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A review of President Tinubu’s one year in office, By Boniface Chizea

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A review of President Tinubu's one year in office, By Boniface Chizea

President Tinubu will be one year in office as the President of Nigeria on May 29, 2024 and it is in order to give a bird’s eye view account of the journey so far.

Though some could argue that it is probably earlier to be categorical about the trajectory of the country’s fortune under his dispensation; it is also true to remember that the morning shows the day. As we commence this conversation we must thank God for the life of the President for the return of fairly good health as there was palpable fear during the campaigns that the President’s health conditions were not up to what was required to husband the affairs of a country such as Nigeria which has missed many opportunities to takeoff and therefore clearly in hurry to record some progress. We must thank God for the President and for Nigerians that his health surprisingly improved even as there was at least reported two occasions during which he retreated for medical attention overseas during the period. And every effort was made to cloak that in secrecy contrary to what should be expected of a public figure such as the President of a country.

There was elevated expectation that Nigeria will at least fare better under his watch having regards to the place we were taking off from and the antecedents of the President. His performance in Lagos despite the report of subsisting State capture preceded him as he is considered as a strategist. The President has also been on the race for the Presidency for some years now and therefore there was the expectation that he has a vision of the Country he would like to leave behind and therefore ready to hit the ground running. But was that the experience with our Emi lokun?

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The first shocker was as the President constituted his cabinet. There were high expectations that the President would burnish his credentials of a good head hunter as probably happened during his Lagos outing. But what did we see? The Cabinet was populated with politicians with a sprinkling of professionals. There is no doubt that the President has to settle some political IOUs but we saw that the President was as it were groping in the dark as the appointments were made. There was so much demonstration of lack of preparedness contrary to wide expectations. Take the case of the lady appointee from Kano State that was dropped as she was waiting for Senate confirmation! But for a handful of some appointees who were with the President during his tenure as governor of Lagos State, the outlook of the entire scenario is lackluster. The President even also struggled to beat the deadline for the composition of his cabinet!

And in spite of the promise of the President to fight corruption, the cankerworm was rife in his administration. Witness the Case of the Minister for Humanitarian Affairs and poverty Alleviation Beta Edu that has been on suspension for months now because of the heinous offense of the payment of government’s money into private accounts reeking of the suspicion of an attempt to divert public funds. We still do not have closure on that matter even as it is certain that there is no way she will return to the cabinet. The National Assembly was accused of Budget padding which resulted to the unprecedented suspension of Senator Ningi from Bauchi State.

But the big elephant in the house was the pronouncement by Mr. President during his inaugural speech; “Subsidy is Gone!” This announcement it later turned out was made ex tempore! It was not in the text of the speech. And since this announcement was made out of sync and therefore not properly sequenced, there was immediately confusion in the land as the price of pump price of fuel escalated over night from under 200 Naira to a barrel to almost 800 Naira in short while. All hell was let lose in the land as inflationary spiral was stoked and prices were beginning to change on a daily basis reminiscent of what has happened is some Latin America countries as well as some African countries. Hunger for once became an issue in the land and with hunger, protests and disruptions which are bed fellows ensued. It is good that wise counsel prevailed and a stop was put on the escalating prices. The pump price has for now remained at an elevated price of 610 Naira per liter with of course subsidy returned never mind the fact that we would prefer to live in denial as we lie to ourselves in this respect.

As if that was not enough, an attempt was made to embrace an illusory and nonexistent free market for the determination of the rate of exchange of the Naira with the stated objective of a single unit rate of exchange. Once again the rate of fall of the exchange rate was alarming and considered along with the subsidy removal, the inflationary pressure was unbearable. The Bureau of Statistics recently reported that the rate of inflation in the country as at end of May, 2024 is 33.69 percent with food inflation on year-on-year basis over 40 percent. It will be recalled that the inflation rate in the country was about 18% with the target of single digit rate of around 9% upon the assumption of office by this administration. With the rate of exchange today at around 1,500 Naira to the dollar rising from about 700 along with the rate of inflation, the tale of woe for the nation is told. For the records the rate of exchange could have gone well beyond 2000 Naira to the dollar by now but for the heroic and ingenious intervention by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The Central Bank rose to the challenge to stem the free fall in the rate of exchange, otherwise by now there must have been wide spread unrest across the length and breadth of this country as hunger has no coloration. The CBN rose in unprecedented manner to hike the base interest rates which now stands at 26.25% having risen by 600 bases points over a duration of three meetings by the Monetary Policy Committee to attract portfolio investors. This hike in base rate was adequate to attract hot dollars into the country. Liquidity was drained from the economy as CBN raised the Cash Reserve Ratio to 45% with Liquidity ratio to 30%. There was also an aggressive attempt made to stop the manipulation of the exchange rates by those who operate in the digital space and the Bureau de Change operations were sanitized. There numbers which was not sustainable was drastically pruned down as old licenses were withdrawn and new ones issued under stringent conditions. The battle to stem the free fall in the rate of exchange remains work in progress but we must count our blessings because it could have been much worse by now. We must give due credit to the CBN for this feat.

The other sore point as we review this first year in office is the inconsistencies in pronouncements as there is hardly any directives under the signature of the President that has not been withdrawn for revisit indicating a chronic case of lack of adequate attention to details. Some have given credit to the President by arguing that this shows that he is a listening President but should It not be better if due attention was paid before circulars were released to avoid what is now becoming obviously an unsavory situation which projects the government as unserious unable to do its home work.

There is also over this period some flash points which should be better resolved to avoid unnecessary disruptions such as the political logjam at Rivers State to which we have now added the brewing unrest in Kano with regard to the appointment of Royal Fathers. It is better handled with adroitness otherwise we might have an explosive situation to contend with. It will also appear that we have not made any desirable impact on corruption. The case of the former governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello (The white lion!) is intriguing and Nigerians are watching keenly to see how it is all going to be resolved. The case of organized crude theft remains another sore point. We need a holistic progress in this regard. As a nation we must rise to the occasion to indicate strongly that the level of corruption in the land is no longer acceptable. In this regard we are reminded of the observation that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands.

As we move ahead, we must bear in mind that governance is really about the welfare and wellbeing of the citizenry which we must prioritize and avoid the tendency of embarking on reforms to satisfy the dictates of multilateral financial institutions or for the sake of making macho impressions. We must ensure that reforms always wear a human face. There is no gainsaying the fact that the situation of Nigerians under the one-year existence of this administration has clearly worsened. May the good Lord walk with us to redirect our steps and multiply our efforts as we are in need of urgent redemption. Amen.

Boniface Chizea
MD/CEO
BIC Consultancy Services
May 27, 2024

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