BusinessDay

Buhari’s seven years: The gains and the pains

As President Muhammadu Buhari marks seven years in office today, Nigerians speak in tandem that government has not lived up to its promises to the citizens and that its actions and inactions have given rise to despondency in society.

Some observers said that a lot of things have drastically gone wrong in the last seven years in terms of the economy, education, security, and in virtually every aspect of the nation’s life.

Pundits argue that the Buhari administration has not done enough to justify the overwhelming support given to it by Nigerians to salvage the country from its woes.

In just seven years, the pains are so excruciating that Nigerians are simply gasping for breath. The pain is felt all over the place and in many homes.

In the year 2022, Nigeria is the world headquarters for extreme poverty, and the third most insecure nation in the world. The economy is not growing, while population is expanding.

Nigerians are now unemployed in record numbers. Nigeria is now more indebted than at any time in her history. Peace has eluded the country. Nigeria is in crisis due to insecurity.

As a Chibok mother lamented in Abuja at the fifth year anniversary of the missing Chibok girls, who haven’t still returned home till date, “freedom to live and peace are the best this government can offer us, but it has failed and also in all its promises.”

A university lecturer, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “Nigeria has taken a prominent position among the worst secured countries on earth as insecurity thrives at an unimaginable rate under the watch of Buhari, an ex-military general, who was voted in for his alleged discipline, honesty and anti-corruption stand.

“With the incessant attacks from Boko Haram, sustained onslaughts by bandits, free flow of ransom to kidnappers, and reign of unknown gunmen, Nigeria is now dreaded by peace lovers across the world.

“While Buhari failed to ensure security of lives and property in the country, he failed more in his fight against corruption, as Nigeria has witnessed the worst looting in the seven years Buhari has been in the saddle.”

According to the university don, “It is evident with the pardon of looters of public funds who decamp to the APC, the president’s political party, and the offering of olive branch to former opposition party members who, according to Adams Oshiomhole, former chairman of the APC, are saints the moment they join the ruling party.

“Again, the poor handling of the economy by the president still steers on the face of Nigerians today. With two recessions in succession in 2016 and in 2020, under Buhari, the president failed.

“As well, the country has witnessed the worst inflation, highest level of unemployment, highest death rate from sufferings, lowest purchasing power and decline of the once rising middle class.”

He also recalled that “The worst for many is the official rating of Nigeria by the United Nations as the poverty capital of the world.

“Nepotism has never been this bad in the country under the president, while Nigeria has been more divided in the seven years of the president.

“Education and health have not done well as the Covid-19 pandemic exposed the infrastructure gaps, while universities have been under lock and key severally under Buhari.”

For the remaining one year in office, many do not see any magic as things are already out of hand and a huge challenge for whoever will emerge president of the country in 2023.

Recently, Peter Obi, one of the presidential aspirants, recalled that in the first five months of last year, “As a nation, we earned 1.847 trillion; we used N1.802trillion, which is about 98percent, to service debts, remaining N45 billion for a nation of 200 million people.”

Addressing the nation’s senators during his consultation, he said: “You approved last year a budget of N14 trillion and we are supposed to borrow N4 trillion, in the end we borrowed about six, seven trillion. This year, you approved a budget of N17 trillion, which the government said they were going to generate a revenue of over N10 trillion, from where? And that’s why I am first pleading with you; can we build a better Nigeria? It is not about politics, it is not about who becomes president, who becomes governor, we can make this country better.”

“Nigeria is on top of the list of fragile failing states. Go and look at the list of terrorised nations, Nigeria is No 3. We are now ranked the same place as Afghanistan and Yemen. The first ingredient of a failed country is when the government is no longer in control of its territory. Today, we are the world poverty capital; what it means is that Nigeria has more people living with poverty than the two biggest countries of the world combined – China and India (2.8 billion). We have more people living in poverty than the two countries combined. We today have 50 million children out of school; 60 to 70 percent of them have never been to school at all. So, they are not out of school; they have never even experienced it not to talk of coming out of it.”

He further said: “Your country’s stress level – this country is now the most stressful place for people to live in. Go and check the stress level index. The misery index has also worsened. We have the highest employment rate compared to South Africa. We have 33percent unemployment; when you include underemployment; that is 55percent out of which 60percent of this are young people in their productive age doing nothing. At the age they are supposed to be the engine of production, they are not doing everything. So you have millions of them all over the space.
“We have just also overtaken India in infant mortality. The list is endless: In drug prevalence now, the global rate is 5.8percent Nigeria is 14.9percent and 70percent is among the young ones; that is where your country is. Your debt level is totally unacceptable.

“Today, we are owing 98 percent of our revenue to debt. And I can tell you by end of this year, it will be hundred and something percent of our revenue.”

Some Nigerians however, would argue that in view of the challenges that have plagued his administration, that President Buhari has recorded some achievements in some sectors to his credit.

Some believe that President Buhari has made significant achievements in some sectors, such as the signing into law of the Electoral Amendment bill in February, 2022. It was seen as a step in the right direction toward reforming the electoral system in Nigeria ahead of the 2023 general election.

The signing of the bill into law had elicited wide applause among political stakeholders across Nigeria and beyond.

Observers say that the innovations would guarantee the constitutional rights of citizens to vote and to do so effectively, it would improve the effectiveness and transparency of the election process.

In the last two decades, elections at all levels in Nigeria have been trailed by controversy such as; vote buying, voter intimidation, thuggery, result manipulation among others. This, among others, allows the electoral empire, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to transmit election results electronically.

Buhari had said that he received inputs from relevant MDAs after thorough reviews of the bill and its implications to Nigeria’s democratic processes, said it contains salient provisions that could positively revolutionise elections in Nigeria through the introduction of new technological innovations.

Another major achievement of the Buhari’s administration in the last seven year is the signing into law of an Executive Order to grant financial autonomy to the legislature and the judiciary across the 36 states of the country.

The order also mandates the accountant-general of the federation to deduct from source amount due to state legislatures and judiciaries from the monthly allocation to each state for states that refuse to grant such autonomy in 2020.

The Attorney-General, Abubakar Malami said the Executive Order No.10 of 2020, made it mandatory that all states of the federation should include the allocations of both the legislature and the judiciary in the first-line charge of their budgets.

He had said consideration was given to all other applicable laws, instruments, conventions and regulations that provided for financial autonomy at the states.

According to the AGF, “A presidential implementation committee was constituted to fashion out strategies and modalities for the implementation of financial autonomy for the State Legislature and State Judiciary in compliance with section 121(3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as Amended).”

Malami had maintained that the implementation of financial autonomy of the state legislature and state judiciary would strengthen the institutions at the states and make them more independent and accountable in line with the tenets of democracy as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.

Also, the Buhari administration the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption (PACAC). PACAC was established by President Buhari in August 2015 to, among other things; promote the reform agenda of the government on the anti-corruption effort, and advise the present administration in the prosecution of the war against corruption and the implementation of required reforms in Nigeria’s criminal justice system. It was the very first committee the President set up after he was sworn into office.

In the last few years, PACAC has empowered judges and prosecutors to operate effectively in carrying out their responsibilities through workshops on the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

In recent times, President Buhari has received wide applause among stakeholders on the decision.

Read also: Buhari warns against tenure elongation

Speaking recently, Monday Ubani, a former 2nd Vice-President of Nigeria Bar Association, said the signing of an executive order giving financial autonomy to state legislature and judiciary by President Buhari was commendable.

Ubani, however, called on the President to engineer a constitutional amendment to address several areas of leakage of public funds.

Ubani said, “This is a thumb up for President Muhammadu Buhari. We need more of this kind of thinking and innovation in governance to revive Nigeria.

“The truth of the matter is that Nigeria is being killed incrementally by her leaders through brazen stealing of her resources that should have been used to develop the country and the people.”

Similarly, in 2019, the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) implemented its guidelines on the administration of local government funds.

The guidelines limited the cumulative amount that can be withdrawn from a local government account to not more than N500, 000 daily.

The NFIU said the guildelines are to guard against the overbearing influence of state governments in the administration of local government monthly allocations.

The guidelines are aimed at reducing crime vulnerabilities created by cash withdrawal from local government funds throughout Nigeria effective from June 1, 2019.

However, the state’s governors had challenged the agency decision, while instituting a legal action.

The state governments had argued that the guidelines were in breach of the financial autonomy of the various states as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution.

But delivering on the case recently, the judge Ekwo Inyang, held that the essence of the NFIU guidelines is to entrench financial transparency in government transactions at the local level.

The Judge, Ekwo, agreed with the AGF that going by Section 23 (2) (a), Section 28 (2) and Section 31 of the NFIU Act, the unit has the power to make the guidelines.

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