■ Impressions Nigerians hold of the president, his govt
By Olafioye Olakunle, Anderline Alaoma and Chikwekwem Anthony
Many Nigerians may wonder if President Muhammadu Buhari is really a reformer, but the country’s leadership has no such doubts. Feelers in the recent weeks seem to signal an obvious disconnect between the government and the populace. A section of Nigerians believes the government is not doing enough to ease the pains of the suffering masses. But the government on the other hand claims it has shown enough commitment to convince the nation of its seriousness to bring about positive change with its performance so far.
Buhari, on whose shoulder the onerous task of transforming the nation lies, feigns no ignorance about the hard times. “I feel your pains” he had said on a few occasions with consistent assurance of his government’s determination to usher in better times. But as soothing as these assurances may sound, not a few Nigerians find what they describe as the government’s passive disposition to disseminating information about its programmes and policies so exasperating, a development communication experts believe gives fillip to the thriving rumours and misinformation about activities of the government. Curiously, however, the government, it appears, operates under the illusion that its critics are largely the minority elite, and claims it has the understanding and the support of the masses. But investigation by Sunday Sun seems to put a lie to this assumption. Below are representative views expressed by Nigerians on some of the policies and programmes of the administration.
What the people say…
Since this government came to power the cost of food items has continued to go up. Look at the prices of staple foods like rice, beans, bread, for instance. The federal government put us in this mess because of the ban placed on some of these items particularly rice which is the masses’ major food.
– Ambrose Onyekachi (Teacher)
My anger against this current government has to do with its insistence on the Treasury Single Account. The directive that all government ministries, departments and agencies should maintain a unified account is causing a major havoc in the nation’s banking industry. This is partly responsible for the massive job loss in the sector and the near-insolvency of a few of the banks as we are beginning to hear. Buhari needs to do something urgently about this.
–Mr. Ogboh Princewill (Banker)
The hike in the price of petroleum products is responsible for the hardship we have found ourselves in. The price of everything went up the moment the government increased the price of fuel because almost everything depends on transportation. If the government had considered the poor masses, who voted for President Buhari, in designing its programme, it would not have removed subsidy on fuel, which is the cause of our suffering now.
–Jelili Oseni (Transporter)
Life under Buhari has not been easy: prices of products and services have skyrocketed and our currency value is fast depreciating. This means that we are in a big trouble as we are a consumer nation. On the other hand, we must realise that to make this country great again, we have to go through a lot of pains. The government needs to make its intention clear to everybody not just by presenting blueprints but also by communicating what they are working on.
– Umunna Dirichi (Corps member)
Buhari has not been fair to Nigerians. I think the government is deliberately punishing this country with the embargo they placed on the importation of rice just because they want to encourage local farmers. I am not opposed to the idea of encouraging local farmers but it should have been done in a way that does not put people in the terrible situation we are in now. A bag of rice now sells for over N20, 000 in a country where the minimum wage is N18, 000. How do we survive this?
– Amoo Serifat (Fashion designer)
The government has failed to deliver on its promise to reposition the power situation in the country. Many people are basking in the euphoria of relative stability in power supply without knowing the reason for this. The fact is that the government is yet to do anything meaningful about this problem in spite of the huge role electricity plays in the nation’s economy. Why we are seeing this little improvement is because we are in the rainy season and the current water level has been aiding power generation. But I can assure you that Nigerians will go back to square one, as far as power supply is concerned, the moment the rains stop.
– Mr. Olawale Matthew (civil servant)
This government has disappointed us. Nothing seems to be working. Workers are being sacked. Those who are lucky to retain their jobs are not getting their salaries as at when due. Artisans like me are idle because Buhari decided to starve the country of funds. He is fighting corruption and mopping up funds from circulation. Of what benefit is his anti-graft war when Nigerians can no longer afford food on their tables.
–Oshunrayi Babatunde (builder)
We can’t afford even a meal per day; no job, no light, cost of buying fuel is high, we can’t get things we used to buy, no good roads both in the rural and urban centres. If Buhari really has the interest of Nigerians at heart as he claims, let him balance his appointments with the right people from the three major ethnic groups of this nation.
– Mr. Brown Wayne (security expert)
I am a graduate. I am not an okada rider. Ever since I graduated from the university life has been very difficult. I have submitted applications to different organizations without any luck. So I decided to take to commercial motorcycle service as a means of livelihood. Buhari should create jobs for Nigerians. People coming out of school should not be left idle.
– David Chukwuemeka (commercial motorcyclist)
Doing business in Nigeria is becoming increasingly difficult. People in business are experiencing low patronage as a result of low volume of money in circulation because of government’s policy on Treasury Single Account (TSA). Banks are reluctant to give loans to business owners because they claim the TSA is draining their coffers.
– Mr. Mefor Anthony (businessman)
Buhari has made some progress in restoring decorum to the public space especially in the area of political stealing and ostentatious display of ill acquired wealth. Economically, it is a sad story due to fall of the naira and consequent rise in prices of goods and foodstuffs. There have been some gains in the area of improved security but there is abysmal performance in the lack of clear financial strategies and prompt application of the Criminal Offences Act.
–Dr Chinenye O. Chinenye (lecturer)
The people need to feel the impact of what Buhari is doing. Nigeria is in recession and there is no country that goes into recession that comes out quick as they are promising us now. As long as this administration is ending in 2019 I do not nurse such hope. I don’t know why he appointed some people into his cabinet. There are some people whose past casts visible slur on Buhari himself. The president is known as a man of integrity but the presence of some people around him is worrisome. Nigeria is indeed in big problem except he rises to the challenge by doing the needful.
– Eze Orji (clearing and forwarding agent)
What government says…
Contrary to the opinions expressed by some of the respondents, the realities in some sectors of the national life indicate that these views may not be the true reflection of government’s intentions on a number of its policies. This, in the opinion of some communication experts, underscores a major disconnect between the government and the public due to paucity of information on government policies. For instance, while many erroneously blame the high cost of rice on what they interpret as total ban allegedly placed on the importation of rice by the government, the Nigeria Customs had only announced the ban on the importation of the food item through the land borders, while its importation through seaports is still allowed. The Customs Area Comptroller for Oyo/Osun Area Command, Temitope Ogunkua, who made the announcement in March this year said the directive was part of measures to block identified loopholes in the nation’s finance sector. The Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Customs Service, Col Hameed Ali (retd) has even given clarifications that the service decided to ban importation of rice through land borders after it observed that the dwindling revenue from rice imports through the land borders did not match the volume of rice landed in neighboring ports.
Ironically, the TSA policy is not the creation of the current administration. TSA was fashioned out by the administration of ex-President Jonathan in 2012 to correct the anomalies arising from remittance of funds by government ministries and agencies in the country. Justifying its implementation, the government argued that payment of revenues into multiple accounts apart from creating discrepancies also caused severe leakages, which in no small measure bleed the nation’s economy. The then Head of Service of the Federation, Danladi Kifasi, prior to his removal by Buhari and replacement by Winifred Ekanem Oyo-Ita, had explained that the policy was to aid transparency and facilitate compliance with Sections 80 and 162 of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). On the claim that the policy mops funds from circulation, the government, Sunday Sun investigations revealed, has demonstrated appreciable intention to stimulate economic activities by injecting funds into the economy. The government had earlier injected N420 billion and later an additional N350 billion into the economy. The Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, while making the announcement on the additional funds due for injection recently, assured Nigerians that the government was taking strategic steps to ensure the country exits recession soon. In addition to this, the Federal Government is believed to have released a total of N3.9 trillion out of the N6.1 trillion budgeted for the year. The Finance Minister, represented by Director, Special Projects in the ministry, Mr. Mohammed Dikwa, made this known at a stakeholders’ forum on reducing the cost of governance in Abuja recently. In a paper, “Public Sector Financial Reforms as Strategy for Cutting Cost of Governance in Nigeria,” the minister said 18 percent of the releases so far were for capital expenditure as against 82 per cent for recurrent expenditure. Contrary to the claim that the relative improvement being witnessed in the nation’s power sector is due to the increase in water level as a result of the rainy season, government, according to the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, had actually embarked on a wide range of solutions in a bid to reposition the power sector. The minister said the government had taken steps to enhance the generating capacities of some hydroelectric plants.
“Restoration of repair works and maintenance of broken down turbines at the nation’s hydro plants, which enhanced the generating capacity of such plants during the increased circle of rainfall and water levels, was the major contributing factor to the current addition of more power to the national grid,” the minister explained during a presentation at the Wilson Centre, Washington DC, USA.
“In the last one year, we have done a lot of repairs and maintenance work so that every year, of course, there is increased circle of rainfall and water levels, but if you have three turbines and only one is working you can only depend on one. So, where we had one working, we now have two, where we had two, we now have three,” he said.
“So, the hydro plants are giving us almost 400MW of power and that is a lot of power given our situation. And we have added about 1MW of solar and there is more coming; so I think we are on our way.”
On the moves to rescue the naira, the Central Bank of Nigeria has taken far reaching measures to curtail its slide. In a country stricken by 9.2 per cent inflation as at July, one of the world’s worst, and declining foreign exchange reserves now at $30.5 billion from about $42 billion a year ago, CBN governor, Godwin Emefiele said recently that the apex bank had taken strident measures to protect the currency especially at a time when oil revenues are falling. Nigeria’s dependence on crude oil (currently above 80 per cent of total foreign exchange earnings), experts maintain, makes the nation’s economic growth susceptible to oil price shocks, directly impacting on external reserves, creating negative effects that lead to capital flight, thus depreciating the naira. However, in a bid to stem this, the CBN decided to look inwards in finding solutions to the nation’s currency and economic crises. To achieve exchange rate stability, the apex bank banned the sale of foreign exchange by banks to importers, stating that all imports involving electronics, finished products, information technology, generators, telecommunication equipment and invisible transactions would be funded from the interbank foreign exchange market only. The objective, Sunday Sun learnt, was to maintain stability in the foreign exchange market and strengthen the various policy measures already initiated, including the regulation of the Bureau De Change (BDCs) that cut dollar supply to operators from $75,000 to $50,000 weekly. “Government will continue to intervene to keep the exchange rate stable because of the dire consequences of doing otherwise. Besides, allowing the local currency to find its level will not be in the interest of the economy and the larger population. Today, the naira is still exchanging at N197 to a dollar at the official market,” Emefiele had disclosed. Although many critics of the government are unyielding in their condemnation of government’s decision on total deregulation of the oil sector with the removal of subsidy of petroleum products, the decision, government claimed, has saved the nation about N1.4 trillion that would have been paid as subsidy to oil marketers. The amount, had government not done away with the subsidy regime, would have constituted additional strain on the nation’s lean revenue.
The Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo while reeling out the benefits of deregulation at the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI 2016 Presidential Policy Dialogue Session in Lagos in August said: “The immediate impact of deregulation was the availability of PMS throughout the country. This was achieved by the price of N145 per litre as against well in excess of N200 per litre that was being paid in most parts of the country prior to deregulation. This action has also reduced daily demand for PMS from 1,600 trucks to 850 trucks per day.