By Tope Adeboboye
TODAY, May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration clocked one year. Some have submitted that all the administration did in the last one year had been motion without movement. Such people insist that whatever accomplishments the administration might have recorded in the past 12 months have been meagre and minimal. But the president’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, asserted that such postulations were far from the truth. The president’s spokesman insisted that a lot of gains have been made since Buhari mounted the saddle last year.
The fight against the Boko Haram insurgency is one area in which the administration gives itself a pat on the back. And many would indeed concur that the Islamist sect had been robustly decimated since the retired General assumed power.
Soon after he was sworn in, the president overhauled the topmost hierarchy of the Nigerian military and moved the military command to the heart of the insurgency in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital. The reporter was told that the troops’ morale has also been better boosted. Reports of soldiers fleeing from Boko Haram fighters have disappeared from the newspapers, and the federal government now insists that there is no Nigerian territory currently being controlled by Boko Haram.
Erstwhile military allies, including the United States and United Kingdom, are also back, according to the president’s spokesman. For instance, the United States recently donated 24 mine-resistant armoured vehicles (MRAP) to the troops even as the Israeli government has indicated interest in supporting the fight. The government also introduced the Motorcycle Battalion, which now enables soldiers to access remote areas that cannot be navigated by trucks and cars.
“There are no more roadblocks and curfews in place, and thousands of hostages, including children, have been liberated and reunited with families. The welfare of military officers and men of the military now takes top priority, and there is a formidable synergy among the branches of the security establishment which has resulted in a strategic defeat of the common enemy,” he stated. He also said the use of satellite images and geographical information system to monitor activities in areas once occupied by the insurgents, the president’s trips to neighbouring countries, the support of Multinational Joint Task Force, and the blockage of the insurgents’ arms and food supply routes, among others, all contributed to the decimation of Boko Haram.
Also, through Buhari’s leadership, the Trans National Organized Crime (TNOC) has ensured a partnership with regional allies in the fight against the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, he asserted. “The President also reached out to the G7 countries and Nigeria now has an agreement with them on intelligence sharing, technical military training and arms deals and donations,” he informed.
Militancy and sea piracy
To tackle the militancy, sea piracy and other criminal activities in the country, the federal government, it was learnt, overhauled the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and ensured that established bodies like the Nigerian Navy, instead of militia leaders, now protect critical national infrastructural assets. Pipeline vandalism and oil bunkering are also being tackled with vigour by the Navy and other security outfits, Adesina noted. In the area of internal security, the newspaper learnt that the technical capacity of the Nigeria Police has been improved with the establishment of a forensic lab, a GSM tracking device and other facilities to ensure a more IT-integrated Police. Reforms were also carried out at the Nigeria Immigration Service and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), among others.
Many people have lambasted the federal government for looking the other way while armed herdsmen committed murder, rape, arson and other acts of brigandage across the country. But Adesina said nothing could be farther from the truth. He said the Buhari administration is committed to ridding the country of all criminal elements. He noted that joint operations to curb the menace by the various security establishments are on course to deal with the crisis. “Also, the use of surveying and updated mappings across the country is a strategic way in preventing threats among ethnic groups in Nigeria,” he stated.
One of the greatest achievements of the Buhari government, no doubt, is its dogged fight against corruption. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has been very busy since the administration assumed office. Many top figures in the military hierarchy are being prosecuted for their alleged involvements in financial frauds, just like many former heads of strategic government agencies are being quizzed or prosecuted.
Bailout for ailing states
When the new administration was inaugurated, no fewer than 27 states were unable to pay workers’ salaries. One of the immediate actions of the president was to seek a way out for the states whose workers were passing through hard times. In September last year, the president directed the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to disburse N689.5 billion as bailout to 27 states to pay salaries.
The economy has been passing through dire straits in recent months. But the president’s spokesman said Buhari has been steadily implementing policies to rejuvenate the economy. For instance, the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has generated over N3 trillion in savings for the country, he recalled. The government also said the enforcement of the Bank Verification Number (BVN) has helped in tackling the menace of ghost workers, thereby saving more money for projects. Corrupt persons also can no longer maintain multiple accounts using different identities, as such would easily be detected through the BVN. There are also plans for the social welfare for citizens in conjunction with the World Bank.
In the 2016 Budget, the federal government spelt out its agenda to move the economy away from its total dependency on oil and have it diversified, using, especially, agriculture and solid minerals According to the President’s spokesman, the government intends to, through agriculture, generate more employment opportunities and promote exports through the attainment of self-sufficiency in rice production by 2018; sufficiency in tomato paste by 2016; attaining local production of maize, soya beans, poultry and livestock.
The reporter also gathered that there are plans to make use of 5,000 hectares arable land in 12 River Basin Development Authorities and utilise the available 22 dams for commercial farming by prospective investors and ensure that farming is done all year round.
Mr. Adesina told the reporter that part of government’s efforts to stimulate the economy is the injection of billions of naira into the infrastructural development in the country in this year’s budget. Some of the interventions, he stated, include the planned completion of the Kaduna-Abuja- Ajaokuta railway lines this year; construction of the Lagos-Kano standard Gauge Rail line and finalisation of negotiations on the Calabar-Lagos rail line and the construction of over 500 new roads across the country. “Through this intervention, there would be massive job creations,” he noted. He also informed that the records of more than 34,000 ghost workers draining the nation’s resources were expunged from the Federal Civil Service. Through that, the government saved about N2.29 billion monthly. The president last year ruled out the appointment of a government delegation for pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia. The government would have spent about one million U.S dollars and N30m on the pilgrimage, Adesina said.
The Chinese deal
It was gathered that the country would gain over $6 billion in investments from the president’s recent state visit to China. Many critical infrastructural projects across the country would be executed from the Chinese funding. “Chinese solar power manufacturers would be coming to set up solar panel manufacturing business in Nigeria, while an agreement has been signed with the Chinese president to improve Nigeria’s power infrastructure.
The petroleum industry
Since Buhari took over, many things have changed within the nation’s petroleum industry, especially at the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Speaking recently, the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, said the accounting structure has been reconstructed to make it more transparent, and more than 40 accounts being operated by the organization that could aid the perpetration of sharp practices have been closed. He said operational deficits have been reduced by up to 50 per cent just as the organization has conducted its annual audits for between 2011 and 2014. Right now, its financial reports are published monthly, it was learnt. Kachikwu, who is also NNPC’s Group Managing Director, said the Buhari government also resuscitated the Port Harcourt, Warri and Kaduna Refineries, repaired pipelines and resumed supply of products on the Atlas Cove- Mosimi- Ibadan-Ilorin line as well as repaired the Escravos/ Warri and Bonny/Port Harcourt crude oil pipe lines. The administration, it was gathered, also eliminated the Offshore Processing Agreement (OPA) through the introduction of the Direct Sales and Direct Purchase (DSDP) scheme with reputable offshore refineries. Through this, the country generates additional savings of US$1 billion annually, the reporter was told.
Other achievements of the government in the sector, according to Kachikwu, include the introduction of a price modulation framework for downstream petroleum product pricing to encourage responsiveness to market dynamics; guided deregulation of the downstream sector to allow market forces determine product price and eliminate subsidy payments; introduction of the initiative on refinery co-location to increase domestic refining capacity and minimize the drain on scarce foreign exchange for product importation and the commencement of policy reforms for gas monetization, flare out and infrastructure development, to fast track power supply and economic diversification.
The minister said government was considering privatizing the refineries. He also said about 25 licences given to private operators between 2002 and 2014 to build refineries in the country would be reviewed and inactive ones would be revoked
Rule of law
The Buhari administration says it has demonstrated sufficient restraint in dabbling into the affairs of the judiciary.
“He has maintained that the rule of law will be followed to the letter throughout his administration, and to consolidate a sustainable infrastructure that will stand the test of time, he has beamed his light on strengthening institutions that will continue with the mandate of ensuring law and order in our society,” Adesina stated.
He further noted that the Buhari government had done a lot in the education and sports sectors.
And for those saying the president isn’t at peace with the Niger Delta, Adesina noted that the president approved the implementation of United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) report 2010 for the clean-up of Ogoniland with regards to oil pollution. He said President Buhari would be in Rivers State early next month to launch the project.
Changing the country’s global perception
President Buhari, his spokesman noted, has succeeded in transforming Nigeria from a pariah state within the international community in the last year. His foreign trips are also yielding fruits, as Nigeria has secured the backing of Western countries and global financial institutions to help locate and repatriate Nigeria’s stolen assets.
Adesina said President Buhari had, in the past 12 months laid a planted some good seeds that would yield bountiful harvests to the delight of Nigerians. He pleaded for patience and understanding from Nigerians, insisting that the policies of the Buhari would ultimately better the lot of Nigeria and Nigerians.