Post Views: 67 Reactions continued to pour in on Monday to President Muhammadu Buhari’s new year speech delivered earlier in the day, with many commen...
Reactions continued to pour in on Monday to President Muhammadu Buhari’s new year speech delivered earlier in the day, with many commentators agreeing that it fell short of addressing the problems plaguing the nation and giving any soothing words of hope, especially against the backdrop of economic challenges.
Reacting to the speech in a series of tweets on his personal handle, Seun Onigbinde, founder of BudgIT, a civic tech organisation dedicated to promoting increased standards of transparency, citizen engagement and accountability in Nigeria’s public finance, for example, wondered: “What happens to our booming youth population?”
According to him, “there has to be a deliberate attempt to make our booming youth population assets. Therein lies why we need shifts in education, tech & SME support.”
In the early morning speech, the President said the economy is slowly stabilizing and that it was in its bid to change its steady and steep decline that the administration adopted more sustainable policies and programmes captured in the Economic Recovery Plan.
Ongoing diversification efforts, he said have resulted in improved output particularly in the agriculture and solid minerals sectors, just as the relative exchange rate stability has improved performance of the manufacturing sector.
Similarly, he said “more Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses. However, power remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have regular and reliable supply.
“The Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which started in January 2016 has enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise so far N701bn to assure Generation Companies of at least 80% payment for any power delivered to the national grid,” resulting in the rise in power generation capacity to 7,000 megawatts.
This, he added, is why “on December 8, 2017 the country achieved 5,155MW of power delivered to consumers, the highest level ever recorded.
Several moribund projects have been revived, he said, giving status reports on the various power projects, adding that “the administration is working with the privatised distribution Companies to overcome the continuing challenges of distribution.
“These massive public works should spearhead the recovery and lead millions back to employment. You will recall that it was not until last year that we got out of the economic recession into which the country had fallen as a consequence of past unsustainable economic policies which projected short-term illusory growth.”
But unemployment and under-employment rates in the country, according to the latest data by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), jumped to 40% at the end of Q3, 2017, just as inflation continues to fall at less than expected speed.
Onigbinde lamented that the President made no mention of the education and health sectors, just as there is silence on “efforts to build new growth engines within the economy.
Meanwhile, the President said the administration has set for itself ambitious targets, including the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway, which is already at the construction stage.
“The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of this year and will carry two million passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.
“Construction of the Kano–Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.
“The Abuja–Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.”
Approval and negotiations, he continued, “will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu. The Abuja to Itakpe line will go through Baro and terminates in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.
“Negotiations are also advanced for the construction ofother railway lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibiato Maradi.
“Secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar. In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people.
“With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98% completion, as at 64% completion when we assumed office. Only test runs remain before start of operations,” he stressing that the train service will stimulate economic activities in the Federal Capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system.
Commenting, Onigbinde while applauding the focus on the power sector, expressed hope that the Mambilla power plant will come on stream in 2023, appealed for another 3,000 megawatts of electricity for Lagos and the nation’s south west geo-political zone, by bringing all NPHCDA plants to stream in 4 years.
Generation is just one leg, he continued, calling for massive investments in transmission.
He however lamented: “We are getting used to this gradualism & narrow focus on rail and power (Chinese debt and the Central Bank of Nigeria) and Roads (Sukuk).
Acknowledging that the N100bn Sukuk, an Islamic bond issued by the Debt Management office (DMO) on behalf of the Federal Government is the nation’s lifesaver, the BudgIT boss wondered “what the famed and false “we spent N1.3tn on capital expenditure” achieved.”
For him also, “government should take responsibility for the fuel crisis which did not happen suddenly, but was budding for weeks and response only came on Christmas eve, thereby unleashing untold hardship on Nigerians who had to pay significantly more money for goods and services during the yuletide.
President Buhari’s speech, he continued, made no commitment on restructuring the country to make more efficient and effective, stressing that “the argument is not solely cost of governance.”
Nigeria, he stressed, “lacks an incentive structure for competitive states through monthly FAAC (Federation Account Allocation Committee) allocations and also poor constitutional laws on transparency and accountability.
“I accept that our restructuring might be gradual but where is the blueprint? We can really make leaps with our current system now patched with multiple bailouts.
“Restructuring is really needed. Overall, a better speech than expected but it lacks the telescopic view.