­u­ate un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try. The pres­i­dent’s quest to pro­vide 500,000 un­em­ployed Nige­rian grad­u­ates jobs in the teach­ing pro­fes­sion, how­ever, at­tracted mixed re­ac­tions from stake­hold­ers, es­pe­cially in the ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor. While a school of thought viewed it as a good pol­icy thrust on tack­ling un­em­ploy­ment among youths, it was, how­ever, per­ceived by many as a bid to solve one prob­lem, which may lead to cre­at­ing more in the process.

How­ever, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has kick-started its so­cial in­vest­ment pro­gramme by launch­ing a job cre­ation and em­pow­er­ment ini­tia­tive called N-Power, which is de­signed to help young Nige­ri­ans ac­quire and de­velop life­long skills to be­come so­lu­tion providers in their com­mu­ni­ties, and to be­come play­ers in do­mes­tic and global mar­kets.

Through the ini­tia­tive, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment said young Nige­ri­ans would be em­pow­ered with the nec­es­sary tools to cre­ate, de­velop, build, fix and work on ex­cep­tional ideas, projects and en­ter­prises that would change their com­mu­ni­ties, the econ­omy and the na­tion.

Although the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment has since com­menced the pay­ment of the N30, 000 monthly stipends to the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the N-Power scheme (the job cre­ation pro­gramme), it re­mains to be seen if the scheme would be fol­lowed through by the Buhari gov­ern­ment be­fore 2019.

Mak­ing life eas­ier for Nige­ri­ans

From the fore­go­ing, Nige­ri­ans ex­pect an im­prove­ment in their liv­ing con­di­tions, es­pe­cially in view of the bit­ing ef­fect of the present eco­nomic re­ces­sion in the coun­try.

In­ter­est­ingly, Buhari has re­peat­edly told Nige­ri­ans that his gov­ern­ment is not un­mind­ful of the pains Nige­ri­ans are go­ing through as a re­sult of the de­bil­i­tat­ing eco­nomic down­turn. For in­stance, the pres­i­dent, while speak­ing at the Van­guard Per­son­al­ity Award cer­e­mony in La­gos, where he was jointly hon­oured with his pre­de­ces­sor, Dr. Good­luck Jonathan as Per­son­al­i­ties of the Year, 2015, said mut­ter­ings about the new ad­min­is­tra­tion be­ing a scam was far­fetched, and that the ‘one-chance’ scam­mers had been driven out of town.

Also, in an ad­dress dur­ing his of­fi­cial visit to Osun State in Septem­ber last year, Buhari said: “We are quite aware of the pains and in­con­ve­niences that have been the lot of the cit­i­zenry in the past one year as we strive to faith­fully im­ple­ment our pro­grammes in ful­fill­ment of our Change Agenda. We are, how­ever, com­forted by the real change and progress we have made in fight­ing cor­rup­tion and restor­ing in­tegrity to gov­ern­ment; pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity for lives and prop­erty and po­si­tion­ing the gov­ern­ment for ef­fec­tive­ness, and es­pe­cially dereg­u­lat­ing the oil sec­tor.

“We promised Nige­rian peo­ple pos­i­tive and pro­gres­sive change dur­ing our cam­paign. We are not, and shall not be de­terred from that no­ble un­der­tak­ing. But as we have learnt from his­tory, change has never been at­tained by any na­tion on a bed of roses, but rather, through pa­tience, per­se­ver­ance and stead­fast­ness.”

As 2019 draws closer, many Nige­ri­ans be­lieve their votes would be de­ter­mined by the gen­uine ef­forts of gov­ern­ment to keep to its cam­paign prom­ises, as well as how the APC ad­min­is­tra­tion would evolve poli­cies of change to cush­ion the pains of re­ces­sion.

Power sup­ply has re­mained a ma­jor chal­lenge to this na­tion

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