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A glance at Buhari’s two years in office

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The ruling All Progressives Congress’ ‘change’ mantra, no doubt, made a solid impression on many Nigerians during the 2015 General Election. The people’s expectations were so high that we thought the Muhammadu Buhari administration would turn around the ailing economy and restore dignity to our weak democratic institutions. But, two years down the line, it appears that the prevailing economic hardship in the country has beclouded the people’s hope in positive change.

Sadly, 57 years after Nigeria attained independence and in spite of her abundant natural wealth and human resources, the economy has continued to decline.

When Buhari assumed office in May 29, 2015, Nigerians prayed and hoped that, being a man of integrity, he would immediately set about undoing the Peoples Democratic Party’s 16-year disservice to the country and its people, especially the poor and the less privileged.

Unfortunately, this has not been the case because President Buhari came into power at a time when the country was battling the destructive Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East. One of the objectives that most people expected the President to accomplish was the safe release of the abducted Chibok girls, who had been in the Boko Haram’s captivity since April 14, 2014. Fortunately, no fewer than 21 girls were released in October 2016 and hope in the administration’s ability to rescue the rest was restored among the people. Seven months later, our joy knew no bounds when another batch of 82 girls regained freedom. This was apart from a handful of the kidnapped Chibok girls, who had previously escaped from their abductors and thousands of other abductees that were rescued by the Nigerian military. Without prejudice, history will be grateful to President Buhari for pulling off this feat.

While we continue to look forward to the rescue of the remaining girls still in captivity, the President deserves commendation for bringing his military experience and discipline to bear on the fight against insurgency and for restoring dignity to the military, whose gallant performance has drastically downgraded the insurgents within the space of two years.

Regarding the economy, it is true that pipeline vandalisation and sabotage of government oil facilities by Niger Delta militants contributed to the crash in the production and sale of crude oil. It is also a fact that the slump in global oil prices added to our economic woes. But, if we had a viable economic plan, independent of the oil industry, we probably would not have found ourselves in the mess that we are today. Unfortunately, government’s inconsistency in policy-making, especially the Central Bank of Nigeria’s fiscal and monetary policy somersault, is one of the major factors that plunged the country into the present economic recession.

Nigerians were happy that the Federal Government was able to block the leakages within its revenue generating agencies through the implementation of the Treasury Single Accounts. As a result, government was able to save over N3tn in the first quarter of 2016. It is also commendable that government was able to recover large sums of money from looters through its whistle-blowing policy. But the National Bureau of Statistics has revealed that the Gross Domestic Product declined by 2.06 per cent in the second quarter of 2016, while annual inflation rose from 16.5 per cent in June to 17.1 per cent in July of the same year.

Consequently, the prices of food and commodities, as well as inflation, rose to 15.8 per cent from 15.3. Also, the negative trend in the Capital Market which showed 9.3 per cent decrease in the All Share Index in June, in addition to the drop in market capitalisation was not unconnected to the inconsistency of the administration’s fiscal policy. Although the Federal Government made some attempts to rescue the situation by pumping N750bn into the economy, the money was a drop in the ocean because it had no significant impact on the economy, except in the area of defence.

Also, the social welfare programme of the present government is a laudable scheme. The monthly supplement of N5,000 for the one million poorest and vulnerable people in the country is guaranteed to put some food on their table in a short time. Unfortunately, at a time most Nigerians knew that one of the easiest ways to cause economic hardship in the country was to hike the pump price of petrol, the government deemed it fit to increase the price from N86.50 to N145.

It appears that the focus of the Buhari administration is in solid minerals development and agriculture. How then do we stabilise the monetary policy fluctuation in the banking sector that is causing economic paralysis in the micro, small and medium enterprises? How do we revive the moribund manufacturing sector that has made us an import-dependent nation? Although it was good that we have a bastion against corruption in every sphere of our society, the poor masses should not bear the brunt of this ‘cosmic battle’.

If the ongoing fight against corruption could not lift the poor above the poverty level, then it is high time the strategy is evaluated. It is a political crime to think that the poor are immune to hardship. Nigerians  cannot afford another two years in the woods. We need a coherent economic strategy, not experiments.

  • Olamide Bakare lives and works in Lagos

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