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Buhari, Osinbajo, Boss Mustapha, Akinwumi Adeshina, others express optimism on Nigeria's economic growth ~Omonaijablog

 

One of the major reasons President Muhammadu Buhari administration has not been getting the right accolades it deserves for its achievements, is because the administration does not really blow its trumpet loud enough.

The recent mid-term ministerial performance retreat of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, the second in series, provided yet a rare opportunity for government functionaries to re-evaluate their performances, and accurately project into the remaining days of the tenure and beyond, writes Omonaijablog.com.

The performance review retreat, held last month, presented an opportunity for the president and his team to catalogue their accomplishments vis-à-vis the policies of the government and the ministerial mandates.  

The event held at the State House Conference Centre, Presidential Villa, Abuja, from October 11 and 12, 2021, had in attendance, President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, President of the African Development Bank, Dr. Akinwumi Adeshina, British High Commissioner, the cabinet ministers, Permanent Secretaries and special guests drawn from all walks of life. 

When underscoring the fact that his government strived to recover from the slowing down of the economy as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and the resultant lockdown, President Buhari, in his opening speech, noted that there were adjustments to policy approaches and methods of working to achieve the objectives of his government in the nine key priority areas. 

Those nine listed priority areas are, to stabilise the macroeconomy, achieve agriculture and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products, improve transportation and other infrastructure, drive indsutrialsation focusing on SMEs, enhance social inclusion and reduce poverty, fight corruption and improve governance as well asprovide security for all citizens. 
The president wasted no time to reel off a holistic overview of some of his government’sachievements, which included among other things, the establishment of InfraCo Plc in 2020, as a world class infrastructure development vehicle, wholly focused on Nigeria, with combined debt and equity take-off capital of N15 trillion, to be managed by an independent infrastructure fund manager. 
He noted also that the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), was also established in 2020 with more than USD 1Billion in funding and there was also the Nigeria Innovation Fund by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA), which was designed to address investment opportunities in the domestic technology sector: data networking, datacenters, software, Agri-tech, Biotech, and the likes.
He listed the 11.9km Second Niger Bridge, 120 km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 375 km Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria- Kano expressway and the East West Road as some of the efforts targeted at improving transportation in the country.

“Our administration has made tremendous progress on railway projects in the country. Upgrading of our railway network is being extended with the recent completion of the Lagos – Ibadan line. The Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line, has finally been completed and commissioned after 30 years of its conception,” he said.
He assured the people that work would soon commence on the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri line and Calabar-Lagos Coastal Line to connect the southern and eastern states of the country, adding that there was noticeable progress in the upgrade of the country’s airports, with the state-of-the-art facilities in line with world class safety standards.
“On the economy, we witnessed three consecutive quarters of growth, after negative growth rates recorded in the second and third quarters of 2020. The GDP grew from 0.8 per cent in 2017 to 2.2 per cent in 2019, but declined in the first quarter of 2020, as a result of the downward trend in global economic activities triggered by the COVID-19 Pandemic. 

“As at Second Quarter 2021, GDP growth rate was at 5.01 per cent, the highest since the inception of this administration. On the power sector, implementation of a ‘Willing Buyer-Willing Seller’ policy has opened 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,” Buhari noted. 

The Nigerian leader, however, reckoned that by signing the Petroleum Industry Bill, 2021,into law on August 16, 2021, and directing the implementation committee to complete the processes for the successful operationalisation of the act within 12 months, his government had put in place, a legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, and for the development of host communities.
According to him, “As part of the efforts towards strengthening our national security, we have increased investments in arms, weapons and other necessary equipment; expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen states of the Federation; and established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund, which will significantly improve funding for the Nigeria Police Force. 

“We have also approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of the community policing initiative across the country, as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at enhancing security nationwide.”
Happy that Nigeria recently received six A-29 Super Tucano aircrafts as part of efforts to boost the nation's campaign against insecurity, Buhari stated that in the bid to address Nigeria’s over-dependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics, he has instructed the Defence Ministry to create “a modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons to meet some of the requirements of the country's armed forces.” 

Listing as parts of his government’s efforts to empower the youth and other vulnerable groups through the expansion of the National Social Register, Buhari identified the official database for the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer programme, by 1 million additional households and the establishment the N75Billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund created to boost the Nigerian economy through leverage and access to finance for youths.

His words: “These accomplishments are a testament to the fact that all hands are on deck in establishing a solid foundation for even greater successes in future,” even as he implored ministers to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries to ensure accelerated and effective delivery of the policies, programmes and projects in their respective priority areas. 
An important takeaway from the programme was the content of a slide presentation that showed the performance indexes of corresponding miniseries against the priority areas in the context of the deliverables set for 2023. 

The slide tracked performances of government agencies in actaulising set goals. While some of the policy projects are up and running, there were some that were yet to kickstart or were not moving at expected speed due to specified conditions. 
This provided the opportunity for those saddled with the responsibilities of implementation to identify where they stood, provided the national leadership with insight on situation and gave members of the public opportunity to track and understand development in various sectors of the economy. 

It was against this backdrop that the retreat advised ministries to reprioritise and focus more on those deliverables that have the highest impact on respective priority areas that could be delivered by 2023, ensuring capacity, strengthening the PRS department in MDAs, while focusing on target setting, tracking and reporting. 
The National Bureau of Statistics was also urged to expand their scope to include key outcome metrics that measured the impact of the nine priority areas, while ministries and their agencies were encouraged to set up mini delivery units to improve systems and process of tracking and reporting on their deliverables.
The SGF, Mustapha, expressed optimism that through the bilateral meetings and high-level engagements organised earlier in 2021 to sensitize leadership of all federal ministries on the new results framework and the performance management system, there were reliable evidence that MDAs had a better understanding and appreciation of how their ministerial mandates contributed directly to the priority areas and the possible impact of their activities on the lives of Nigerians.

“Over the past 25 months, Ministers have continued to implement the deliverables assigned to them in line with their ministerial mandates jointly signed with the Permanent Secretaries,which serve as a performance bond with Mr. President,” Mustapha stated.
Itemizing some of the performance of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the SGF said during this second term of President Buhari from May 29, 2019, to August 31, 2021, the FEC has held 52 meetings and granted 579 approvals comprising of 381 contracts, 110 policies and 88 briefs/notes. 

According to him, “Overall, the total number of contracts, policies and briefs/notes approved by the FEC between November 2015 and August 2021 stand at 1,403, comprising of 878 contracts, 319 policies and 206 briefs/notes. The 878 contracts approved by FEC have mostly targeted the provision of infrastructure, geared towards enabling faster economic growth and development.

“In the same vein, the analysis also showed that the government remained focused on its cardinal responsibility of responsively addressing the myriads of needs and challenges of its citizens through the 319 approved policies initiated during the period.”
Speaking outside of the retreat, where he analysed the importance of the exercise, SGF said,“The objective of the retreat was to remind ourselves of the three cardinal objectives of the administration: security, economy and corruption. 
 
“Prior to the retreat, in 2019, we developed nine priority areas, which were supposed to deal with the myriads of problems we have in this country. That’s from stabilising the economy – macroeconomy to security for all. The objective of the retreat was achieved in evaluating and analysing, and how we have come thus far. We were quite satisfied that, we have done remarkably well and as for that, by independent assessors. 
 
“If you noticed, the entire workings of the retreat was facilitated by my office in terms of attendance and ensuring that all the submissions were made. A British agency helped us in developing the dashboard – the performance management. So, what we have done is to coordinate this thing and ensure government is run as one business, so, everybody knows what is happening in terms of the nine priority areas and to also evaluate, where we are in terms of the deliverables and routinely, I’ll make that available to the President. So, that’s the objective of the retreat and I can say to a large extent, that we have succeeded in that. 
 
“The other component why the retreat was adjudged to have been very successful is that, we brought in the corporate world as a value added to the subject of discussion. You can’t talk about energy sufficiency in supply of power and petroleum products without bringing Dangote as a key player. There are three refineries that we are trying to repair and put to use in terms of capacity production, it’s almost half the price of his combined. So, when it comes to this, he’s going to be a major player. That’s why we brought people like him. 
 
“We brought in a private organisation, KPMG, to help evaluate if what we are saying is true. Look, this is the first time, in the history of this country that, a government is this transparent. We opened our books to people to evaluate, because we are all working for the people of Nigeria. And it is because of the kind of leadership that President Muhammadu Buhari provides: the openness, his transparency, his willingness to be interrogated. Some past president would not let you do a critique of what they’ve been able to achieve.
 
“So, I believe strongly that the objectives of the retreat have been achieved, even in terms of the deliverables; in terms of the comments we got and the inputs. The other component of it is that we decided to make it a Nigerian affair. We brought in Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Akinwunmi Adesina, Amina Mohammed, to speak to us. 
 
“And we said, look, this is our country, you are our ambassador, what’s happening out there? Like Ngozi’s topic was, Trade: The Nigeria We Want. Adesina talked about the resurgence of the Nigerian economy: The African Experience. What’s happening in other climes and what do we borrow to ensure that we have a sustainable and improved economy?
 
“I feel quite satisfied that we did a very good job and the president truly appreciates it, and it’s as a result of the quality of leadership he gives. You know, it’s quite risky for a president to say, hey, come and evaluate me; this is what I have been able to do. He had no say in the evaluation and he accepted it. The same document we gave was the same document we transmitted.”

The ADB President, Dr. Adesina, who spoke on the theme: ‘Nigeria’s Economic Resurgence: Learning from the African Experience,’ expressed optimism that the GDP growth rate for the continent would recover to 3.4 per cent in 2021 and said Nigeria’s economic growth rate was projected to rebound to 2.4 per cent and could reach 2.9 per cent by 2022. 

He, however, hinged the country’s recovery from the devastating effects of COVID 19 on the twin issues of vaccines and how the nation tackles debt concerns. He, therefore, implored the Nigerian government to build world-class local pharmaceutical industries, able to effectively tackle the production of therapeutic drugs and vaccines.
“Nigeria must revamp its local pharmaceutical industry and launch strategic investments for local vaccine manufacturing. Africa should not be begging for vaccines; Africa should be producing vaccines. 

The African Development Bank will invest $3 billion in support of local pharmaceutical industries in Africa, including in Nigeria. 
“Nigeria must decisively tackle its debt challenges. The issue is not about debt-to-GDP ratio, as Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 35 per cent is still moderate. The big issue is, how to service the debt and what that means for resources for domestic investments needed to spur faster economic growth.

“The debt service to revenue ratio of Nigeria is high at 73 per cent. Things will improve as oil prices recover, but the situation has revealed the vulnerability of Nigeria’s economy. To have economic resurgence, we need to fix the structure of the economy and address some fundamentals,” Adesina urged. 

When the event came to an end, it had achieved one very important thing: it gave opportunity for both retrospect and introspect. Everyone was able to evaluate where every government functionary stood in accelerating the actualisation of governmental programmes and the need to work towards meeting the expectations of Nigerians, before exiting in 2023. It was, no doubt, a good self-appraisal system that held government accountable to the people.

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