• Friday, June 21, 2024
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BusinessDay

Events that shaped Nigeria’s seat of power in 2021

Buhari writes Britain, seeks mutually beneficial UK- Africa trade deals

The year 2021 will remain a memorable year, in the anal of Nigeria’s history, especially at the nation’s seat of power, as President Muhammadu Buhari advanced policies to respond to global economic uncertainties.

Since the emergence of the global coronavirus pandemic which claimed the life of President Muhammadu Buhari’s chief of staff, Abba Kyari, in 2020, the State House had operated at less than 50 per cent of its staff strength.

The President’s activities were no less affected as most meetings are now done virtually especially the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings.

On per cent average, less than ten of the 42 ministers attend the weekly meetings while the rest connect from their offices, virtually.

Amid security concerns, however, the nation’s fledging economic fortunes were further dampened by the ravaging coronavirus pandemic, which forced another recession, in 2020, but early response through the Economic Sustainability Plan, headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, saw the nation exit the recession in January 2021.

But the President who had been tagged “Baba go slow”, a prefix used to describe his slow approach to issues of national concern, ‘surprised’ Nigerians, early January with the announcement of the ‘sack’ of the service chiefs.

For many, it was better late than never, coming after about six years into the life of the administration.

Given President Buhari’s antecedent as a former military Head of State, Nigerians had believed that the nation’s security challenges would have ended within the first few years into his administration.

On the contrary, many were taken aback by his almost nonchalant approach which led to the upsurge in crime and criminality.

It was a pleasant surprise to many when after years of agitations, he removed the service chiefs and announced the appointment of Leo Irabor as the new chief of defence staff, Ibrahim Attahiru to head the army, AZ Gambo as chief of naval staff, and I.O Amao as chief of air staff, on January 26, 2021.

As the nation began a fresh onslaught against insurgency, however, a fresh tragedy hit the country with the fatal crash of the military aircraft conveying the chief of army staff, Ibrahim Attahiru, ten other officers and men of the Nigerian Army. The crash killed all on board the aircraft while landing at the Kaduna airport, throwing the nation into mourning.

The President’s efforts at developing critical infrastructure received a boost with the flag-off of the rail project, linking Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic.

Read also: Nigeria remains open to investors – DMO

The President also approved the $1.5bn Port Harcourt refinery rehabilitation funded through the Africa Import and Export Bank, Afrexim Bank.

Other infrastructure projects approved by the President include the $1.48bn Warri and Kaduna refinery projects

The President also in June commissioned the Lagos to Ibadan railway project which started in 2017, making it the first of such projects to be started and completed under one administration.

Buhari also appointed Abdulrasheed Bawa as the new helmsman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to replace Ibrahim Magu, who had acted in the capacity for about six years.

Magu’s turbulent reign at the EFCC ended with the recommendation of his sack by the Justice Ayo Salami-led Presidential Committee which investigated his activities at the commission.

The outgone year also witnessed the signing into law of the historic Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which had lingered at the National Assembly for over 20 years.

The President, in a minor cabinet reshuffle, announced the sacking of the ministers of power, Saleh Mamman; agriculture and rural development counterpart, Sabo Nanono.

He replaced them with the minister of environment, Mohammed Abubakar, who was redeployed to the ministry of agriculture, while the minister of state for works, Abubakar Aliyu took over as minister of power.

President Buhari on October 25 also launched the e-naira wallet developed by fintech company Bitt, which is also behind the creation of CBDC in some East Caribbean countries.

The Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Godwin Emefiele, announced that N500 million e-naira ($1.21m) had already been minted, as at the time of the e-naira lunch.

The CBDC’s digital currency app and its merchant wallet are now live and available for download, while two apps, e-naira speed wallet and e-naira merchant wallet

The President later appointed Muazu Sambo from Taraba State, as the new minister of state for works and housing

This is also as President Buhari approved the Fifth Generation (5G) network, national policy to improve communication system for Nigeria, in September during the meeting of the Federal Executive Council.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s global diplomacy also received a big boost during the outgone year, with the visit to Nigeria of the Turkish President, Recep Erdogan

Turkish President’s visit in October saw both countries signing about eight bilateral agreements, aimed at raising trade and economic activities to over $15bn in the next five years.

In November, the American secretary of state, Antony Blinken arrived Nigeria, in a visit that was seen to help boost security, as the United States, removed Nigeria from the list of countries that violate religious freedom.

Antony Blinken at an interaction with some journalists assured the Nigerian government of support to end insecurity, while also defending America’s arm deals with some countries in the Middle East, even as he noted that there was no evidence that those arms found their way into the hands of terrorists.

The decline of assent to the Electoral Act Amendment Bill, 2021, was another major event that not only shaped 2021 but will affect the conduct of the 2023 general elections.

The President in his explanation said his decision was informed by the cost implications, which he said will increase the taxpayers’ burden while favouring the money bag politicians.

Amid the omicron scare, Nigeria opened its doors to a team of South African investors led by President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa.

On the eve of the visit, some South Africans visiting Nigeria were diagnosed with the omicron variant of the virus at the Lagos airport.

The President, as the year rolled to an end unveiled the new National Development Plan.

The national development plan is aimed at boosting Nigeria’s fledgling business environment and removing encumbrances hindering business growth.

The over 350 trillion plan remains a major boost to private sector business development, as they are expected to be the main driver contributing about 300 trillion.

Buhari revealed that the plan has removed the various binding constraints that impede the private sector from running,

In a bid to prevent further exploitation of Nigerians working and residing in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Qatar, the Federal Government announced that it has signed agreements on employment to protect Nigerian citizens working in those countries.

Nigerians working in Qatar had recently lamented inhuman treatments, denial of work permits, following “a ban on work for Nigerians resident in the Arab countries.

A recent World Bank report had indicated that diaspora remittances from about 1.7m Nigerians residing outside the country in 2020, amounted to about 4 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Diaspora remittances to Nigeria were put at $65.34bn in three years, including 2018, 2019, and 2020, according to the World Bank.

The figure shows that in 2018, Nigerians remitted 24.31bn, back home, but this dropped in 2019, to $23.81bn; while $17.21bn, was remitted in 2020.