How Buhari Helped Nigeria Into Recession And How He Can Take Us Out Of It: A Rejoinder By Laolu Akande

LETTER TO THE EDITOR, PREMIUM TIMES NEWSPAPER:

(REJOINDER TO YOUR RECENT EDITORIAL OPINION: HOW BUHARI HELPED NIGERIA INTO RECESSION AND HOW HE CAN TAKE US OUT OF IT)

BY LAOLU AKANDE

I read your editorial on “How Buhari helped Nigeria into recession and how he can take us out of it” of September 27, with keen interest. It certainly makes for attentive reading and was written with the clarity which has become the laudable house style of Premium Times, a well regarded newspaper.

But there fundamental flaws in the logic of the editorial.

To start with, through some deft ‘footwork’ you managed to reach conclusions that are not supported by the facts that you presented. Indeed, such was the dexterity of the write-up that one almost shouted ‘abracadabra.’

Secondly, you did not acknowledge other developments that have impacted on the economy one way or the other. This is one reason why a general analysis which takes account of all factors should be favoured over partial analysis.

Finally, in providing solutions you failed to acknowledge the source of the ideas that you touted. Let me now elaborate.

If you state at the onset that Nigeria is dependent on oil (for foreign exchange and government revenues) and acknowledge quite correctly that the previous government did not save for the rainy day, it then beggars belief that you can discount the effect of such previous policy neglect on our current situation.

It is quite surprising that at a time that the global economy is stuttering and when oil prices have fallen to historic lows, you think that it is the early composition of the Federal Cabinet that by itself would have solved the problem. May I gently point to the examples of Saudi Arabia and Russia which are also dependent on oil and are also facing economic difficulties despite having Cabinets in place over the same period and much larger fiscal buffers than Nigeria.

Even the key economic actors in Nigeria in 2008 have admitted that the lack of fiscal buffers make the situation much more complicated than then when we were able to respond better to the the global economic and financial crisis.

This leads to my second point about vital things that seem to have been left out of your analysis.

For some reason, your editorial makes only a fleeting reference to the fact that in addition to a price shock, Nigeria also suffered severe shocks in oil and gas production starting in February this year due to acts of sabotage and vandalism. Instead of the 2.2m barrels per day of crude oil exports, production fell by almost 1 million barrels per day as recently as August 2016. Similarly, gas production from Joint Ventures (JVs) and NPDC assets fell from 173.8bn scf and 24.4 billion scf in January this year to as low as 139.6 billion scf and 17.7 billion scf in July respectively. These production shocks had serious implications for foreign exchange earnings, federally collected revenues, power supply and indeed industrial activity.

But your editorial had no outrage on these acts of sabotage and vandalism. In any case, a legitimate question for analysis would have then been to wonder if a recession was inevitable in the face of such foreign exchange, revenue and infrastructural shocks?

At the other end of the spectrum, you omitted to give credit to the Federal Government for its interventions that helped to keep the economy from falling deeper into recession.

These include its three interventions to help States pay workers salaries, a commitment to increasing the national investment/GDP ratio by devoting up to 30% of the 2016 budget to capital projects (over N750bn has been released thus far this year, way more than the entire capex last year) and taking the politically very difficult decision of not paying subsidies on premium motor spirit (PMS). This latter action in addition to steps taken to reduce leakages through the use of the Treasury Single Account, TSA, and increase in the use of an integrated payroll system has prevented huge funds from being stolen from government coffers including billions of Naira monthly which was erstwhile going to over 30,000 ghost workers (and counting!

Finally, you make suggestions on the way forward for the national economy including international borrowing and prudent use of the proceeds, generating more internal revenue without raising taxes and providing more support to the real sector. I should commend you for at least making some suggestions on the way forward quite unlike several other commentators.

However, a quick glance at the 2016 budget and its accompanying Strategic Implementation Plan will show that the Federal Government has had been pursuing these same ideas since the beginning of the year, even where implementation take-off has been prolonged for a variety of reasons including the delay in budget approval and revenue losses mentioned above. The point nevertheless is that rather than acknowledge the source of the suggestions that you made, you instead chose to conclude with unfair and ‘ad hominem’ attacks on the Economic Management Team, the very people who came up in the first place with the ideas that you are now also proposing.

Indeed, the Economic Management Team which has been meeting at least weekly since the beginning of the year reports regularly to the President and where required to the Federal Executive Council. At this meetings and other forums, issues are robustly debated by the team, at times with notable economic experts invited for several brainstorming and interactive sessions. In spite of official statements advising that a decision on so called ’emergency powers’ and ‘sale of national assets’ had not been taken, your editorial choose to make definitive pronouncements without having the full facts on hand. This is like chasing the wind.

Overall, your editorial reminds one of the days of Pele when football managers used to advise their players ‘if you miss the ball, don’t miss the leg’. Haba!!

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Buhari Sends 3-year Spending Plan To NASS, Plans N6.812tn Budget For 2017

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday sent the 2017-2019 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP), ahead of the 2017 budget, to the National Assembly.
A letter accompanying the document was read by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, at plenary.
The letter said that the document would provide the framework for the development of 2017 budget which the government estimated to be N6.812tn.
The proposed N6.812tn 2017 budget is about 13.3 per cent or N806bn above the N6.06tn budgeted for 2016.
It said that MTEF and FSP were designed against the backdrop of an adverse global economic environment.
In the letter, Mr. Buhari said, “the MTEF and FSP, which would provide the framework for the development of the 2017 budget, were designed against the backdrop of a generally adverse global economic environment.
“It is also to address fiscal challenges in the domestic economy.
“In this regard, the 2017-2019 MTEF and FSP articulates the Federal Government’s economic, social and developmental objectives as well as the strategies for achieving these defined objectives and priorities.
“I hereby forward the 2017-2019 MTEF and FSP to the House of Representatives and trust that it would be kindly considered and expeditiously approved so as to move the 2017 federal budget preparation process forward.”
He explained that he was complying with the provisions of the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007, adding that his action meant that the details of the 2017 budget would soon be laid before the legislature.
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Buhari Is A True Democrat With A Slow And Steady Approach To Governance – Tinubu

National leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, has described President Muhammadu Buhari as a true democratic who is “slow but steady” in his approach to governance.

He spoke on Monday during the launch of a book — ‘Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria’, written by John Paden, a professor of international studies — at the International Conference Centre, Abuja.

Tinubu, who was one of the reviewers of the book, also said Buhari was a disciplined and focused person right from his youthful days till the present time.

He stressed that the President was in haste to bring changes as a young leader.

“During the campaign, he surprised many by his agility and the broad canvas on which he operated,” he said.

“In tracing the evolution of Buhari, the national leader, the author’s assertion that military rule is based on the power its holders can wield, while civilian rule is based on the legitimacy derived from elections, is a point with which I dare not debate.

“Buhari’s career embodies this, hence his transition from being a military ruler to being a civilian leader, who subjected himself to the rigors and uncertainty of elections four times. Thrice he patiently went to court, seeking redress from electoral manipulation.

“The author, quite accurately, remarked on the Buhari victory equation, as flowing from Northern grassroots support and coalition-building with the South West as well as with other tendencies.”

Tinubu said: “This authorized biography of Nigeria’s Leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, attempts a broad characterization of the different stages of his life and professional career.

“Essentially, the book explores how his professional career, his personal life and prior experiences in government shaped and prepared him for the momentous assignment he now has.

“From the book’s pages, we see a man who has lived his life on assignments that always intersected with vital moments in the nation’s history. He was a man on assignment, when, in the military, he served bravely in a civil war to keep Nigeria united.

“He was on national assignment when he became military head of state in a well-intentioned effort to straighten things out, and set Nigeria on a better path.

“When he ventured into politics and competed for the Presidency, culminating in his 2015 election victory, he was still on assignment, showing that there was no other way for this nation to go but the way of democracy, no matter how difficult the path may be.

“Now, as sitting President, he is on an assignment, against time, to undo the wrongs of nearly two decades of bad governance.

“Such is the life of this man. Always in the public eye, doing things in his different, disciplined and Spartan way. From this compelling narrative, neatly demarcated into three parts and 24 chapters, the reader is able to glean the quintessential Buhari.”

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Dino Asks Buhari To Grant Amnesty/Pardon To Looters

Senator Dino Melaye had called on President Muhammadu Buhari to give presidential pardon and amnesty for treasury looters.

Melaye in statement on Sunday said “Though an unrepentant advocate for integrity and forthrightness especially from public office holders, I however sincerely want to recommend that Mr. President grant Presidential Amnesty/Pardon to all those who looted our treasury provided they return all proceeds of their loot to the government within six (6) months of the declaration of the Amnesty.

“This, I believe will encourage the voluntary return of the the looted funds, empower the government financially to immediately commence the implementation of projects and programmes that will stimulate the economy and raise the peoples’ standard of living, and save the judiciary and other law enforcement agencies the agony of fruitlessly pursuing the looters in and out of the courtrooms.

In the long run, this would be a win-win situation for both the government and people of Nigeria,”he said. “At the expiration of the six months’ ‘Moratorium’, all those who failed to comply would then be made to face the reality of aggressive and expeditious prosecution and eventual jail terms for convicts in accordance with the laws of the land”, he said.

‘His Excellency and Distinguished’ from the names of President, Vice president, Governors and Senators respectively. ”

In this regard, I recommend that henceforth no President, Vice President, Governor, or Deputy Governor should answer the name ‘His Excellency’ until the material condition of ordinary Nigerians has also become ‘Excellent’.

No Senator should continue to answer ‘Distinguished’ until the the masses of the people begin to experience a distinguished existence and no Federal or state Legislator should wear the badge of ‘Honourable Member’ until the ordinary citizen is himself living a life that can be classified Honourable in every material particular.

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My UN Outing, by President Muhammadu Buhari

As you are aware, my delegate and I arrived in New York on Saturday, 17th, September and successfully concluded scheduled activities during the High-Level Segment of the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, 23rd September.  This is my second visit to the United Nations Headquarters since I took office as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in May, 2015.

While in New York, I participated in a series of meetings and side-events.  I had bilateral meetings with some World Leaders and attended major events including the “Welcoming Reception” hosted by the Secretary-General and Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, and the Secretary-General’s Official Luncheon on Tuesday, 20th September.

Of special note was my address to the World Leaders at the General Debate on Tuesday 20th which was the principal assignment of the visit.  In that speech, I sent a clear and direct message to world leaders on a number of important issues notably:

(i) I highlighted the need for the international community to work together to liberate humanity from poverty, save our planet     from the devastation of climate change and rid the world of terrorism for a more peaceful and prosperous future;

ii) Turning to our problems at home, I mentioned that the plight of Internally Displaced persons (IDPs) arising from Boko Haram terrorism is of particular concern to us.  For this reason, we have taken concrete steps to address their humanitarian needs and to ensure that necessary conditions are established to enable the voluntary return of the displaced persons to their homes in safety and dignity;

(iii) I acknowledged that Nigeria as a developing country has been adversely affected by the global economic downturn.  However, we are undeterred     and have embarked on a wide range of reforms in our efforts to diversify our economy and shift emphasis to mining, agriculture, industrialization,     infrastructure development and the creation of the enabling environment for Foreign Direct     Investment;

(iv) To that effect, I noted that our strategic objective is to stimulate the economy, restore growth and accelerate recovery by taking measures to reduce the cost of governance and increase expenditure on infrastructure and ensure environmental best practices;

(v) I emphasized that fighting corruption remains of prime importance to our administration and that our efforts in fighting corruption are yielding positive results including significant stolen assets recoveries;

(vi) In this connection, I noted that speedy and unconditional return of stolen public assets     should be the focus of the anti-corruption conference to be hosted by the US and UK in     Washington next year;

(vii) On the subject of Climate Change, I told my audience that we are determined to implement the strategies in our Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which will foster low carbon economy and sustainable growth in building a climate     resilient society;

(viii) Again on the subject of the environment, I informed world leaders that in furtherance of our commitment to environmental sustainability, Nigeria had launched the clean-up of Ogoni land in the Niger Delta, based on the 2011 Environmental Assessment of the area by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP);

(ix) I acknowledged the importance of youth in national development and underlined our commitment to harness the potential of the increasing youth bulge and that we must take advantage of the numbers and creative energy of young people who are in the majority.  Further to this, I called for the establishment of a specialized UN agency for youth development at the international level, to achieve this strategic objective;

(x) On the Isreali-Palestinian issue, I reiterated Nigeria’s position in support of the Two-State solution with Palestinian rights to statehood in conformity with numerous Security Council Resolutions; and

(xi) Finally, I called on Member-states of the United Nations to redouble their efforts for the reform of the organization.  I reiterated Nigeria’s call for the reform of the UN Security council to reflect equitable and fair representation and greater transparency, legitimacy and inclusiveness in its decision making.  I stressed that Africa should be adequately represented in the reformed Council in the permanent member category and added that Nigeria stands ready to serve Africa and the world on a reformed Council to advance international peace and security.

Other meetings and events where I participated and addressed World Leaders at different fora included the following:

• High-Level Plenary on addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants on Monday 19th;

• African Union Peace and Security Council Meeting on Monday 19th which dealt with the situation in the South Sudan;

• Meeting hosted by Mrs Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on the threat of Modern Slavery (Trafficking in People) on Monday 19th;

• SDG Moment: to mark the 1st Anniversary of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, on Tuesday 20th;

• The US-Africa Business Forum on Wednesday 21st, during which there was a Spotlight on Nigeria which afforded me an opportunity to speak on “Nigeria’s Economic Reforms for Growth.” I tried to attract American investors to Nigeria;

• My participation at a High Level meeting to  commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, on Thursday 22nd reflects the administration’s commitment to ensure that every Nigerian is afforded opportunity to develop his/her abilities and be enabled to contribute to the development of our country, Nigeria.

In continuation of our drive to diversify the economy, create a safe and peaceful environment for development to thrive in Nigeria, I met with the following notable World Leaders:

• HE Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General;

• HE Mr. Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa;

• HE Mr. Macky Sall, President of Senegal;

• HE Alassane Ouattara, President of Côte d’Ivoire;

• HE M. François Holland, President of France;

• HE Mr. Barack Obama, President of the United States of America;

• HE Mr. Johann Schneider-Ammann, President of the Swiss Confederation;

• HE Mr. David Granger, President of the Republic of Guyana;

• HE Mr. Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, President of Burkina Faso;

In all those meetings I advanced Nigeria’s case and called for international cooperation.
The US-Africa Business Forum organized on the margins of the General Assembly was timely.  I addressed the meeting, which had in attendance a significant group of important CEOs.  Discussions focused on how they can collaborate with us to diversify our economy, which will in turn drive development, job creation and general business development in Nigeria.

In continuation of my effort to attract Diaspora skills back home, I also met with a group of Nigerian Professionals living in US who have distinguished themselves in their various fields of specialization ranging from health, aeronautical engineering, customs, law enforcement, economics, business, law, education to politics.  I extended an invitation to them to join us in our effort to develop our country.  They in turn expressed genuine desire to contribute positively to the growth and development of our country.

Another issue that is very important to me and our country as well as our region is the importance of drawing international attention to the adverse effects of Climate Change in Nigeria and in our region. As you will recall, last year 12th December, 2015, I joined other World Leaders to conclude what is now called the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.  On Thursday 22 September, I signed that Agreement at the United Nations Headquarters.  Soon after the signing ceremony, we had an important meeting to discuss the issue of Environmental Sustainability.  In Nigeria, this is a serious issue and my administration is making very genuine efforts to address the negative effects of climate change in order to build a clean and sustainable environment for our people and the future generation.  The “Ogoniland Clean Up” which I launched and the effort to recharge the shrinking Lake Chad were subject of discussion at the meeting.

Yesterday, as part of my last major activity in this 71st Session, I participated in an event which the Secretary-General of the United Nations organized on the “Humanitarian Crisis in the Lake Chad Basin – A Turning Point.” President Idriss Déby of Chad and President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger also participated in the event.  As countries of the Lake Chad Basin area, we examined strategies to increase regional and international attention as well as mobilize support in response to The Lake Chad Basin crisis.

No single country and surely not the four most affected countries, can muster the tremendous financial resources required to turn around the very dire situation of the Lake Chad Region.  The millions of people whose daily livelihood have been placed in jeopardy are depending on us to find succor for them. I am happy to note at the sessions, some countries notably the United Kingdom and USA pledge additional support in the tune of US $391 million humanitarian aid for the Lake Chad region.

All in all, it was a very successful and useful session, and I would like to thank the relevant US authorities who by their efficient coordination of security and administrative arrangements during our stay in New York contributed to its success.  The men and women of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demonstrated that we still have capable officers in our Foreign and Civil Service.  Thank you for your tireless efforts in projecting a positive image of our country, even in difficult times.

To you in the media, who went through elaborate security checks and clearance procedures to follow my activities and hectic schedule in order to keep all our people at home well informed of my meetings and engagements here in New York, you also deserve my appreciation.  Our next interaction will be in Abuja.

Thank you one and all.

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Stop Denigrating Buhari, Group Advises Amnesty Int’l

The Buhari Media Support Group has advised the London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, to avoid biased and unfair re­porting on the Nigeri­an government which it said, has shown sin­cere commitment to human rights.

A press statement issued by the head of the BMSG in Abuja, Malam Mohammed Labbo, disagreed with the latest Amnesty International report accuseing the Buhari administration of sup­pressing dissent, op­pression of critics, the arbitrary detention of journalists and crack­down on peaceful pro­tests by the Bring Back Our Girls group.

Malam Labbo said such sweeping allega­tions against the gov­ernment by Amnesty International without compelling evidence of specific cases of journalists that were detained because of their opinions and pro-Biafra members killed by security forces, is unhelpful and unfair.

He also said there was no truth whatso­ever that the BBOG group and Shiite mem­bers are being op­pressed or molested by security forces.

According to Labbo, the Amnesty Interna­tional relied on one-sided stories to judge the government un­fairly, adding that the Buhari administration has never abandoned the efforts to rescue the Chibok schoolgirls.

He said the President had granted audience to the BBOG group a number of times, and also sent representa­tives to address them.

The BMSG spokes­man explained that it is practically impossible for the President to ad­dress the BBOG each time the group liked, regardless of his own tight schedule or con­venience.

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Tambuwal To Resolve Tinubu-Oyegun Rift As Buhari, Others Back Peace Move

Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, has offered to help resolve the rift between the national chairman of the All Progresisives Congress (APC), John Oyegun and the party’s national leader, Aiwaju Bola Tinubu.

It would be recalled that Tinubu had asked Oyegun to resign his position as the chairman of the party following the alleged manipulation of the Ondo state governorship primary election.

Tinubu specifically alleged that Oyegun helped in perpetrating the alleged fraud that characterised the primaries, stating that he was leading the APC down the path of internal tyranny.

But while Oyegun in his reply simply described the allegation by Tinubu as untrue choosing not to join issues with him because he is a respected leader of the party, governor Tambuwal offered to mediate betwen the duo to prevent the rift from further degenerating.

Tambuwal was said to have visited President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential villa to seek his blessing for the task of resolving the crisis.

Although the governor refused to divulge the reason for his meeting with the president, he was said to have briefed the president on his planned peace mission, a move the president endorsed.

It was also learnt that beside the president, leaders of the party including governors, legislators, elders, etc have also thrown their weight behind the speedy resolution of the fued as they are clearly unhappy about the developments in the party.

It remains to be seen how Tambuwal will forge ahead with the reconciliation of both parties.

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Buhari Inherited N1.5tn Debt On Road Contracts – Fashola

The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari inherited road contractual liabilities worth N1.5tn, the Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has said.

Fashola said this in a statement made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Sunday by his Special Adviser, Communications, Mr. Hakeem Bello.

The minister said the ministry inherited 206 roads that were not budgeted for or poorly funded, but added that it had now developed a road map consisting of identifying and prioritising heavy traffic bearing roads for conveying essential goods and services across the country.

He said, “We have to build roads that evacuate our sea and airports; roads that drive our energy for now; roads that go to the tank farms to evacuate fuel from the South to the North; and roads that sustain us, that is roads that bring in our feed stock, cattle and vegetables and livestock from the North down to the South.

“And that is why you see us building from Lagos to Ibadan, to Ilorin, to Jebba to link all the way to Kaduna and Kano, and go on up North. And we are doing the same thing trying to connect River Benue through the Loko-Oweto Bridge and the Second Niger Bridge; Kano-Kaduna, and Kano-Maiduguri. Those are the choices we have made because this is a period of hard choices, trying to do more with less.”

Fashola added, “Those are the choices that we have made; they are not esoteric choices, they are simple and rational choices. All the roads we are working on had been awarded before I got into office by the previous administration – over 206 roads. You don’t have resources to build 206 roads; so, where you put your limited resources is in those areas.

“The total outstanding contractual liabilities are in the region of N1.5tn and this administration is taking them in batches, starting from the critical heavy traffic highways that evacuate goods from ports, fuel from tank farms and move foodstuffs and agro-produce across the country.”

The minister also said Nigeria lost more than 3,000 megawatts of electricity to the activities of vandals in the last six months.

Fashola said this in a presentation titled, ‘Leadership and the Politics of Reforms in Africa: Lessons from Nigeria’ at the Wilson Centre, Washington DC, United States.

The minister added that electricity supply increased by 4,00MW in the last two weeks due to increase in the generating capacity of the hydropower plants occasioned by the repair and maintenance carried out on them in the last one year.

He attributed the loss of over 3,000MW of power to consistent vandalism and sabotage of oil and gas pipelines and assets.

Punch

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How And Why We Got Into Trouble, President Buhari Briefs Nigerian Professionals In America

They converged from different parts of the United States of America, top rate professionals all, Nigerians whom Mrs Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Diaspora Matters and International Relations, described as “15 of the best people God ever created.”

The professionals were in New York to meet with the Nigerian President. Top flight aeronautics engineers, physicians, I.T experts, a Judge, a top policewoman, entrepreneurs, an Import Specialist at Customs and Border Protection, professors, two straight A students, and many others.

The parley provided President Buhari opportunity to bring them up to speed on how and why Nigeria got into trouble, with an assurance that with all hands on deck, including the best brains in the Diaspora, the country would bounce back in the shortest possible time.

“I am very pleased with this meeting,” President Buhari stated. “Wherever you go in the world, you find highly competent and outstanding Nigerians. They not only make great impact on their host countries and communities, their financial remittances back home also help our economy, particularly at a time like this, when things are down.

“We got into trouble as a country, because we did not save for the rainy day. For example, between 1999 and 2015, when we produced an average of 2.1 million barrels of oil per day, and oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel, we did not save, neither did we develop infrastructure. Suddenly, when we came in 2015, oil prices fell to about 30 dollars per barrel.

“I asked; where are the savings? There were none. Where are the railways? The roads? Power? None. I further asked; what did we do with billions of dollars that we made over the years? They said we bought food. Food with billions of dollars? I did not believe, and still do not believe.

“In most parts of Nigeria, we eat what we grow. People in the South eat tubers, those in the North eat grains, which they plant, and those constitute over 60 per cent of what we eat. So, where did the billions of dollars go? We did a lot of damage to ourselves by not developing infrastructure when we had the money.

“Talking of our military, they earned respect serving in places like Burma, Zaire, Sudan, Liberia, Sierra-Leone, and then, suddenly, that same military could no longer secure 14 out of 774 local governments in the country. Insurgents had seized them, calling them some sort of caliphate, and planting their flags there; till we came, and scattered them.

“We raised the morale of our military, changed the leadership, re-equipped and retrained them; USA, Britain, and some other countries helped us, and today, the pride of our military is restored.

“Boko Haram ran riot, killing innocent people in churches, mosques, markets, schools, motor parks, and so on. And they would then shout Allahu Akbar. But if they truly knew Allah, they would not do such evil. Neither Islam, nor any other religion I know of, advocates hurting the innocent. But they shed innocent blood, killed people in their thousands. Now, we have dealt with that insurgency, and subverted their recruitment base.

“Those who stole Nigeria dry are not happy. They recruited the militants against us in the Niger Delta, and began to sabotage oil infrastructure. We lose millions of barrels per day, at a time when every dollar we can earn, counts. It is a disgrace that a minimum of 27 states, out of 36 that we have in Nigeria, can’t pay salaries.

“But I prayed so hard for God to make me President. I ran in 2003, 2007, 2011, and in 2015, He did. And see what I met on ground. But I can’t complain, since I prayed for the job. In the military, I rose from 2nd Lieutenant to Major-General. I was military governor in 1975 over a state that is now six states. I was head of state, got detained for three years, and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), which had N53 billion of that time in Nigerian banks.

“God has been very good to me, so I can’t complain. If I feel hurt by anybody, I ask God to help me forgive. He has done so much for me.

“After 16 years of a different party in government, no party will come and have things easy. It’s human. We need quality hands to run Nigeria, and we will utilize them. I will like to welcome you home when it’s time. But I’ll like you to be ready.”

All the Nigerian professionals pledged to contribute their quota towards re-launching their fatherland to a new dawn.

FEMI ADESINA

Special Adviser to the President

(Media & Publicity)

September 23, 2016.

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Those Who Stole Nigeria Dry Recruited Militants To Fight Govt – Buhari

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Believe Me, This Buhari Cabinet Isin’t Flying, By @DeleMomodu

Fellow Nigerians, let me start by thanking all the blogs, WhatsApp groups, Facebook and Twitter wizards who make the incredible efforts and sacrifice to mass-circulate my Pendulum column every week. I’m sincerely grateful for your abiding faith in the written word. Let me assure you that you push me to write this piece regularly no matter how tough. I must also salute all those who reach out to me via emails, SMS and telephone calls offering their appreciation of my humble contribution to nation-building. I’ve just received one such call from a businessman who believes so much in Buhari but feels the man has been encircled by desperate political jobbers who are not bothered whether he fails or succeeds. They are only interested in the allure and lucre of power, he says and he may not be far from the truth.

I truly appreciate the men and women of power who see my weekly sermon from the perspective that I mean no harm but that I am determined to prop up a government I helped bring to fruition in my own little way. It is impossible to forget and ignore my own critics who can never agree with my position on any national or international issue. Unknown to them, they keep me on my toes and force me to hone the elementary logic I learned as an undergraduate student at the then University of Ife, now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.

I wish to say categorically and with all emphasis at my command that the Buhari government is flailing. And only the ubiquitous hypocrites and cheer leaders would fail to say it as it is, that the grunts of the people are fast turning into deafening lamentations. No amount of approbation by a President Obama can detract from the plaintive suffering and cries of the Nigerian people. Indeed, much as I love Obama, we must remember that his primary interest is America and the fight against corruption which is a sub-plot in America’s fight against terrorism.

In case our dear President is unaware, and he feels only the wailing wailers are grumbling, I wish to assure him that this is not the case. Some of the President’s friends and supporters are deeply worried at the sad turn of events. They are wondering what went wrong and what can be done to turn the dangerous slide around. In fact, everything looks to them like a bad dream, a nightmare in reality. But on a personal note, I don’t think the situation is as irredeemable as it seems. The solution lies squarely on the President’s table. Only he can salvage his government from this stupendous slump from grace to grass.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s biggest equity is in his legendary incorruptibility. He must have assumed that this equity is rock solid and unassailable. But while the people truly want a reduction in the level of corruption and general indiscipline, you must replace something with something. Buhari’s team believes the problem they have is as a result of waging a relentless war on corrupt people and the freebies that have suddenly frozen up for their friends and acolytes. Not so simple folks. Where are the jobs to occupy and engage the innocent beneficiaries of corruption? A lot of those who had jobs have lost their means of livelihood. Companies are sacking their workers, as if with a vengeance. Foreign investors are running helter-skelter and many have closed shop already running back to wherever they came from. Everyone wants stability and not sermons.  And there is no stability, either in the polity, in the economy, in our currency or indeed in our social life.

Unfortunately, this government has been very high on proselytising and low on performance. Their swansong has become abysmally boring. The people are now less interested in the results of President Jonathan’s recklessness in office but more in President Buhari’s remedial panacea. It is shocking that 16 months after our friends took over power they are not yet tired of moaning and groaning about Jonathan. But we sacked Jonathan because we knew and felt his case was very bad. We supported Buhari because of the mystic that he had the magic wand. We didn’t want to be accused in the future of wasting yet another best President Nigeria should have had, after Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola. That is why we worked assiduously for a man we had rejected serially in the past. We must beg this government to wake up from its deep slumber. It would be a huge embarrassment and an unmitigated disaster if it fails. So many Nigerians risked everything to midwife this change. I’m willing to support this government to the very end but they should please listen to our pleas and humble suggestions.

The President needs to re-energise his team. Nigeria is too big and too bold to be controlled by a timid cabinet. We need eagles who can fly high. We should be able to find them in a country of nearly 200 million people. There is no doubt that President Buhari has some good hands in his team but most of them have refused to fly, because they are scared. Many have melted into oblivion and irrelevance. We do not need to mention names. Some jobs are so visible that we do not require masquerades to handle. Some jobs require common-sense and not loquacious rabblerousing. Some members of the team have attracted public odium to this government. They make Buhari look so pitiably bad and that should not be so.

The human rights records should also have been better handled and managed during this second coming after the massive damage he suffered in the past. Fighting wars on all fronts from day one distracted and occupied the government. That game-plan was clearly faulty. They should have known that the temperament and tone of a democratic government is ostensibly different from that of a military junta. I once read that too much anger sometimes beclouds reasoning. The government failed to take certain steps to mitigate against the expected backlash of its many wars. It did not reason that hungry people are not always reasonably tolerant of the cause of their social conditions.

No one is sure if President Buhari was ever inclined or advised by his team to plan its offensive well or if he thought he had the same omnipotent power he had from 1983-85. He would have waited a bit and stabilised his government before unleashing mayhem against the enemies of state. I’m told surprise is one of the deadliest strategies in warfare. Most of the looted resources would have remained in our banks if government had not shown its fangs too early. As a lay man in Economics, I will never understand and appreciate the decision to ban people from paying dollars into their own accounts. What did it matter if dollar was paid in cash or by transfer? That was the beginning of the free-fall of our currency down the economic ladder. A large chunk of the money looted has invariably vamoosed into foreign vaults or under some beds or dug-up holes. Shame!

I strongly recommend that the President rejigs his cabinet, especially his economic team and even replace some of the members. This is what a bank would do if some of its managers were not meeting their targets. No manager is too big to be fired by football clubs. There is nothing new under the sun about this approach to governance. There are so many global examples. In 2014, when Saudi Arabia experienced a surge after the outbreak of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS) disease, Saudi King Abdullah fired his Health Minister Abdullah al Rabeeah. In July this year, President Raul Castro of Cuba removed his Minister of Economy Marino Murillo from his portfolio amid the economic hardship that was plaguing the country. Just two weeks ago, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos fired the country’s Finance Minister Armando Manuel. Manuel had presided over an economic recession caused by a sharp dip in oil prices that weakened dollar inflows, hammered the Angolan Kwanza, leading to heavy government borrowing.

The President should borrow from such examples and do the needful without further delay. I’m happy that even the National Assembly is thinking along the same lines. The government does not have time on its hands and at its disposal. Two years would soon evaporate and the third year will come knocking. It has to start working for those Nigerians who put their fate and faith in the hands of Buhari. We have had enough of the blatant excuses that sound more like expressions of hopelessness and helplessness, thus leading to deja vu.

A few priorities must be tackled speedily. None is greater than the issue of power generation which is already witnessing appreciable progress. I believe the Minister of Power, Mr Babatunde Raji Fashola, should be allowed to concentrate strictly on power and give his other portfolios to equally competent people. I would love to see a former Governor Donald Duke take over works. I do not care WHICH PARTY HE BELONGS. I have deliberately mentioned this great Nigerian who could easily have been our own Obama if we were a country where merit and achievement catapulted people into the highest office.  This government would do well to consider a government of National Unity. Since the suffering we are enduring does not discriminate along Party lines, the solution should not ostracise any capable Nigerian.

On the economy, President Buhari should invite and involve the best brains at home and abroad including non-Nigerians. The Bank of England brought in an expert from Canada as its Governor. Dubai invited a Briton to run one of the most ambitious airports on planet Earth. The London Gatwick Airport was sold to a consortium led by a Nigerian. Ghana has just built a world-class Cargo section by Swissport. Before our very eyes, Ghana is attracting the biggest aviation businesses in West Africa. The world has moved beyond our jejune and archaic style of doing things. Our parastatals have become too unwieldy and totally wasteful. We have so many agencies all over the places managing nothing but eating everything. That does not mean a wholesale sale of our national assets but recourse to effective and efficient lean management wherever that may come from. I say emphatically, nothing would change unless we change our retrogressive ways.

Instructively, the National Assembly and the Executive arms of government must cut down on government expenditure drastically. The National Assembly is making sense with some of its recommendations but it is has to go beyond that by actually implementing those recommendations and putting pressure on the Executive to do the same. All the legislative aides, executive aides, delegations to foreign assignments and government’s fleet of aircrafts and motorcades are atrociously over-bloated and unnecessary. I stumbled on a video footage of President Vladimir Putin of Russia’s motorcade. It had nothing more than four (4) vehicles accompanied with escort motorbikes. In 2012, President Putin even went as far as announcing that he and his prime minister will work more from home to cut the disruption caused by their motorcades in the city of Moscow. That is Russia, a global super-power making an effort to run a leaner and more effective governance structure.

In Ghana where I have lived for over a decade, I have seen the simplicity of the Presidential system of governance from Rawlings to Kufuor to the late Atta Mills and now John Dramani Mahama. Her Majesty, the Queen of England, Queen Elizabeth II in all the glory of her monarchy goes around in a simple motorcade of usually two or three vehicles. The accompanying vehicles are oftentimes unmarked. But the case of Nigeria is a stark contrast. It sometimes looks as if we are war with some imaginary alien foe. Every security outfit competes to feature in the entourage of our respective leaders.  Then there are the support vehicles, including ambulances, bomb disposal vehicles and anti-tank machines!

Everything is collapsing except the business of politics. Every government that comes to power seems to be in competition with previous governments in the craze to practice capitalism without capital. Clearly, this is not sustainable and we cannot continue like this. Something has to give. President Buhari must restore confidence again by allowing the change millions of Nigerians voted him for in March 2015 to begin from his desk. It is commonly said that, “desperate times call for desperate measures.” Our time is now.

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Making Africa Rising A Reality in Nigeria, By Muhammadu Buhari

Until a few years ago, Africa Rising was a dominant theme in conversations about the global economy. That enthusiasm has since cooled, so that in newsrooms and think tanks and conference panels, “Africa Rising!” has given way to a more questioning “Africa Rising?”

While some of that pessimism may be justified, we do not have the luxury of distracting ourselves with lamentations about our current circumstances. Instead of hoping for commodity prices to rise, African countries should seize the opportunities that these times present — not least here at today’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum — to lay a foundation for the kind of economic growth that transforms the lives of our people.

One of our biggest challenges during the boom years was that we failed to convert the benefits of high commodity prices into more jobs and significant improvements in standards of living. Hence the great debate, during those years, about how to ensure that the growth became “inclusive.”

Now that we are face to face with the vulnerabilities somehow hidden during the years of plenty, we should turn away from the unhelpful habits of the past and chart a new course. Since I signed the 2016 budget into law in May, Nigeria’s Ministry of Finance has released more than 400 billion naira for infrastructure spending — more than the total amount spent in 2015.

In the face of dwindling oil revenues, we are turning to debt. We have begun raising a $1 billion Eurobond, our first in three years. We are also raising debt from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, the Chinese Ex-Im Bank and other development finance partners.

Unlike in the past, when borrowed funds were frittered away on unproductive ventures, we will ensure their investment in the revival of stalled road, rail, power and port projects, and in agricultural initiatives that will significantly boost domestic production of food. For far too long we have under-invested in infrastructure — the most critical element for creating sustainable economic growth. The net effect: an avoidably high cost of doing business in Nigeria.

But even more important than what the government is able to spend is the limitless investment potential of the private sector. This is why one of our main priorities is creating an environment in which private-sector capital can thrive. We are in particular using Public-Private Partnership models to support game-changing private-sector projects in power, refining, gas transportation and fertilizer production.

We are also putting in place measures to ensure that monies intended to revamp our infrastructure do not end up in the pockets of corrupt officials and their collaborators. Already we are investigating the theft of several billion dollars in public funds by the previous administration. We are not only bringing these corrupt officials to justice, we are also setting up systems to make it impossible for such a grievous abuse of public trust to happen again. And of course, we are as committed to playing by the rule of law as we are to accounting for every naira and recovering them for our treasury. These were funds meant to build roads and railway lines and hospitals and schools, and to equip our military — which has for the last seven years been fighting one of the deadliest terrorist groups in the world.

In that regard, we are already seeing the positive results of our anti-corruption efforts. Long starved of both materiel and morale by the corruption in the military’s upper echelons, our reinvigorated troops have now put Boko Haram permanently on the back foot. Some of the more than 2 million persons displaced by Boko Haram have started returning to their homes. Just last week, the people of Nigeria’s northeast celebrated their first incident-free Eid in years.

Our troops have rescued thousands of men, women and children trapped in areas held by Boko Haram. To meet their urgent humanitarian needs, we are working with the United Nations and other partners to provide food, medical help and shelter. We will strive to ensure that no victim is left behind, including the 219 Chibok girls who have, since their abduction in April 2014, served as a global symbol of the war against Boko Haram and a reminder of the horrors that it has inflicted on innocent Nigerians.

Even though the times are still dire, our economic recovery plan is already showing positive results. Investment’s share in gross domestic product is at its highest since 2010. Inflation is slowing; manufacturing confidence is rising. People are seeing and seizing opportunities to make money catering to the needs of Africa’s most populous country. Finally, our Social Investment Program — the most ambitious in Nigeria’s history — will kick off this month. In its first year it will provide cash transfers to 1 million of our poorest people, hot meals to 5 million primary-school children, cheap loans to more than 1 million artisans and traders, and job opportunities in health care, agriculture and software and hardware development for half a million young people.

The journey ahead remains long and difficult. Our double-digit inflation, currency turmoil and downgraded ratings will not vanish overnight. We also know that the current recession is partly driven by the production outages in Nigeria’s Delta region, and we are confident that growth will accelerate as problems in that region are resolved.

But the real story here is not the challenges, which are all too visible, but the opportunities. We have learned the necessary lessons. We will ensure that Nigeria does not slip back into a lazy and dangerous dependence on the price of crude oil. We will continue to insist on transparency and accountability in the use of government funds. And we will build an economy that prioritizes the ease of doing business and investing, and that thrives on the entrepreneurial energy and ingenuity of our people.

To achieve these objectives, Nigeria needs robust and reliable partnerships such as we have with the United States. This is why I value the Commercial and Investment Policy Dialogue that we have just launched, and which we shall announce at today’s U.S.-Africa Business Forum.

The months ahead will show not only that Nigeria is on the rise, but that this “Rising” is real and lasting — one that touches not just the statistical databases, but the lives of the people who elected us to deliver positive change.

To contact the author of this story:
Muhammadu Buhari at digicomms@statehouse.gov.ng

Credit: Bloomberg

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