Buhari’s Eight-Year Rule: A Postscript (2), By Kazeem Akintunde

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Kazeem Akintunde

Buhari’s Eight-Year Rule: A Postscript (2), By Kazeem Akintunde

 

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday last week told Nigerians that he has delivered on most of his ‘change agenda’ upon which the APC anchored its promises to Nigerians eight years ago. Like a man conscious of his place in history, Buhari, while speaking at the inauguration of a housing estate in Zuba, Abuja, told his audience that the housing estate would address the multidimensional poverty among the citizens.  How that is possible beats me hollow. This week, we shall look at the Nation’s economy under Buhari, one of the major planks upon which his administration promised to effect change in the lives of Nigerians.

In 2015, while seeking our votes, Buhari stoutly promised Nigerians ‘security, a death knell to corruption and a buoyant economy’. That was the tripod of his campaign. Eight years down the line, those cardinal promises are yet to materialize. Insecurity is still rife in Nigeria and has actually gone from bad to worse than when he assumed power. On corruption, we are still among the most corrupt countries in the world. Those two issues were examined exhaustively two weeks ago in this article https://theglittersonline.com.ng/kazeem-akintunde-28/

Aside from Buhari’s desire and promise to tackle the nation’s dwindling economy, the party that brought him to power also promised to grow the national economy through the following initiatives: reduction in the power supply deficit as well as the dependence on imports of petroleum products; provision of a country-wide multi-modal transportation network that integrates the economy using roads, railways, air transport, inland waterways, and seaports, with modern equipment and services; increase the stock of locally made products; keep the people in paid jobs; reduce our trade deficits, and strengthen the value of the naira.

The party also vowed to strengthen agriculture in order to provide a guaranteed market for agricultural produce at a competitive market commodity exchange-linked price. Aside from that, the party told Nigerians that it would create 720,000 jobs every year as each state of the federation is expected to create a minimum of 20,000 jobs yearly. In essence, over 5 million jobs should have been created by now.

The APC also told Nigerians then that it plans on making our economy one of the fastest-growing emerging economies in the world with a real GDP growth averaging 10 per cent annually. In another policy document by the APC, the party said that it will embark on vocational training, entrepreneurial and skills acquisition schemes for graduates along with the creation of a Small Business Loan Guarantee Scheme to create at least 5 million new jobs by 2019.

It also listed the provision of allowances to discharge unemployed Youth Corps members for Twelve (12) months while in the skills and entrepreneurial development programme; the creation of a Social Welfare Programme of at least Five Thousand Naira (N5000) that will cater for the 25 million poorest and most vulnerable citizens upon the demonstration of children’s enrollment in school and evidence of immunisation to help promote family stability.

Eight years down the line, how has Buhari and his party fared? The regime did its best at improving social infrastructure across the country, particularly in the area of rail transportation. With several billions of naira gotten as loans from China, a modern railway system was bestowed on the country by the Buhari administration. The railway system was a massive one that was extended to Maradi in Niger Republic.

His government also did a lot to improve the lot of farmers as several intervention programmes were put in place for the benefit of local farmers. In spite of those programmes however, the prices of foodstuff are beyond the reach of most Nigerians. His government also put in place social welfare scheme for the poor among us as N5,000 is paid to poor Nigerians monthly. Aside from that however, the economy has generally suffered under Buhari. The following indices speak to the poor state of our economy in the last eight years:

Nigeria’s inflation rate in 2015 was a single digit of 9.01 per cent. A breakdown of inflation figures year on year onwards show that the inflation rate at the end of 2015 was 9.01 per cent. In 2016, at the thick of the recession, it skyrocketed to 15.68 per cent. In 2017, it moved farther up to 16.52 per cent. It however slowed to 12.09 per cent in 2018 and later 11.40 in 2019. It again rose to 15.75 per cent in December, 2020, which is the highest recorded in the past years. In 2021, inflation rate rose for the first time in eight months to 15.63 per cent, with the reason attributed to the high yuletide spending.

Also, the latest Consumer Price Index report by the National Bureau of Statistics indicated that Nigeria’s inflation rose to 15.7 per cent in February from 15.6 per cent in January this year. Inflation rose to its highest level since 2017, from 16.82% recorded in April 2022 to 17.71% in May of last year, according to the recently released Consumer Price Index report, by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

When Buhari assumed office in 2015, our debt profile stood at N8.8 trillion, according to the Debt Management Office. However, recent statistics from the DMO showed that Nigeria’s debt skyrocketed from N8.8 trillion in 2015 to N41 trillion as of June 2022. This represents an increment of over 500 per cent,

The country’s debt rose from N39.56 trillion in December 2021 to N41.60 trillion in the first three months of 2022 alone. In the same vein, the price of fuel at the inception of Buhari government stood at N87 per litre. As of May 2016, it had moved from N145 per litre representing a 66 per cent increase.

 

In 2020, it was further reviewed upwards to N162 per litre. In the same year, the product sold for between N165 per litre and N220 per litre at the fueling stations. This was further compounded by the unavailability of the product, with the major oil marketers saying that they could no longer continue selling fuel at N165 per litre. Late last year, the price of fuel jumped to N185 at most NNPC stations, while independent marketers sold the product between N195 and N220 depending on the location.

 

Again, in 2015, when President Buhari assumed office, the dollar was exchanged at N198/$ in the parallel market. By 2018, it was N306 to the dollar, and in 2019, it went up to N360 to the dollar and eventually exchanged for N520 in 2021.

 

From 2021 till 2022, the dollar at the parallel market was exchanging for between N600 to N610 as a result of the then recently concluded party primaries where delegates were said to have been bribed with dollars. Now, the exchange rate on the black market is N740 to a dollar.

 

Nigeria’s unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2015 stood at 10.4 per cent according to the National Bureau of Statistics. The figure went up to 14.2 per cent at the end of 2016. At the end of 2017, it moved up to 20.42 per cent. It moved up to 23.1 per cent in 2018, and the latest figures from the NBS indicate that the unemployment rate now stands at 33.3 per cent. This is a far cry from the over 5 million jobs the APC promises to create for Nigerians. In fact, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, has come out to say that it is not the duty of the government to create jobs. What happens to the promise made in 2015?

 

On Gross Domestic Product, a breakdown of the GDP figures from the National Bureau of Statistics and the World Bank from 2015 to 2020 shows that Nigeria’s GDP in 2015 when President Buhari assumed office stood at $486 billion. It declined to $404 billion when the country slipped into recession.

 

In 2017, GDP figures further declined to $375 billion. However, in 2018, as the economy began to recover, the figures improved to $397 billion. In 2019, the figure surged to $448 billion.

By 2020, in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic which affected virtually every sector of the world economy, Nigeria’s GDP figures declined to $432 billion.

The GDP figures were estimated to have risen to $440 billion in 2021, with 3.98% growth of the economy even though official figures by the World Bank are still being expected.

 

Although the Buhari government has made some efforts with the conditional cash transfer to lift people out of poverty, it needs to be institutionalised and expanded while proper accounting of the beneficiaries should be made public.  Also, the infrastructural revamp across the nation, including the completion of the long-abandoned Kano-Maiduguri superhighway, Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Lagos-Ibadan railway, completion of the MMIA new terminal, the Second Niger Bridge, amongst others, is a step in the right direction but there are many more areas begging for attention like the Lagos-Badagry Expressway which the incoming government would need to undertake. Aside from that, the Buhari government tried implementing the single-treasury account, but this has yielded very few results.

While the government has consistently assured that it is working hard to grow the nation’s economy, many have insisted that the administration had no clear-cut policy initiative to stem the high level of inflation and the falling value of the naira against the United States dollar.

The little gains recorded in the economy were, however, wiped off at the tail end of his administration when he embarked on a naira redesign policy that was not well thought-out. The back and forth in the policy dissemination, coupled with the redesigned naira supply gaps, and the eventual Supreme Court ruling compelling the Federal Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria to revert to the status quo has brought nothing but hardship and avoidable inconveniences to the masses. It is evident that a comprehensive cost and benefit analysis was not carried out before the presidential approval to implement the policy. A policy that was supposedly designed for the benefit of the masses led to the death of many, and it was not until the Supreme Court intervened that succour came the way of Nigerians.

It is on record that under his watch, Nigeria became the poverty capital of the world, as many Nigerians fell into the poverty conundrum. Many Nigerians could no longer afford three-square meals a day. The number of out-of-school children continues to grow, while the majority of our youths are now determined to leave the country to anywhere except Nigeria.

It is hoped that the incoming government will take proactive steps in arresting the rot in the nation’s economy for the overall benefit of traumatised Nigerians.

See you next week.