• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Balance sheet of the Goodluck Jonathan presidency  

Jonathan, investors open talks with A/Ibom on gas utilisation
Any objective assessment of the balance sheet of the Goodluck Jonathan administration shows that economic fundamentals have improved while inflation has been reined in, growth has accelerated and the productive sector continues to improve. The banking sector was saved from collapsing. In April 2014, Nigeria replaced South Africa as the leading economy on the continent, with a rebased GDP of over US$500 billion. At current growth trends, our country will become a $1 trillion economy within the coming decade.
Notable strides have also been recorded in infrastructures and energy. The National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan (NIIMP), covering the next 30 years, is a highly ambitious infrastructure development plan that promises to place our country among the leading nations of the 21st century. More roads have been rehabilitated and developed by this administration than any other in more than two decades. More than 32 highway projects are being implemented while 651 km of roads have been constructed. The Second Niger Bridge is in progress while the trains are once again up and running.
In the aviation sector alone, more than 25 major projects have been financed. The installation of navigational aids and Instruments Landing Systems (ILS) has improved flight safety. The recurrent airplane crashes of the Obasanjo years are becoming a thing of the past. Some 22 federal airports have been remodelled, with upgrades of obsolete infrastructures being implemented in major airports.
The continuing reforms in the electricity sector, including the unbundling of the Power Holding Company (PHCN), the privatisation of the power generation and distribution companies (GENCOs and DISCOs) and the establishment of the National Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) are leading to visible improvements in electricity generation and distribution. Power supply has more than doubled from a low of 2,000 MW in 2011 to the current 4,500 MW. Although the government could not achieve its set target of 6,000 MW by December 2014, there is hope that the various energy projects that will soon be completed and commissioned will enable that target to be attained. Some 10 power projects have already reached 95 percent completion. Several cities now enjoy uninterrupted power supply of 14-16 hours for the first time in decades.
The Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) has been a major boost to jobs and social development. A considerable number of road and rural projects are being implemented under the scheme. Some 4,000 jobs have been created in the primary health sector while 500 new primary health centres (PHCs) have been built. Medicines and other inputs are being provided for maternal and child healthcare. As a result, mortalities are falling dramatically. Vaccinations for children are being implemented on a massive scale. Nigeria may soon be declared a polio-free nation as a result of the work that SURE-P is doing.
Agricultural reforms have led to marked increases in farm output and food security. The distribution of fertilisers is no longer controlled by political cartels. With production having risen from 1.5 MT to 3.5 MT between 2010 and 2014, Nigeria will soon become self-sufficient in rice production, saving billions of dollars in import bills. The value chain linking agriculture to food processing and agro-based industries will gradually lead to a major industrial revolution in Nigeria. Linked to this is the development of the water sector. The government has rehabilitated 12 River Basin Development Authorities (RBDAs). Some 10 dams are at the point of being completed and are already generating more than 150,000 jobs.
This government has committed more resources to education than any other in living memory. New federal universities have been founded while more private universities have been built to expand access. Lecturers and professors are better paid. The Presidential Scholarship Scheme is providing access to post-graduate opportunities in the world’s top universities for some of our most talented youths. School enrolment has improved at the elementary level. For the first time ever, substantial resources have also been committed to the building of Almajiri schools in the North.
The delivery of government services has also improved. Some 73,000 ghost workers were flushed out of the public service, leading to the saving of over N350 billion for the treasury. The corruption that bedevilled the pension system has been brought under control. At the same time, the implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the strengthening of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) have led to greater transparency in our public finances and treasury operations. The passage of the Freedom of Information Act 2011 gives citizens a greater opportunity to scrutinize government activities and to ensure greater official accountability.
But several challenges remain. Poverty continues to afflict the vast majority of our people while unemployment is driving the youths into a nightmare of desperation. The 1999 Constitution was crafted by unknown elements in the smoke-filled chambers of General Sani Abacha’s brutal dictatorship. It was not based on a genuine compact with the Nigerian people. We need to restructure our federation and establish a new settlement that truly reflects the will and rich diversity of our country.
The report of the Oronsaye committee on rationalisation of Federal Government parastatals is yet to be implemented. The Nigerian public service remains a monstrous behemoth that sucks the blood of our people instead of being our servant. Urgent reforms are needed in the oil sector. It is a shame that the Petroleum Industry Bill is yet to become law and NNPC has never published its accounts in more than 40 years.
Sadly, corruption remains a nightmare that won’t go away, corroding the spirit and moral foundations of our republic. The theft of oil, which has continued unabated since the Babangida era, is leading to a staggering US$1 billion in financial haemorrhage every month. Some of the criminals are in government and the armed forces. Since the buck stops with the president, we must hold him answerable for such pillage and rapine. 
There is also the insurgency. A fire that was started by the Northern oligarchy with the aim of making the country “ungovernable” has become a Frankenstein Monster that threatens to devour us all. Despite the appropriation of a quarter of the national budget for defence and security, Nigerians have known no respite from Boko Haram. Our armed forces have been humiliated. Meanwhile, “Fulani” mercenaries imported from neighbouring countries have laid siege on the ancestral homelands of the Middle Belt.
The major weaknesses of the administration derive from the absence of a strategic focus and the clannish and incompetent group that operates a toll-gate around the president. Narrow-minded and with limited intellectual capital, they have held the president hostage and cordoned him off from those who could help him with fresh ideas.
As we face a new global oil shock, the exigencies of austerity will have to be balanced against the imperatives of structural diversification. The perils we face may well be an opportunity.
Warts and all, Goodluck Jonathan has exercised power with compassion and humility. Political assassinations have been a thing of the past; arrogance and impunity are no longer the defining character of government. One of his shiniest moments was the manner he handled the Ebola crisis, saving the lives of millions of our people. His heart is in the right place. If only he could prove to us that he is capable of scaling up his act, he might yet retain a rendezvous with destiny.
 
 
Obadiah Mailafia