As President Muhammadu Buhari enters the last lap of his trip back to Daura, Katsina State after an eight-year tenure in the Villa, KUNLE ODEREMI and LEON USIGBE x-ray the quantum of liabilities to be inherited by the president-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu amid huge public expectations and pervasive anguish.
SOME perceptive Nigerians say they do not envy the president-elect, Senator Bola Tinubu as the clock ticks towards his inauguration next Monday as the fifth Nigerian leader since 1999. Their argument is that the time of his presidency appears set to inherit an awesome burden, huge enough to scare the most steel-minded. But, others say the former Lagos State governor belongs to the political establishment that has governed the country since 2015 when the All Progressives Congress (APC) became the ruling party, therefore, he cannot run away from the reality of inheriting both the assets and liabilities of the outgoing administration of President Muhammadu Buhari. For the past few days, the president has been strongly showcasing a ‘gamut’ of what he and his team consider as the great leaps of the administration in the last eight years. Those achievements cutting across the most critical sectors, are located in different parts of the six geopolitical zones of the country.
But, the liabilities as part of the legacies being bequeathed Tinubu by Buhari are also in legion. According to some concerned citizens, while some of the liabilities seem to have been artificially induced, others are consequences of ineptitude.
One of such heavy burden that will be on the shoulder of the president-elect once he assumes office is the cause he and other like-minds had vigorously championed, that is, the need to restructure the country such that Nigeria can work and everyone can have a sense of belonging. The present convoluted structure resulting from the abracadabra of the military era is imbued with absence of justice, equity, and fairness, thus the backlash of variegated agitations, frustration, rage and sometimes near subterfuge. The clock literally stopped working for Nigeria after the 1966 military coup that subverted the 1960 Independence Constitution and the 1963 Republican Constitution that guaranteed the sanctity of coordinated powers between the central government and the federating regions.
The issue of subsidy in the Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) otherwise called petrol is another major albatross being inherited by Tinubu. Dangling like the hangman noose, the matter constitutes a major source of public trepidation and fear as the president-elect during the pre-election campaign promised to eliminate subsidy because it is depriving the economy of breath and growth. The Buhari was dodgy over the contentious issue throughout the tenure of his administration, and the subsidy on petrol has made the running of government machineries at all levels in effectual, effective and almost incapacitated. But, who bears the brunt in case subsidy is removed without the authorities meeting the demands of the organised labour, small-scale business owners and other stakeholders in the Nigerian project on the importance of doing the needful to cushion the envisaged debilitating and harrowing spiraling effects?
Troubled Foreign policy relations
Nigerians believe the country could do better than what obtains now in terms of its role in international relations, politics and diplomacy. Most of its foreign offices have been going through very difficult times sometimes taking a form of embarrassment to the country. This is why many tend to reminisce a particular period when Nigeria led the global battle against colonial rule and the Apartheid policy in the Southern part of Africa. Then, advanced countries fretted each time Nigeria spoke vehemently and acted appropriately against countries that were seen to be promoting and sustaining racial segregation, subjugation and imperialism in whatever form. The candour, pragmatism and leadership Nigeria displayed then was not a function of the prevalent congenial economic climate at home, but was also a product of a well-defined foreign policy prepared and executed by great, distinguished scholars and other major stakeholders. There were institutional frameworks that made the implementation of the policies seamless and effective, leaving no room for ridicule and impunity that are evident in later years in the country’s foreign policy.
Writing in 2021 on the topic: Perspectives on President Buhari’s foreign policy, a former Nigerian Ambassador to Brazil, Dr Jayesola j Lewu reviewed the trend of Nigerian foreign policy via-avis its domestic policy under Buhari, noting: ‘The Nigerian situation since the assumption of power in 2015 by President Muhammadu Buhari has gone through twists and turns which has been unsettling. As foreign policy is a function basically of domestic policy, President Buhari’s foreign policy is not devoid of domestic thinking and course of action.” Dr Lewu recalled with nostalgia the foreign policy of the government in the time past and the impact it created. According to him, “In the past, Nigeria’s foreign policy was “Afrocentric”, making “Africa the centre-piece of the country’s foreign policy”. This raised the image of Nigerian government and people highly in the International community, particularly its focus on decolonization of the whole of Africa and the end of apartheid in South Africa.Since then, Nigeria’s dominance in the African region may not be as visible as it used to be, but its sub- regional overwhelming presence in West Africa under President Buhari is indisputable.”
Economic diversification vs solid mineral deposits
The economy relies solely on crude oil export for foreign exchange, and the humongous amount going into subsidizing premium motor spirit has shrunk resources available for allocation to all levels of governments, parastatals, agencies and departments to discharge their statutory functions, notwithstanding the incongruous issue of malfeasance. Unfortunately Nigeria has not been able to take advantage of the global rise in crude oil demand resulting from the wrap between Russia and Ukraine due to our weak economic base, lack of diversification, uncoordinated operations in the oil and gas industry coupled with the untidy constitutional framework that is against the norms of federalism. The perception of oil as the cash cow where there is free money makes any attempt to diversify the economy by looking at the direction of solid minerals pale into insignificance, just as the steel sector is castrated by lack of political will and the untoward culture of corruption. While the Ajaokuta Steel Plant remains an elephant project for more than four decades, successive governments turn blind eyes to the colossal waste of human and financial resources still being channelled into the moribund plant. Besides, solid minerals that are available in quantum across the states are largely untapped or criminals elements allowed to have a free reign harvesting them.
Today, the contribution of the sector to the national economy and the gross domestic product is abysmally embarrassing. What can be done in the short time to address the problem, given the vulnerability and volatility of the oil and gas sector in terms of revenue generation to the vagaries of the international market and politics of the advanced world economies? Those challenges cannot be divorced from the predicament of states over how to pay their workers, whereas they are sitting solid mineral deposits that worth billions of naira if harnessed. The First Quarter 2022 Foreign Trade Statistics report of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) stated that the value of solid minerals imports of the country jumped by 74.39 per cent from N23.56bn in the first quarter of 2021 to N41.09bn in the same quarter in 2022. Those imports included plasters of calcined gypsum or calcium sulphate imported from Turkey worth N6.87bn and China valued at N1.87bn. The other products under the category were salt for human consumption from Namibia (N5.87bn) and Tunisia (N1.14bn), and Gypsum anhydrite (N5.72bn) from Spain. Therefore, the solid mineral sector is believed to contribute only 0.55 to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), as most of the activities that go on in the industry is informal and illegal, whereas the sector can rake in $60 billion into the national treasury per year.
The Minister of Solid Minerals and Steel Development, Olamilekan Adegbite expressed his displeasure over the despicable state of the sector over the years,in spite of its huge economic potential. He advocated the adoption of modern technology to upgrade and standardise operations in the sector, as well as create an enabling environment to attract genuine investors so that the country can maximise the awesome benefits in the sector. “Nigeria needs to prepare well ahead of time for the future beyond hydrocarbons because there will come a time when you will not be able to sell your fuel anymore. It will no longer be attractive; nobody wants oil, and everybody will be using this mineral to power other things, hence, the mandate of Mr President to refocus the economy away from just oil and gas into mining and steel development. To do that , Nigeria is the big player but predominantly artisanal.” In other words, Nigeria is suffering from under utilization of its solid mineral potential. Tragically, Nigeria’s import bill on solid mineral is scary and curious.
Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project
In January 2020, President Muhammadu Buhari, set up an Inter-ministerial Steering Committee (IMSC), and Project Delivery Committee (PDC), for the N2 trillon Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project in Taraba State. This followed the release of funds by the Federal Government for compensation for land and other property that may be affected by the construction of the 3,050 megawatts power plant. Members of steering committee included representatives of federal agencies and Taraba State government, ministries of Water Resources; Environment; Finance, Budget and National Planning; Works and Housing; Justice; Information and Culture; and Mines and Steel Development. Considered to be the biggest dams in Africa, it is to be connected to three dams across the Donga River in Taraba State. It was initiated in 1982 to boost power supply in the country. The terms of reference of the Inter-ministerial Steering Committee included facilitating and fast-tracking the execution and project delivery of the Mambilla Hydroelectric power project; and finalising within six months the review of the project engineering and technical design concept to achieve optimal efficiency and benefit the immediate target market (the Northeast geopolitical zone), as well as securing a loan facility from the China Exim Bank for the Off-shore component of the project. However, the project is asphyxiated by its past. The standing committees in the National Assembly queried the Mambilla hydroelectric power project, describing it as another conduit pipe when the Minister of Power, Abubakar Aliyu, appeared before the joint Committee of the Senate and House of Representatives on Power to defend the 2023 budget. The chairman of the Senate Committee, Gabriel Suswam, while raising concerns over the situation at Mambilla Power Project said it remained a dream with nothing on the ground to show for budgetary allocations annually. He said:, “The Mambilla power project has become a mirage to us at the National Assembly and to Nigerians. Monies are provided year in and year out, but nothing is certain about Mambilla. The initial scope of the project was slightly over 3,000 megawatts. There were issues, and we were told that it was going to be re-scoped. Even the re-scoping of the project has not been done. So, in essence, it means that there is no project that is on the ground like Mambilla. It’s all about talk and lip service. That is why we are concerned about the money that is provided for consultancy and the money used for the training of staff that was supposed to be used if Mambilla was in place. Why provide monies all these years when nothing is actually on the ground?” So, it constitutes part of the major business of government to be inherited by the incoming administration as the project, has been mired in litigation and counter-moves with grave implications for the scarce resources of the country. The project was among the core issues thrown up during campaigns by the opposition parties.
Ogoni land cleanup
The story of the Niger Delta region is best captured in the travails of the people of Ogoni Lnad in Rivers State. Devastated by environmental degradation and deprivation of their means of livelihood, due to the activities of oil exploration by multinational oil companies, the Ogoniland is a gory tale of deprivation and reckless abandon by government. Apart from having been deprived of their means of livelihood, especially fishing and arable or subsistence farming, the people are being exposed to serious and severe health hazards and life-threatening sicknesses. These and many other issues triggered major agitations by environmentalist and the wicked crackdown on them by the agents of government. Those issues have only been scratched on the surface with the Ogoni land cleanup programme. However, the Minister of Environment, Mohammed Abdullahi, had blamed some civil society organisations as well as some individuals in Rivers State for stalling Ogoni clean-up through unnecessary litigation. The minister was reacting to allegations by the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) against the Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project (HYPREP) charged with implementing problematic Ogoni cleanup in Rivers of the slow pace of work as well as embezzlement. He said: “On the agitation by MOSOP that accuses HYPREP of slow implementation projects, the Federal Government is as concerned as MOSOP in terms of the seeming slow pace of the project execution. But, in most cases, the Federal Government is not the direct cause. Sometimes you find that individuals and CSOs within Ogoniland go to court to obtain one sort of order or another against HYPREP from proceeding with some processes. So, it has hampered the process as captured in PPP. As we speak now, there’s a group called the Good Conscience that has gone to court to restrain the Federal Government from continuing with those water projects.” In April, the minister said the mandate of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on Ogoni cleanup project would be concluded this year. At the Award of Outstanding Performance presented by Ogoni Youth Federation Worldwide in Abuja, he said the government was working with United Nations for Offices for Project Services (UNOPS) to take over the entire process in January 2024. “We are coming from the controversy to deliver on the mandate of the president. So, youths have been very cooperative and very supportive. This has also been part of the underlying reasons we have succeeded in Ogoniland.”
According to him, “youth restiveness has been very provocative, and they did not given us opportunity to operate. It would have been very difficult to operate if this was not properly handled. So, we take this award as very important and we will not take it for granted.This transition is ongoing for the benefit of our people of Ogoniland. Our commitment will continue to engage the aggrieved youths in the region to ensure a smooth completion of the project to deliver the mandate UNEP.” How the incoming government handles the project towards consolidating the gains so far from the cleanup exercise no doubt constitutes a major obstacle and task in years ahead, as the outgoing government has just approved N129.8 billion for various projects in the Niger Delta Ministry, especially for the Ogoni clean-up project. The money is meant to be spent on the second phase of the Ogoni water project and the central remediation of newly-identified hydrocarbon-impacted sites.
War on hard drugs
The abuse of hard drugs has taken a phenomenal rise in the country. It has compounded the violent vices especially among the increasing army of unemployed youths. Aside becoming cannon fodder during seasons of major elections in the hands of some unscrupulous political leaders, the youths now derive pleasure in abusing drugs with consequence deteriorating health status and unbridled security breaches. Nigeria is currently ignobly rated as one of the countries in the world with drug abuse and transit route for hard drugs. Authorities of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) are at their wits end in the fight against those criminal elements behind the scourge.
Illegal oil bunkering and theft
Members of the powerful cartel behind the unwholesome practice have kept raising their game in inflicting incalculable damage to the economy of the country, despite the collaborative effort by government agencies to tame the menace. They deploy sophisticated technology, as recently discovered by operatives, to siphon and steal crude oil from major facilities and pipelines, with accusations and counter-accusations of complicity within key players in the oil and gas sector, and security personnel charged with monitoring and safeguarding the waterways, as well as primarily protecting the sovereignty of Nigeria. This has been causing the country huge leakage in foreign revenue. According to the Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), oil theft and losses in 2020 was at about 619.7m barrels of crude oil daily at a value of $46 billion dollars or N16.25 trillion. Vice-president, Professor Yemi Osinbajo had lamented the crisis and demanded that stakeholders in the oil and gas industry evolve recommendations and solutions that would address oil theft and boost production in the country. He said: “All theft and sabotage of oil and gas assets are a clear and present danger to our economy and national security. Not only do they pose a serious threat to all exploration and our energy economy, they also impact negatively on what is accrued to the federation and the business prospects of investors in the oil and gas sector,” he said.Osinbajo was also concerned that the total value of crude oil losses between 2009 and 2020 was higher than the size of Nigeria’s foreign reserve at any point in time and also 10 times Nigeria’s savings in our crude account. “However, our administration is committed to leaving our best actions, notes and ideas for use by the next administration and better of our nation,” he assured.
Sectional agitations have become a vicious circle in the political space in the country. The resurgence, subdued or passive resistance, usually manifests in different forms and shapes but with those behind the separatists clamour, movement or agitations premising on their actions on perceived injustice in the existing federal structure. In the views of experts, all this encapsulates into a potential time bomb, if not nipped in the bud. A former Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika (retd.), warned against the danger of delay in addressing the clamour for self-determination in different parts of the country and the security challenges. At an Interfaith Roundtable on Building a Culture of Peace and Unity in Nigeria organised by the Methodist Church in Abuja, he said: “The security situation and spate of security challenges in the country should give any reasonable and patriotic Nigerian a sense of worry and concern. More worrisome is the occasional clamour for self-determination by a few individuals within some ethnic groups in the country. There is no doubt that the current situation is not the best. It poses a serious threat to our unity and corporate existence as a nation.”
With terror linked to the Boko Haram activities in the North-East falling, bandits overrunning the North-West has created a level of banditry never seen in the history of the country. Deadly and well-coordinated terrorist gangs continue to abduct people for millions of naira in ransom to oil their criminal activities with Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna states remaining the epicentre of these dastardly crimes. This is even as the north central, especially Benue State, continues to experience unrelenting killings and displacement attributable to farmers/herders. Thus, Buhari is leaving behind insecurity that has proved largely unassailable as people are still being killed, property still needlessly being destroyed, millions of citizens displaced, and others plunged into poverty and untold hardship.
There are the unresolved activities of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), extra-judicial killings, cultism, armed robbery, and other violent crimes linked to politics, high unemployment and the proliferation of small arms that have compounded the general insecurity. Buhari will also leave behind the about 150 out of the 276 girls of Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, who have been in Boko Haram captivity since April 14, 2014 just as Leah Sharibu abducted February 19, 2018 in her school in Dapci, Yobe State.
Beyond insecurity, the infrastructure deficit seemingly overwhelmed Buhari despite his best efforts. Here, the Buhari administration is leaving about 26,000 kilometres of federal roads across the country to its successor to attend to while it is also handing down 11 housing sites amounting to 3,198 units under the National Housing programme yet to be completed. The administration had announced April 30, 2023 as the completion date of the Lagos-Ibadan expressway but that did not materialize. But it was honest enough to concede that the Abuja-Road would not be finished in the lifetime of the government. “Building through 40,000 vehicular traffic is not an easy undertaking. We cannot shut down the road. So, we have to manage and divert traffic for the safety of those involved in the construction,” the outgoing minister of works and housing, Babatunde Fashola, tried to rationalise the shortcoming. These important roads will now join the inheritance of the succeeding administration.
Apart from roads, some of the other liabilities the outgoing administration will hand over to its successor are in the railway sector, including Kaduna-Kano, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, and Kano-Maradi (Niger Republic) lines.
Despite repeated promises that it would fly before Buhari leaves office, Air Nigeria remains only on the drawing board. When asked recently whether this was still the case, the minister of aviation, Hadi Sirika, said: “Nigeria Air Limited, I did say that we will get it going before the end of this administration and I have not withdrawn my words. We have everything in place, the aircrafts are in place, the offices, operational centres, the staffing and everything that we need to have in place. We’re doing the last-minute checks and waiting for the issuance of the AOC and it will fly.” This is obviously farther from reality. The aircrafts are not going to fly before Buhari returns to Daura.
Economy, debt burden, unemployment
The president was also unable to successfully deal with the struggling economy, which has seen debts rise to as much as N77 trillion and inflation hitting 22.04% in March 2023 from the about 9.0% met by the outgoing administration in May 2015. He let in uncontrolled Inflation that has led to the increase in the general price level of goods and services in an economy such that each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services resulting in reduction in the purchasing power of money. Economists say the devastating effects of inflation on the economy, coupled with other variables, culminated in pushing many of its citizens into poverty.
The World Bank 2022 Poverty and Prosperity Report holds that Nigeria contributed three million people to global extreme poverty, while the country has been tagged: “home to a large share of the global extreme poor.” Also, Nigeria was ranked 103 out of 121 countries in the 2022 Global Hunger Index (GHI), a position that puts the nation’s level of hunger as serious. From N12.12 trillion attributed to the country by Debt Management Office (DMO) as of June 2015, debt has climbed to N44.7 trillion while “Ways and Means” borrowing advances from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has been put at N22.7 trillion. In November 2022, the NBS released a report which showed that 133 million people (63%) living in Nigeria are multi-dimensionally poor. It put the national MPI at 0.257, meaning that poor people in Nigeria experience just over one-quarter of all possible deprivations. All these could not be altered in the life of the outgoing administration. However, they will continue to weigh in the soon-to-be former president’s mind. The Buhari administration will also hand down to the incoming administration high unemployment figures to deal with just as the lingering fuel subsidy, which his government failed to remove, repeated promises notwithstanding.
As the president departs for home on Monday after eight years in office, he will look back and wonder whether he could have done more to make the country a better place than he inherited in 2015. On his way to Daura, he will ruminate on why he was unable to fully tame the monster of insecurity encapsulated in insurgency, banditry, armed herders’ attacks, kidnappings, religious-motivated attacks, separatist’s agitations and other violent conflicts.
Until April 29, the National Population Commission (NPC) had stuck to its gun to go ahead with the conducted of 2023 population and housing census slated for between May 3 and 7. It ignored the strident calls and demand by a broad spectrum of the population that the commission should postponed the exercise, especially because of the timing. Issues over the conduct of the general election had subsisted with aggrieved parties and their candidates filing petitions before the election tribunals for adjudication. The planned census was coming about 17 years after it should have held in sync with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended. But a meeting of the federal Executive Council (FEC) authorized the shift in the conduct of the exercise to a dte to be determined by the incoming government. This was notwithstanding the fact that the NPC had spent more than N200 billion on logistics in preparation for the exercise as previously scheduled by the commission. The issue of census remains a touchy matter due to the perceived manipulation of the process by certain powerful interest, in spite of the significance of reliable data to national planning. Meanwhile, the NPC had a N626 billion budget for the exercise.
Devolution of power and resource control
The centre enjoys awesome powers at the expense of the sub-national. There is sustained outcry over the imperative for power devolution and resource control by the federating units to allow for harmony, growth and prosperity.