PMB’s Presidency: So Far, So Fair
President Muhammadu Buhari will clock two years in office today. In this report, JONATHAN NDA-ISAIAH attempts an appraisal on the president’s performance so far.
In March 2015, the wind of change blew across the country. Like a hurricane, it blew away an incumbent president and for the first time in the history of this country, the opposition party won the presidential election. President Muhammadu Buhari, the symbol of that change, led his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), to defeat the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
At the time, public perception had it that the PDP administration was characterised by impunity, corruption was the order of the day and the Boko Haram insurgents held the country by the jugular. In the eyes of most Nigerians, the PDP administration has run its course and things needed to change. Cashing in on the mood of Nigerians, the APC latched on the incompetence of the PDP, promising heaven on earth for Nigerians.
President Buhari, in his fourth attempt at the presidency, entered the history books to join former President Olusegun Obasanjo as the second person to rule Nigeria as a military head of state and a civilian President.
The change mantra of Buhari was hinged on fighting corruption, reviving the economy and security. Two years down the line and two more to go, the jury is out on the performance or non- performance of the Buhari administration.
Fight Against Insecurity
The biggest success story of the Buhari administration is the degrading of Boko Haram terrorists. Before the coming of President Buhari, Nigerians lived in fear of Boko Haram, as the group held the country hostage, bombing with reckless abandon. The insurgent group took their nefarious activities from the North east to Abuja where the United Nations building was bombed. The Nyanya motor park was not spared, a popular Plaza was also bombed and THISDAY office was also hit. All these bombings were accompanied by heavy casualties. There were bombings in Jos, Kaduna, Kano and almost all the states in the North was affected.
Getting bolder, Boko Haram began to take over towns in the North East and hoisting their flags, which was seen as a slap on the sovereignty of Nigeria. The country’s military regarded as the best in the continent were running away from battle with Boko Haram. A new word, “tactical manoeuvre”, crept into Nigeria’s security lexicon, which sought to camouflage the cowardice of military officers.
But when President Buhari assumed power, he visited neighbouring countries seeking their support. In less than a year, the Nigerian Military found their mojo and degraded Boko Haram. While it is not yet Uhuru, the military has performed creditably well in the last two years in the fight against insurgency.
Release Of Chibok Girls
On April 14, 2014 over 200 Girls were kidnapped from government Girls secondary school in Chibok, Borno State. The abduction of the Chibok girls shot Boko Haram into international fame as the bring back our girls movement was born. In the final one year of the Goodluck Jonathan administration, none of the girls were released or rescued. The administration lived in denial and engaged in blame games, pointing accusing finger at the opposition for the abduction.
However, in the last two years, President Buhari kept to his promise as 105 Girls have been rescued and released by Boko Haram. After two girls escaped from the den of the terrorists, 21 more girls were freed by Boko Haram last October after negotiations with government, and then the latest batch of 82 girls released this month.
Reviving The Economy
The handling of the economy has been one of the achilles heels of the Buhari administration. Under this administration, the country hovered from technical recession to recession. The president’s cabinet and economic team was blamed for the economic recession. The thinking is that Buhari took six months to constitute his cabinet and the failure of the president to hit the ground running was also one of the reasons the economy of the country hit a glitch. The fall of crude oil price in the international market and the activities of militant groups in the Niger Delta aided Nigeria’s slide into recession.
The flip flop policies of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on the forex policy was seen as a misnomer. However, President Buhari is taking the bull by the horns as the federal government in February outlined plans to pull the country out of recession and get it on a path of sustainable growth in the shortest possible time.
According to the federal government, the medium term plan is expected to drive Nigeria to a minimum GDP growth rate of 7 per cent within the planned period. Below are some of the achievements the presidency said the Buhari administration has recorded.
Growth In Agriculture And Solid Minerals
“Our priority Sectors of Agriculture and Solid Minerals have seen improved performance, in spite of the recession. Agriculture grew by 4.11% in 2016, while Solid Minerals recorded a 7% increase. The contribution of the Ministry of Solid Minerals’ to the federation account tripled to about N2 billion in 2016, up from N700M in 2015.
“Even at a time of low oil prices (and by implication low government revenues): Nigeria’s External Reserves have grown by US$7 billion since October 2016. The Sovereign Wealth Fund has seen inflows of US$500m in 2016 and 2017 (the first inflows since the original US$1bn with which the Fund kicked off in 2012) and the Excess Crude Account has seen an inflow of US$87m, in 2017.
Phasing Out Of Subsidy Regimes For Petroleum Products And Fertilizers
The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria, combined with a newly developed soil map designed to aid fertilizer application, substantially raised local production of grains in 2016 (yields improved from 2 tonnes per hectare to as much as 7 tonnes per hectare, in some States) and produced a model agricultural collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi States. Nigeria’s rice imports fell from 580,000 MT in 2015 to 58,000MT in 2016
The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (which involves a partnership with the Government of Morocco, for the supply of phosphate), has resulted in the revitalization of 11 blending plants across the country. The benefits include annual savings of US$200 million in foreign exchange, and ₦60 billion annually in budgetary provisions for Fertilizer subsidies. The Scheme has also made it possible for Farmers to purchase Fertilizer at prices up to 30 percent cheaper than previously available.
Support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises: The Administration has launched a series of funding and capacity development initiatives designed to support MSMEs across the country, as follows:
The new Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) is finally taking off, with initial funding of US$1.3bn (provided by the World Bank, German Development Bank, the African Development Bank and Agence Française de Development) to provide medium and long-term loans to MSMEs
The MSME Clinic, which bring relevant government agencies and their managements together with small businesses operating in various cities across the country, to enable the Agencies provide direct support to these businesses. The Interactions allow the Agencies better understand the issues facing small businesses, and provides a platform for speedy resolution.
Ease of Doing Business Reform Successes: The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (inaugurated by President Buhari in August 2016) implemented a 60 National Action Plan between February and April 2017, with 70 per cent of the targets achieved, including the following: Intending Business Owners can now search for Company names on the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC); intending business owners can now upload their registration documents directly to the website of the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
The administration eliminated the need for SMEs to hire lawyers to prepare registration documents; introduced a single form for Company Incorporation to save time and reduce cost; Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) e-payment solution has been integrated with the CAC portal to facilitate e-stamping; interested parties can conduct online searches of secured interests on movable assets on the National Collateral Registry; new Arrival and Departure forms for use at our International airports.
The new forms are shorter, and have also consolidated a number of previously separate forms into single documents, which had simplified our Visa on Arrival (VoA) Process. Submission of VoA applications and receipt of approval letter can now be done electronically via a dedicated NIS email address: email@example.com.
Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) has now been mandated to schedule and coordinate joint physical examination of cargo to ensure there’s only one point of contact between importers and official. Imports into Nigeria now required to be placed in pallets to facilitate quicker physical examination.
Central Bank, Customs and banks are now required to process Net Export Proceeds forms within 72 hours; and Pre-Shipment Inspection Agencies (PIAs) are now required to issue Certificate of Clean Inspection (CCI) within 3 days
Approval obtained to reduce number of documents required for imports from 14 to 8, and number of documents needed for exports from 10 to 7; minimum container placement notice time needed by Terminal Operators for examination reduced from 24 hours to 12 hours. Minister of Interior has approved and launched a new Immigration Policy for Nigeria. Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has since followed up on the National Action Plan by signing, in May 2017, an Executive Order on Improving Efficiency in the Business Environment.
The Buhari Administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading and developing Nigeria’s Transport Infrastructure. Road Projects are ongoing across every state of the country; many of these projects had been abandoned in recent years because of mounting debts owed by the federal government to contractors.
The Administration is also pushing ahead with the revitalization of Nigeria’s 3,500km network narrow-gauge railway. In March 2017 a consortium led by General Electric, and comprising Transnet of South Africa, APM Terminals of the Netherlands and Sinohydro Consortium of China submitted the sole bid for the concession of the Lagos-Kano Railway narrow-gauge Line. (Transaction Advisers were approved for the project in 2016). In May 2017 the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the commencement of negotiations with GE to conclude the concessioning.
In addition, Abuja’s Light Rail system will also go into operation (test-run) in 2017. The first line to be launched will connect the city center with the Airport, with a link to the Abuja-Kaduna Railway Line. The test-run will start in November 2017, ahead of full commencement of operations in Q1 2018.
The Buhari Administration successfully completed the reconstruction of the Abuja Airport runway within the scheduled six-week period (March – April 2017). Progress with the Alignment of Monetary, Fiscal and Trade Policies: Landmark initiatives here include: Ongoing FX regime reforms by the Central Bank, which have seen increased stability in the FX market, and increasing appetite for Nigerian stocks by foreign portfolio investors; the establishment of the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiations by the Economic Management Team (EMT), and the Introduction of a new, Tariff-driven Tomato Policy to support domestic producers and production.
A new Social Housing Programme is kicking off in 2017. The ‘Family Homes Fund’ will take off with a 100 billion Naira provision in the 2017 Budget. The rest of the funding will come from the private sector. A pilot component has already kicked, to construct the first set of homes for the Programme).
Trillion naira has been released for capital expenditure in the 2016 budget, since implementation started in June 2016. This is the largest ever capital spend within a single budget year in the history of Nigeria. These monies have enabled the resumption of work on several stalled projects — road, rail and power projects — across the country
All four components of the Social Investment Programme (SIP) have now taken off. The SIP is the largest and most ambitious social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with more than 1 million beneficiaries so far — 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries, 23,400 Government Enterprise and Empowerment (GEEP) Scheme beneficiaries, 1,051,000 Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP) beneficiaries, as well as ongoing Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) payments across nine pilot states.
Strategic Engagements with OPEC and in the Niger Delta have played an important part in raising our expected oil revenues. Already, Nigeria’s External Reserves have grown by around $7 billion in the last six months. In the same period we have added $87m to the Excess Crude Account, and $250m to the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
New Vision For The Niger Delta:
Acting President Osinbajo is leading the engagement, on behalf of President Buhari and the federal government. The Vice President has been visiting oil-producing communities across the Niger Delta, listening to them and outlining the federal government’s commitment to the peace, security and development of the region , encapsulated in the Buhari administration’s ‘New Vision for the Niger Delta’.
The New Vision brings together a robust set of promises, solutions, targets and initiatives aimed at ensuring that the people of the Niger Delta benefit maximally from the region’s oil wealth. The New Vision offers a detailed response to the 16-point Demand Agenda submitted to President Buhari by the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in November 2016.
Tangible results of the New Vision so far include approval of a 2017 commencement date for the stalled Nigerian Maritime University in Delta State, approval by President Buhari of an additional 35 billion naira for the 2016 budget of the Presidential Amnesty Programme, approval for the establishment of Modular Refineries across the nine states of the Niger Delta, resumption of construction work on abandoned projects across the Niger Delta, including the all-important East-West Road.
On beneficial government-to-government partnerships with China and Morocco, President Buhari’s April 2016 Official Visit to China has unlocked billions of dollars in infrastructure funding. Construction work has commenced on the first major product of that collaboration, a 150km/hour rail line between Lagos and Ibadan.
The National Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (NERGP), the Federal Government’s medium-term Economic Plan, launched by President Buhari in April 2017, charts a course for the Nigerian economy over the next four years, from 2017–2020. The Vision of the NERGP is to restore economic growth, invest in Nigerians, and to build a globally competitive economy and the plan aims to achieve these by focusing on five execution priorities: stabilizing the macroeconomic environment; achieving Agriculture and Food Security; ensuring energy efficiency (especially in power and petroleum products); improving transportation infrastructure and driving industrialization primarily through SMEs.
The ERGP will return Nigeria’s economy to sustainable, inclusive and diversified growth, and to transform Nigeria from an import-dependent to a producing economy; a country that grows what it eats and consumes what it produces.
The almost 8-fold oversubscription of our recent Eurobond (orders in excess of US$7.8 billion compared to a pre-issuance target of US$1bn) demonstrates strong market appetite for Nigeria, and shows confidence by the international investment community in Nigeria’s economic reform agenda.
Power Sector Reform is on course with the launch of the 701 billion Naira Payment Assurance Programme designed to resolve the liquidity challenges in the Power Sector by guaranteeing payments to Generating Companies and Gas Suppliers, while the Federal Government undertakes the much-needed reform and strengthening of Distribution Companies.
In addition to the PAP is a much more comprehensive Power Sector Recovery Programme, launched in March 2017 and which has received the endorsement of the World Bank.
Improved Local Refining Capacity: The total amount of Crude refined by the NNPC’s three Refineries (Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna) grew from 8m barrels in 2015 to 24m barrels in 2016, and 10m barrels in the first quarter of 2017.
War Against Corruption
The fight against corruption is one of the cardinal points of the Buhari administration. The government has performed creditably well in this regard. The opposition however has alluded to the fact that the anti- graft war is selective, saying only those in the opposition are being targeted.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commhission ( EFCC) which was a toothless bulldog in the last administration sprang into action in the last two years. The recoveries of money from looters and returning of money is an indicator that the anti- corruption war is working. The federal government also introduced the whistle-blower policy which has beefed up the anti- corruption war and it is yielding tremendous dividends.
The president has made it clear several times that that he will spare no one in the anti corruption war. He kept to his words by suspending the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, over allegations of financial impropriety. It is instructive to note that Lawal is one of the closest associate of the president and his suspension was a clear signal that in the anti- corruption war there will be no sacred cows.
On the anti-graft war and transparency, the presidency has also reeled out some of the achievements of the Buhari administration, beginning with the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA): PICA was set up by President Buhari to strengthen controls over government finances through a continuous internal audit process across all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), particularly in respect of payroll. Through the activities of PICA, more than 50,000 erroneous payroll entries have been identified, with payroll savings of N198 billion achieved in 2016.
Also, the Federal Ministry of Finance has set a target to ensure that the Federal Government’s Payroll Platform — the ‘Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System’ (IPPIS) — covers 100 percent of MDAs by the end of 2017. Currently 60% of MDAs are enrolled on the IPPIS platform.
On this, it said first, a presidential order was issued directing that all budgets of all government agencies be prepared in line with International Public Sector Accounting Standards (IPSAS), using a budget template developed for that purpose.
Second, the 2017 budget was collated using a web-based application developed by the Budget Office of the Federation (BOF), for the first time ever. Instead of the traditional method of hard copy submissions of budget proposals, Ministries, Departments and Agencies were asked to upload their proposals to the new budget preparation portal.
By replacing paper submissions with an audit-able and trackable online system, the 2017 budget preparation process was strengthened against manipulation and unauthorised alteration. All MDA budget proposals were uploaded to the new system, for review and final collation by the Budget Office.
More than 4,000 staff of the MDAs were specially trained to use the new application, across multiple locations nationwide. Also to support the deployment of the budget portal, the Budget Office set up a Helpdesk, accessible by telephone and email, for authorised users.
Expansion of TSA Coverage:
On August 7, 2015, President Buhari issued a directive to all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to close their accounts with Deposit Money Banks (DMBs) and transfer their balances to the Central Bank of Nigeria on or before 15th September 2015.
This decision to fully operationalise the Treasury Single Account (TSA) system—a public accounting system that enables the Government to manage its finances (revenues and payments) using a single/unified account, or series of linked accounts domiciled at the Central Bank of Nigeria — has resulted in the consolidation of more than 20,000 bank accounts previously spread across DMBs in the country, and in savings of an average of N4.7 billion monthly in banking charges associated with indiscriminate Government borrowing from the DMBs.
As at February 10, 2017, a total sum of N5.244 Trillion had flowed into the TSA. The TSA allows the managers of the Government’s finances, including but not limited to the Ministry of Finance and the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, to have, at any point in time, a comprehensive overview of cash flows across the entire Government.
It also ensures increased transparency in public financial management, as well as prevents a scenario in which some MDAs have idle cash while other MDAs are compelled to borrow exorbitantly from DMBs.
The TSA system was launched in 2012, but failed to gain traction until President Buhari’s executive order in August 2015. As at December 2016, 766 MDAs were TSA-compliant. The Ministry of Finance continues to fine-tune the system to improve its efficiency, and has also commenced an audit to ensure that all funds due to the TSA are remitted into it.
Deployment Of BVN For Payroll And Social Investment Programmes:
Considering that personnel costs are the Federal Government’s largest expenditure line, the Federal Government has given priority to the deployment of the BVN for payroll and pension audits. The use of BVN to verify payroll entries on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform has so far led to the detection of more than 50,000 erroneous payroll entries.
The federal government has also ensured the deployment of BVN system to serve as the verification basis for payments to beneficiaries and vendors in the N-Power Scheme and the Homegrown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP)
Replacement of Old Cash-Based Accounting System
Cash accounting makes no reference to the liabilities that the Federal Government may be required to meet in the future nor does it recognise the benefits that will be obtained from assets purchased over a period of time.
The cash accounting system fails to capture information on public sector assets and liabilities which may present the illusion of positive financial results in the short term, at the expense of longer-term fiscal stability and sustainability.
Accruals-based accounting, on the other hand, presents the true financial position of the Federal Governments assets and liabilities, which would help the Government plan future funding requirements for asset maintenance and replacement, and the repayment of existing and contingent liabilities and, thus, better manage their cash position and financing requirements.
It provides comprehensive information on Government’s current and projected cash flows, leading to better cash management. For example, the conversion from cash accounting to accrual accounting led to the discovery of unrecorded debts owed contractors, oil marketers, exporters, electricity distribution companies and others.
Enlistment Unto Open Government Partnership (OGP):
In May 2016, President Buhari attended and participated in the International Anti-Corruption Summit organised by the UK Government. At that Summit he pledged that Nigeria would join the OGP, an international transparency, accountability and citizen engagement initiative.
In July 2016, Nigeria became the 70th country to join the OGP. Following this, Nigeria constituted an OGP National Steering Committee (NSC), which went on to develop a National Action Plan (2017–2019) that aims to deepen and mainstream transparency mechanisms and citizens’ engagement in the management of public resources across all sectors. The National Action Plan was submitted at the OGP Global Summit in Paris, France, in December 2016.
Insistence on Conditionality Of Fiscal Support To States:
The Fiscal Sustainability Plan (FSP) is a reform programme that specifies conditions under which States can access the Federal Government’s N510 billion Budget Support Facility (BSF). The FSP was introduced to enhance fiscal prudence and transparency in public expenditure, across the states. 35 States signed up.
Independent verification and auditing of participating States is now ongoing — against the FSP conditions & milestones — by eight (8) accounting firms.
State Governments that fail to implement the FSP action plans, as stated, will be taken off the Budget Support Facility with immediate effect. The Fiscal Sustainability Plan is part of our reform of Public Financial Management Systems nationwide.
Creation of Efficiency Unit (EU):
The Efficiency Unit reviews all Government overhead expenditure, reduces wastage, provides efficiency and ensures quantifiable savings for the country. Also, the Unit identifies best practices in procurement and financial management for adoption.
The Efficiency Unit’s efforts have resulted in more than N15 billion in savings on travel, sitting allowances and souvenirs. There is also potential savings of N7 billion on other expenditure lines where the unit seeks to control spending through Circulars. In addition, there is on-going work on the deployment of a price-checker, as well as the use of debit cards for payments.
Asset Recovery Reforms:
The Constitution of a Presidential Committee on Asset Recovery (PCAR), headed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, to bring together all law enforcement agencies involved in the recovery of assets; as well as designation of a dedicated Central Bank Account to receive all recovered funds, for coordination and transparency of management and oversight.
Reform Of Longstanding Petroleum Sector Cash Call Arrangement:
In 2016 the Federal Government exited the cash call arrangement by which the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) traditionally funded its share of the crude oil exploration and production Joint Ventures (JVs) with International Oil Companies (IOCs).
The Cash Call obligations had consistently put pressure on the Federal Government’s finances, and a failure to fully fund them has resulted in the accumulation of debt arrears of more than six billion dollars, as at December 2015.
Starting 2017, a new funding mechanism is being introduced, which will allow the JVs to transform into independent, self-financing entities. The advantages for the Federal Government finances include: (1) freeing-up the Federal Government from the budgetary obligation of coming up with the cash calls (savings made under the new arrangement can be directed to critical Infrastructure projects), and (2) a potential increase in Nigeria’s oil production to about 2.5 million barrels per day, on account of optimal funding.
Also as part of the reforms, the debt arrears owed the IOCs have been negotiated downwards to approximately US$5.1 billion — for which a long-term repayment plan has been drawn up.
New Whistleblowing Policy:
The new Whistleblowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance had already yielded, within its first two months of operation, yielded about $160m and N8 billion in recoveries of stolen Government funds.
Fulani Herdsmen Attack:
While the federal government has done well in degrading Boko Haram, a new monster surfaced – the Fulani herdsmen. In the last two years, the Fulani herdsmen have killed not less than 5000 people. Benue, Plateau, Niger, Delta, Osun, Ekiti,Kaduna, Taraba and Kogi are not spared in the killing spree of the herdsmen.
According to the latest report from the Global Terrorism Index, the Fulani herdsmen are the fourth most dangerous group in the world. In the last six months they killed more people than Boko Haram. While the federal government has been decisive in dealing with Boko Haram, the same cannot be said in its dealings with the herdsmen.
Keen observers of the polity have called on the president to handle the Fulani herdsmen the way he handled the Boko Haram menace as the herdsmen have constituted themselves into a serious national security threat.
Suffice to say that in several foras, the president has called on the security agencies to deal with the herdsmen decisively but so far, it has been all words and no action. Hardly a week passes by that cases of killings by herdsmen are not reported. The administration has performed below average in its dealings with the herdsmen.
Relationship with Other Arms Of Government
The Buhari administration has been witnessing a cat and mouse relationship with the legislature. Since the election of the principal officers of the National Assembly, the relationship has been tupsy- turvy. It hit a new low during the 2016 budget saga. From missing budget to the padding scandal, it was controversy all the way.
The confirmation of the acting chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, saw another executive legislature friction. The upper chamber rejected Magu twice but the executive is still insisting on Magu as EFCC boss.
The presidency found itself on collision course with the Senate when the Red Chamber demanded that SGF Babachir Lawal should resign over its committee report which indicted him. The executive then, through the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, cleared the embattlled SGF. But President Buhari cave in when he suspended the SGF alongside the director general of the NIA.
In October last year, the Department of State Security (DSS), raided the home of Supreme Court judges overnight. In a gestapo style, operatives of the DSS stormed the home of the judges and took them away. Judges whose homes were raided include Adeniyi Ademola, and Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja as well as Sylvester Ngwuta and John Okoro of the Supreme Court.
In Kano, the home of a high court judge, Kabiru Auta, was raided along with another residence in Enugu belonging to the Chief Judge of the state, A. I. Umezulike. The raid generated uproar as some political analysts pointed out that the raid was an affront on the judiciary .