President Muhammadu Buhari

By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

Flashback to May 29, 2015, a new president in the person of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was being sworn in by the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmoud Mohammed, at the packed Eagles Square, Abuja.

The mood in the nation that fateful morning was gay. Millions of Nigerians were relieved that the ‘clueless’ President Goodluck Jonathan was finally leaving office with his failures: insecurity (terrorism, banditry, armed robberies, kidnappings, cultism); galloping inflation, perennial fuel shortages and ballooning debts, among many others.

If they still had any doubts in them about the things to come, the new president’s concluding statement cleared all these.

“I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” he had assured the restless crowd.

The expectant crowd roared back in return, “Sai Baba, “Sai Baba, “Sai Baba”. The feeling of change and hope filled the air. To many at the venue and those watching from home, Jonathan, with his legacy of socio-economic disasters, could not leave soon enough for the much anticipated ‘change’ train to berth.

Visibly impressed by the applause from the crowd, the elated president again used the opportunity to reel out his major campaign promises: fight insecurity, battle corruption, build infrastructure and reverse the nation’s dwindling economy.

However, five years after the berthing of the regime of ‘change’, BusinessHallmark findings revealed that despondency has set in and many Nigerians have lost hope and faith in the government that came to power on the back of goodwill and great expectations.

From Abakalili to Dutse, Lagos, Ibadan, Warri, Kano, Abuja, Onitsha, Akure, Ariara, Port Harcourt, Bauchi, Lokoja and even Daura, the president’s hometown, the verdict is the same: The president and his government has failed the nation. According to BH findings, Nigerians are worse off under the present administration, with all economic and developmental indices pointing to negative.

For example, the economy is comatose and is on the verge of entering another recession; incomes have been falling for five years; latest figure by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) put unemployment rate at 27.1; inflation is currently 12.82, highest in 27months; Nigeria ranks 146 on Global Corruption Index out of 180 countries, most corrupt in Africa; Nigeria is the 3rd most dangerous country to live in the world, while Nigeria is also ranked 0.34, placing it at 152nd position out of 157 nations on the Human Capital Index.

BH in this report compared the five years and three months former President Jonathan spend in power with the over five years of the present regime, and the difference was alarming. And for many Nigerians who spoke with our Correspondent, the situation is like jumping from frying pan to fire.

SECURITY

One of the major campaign promises of President Buhari was the promise to secure Nigerians    from attacks and wipe out the dreaded Boko Haram sect. Prior to the coming of the president, the Islamists group had terrorised the northern part of the country, particularly the North East. The sect had taken over many local governments and installed Sharia-styled government in them. The anger generated by the inability of the then Jonathan-led government to contain the extremists helped Buhari to win the 2015 presidential election.

As promised during his campaigns, the president deployed men and hardware against the terrorists and soon after began to gain control of lost territories. In the spate of two years, the battle against insurgency seemed to have been largely won, with remnants of the jihadists pushed to the fringes of the Sambisa forest and Lake Chad.

The government and its supporters did not waste time in trumpeting this achievement, claiming it as one of the achievements of the present administration. On several occasions, President Buhari and his army generals repeatedly declared that the group has been “technically defeated.”

However, the victory was short-lived as the dreaded group soon staged a comeback. Military sources, who spoke to our Correspondent on the condition of anonymity, claimed Boko Haram extremists are now better armed than ever and have more sophisticated drones than the demoralized military.

“Reports from the war fronts indicate that the militants are still roaming the region with impunity: “Their fighters now have more sophisticated drones than the military and are well-armed after successful raids on military camps”, a retired major noted.

According to several sources, including politicians and local chiefs, the militants have regained control of several towns and villages in the North East, particularly in Borno and Yobe

“They now stage and pull off almost-daily attacks. One of them is last month’s attack on the convoy of the governor of Borno State while on a visit to an IDP camp in the state.

Apart from Boko Haram insurgency, the country is currently facing vicious and debilitating attacks from bandits, kidnappers, Fulani herdsmen, ethnic militias, ritualists and cultists.

Almost on a daily basis, deadly attacks are launched against natives in Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, Kogi, Bauchi and others, resulting in the destruction of lives and properties. These attacks were alleged staged by Fulani militias, rustlers, bandits, and ethnic militias pushing for lands and territories. In retaliation, the locals also staged reprisal attacks, which further inflamed the crisis.

Down South, rising insecurity has pushed both political and traditional leaders to form their own security outfits. For example, the six Yoruba states of the South West recently formed the Amotekun outfit to check the attacks on its people by rampaging herdsmen, bandits and kidnappers.

According to a recent report, no fewer than 25, 794 Nigerians lost their lives in violent crashes in the first four years of President Muhammadu Buhari. The figure was released by the Nigeria Security Tracker, a project run by the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonprofit think tank specialising in United States foreign policy and international affairs.

According to the report, from June 2015 to May 2019, Borno suffered the highest casualties, recording 9,303 deaths. The state is followed by Zamfara (1,963) and Adamawa (1,529). Others captured in the map are Kaduna (1,488), Plateau (771), Taraba (649), Benue (1,642), Niger (252) Rivers (730), Cross River (467), Ogun (301), among others. The highest casualties were recorded in July 2015 (1,299) and January 2019 (1,077).

On the other hand, a total of 34,884 people were reportedly killed across the country during the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan (June 2011 to May 2015).

“The Nigeria Security Tracker tracks violence that is both causal and symptomatic of Nigeria’s political instability and citizen alienation. The data are based on weekly surveys of Nigerian and international media.

“The data start with May 29, 2011, the date of Goodluck Jonathan’s inauguration as president. It was an event that highlighted the increasing bifurcation of the country on regional and religious lines. The NST is updated weekly.

“Relying on press reports of violence presents methodological limitations. There is a dearth of accurate reporting across certain regions, death tolls are imprecise, and accounts of incidents vary. There is the potential for political manipulation of media. Given these limitations, the NST makes every effort to collect information from multiple sources. Nevertheless, NST statistics should be viewed as indicative rather than definitive”, the report stated.

A police source told our correspondent that the death figure is conservative and largely understated as many deaths in the country go unreported.

“Most people reported as missing are actually dead. Our hospitals are filled with thousands of unclaimed corpses. Their people don’t even know that they are dead. The real figure is mind boggling. We often recover totally decomposed and unidentifiable remains of humans when going after criminal. These discoveries are most times unreported”, said a deputy superintendent of police at the Area G Police Command in Ogba.

Many political analysts who spoke with BH agreed that the rising incidence of insecurity is a dent on an administration that came in on the platform of securing its citizens.

ECONOMY

Like in the area of security, the general verdict of Nigerians on the present administration on the economy is that of non performance. According to BH findings, all economic indices have all turned red, compared to the time of Goodluck Jonathan.

Poverty Index

Several reports and studies released by even government agencies, agreed that Nigerians become poorer during President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure. According to the most recent data released by the NBS, Q2 2020, one in every two Nigerians in the country’s labor force is either unemployed or underemployed.

While Nigeria’s current unemployment rate climbed to 27.1% (up from 23.1% in Q3 2018, when the unemployment report was last published), the country’s underemployment rate – which reflects those working less than 40 hours a week, or in jobs that underutilize a person’s skills, time, or education—increased to 28.6%.

To put it straight, about 21.7 million Nigerians are unemployed out of a labor force of 80.2 million. Among young Nigerians aged between 25 and 34, the largest bloc of the labor force, the unemployment rate currently stands even higher, at 30.7%.

The unemployment rate has more than tripled since the president assumed office in May 2015. In Q1 2016, it was, 12.1%, Q2 2016, 13.3%, Q3 2016, 13.9% and Q4 2017, 14.2%. In 2018, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world, with 87 million extremely poor people and 8,000 people sliding into extreme poverty on a daily basis, according to the Brookings Institution.

 India, with a population of 1.3 billion, almost seven times Nigeria’s population, has 73 million people living in extreme poverty. In percentage terms, India’s 73 million extremely poor people represent 5.5 percent of its population, while Nigeria’s 87 million extremely poor people represent 44 percent. This means that almost one in two Nigerians is extremely poor. In contrast, Nigeria’s unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in the third quarter of 2014.

Foreign debt

According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), in naira terms, the Total Public Debt Stock which comprises the debt stock of the Federal Government, the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory stood at ₦31.009 trillion or USD85.897 billion. The corresponding figures for March 31, 2020 were ₦28.628 trillion or USD79.303 billion.

The increase in the debt stock by ₦2.381 trillion or USD6.593 billion, according to the office, was accounted for by the USD3.36 billion Budget Support Loan from the International Monetary Fund, new domestic borrowing to finance the Revised 2020 Appropriation Act including the issuance of the ₦162.557billion Sukuk, and promissory notes issued to settle claims of exporters.

The DMO said it expects the public debt stock to grow as the balance of the new domestic borrowing is raised and expected disbursements are made by the World Bank, African Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank which were arranged to finance the 2020 Budget.

Defending the rising debts, the Federal Government had claimed that it had no choice, as falling oil revenues could not meet up with target and unable to fund the nation’s huge infrastructural deficit required to propel economic growth.

However, while the nation’s debt has been ballooning, not much is on ground to show for it. Experts blamed the development on higher spending on recurrent expenditure and the theft of much of the funds.

 Meanwhile, available data shows that at the end of May 2015 when Jonathan left office, Nigeria’s external debt profile was $9.7. Data also show that Nigeria’s external debt level of $28 billion is now about 76% of external reserves of $35 billion, the highest since 2005.

Inflation rate

Nigerians are currently going through hard times as prices of goods and commodities have gone through the roofs. In July 2020, the nation’s inflation rate climbed to 12.82 per cent, 0.26 per cent higher than the rate recorded in June (12.56%). The figure is the highest in 27 months, as food prices continued to surge.

According to the latest consumer price index (CPI) data released by the NBS, prices of staple foods like rice, frozen foods, vegetable oil, processed foods remain high. In the report released last month, the composite food index rose by 15.48 per cent in July compared to 15.18 per cent in June 2020.

Indicating the impact of food prices, core inflation, which excludes the prices of volatile agricultural produce, stood at 10.10 per cent in July 2020, down by 0.03 percent when compared with 10.13 percent recorded in June 2020.

According to the NBS, highest increases were recorded in prices of medical services, passenger transport by air, pharmaceutical products, hospital services, passenger transport by road, maintenance and repair of personal transport equipment, paramedical services and vehicle spare parts.

A Senior Economist with SPM Professionals, Paul Alaje, warned of worse days to come, projecting that inflation rate may keep rising as all the parameters of the 2016/2017 era seem to be playing out right now.

“One was exchange rate instability which we have right now and we also have a particular situation of fall in oil global prices.

 “These are major determinants that will influence what inflation will be or what inflation is in Nigeria. So what we expect in the coming period is a persistent increase in the country’s inflation,” Alaje warned.

BH checks revealed a wide disparity in the current prices of selected goods and services and that of the Jonathan era. For example, a litre of petrol sold for N87 in 2012. By the Jonathan left in 2015, petrol was selling at N97. By May 2016, barely a year after Buhari attained power, he increased the price of petrol to N145.

By September 2020, a litre of PMS moved to N162. Likewise, when Jonathan was leaving power on May 29, 2015, electricity consumers were paying as follows: Residential 2, N13.91; Residential 3, N24.94; Commercial 1, N18.26; Commercial N23.18; Industrial 1, N23.18 and Industrial 3, N24.30. By September 1, 2020 the lowest rate was N44 paid by customers on Residential 2, while the highest is N79.

Further checks show that the price increment cuts across board, with the food sector the worst it. For example, when Jonathan was leaving power in 2015, a 50kg bag of premium rice sold for between N10,000 and N12,000, while local rice sold for as low as N7,000. But almost six year after, a 50kg bag of premium rice is between N27,000 and N32,000, which local brands sell for between N20,000 and 25,000, depending on the quality and location.

In the same vein, a 25 litre Kings Vegetable Oil, which sold for around N6,500 in 2015 is now N15, 000. While a 5litre keg of Kings oil currently sells for between N2,900 and N3,200, depending on the market. Local variants and smuggled ones on the other hand now sell for between N2,400 and N2,600.

Nigerians who spoke with BH lamented the astronomical surge in prices of goods which cuts across all goods and services.

“The verdict is damning for the administration of President Buhari, which has struggled to deliver economic policies to drive growth and create jobs”, said Olabayo Cole, a journalist and one time supporter of the president.

Nigeria Inflation Rate (1999 – 2020)

Year    Inflation Rate (%)   Annual Change

July 2020  12.82%

2019    11.40%            -0.70%

2018    12.09%             -4.43%

2017    16.52%              0.85%

2016    15.68%              6.67%

2015    9.01%                0.95%

2014    8.06%               -0.41%

2013    8.48%               -3.74%

2012    12.22%              1.38%

2011    10.84%            -2.88%

2010    13.72%              1.17%

2009    12.56%              0.97%

Economists and analysts advise Nigerians, particularly the youths to brace for the worse. According to Smart Okeke, an education expert, Nigeria’s job crisis does not exist in a vacuum as perennial under-funding of education in the country has resulted in a significant decline in both the quality of teachers and infrastructure in schools.

“The problems are compounded by recurring strike actions by public university lecturers amid protests over low wages and benefits. The deficit in Nigeria’s education system is highlighted by the fact that only one in four Nigerians applying to university will get a spot”, Okeke said.

Also sounding a note of warning, the World Bank said the current economic downturn the nation is witnessing is unlikely to get better soon. It predicted that Nigeria’s flailing economy is set for its worst recession in four decades as the effects of the coronavirus pandemic continue to manifest.

Likewise, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Data Lab predicted that poverty will spread in the country due to several factors, including poor government policies and unemployment. According to the World Data Lab, a quarter of very poor people will be Nigerians by 2030.

Faulty anti-Corruption war

Perhaps the most bruising verdict on the administration of President Buhari was the recent classification of Nigeria as one of the most corrupt countries in the world, despite his much celebrated anti-corruption drive.

According to the latest Transparency International Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2019 released in January, Nigeria was ranked the fourth most corrupt country in West Africa and 146 out of 180 in the world. The country slipped two places, dropping from 144 in 2018 to 146 in 2019 on the annual corruption perception index.

“The current state of corruption speaks to a need for greater political integrity in many countries. To have any chance of curbing corruption, governments must strengthen checks and balances, limit the influence of big money in politics and ensure broad input in political decision-making,” the report stated.

It would be recalled that the president had drummed on his aversion to corruption and his resolve to fight it headlong if voted into office. Shocked by the open debauchery exhibited by some untouchable officials in the Jonathan administration, many Nigerians swallowed the president’s rhetoric to root out corruption.

The war against corruption kicked off on a good start, or so it seemed to many angry Nigerians baying for blood. Several public officials, both serving and retired, were hounded into prisons, while billions of cash in local and foreign currencies was seized, and ill-gotten mansions and apartments confiscated.

However, before long, questions started to fly on the composition of those targeted by the anti-corruption agencies of the government. Virtually all those on the list of EFCC and the ICPC belonged to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Critics and opposition figures pointed to this obvious fact.

The government quickly countered with what initially looked like a convincing argument: The PDP had been in power for 16 years, so naturally, most of those under investigation and prosecution would be members of the then ruling party.

However, the argument was punctured by the decision of the EFCC, whether deliberately or act of omission, to leave out all ‘guilty’ members of the PDP who had moved on to the now ruling APC. It seems the new but unspoken law is that no matter the sins of a politician or public office holder, he is immediately washed clean of his or her misdeeds the moment he joins the APC.

The case files of public figures who were previously haunted by the EFCC, including former Akwa Ibom and Rivers governors, Senator Gosdwill Akpabio and Rotimi Amaechi, former Osun Deputy Governor, Iyiola Omisore, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, among many others suddenly disappeared.

The saying among Nigerians goes that for you to escape past misdeeds, you must join the APC. This negative notion was not helped by the fact that almost all the members of the president’s of family indicted in one form of corruption scandal or the other were seen moving around unchallenged. It didn’t therefore come as a surprise to many when the Transparency International report named Nigeria among the most corrupt countries in the world.

Unfortunately, the government that came into power on the goodwill of Nigerians has become a pariah. Most of those who spoke with BH rated the administration of former president far above that of the incumbent.

“In fact, the president is a total disappointment. I don’t know how we got ourselves in this mess. He sold us a dummy and we bought it hook line and sinker.

“I think it is even good that he became president when he did. Otherwise, people would have seen him as the best president Nigeria never had. That myth is shattered now, even in his own state of Katsina where they recently defaced his pictures while protesting growing insecurity in the state”, said Segun Olowo, a federal civil servant based in Lagos.

Meanwhile, the organised labour has warned the Federal Government against pushing Nigerians to the wall, saying no government has raped the country like his administration. The labour leaders said that the administration has lost touch with Nigerians as it has gone ahead to implement every negative policy Nigerians have rejected.

In his reaction, President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Quadri Olaleye, said Nigerians are finding it difficult cope with government’s anti-people policies.

“This is too daring; they have developed a thick skin that our pleas and cries no longer mean anything to them. No government has raped this country like the present one; ironically it has enjoyed our understanding the most. They beat us and when we cry, they send security operatives after us or force us to pay a fine of N5 million for hate speech. Our patience has run out.

“Do we still wonder why unemployment and insecurity have increased? This is disgustingly shameful. We urge the government to listen to the voice of reason and reverse the price immediately. Congress is calling a meeting of its organs to take decisions on this obnoxious move,” said the TUC leader.

Also, the President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba, faulted the recent hike in prices of petrol and electricity, describing it as the height of insensitivity on the part of the government.

Wabba noted that the president has been taking Nigerians for granted with three increases in quick succession in three months.

“While condemning this in strongest terms, the NLC and its allies certainly take these rounds of increase as part of the exploitative tendencies targeted against the poor in this precarious time.

“What will happen is that we must have to organise actions to protest against this mysterious policy. We reject it in its entirety and we warn the government not to take Nigerians for a ride because we know that with this challenge now, the cost of goods and services will skyrocket.

“Already, how much is a bag of rice? It is more than a minimum wage now. You also know that a bag of maize is going for more than N22, 000. Where are we heading to in this country? What do they want the poor to do?

“And what is the rationale of all of these? Are they deliberately trying to push citizens to react?” he queried.

Meanwhile, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, insisted that the administration of President Buhari has delivered on the promises made to Nigerians.

Shehu boasted that Buhari has running a regime focused on infrastructure and development.

He mentioned some of the achievements of the president to include repairing the nation’s damaged relations with neighbours and traditional allies such as the United Kingdom, United States, China, Russia, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the others which he claimed has attracted lots of benefits to the country.

“It is a pro-business administration that has used diplomacy to unlock bilateral trade and investment.

“He leads a government that has liberalised the investment climate and market access by achieving reforms that have placed the country in the list of the world’s top reforming economies.

“Nigeria, which other nations had mocked and ridiculed for so many things that were wrong is today progressing at a pace reflecting its size and potential.

“With so much to show and many more coming, it is little surprise that President Buhari would be the object of envy and harsh unfair challenges by politicians who failed to deliver, but continue to nurse ambitions of delighting the audience long after their curtain has been drawn.

“Also, to the credit of the All Progressives Congress-led 8th Assembly, the process of constitutional amendment was kick started and carried through, paving the way for, among other benefits, the financial independence of local government councils, states Houses of Assembly and the country’s judiciary. These changes have already been signed into laws by the President as mandated by the constitution.

“The recent decisions by the administration as they relate to subsidy withdrawal, helping to plug some of the most horrendous notorious holes and release of scarce resources for the more pressing needs of the people takes courage and rare statesmanship on the part of a leader to do.

“President Buhari has shunned populism for the best interest of the people and the state, by providing the kind of reform and development that Nigeria urgently needs,” Shehu added.