President Muhammadu Buhari, like many are wont to do at the beginning of each year, shared with his countrymen a couple of ‘new year resolutions’.
To state that Nigeria was besieged with several challenges that rocked its peace and unity in year 2020 bears repetition.
The Aso Rock honcho has severally acknowledged as much which underpins his pledge to improve on the state of things in the new year.
On January 1, President Buhari decried Nigeria’s many challenges of 2020 – prominent among which are insecurity, poor economy, and corruption – and made a pledge to tackle them in the New Year.
His pledge was contained in an address to the nation, and among others, he had promised to:
“Re-energize and reorganize the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the Police with a view to enhance their capacity to engage, push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external extremist and criminal groups…”
On economy, he said: “Our focus is on revamping the economy through the national economic diversification agenda that supports the primary goal of national food self-sufficiency.”
In the fight against corruption, he disclosed thus: “…this year, we are committed to continuing along the path of eradicating corruption with all the arms of government to effectively prosecute this fight.”
Buhari’s pledges, even close confidants admit, would amount to nothing except he matches words with action. Therefore, the following pertinent questions would arise:
1, Would he flow with the tide and sack his fatigued Security Chiefs who many believe have become more of liability to the system?
2, Would he quicken the drive towards the emergence of a knowledge economy, one which the country’s growing youth population can leverage for a quantum leap into prosperity?
3, Would he fight corruption more transparently and not encourage the rot in institutions like the NDDC, leaving the impression that the anti-graft war is selective?
Nigerians are eager to see and feel how Aso Rock impacts their lives in 2021. And, Buhari, it is believed, is not unaware of this fact.
Two other talking points
Deliverables for MDAs
President Buhari, on December 31, 2020, tasked Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) saddled with generating revenue to work hard to meet their targets.
According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President issued the warning after he signed the Thirteen-Point-Five-Eight-Eight trillion (N13.588 trillion) 2021 Appropriation Bill and the 2020 Finance Bill into law, at Aso Rock, Abuja.
“We are intensifying efforts so that we can have adequate resources to fund the 2021 Budget. Revenue Generating Agencies, and indeed all Ministries, Departments and Government-owned Enterprises, must work very hard to achieve their revenue ratios, as well as ensure prompt and full remittance of revenue collections,” he stated.
There is, perhaps, no better time for goal setting than now that the country needs the highest level of prudence in nursing its economy back to live after going into recession.
Reports against the conduct of MDAs are legion.
In October 2019, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, had alleged that, “Nigeria gathered a lot of revenue, but most of the revenue-generating agencies do not remit the money.”
Unfortunately, there have been no concrete steps to make scapegoat of defaulting agencies!
There is no gain saying the fact that Nigerians would continue to see Mr President’s exhortations as mere pontification until heads of government agencies caught stealing are prosecuted and jailed.
Tackling food imports
On December 29, 2020, President Buhari, noted that his administration would keep a keen eye on food inflation in the New Year while giving a strong directive to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) not to give money for food importation.
Speaking at the fifth regular meeting with the Presidential Economic Advisory Council at the Aso Rock Villa, Buhari charged managers of the economy, among them the CBN.
“The CBN must not give money to import food. Already about seven states are producing all the rice we need. We must eat what we produce.
“We will continue to encourage our people to go back to the land. Our elite is indoctrinated in the idea that we are rich in oil, leaving the land for the city for oil riches. We are back to the land now. We must not lose the opportunity to make life easier for our people,” he said.
It is trite to admonish the elites for living off imports but critics are quick to point out that the biggest culprits are top government officials whose acquired tastes for imported foods, clothes, cars, etc are major drivers for foreign exchanges leakages in the economy.
Will the Buhari administration engender the right level of security to support a return to the farms, especially in northern Nigeria? And, will it also instill the necessary discipline, even among the leadership, to drive a new culture of living off Nigerian produce?
Reality beckons but it must be said that while government intentions are applauded, its notoriety for policy somersaults makes its initiatives sometimes suspect.
By John Chukwu…
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