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Nigeria: The Biggest Issues That Shaped Buhari’s First Year in Office

President Buhari seems obsessed with the anti-corruption war. Here is a president who believes that if Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria. He constituted the Presidential Advisory Committee against Corruption on August 10. The committee, headed by Professor Itse Sagay, has the mandate to advise the administration on the prosecution of the anti-graft war and the implementation of required reforms in the nation’s criminal justice system.

Buhari’s first two bills to the Senate on January kick-started the process of giving an impetus to his anti-graft crusade. The bills seek to prohibit money laundering and criminal activities in Nigeria. The Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill 2016, provides for the repeal of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and seeks to make comprehensive provisions to prohibit the laundering of criminal activities, expand the scope of money laundering and provide protection for employees of various institutions, bodies and professions who may discover money laundering. The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill 2016 Bill seeks to facilitate the provision and obtaining by Nigeria of international assistance in criminal matters.

President Buhari has approached the global community for the repatriation of stolen funds stashed away in foreign banks. In December last year, the president affirmed that a good number of people who abused their positions were voluntarily returning the illicit funds.

Recently, at the London Anti-corruption Summit, Buhari unveiled a new anti-corruption measure, the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS), for major projects in the oil, transportation, power, health, education and other sectors. This enables disclosure of data and documents at all stages of the contracting process by defining a common data model to ensure greater transparency in public contracting and support accessible and in-depth analysis of the efficiency, effectiveness, fairness, and integrity of public contracting systems.

Former top government officials, including ex-security chiefs, are currently being tried for alleged complicity in the $15 billion arms procurement contract scam during the Goodluck Jonathan administration.

Security

The president restructured the security architecture on July 13 with the appointment of a new National Security Adviser, retired Major General Babagana Monguno, Chief of Defence Staff General Abayomi Olonishakin, Chief of Army Staff Major General T.Y. Buratai, Chief of Naval Staff Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, Chief of Air Staff Air Vice Marshal Sadique Abubakar and Chief of Defence Intelligence Air Vice Marshal Monday Riku Morgan and Director-General of the Department of State Security Lawal Daura.

At his inauguration, the president identified the Boko Haram insurgency as the most immediate security challenge confronting the nation. And he did not renege on his promise to relocate the Command and Control Centre from Abuja to Maiduguri, Borno State; the hotbed of terrorism.

The president presented Nigeria’s “wish list” to the G-7 Summit in Germany on June 7, 2015, in line with the demand of the group of seven industrialized countries of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. He succeeded in securing the support of the G7 for the fight against terrorism in Nigeria. The support included military training and intelligence sharing to arms procurement.

The president has visited Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Benin Republic to mobilize support for the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) prosecuting the war against the Boko Haram insurgency.

Although the Presidency and the military have declared the terrorists degraded, citing the liberation of territories hitherto captured by the insurgents and asserting that no single local government area is currently under their control; many believe that until the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by the insurgents on April 14, 2014 are rescued, the war cannot be said to have been won. Buhari himself had stated at his inauguration that “we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.” The freedom of one of the girls, Amina Ali, this month, seems to have reinforced the hope that other girls still in captivity will be rescued.

Herders’ attacks, resurgence of Niger Delta militancy

Attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen in parts of the country as well as the resurgence of Niger Delta militancy have recently added to the general air of insecurity in Nigeria. Suspected herders were reported to have massacred scores of persons and destroyed property worth millions of naira, especially at various villages in Benue and Enugu States. While joint security operations are said to have been launched, President Buhari ordered security chiefs to take necessary action to apprehend and expose the culprits.

In the last few months, the group known as Niger Delta Avengers demonstrated its capacity to threaten the national economy. The militants have blown up oil facilities in the region leading to a sharp drop in the nation’s oil output from 2.2 million to 1.4 million barrels per day. The president directed the Chief of Naval Staff to re-organise and strengthen the military Joint Task Force in the region, in order to deal effectively with the resurgence of militancy and the sabotage of oil installations.

Economic management team without private individuals

The president has been criticized for not assembling an economic team that would be responsible for the formulation of the nation’s economic policy direction. In response, the Presidency on February 26 unveiled the team which it said had been put in place since last November. The Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Laolu Akande, disclosed this Daily Trust in an exclusive interview. He also revealed Buhari had since January appointed a Special Adviser on Economic Matters, Dr Oluyemi Dipeolu, a director in the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Treasury Single Account (TSA)

On August 7, 2015, Buhari issued a directive that all Federal Government revenue be paid into a Treasury Single Account (TSA). A TSA is a unified structure of bank accounts enabling consolidation and optimal utilization of government’s cash resources. It is a bank account or a set of linked bank accounts through which government transacts all its receipts and payments and gets consolidated view of its cash position at any given time.

The administration believes that the TSA has helped block revenue leakages and save over N3 trillion. The initiative has also enforced the Bank Verification Number. This is said to have so far helped to weed out about 65,000 “ghost workers” and saved the federal government of N185 billion.

Social intervention scheme

Also flaunted as an economic policy to be implemented is the N500bn social intervention scheme comprising employment of 500,000 teachers and 100,000 artisans at the cost of N191.5bn; homegrown school feeding programme (N93.1bn); N68.7bn conditional cash transfer involving N5,000 per month for each of one million beneficiaries; N140.3bn enterprise programme involving support to one million market women 450,000 artisans and 200,000 agriculture workers; as well as N5.8bn education grant for 10,000 Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics students.

30 foreign trips

Between June 2015 and May 2016, President Buhari has embarked on 30 foreign trips to 22 countries. They included: Niger Republic (June 3, 2015), Chad (June 4, 2015), Germany (June 7, 2015), South Africa (June and December 2015), United States of America (July 2015, September 2015, March 2016, April 2016), Cameroon (July 2015), Benin Republic (August 2015, December 2015, January 2016), France (September 2015, February 2016), Ghana (September 2015), India (October 2015), Sudan (October 2015), Iran (November 2015), Malta (November 2015), United Arab Emirates (January 2016), Kenya (January 2016), Ethiopia (January 2016), United Kingdom (February 2016, May 2016), Egypt (February 2016), Saudi Arabia (February 2016), Qatar (February 2016), Equatorial Guinea (March 2016), China (April 2016).

The president has been pilloried for allegedly junketing round the world, but his aides have shaved off the allegations. His Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity Garba Shehu once said Buhari’s trips had helped block many loopholes through which funds were looted, attract investments, improve the nation’s image and strengthen cooperation with other countries.

Bailout to states

Under Buhari’s year, the Central Bank of Nigeria disbursed a total sum of N709.5 billion as salary assistance loans and additional N310 billion as Excess Crude Account-backed loans to states to enable them pray backlog of salaries. Regarding the salary assistance loans, the president also approved the suspension of monthly deduction at source for April, 2016.

This, according to Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun, is aimed at giving the states some financial relief at a time the FAAC allocations are dwindling due to the drop in oil prices.

Power

“No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians. We’ll not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians”, Buhari pledged this at his inauguration last year.

In February 2016, for the first time in the history of her electricity generation profile, Nigeria generated about 5,074 megawatts of electricity. But as of Thursday last week, power generation stood at 2,695 megawatts; and for the past three weeks, it has not risen above 3,500 megawatts as rationing continues.

Fallen value of naira

During the South-East presidential of the APC held in Owerri, on March 23, 2015, Buhari decried that “the value of the naira has dropped to more than N230 to one dollar; this does not speak well for the nation’s economy”. Today, the value is N350 to one dollar. Despite analysts’ call for naira devaluation, Buhari has remained firm on his stand that a vast majority of ordinary Nigerians owould derive no tangible benefit from it.

Fuel price hike

The federal government announced a new fuel pricing regime. Earlier, Buhari had not minced words about his opposition to fuel price hike: Last July, he had stated: “I have received many literatures on the need to remove subsidies, but much of it has no depth. When you touch the price of petroleum products, it has the effect of triggering price rises on transportation, food and rents. That is for those who earn salaries, but there are many who are jobless and will be affected by it.”

To the consternation of many, Buhari’s government hiked fuel price from N86.50 to N145 per litre on May 11. Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, while defending the hike, said it was not a subsidy removal issue, but a foreign exchange problem in the face of dwindling earnings.

Ministerial appointment drama

It took President Muhammadu Buhari about six months to constitute his cabinet. He sent the first batch of his ministerial nominees to the Senate on September 30 and the second batch on October 12. The upper chamber of the National Assembly completed the screening of the 36 nominees on October 28, 2015 and they were sworn in on November 11, 2015. The president later explained that the delay in forming his cabinet was due to the inadequacy of the handover notes he received from his predecessor, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.

Budget padding

The 2016 national budget of “change” is probably the most controversial in the nation’s history. The budget proposal of N6.08 trillion, laid before the National Assembly on December 22, was passed on March 23; but in between were allegations and counter-allegations of sabotage by both the executive and the legislature.

He would review the bill critically before assenting to it in order to be certain that its contents tallied with the authentic budget proposal presented to the National Assembly.

“Some bureaucrats removed what we put in the proposal and replaced them with what they wanted. I have to look at the bill that has been passed by the National Assembly, ministry by ministry, to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission,” Buhari said.

The president returned the budget to the legislature demanding its full details. Later, after vetting the clean copy of the budget details from the National Assembly, he eventually assented to it on May 6.

Board appointments still on hold

Since he dissolved boards of federal parastatals, agencies, institutions on July 16, 2015, the president has not yet appointed new ones.

On October 26, 2015, President Muhammadu Buhari set up an eight-man committee headed by Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Engr. Babachir Lawal, to work on the appointments into federal agencies and parastatals. Power tussle among the leaders of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is believed to be responsible for the delay in constituting boards of agencies and parastatals. Sources close to the government have also attributed the delay to the current cash crunch.

Source: Daily Trust.