10 months after: Nigerians and the patient wait for ‘change’
We Do Not Know Whether We Are In Change Era Or Chains, Say Artisans
For almost 10 months of the present All Progressive Congress-led government, tongues have wagged differently.
Nigerians have differed in their views on the government’s performance so far. While some Nigerians have already labeled the government a failure, others are of the view that it was too early to pass judgment on the government that is less than one year in office, with its inherited myriad of challenges.
Since coming into office, President Muhammadu Buhari’s APC- led government appeared to have concentrated its attention on the anti-corruption fight while waiting for the 2016 budget passage to kick-start the economy.
Government Is Steadily And Gradually Tackling The Myriads Of Challenges It Inherited, Says Presidency
Speaking on the performance of the APC-led government, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, told The Guardian that President Buhari’s government is on the right course, having made the tremendous impact in every sector of the economy in the last 10 months.
Garba said: “Obviously the government inherited myriads of challenges that are being gradually and steadily tackled. The government has proactively fought Boko Haram to the extent that the insurgents do not hold a single Nigerian territory today. The government has also created another operational division in the North East; added presence of senior Army personnel.
“In the area of corruption, President Buhari has led by example in the fight against corruption. The government has set a new benchmark in the fight against corruption. The president’s body language alone has influenced people to shy away from corruption. Enabling environment has been created for the various anti-graft agencies to carry out their duties with no interference. Several loots have been recovered from officials of the past government.
“Good governance and rule of law have been restored in the country. The Code of Conduct Tribunal case of the Senate President has proved that every Nigerian is answerable to the law. Many Nigerians thought the President should have influenced the various election reruns, but the president chose transparency. This administration has ensured that due process is followed in the day- to-day dealings of the government. This administration has implemented the TSA to further stem corruption and ensure transparency and over three trillion Naira was saved as a result of TSA.”
On the insinuations that the government has not done anything on the economy, the presidential spokesperson said the introduction of the zero-based budgeting system to ensure efficient allocation of resources and detect inflated budgets is a milestone.
“This administration has created a template for the creation of three million jobs and has been very prudent with public monies. It hasn’t borrowed to pay staff salaries. Through prudent economic management, the Nigerian foreign reserve increased, despite dwindling oil prices and a falling Naira. Promotion of local production and patronisation of local products has boosted the economy.”
‘We Are Suffering For Mistakes Of The Past’
The research lead of a Lagos-based outfit, BudgIT, Mr Atiku Samuel, who is an expert in data analysis and has written series of reports on economic trends, fiscal and monetary issues of the government, spoke with DEBO OLADIMEJI on the state of the economy and the way forward.
The economic impasse the country is going through according to the research lead of Budgit, Mr Atiku Samuel, is a combination of factors.
According to him, the economic crisis is due to the mistakes of the past and lack of clear monetary and fiscal policies of the government.
“Nigeria needs clear policy direction in terms of how it intends to diversify government’s revenue. Heads of most agencies are leaving or waiting to be sacked. We have a currency crisis and more importantly- the economy as a whole is flattening out.”
Samuel urged the government to set clear policy direction and communicate same to Nigerians and investment communities.
“Some of the economic sectors are suffering glut, some managing to stay afloat. But most are waiting for government’s clear rules and direction- and that is causing serious investment and supply issues. That explains a lot.”
He added that food inflation is a tax on the poor. Nigeria, he said, is experiencing that today and that is affecting people’s perceptions.
He regretted that Import licencing issues is creating the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit ( PMS).
Samuel pointed out that people may be quick to blame the fall in crude oil price for the economic downturn. He argued that the reality is that crude oil is just partly- approximately six per cent of what is produced in Nigeria- employing very few people.
“The biggest challenge is strongly connected to the lack of enabling environment. Trade does not determine to a larger extent the value of the currency – capital flow does. Nigeria is not attractive enough to retain foreign capitals. The reason is partly connected to failures in the past and failure to plan for the future today.”
Samuel said that the organised private sector expects a better and cheaper operating environment.
“Incentives to run business under corporate cover is not there. Nigeria’s company tax rate is one of the highest globally. The civil society organisation wants a more participatory government. That is not happening today. Nigeria expects actions on promises made during campaigns.”
He said that without clear policy direction, a fiscal framework that connects spending to impact- we may be running a rat race.
“We expect that the National Assembly will have to redirect resource from frivolous programs to areas of needs. We also expect that the government during implementation of the 2016 budget will be more open and use the opportunity to correct some of the challenges.”
Waiting For Buhari’s Job Creation Plans
During the 2015 electioneering campaign, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had promised unemployed Nigerians that the party would make jobs available to most of them if elected into power. In fact, at the presidential campaign rally in Kano, President Muhammadu Buhari had promised to create three million jobs yearly to curb the problem of unemployment in the country.
Nevertheless, 10 months into the life of the administration, Nigerians are still waiting for the government to unveil its plans on job creation and effectively tackle the problem of unemployment in the country.
Commenting on the situation, an unemployed graduate of Political Science from the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Okechukwu Emmanuel, noted that as far as he was concerned, the APC-led Federal Government has not made any difference in governance in the area of job creation when compared to the immediate past administration led by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Emmanuel said: “I finished my NYSC programme since two years ago. I have been jobless since then. I campaigned for “Change” because I believed that things would really get better with a new set of people at the helm of affairs of the country, but that appears not to be the case with regards to job creation. They promised to create three million jobs a year but here we are today. This is 10 months since the new government was sworn into office and there are no jobs anywhere, even in government establishments.”
Also commenting on the issue, an unemployed graduate of Electrical/Electronics Engineering, Tolu Akande, said government should concentrate on creating the enabling environment for the private sector to thrive as a way of encouraging job creation in the country.
He said: “There are millions of qualified unemployed people in the country. There is no way government alone can employ them. For me, I think government should create a conducive environment that will encourage private sector participation in the economy.“
‘Lack Of Electricity Is Killing Business’
Ekwy P. Uzoanya
The only thing uppermost in the mind of Kenneth Ibiang, a fashion designer regarding assessment of the performance of the government in power in the last 10 months is how his means of livelihood has fared.
According to him, he placed high hopes on the government, which came on stream on May 29, 2015 to begin to get the country back on the proper footing. Power supply, he reckoned, should come first in the plan for rehabilitation or provision of infrastructure. This, he explained, is because it is one thing that will keep people in employment and help create jobs for those out of work.
He said that without public electric supply, he could hardly do any meaningful work in his Ogba, Lagos workshop.
“Things have been very rough. For years now, all I saw was epileptic power supply which did not allow me to work. In fact, I cannot count the number of generators I have used in the last five years as they packed up after some time. I need electricity to work with right from the beginning of my work to the end, if I must do a neat job that my customers expect from me. The machines need electricity, and I need to iron almost at every stage.
“I was very happy, therefore, when at the beginning of this administration, the electricity supply increased from what it used to be. We were all happy. But gradually the thing started disappearing and I went back to buying fuel to power my generator because if I don’t use it, it means I cannot work.
“The most frustrating part now is this fuel scarcity that does not end. When you think it is over, before you know it, you start seeing queues at the fuel station again. Since we started having this present round of fuel scarcity, I have not done much work because I could not easily buy fuel for my generator.”
Nigerian Students Bemoan Country’s Economic Situation
It has been ten months since the All Progressives Congress (APC) led government have been leading the affairs of the country and for a lot of Nigerian students, these are uncertain as well as difficult times. Oil prices have fallen, forex exchange is almost non-existent and these difficulties have permeated all facets of life, education included.
Speaking with The Guardian, a student of the Lagos State Polytechnic, Ikorodu Campus, Remi Alade, lamented that their school fees as well as other levies, have witnessed the significant increase over the last few months. Struggling to contain her annoyance, Alade who is just in her second year of her National Diploma programme, says she is contemplating dropping out of school to look for a job to cater for her younger sister who is in her first year. “Our father lost his job earlier this year when the company he was working for went under and things have been difficult for our family. My mother is a nurse but her income cannot take care of all of us. My family voted for APC in the last election because of the things they promised us but it seems things have gone from bad to worse for us. In these last few months, my father lost his job, our fees have gone up and the prices of things have gone up. We cannot cope anymore,” she said.
Alade is echoing what several other students are presently going through. A quick survey of school fees of three secondary schools in Ikorodu area of Lagos state reveals that most schools have witnessed gradual increase and according to the Vice Principal of one of the schools, this situation is only going to get worse if the economy doesn’t improve. A student of one of the schools, Tunde Ayeni who spoke to The Guardian is imploring this administration to restore order to the economy. “I am begging President Buhari to show us the change he promised. We thought things were going to improve but that has not been the situation. Everything is now expensive. Notebooks, stationaries and other things that we use are now very expensive. Higher education is now N200, 40 leaves is now N80 from N40. Biro and pencils have all gone up, in fact, everything is now expensive. This change is not good for us.”
We Do Not Know Whether We Are In Change Era Or Chains, Say Artisans
When President Muhammadu Buhari promised change last year, many Nigerians, including artisan yearned for that change. But 10 months down the line, some of the artisans, including Mr. Sunday Bazuaye and Mr. Promise Ona who spoke to The Guardian in Lagos said they are yet to see the promised change.
Bazuaye, a barber, said: “When I started cutting hair in 2003, things were better compared to today. Things are getting worse. In those days, fuel scarcity was not an issue. I can recall that within a week, the issue of fuel scarcity crises was often resolved. But today, fuel scarcity is getting tougher. For us to get fuel, we are expected to take our generators to filling stations.
“The issue of fuel scarcity has affected a lot of my customers. When there was fuel, some of my customers could afford to enter vehicle with N50 from Ikorodu to Ketu to cut their hair. But the cost of transportation from Ikorodu has risen to N200. What that means for us is that some of my customers who were cutting hair every two weeks have now decided to extend it to once per month. You will not blame them, because we have also increased the cost of our services to N400. We have not seen the change President Buhari promised. We are still hoping for that change. But how long are we going to wait for that change?
Ona, who is a broom maker, said the change APC promised has become chains.
“We have not seen the change. APC promised us during last year’s campaign to change Nigeria for the better. We are still waiting for the change, because we do not know whether we are in change era or chains. To be honest, things are harder than when PDP was in government. During ex-President Goodluck’s era, we were buying the bunch of broom for N5, 000, but now it has jumped to N7, 000. The funny as aspect is that we cannot see broom to buy. It is sad that we are that the logo of the APC. People think we are selling broom for N100 because of ‘change.’ But that is not true. The increase is because we cannot find broomsticks to buy.
‘It Has Been 10 Months Of Suffering For Nigerians’
(Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
In Enugu, there are divergent views on the performance of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in the last 10 months.
While a University lecturer, Jonas Ozor, feels that the President has made some inroads in the areas of fighting corruption and restoring the security of the country, a politician and Deputy National
Secretary of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Comrade Jerry Obasi, insists that the economy is collapsing in the hands of the President. He urged him to reduce his foreign trips and face governance.
According to Ozor: “There are a number of things that have happened in the last 10 months that showed the government has delivered.
“Before now, Adamawa, Bornu, Yobe States were completely ran down by Boko Haram insurgents. The insurgency-ravaged the States to the extent that there was no economic activity. Lives were seriously threatened. But I can tell you without fear of contradiction that there is no single local council that is under the occupation of insurgents now.”
“There may be killings here and there but not to the level where a whole State is overrun. The war against corruption is sanitising a lot of things in the country and I think this is a concrete step the present government has taken. So much has been recovered; people are now beginning to realise that it was no longer business as usual. The years of waste of resources are being contained, unlike what we had earlier where people go into the primitive acquisition of wealth and massive looting
of public treasury.
“The corruption war is succeeding apparently because the present government is taking it very serious. I think it is because the government has put much effort on corruption and security that we have not seen enough on the economy.”
Obasi, however, observed that the economy of the country since the President assumed office was “clinically dead”, insisting that no effort is being made to salvage it.
He said: “The truth remains that the economy is in a very bad shape. It has been battered. It has been given a technical knockout.
‘Government’s Anti-Corruption War Is A Step In The Right Direction’
Uzoma Nzeagwu – Awka
Pastor Gabriel Nwogbaga said the present administration has not done and is not doing enough to realise its campaign promises.
He said: “Government has a lot to do, especially on the area of security. Actually the past administration fought Boko Haram insurgents for the 2015 election to hold. Buhari ought to have sustained the fight and halt the menace of the insurgents. There is the herdsmen’s problem, while the militants in the creeks have resurfaced.”
“We have heard that electricity output has hit 4000 mega watts, yet we have not had adequate power supply. The Naira is depreciating against US Dollar, and this should be checked and controlled. If government can stabilise this ugly trend, the economy will improve tremendously.
“Our roads are very bad. The Enugu/Onitsha Expressway is yet to be repaired among other roads across the Southeast zone.”
In the same vein, Mr Henry Isicheli, a contractor, praised the government in its fight against corruption, but suggests that it is vindictive where only the opposition members are arrested.
“The exercise should cut across all segments of the society and political parties, while all those proved guilty of looting our treasury should be sent to jail. All the recovered loots have not made any impact on the economy or improve the lives of the people. Nothing much is happening in the power sector. Power supply is still epileptic and the tariff has increased.
On his part, Mr Igeze Chika, an unemployed graduate said the change promised Nigerians by the Buhari’s administration in education, health, industrialisation and creation of employment has not been realised.
“But insecurity, government has put in place a formation for the military to check the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents”.
10 Months After: Misgivings Over APC-led Government’s Performance
Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City
The President, Conference of Non- Governmental Organisations (CONGOS), Jude Obasanmi believed that the President and his party, may not have prepared for governance when they came into power.
“So far, he is yet to get his footing right because he actually took over power in a hurry and seemingly unprepared because one would have expected that after having won the election that the party has a masterplan on how to govern the country.”
President Buhari had a good election victory acclaimed by all, but when he got into office it is as if the government lost focus. “The government has been involved in so many battles that are not coordinated. The war against corruption is laudable, but the gap is that how can you be fighting against corruption, you expecting investors to come in and also go outside to tell the same foreigners that Nigerians are fraudulent.
“The President should put a better mechanism in place. He should overhaul the system because the rot is quite much but I believe he can pick sector by sector and begin to do the reform. We are talking about power, we have not got any headway. The roads are still terribly bad. The healthcare system is terrible. He has not been able to fulfill his campaign promises.
“The excuse that people are sabotaging his government is a defeatist tendency. The government that is in power should not be talking about sabotage,” Obasanmi said.
On his part, a lawyer and national coordinator of Nigeria Immigration Service Stampede Victims, Comrade Edward Osuma, lauded Buhari on his steps so far but want him to do more in the area of monitoring price of commodities including petrol which he said would help check inflation.
“We pray that Nigerians will have the same commitment like President Buhari. So far so good, we have seen the government tenaciously following some of his promises though we’ve not gotten there, some of the expectations have not been met for instance the fuel crisis has lingered so much.”
“Buhari promised that he was going to resolve the pending Immigration Service job stampede issue, and as I speak to you, he has called the affected and they are in the camp. I want to say that is a very big plus on his part because if he can do that, that means he is a man that does not relent on his promise.”
‘There Is No Positive Change Yet’
Nnamdi Akpa, Abakaliki
Economic and social activities have been crippled in the State, following the scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise known as fuel. The development has also affected the prices of transportation, commodities and social services.
A sachet of water is sold for N20 and a bag for N200 as against N10 for sachet and N80 for a bag before now. Transport fare from Abakaliki to Afikpo has jumped from 200 Naira to 500 Naira.
A foodstuff in the State, Mr. John Ibechima, told The Guardian that the cost of transporting commodities has tripled, emphasising that the increase in the price of essential commodities is due to the inability of the APC-led government to reposition the country’s economy.
A chieftain of All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state who craved anonymity pleaded with Nigerians to give the government more time, adding that what is happening is not peculiar to Nigeria.
But All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA Deputy National Secretary, Chief Jerry Obasi has a contrary view.
According to him, ‘the government of President and its change mantra is on a wild goose chase.
He maintained that the type of appointments he made didn’t show any form of clue notwithstanding the fact that it took the President months to announce his cabinet. He stated that the oil sector has deteriorated beyond recognition, a litre of fuel sells for 180 to 200 but worst still you can’t find it except at the black market.
His words: “Naira has so plummeted being the worst in our fiscal policy since independence. We allowed external policies to influence our internal policy instead of otherwise”.
“The country is worsening in all its ramifications. Every sector of our country’s life is in quandary. The country is pickled in severe puzzlement and predicament. APC-led government under the mouthpiece of Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed should stop sounding as if they are still in opposition.”
‘It Is Too Early To Assess Buhari’s Government’
Abiodun Fagbemi, Ilorin
A Social Critic, Chief Wole Oke has described Nigeria under President Muhammadu Buhari’s government as a collapsed nation that requires a long-term repair.
Oke, who blamed successive leaders for not laying solid socio-political and economic foundations for the nation, canvassed more time, “at least two years” before Buhari’s government could be objectively assessed.
The critic, who was also the Leader of Kwara State House of Assembly in the Third Republic, singled out the government of immediate government of Goodluck Jonathan as “the captain of the ship” that sank Nigeria’s economy.
He said that the travelling policy of Buhari since his assumption of office was in order, noting that Nigeria would have been listed among the pariah countries of the world.
According to Oke, “Nigerians should be logical in their criticisms of Buhari’s government. Buhari did not plunge Nigeria into the current mess. In any case, which of the previous civilian governments ever embarked on the massive probing of the past administrations the way the present government is doing? Is that not achievement on its own?”
For Oke, Nigeria had allegedly collapsed as a nation under former President Goodluck Jonathan, adding that Buhari is rebuilding the foundation now.”
On the duration the President would require for the completion of the building having already spent almost 10 months, he said: “Buhari did not know that the mess was much while vying for the coveted seat. Therefore, the clog must first be removed, before he would start implementing his own policies for the nation. I am being objective because being a critic is to be reasonable.”
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