As a president, Muhammadu Buhari has had several achievements to his credit and faces challenges that need to be tackled.
Notable among the challenges include the coronavirus pandemic that has thrown the Buhari-led administration, citizens and the economy into confusion and retrograde.
Happily, the administration put in place an effective mechanism to check the spread of the pandemic while increasing awareness about health and hygiene is helping the country fight the deadly coronavirus disease pandemic today.
It is noteworthy that the President was handed an economy in 2015 that was on the verge of a recession. It was sluggish due to internal and external factors, all of these compounded by the fall of oil prices occasioned by a global recession.
The administration surprised Nigerians by pulling the economy out of recession in less than two years. Just as this was being celebrated, the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the global economic woes, and there we were back in recession just as did everyone.
Yet again, the careful handling and management by the administration helped the country out of a second recession in six months, setting an unbeaten record on how not to suffer a recession.
The current and projected economic growth figures are quite encouraging and if government measures being worked out to curb the existing high food inflation work well as they should; unemployment figures which are officially at 34 per cent will be forced downwards through growth, especially in agriculture.
The economy has remained on a steady path even with the unprecedented challenges, starting from 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economy was hit by the pandemic in mid- 2020, and the economic disruptions led to a recession.
The poor performance of the economy during the COVID-19 era affected output growth, trade, household welfare and livelihood. However, this led to a quick response by the federal government with the rolling out of effective fiscal and monetary policies as well as health-related policies intended to curb the spread of the pandemic and mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the economy.
These measures have yielded considerable results with the country’s domestic growth in the first quarter of 2022 recording real GDP of above three per cent. This economic performance in 2022 shows a steady improvement in growth over the last few years and this can be attributed to government policies and strategies such as the Economic Sustainability Plan; the N500 billion COVID 19 Crisis Intervention Fund etc.
No doubt, under the Buhari-led administration, the information and communications technology sector proved highly instrumental in lifting the Nigerian economy out of recession.
According to the Q4 2020 Report on Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector recorded the highest growth rate of all the sectors of the Nigerian economy.
The breakdown of the different sectors shows that the 14.7% growth rate of the ICT sector was greater than the combined 14.21% growth of the 2nd to 7th fastest growing sectors in 2020.
The telecommunications sector recorded a growth rate of 15.90%, representing its highest growth rate in the last 10 years. In the NBS report for Q1 2021, the ICT sector maintained its position as the fastest-growing sector of the economy.
This, therefore, indicates that the Digital Economy sector has proven to be vital for the diversification of the Nigerian economy.
Under the Buhari administration, the Nigerian economy has seen the most ambitious legislative programme in its history. Several landmark Bills have been passed or amended in the last seven years, including the following: Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill, 2022; Money Laundering (Prevention and Prohibition) Bill, 2022, which repeals the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended, and provides a comprehensive legal and institutional framework for the prevention and prohibition of money laundering in Nigeria, while also conferring on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the legal status of the special control unit against money laundering.Despite the enormity of the security challenge, the military has continued to live up to its billing.
The Armed Forces of Nigeria have set up many operations across the country including the Joint Task Force (JTF) North-east, tagged Operation Hadin Kai covering the North-east region; the JTF SS, tagged Operation Delta Safe covering the South-south region; the JTF NW, known as Operation Hadarin Daji covering the North-west region; Operation Safe Haven covering Plateau, parts of Kaduna and in Bauchi state there is Operation Whirl Stroke covering Benue, Nasarawa and Taraba states while the JTF SW, referred to as Operation Awatse, covers Lagos and Ogun states; Operation Thunder Strike covering Abuja-Kaduna Highway and Operation Whirl Punch covering parts of Kaduna state.
Delta Safe in the south-south has destroyed about 1,520 illegal refineries, confiscated 5,315 storage facilities and impounded 617 boats, amongst other items. Additionally, about 74,297,425 litres of Dual Purpose Kerosene (DPK), 41,971,693 litres of crude oil and 88,350 litres of PMS were recovered.
Of course, procurement of modern equipment for the armed forces has raised the level of the military’s operational readiness and efficiency, in addition to boosting their capabilities. During the period under review, the Nigerian Army procured 160 MRAPS, 150 trucks and 60 APCs to improve its equipment holding. Various kits were equally provided for troops. This is in addition to the provision of accommodation for troops and the recruitment of over 10,000 personnel into the army. The Nigerian Navy, for its part, commissioned the Falcon Eye Maritime Domain Awareness Capability, the third locally-built Seaward Defense Boat, one helicopter, four inshore patrol boats and 90 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats.
The Nigerian Air Force took delivery of 12 Super Tucanos and 3 JF-17 Thunder Fighter Aircraft and other platforms with which it has conducted several air interdictions, provided close air support to ground troops and destroyed several illegal structures and equipment belonging to terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements.
The administration began the implementation of the community policing initiative that has led to the training of 25,000 constabularies in several police colleges across the country.
The successful officers who were trained on basic police duties, modern intelligence gathering techniques, rule of law, etc. were deployed to their local governments of origin to aid in intelligence gathering and improve police visibility in their communities.
Undoubtedly, one of the greatest achievements of the administration was recorded in the oil and gas sector, a sector very critical to the nation’s economic well-being. The passage and signing into law of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is a landmark achievement. Many have described it as the most profound event in the Nigerian oil and gas space in the last 20 years. The PIA is envisaged to foster investment in the industry and delineate responsibilities to the various institutions.
Under the new Act, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has transformed into a limited liability company which will be formally unveiled by the President in July 2022.
The regulatory framework for the sector has l also changed, with the establishment of the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and the Nigerian Midstream and Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority (NMDPRA), which merged the hitherto-existing Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA), Petroleum Equalization Fund (Management) Board (PEFMB), and the Midstream and Downstream Divisions of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR).
The Buhari-led administration has declared this decade the “Decade of Gas” and construction is ongoing of the 614 kilometres Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano Gas Project, the largest domestic gas project in the country.
The administration has provided key infrastructures that are important to the development of the country’s economy, especially in the areas of roads, housing and power. Some of the roads include the Nnewi-Uduma Road, Sections I and II in Enugu and Ebonyi states, Kano-Maiduguri Road Section II (100.08KM), (Shuwarin-Azare) in Jigawa and Bauchi states, Kano-Maiduguri Road Section III (Azare-Potiskum), 106.34km in Bauchi and Yobe states, Vandeikya-Obudu Cattle Ranch Road Phase I and II (24km) in Benue and Cross River states, and Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega-Kontagora-Makera Road (304km) while many road and bridge projects are ongoing across the six geopolitical zones of the country.
The famous second Niger Bridge is currently at 78 per cent completion and is expected to be ready by November 2022. Ongoing work on the bridge consists of the construction of a 1.59 kilometres long bridge and 10.3 kilometres length of approach roads.
The total length of the main work is 11.90 kilometres. The bridge and approach roads are 2×3 lane expressways.
It is imperative to state that the policies, programmes and projects of the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing have contributed to stabilizing the macro-economic situation of the country, particularly in job creation. The activities of the ministry have further contributed to the growth of other sectors of the economy such as the Mining sector through the supply of aggregates, laterite, limestone and other building materials; cement manufacturing, bitumen (importation) and steel production.
Key achievements recorded in the aviation sector include the construction and installation of a Boeing 737 full-motion flight simulator at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria, a development that will save Nigeria millions of dollars it used to spend on the retraining of pilots abroad; the installation of fully-automated Aircraft Firefighter Training Simulator also at NCAT, the first of its kind in Africa; Re-fleeting of Trainer Aircraft in NCAT with six aircraft so far; installation of novel Cat III ILS/DME at Lagos and Abuja airports, instruments that will allow flights to land at low visibility; procurement of two mobile control towers in Lagos and Abuja and the designation of four International Airports in Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt as Special Economic Zones, aimed at encouraging business/investment.
Crucially, one of the most outstanding achievements of the Buhari administration is in the transportation sector, the Kaduna-Abuja and Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge rail lines. The trains are conveying goods and services and reduce traffic and human pressure on infrastructural facilities on the highways. Then there was the ground-breaking ceremony for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway project and the Bonny Deep Sea and Railway Industrial Park. The 2,044 kilometres Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail line cuts across Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Ebonyi, Gombe, Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states.
Despite the scarcity of resources, the federal government has continued to implement the National Social Investment Programmes with the N-Power expanded from 500,000 to one million beneficiaries.
The National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) is also growing strong. The programme is designed as an incentive to boost school enrolment and improve the nutrition of primary school pupils while sustaining the impact of agricultural and women entrepreneurs in communities to produce and provide a quality meal daily to pupils at the basic education level. The NHGSFP aims to provide free school meals to 25 million children in the country by 2030.
Currently, the programme is providing meals to about 10,000,000 school children nationwide, empowers over 100,000 cooks and over 100,000 smallholder farmers in the local areas where the schools are located, while creating employment opportunities across sectors such as transportation and manufacturing.
Agriculturally, the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria, launched by the President on November 17, 2015, has disbursed more than 800 billion Naira to more than four million smallholder farmers of 23 different commodities including rice, wheat, maize, cotton, cassava, poultry, soybeans, groundnut and fish, cultivating over five million hectares of farmland.
The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI) was launched as a government-to-government partnership between the Nigerian and Moroccan governments in December 2016 to help farmers. The initiative produced 30 million 50kg bags of NPK 20:10:10 equivalent in 2020, bringing total production since inception to over 60 million 50kg bags equivalent and the number of participating blending plants increased to 62 from the four that were operational in Nigeria at the inception of the initiative.
The National Agricultural Land Development Authority (NALDA) is establishing Integrated Farm Estates across Nigeria. So far, new/revived Farm Estates have been commissioned in Katsina, Yobe and Imo states while others are under development. The President has directed NALDA to establish these Integrated Farm Estates/Settlements in each of the 109 senatorial districts in the country.
In the areas of education and health, the Buhari-led administration has committed more than N2 trillion through various means, including TETFund – with the universities taking the lion’s share of the total amount.The government has disbursed more than 240 billion Naira in UBE Matching Grants to state governments and the Federal Capital Territory since 2015, and N24 billion from the Teachers Professional Development Fund to states and the FCT.
The administration also introduced the Alternate School Programme (ASP), designed to ensure that every out-of-school child in Nigeria gains access to quality basic education, irrespective of social, cultural or economic circumstances.
Tellingly, the President has approved a new (extended) retirement age of 65 and the length of service of 40 years for teachers in public basic and Secondary schools in the country, and a new Special Teachers Pension Scheme. He also approved the establishment of the National Senior Secondary Education Commission (NSSEC) to regulate secondary education in the country.
The President also approved the establishment of some tertiary institutions of learning such as the University of Transportation, Daura, Katsina state; Federal Maritime University, Delta state; Nigerian Army University, Borno state; Aerospace University, Abuja, FCT; federal colleges of education (one per geopolitical zone), eight new federal polytechnics in Kaltungo (Gombe state), Ayede (Oyo state), Daura (Katsina state), Shendam (Plateau state), Ohodo (Enugu state), Ugep (Cross River state), Monguno (Borno state) and Wannue (Benue state).
Since his assumption of office, the President gave, at least, $2.5 million to each state of the federation and the FCT, under the Saving One Million Lives (SOML) initiative, to improve the health of the people under a programme known as the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).
For the first time since the National Health Act was passed in 2014, the federal government, in 2018, began including the one per cent minimum portion of the Consolidated Revenue Fund – amounting to N55 billion in 2018 – to fund the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF). The BHCPF is designed to deliver guaranteed set health services to all Nigerians, through the national network of Primary Health Care Centres.
It is worth emphasising here that the seeming inability of the Buhari-led administration to address the lingering issue of corruption at high level of governance, perennial insecurity occasioned by incessant kidnappings and terrorist attacks and the pockets of strike by members of the Acamedic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and other trade unions and associations, among other things, is dwarfing the numerous achievements it has recorded in virtually all sectors of the country’s economy.