Wednesday, August 24, 2016

OPEC Secretary General meets Algerian Ambassador in Vienna

23 August 2016, OPEC Secretary General, HE Mohammad Sanusi Barkindo received Algerian Ambassador to Austria, HE Ms Faouzia Mebarki, at the OPEC Secretariat in Vienna.

Ms Mebarki began by passing on her congratulations to Mr Barkindo following his assumption of the role as Secretary General of OPEC and, as Algeria’s Ambassador to Austria, she offered her full support to him and the OPEC Secretariat.

Mr Barkindo said the Ambassador’s visit was an important and timely one given the current oil market situation and the upcoming International Energy Forum (IEF) Ministerial meeting in Algiers at the end of September.

He commented that these remain “challenging times for the global oil industry” and it was important for all stakeholders “to work together towards the stabilization of oil markets.” He said the IEF meeting in Algiers was an ideal time to meet and exchange views on the current market situation and bring together both producers and consumers.
Ms Mebarki said that her country and government looked forward to welcoming Mr Barkindo as their guest in Algiers.

Mr Barkindo concluded by conveying his appreciation for Algeria’s continued support of OPEC and stressed how important “Member Country support and guidance” is in his role. He looked forward to fruitful collaboration with Algeria, and all OPEC Member Countries, in the coming years.


Sunday, August 14, 2016




By Garba Shehu

THE LAST COUPLE of weeks have witnessed the heaviest public criticism of the Muhammadu Buhari administration since he came to power after inflicting a heavy defeat on the Peoples Democratic Party and their candidate Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Much of it has been on account of the unresolved social and economic problems facing the country.

Unfair criticism of the Buhari administration especially on account of escalating prices of foodstuff and the liberalization of the currency exchange needs to be challenged before it overshadows the commendable job the President has done in fighting terrorism as part of overall effort to secure the country, reducing corruption and yes, arresting the economic slide before it sinks the the nation.

The Hausa have a saying: "Ba zomo na kashe ba, rataya a ka bani," meaning literally "I killed no rabbit, I am helping to carry the prey."

Wherever they go these days, in London, Dubai, Beijing, Washington, New York or Tokyo, Nigerians get the good feeling of being asked the question, how is President Muhammadu Buhari?

It is a proud moment for many citizens that the country is being perceived differently now that it has a different kind of leader creating a positive buss abroad, the kind of sentiment that can lead to foreign investments when properly capitalized upon.

The lavish praise the President gets abroad and the wide public support he enjoys among the lower segment of the local population is, by contrast, given a short shrift in the local press, mainstream and online. At its lowest point, this unambiguous media rebuke has created a wave of sympathy for anyone with a view that runs counter to the President's.

Boko Haram terrorist leader, Shekau or the pipeline vandal from the Delta region is more likely to get newspaper front pages today than the Minister of Labour, Senator Chris Ngige or the Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun talking about jobs creation in the economy.

I don't say that media criticism is not reflective of the feeling of the citizens.

President Buhari has himself on numerous occasions admitted that the change mantra has brought with it pain and suffering which he likened to the pains of labor. It is a passing phase.

When they ask the question, is this the change we voted for, the critic forgets how far we have come from the scam-tainted years of the PDP rule.

How many people have given a thought to the possibility of Nigeria doing something that the combined strength of Europe and America have failed to do?

There are many today who take for granted the declared victory over the Boko Haram terrorists, forgetting the reign of the bomber who made it almost impossible for regular attendance in Churches and Mosques in many of our cities, including the Federal Capital City, Abuja.

Victory over Boko Haram has brought peace not only to Nigeria but to the countries in the Lake Chad region.

The world leaders are still at work trying to contain the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, ISIS, which threat sadly continues to become more potent.

Everyone living in Nigeria knows that there is a major movement against corruption as part of the ongoing change. This war has forced the return to the treasury of billions of Naira and millions of Dollars stolen by past officials.

On account of this war, government suspects that the biggest trigger of the opposition to the change agenda is the army of the corrupt. With the enormous resources at their disposal; money that is unearned, these forces are ready to throw in everything to gag the Buhari administration.

When he assumed office, President Buhari said he understood the outcry of Nigerians and was determined to right those wrongs. I will remind you of his inaugural speech where he said: "At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems."(Emphasis added).

He has said times without number that his government is dedicated to the poor. As can be seen from the 2016 budget, this is a government that is determined to hugely empower the disadvantaged groups- the poor, the jobless, the widows and the orphaned children including those of the North-East.

As a listening government, the President was prepared to open the door to additional food imports but given the processes involved, the turn around in any such import of commodities would have taken a long time as to coincide with the harvest of home grown grains and cereals now in progress. The market would have been deluged and the local grower given the short end of the stick.

Calls on Hausa radio by a rabble-rousing section of the opposition for the "reopening of borders" to "allow food come in" are redundant and mischievous because all the county's borders remain open till date.

Following the budget, the administration has begun rolling out several social welfare programs. The direct cash transfer to the poorest of the poor, the school feeding and the recruitment/skills training of about one million jobless citizens are such an example.

In addition to hard work, all leaders need luck on their side to create what is sometimes seen as economic miracles. As leader, President Buhari never had the luxury of high oil prices as did his predecessors in office.

When he first emerged as the military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari saw oil price, the mainstay of the nation's economy sank to as low eight Dollars a barrel.

He rolled up his sleeves, worked on diversification strategy of the economy only to be eased out of power just as they began to take hold. Thereafter, his successors abandoned these efforts.

On his second coming, this time as a democratically elected leader, the collapse of oil prices has challenged President Buhari to quicken efforts towards the diversification of the economy with emphasis given to agriculture and solid minerals mining. Every crisis, it is said, is an opportunity. Not so in Nigeria. This is a county that inherited massive technological inventions from Biafra, yet failed to take it forward. We must not lose this opportunity to diversify the economy and our foreign earnings presented by the present oil crisis.

As the country hopes for a bumper harvest this year, government is taking steps to ensure that no farmer will sell at a loss or fail to find markets for their harvests. Grain silos are being readied nationwide to receive excess produce for warehousing to ensure food security, avert market glut and price collapse. By this, government will ensure a minimum guaranteed price.

In dealing with challenges of the economy, the administration is devoting attention to ridding the country of its notoriety as a difficult place of doing business.

The government has been making quiet but significant progress in this area, thanks to the leadership given by the National Economic Council under the Vice President and the combined efforts of the Ministries of Trade and Investment, Finance, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Budget and Planning and the Customs under new leadership.

Everyone in this sector is doing everything in their power to boost up Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari's infrastructure initiatives will see country making progress with intractable projects such as the Second Niger bridge, the East-West expressway, the green field Lagos-Abuja expressway and important national railway projects, Lagos-Calabar and Lagos-Kano which had been on the drawing boards for as long as anyone can remember.

These projects will be counted among the accomplishments of the administration alongside the 4,000 MW Mambila power plant which the President has declared a national priority. Government has also taken several bold steps to boost renewable energy. It has opened the door for a new conversation on the environment with decisive steps towards the clean-up the Ogoniland in the Niger Delta.

The currency liberalization and the deregulation of the petroleum products sale will make President Buhari one of the best presidents till date. The removal of subsidies on the petrol products has saved the government more than two trillion Naira annual expenditure in this respect.

President Buhari's foreign trips have brought many things to the country. He has energized our foreign policy. Beyond the enormous goodwill reaped from "resetting" age-old but damaged relations with neighbors and distant partners and friends, the President has attracted foreign development assistance and direct investments (FDI). It is generally accepted that good foreign relations bring foreign direct investment. So much is currently being done one year into the administration. This is in spite of the world economy being sluggish and recession-stricken.

It bears repeating that President is a different kind of leader, who just happens to be a victim of the tyranny of high expectations. He has brought positive intention, commitment, honesty and personal integrity into governance. This is why the country's poor hold him so dear; this is why the world is in love with him.

His knack for prudent spending and effective management of resources is in the belief that this country can only prosper when there is transparency, reduced corruption and a drastic cut in bureaucratic red tape.

His decision to have a small cabinet, reducing government ministries from 46 to 24 has the effect of relieving the treasury of the burden of salaries, allowances and miscellaneous expenses now being counted in billions of Naira.

President Buhari should be credited for the the unblemished record of his ministers. This is a government that has stayed above scandal for a year.

If all of these are not desirable changes, to be appreciated and adored, it is hard to know or determine what some of our critics want.

These reforms certainly represent major milestones in change which have led to a decline of corruption at the top.

As to the question of these leading to a resurgent economy, it all means that in a democracy everything takes times. The President needs our support with understanding and patience. No matter how hasty a president wants to bring changes, there is no magic wand in that office to make everything change from bad to good or make all of us prosperous with a wave of the hand. This change is on course. It requires patience.

The change is working for the nation and sooner than later, the testimony shall be given.

Garba Shehu.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Understanding Buhari‘s Economics

Countries that rely heavily on oil and have not saved enough money for the ‘rainy days’ are today facing serious economic challenges. Nigeria is one of them. These challenges are peculiar and require some painful and creative off-the-shelf measures.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s economic management system involves the application of the already known economic variables and some off-the-shelf approaches that are centered on what the masses understand most- money in their pockets and food on their tables.

Looking at the composition of the Buhari Economic Management Team (EMT) headed by Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo; one will see a shift from how the previous economic teams were composed. The Buhari economic management team does not only have a weekly meeting but consults with experts from various fields of knowledge and also seeks diverse opinion from the ordinary people. Speaking at the recent EMT meeting, Vice President Osinbajo said "we will continue to engage with experts and other stakeholders so we can measure progress of the economic policies that have been put in place. The challenges are many but the opportunities are much greater, we are clearly on the path to building an economy that will create jobs and ensure inclusive growth."

President Buhari’s approach to Nigeria’s current economic challenges is designed not only to achieve revival and diversification of the economy but also create productive jobs to replace menial jobs and develop skills for many young Nigerians. Noteworthy in this regard is the recently launched ‘N-Power’ programme, which will create not just thousands of jobs but productive and sustainable ones. It will help young Nigerians to acquire and develop life-long skills and acquire the right tools and equipment for their businesses. For instance, mechanics will have modern workshops with jumpers and chargers, tire care, pressurized air and hand tools. Welders will have solar and wind powered welding machines; fashion designers will have smart workshops etc. N-power will also facilitate the establishment of inventions and innovation centers for computer scientists, operations researchers, architects, engineers, lawyers, etc to form hubs for startups. Furthermore, it is heartwarming to note that one of the most important strategies of the Buhari government to tackle unemployment is through agricultural entrepreneurship programme for youths. Enthusiasts of agro-entrepreneurship are suggesting that the government should go into partnership with private sector to establish poultry, fisheries, dairy, snail farms, plantations, etc in various locations across the country. The pilot phase should start with youth corpers/graduates. They should be trained-on-the-job on how to manage the farms. After intensive training, the farms should be transferred to them for management as entrepreneurs. The scheme should involve local councils and state governments who are to provide land and local support, the private sector provides the fund while the federal government stands as the guarantor of fund. This can be done through the issuance of either callable, par value or coupon rate bonds. The private investors or financial institutions are not to give money directly to the governments in order to receive the bond-certificate. It would rather be a batter arrangement where the investors- either financial institution or private individuals would setup the farms and put in place all structures required in a modern farm. After this, a bond certificate equivalent to the cost, which will be determined by both parties and experts, will be issued to them. 

The youths, to whom the farms are to be transferred, should gradually refund the fund back to the government; so as to make the scheme a revolving one, and to eliminate any form of mismanagement or corruption.

The Buhari government is facing unprecedented oil price crash; ripples from mismanagement of the past and high public expectation. Gladly, the government is painstakingly putting in place the building blocks for the right fiscal stimulus, diversification of the economy and creation of sustainable productive jobs. 

Zayyad I. Muhammad Jimeta, Adamawa State, 08036070980