Great Expectations: Why Buhari mustn’t fail!

0
928


On Frday May 29, 2015, history will be made as the nation will be witnessing  the ushering in of an opposition leader in the country; but what do  Nigerians really expect from President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, asks Ohia Israel  

Will it be business as usual or what?  The lesson learnt from the past election is that the Nigerian members of electorate are now more enlightened than before and can differentiate between what they want and what they don’t want.
An analyst disclosed to DESERTHEARALD: “Expect discipline and austerity which will later in the years lead to buoyancy of their economy. The incoming government is expected to turn around the fortune of Nigeria for the better – turning her economic woes to economic gains for the country and Nigerians, as Nigerians expect him not to compromise his frankness, straightforwardness and thoroughness in the name of anything. In anything he will do as the president, Nigerians want him to always place the interest of Nigerians and not his party, the APC at heart.

“One of the areas that Buhari must touch if he wants to succeed is to start addressing the inability of many state governments to pay workers salaries. Ordinarily, one may want to say that it is not the Federal Government that owes them, but he should not forget that he is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

The culture of waste and era of profligacy is expected to stop and nipped in the bud; the cost of running government should be reduced by at least 50 per cent. I am of the opinion that we are wasting money in running government. It is uncharitable that a Nigerian senate president earns more than the US president. It is indeed an extravagance which must be addressed. The issue of national stability is an issue which must not be taken lightly by the Buhari regime, as well as discipline which will lead to eradication or reduction of corruption in the country.

For instance, former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, prior to the general election called on Nigerians to look beyond the elections and demand from their leaders what the future holds for them after May 29, when a new government would be formed or the present one continues.
He stated that it would be most unfortunate if, after the entire hullabaloo about elections and who leads the country, Nigeria remains the same with its political, socio-economical, religious and ethnic crises, adding that Nigerians (the electorate) should therefore ask their political leaders how the country would be run effectively.
“Nigerians will be disappointed if after May 29, we are still asking the same question since 1960,” he said.

The former NBA boss, who however hailed the All Progressives Congress (APC) for making the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) be on its toes, realising that it is no more the biggest party in Africa, told journalists at a press conference in Lagos then that the biggest challenge in the country was the weak political class.
He added that up till now, no political party had come up with a concrete plan on how to restructure Nigeria and present a blueprint on how to give the citizenry good governance, saying: “I have been trying very hard to understand what the issues are among the noise coming from both parties, till now, I have not heard any of them presenting issues, it’s just noise.

“However, I think one needs to give credit to APC for having managed to make PDP realise that it’s no more the largest party in Africa. So now there are choices which are important to allow the people validate or invoke power to install their leaders. But after taking over power, what next?”
Agbakoba said till now, no leader had answered the ‘Bola Ige’s immortal questions: ‘Do we really want to be in one country and how do we want to be in one country? He added: “If the PDP and APC leaders are not looking for answers to those posers or are not seeking ways to manage the Nigerian diversity, then they are not ready for leadership which Nigerians yean for.

“So looking forward to the president how he will run the country efficiently is the biggest challenge we are facing now, because there is a reason we are going to vote; you are going to vote because you have expectations but we haven’t heard what those expectations are; these are very big issues, and I don’t think the media has helped in solving the matter anyway.
“There is a clutter and a cacophony of deafening noise coming from both parties but the issues are not clear. Unfortunately, the APC has refused to take part in the debate because it is crucial to have a debate to enable both candidates articulate their views. Nigeria’s dilemma is such that the fundamental question posed to both candidates is given the fact that Nigeria is structurally and defectively weak, what do you intend to do?”

While berating leaders for disorderliness, Agbakoba in a piece, ‘National Order and 2015 Agenda’ he co-authored with Willy Mamah, and made available to journalists stated that: “Absence of order is the direct lack of strong leadership. Unlike the rich man who took a decisive step to impose peace, Nigeria has been led by a turnover of leaders who seemed unperturbed by the urgency of the need for an order.
“The apathy of our leaders may not be unrelated to the fact that disorder seemed to have favoured narrow political calculation and establishment pattern of power and inequality.

“Nigeria’s human and material wealth ought to have provided a platform for peaceful cohabitation, but the reverse has been the case, because the priorities of those at the top are in stark contradiction with that of those at the bottom. Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

He further said in Nigerian politics, the failure to identify the correct configuration to sustain a strong political country and its diversity along linguistic, ethnic, religious lines which are major divisive elements is the major weakness of leadership. “It is the reason you have wars across the world. So if APC and PDP are not addressing how they intend to handle Nigeria’s diversity, then I think that is a major failure. We will simply have an electoral cycle number five since 1999 and it will now repeat itself, and in 2019, you will be here to ask the same question, the same situation would remain. Can’t you see how foolish we are unable to look back at our problems and present them to solve today’s problems?
“Nigerians to ask their leaders what future do they have for them, how are they are going to manage the resources to give the electorate good governance and take the country to a greater height.”

Meanwhile, Segun Adeniyi, former Spokesperson of the late President Yar’Adua in his recent write up, brought the issue of petroleum products availability on board as one of the first things the incoming administration of Buhari should look into. According to Adeniyi, “whether it is the downstream sector or the upstream sector of the Nigerian oil and gas industry that you want to examine, what you see is nothing but doom and gloom. And the evidence is there right on the streets where petrol is now being sold at scandalous prices and in the number of hours Nigerians who would not patronise black market spend at fuel stations. Very soon, the people will also begin to feel the pinch in their pockets, assuming many are not already doing that. So we can safely conclude that for our country, the “years of plenty” are over without having had a “dreaming Joseph” to prepare us for the “lean years” that now lie ahead.

Adeniyi in his write up said: “The challenge within the sector is enormous with several idle depots around the country because of the limited use of the pipelines due to vandalization; a plethora of largely ineffective regulatory bodies (DPR, NOSDRA, PPPRA, PEF etc.) and a regime of over-regulation that sees government controlling supply, margins, transportation rates etc. There is also an absence of a level-playing field; inadequate investment due to the regulatory environment and the waste called local refineries that keep gulping billions of Naira annually in the name of Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) despite performing at sub-optimal level.
“Whichever direction Buhari eventually goes, what is not in doubt is that the petroleum sector is one area where he would have to make what would be his first major calls. And one that is already waiting for him is the issue of fuel subsidy. All factors considered, it is going to be a tough call, especially given recent experiences. I recall that early in 2009, as a presidential spokesman, I decided to publicly intervene on the issue, based on my experience in government and the information I was privileged to have at the time. I wrote a piece titled “Deregulation: If Not Now, When?” and syndicated it for publication on Sunday 8th March 2009, in virtually all the newspapers in Nigeria. Not surprisingly, many people attacked my position which was interpreted to mean that I was no longer “with the masses” even when some government officials did not exactly like what I wrote.”

Not underscoring the importance of Local refineries, he said; “Since that intervention of more than six years ago still speaks to the current situation, I crave the indulgence of readers to quote extensively from the piece: “…According to the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Commission (PPPRA) template, the current pricing model for the determination of the domestic prices of petroleum products is based on an Import Parity Principle (IPP). This is because 90 percent of products consumed in Nigeria today are currently supplied through importation which in itself makes us a most vulnerable nation. But when the local refining capacity is developed and improved, Cost Plus Pricing Principle (CPPP) would apply.

“What this translates into is that some current cost components would either reduce or be eliminated from the pricing model if we can refine local needs at home rather than continue the regime of importation with all the attendant abuses. On the PMS template of the PPPRA for the month of February (2009) for instance, product cost is 65 percent while freight accounts for 5.75 percent. Another component called Lightering expenses account for 5.13 percent with Storage charge at 4.18 percent. Other charges are: Jetty-Depot Throughput, 1.12 percent; NPA, 1.62 Percent; Financing, 0.72 percent while margins for distribution account for 18.41 percent.

“There is currently a process audit of this template but even before that exercise is completed there are questions to be asked. In the year 2006 for instance, according to available data, the entire PMS refined locally was 1.623 billion litres while 7.701 billion litres of PMS were imported by NNPC and other marketers. In the year 2007, because the refineries were working at their lowest capacity, the quantum of their contribution to local supply had dwindled to 356 million litres of locally refined PMS while 9.867 billion litres of PMS were imported to the country by NNPC and other marketers. Last year (2008), 1.227 billion litres were refined locally with 10.867 billion litres imported.
“The big challenge has to do with the integrity of these numbers on which subsidy amounting to hundreds of billions of Naira is paid on a yearly basis and whether such an opaque system should be sustained. I recall that as a member of the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) between 2004 and 2007, a civil society member once described our efforts as ‘futile attempts to instill transparency in a secret society.

“Now, I know what he was talking about. The pertinent questions now are: How much of the PMS purportedly consumed in the country between 2006 and 2008 was smuggled out of the country after it had been heavily subsidised? What percentage of that number is spoof since facts on the ground suggest some marketers import less than they claim but have valid papers to show ‘evidence’ of full supply? What is the place of our banks in all these shady arrangements? And then, what percentage of the ‘imported’ products were real and what percentage were actually the (relatively cheaper) locally refined products that were round tripped to the high sea and then brought back home so that subsidy money would be claimed?

“These are the kinds of distortions and racketeering that regulation brings to the market place, especially in an environment like ours. These are also some of the issues that inform the position of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua that deregulating the market is the only plausible way we can open up the industry and rid it of unwholesome practices that have helped to distort a lot of things, including the correct price of PMS.
“There are people who argue that the solution lies in government simply building more refineries. Facts on the ground do not support this position even if the money were available because governments, especially in Nigeria, have not proved to be good managers of enterprises. The current state of the refineries against the huge sums that have over the years been invested in their Turn Around Maintenance (TAM) is a glaring evidence that government should stay out…”

Just as he rightly said, today all over the country, fuel queues are commonplace while most people buy their fuel at the black market where it is selling from between N150 to N300 per litre. Yet it appears the problem might be with us for a long time because of the uncertainty about what the incoming administration would do on the issue. But today, I present something that could be of help to Buhari and his team, assuming they are still undecided about fuel subsidy.

“Three years ago, following the crisis that followed the unsuccessful attempt by President Goodluck Jonathan to deregulate the sector, the House of Representatives decided to intervene by setting up an ad-hoc committee to probe the subsidy regime. Even though its work ended with controversy following allegation that committee chairman, Hon Farouk Lawan, took bribe from Mr. Femi Otedola, chairman of Forte Oil, I got sufficient information from the effort to begin work on a book on the regime of fuel subsidy in Nigeria. It took me two years before I eventually completed the work in June last year but given the political environment at the time, I wrote on this page that I would defer the publication till after the election. It is the result of that effort that I make public today.

“Although I started the effort with a mind to put the resultant books up for sale, given how topical the issue of fuel subsidy has become today, I am releasing the manuscript with the hope that it would help Nigerians to fully grasp what the whole issue is all about. Perhaps with that, we can begin a structured and meaningful conversation on some of the difficult choices we may have to make if our country must prosper and thrive.

“I am sure he will not fight them, but he will let them see reasons why certain things cannot be going on. So, Nigerians should brace up for austere period if they want Nigeria to be a better country. They must be ready to cooperate with him as well as ready to make unconditional sacrifice.”

Meanwhile, the President-elect having received the interim report of the Transition Committee set up to assist the newly-elected President to transit smoothly to the Presidency last Thursday was told by the Chairman of the committee, Alhaji Joda, at the presentation said the committee received tremendous cooperation from members of the organized private sector (OPS), Nigeria’s international development partners as well as stakeholders from across the country.

Alhaji Joda said his committee worked hard through four sub- committees to arrive at the interim report, adding however that the report does not have any input from the out-going administration. He was optimistic that the final report of the committee would include the input of the present administration, provided it is made available.
The interim report dealt with issues of good governance namely the executive, legislature and judiciary, finance and economy as well as core sectors like agriculture, oil and gas and solid minerals.

The report also looked at Infrastructure and power and national security.
Similarly, education, health and social welfare which featured in the manifesto of the party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) were also intensely studied and recommendations made.
President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, thanked the committee for doing a thorough job and presenting an interim report within the time allocated to it.

Buhari, however, expressed disappointment that ministers and other government leaders were not at hand, so far, to brief the committee but assured that since the bureaucrats who write the reports will be at hand after the departure of the politicians, whatever is there will eventually be known. He requested the Joda-led committee to be in readiness to resume work the moment the outgoing government’s handover notes are received.

The direction and programmes of the incoming administration of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) appears to be emerging with the guide being offered in the form of start-up reform marshal plan by a former British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, who urged him to carry out a complete overhaul of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and solve the problematic petroleum subsidy regime within the first 100 days of assuming office. The recommendation is in synch with the call by the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) for the incoming Buhari administration to declare a state of emergency in the oil sector given its myriad of problems. Blair’s policy pep-talk came just as the Vice-President-elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, gave a frightening picture of the country’s economic situation, saying that Nigeria’s local and international debt burden has hit $60 billion, while the debt servicing bill for
2015 is N953.6 billion (about 21%) of our budget.

The ex-British prime minister, who was represented by Peter Benjamin Mandelson, a former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, at a two-day All Progressives Congress (APC) Policy Dialogue holding in Abuja, yesterday advised that the government should as a matter of priority undertake the shake-up in the management of NNPC within the first 100 days of assumption of office. Blair said the new government should try to utilise the enormous goodwill it presently enjoys to take far-reaching economic decisions, including taking an intelligible stand on the controversial fuel subsidy policy. “You have more goodwill to do very difficult things at the beginning of your administration than later. You can crack the NNPC with the first 100 days,” he said. According to Blair, Nigeria has huge natural endowment of energy resources but could not effectively utilise such rich resources to economic advantage because of misplaced priorities.

“These issues are like this, for a country that has extraordinary resources of oil and have this amazing privilege of source of energy, yet power generation was not as good as it should. People having to wait for hours queuing to get fuel and end up buying it elsewhere. I think the resources voted for this subsidy can be better used for other things. “Where is it running away to? I think we need to recapture this oil resource and the revenues put to good use so that it can be invested for the long term good of the country, in infrastructure, human capital development, education system and skill acquisition that people need to work with in the future. “This is where the money should be going to. That is why before reorganisation and also the long reach of the law, there is the need to begin here pretty soon in order to make sure the system as whole works better for Nigeria. That is my view,” he said.

Exhibiting deep knowledge of Nigerian internal political dynamics, the Briton further advised Buhari not to turn his back on the people of the South-east and South-south based on the perception that he did not get the support of the voters from the zones. “You need to show the people who did not vote for you that you care for them and will work to solve their problems as much you will do for those that supported you. This is what is called ‘Big stake politics’,” he said. He also advised the government to tackle frontally the problem of unemployment immediately after taking over the administration of the country if it must successfully reduce youth restiveness and sectarian crisis.

He said that everything must be done to avoid allowing a return to the usual bad ways of doing things. While declaring the policy retreat open, Prof. Osinbajo, who also stood in for Buhari, said the country’s economy is currently in its worst moment in history. Apart from the figures of extreme poverty in the country, which he said had now affected 110 million Nigerians, Osinbajo said the country’s local and international debt stands at $60 billion, while the nation’s debt servicing bill for 2015 is put at N953.6 billion, 21 per cent of Nigeria’s budget. “The figures of extreme poverty in our society — 110 million by current estimates — makes it clear that our biggest national problem is the extreme poverty of the majority. Thus, no analysis is required to conclude that dealing with poverty and its implications is a priority. “We are concerned that our economy is currently in perhaps its worst moment in history.

Local and international debt stands at US$60 billion. Our debt servicing bill for 2015 is N953.6 billion, 21% of our budget. On account of severely dwindled resources, over two-thirds of the states in Nigeria owe salaries. Federal institutions are not in much better shape. Today, the nation borrows to fund recurrent expenditure,” he said. Osinbajo drew the attention of the gathering to some of the key issues raised by the party during the campaign which included addressing the challenges of economy, insecurity, corruption and job creation. Osinbajo lamented the highly unequal society in which the country had found itself, adding that “the largest chunk of the benefits of our national wealth accrues to a small percentage of our population”.

He said the APC manifesto has offered a vision of shared prosperity and socio-economic inclusion for all Nigerians, that leaves no one behind in the pursuit of a prosperous and fulfilling life. According to the vice-presidentelect, the goal of the policy dialogue is to “interrogate the various positions and propositions before a wider audience and to launch a robust public conversation on policy directions and priorities that will help inform our administration’s approach in the next four years”. “This forum exemplifies the sort of consultative and consensual approach to policymaking that our party and the new administration intend to model in office,” he said.
In his remarks, the Director of Policy, Research and Strategy in the Directorate of the

APC presidential campaign, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the phase of policy conception is over and that the party should now be thinking of “execution, governance and of providing tangible developmental deliverables”. The policy dialogue continues today with presentations by panelists drawn from various sectors of the economy and social backgrounds.

In the same vein, citing a plethora of challenges bedevilling the Nigerian oil and gas industry, PENGASSAN has urged the incoming administration of Buhari to declare a state of emergency in the sector to address its many problems. The oil workers argued that all sub-sectors of the oil and gas industry are going through one problem or the other which are not only dwindling the fortune of the sector, but the entire Nigerian economy as the sector currently accounts for more than 80 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings In a statement by PENGASSAN’s President, Mr. Francis Johnson, the senior oil workers said there are many issues in the oil industry requiring urgent attention from the in-coming government.

They urged Buhari to reposition the industry for efficient and effective delivery of its benefits to Nigerians. Johnson also noted in the statement that there is need for the in-coming government to call an all-inclusive stakeholders’ forum of those involved in operations in the sector to critically examine and proffer workable and enduring solutions to all the problems in the larger interest of the Nigerian nation.
Johnson said: “All the subsectors of the oil and gas industry have one challenge or the other and all these challenges are affecting the deliveries of the benefits of our God-given hydrocarbon resources to the country and the entire people of Nigeria. “These challenges are as a result of past neglects, wrong policies and policy summersault in some areas of the subsectors.

All these are inflicting pains on Nigerians who ought to be enjoying the benefits of the natural resources that God bequeathed to the country.”
According to a university don, Dr. Olawunmi, Lecturer, Department of Mass Communication, Bowen University said in his analysis now, the die is truly cast for President-elect Buhari to translate words into action. He invites us to make input, by way of suggestions – “I seek your voice and input as we tackle these problems”. I take him up on the offer and suggests as follows; “WANTED – AN AGENCY FOR PUBLIC ORDER. Protection of life and property is the primary obligation of government and deserves top priority attention.

There has to be a unified, holistic approach to tackling endemic insecurity in the land that has created pervasive fear and shut down night economy, as people abandon the night hours to marauding, violent criminals. It got to a point that a police chief even advised people against night travel as robbers waylaid motorists during night journeys! It was a police surrender to criminals. So, today, life is very cheap in Nigeria, as
people get killed on a daily basis, with impunity, even by police officers paid to protect lives.

The prevalent general disorder and indiscipline throughout the country highlight the FAILURE of relevant REGULATORY AGENCIES. Therefore, a Public Order institution or commission, whatever name that may be appropriate, headed by a passionate individual and committed rank and file, has become imperative, to tackle the pervasive lawlessness in the country. Such activist Public Order Agency, working in collaboration with the National Human Rights Commission and Servicom, should have as its focus the activities of The Nigeria Police and the Federal Road Safety Commission among others, the two being institutions of government whose inefficiencies, compromises and connivance have contributed largely to lack of safety at home, at work and on the road. The Nigeria Police, an institution central to public order, has lost credibility with people with tragic
consequences for all. This must be urgently reversed. The government would be seen to be pro-people if one of its first acts is to announce that heads of police jurisdictions, Divisional Police Officers, et al, will henceforth be liable for criminal activities in their jurisdictions and sanctioned appropriately and speedily, where they fail to effectively discharge their responsibilities.

This is enforcing RESPONSIBILITY and ACCOUNTABILITY, both of which have been lacking in many government agencies. Establishment of a hotline, perhaps in The Presidency, where people can report compromised police officers will be a measure of performance monitoring by the public. The impunity of police brutality, which alienates the public, must be stopped as the first step to restoring a much needed police-people friendly relations. When the demons in the Nigeria Police are exorcised, the people would be more willing to volunteer information about criminals, a
prerequisite for police effectiveness. It is instructive that within the police leadership, there was a former reformist Inspector-General of Police who scrapped police roadblocks, where many people had been killed and maimed by police officers, with impunity.

The cover-up of such killer policemen, as documented by the NHRC, should be reviewed with prosecution by the proposed Public Order Agency or the Ministry of Justice. These measures, which should attract saturation publicity, will boost public confidence in The Presidency as people-oriented and strengthen reformists within the police. When people fear, rather than have faith in, the Police, it can only be to the advantage of criminals.

“With regard to the FRSC, it is saddening that succeeding governments/leaders and agencies have not shown any outrage about the horrendous killings on the roads where thousands have lost their lives. The Buhari Presidency can begin to make a difference here as part of security of lives. The establishment of the FRSC is a recognition of the grave situation of road killings (road accident is a misnomer) by homicidal drivers, even in governors’ motorcades, and where thousands more are maimed for life and rendered economic liabilities. Killer drivers often go scot free to continue their homicidal rampage on the roads. Unfortunately, the FRSC has turned out just another government employment agency with poor service delivery. Vigorous enforcement of road safety regulations will be a plus to the new administration. For instance, relevant laws can be reviewed such that reckless drivers, who caused death within built up communities, should not enjoy bail
while, as part of preventive measures, commuters can report reckless drivers who may have their licences withdrawn before they do harm.

For the FRSC, its inability to ensure road discipline and safe motoring on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, the main artery of Nigeria’s economic and social activities, thereby making motorists to suffer harrowing traffic gridlocks, and be prey to robbers, is a manifest instance of its incompetence. As a columnist with the Peoples Daily newspaper, I wrote a piece in my February 28, 2011 column captioned, “Wanted: Road Accident Prosecution and Relief Agency” in which I indicted the FRSC for lacking passion in executing its core mandate where it lapses into civil service indolence, but very enthusiastic when it comes to cornering licensing revenue. The then Corps Marshall of the FRSC, Osita Chidoka, now Minister of Aviation, had invited me to Abuja, from Iwo, where I am a teacher, to see their operations, apparently to disabuse my mind. I was at the FRSC headquarters, Abuja, on June 1, 2011 and taken on a tour of its facilities by an assistant director.

In fairness to Chidoka, the FRSC under his watch is a reservoir of data on various aspects of road management ranging from road fatalities, injuries, type and number of vehicles involved, driving licence approvals, speed limit violations and crashes by governors’ motorcades etc. So, while the FRSC may be strong in terms of database, it is very poor in its practical responsibility of ensuring road safety. And that has to change.”

Leave a Reply