Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari promised on Wednesday to repeat in his second term successes from his first four years which Nigerians say brought more economic hardship with rising poverty levels.
But Buhari hailed Nigeria’s exit from recession, successes against Boko Haram militants including the return of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, road and railways construction, and loans for farmers, as highlights of the first term.
“The principal interest of this administration is to consolidate on the achievements of the last four years,” the 76-year-old former military leader said in his first major public speech since his re-inauguration last month.
But critics of his administration have often found fault with Buhari’s first term, when he was absent for long periods for health reasons, and economic improvement which was largely down to improved oil prices has not been felt by a majority by Nigerians more of whom are entering the poverty trap daily. Unemployment levels are rising and disenchantment arising especially among the youths.
The quality of education in Nigeria is stuck at the bottom and not much is happening to raise health standards either. Still, Buhari won re-election in February with 56% of the vote, though turnout was just 36%.
“In the last four years, we have made solid progress,” Buhari told an audience of government, military and traditional figures and foreign dignitaries during a celebration of the return to democracy in 1999.
“We can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years,” he promised without saying how this will be done by a government some say disdains private enterprise which is the engine of economic growth around the world.
Buhari claimed Nigeria’s economy would grow 2.7% this year – but that was below the the level achieved in the first quarter of this year.
Economists have lamented Nigeria’s sluggish growth since it climbed out of recession in 2017 on the back of rising oil price and production, with Nigerians getting poorer as birth rates outpace the tepid rate of economic expansion.
Meanwhile, violence has spread and is thriving across wide swathes of Nigeria’s northwest, northeast and central states, often in places that were less troubled before Buhari’s rule.
The only corruption being tackled, anti-graft activists and opposition politicians say, is that of Buhari’s political enemies, while allegations against his allies are rarely followed through to prosecution.
Buhari said he would continue to build roads, fix the electricity grid and improve other infrastructure. He also reiterated his support for agriculture.
“When economic inequality rises, insecurity rises. But when we actively reduce inequality through investments in social and hard infrastructure, insecurity reduces,” he said.
“We are not daunted by the enormity of the task ahead.”