10 THINGS PMB SHOULD DO BEFORE 2019
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