By Tope Templer Olaiya
May 29, 2018, Nigeria’s Democracy Day, was planned to be another chest-thumping occasion marking the third year of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration of change and 19 years of return to democracy, but it turned out to be a rude reality check for the administration.
The day began well from Aso Rock, the seat of power at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, with the president’s national broadcast, where Buhari highlighted his achievements and plans for the next year, the last of his four-year term.
Buhari said his administration came at a time Nigerians needed change, which he is delivering, especially in the three cardinal points of his administration – security, corruption and the economy. He said the capacity of the Boko Haram insurgents had been degraded by his government, leading to release of captives, including 106 Chibok and 104 Dapchi girls, and over 16,000 other persons held by the terrorist group.
He called for utmost sense of fairness, justice and peaceful co-existence ahead of the 2019 general election to have a hitch-free elections as well as a credible and violence-free process. He added that in a few days to come, he would be joined by some promising young Nigerians to sign into law the ‘Not Too Young to Run’ Bill, which he later did two days after.
Angry reactions immediately followed the Democracy Day broadcast, especially as most respondents said the president failed woefully on many fronts. Tackling the issue of insecurity, the Anglican Bishop of Okigwe South, Rt. Rev. David O. C. Onuoha, noted that far greater percentage of Nigerians live in fear of the country’s direction.
“The fears are heightened daily by news coming from the print, electronic and social media, as well as what the eyes can see about the growing level of insecurity in the land. Though Boko Haram has, according to the Federal Government, been decimated and degraded to the point that they no longer occupy territories in Nigeria, I am terribly disturbed that they are still wasting precious human lives and property. The menace of killer herdsmen and their manifest proclivity for killing people in scores, destroying farmland and sacking communities are unprecedented. That they carry sophisticated weapons, operate freely, openly and escape prosecution, is as disturbing as it is intriguing,” Bishop Onuoha fumed.
The voices from the streets also did not spare the Buhari administration. In Lagos State, citizens from all walks of life who last week told The Guardian of their hopes and fears about Nigeria, expressed dissatisfaction over the state of the nation. While they agreed that the nation had been consistent in achieving a democratic rule since 1999, they, however, chided the government for their incompetence in delivering the dividends of democracy to the people.
Despite scoring itself high on its achievements in the past three years, a new poll conducted ‘amongst 4,000 Nigerians’ last week rated President Buhari’s performance below average. According to the poll, he failed Nigerians in his three cardinal campaign promises: Corruption, Security and Economy. The Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) launched ‘Buharimeter’ to track the delivery of Buhari’s campaign promises to Nigerians. According to CDD, this year’s poll was conducted in May by telephone amongst 4,000 respondents across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The poll revealed that 40 per cent of Nigerians approve of the president’s performance while 44 per cent disapprove, with the remaining 16 per cent being indifferent.
“This implies that the president is rated below average by Nigerians. The president’s approval rating of 40 per cent marks a decline of 17 per cent from 57 per cent rating recorded in the 2017 Buharimeter National Survey,” it said.As if that didn’t reflect popular opinion enough, former Vice President and presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, handed President Buhari a crushing defeat in another online poll conducted by the president’s own consultant.
A flurry of polls largely promoted by pro-Buhari influencers sprung up shortly after the administration marked its third anniversary on May 29. In the first poll conducted by Mark Essien via his Twitter handle @markessien, Atiku polled 43 per cent while Buhari trailed him with 35 per cent. But in the second the poll conducted by @YNaija, Atiku polled 70 per cent versus Buhari’s dismal 19 per cent. The other participants in the poll, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu and Mr. Fela Durotoye polled six and five per cent respectively.
The poll, which commenced on May 29 and ended 11:00p.m. of June 1 asked respondents: “Which of them will have your vote, if you had to vote today?” At the end of the voting of 7,444 respondents, seven out of every 10 respondents representing about 5,210 settled for Atiku compared to Buhari’s vote of 1,414; Moghalu’s 446 and Durotoye’s 372. The outcome of the poll by YNaija, a youth blog run by Red Media, which played a major role in Buhari’s media during the 2015 elections, is a reflection of result of the latest poll by NOI/Gallup Poll, which saw Buhari’s rating dip to 41 per cent.
Against the run of play of public opinion and ratings however, the Buhari administration’s third year report/factsheet says otherwise. On the economy, the report says the economic growth is back and consolidating after the recession of 2016-2017. The administration’s priority sectors of agriculture and solid minerals maintained consistent growth throughout the recession.
Inflation has fallen for the 15th consecutive month from 18.7 per cent in January 2017 to 12.5 per cent as of April 2018; External Reserves of US$47.5 billion are the highest in five years, and double the size as of October 2016; in 2017, agriculture exports grew 180.7 per cent above the value in 2016; Nigeria’s stock market ended 2017 as one of the best-performing in the world, with returns in excess of 40 per cent; five million new taxpayers were added to the tax base since 2016, as part of efforts to diversify government revenues; tax revenue increased to N1.17 trillion in first quarter of 2018, a 51 per cent increase on the Q1 2017 figure; and N2.7 trillion was spent on infrastructure in 2016 and 2017, an unprecedented allocation in Nigeria’s recent history.
On investment in people, the Buhari factsheet listed four components of its Social Investment Programme (SIP), which have already taken off. The SIP is the largest social safety net programme in the history of Nigeria, with N140 billion released and more than nine million direct beneficiaries so far – 200,000 N-Power beneficiaries currently participating and receiving N30,000 in monthly stipends, with another 300,000 new enrolments being processed, to take the number to 500,000 this year.
Second is the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP). N15.183 billion in interest-free loans ranging from N50,000 to N350,000 have been disbursed to more than 300,000 market women, traders, artisans, and farmers across all 36 states of the country and the FCT. In November 2017, GEEP was chosen as the pilot programme for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Policy Innovation Unit in Nigeria.
Another of its SIP is the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (HGSFP), covering currently, a total of 8.2 million pupils in 45,394 public primary schools across 24 states. Over 80,000 direct jobs have since been created from the School Feeding Programme, with 87,261 cooks engaged in the 24 states. Lastly is the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) with 297,973 families benefiting from the scheme, which pays N5,000 monthly to the poorest and most vulnerable households in the country.
For security, while Nigerians have lost count of incessant attacks and galloping death toll across the country, owing majorly to herdsmen/farmers’ conflict, the Buhari’s scorecard list the following: In the Northeast, revitalization of the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF), aimed at combating trans-border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency; resumption of public secondary schools in Borno State in 2016 after two years of closure; reopening of Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno roads; capture of Boko Haram’s operational and spiritual headquarters, ‘Camp Zero’, in Sambisa Forest; return of more than a million displaced persons to their homes and communities across the Northeast; and release of more than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages, including 106 of the Chibok Girls abducted in April 2014, and 105 of the Dapchi Girls abducted in February 2018.
The report listed successful military operations across the country: Operation Lafiya Dole, and Operation Last Hold, to defeat Boko Haram, in the Northeast; Operation Whirl Stroke, operating in Benue, Nasarawa, Taraba and Zamfara states, to tackle the menace of armed herdsmen, cattle rustlers, communal militias, kidnappers and other bandits; Exercise Crocodile Smile I (September 2016) and II (October 2017) to curtail the menace of militant activities in the Niger Delta; Exercise Obangame, a multinational operation aimed at securing and protecting the Gulf of Guinea; Operation Awatse, a joint operation between the military and the police, in the South West, to flush out militants and pipeline vandals; and Exercise Python Dance I (November 2016) and II (September 2017) in the South East, to tackle kidnappers and militant elements.
The government notes that its anti-corruption crusade and corruption war has been hinged on the plank of its fiscal reforms aimed at plugging leakages, one of which is the new Whistleblowing Policy. The policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 2016 has since yielded the following in recoveries: N13.8 billion from tax evaders, and N7.8 billion, US$378million, £27,800 in recoveries from public officials targeted by whistleblowers.
The Ministry received a total of 8,373 communications on contract inflation, ghost workers, illegal recruitment and misappropriation of funds, as a result of the policy. Of this number, the Ministry has undertaken 791 investigations and completed 534. Ten are presently under prosecution and four convictions have been secured. There is also an increased oversight of MDAs. The National Economic Council (NEC), under the chairmanship of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, approved the audit of key federal revenue generating agencies, with revealing results: a total sum of N526 billion and US$21 billion underpaid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015.
NEC has now approved the extension of that audit to cover the period until June 2017. The administration is also addressing the issue of poor levels of remittance of operating surpluses by MDAs. From remitting only N51 million between 2010 and 2016, JAMB went on to remit N7.8 billion in 2017, and is on course to remit a similar amount in 2018. How this factsheet or its impact on citizens can halt or sway public opinion from dangerously going south, thereby eroding remnants of the already exhausted goodwill of this administration, will be seen in the next eight months in countdown to 2019 general elections.