When United States President Barack Obama assumed duty for his first term, the economy of the country was in a mess. The banking and mortgage sectors were crumbling. Some banks were even failing. Obama did not go about making noise. He simply got down to work. Within a matter of months, he impacted positively on these sectors and many more. This is what I was expecting from President Muhammadu Buhari. Unfortunately, it has not been the case.
Our President has spent almost six months giving excuses for his inability to deliver on his promises. At a point, he said he was too old and that much should not be expected from him. The latest of his long list of excuses is that Nigeria is broke and that governments cannot afford to pay salaries. Buhari said last week: “Where is the money? You must have known that the Federal Government had to help 27 of the 36 states to pay salaries. Nigeria cannot pay salaries.
The Federal Government itself had to summon the governor of the Central Bank to see how it would pay salaries not to talk of the agreements we signed with foreign countries, counterpart funding and so on. Of course, Nigeria is broke. This country was materially vandalised and morally.”
Nigeria is broke, yet Buhari was able to provide over N500 billion as bailout fund to squandering governors. This country is broke, yet the three tiers of governments shared over N2.3 trillion in five months. Nigeria is broke, yet our President has approved the payment of N413 billion absolutely avoidable subsidy claims to fuel importers. We are broke, yet we pay billions of Naira daily to subsidise fuel importation. What a great irony.
I am sick and tired of Buhari’s persistent excuses. I am sure that many Nigerians are also tired of this. Buhari knew very well that our economy “is not doing very well” before he put himself forward to contest. He was aware of the enormity of the problem at hand. He knew crude oil prices were crumbling before he contested. He knew that our revenue was plummeting. He knew there was corruption. He knew that many sectors of the economy were struggling. In the midst of all these, he puts himself forward to contest the Presidency and told Nigerians that he was capable of turning things around. He said he could do it.
Those who voted for him did so because they believed he was capable of turning things around. They believed him. Enough of all these excuses. Buhari has already used almost six months out of his 48 months. About 12.5% of his tenure has elapsed. Our President should simply get down to work. He was not voted President to come and be giving excuses. Giving excuses amidst crisis is the simplest thing to do. Any bloody fool can do this. Buhari has spent almost six months in office.
This is enough a period for him to make some impact on troubled areas like security, education, health, roads, unemployment, agriculture and housing. Six months are more than enough to moderately reduce kidnapping and armed robbery across the country. It is enough a period to moderately turn around teaching hospitals across the country. It is enough a period to put in place a few new infrastructure in our tattered universities and polytechnics. It is more than enough a period to moderately turn around some federal roads. It is more than enough time to create some few new jobs for our teeming unemployed youth.
Buhari experienced first-hand the daily sufferings and struggles of our people during his nationwide campaign. When will he start ameliorating these sufferings? When will he start paying N5000 each to 25 million poor Nigerians? When will our President bring the naira to the same value with the dollar; provide allowances to the discharged but unemployed youth corps members for 12 months; provide free education and meals for school children, among others, as promised during campaigns by his party?
What I find even more frightening is that Buhari’s supporters are now making excuses on his behalf, instead of challenging him to perform. Even some supposedly educated people are joining the fray. Just yesterday, an ex-flat mate of mine at the University of Leeds who is a PhD holder sent me a text saying “Buhari can’t turn things around because there is no money to do so.
The previous government stole everything.” Haba! What a lame excuse. Must we continue living in the past? Is a forward-looking government not supposed to come out with strategies to improve revenue generation? So, what about the revenue that accrued to the federal government in the last five months? By official records, the federal government got about N283 billion as its share of federally-collected revenue in May (paid in June). Payment is always in arrears. For June, Buhari got N228 billion (paid in July); for July, he got N212 billion (paid in August); for August, Buhari got N168.6 billion (paid in September) and for September, he got N151.3 billion (paid in October). In just five months, the Buhari administration has received over N1 trillion or about $5 billion at interbank rate.
This is good money that should make a moderate impact on troubled sectors of our economy.
Despite over N500bn Bailout, Governors Still Owing Civil Servants
Many state governors are still owing civil servants months of unpaid salaries despite the huge bailout money they got from the federal government. This money was specifically given to pay outstanding salaries. But most of these squandering governors have allegedly diverted the bulk of the funds received into paying contractors. Many of them got more than enough to pay the huge debt but chose to look the other way. Civil servants in most states are still suffering.
The situation is so bad in Osun, Imo, Plateau, Cross River, Bauchi, Oyo, Abia, Kwara and Benue states. In the spirit of the war against corruption, these governors must be made to account for the bailout money collected. Labour unions in these states must not relent in their demand for probity.
The commitment of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. TY Buratai to the war against Boko Haram has so far been very impressive. This is the first time that we would see an army chief actively involved in this war. I have seen him on several occasions, on the frontline, encouraging our gallant soldiers to stay committed to the battle and demanding that the war must be won within the next few weeks.
His words have been inspiring. Buratai said in a recent communication to the soldiers at the theatre of war: “Our sovereignty as a nation is threatened. The Nigerian Army and indeed the military as the symbol of our nationhood are being challenged.
Our ability to stand and defeat the Boko Haram terrorists in the next few weeks will determine the future of our country. We cannot afford to lose the fight. We are better trained and better equipped.
The whole nation is behind us. Let us remain steadfast in this noble cause. Be courageous. We must degrade and defeat the terrorists. This job must be done. We must make our country men and women proud.”
When the Army chief visited troops of 21 Brigade at Bama, Borno State, he hailed their performance against Boko Haram and also gave automatic promotion to two soldiers for gallantry. This was indeed encouraging. The gallant soldiers of the brigade liberated Bama from the terrorists after a fierce battle leading to the killing of scores of the terrorists. As I said last week, I can see light very soon at the end of this tunnel. May Allah continue to give Buratai wisdom to win this war.
In this country, we play politics with everything; human lives inclusive. It is a shame that several months after the celebrated announcement of the clean-up of Ogoni land by President Muhammadu Buhari, nothing is happening in this area. A statement by the youths of Ogoni land signed by the president of the National Youth Council of the Ogoni people, Dr Young Nkpah, kept me thinking for most of the week. Nkpah accused Buhari of deceiving Ogoni people by that announcement. The President had on assumption of office announced his readiness to implement the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report on cleaning of Ogoni land.
Nkpah said: “After a study of the approach, loud pronouncements and long delays adopted by the government on the globally celebrated implementation, the Ogoni people are not persuaded about the sincerity of the Buhari-led federal government whose earlier promises were designed to score cheap political points.
“After the July 28, 2015, consultative meeting held in Abuja and chaired by the immediate past Head of Service, Danladi Kifasi, the federal government is yet to release any funds to kick start the process. Since the announcement by Buhari of immediate action and release of funds, the federal government has seemingly dosed-off on the programme without regard to the health hazards and increasing mortality rate resulting from the long polluted Ogoniland.”
President Buhari must urgently remove whatever hindrances militating against the implementation of the UNEP report in order to sustain the peace in Ogoni land. This is food for thought.
The Truth about Our Refineries
The stories flying around in the early days of the Buhari administration was that our refineries were working. It was a hoax. They are as good as dead. Only Port Harcourt Refinery recorded a performance of 5.77 per cent of installed capacity in the month of September, according to a report by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) detailing the corporation’s operations in the period under review.
The nation’s four refineries had a combined capacity utilisation of 1.96 per cent in September.
They have also been recording huge losses. It does not make economic sense to continue wasting resources on these refineries. This is one area that can be best managed by the private sector. The government needs to consider partial privatisation by selling controlling shares to reputable oil companies that would then put in money and manpower to turn them around. This waste must not continue.
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