OUR ACTIONS WILL SPEAK FOR US- President Muhammadu Buhari
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There is an advert which has been running on Television over the last couple of weeks, sponsored by the Ministry of Information and Culture, I believe. A couple of elderly Nigerians make comments about the country and the the President. The Minister of Foreign affairs said that PMB is the face of the Nigerian Brand and the President himself concludes with the statement quoted above- Our actions will speak for us. Which means that he will be a man of action, not of words. I quickly agreed with the President that His actions will speak for him and his government. And then I tried to listen in my mind, what his actions were speaking. But I had some problems as I was hearing two voices speaking at the same time. When I tried to discern what these voices were, I found that one voice was speaking for the president which represented his actions. When I interrogated the other voice it said that it was speaking for the inactions of the President . That helped to resolve my confusion. One voice spoke for the President which were his actions. The other voice spoke against the President which were his inactions. So to re-paraphrase what the President said: "Our Actions will speak for us while our inactions will speak against us". Permit me to reveal what the two voices spoke to me.
OUR ACTIONS SPEAKING FOR US
The voice that spoke for the President identified the following actions:
. Increased Activity of the Anti-corruption Agencies- EFCC & ICPC; these agencies that seemed to have lost their voices and abilities, have woken up, arresting and arraigning people who are accused of abusing their offices by converting public funds to private uses. Greatest focus has been on the 2.1 billion dollars alleged to have been distributed by the Office of the National Security Adviser. Many past public officers are said to have returned or refunded some of the money. But up till date, we do not have the names of those who have returned or the amounts returned. Also, nobody has yet been convicted for corruption but the Courts are quite busy. There is a feeling within Nigeria and in the international community that the President is fighting corruption and this has been well received as all have agreed with the President that ' if we do not kill Corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria'.
The transfer of all monies in the different accounts maintained by the Ministries, Departments and Agencies(MDAs) of Government to a single account in the Central Bank called Treasury Single Account( TSA). At the last count, about 3 Trillion Naira was said to be in the TSA. This move has helped to reduce diversion of Public funds and other leakages and helps the government better manage its cash flow, but on the other hand has stifled several government projects and programs as money meant for some of these are currently sterilized in the TSA with increased government bureaucratic bottlenecks. Government debts to contractors and suppliers have ballooned .
The Central Bank of Nigeria( CBN) has taken actions to reduce outflow of foreign exchange ( Forex) from the Country in the face of much reduced income from the sale of crude petroleum. It banned 41 products from accessing forex from the CBN. It banned payment and withdrawal of forex from Domiciliary accounts in Banks, but later reversed itself but has continued to restrict access to forex for a number of transactions. It stopped selling forex to Bureau De change(BDC) operators. The result is that the government has slowed down the depletion of Our Foreign reserves . But the consequences are that forex users even for authorized transactions are unable to get enough and some have to go to the parallel market, where increased demand in the face of restricted supply has led to unprecedented depreciation of the Naira, reaching 405 against the USA dollars before receding to about 325.
With this inflation has jumped reaching 11% and climbing higher.
The increased effort to contain insurgency in the North East seems to have improved the security situation in that Region, leading to some internally Displaced Persons( IDPs) returning to their homes. But the suicide bombing of soft targets and occasional forage by the terrorists continue delaying restoration of normalcy in the region. However elsewhere in the Country, the security situation seems to be worsening.
The Frequent travels of the President all over the World may have allowed World leaders to interact with our President and make promises to assist Nigeria fight insurgency, fight corruption and lend money for infrastructure and other needs. But as we write there is nothing concrete that we can point to. In fact because our President has been more than frank in painting the situation in our Country, when on these trips, some accuse him of de-marketing the Nation and so we may not achieve much from the frequent travels.
The President's lop-sided appointments of his core members of Government from his part of the Country and from among his old acquaintances with almost total Neglect of the South East before the constitutional requirement to appoint Ministers from all the States, was in tandem to his declared intention to reward those regions that voted for him predominantly, preferentially. This situation seems to have alienated some sections of the Country and have polarized the Country further. Issue of Self determination has begun to enjoy increased currency.
OUR INACTIONS THAT SPEAK AGAINST US
The voice that spoke against the President raised the following issues:
. No action on deregulation of the down stream Petroleum sector. No firm decision on subsidy. No action on the Petroleum Industry Bill( PIB). The Result is that Nigeria remains chronically short of refined Petroleum products , especially Petroleum Motor Spirit( PMS) and Aviation Fuel. In the last eight weeks or so, Nigerians have faced the worst fuel scarcity in years and this is speaking against the President and his government . Investment in the upstream sector has continued to decline due to uncertainties with the PIB and the future of the oil industry in Nigeria remains bleak, more so in the face of the global fall in oil prices.
. No action on the need to enthrone a progressive Foreign Exchange Pricing Policy. The result is the formation of two foreign exchange markets that promote round tripping and corrupt practices in the banks. Furthermore, lack of action in this direction is affecting foreign exchange inflows and slowing down investment inflow into the Country. Today Nigeria has been marked down by all the global rating agencies, worsening our credit worthiness. The Nigerian Stock Exchange( NSE) has continued to perform poorly, largely as a result of no action in this area.
. No action on Privatization in the last one year. This is denying Nigeria opportunities for major investment inflows and improving of service efficiencies in our Nation. Our refineries can never be turned around, no matter how much money we throw into them. The Power Sector reform must run its full course with the ultimate Privatization of the Transmission infrastructure. The chronic short supply of Energy in our Country calls for total liberalization and deregulation of the Energy sector. We can not bridge our infrastructure deficit without promoting Private Sector involvement.
. No action on the Agriculture Transformation agenda( ATA) and the Industrial Revolution policy introduced by the last regime which had been seen to produce measurable results. At a time we urgently need to diversify our economy away from oil, the voice is asking why we have destroyed momentum and allowed the economy to drag, blaming the fall on oil prices. Our GDP has continued to decline in the last four quarters and the apparent inaction in this area is hurting the economy. The voice threatens that we may end up in recession.
. No action on the increasing menace of the Fulani Herdsmen. Everyday, we hear of communities being ravaged, farmers being kidnapped and killed. What happened in Agatu in Benue State recently has parallels in other arrears, extending recently to the South West and South East. And no action from the President. This is causing disaffection in the Country and causing more cleavages in the National Fabric.
. No action on the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference. There is so much agitating the several ethnic groups that make up Nigeria and causing apprehension in the Polity. That is what those recommendations are meant to help resolve .Nigeria needs Peace to overcome the prevailing economic distress. The voice speaking against the President is that the lack of action in trying to pacify the current agitations and making conscious effort to unite a fractured Nation is not helping the Country. The work has been done and not taking advantage may turn out to be a costly mistake.
. Slow action on Budget 2016. The voice complained against the President, that despite all the delay in approving the Budget, the President left the Country for China without signing the budget into law, even after the National Assembly remitted the details of the budget to his office. This is April. When will the budget implementation Begin?
In conclusion, my free advisory is that the President and the government should consider taking actions on those areas of inaction, so that all actions will speak for the President. That I believe will help the government meet the expectations of the people of Nigeria, even as he completes one year in office.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR