That being the case, I would like to state that there is no government that has come into power in Nigeria and failed to do something. Every government, both military and civilian, came with a mission to accomplish something. Some of the objectives may be accomplished while others are left out. Since government is a continuum, it is the continuity from one administration to the other that ultimately brings development. The sum total of the bit by bit accomplishments of the various administrations and their failures brought us to where we are today. Unfortunately, there is no continuity in Nigeria.
Since 1999, a lot has happened, though, in piecemeal. President Obasanjo initiated the Independent Power Project (IPP) that formed the pivot of the power sector development drive. President Umaru Yar’Adua’s short reign positively impacted the Niger Delta by way of the amnesty programme. Goodluck Jonathan’s transformation agenda unbundled the power sector, among other things.
The problem is we don’t yet have an independent national rating agency that could assess and rate each administration to enable objective comparison to be made. We need such an agency to propel competition and remove all the doubts, claims and speculations about what each administration achieved. Nigerians don’t rely on the claims that politicians usually make, especially during elections. Buhari came on the mantra of Change that focused on economy, security and fight against corruption. There have been some signature achievements in these three key areas, though, everything the administration has done revolves around the economy.
Every action of government, no matter what, impacts the economy in one way or the other. There is no doubt that there have been some significant changes in the economic fortunes of the country under Buhari. Space constraint won’t permit a detailed discourse on what the administration has accomplished.
For instance, I had lauded the Treasury Single Account (TSA) in this column as a welcome development that should be supported by right thinking Nigerians as a way of stemming the corruption monster and profligacy that define public office in Nigeria. I had said that only those benefiting from the systemic corruption and financial recklessness would oppose it.
There is no doubt that despite the arguments for and against it, TSA has changed the attitude of public officials on matters of public finance. Stealing has been curtailed in the ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs). Public officials are now more circumspect. It is no longer easy to steal as it was in the past.Indications are that the Buhari government may have realised a whopping N7 trillion from TSA as at April, 2017. With time, diligent implementation and the whistle-blower policy, stealing of public funds would be made a thing of the past. Then, the TSA would have turned out to be one masterstroke in the fight against corruption. I cherish the TSA so much because it plugs the loopholes to prevent stealing in the first place.
Looking at Buhari’s administration, I am particularly interested in what has been achieved through the super minister, Babatunde Fashola, Minister of Power, Works and Housing. These three, in other climes, come under one Ministry of Infrastructure, so there is no mistake in merging the ministries. I had no doubt that Fashola, who recorded tremendous success in Lagos State as governor was equal to the task. How has he fared?
So far, the expectation on infrastructure has not failed, it is being pursued steadily. But a decentralised structure would do more. For me, the central issue in Fashola’s portfolio that actually affects the entire economy is power supply. Once there is power, every other problem of the economy would have been solved.
Fashola had, at a press conference earlier on, informed that Buhari inherited over 100 abandoned transmission projects owing to non-payment of contractors for about three years. Besides, over 800 containers carrying transformers and other critical electrical equipment were abandoned at the terminals.
We should not be ignorant of the huge rot in the system which any incoming administration must first clear. The Buhari administration has managed to scale through most of the hurdles. Available figures show that power generation now stands at 7,000 megawatts (MW), while the distribution capacity stands at 5,000 MW. The improved power supply situation at the moment is evidence.
This administrations’ target, in the interim, is to generate 10, 000 MW. Reports say government is launching a N701 billion Payment Assurance Programme to deal with the liquidity challenges in the power sector. This programme would guarantee payments to GENCOs and gas suppliers to enhance generation power. The issue is how to get the generated power to electricity consumers.
With privatisation of the electricity sector involving the generating companies (GENCOS) and distribution companies (DISCOs) as well as the transmission company of Nigeria (TCN), which is still under government, Fashola is on the heels of the companies to be pro-active in serving Nigerians. He had issued ultimatum some months back to the distribution companies to install prepaid meters to consumers to curb the irritant estimated bill being used to fleece Nigerians.
The latest is the recent announcement by the Minister approving as many as 108 firms to share prepaid meters. This is a very welcome development. Liberalising the production and sharing of prepaid meters is a great move that would remove the monopoly currently being enjoyed by the DISCOs. Not only that, the cost of the prepaid meters has been drastically reduced to make it affordable to Nigerians.
Last week, I went to the Mushin office of Eko Electricity Distribution Company in Lagos to inquire about getting prepaid meter to my residence. I was told, for the first time, that prepaid meters were available and at a very affordable price of N26, 000.00 from the previous N70, 000.00 per unit. All that is needed is to collect the necessary form, complete and submit. As soon as the application is processed, the consumer is called to pay and have the prepaid meter installed. That is not all.
The most revolutionary in the drive to lessen the electricity burden on Nigerians is the bill to criminalise estimated bill that has been passed in the House of Representatives. No doubt, this is a landmark achievement of the Buhari administration. There is no doubt that Nigerians have suffered greatly over poor electricity supply. But from all indications, the foundation of a new beginning is being laid under this administration. As soon as the Senate passes the bill and it is signed into law, Nigerians would be relieved of a burden that has been there for decades.
The major security issue at the beginning of this administration was the Boko Haram insurgency. By relocating the operational base of the military to Maiduguri soon after assuming office, the activities of Boko Haram have been drastically curtailed. There are now talks about returning the IDPs to their homes which shows that the situation has improved. The other security issues like herdsmen/farmers clashes, kidnapping, cultism and others could be tackled objectively, once the economy gets better with more job opportunities for the youths.
Apart from these, this administration has done well by addressing the issue of social and economic inclusion that provides buffer for the people through its innovative Social Investment Programme (SIP), which is being implemented through four components, namely N-Power, GEEP, Home-Grown School Feeding Programme and conditional cash transfer, including tradermoni. This programme is being criticized because it appears to be intensified during this election period. Otherwise, there is no doubt that Nigerians need social safety nets to fall back on as there are in other climes.