Thursday, December 22, 2016

Between Buhari, Babachir and Resignation

President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on corruption is indisputable; while his government has exhibited genuine and commendable efforts to restore the northeast to its pre-war peaceful status. However, it is facing a big test with recent revelations linking Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir David Lawal, a trusted inner circle member of President Buhari, to abuse of funds meant for the Internally Displaced Persons in the North-East. The Senate has called for Babachir to resign due to the allegations. This is an acid test of the President’s stance on corruption and his resolve to rebuild the northeast.

Should Babachir resign? – he’s being accused of abuse of office, inflation of contracts and also complicit in 21 bogus contracts awarded to families, friends, cronies and the members of Presidential Initiative for the North East (PINE).

Babachir’s resignation, if it happens, will be just a temporary solution. The best solution is the command given by President Buhari that the AGF commences investigation of any government official alleged to have been involved– if Babachir is found to be a party to any breach of laid down process and procedure, many people including Buhari will be disappointed in him. Besides, he is from the northeast and his local government area of Hong in Adamawa state is among the most affected areas by Boko Haram senseless war.

Anti corruption war is a major unique selling point for Buhari. So, any accusation of corruption against a member of the inner-circle of his government attracts public attention. However, we must bear in mind that for every corruption accusation against a Buhari lieutenant, two possibilities could be drawn: individuals currently facing corruption charges are working hard to paint every member of the government as also corrupt so as to rubbish the government’s fight against corruption. Secondly, those who are used to government patronage and are no more in the ‘loop’ are also working hard to see that those getting government contracts are being portrayed as benefiting from cronyisms.

President Buhari is a man who, when he trusts someone, he hardly distrusts such a person based on insubstantial reasons. So some people can easily take advantage of that to commit some shady acts behind the General. We must not also forget that public office in Nigeria comes with some privileges, authority and huge funds to spend, so if one does not apply measured restraint and discipline he/she can easily fall into the trap of corruption without even knowing.

Babachir has been working with Buhari for a long time, most people believe he knows who Buhari is more than many people in the present government and it will be highly surprising if he is involved in things that tarnish Buhari’s globally commended efforts in the North-East.

Babachir is a poor politician who only sticks to people from his clan and hardly stretches his handshake to other people; he also lacks efficient image managers. With his age, experience and trust bestowed on him by Buhari; it is hardly a possibility that he will condone arbitrary award of contracts to families, friends and cronies of his and other members of the committee. With the level of discipline being brought into public service, it is almost impossible that the members of such a sensitive committee will overlook raw abuse of due process. Though, we do not expect the present government to award contracts to it ‘enemies’. The accusation must be seen as untrue except proved otherwise. Nonetheless, Babachir must come out clean, because the accusation is heavy with stark similarities with Dasuki’s armsgate. Corruption has been the major factor that has helped in prolonging the insurgency in the northeast.

Zayyad I. Muhammad Jimeta, Adamawa State, 08036070980

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Gov Bindow, Nyako, Atiku and the Supreme Court Judgment

Now that Adamawa state Governor Muhammadu Umaru Jibrilla Bindow has finally put behind him the Murtala Nyako poorly thought out court cases that have trailed his government for a long time, Adamawa people expect him to assert full authority; put a strong personal stamp on his government and take full responsibility of any actions or inactions of his government; as the doors of excuses of distractions by court cases are now completely closed.

Many are of the opinion that the massive roads rehabilitation, construction and expansions going on in Adamawa is as a result of the ‘fear’ of possible backlash of Nyako court case against Bindow’s government; and also to make a political statement against Nyako, who has a very weak popular support from the masses because during his reign, governance and policy making was centered around his family and his village members. His confidants were third-rate politicians and gold diggers causing a wide-spread disconnect between his government and the ordinary people.

Nyako’s attempt to make a comeback is a nexus of continuing an old political rivalry between himself and former vice president Atiku Abubakar which dates back to 2003; it is also an attempt by the Nyako group to settle personal scores. Above all, the Nyako group still feels betrayed by Governor Bindow and its main political crave is to have Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako as governor. So, Nyako’s efforts to make a return go beyond completing his remaining 10 months in office as governor.

To be fair to the Nyako group, they definitely have to be aggrieved. In the build-up to the 2015 elections; a very small committee was setup to shop for a saleable governorship candidate- three names emerged- Dahiru Bobbo former Director General of National Boundary Commission, Boss Mustapha, APC chieftain and Tahir Mamman former DG, Law School, Yola campus. Bindow’s name was not even in the list. The Nyako group had to field Bindow during the primaries as they did not have an option, because among all the contenders, it was only Bindow who openly opposed Nyako’s impeachment and the group felt they could be at home with him. Atiku, in his political reasoning opted for Ibrahim Yayaji Mijinyawa, probably because of loyalty. In fact, the APC governorship primary election was a contest between Atiku and Nyako. Governor Bindow won ‪ the APC governorship primaries solely by relying on former governor Nyako’s political structures. And twice, Bindow beat Atiku Abubakar’s preferred candidate, Yayaji Ibrahim Mijinyawa in the primaries. But Atiku now pull the strings.

Some political observers are of the view that Governor Bindow appears ‘self-assured’ in the murky waters of Adamawa politics, because he thinks, once one has Atiku’s group by his side- most political opponents can easily be dealt with because of Atiku’s immense war chest and history of successes in political legal battles that easily scares off his opponents.

Both supporters and antagonists of Adamawa state governor, share a common view - that governor Bindow has performed well so far, and he is doing well especially, in terms of infrastructure development. But Mr. Bindow has also failed woefully, notably in the political arena- he made a political blunder in his failure to manage the widening division within his own party and the growing disconnect between him and some political bigwigs in the state. Governor Bindow erred by sidelining many members of the legacy parties- ACN, CPC and the ANPP. The only political bigwig the governor rollicks with is former vice president Atiku Abubakar. In fact, the governor and his few lieutenants have cornered everything. Other important stakeholders are just doing ‘siddon look’.

With the Nyako court cases closed, in few months, we will see Bindow’s true face. Will he prove his critics right and his supporters wrong?

Zayyad I. Muhammad Jimeta, Adamawa State, 08036070980

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

President Buhari’s 2017 Budget presentation speech- FULL TRANSCRIPT


It is my pleasure to present the 2017 Budget Proposals to this distinguished Joint Assembly: the Budget of Recovery and Growth.

We propose that the implementation of the Budget will be based on our Economic Recovery and Growth Strategy. The Plan, which builds on our 2016 Budget, provides a clear road map of policy actions and steps designed to bring the economy out of recession and to a path of steady growth and prosperity.

We continue to face the most challenging economic situation in the history of our Nation. Nearly every home and nearly every business in Nigeria is affected one way or the other.

Yet I remain convinced that this is also a time of great opportunity. We have reached a stage when the creativity, talents and resilience of the Nigerian people is being rewarded. Those courageous and patriotic men and women who believed in Nigeria are now seeing the benefits gradually come to fruition. I am talking about the farmers who today are experiencing bumper harvests, the manufacturers who substituted imported goods for local materials and the car assembly companies who today are expanding to meet higher demand.

Distinguished members of National Assembly, for the record: For many years we depended on oil for foreign exchange revenues. In the days of high oil prices, we did not save. We squandered.

We wasted our large foreign exchange reserves to import nearly everything we consume. Our food, Our clothing, Our manufacturing inputs, Our fuel and much more. In the past 18 months when we experienced low oil prices, we saw our foreign exchange earnings cut by about 60%, our reserves eroded and our consumption declined as we could not import to meet our needs.
By importing nearly everything, we provide jobs for young men and women in the countries that produce what we import, while our own young people wander around jobless. By preferring imported goods, we ensure steady jobs for the nationals of other countries, while our own farmers, manufacturers, engineers, and marketers, remain jobless.

I will stand my ground and maintain my position that under my watch, that old Nigeria is slowly but surely disappearing and a new era is rising in which we grow what we eat and consume what we make.

We will CHANGE our habits and we will CHANGE Nigeria.

By this simple principle, we will increasingly grow and process our own food, we will manufacture what we can and refine our own petroleum products. We will buy ‘Made in Nigeria’ goods. We will encourage garment manufacturing and Nigerian designers, tailors and fashion retailers. We will patronize local entrepreneurs. We will promote the manufacturing powerhouses in Aba, Calabar, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Nnewi, Onitsha, and Ota. From light manufacturing to cement production and petrochemicals, our objective is to make Nigeria a new manufacturing hub.

Today, the demand of the urban consumer has presented an opportunity for the rural producer. Across the country, our farmers, traders and transporters are seeing a shift in their fortunes. Nigerians who preferred imported products are now consuming made in Nigeria products. From Argungu in Kebbi to Abakalaki in Ebonyi, rice farmers and millers are seeing their products move. We must replicate such success in other staples like wheat, sugar, soya, tomato and dairy products. Already, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Organised Private Sector and a handful of Nigerian commercial banks, have embarked on an ambitious private sector-led N600 billion program to push us towards self-sufficiency in three years for these products. I hereby make a special appeal to all State Governors to make available land to potential farmers for the purpose of this program.

To achieve self-sufficiency in food and other products, a lot of work needs to be done across the various value chains. For agriculture, inputs must be available and affordable. In the past, basic inputs, like the NPK fertilizer, were imported although key ingredients like urea and limestone are readily available locally. Our local blending plants have been abandoned. Jobs lost and families destroyed. I am pleased to announce today that on 2nd December 2016, Morocco and Nigeria signed an ambitious collaboration agreement to revive the abandoned Nigerian fertilizer blending plants. The agreement focuses on optimizing local materials while only importing items that are not available locally. This program has already commenced and we expect that in the first quarter of 2017, it will create thousands of jobs and save Nigeria US$200 million of foreign exchange and over N60 billion in subsidy.

We must take advantage of current opportunities to export processed agricultural products and manufactured goods. Let it not be lost on anyone that the true drivers of our economic future will be the farmers, small and medium sized manufacturers, agro-allied businesses, dressmakers, entertainers and technology start-ups. They are the engine of our imminent economic recovery. And their needs underpin the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

Let me, Mr. Senate President, Right Hon. Speaker, here acknowledge the concerns expressed by the National Assembly and, in particular, acknowledge your very helpful Resolutions on the State of the Economy, which were sent to me for my consideration. The Resolutions contained many useful suggestions, many of which are in line with my thinking and have already been reflected in our Plan. Let me emphasise that close cooperation between the Executive and the Legislature is vital to the success of our recovery and growth plans.

Permit me to briefly outline a few important features of the Plan. The underlying philosophy of our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan is optimizing the use of local content and empowering local businesses. The role of Government must be to facilitate, enable and support the economic activities of the Nigerian businesses as I earlier mentioned. Fiscal, monetary and trade policies will be fully aligned and underpinned by the use of policy instruments to promote import substitution. Government will however at all times ensure the protection of public interest.

First we clearly understand the paradox that to diversify from oil we need oil revenues. You may recall that oil itself was exploited by investment from agricultural surpluses. We will now use oil revenues to revive our agriculture and industries. Though we cannot control the price of crude oil, we are determined to get our production back to at least 2.2 million barrels per day. Consistent with the views which have also been expressed by the National Assembly, we will continue our engagement with the communities in the Niger Delta to ensure that there is minimum disruption to oil production. The National Assembly, State and Local Governments, Traditional Rulers, Civil Society Organisations and Oil Companies must also do their part in this engagement. We must all come together to ensure peace reigns in the Niger Delta.

In addition, we will continue our ongoing reforms to enhance the efficiency of the management of our oil and gas resources. To this effect, from January 2017, the Federal Government will no longer make provision for Joint Venture cash-calls. Going forward, all Joint Venture operations shall be subjected to a new funding mechanism, which will allow for Cost Recovery. This new funding arrangement is expected to boost exploration and production activities, with resultant net positive impact on government revenues which can be allocated to infrastructure, agriculture, solid minerals and manufacturing sectors.

I earlier mentioned our ambitions for policy harmonisation. But we all know that one of the peculiar problems of our environment is execution. This phenomenon affects both government carrying out its own functions and the innumerable bureaucratic hurdles in doing business. To this end, I will be issuing some Executive Orders to ensure the facilitation and speeding up of government procurements and approvals. Facilitation of business and commerce must be the major objective of government agencies. Government must not be the bottle neck. Additionally, these Executive Orders will widen the scope of compliance with the Fiscal Responsibility Act by Federal Government owned entities and promote support for local content in Ministries, Department and Agencies.

The Executive will soon place before the National Assembly proposals for legislation to reduce statutorily mandated minimum times for administrative processes in order to speed up business transactions. In addition, I have established the Presidential Enabling Business Council, chaired by the Vice President with a mandate to make doing business in Nigeria easier and more attractive. Getting approvals for business and procurements will be simplified and made faster.

In 2017, we will focus on the rapid development of infrastructure, especially rail, roads and power. Efforts to fast-track the modernization of our railway system is a priority in the 2017 Budget. In 2016, we made a lot of progress getting the necessary studies updated and financing arrangements completed. We also addressed some of the legacy contractor liabilities inherited to enable us to move forward on a clean slate. Many of these tasks are not visible but are very necessary for sustainability of projects. Nigerians will soon begin to see the tangible benefits in 2017.

We also have an ambitious programme for growing our digital platforms in order to modernise the Nigerian economy, support innovation and improve productivity and competitiveness. We will do this through increased spending on critical information technology infrastructure and also by promoting policies that facilitate investments in this vital sector.

During 2016, we conducted a critical assessment of the power sector value chain, which is experiencing major funding issues. Although Government, through the CBN and other Development Finance Institutions has intervened, it is clear that more capital is needed. We must also resolve the problems of liquidity in the sector. On its part, Government has made provisions in its 2017 Budget to clear its outstanding electricity bills. This we hope, will provide the much needed liquidity injection to support the investors.

In the delivery of critical infrastructure, we have developed specific models to partner with private capital, which recognize the constraints of limited public finances and incorporate learnings from the past. These tailor-made public private partnerships are being customized, in collaboration with some global players, to suit various sectors, and we trust that, the benefits of this new approach will come to fruition in 2017.

Fellow Nigerians, although a lot of problems experienced by this Administration were not created by us, we are determined to deal with them. One of such issues that the Federal Government is committed to dealing with frontally, is the issue of its indebtedness to contractors and other third parties. We are at an advanced stage of collating and verifying these obligations, some of which go back ten years, which we estimate at about N2 trillion. We will continue to negotiate a realistic and viable payment plan to ensure legitimate claims are settled.

2016 Budget Performance
In 2016, the budget was prepared on the principles of zero based budgeting to ensure our resources were prudently managed and utilized solely for the public good. This method was a clear departure from the previous incremental budgeting method. We have adopted the same principles in the 2017 Budget.

Distinguished members of the National Assembly may recall that the 2016 Budget was predicated on a benchmark oil price of US$38 per barrel, oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day and an exchange rate of N197 to the US dollar.

On the basis of these assumptions, aggregate revenue was projected at N3.86 trillion while the expenditure outlay was estimated at N6.06 trillion. The deficit of N2.2 trillion, which was about 2.14% of GDP was expected to be mainly financed through borrowing.

The implementation of the 2016 Budget was hampered by the combination of relatively low oil prices in the first quarter of 2016, and disruptions in crude oil production which led to significant shortfalls in projected revenue. This contributed to the economic slow-down that negatively affected revenue collections by the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Nigerian Customs Service.

As at 30 September 2016, aggregate revenue inflow was N2.17 trillion or 25% less than pro rated projections. Similarly, N3.58 trillion had been spent by the same date on both recurrent and capital expenditure. This is equivalent to 79% of the pro rated full year expenditure estimate of N4.54 trillion as at the end of September 2016.

In spite of these challenges, we met both our debt service obligations and personnel costs. Similarly, overhead costs have been largely covered.

Although capital expenditure suffered as a result of project formulation delays and revenue shortfalls, in the five months since the 2016 Budget was passed, the amount of N753.6 billion has been released for capital expenditure as at the end of October 2016. It is important to note that this is one of the highest capital releases recorded in the nation’s recent history. In fact, it exceeds the aggregate capital expenditure budget for 2015.

Consequently, work has resumed on a number of stalled infrastructure projects such as the construction of new terminals at the country’s four major airports; numerous major road projects; key power transmission projects; and the completion of the Kaduna – Abuja railway to mention a few.

We remain resolute in our commitment to the security of life and property nationwide. The courageous efforts and sacrifices of our heroes in the armed forces and para military units are clear for all to see. The gradual return to normality in the North East is a good example of the results. Our resolve to support them is unwavering. Our spending in the 2016 fiscal year focused on ensuring these gallant men and women are properly equipped and supported. We will continue to prioritise defence spending till all our enemies, within and outside, are subdued.

Stabilisation of sub-national government finances remains a key objective in our plans to stimulate the economy. In June 2016, a conditional Budget Support Programme was introduced, which offered State Governments N566 billion to address their funding shortfalls. To participate, State Governments were required to subscribe to certain fiscal reforms centered around transparency, accountability and efficiency. For example, States as part of this program were required to publish audited accounts and introduce biometric payroll systems with the goal of eliminating ghost workers.

Our efforts on cost containment have continued throughout the year. We have restricted travel costs, reduced board members’ sitting allowances, converted forfeited properties to Government offices to save on rent and eliminated thousands of Ghost workers. These, and many other cost reduction measures will lead to savings of close to N180 billion per annum to be applied to critical areas including health, security and education.

2017 Budget Priorities
Let me now turn to 2017 Budget. Government’s priorities in 2017 will be a continuation of our 2016 plans but adjusted to reflect new additions made in the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. In order to restore growth, a key objective of the Federal Government will be to bring about stability and greater coherence between monetary, fiscal and trade policies while guaranteeing security for all.

The effort to diversify the economy and create jobs will continue with emphasis on agriculture, manufacturing, solid minerals and services. Mid- and Down-stream oil and gas sectors, are also key priority areas. We will prioritise investments in human capital development especially in education and health, as well as wider social inclusion through job creation, public works and social investments.

Our plans also recognise that success in building a dynamic, competitive economy depends on construction of high quality national infrastructure and an improved business environment leveraging locally available resources. To achieve this, we will continue our goal of improving governance by enhancing public service delivery as well as securing life and property.

The 2017 Budget: Assumptions, Revenue Projections and Fiscal Deficit
Distinguished members of the National Assembly, the 2017 Budget is based on a benchmark crude oil price of US$42.5 per barrel; an oil production estimate of 2.2 million barrels per day; and an average exchange rate of N305 to the US dollar.

Based on these assumptions, aggregate revenue available to fund the federal budget is N4.94 trillion. This is 28% higher than 2016 full year projections. Oil is projected to contribute N1.985 trillion of this amount.
Non-oil revenues, largely comprising Companies Income Tax, Value Added Tax, Customs and Excise duties, and Federation Account levies are estimated to contribute N1.373 trillion. We have set a more realistic projection of N807.57 billion for Independent Revenues, while we have projected receipts of N565.1 billion from various Recoveries. Other revenue sources, including mining, amount to N210.9 billion.

With regard to expenditure, we have proposed a budget size of N7.298 trillion which is a nominal 20.4% increase over 2016 estimates. 30.7% of this expenditure will be capital in line with our determination to reflate and pull the economy out of recession as quickly as possible.

This fiscal plan will result in a deficit of N2.36 trillion for 2017 which is about 2.18% of GDP. The deficit will be financed mainly by borrowing which is projected to be about N2.32 trillion. Our intention is to source N1.067 trillion or about 46% of this borrowing from external sources while, N1.254 trillion will be borrowed from the domestic market.

Expenditure Estimates
The proposed aggregate expenditure of N7.298 trillion will comprise:

Statutory transfers of N419.02 billion;
Debt service of N1.66 trillion;
Sinking fund of N177.46 billion to retire certain maturing bonds;
Non-debt recurrent expenditure of N2.98 trillion; and
Capital expenditure of N2.24 trillion (including capital in Statutory Transfers).

Statutory Transfers
We have increased the budgetary allocation to the Judiciary from N70 billion to N100 billion. This increase in funding is further meant to enhance the independence of the judiciary and enable them to perform their functions effectively.

Recurrent Expenditure
A significant portion of recurrent expenditure has been provisioned for the payment of salaries and overheads in institutions that provide critical public services. The budgeted amounts for these items are:
37 billion for the Ministry of Interior;
01 billion for Ministry of Education;
87 billion for Ministry of Defence; and
87 billion for Ministry of Health.

We have maintained personnel costs at about N1.8 trillion. It is important that we complete the work that we have started of ensuring the elimination of all ghost workers from the payroll. Accordingly, adequate provision has been made in the 2017 Budget to ensure all personnel that are not enrolled on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System platform are captured.

We have tasked the Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance to cut certain overhead costs by 20%. We must eliminate all non-essential costs so as to free resources to fund our capital expenditure.

Capital Expenditure
The size of the 2017 capital budget of N2.24 trillion (inclusive of capital in Statutory Transfers), or 30.7% of the total budget, reflects our determination to spur economic growth. These capital provisions are targeted at priority sectors and projects.

Specifically, we have maintained substantially higher allocations for infrastructural projects which will have a multiplier effect on productivity, employment and also promote private sector investments into the country.

Key capital spending provisions in the Budget include the following:
Power, Works and Housing: N529 billion;
Transportation: N262 billion;
Special Intervention Programmes: N150 billion.
Defence: N140 billion;
Water Resources: N85 billion;
Industry, Trade and Investment: N81 billion;
Interior: N63 billion;
Education N50 billion
Universal Basic Education Commission: N92 billion
Health: N51 billion
Federal Capital Territory: N37 billion;
Niger Delta Ministry: N33 billion; and
Niger Delta Development Commission: N61 billion;
N100 billion has been provided in the Special Intervention programme as seed money into the N1 trillion Family Homes Fund that will underpin a new social housing programme. This substantial expenditure is expected to stimulate construction activity throughout the country.

Efforts to fast-track the modernization of our railway system will receive further boost through the allocation of N213.14 billion as counterpart funding for the Lagos-Kano, Calabar-Lagos, Ajaokuta-Itakpe-Warri railway, and Kaduna-Abuja railway projects. As I mentioned earlier, in 2016, we invested a lot of time ensuring the paper work is done properly while negotiating the best deal for Nigeria. I must admit this took longer than expected but I am optimistic that these projects will commence in 2017 for all to see.

Given the emphasis placed on industrialization and supporting SMEs, a sum of N50 billion has been set aside as Federal Government’s contribution for the expansion of existing, as well as the development of new, Export Processing and Special Economic Zones. These will be developed in partnership with the private sector as we continue our efforts to promote and protect Nigerian businesses. Furthermore, as the benefits of agriculture and mining are starting to become visible, I have instructed that the Export Expansion Grant be revived in the form of tax credits to companies. This will further enhance the development of some agriculture and mining sector thereby bringing in more investments and creating more jobs. The sum of N20 billion has been voted for the revival of this program.

Our small- and medium-scale businesses continue to face difficulties in accessing longer term and more affordable credit. To address this situation, a sum of N15 billion has been provided for the recapitalization of the Bank of Industry and the Bank of Agriculture. In addition, the Development Bank of Nigeria will soon start operations with US$1.3 billion focused exclusively on Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

Agriculture remains at the heart of our efforts to diversify the economy and the proposed allocation to the sector this year is at a historic high of N92 billion. This sum will complement the existing efforts by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and CBN to boost agricultural productivity through increased intervention funding at single digit interest rate under the Anchor Borrowers Programme, commercial agricultural credit scheme and The Nigeria Incentive-Based Risk-Sharing System for Agricultural Lending. Accordingly, our agricultural policy will focus on the integrated development of the agricultural sector by facilitating access to inputs, improving market access, providing equipment and storage as well as supporting the development of commodity exchanges.

Government realizes that achieving its goals with regard to job creation, also requires improving the skills of our labour force, especially young people. We have accordingly made provision, including working with the private sector and State Governments, to establish and operate model technical and vocational education institutes.
We propose with regard to healthcare to expand coverage through support to primary healthcare centres and expanding the National Health Insurance Scheme.

The 2017 Budget estimates retains the allocation of N500 billion to the Special Intervention programme consisting of the Home-grown School Feeding Programme, Government Economic Empowerment programme, N-Power Job Creation Programme to provide loans for traders and artisans, Conditional Cash Transfers to the poorest families and the new Family Homes Fund (social housing scheme). The N-Power Programme has recently taken off with the employment of 200,000 graduates across the country, while the School Feeding Programme has commenced in a few States, where the verification of caterers has been completed

As we pursue economic recovery, we must remain mindful of issues of sustainable and inclusive growth and development. The significant vote for the Federal Ministry of Water Resources reflects the importance attached to integrated water resource management. In this regard, many river-basin projects have been prioritized for completion in 2017. Similarly, the increased vote of N9.52 billion for the Federal Ministry of Environment (an increase of 92% over the 2016 allocation) underscores the greater attention to matters of the environment, including climate change and leveraging private sector funding for the clean-up of the Niger Delta.

Provision has also been made in these estimates for activities that will foster a safe and conducive atmosphere for the pursuit of economic and social activities. In this regard, the allocation for the Presidential Amnesty Programme has been increased to N65 billion in the 2017 Budget. Furthermore, N45 billion in funding has been provisioned for the rehabilitation of the North East to complement the funds domiciled at the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative as well as commitments received from the multinational donors.

Mr. Senate President, Mr. Speaker, distinguished and honourable members of the National Assembly, I cannot end without commending the National Assembly for its support in steering our economy on a path of sustained and inclusive growth. This generation has an opportunity to move our country from an unsustainable growth model – one that is largely dependent on oil earnings and imports, to an economy that focuses on using local labour and local raw materials. We cannot afford to let this opportunity slip by. We must all put our differences aside and work together to make this country succeed. The people that voted us into these esteemed positions are looking to us to make a difference. To change the course of this nation. I have no doubt in my mind that by working together, we will put Nigeria back on the path that its founding fathers envisaged

This Budget, therefore, represents a major step in delivering on our desired goals through a strong partnership across the arms of government and between the public and private sectors to create inclusive growth. Implementation will move to centre-stage as we proceed with the process of re-balancing our economy, exiting recession and insulating it from future external and domestic shocks.

I thank you all for your patience and patriotism

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Buratai, Buhari and December Deadline on Boko Haram

Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai, Nigerian Chief of Army Staff on Sunday 4th December 2016 urged the gallant Nigerian Army to embark on the final offensive action and a comprehensive sweep of the operational theatre in the Northeast with a view to ending the war against boko haram on a high note.

On a similar note, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday December 6th 2016, while speaking at a panel of Heads of State in Dakar, Senegal, at the 3rd Dakar International Forum on peace and security in Africa, assured the international community that the security situation in Nigeria has improved significantly - thus the end of Boko Haram terrorists was in sight. The two generals are not mincing their words; rather it is a show of political will from the political class and determination from the Nigerian Army to defeat the terrorists.

However, some people are questioning how feasible it is for the Nigerian army to completely clear the remnants of Boko Haram terrorist in the northeast by December. But most observers in Nigeria and the majority of the people in the northeast have confidence in General Buratai; his gallant officers and President Buhari’s political will to win the war against Boko Haram. They are very happy with the level of success recorded by the military so far. The people of the northeast are experiencing the difference between the sloppy handling of the war by Goodluck’s regime and the doggedness and commitment being shown by the Buhari government.

Anyone who comes to the northeast now will see the obvious resolve of the Nigerian army to win the war; confidence on the faces of the soldiers on ground; the number of war planes and their activities in skies especially from Yola airport will certainly tell any doubting Thomases that Buratai and his men are matching President Buhari’s words with action.

Buratai and his men are getting a massive approval from the northeast; people can now see that the military is in the offensive mode- taking the war to Boko Haram not waiting for Haram to come. Now Boko Haram is being chased out of villages and their camps in bushes, unlike before when they were capturing big towns and annexing local government areas and renaming them. Boko Haram is no longer holding a single territory in the 774 LGAs in Nigeria. This is a sweet thing to hear and every Nigerian should give Buratai and his men a pat on the back.

General Buratai is a well-trained officer of the Nigerian Army, he said: “I also wish to remind all troops that captured and surrendered Boko Haram terrorists must be treated humanely and fairly and in strict accordance with the provisions of International Humanitarian Law and Laws of Armed Conflict. In doing so, we must be prepared to enter all fortresses, camps, dens and enclaves of the Boko Haram to completely flush them out and dominate these areas to ensure they are not reoccupied”.

The people of the northeast are with Buratai, because they now see the Nigerian soldiers are very confident; fully kitted; well-armed and tackling Boko Haram head on. The people of the Northeast are appreciative of Buratai’s approach to the war- because now, the rights of people and their humanity are always protected by the soldiers while the war rages on. People now see the military as their shield and protectors unlike before when they feared both Boko Haram and the military.

With President Buhari’s political resolve and Buratai as chief of army staff, most people in the northeast believe the war will soon be won and most common people now have confidence to give vital information to constituted authorities that will help the government in winning the war.

Buratai and his men have a resolve to clear remnants of Boko Haram by December, the people of the northeast are happy and have strong confidence in Buratai, the feet on the ground and the commander-in-chief.

Zayyad I. Muhammad Jimeta, Adamawa State, 08036070980.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Atiku at 70 and the Long Walk to 2019

On Friday November 25, 2016, former vice president Atiku Abubakar turns 70 years old. Atiku means different things to his critics and supporters.

As expected, Atiku Abubakar has started a very difficult and long ‘journey’ to 2019- he has commenced under-ground campaign for his quest to be president come 2019. Atiku’s opponents are always quick to describe him as opportunistic and a desperate serial presidential contestant.

They often argue that his core reason for venturing into politics is like that of a typical Nigerian politician- the quest for power and self enrichment. His supporters however believe Atiku is not defined by mere politics, rather his style of doing it. Atiku is politically adventurous and his strategies in politics are always audacious- they surpass those often employed by ordinary Nigerian politicians.

Atiku has always been accused of being corrupt, but no one has ever proven or provided evidence to support the accusation. One may say; Atiku is simply a victim of his love for philanthropy and he has also been fortunate in investments he ventured in.

Students of politics admire Atiku’s style of politics- the man loves political adventures, often not well-thought ones, especially when it comes to the politics of the contest for the presidency of Nigeria. Atiku so far has spent nearly half of his age doing politics. Atiku has fought many tough political battles; the most daring being the one against his former boss- Obasanjo. Atiku was labeled a disloyal vice president.

Over the years, Atiku has been the most visible politician, especially in the politics of Nigeria’s presidency. His opponents are always quick to describe him as a desperate serial presidential contestant. His supporters see his unrelenting participation in party politics as a clear sign of Atiku’s passion to serve his fatherland.

Many observers are of the opinion that Atiku has shown his desperation by commencing campaign for the presidency at this time and also being a member of the ruling APC which has the sitting president.

Atiku’s numerous political decisions were excellent and sound, but not without flaws, especially regarding his presidential ambition. Of recent, Atiku appears to be in rush and reads his 'political map' up-side-down.
With the current scenario, age will not be against Atiku, but party platform to contest on and the directions of President Muhammadu Buhari, Ahmed Bola Tinubu and the opposition PDP. Whether Buhari will go for second or not nobody knows, but whatever happens, Buhari and Tinubu will decide who gets APC presidential ticket. Apart from President Buhari, Tinubu is the only individual now in Nigeria that has some governors with solid control of the southwest. President Muhammdu Buhari has ‘everything’ in the APC. The Northwest and Northeast will definite not be an easy spot for Atiku- Northwest will definitely go for what Buhari goes for while the northeast, Atiku’s constituency does have a common course.
Atiku’s biggest political error is, instead of him to quietly reintegration himself firmly in the APC, he is busy over- blowing his trumpet. The likes of vice president Yemi Osinbajo, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, Governor Nasir El-rufa’i, Governor Aminu Tambuwal, are some strong presidential materials in the APC that will give Atiku nightmare, and If Buhari decides to contest, the game is over for Atiku.

Atiku’s unique style of politics may have favoured him; but he is gradually losing his rightful place in the political arena. Atiku is not well-grounded in APC; he may not make strong impact in the North-East. In fact, for now, Atiku does not have the capacity and confidence to announce the party platform he intends to contest on. Therefore, Atiku’s greatest obstacle to his presidential ambition will still be on how to get a strong party platform to contest on.

Love him or hate him, Atiku has immense war chest that easily scares off his opponents- vast political network and connections, but he has started a very difficult and long ‘journey’ to 2019. There are many odds against him, compared to those in his favour, taking into consideration the present realities in the polity. As Atiku clocks 70, it appears that he would surely put in a strong fight for presidency. After all, politics has become Atiku’s number one hobby. Happy birthday Turaki Adamawa.

Zayyad I. Muhammad Jimeta, Adamawa State, 08036070980

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Buhari, $29.96 billion Loan and the Masses

Whenever the word ‘foreign loan’ is mentioned, many Nigerians become troubled- the debt traps of the past still haunt us.

Some Nigerians are now asking quite a few questions on the Federal Government of Nigeria proposed 29.96 billion dollar loan. The Government of President Muhammadu Buhari says that within the next three years, it plans to borrow $29.96 billion from the World Bank, African Development Bank, and Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) to execute key infrastructure projects across the country between 2016 and 2018.

Some people are asking: Will the masses enjoy any benefit from the proposed $29.9 billion loan? Will the Muhammadu Buhari government judicially utilize the monies? Is it the right time for the loan? Will the whopping 29 billion dollar loan not take Nigeria back to the league of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC)?

Nigeria is in a recession mainly due to the reckless mismanagement of the country’s abundant resources by previous regimes and the failure of the political class to save for the rainy days. Experts and public commentators alike believe that these loans are one of the fastest ways to get out of the recession.

A former senior colleague of mine at African Petroleum Plc (now Forte Oil), Aliyu Nuhu said: “There is hardly any economic reason to fear long term loan at low interest rate. In relation to GDP, Nigeria is not even a debtor nation. A loan with tenure of 20 years at 5-10% interest handled by a financially prudent and responsible government is a welcome idea anytime”. President Muhammadu Buhari’s global image as a no nonsense fighter of corruption and international approval of Nigeria’s capacity to handle such a huge loan at this critical time, is something that all Nigerians must flaunt.

Most experts who understand where Nigeria is coming from and the challenges and expectations ahead, must also share Nuhu’s thoughts that; “Of‎ course there are economic issues like inflation, high interest rate, high taxes, crowing out and interest repayment to worry about, but the loan Nigeria is seeking is not the type to lead to such problems. The truth is, every nation needs a leverage of loan to fast track its development. There is no developed nation without a debt on its head.

The biggest and richest countries are the most heavily indebted. The UK for instance is in debt deficit of 11% of its GDP and has 43bn pounds of interest to pay. In United States, if you share national debt among its citizens, each man, woman and child will owe about $42,998 according to Money and Time survey by Time magazine. But there is huge difference between national debt and family debt. What most people do not understand is that national debt is not family finances. The difference is that government has the central bank to control the economy. It has more financial and monetary flexibility to get out of trouble. Also government lives a long infinite life unlike a family with average life span of 75 years. Today US National debt is $19trillion, more than quarter of its nominal GDP, yet it paradoxically has the largest economy in the world and remains the richest nation on earth. The fact that institutions are willing to lend Nigeria $30bn tells much about its economic viability and credit rating. Kenya had sought and failed to secure $200m loan”

President Buhari’s plan to borrow will definitely stimulate the economy; quickly take the country out of recession and fast-track the much needed infrastructure development.

Buhari’s government has in place good policies and framework for fiscal and public debt sustainability. So, those people worrying unnecessarily about the $29.9 billion dollar loan should put their minds at rest. President cannot be a party to the type of reckless and ineffective external borrowings of the past which resulted in a debt burden that Nigeria could not manage.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Babachir, Buhari and the N1.3bn Bogus Contract by PINE

The Senate on Tuesday 4th October 2016 accused the Presidential Initiative on North-East (PINE) of spending N1.3bn out of the N10bn budgeted for the region on bogus contracts. This is a terrifying matter. But it is still an accusation until proven true or otherwise.

The concern of many people is, the Secretary to the government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir David Lawal is being accused of being complicit. This is a man known by many people as a man of honour. President Muhammadu Buhari’s stance on corruption is indisputable; while his government has exhibited genuine and commendable efforts to restore the northeast to its pre-war peaceful status.

If Babachir is a party to this breach of laid down process and procedure, many people including Buhari will not be happy with him. Besides, he is from the northeast, in fact, his local government area of Hong in Adamawa state is among the most affected areas by Boko Haram senseless war.

Daily Trust of Wednesday Oct 5, 2016 reported that “Senator Baba Kaka Bashir Garbai and 18 others has accused the committee on North-East of spending N1.3bn on 21 bogus contracts awarded to families, friends and cronies of the SGF and the committee. The senate committee said the bogus contracts showed that N100m was paid on January 1 this year on a public holiday to a company, VFS for conference, N 230m was paid to Josman Technologies Limited in two installments for the removal of invasive plant species in Yobe State and N 185m was paid to a company known as ‘Is yours Investment Limited in five installments. The table revealed that the company was paid N 50,299,270 twice and N 37,754,900 for the supply of food and non-food items. Presenting the table to his colleagues, Senator Kaka said the committee paid N 117m and N 108m to Lintex International and Dantex Nigeria Limited respectively for the provision of temporary shelters while N 80.7m and N 97.6m were paid to JMT Global Technologies Limited and Greenstone General Enterprise Limited respectively. To this end, the Executive Secretary of PINE, Umar Gulani has appeared and offered some explanations before the House of Representatives committee investigating the alleged diversion of funds and materials meant for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPS).

Anti corruption war is a major cardinal unique selling point for Buhari. So, any accusation of corruption against a member of the inner-circle of his government attracts public attention. However, we must bear in mind that for every corruption accusation against a Buhari lieutenant, two possibilities could be drawn: individuals currently facing corruption charges are working hard to paint every member of the government as also corrupt so as to rubbish the government’s fight against corruption. Secondly, those who are used to government patronage and are no more in the ‘loop’ are also working hard to see that those getting government contracts are being portrayed as benefiting from cronyisms.

President Buhari is a man who when he trusts someone, he hardly distrusts such a person based on insubstantial reasons. So some people can easily take advantage of that to commit some shady acts behind the General. We must not also forget that public office in Nigeria comes with some privileges, authority and huge funds to spend, so if one does not apply measured restraint and discipline he/she can easily fall into the trap of corruption without even knowing.

Babachir has been working with Buhari for a long time, most people believe he knows who Buhari is more than many people in the present government and will not go against or tarnish Buhari’s globally commended efforts in the North-East.

With Babachir’s age, experience and trust bestowed on him by Buhari; it is hardly a possibility that he will condone arbitrary award contract to families, friends and cronies of his and other members of the committee. With the level of discipline being brought into public service, it is almost impossible that the members of the committee will overlook raw abuse of due process. Though, we do not expect the present government to award contracts to it ‘enemies’. The accusation must be seen as untrue except proved otherwise. Nonetheless, Babachir and the committee members must come out clean, because the accusation is heavy with stark similarities with Dasuki’s armsgate. Corruption has been the major factor that has helped in prolonging the insurgency in the northeast.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Imposition of Candidates and 2019

Imposition of candidates by godfathers and ‘owners’ of political parties has cost political parties easy victory; political leaders fortunes, while the handpicked candidates have suffered unexpected humiliating defeats. Signs are, from the recent elections and party primaries, some political leaders especially in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) have not learnt their lessons from previous consequences of deliberate imposition of candidates and impunity.

The failure of leaderships of parties to strengthen internal democracy and the spirit of fair play has become a clog in the wheel success of political parties in Nigeria. The failure or success of a party in an election is partly decided right from the process of electing its flag-bearers for various elective offices.

Right thinking party leaders who revere party supremacy work hard to give every candidate interested in an elective office the opportunity to test his or her popularity from the grassroots via party primaries. Candidates who emerge from transparent party primaries are always popular and can easily get votes without hustle while handpicked candidates most times appear lackey and clueless even during campaigns. Moreover, they most times lose elections with devastating result.

Often times, handpicked candidates, who by providence, win elections end up turning their backs against their godfathers and also perform poorly in office because they lack zeal and do not have masses’ interest in their thinking.

A major negative consequence of imposing candidates is that the godfathers end up losing followers, long term political fortunes and become berated in public view when their candidates fail.

Imposing candidates also hurts the system. A political analyst Prince Oliver Okpala said “The spate of imposition across Nigeria political parties dampen the morale of members. It is a practice that is capable of shaking the belief of members in their party and in its internal mechanisms. It is a direct affront to democracy which reduces the game of polities to a process of sheer selection, godfatherism, favouritism and particularism. No doubt, this is a total threat to our fledgling democracy”

Party leaders and presidential hopefuls like President Muhammad Buhari, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar and Sule Lamido should stand firm and help their parties to produce popular candidates through free and fair primaries especially at their local bases. This will close avenues for intra party fights and bad blood among disciples while also strengthening their local and national outlook.

Serious political leaders desiring to make strong impact in the 2019 politics and beyond should have learnt their lessons from the 2015 elections. Despite their masters’ vast war-chests, incumbencies, sterling performance and the unexplained Buhari tsunami, most handpicked candidates, especially governorship flag bearers suffered humiliating defeats- because they were not products of popular choice.

The 2019 battle ground in most states of the federation, especially some northern states will be very interesting and highly competitive, because majority of the people will not vote just for political parties or godfathers but candidates. So, many non-performing governors will hope opposition parties handpick candidates, as this means they have an unpopular opponent thus boosting their chances of keeping their seats.

The 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections were won and lost because of the power of incumbency and political and financial war-chest. The 2015 elections was won and lost solely because of popular discontent and supremacy of peoples’ votes. However, most candidates that were imposed lost the elections. Performance, internal party democracy and popularity of candidates will determine who gets what in the 2019 election.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa State,, 08036070980