Nigerians from all walks of life hinge their hope on the second term of the Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to deliver the goods on programmes that will bring economic growth, eliminate poverty, infrastructural development among others
By Anayo Ezugwu
ON Wednesday May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari will be sworn in for a second term in office. This will usher in the ‘Next Level’ which he promised Nigerians. But the ‘Next Level’ will be starting on a somewhat precarious note. This is because the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, recorded a decline in output in real terms in the first quarter of 2019.
According to the Nigeria Bureau of Statistics, NBS, the GDP growth rate fell to 2.01 percent in the first quarter from 2.38 percent in the fourth quarter of last year. It said when compared to the first quarter of 2018, which recorded real GDP growth rate of 1.89 percent, the first-quarter of 2019 growth rate represented an increase of 0.12 percentage points.
“It is worth noting that general elections were held across the country during the first quarter of 2019 and this may have reflected in the strongest first-quarter performance observed since 2015. Aggregate GDP stood at N31.79 trillion in nominal terms. This aggregate GDP was higher than in the first quarter of 2018 which recorded N28.44 trillion, representing a year-on-year nominal growth rate of 11.80 percent. The aggregate GDP was, however, lower than in the preceding quarter of N35.23 trillion, by -9.75 percent,” it said.
With this development, some economic experts have warned that the ‘Next Level’ may begin with recession. Some of them said the weak fundamentals currently being exhibited by the Nigerian economy are putting the country’s exit from recession under threat.
Godwin Eohoi, an economist, said the economic slowdown in the first quarter emanated from the oil sector with strong linkages to employment and growth. He argued that the late passage of the 2019 budget, weakening demand and consumer spending, rising contractor debt, and low minimum wage were some of the risks to output growth.
Others, according to him, are the continued security challenges in the North-East and North-Central zones and the growing level of sovereign debt. He said except the federal government comes up with innovative measures to stimulate aggregate demand, the economy may slip into another recession by next year.
On his part, Odilim Enwangbara, a developmental economist, said the economy might return to recession as a result of unproductive spending. “The economy will eventually return to recession because of massive unproductive general spending.
“Many foreign investors have quietly left Nigeria, relocating to Ghana where necessary, while many local investors are on the sidelines out of fear of the prolonged political instability and the growing high level of insecurity, particularly kidnapping, causing harsh business environment,” he said.
But the federal government has said that the country’s economy remained stable, despite the anticipated stress from the 2019 general elections. Udoma Udo Udoma, minister of budget and national planning, said compared to the real GDP growth rate of 1.89 percent in first quarter of 2018, the 2019 first quarter growth showed 0.12 percent points increase.
Speaking after the Federal Executive Council, FEC, he said the council noted that despite the expected impact of election costs such as inflation on the economy, it remained stable.
“The council is also pleased to note that there are improvements in other economic indicators such as the inflation rate, which tend to be high during an election period, but it has been stable.
“Our external reserves and our trade balance have also remained healthy over the period, while our exchange rate to the dollar has also been stable. So, notwithstanding the elections, there has been stability,” he said.
In the midst of these economic uncertainties and rising security challenges across the nation, Nigerians expect Buhari to address the looming economic threats and equally continue the fight against insecurity in his second term. Accepted, he has done well to tame the scourge of Boko Haram, Nigerians would, however, want the president to tame the wave of banditry, terrorism, killings, kidnapping and herders/farmers clashes.
The government should, in the second term, show clear decisiveness and intolerance to both the perpetrators and sponsors of insecurity in the country to send clear messages to all that life would not be allowed to be cheapened.
But former President Olusegun Obasanjo has a contrary view over the spate of insecurity in Nigeria. He said the agenda of Boko Haram sect and herdsmen is to fulanise West Africa and Islamise Africa at large.
Speaking on Saturday, May 18 at the 2019 Synod of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), in Delta State, Obasanjo urged an immediate and more aggressive approach by the federal government to deal with the current challenge of insecurity across the country. He said government should seek the opinions of all Nigerians that matter on the security situation and then proceed to bilateral, multinational, regional, continental and global levels for assistance in making the country safe for all. “With ISIS involvement, we cannot but go global,” he said.
But in its usual reaction to unfavourable views on national issues, the federal government described Obasanjo’s comments as deeply offensive and patently divisive. It said such indiscreet comments are far below the status of an elder statesman.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday, May 21, Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, said it was particularly tragic that a man, who fought to keep Nigeria one is the same one seeking to exploit the country’s fault lines to divide it in the twilight of his life.
He said Boko Haram and ISWAP are terrorist organisations pure and simple, adding that they care little about ethnicity or religion when perpetrating their senseless killings and destruction.
As if the security situation is not alarming enough, the outgoing minister of education has admitted that the situation may get worse in the future. He admitted that he failed as a minister of education in the country.
Speaking during his valedictory press conference in Abuja on Tuesday May 21, Adamu Adamu, minister of education, said his inability to reduce Nigeria’s out of school children despite his pledge to do so was a shame on him.
As of 2018, reports from the United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, showed that out of school children in Nigeria has risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million. With this army of out of school children across the nation, the current security challenges may not get better any time soon.
But as usual, Adamu apologised to Nigerians over his inability to fulfil his promise to reduce the number of out-of-school children by half before the end of his tenure. The minister said the status of Nigeria as having the highest number of out-of-school children globally “was a big mark of shame to him as a person and to the entire nation”.
Despite the challenges of out of school children, the sector also faced a lot of industrial actions at the tertiary level, with the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics, ASUP, spending majority of their calendar on strike over one demand or the other.
Moving forward, Nigerians and indeed students would like to see an end to industrial actions and improvements in the quality of education as well as improvement in investment in the sector and a law that will compel government officials and appointees to send their children to public schools in the country.
On health sector, as the Buhari-led administration goes into second term, Nigerians would like to see a paradigm shift and improvement in health care delivery across the country. But latest reports from the minister of health indicate that primary and secondary health care systems in the country have collapsed and the situation was putting pressure on Teaching Hospitals.
Isaac Adewole, minister of health, said it was unfortunate that primary and secondary health care centres were no longer functioning, noting that even minor sicknesses are now referred to Teaching Hospitals.
Adewole, while responding to questions from the Senators on Tuesday, May 21, said: “Teaching Hospitals are designed to accept referrals from Hospitals, but over time, primary and secondary hospitals are no more. Minor sicknesses like headache and malaria are taken to Teaching Hospitals now.”
This situation has made working condition unbearable for the medical personnel in the country. As a result, many of them are leaving the country for greener pasture. According to Adewole, as of May 2018, 88,692 doctors were registered in the country.
While presenting a paper at the annual general meeting and scientific conference of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria, NARD, in 2018, Adewole cited data from the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, the professional health regulatory agency for medicine, dentistry and alternative medicine in Nigeria, in his speech.
Of that number, he said only 45,000 — representing 50 percent of them — are currently practicing in Nigeria. This means with a population of 198 million, according to the National Population Commission, NPC, there is just one doctor for 4,400 Nigerians.
This is definitely far from being enough to take care of Nigerians, especially as the World Health Organisation, WHO, suggests in its 2019 World Health Statistics Overview that countries with fewer than 10 medical doctors per 10,000 population have insufficient healthcare professionals.
But Chris Ngige, minister of labour, said on Wednesday April 24 that Nigeria has more than enough medical doctors to cater for its needs. He said there is nothing wrong with some of the doctors seeking green pastures elsewhere.
“We have more than enough doctors. You can quote me. We have surplus. If you have surplus, you export. There is nothing wrong in them travelling out. When they go abroad, they earn money and send them back home here,” he said.
Be that as it may, many Nigerians expect Buhari to improve the conditions and services in the health sector. They want a situation whereby both the public office holders and the president would use the available health facilities in the country.
The challenges are not only restricted to security, economy, education and health, in the last four years of this administration, electricity supply situation has not improved. The epileptic situation continues despite the government promising to improve the condition in 2015. Therefore, Nigerians expect to see improvement, with many of them advocating for the separation of power ministry from works and housing.
Certainly, the power condition is one of the underlining factors impeding industrialisation of the country. With all the efforts of the government, including privatisation and building new power plants across the country, power supply has not exceeded 5,222 megawatts since 2015. Sometimes, it drops to below 3000mw with regular occurrence of system collapse due to poor transmission infrastructure. The sector is still bedevilled with challenges of tariff, lack of prepaid meters, estimated billing and liquidity problems.
To make the sector work, the Buhari-led government should hand over the 40 percent it holds in the distribution companies to private sector investors, ensure the investors build facilities and equipment. But this will only happen, when the government has ensured that the tariff structure is cost-reflective and can compare with other climes.
The government must ensure that those who own the power assets in generation and distribution segments of the industry are not just fronts of politicians whose interests are to fleece the economy. Government should have the will power to withdraw the licence of any investor who is under-performing and not willing to improve when all the above are in place.
The government should continue with the incremental power policy of Babatunde Fashola, minister of power, works and housing. The incremental power policy is an initiative that seeks to put into use existing megawatts as against building new generation facilities.
According to the minister, every one megawatt is defined. To him, Nigeria cannot have 12,000mw installed and be concentrating on new ones without optimising the existing ones. Under the policy, government will give gas to power stations that have transmission facilities and transmission facilities to stations that have access to gas, but no facilities to evacuate the generated power.
The policy has helped in increasing output from Egbema, Gbarain and Omoku, among other power plants.
In the manufacturing sector, Nigerians expect the president and his new team to improve the sector. They consider it as one of the sectors that can help in reducing unemployment rate in the country. According to the first quarter 2019 GDP report released by the NBS, the manufacturing sector growth slowed to 0.81 percent compared to 2.38 percent in the preceding quarter.
Likewise, available statistics from the Manufactures Association of Nigeria, MAN, indicate that industrial and manufacturing sectors spend 30 to 40 percent of their total costs of production on power. Also, banks spend 25 percent of their total costs of operation on power.
Muda Yusuf, director-general, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, said manufacturing is one of the sectors of Nigerian economy that require attention in Buhari’s second term. He urged the incoming government to reduce cost of production in the country.
He said the administration needs to look at critical bottlenecks that have impeded the performance of the sector since the economic meltdown between 2016 and 2017. “Manufacturing is a business enterprise, the sustainability of any business is a function of its competitiveness,” he said.
Yusuf identified infrastructure as a key factor in driving manufacturing in Nigeria. He said lack of robust infrastructure in Nigeria has made manufacturing uncompetitive. He noted that the mortality rate of industry is extremely high, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.
As the expectations increase, Nigerians expect Buhari to continue the fight against corruption in his second term. They want him to strengthen the anti-corruption war and stop fighting perceived enemies and oppositions. The desire of many is to see him prosecute even members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
In all these expectations from Nigerians, Buhari has promised that he will not let Nigerians down in providing effective and good leadership. In a statement signed by Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to the president on media quoted Buhari as saying that he was aware of the weight of responsibility on him and pledged to make Nigeria better. ”I know what to do, and I will not fail Nigerians,” he said.
While expressing gratitude to all Nigerians for the opportunity to serve a second term in office, Buhari assured that their expectations for giving him the mandate would be met. “The expectations of Nigerians will be met. I will not let them down. I will continue to do my best.”
The expectations of Nigeria and Nigerians are too huge going into the new administration of President Buhari and it is only time that will tell the ‘Next Level’ where the president is taking the nation to.
– May 24, 2019 @ 17:59 GMT |