Nigeria: At Last Ministerial Retreat, Buhari Scores His Administration High

With less than eight months to the end of his eight-year tenure, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday scored his administration high, saying his government has been able to meet the yearnings of Nigerians through the execution of impactful projects across the country.

This was just as the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has called for an effective synergy between the fiscal and monetary policy authorities in Nigeria as well as better management of the country’s foreign exchange rate.

Also, former President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, has stressed the need for African leaders to carry opposition parties along in their quest to develop their countries.

They all spoke at the last Ministerial Performance Review Retreat of the current administration at Abuja.

Declaring the retreat open, the president said high-impact projects have been implemented across the country meeting the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.

Addressing the retreat organised to evaluate the level of progress made in the implementation of the ‘Nine Priority Agenda’ of his administration, Buhari highlighted remarkable progress made in the areas of agriculture, economy, infrastructure, security, health, anti-corruption among others.

The president told participants and guests at the retreat including the keynote speaker and immediate past President of Kenya, Kenyatta, that over 3,800 Kilometers of roads have been constructed across the country, while 38 new aircraft were acquired for the Nigerian Air Force to boost the fight against insurgency.

He also added that 38.7 million Nigerians have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing 35 per cent of the total eligible population target for vaccination.

On infrastructure, the president said: “In recognition of the importance of critical infrastructure in economic development and the quest of this administration to leave a lasting legacy, we have implemented high-impact projects across the length and breadth of the country that meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians.

“Some of the notable achievements include the completion of 326km Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line and railway ancillary facilities; the completion of over 156.5km Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge railway modernization project with extension to Lagos Port, Apapa.

“On road projects, this Administration has constructed 408Km of roads; 2,499Km of SUKUK roads and maintenance of 15,961Km of roads across the Country.

“Key among these projects are the construction of 1.9km 2nd Niger Bridge linking Anambra and Delta States with 10.30km approach road; rehabilitation, construction and expansion of Lagos-Shagamu-Ibadan dual carriageway; the ongoing rehabilitation of Abuja-Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Road, among others.”

Stressing that the federal government under his watch has sustained commitment to infrastructural development for the past seven years, Buhari said over 941 kilometres of completed SUKUK road projects nationwide have been handed over.

He further said the federal government has embarked on the reconstruction of 21 selected federal roads, totaling 1,804.6km, under the Road Infrastructure Development & Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Policy.

Buhari explained that the roads, which are funded by the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, were in addition to similar existing collaboration with Messrs Dangote Industries Limited and other corporate organisations to improve the stock of the country’s road infrastructure.

On aviation, the president assured that the establishment of a National Carrier for Nigeria was at 91 per cent completion, and was expected to commence flight operations before the end of this year.

He said the feat was being boosted with the certification of Lagos and Abuja International Airports by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, while Kano and Port Harcourt Airports were undergoing similar certification processes.

Commenting on the nation’s economy, the president restated that the country had witnessed seven consecutive quarters of growth, after negative growth rates recorded in the second and third quarters of 2020.

According to him: “The GDP grew by 3.54 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms in the second quarter of 2022. This growth rate represents a sustained positive economic performance, especially for the non-oil GDP which fell by 4.77 per cent in Q2 2022 against Oil GDP that grew by -11.77 per cent.

“Most sectors of the economy recorded positive growth which reflects the effective implementation of the economic sustainability measures introduced by this administration”.

On the Communications & Digital Economy Sector, the president noted that giant strides have been made through broadband coverage which he said currently stands at 44.32 per cent, reinforced by 77.52 per cent 4G coverage with the establishment of 36,751 4G base stations nationwide.

Similarly, Buhari declared that the power sector has remained a critical priority for the administration, adding that the implementation of a ‘Willing Buyer-Willing Seller’ policy introduced by the federal government has opened up opportunities for increased delivery of electricity to underserved homes and industries.

“We are also executing a number of critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, which will result in achieving the national goal of improved power supply by 2025.

“It is important to state that the partnership between the federal government of Nigeria and German Siemens AG through the Presidential Power Initiative to increase electricity generation to 25,000 Megawatts (MW) in six years is on course, as the first batch of the transformers has arrived Nigeria already.”

On the oil and gas sector, the president recalled that on August 16, 2021, he signed the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) into law, providing a legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, as well as the development of host communities and related matters.

He noted that to achieve the objectives of the PIA, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation was unbundled while the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Limited, Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission and the Nigerian Midstream & Downstream Petroleum Regulatory Authority were established.

Enumerating efforts being made to strengthen national security, the president said his administration has substantially invested in arms, weapons and other critical military hardware as well as continuous training for the Armed Forces.

He said: “The Nigerian Air Force has acquired 38 brand-new aircraft and is expecting another batch of 36 new ones, while the Nigerian Navy has been equipped with new platforms, sophisticated riverine, Rigid-Hull Inflatable, Seaward Defence, Whaler & Fast Attack Boats as well as Helicopters and Capital Ships.

“To boost the number of our Police personnel, 20,000 policemen have been recruited, trained, fully integrated and deployed in 2020 and 2021. This exercise has strengthened our community policing strategy which is enshrined in the Police Act, 2020.”

On the fight against corruption, the president promised that the administration would continue to review and prosecute high-profile corruption cases and ensure speedy completion.

Concerning Social Investment Programmes, the president said 9,990,862 pupils were being fed through the School Feeding Programme, which employs 128,531 cooks in local communities.

“Following the passage of the National Health Act in 2014, this Administration began the inclusion of the one per cent minimum portion of the Consolidated Revenue Fund to cater for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).

“Consequently, 988,652 poor and indigent Nigerians have been enrolled in the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).

“We should also note that a total of 7,373 primary health facilities have been accredited and capitated under the National Health Insurance Scheme pathway, while 7,242 Primary Health Care facilities are receiving Decentralized Facility Financing under the National Primary Health Care Development Agency – Basic Health Care Provision Fund gateway,” the President said on milestones recorded in the health sector.

Buhari also lauded Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, noting that the country’s achievement has been commended by the World Health Organisation.

According to him, as at the end of September 2022, 51,713,575 eligible people had received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, representing 46.3 per cent of the eligible population.

“Out of this number, 38,765,510 people have been fully vaccinated, and this represents 34.7 per cent of the eligible population,” he added.

The president urged all eligible Nigerians to ensure that they are fully vaccinated as Nigeria’s vaccine stock balance stands at about 27 million doses.

On agriculture, the president expressed delight that as a direct result of investment, the sector has experienced significant growth.

He said: “The shortfall in food production and food importation bills have both been reduced significantly. Along with the production of other staple crops, we have reached our goal of self-sufficiency in rice production.

“We are exerting a lot of effort to solve the problem of the rising cost of food that is related to inflation, being a global crisis.”

Buhari directed Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and all Heads of Agencies to reinvigorate their efforts in ramping-up delivery of flagship programmes and projects contained in their Ministerial Mandates.

He acknowledged the efforts of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and his team in sustaining the Annual Performance Review Retreats, adding that this has enabled the cabinet to maintain focus on the nine-point Agenda and more importantly, providing solid evidence that supports the achievements.

“I am also proud to see that our Administration is staying true to our commitment to the Open Government Partnership initiative which I signed up in 2017. In this regard, the Presidential Delivery Tracker was launched on 30th August 2022, which is a clear testament to this Administration’s commitment to participatory governance.

“As part of efforts to strengthen performance management culture, the Central Delivery Coordination Unit is being institutionalised.

“As an initiative of this Administration, I am delighted to bequeath this legacy to my successor as part of the mechanisms that will assist the next Administration in delivering on its promises to the Nigerian people,” he said.

Earlier, while setting the context for the two-day meeting, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, said the retreat has been structured into three main focus areas.

“First is an overview of ministerial performance within the last three years of the administration, presenting key achievements and identifying opportunities for improvement.

“Second will reflect on lessons and good practices from the Kenyan presidential delivery unit while the third is ways to accelerate the delivery of flagship projects and programmes of the Buhari administration before the end of the tenure in May 2023.”

Mustapha announced that President Buhari would sign an Executive Order on Improving Performance Management, Coordination and Implementation of Presidential Priorities of the Federal Government of Nigeria at the end of the third Ministerial Performance Review Retreat.

Osinbajo Seeks Improved Monetary, Fiscal Policy Coordination, Better FX Mgt System

Meanwhile, Osinbajo has called for an effective synergy between the fiscal and monetary policy authorities in Nigeria as well as better management of the country’s foreign exchange rate.

This was just as Kenyatta stressed the need for African leaders to carry opposition parties along in their quest to develop their countries.

In his presentation titled, “The Buhari Administration: Reflections on the Journey So far,” the vice president who outlined some of the game-changing achievements of the federal government, however pointed out that there were some areas of concern in the economy.

According to him, “the first is the synergy between fiscal and monetary policy. The failure of that synergy has led to unnecessary drawbacks in our economic performance and planning. What imports are eligible for foreign exchange must agree with the fiscal ambitions for manufacturing and industry.

“Currently such decisions on import eligibility for foreign exchange for instance is being taken solely by the monetary arm, although the fiscal arm would normally be expected to lead in such matters.”

Osinbajo further said “Our exchange rate management continues to be an issue. The exchange rate of the naira to convertible currencies continues to face significant downward pressure because demand substantially outstrips supply.

“That is just the reality. On one hand we have tried demand management and rationing, which has not really worked because fixing the price while the parallel market reveals a massive arbitrage merely creates the opportunity for massive rents.

“It will also compound the backlog of remittances for foreign businesses who want to repatriate their earnings. The discussion that we must now have and going forward is how best to manage the situation by finding a mechanism for increasing supply and moderating demand which will be transparent and will boost confidence.

“I think that a more market-driven approach will be best, some price discovery within the context of a managed float is certainly required. Some efforts at controlled price discovery that had been made in the past include the Foreign Exchange Market (FEM), interbank Foreign Exchange Market (IFEM), various iterations of the Dutch Auction System. (DAS), Wholesale Dutch Auction System (W-DAS), Retail Dutch Auction System (R-DAS).

“While they may not have been perfect it would appear as if the rules were clear and there was relative stability. When people know how they can access foreign exchange competitively, this will boost confidence and inward flows will increase.”

The game-changing achievements of the Buhari administration that the vice president enumerated included the development of infrastructure, “with the creativity we have introduced to infrastructure financing.”

He also spoke about the success of the Socially Investment Programmes and the improvement in generating capacity in the power sector and the Solar Power Naija which is in the process of providing off-grid power to about 20 million Nigerians.

He also spoke about the progress in digital economy with the sector contributing over 18 per cent to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2020, almost three times the oil and gas contribution.

Reflecting on the journey so far, Osinbajo counseled against placing blanket ban in imports, given the negative consequences it can have on the economy including on raw materials.

He said importation was not the challenge of the economy, noting that many manufacturing countries are heavy importers that import much more than Nigeria.

Also delivering a keynote address at the retreat, Kenyatta, stressed the need to carry the opposition along for a peaceful and progressive country.

Drawing from his example in Kenya, he said countries in Africa have the same developmental challenges, which he said must be confronted irrespective of who is in power.

According to him, what was important was continuity of programmes and succession planning.

Kenyatta also noted that with the current global challenges, which he noted has nothing to do with Africa, the continent bears the brunt.

He, however, wondered how the continent would

meet the challenges for its population within the limited time frame, saying, “first is the ability to be focused on what the critical issues are. We can’t deliver on everything but focus on those areas that affect our people and enhance unity.

“The second is that the challenges we face can’t be completed by any single administration. So, the issue of continuing and succession planning is very necessary

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