Nigeria: Economic Agenda – Federal Govt Accuses Atiku of Copying Buhari’s Scorecards

The federal government has berated the presidential candidate of the nation’s main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, for allegedly copying President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s achievements, especially in the areas of job creation, infrastructure financing, relationship with the private sector, rejuvenation of the power sector, poverty reduction, debt management, and the overall management of the economy, as part of his economic blueprint for 2023 elections.

This is even as the federal government insisted that anyone using its achievements as a campaign stunt, without acknowledging what the current administration has done so far, is cheap and disingenuous.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed this while briefing journey in Abuja on Thursday, noting that despite condemning the administration’s successes, the PDP Economic Blueprint was built around the same things that are currently being done by the same administration.

Mohammed said the press conference, therefore, was aimed at exposing the hypocrisy inherent in an opposition that condemns an administration while also showcasing a blueprint that is nothing but a poor version of what’s on ground.

On infrastructure, he said the former Vice President said in his Economic Blueprint, that ‘rebuilding infrastructure and reducing infrastructure deficit will enhance the carrying capacity of the economy and unleash growth and wealth creation’.

He said no one understands this better than the current administration, adding that even the worst critics will agree that its record on infrastructure development is next to none in the history of the ountry.

Across the country, he said the federal government has constructed 8,352.94 kilometres of roads, rehabilitated 7,936.05 kilometres of roads, constructed 299 bridges, maintained 312 bridges, and created 302,039 jobs in the process.

He said the current administration has also delivered houses in 34 states of the Federation under the first phase of the National Housing Project.

“We were able to achieve these through a combination of budget increase and innovative infrastructure financing methods.

“Whereas we met a budget of N18.132 billion for the roads component of

the Federal Ministry of Works when we assumed office in 2015, the budget for the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing increased exponentially to N260.082 billion in 2016; N274.252 billion in 2017,N356.773 billion in 2018, N223.255 billion in 2019, N227.963 billion in 2020 and N241.864 billion in 2021,” he said.

“The former Vice President also promised to ‘break the jinx’ in

infrastructure financing. Really? We state, unequivocally, that the worst jinx in infrastructure financing was the PDP Administration from 1999 to 2015. Indeed, the Buhari Administration has long broken that jinx, leveraging on such innovative schemes as the Presidential

Infrastructure Development Fund (which is being used to finance the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 2nd Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road), Sukuk (which has delivered a total of 1,881 kilometres of roads between 2017 and 2020) and the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (for the construction and rehabilitation of Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin road, reconstruction of Apapa Wharf road, construction of Apapa-Oworonsoki-Ojota road and the Bonny-Bodo road with bridge).

“The NNPC-funded part of the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme has also delivered nine roads in North-Central, three in North-East, two in North-West, two in South-East, three in South-South and two in South-West for a total of 1,804 kilometres of roads,” he said.

In the area of power, he said the former Vice President Atiku said ‘investments in additional generation capacity is futile without consideration for the complementary transmission and distribution infrastructure to wheel the additional energy’ and promised to propose legislation to, among others, give states the power to generate, transmit and distribute electricity, he said it is apparent that Alhaji Atiku has either not heard of the Siemens partnership with the Federal Government under the Presidential Power Initiative, the most ambitious project yet in the efforts to improve the seemingly-intractable power sector on which the PDP frittered over 16 billion dollars to procure nothing but darkness.

“The Nigeria-Siemens partnership was consummated with the signing of the Implementation Agreement on July 22nd 2019. The three-phase project will deliver 7,000MW in the first phase, 11,000MW in the second phase and 25,000MW in the third phase.

“This will positively impact job creation, boost investor confidence, accelerate economic growth and reduce cost of doing business. For those who may be in doubt, let me say that this project is a game changer.

He continued, “As you may have read, electricity equipment ordered under the project have started arriving in the country. When they are installed, there will be a major improvement in the supply of electricity across the country.

“It is also amazing that His Excellency the former VP has not heard or read that the Senate has passed the electricity bill 2022 that would allow states to generate and distribute power as well as solve the sector’s challenges.”

On poverty reduction, which Atiku said would be the ‘centrepiece of our economic development agenda’, Mohammed said, could it be that His Excellency has not heard about our National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), the unprecedented programme that is directly and indirectly impacting the lives of poor Nigerians and creating jobs, especially for the youths, through four clusters, namely: the N-Power Programme, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), the National Home-Grown School Feeding System (NHGSFP) and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme.

He said, “From 2016 to date, the NSIP, which has received commendation from many international agencies, has empowered 1 million youths while an additional 500,000 are undergoing various training under the N-Power programme; enrolled 1,632,480 households in the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and gave productive cash grants of N150,000 each to 4,234 people.

“The NSIP has also stimulated unprecedented enrolments in public primary schools through the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme that is feeding 9.8 million children, while there are 2,424,253 beneficiaries of the GEEP loans under TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni, in addition to a total of 1,142,783 individuals who have registered to benefit from GEEP 2.0 under the three loan products. These programmes represent a practical demonstration of the progressive achievement of the President’s target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030.

“The former Vice President told his audience that if elected, his Administration would ‘establish a strong partnership (with the private sector) in investing in infrastructure, creating jobs, income and in the fight against poverty’.

“Let’s inform His Excellency that the Buhari Administration’s “warm handshake” with the private sector has delivered and is delivering an unprecedented number of projects, including the 650,000bpd Dangote Refinery, Dangote Fertilizer plant, Lekki Deep Sea Port, BUA Cement, the 5,000bpd Waltersmith Modular Refinery in Imo State; the 2,500bpd Duport Modular Refinery/Energy Park in Edo State; the 2,000bpd Atlantic Modular Refinery in Bayelsa State; the 12,000bpd, Azikel Modular Refinery also in Bayelsa; the five LPG Bottling plants and six LPG depots in 10 northern states and Abuja, the 48,000 L/D base oil production plant in Rivers and the 10,000 Metric Tonnes Per Day methanol production plant in Bayelsa, just to mention a few. These refineries and other projects are the result of a “warm handshake” between the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and private sector actors.

“The private sector is also involved in the ongoing infrastructure development through the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, which I mentioned earlier.”

Shockingly, he said the former Vice President seems to know little or nothing about the Buhari Administration’s unprecedented efforts to make fertilizer available at affordable prices to Nigerian farmers, and how global developments have negatively impacted on the price of fertilizer today, when he said ‘farmers now pay 200% more for a bag of fertilizer – if they see it – than they did in 2020’.

He said it is an unfortunate statement that reflected the total lack of understanding of the issues at stake.

He said the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI), which was flagged-off in December 2016 by President Buhari, aimed to support the domestic blending of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer in order to reduce the challenges of the Nigerian farmers.

“The PFI delivered on key outcomes, including over 30 million bags of 50kg NPK 20:10:10 equivalent during the project period and price reduction on fertilizer from over N10,000 to under N5,500.

“Over its 5-year run, the programme succeeded in increasing the number of blending plants from only 4 to 72 through the rejuvenation of 68 moribund blending plants, creating hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs and thousands of direct jobs in the process.

“But a number of factors, which are beyond this Administration, led to the current situation in which the cost of fertilizer rose to between 110 and 150% (That’s between N15,000 for NPK 20:10:10 and N23,000 for NPK 15:15:15).

“These factors include a three-fold increase in the cost of natural gas, a primary feedstock in fertilizer production, post-COVID-19 shutdowns of key raw materials manufacturing plants, sanctions imposed on Belarus and Russia, occasioned by the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the impact of significant domestic inflation on global and in-country logistics and transportation of fertilizer raw materials.

“It is also pertinent to recall that President Buhari had negotiated a fixed price for Phosphate at $290/MT and a fixed discount of $15/MT for Potash from the government of Morocco and Russia, respectively.

“The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative purchased raw materials at these prices for four years, between 2017 and 2020.

From 2021 however, upon the restructuring of PFI, raw material purchases were undertaken at globally-traded prices. Phosphate prices increased 32% from $290/MT in 2017 to $1,255.0/MT in 2022, Potash prices rose by 364% moving from $256.0/MT in 2017 to $1,187.5/MT in 2022, while Urea prices rose by 246% from about $300/MT in 2018 to $1,037.5/MT in 2022. Under this development, no magic can keep the price of fertilizer at what it was before the astronomical increase in the cost of production.”

In his presentation, he said the former Vice President said ‘Nigeria under the APC-led government has consistently run on budget deficits since it came to power in 2015’, and that these ‘budget deficits are often above the 3 per cent threshold permissible under the Fiscal Responsibility Law’, he said this is a misrepresentation of the facts.

“The truth is that Nigeria has been running on budget deficits since 2009 (not since 2015), even when oil prices were over US$100 per barrel.

“You will recall that oil prices fell significantly from mid-2014, resulting in the country’s economic recession in 2016.

“The urgency to recover from the recession through an expansionary fiscal policy resulted in the continued budget deficits. However, in the last three years, the deficit level exceeded the 3% threshold stipulated in the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2007,” he said.

Again, he said this is understandable because shortly after the Nigerian economy recovered from recession, it was hit by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“What His Excellency failed to tell

his audience is that the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Section 12(2),

allows for the budget deficit to exceed the 3% threshold if, in the

opinion of the President, there is a clear and present threat to

national security or the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of

Nigeria. Gentlemen, you will agree that the Covid-19 pandemic

triggered an existential threat in all economies of the world, Nigeria

inclusive.

“Though Nigeria quickly recovered from the economic

recession, it is now facing the effects of the Russia-Ukraine war, the lingering impact of COVID-19, and

elevated inflation in most economies, prompting monetary tightening, with the adverse effects on capital inflow to emerging markets

economies.

“While Nigeria may be facing economic challenges, the former Vice President’s pronouncement that the future of the country’s economy is

‘bleak’ is sheer scaremongering. The country’s economic outlook is not

bleak. Instead, the economy has been resilient, having recovered from

two recessions within five years – in 2016 and 2020.

“The Nigerian

economy sustained its recovery from the 2020 recession for the 7th

consecutive quarter, growing by 3.54% in real terms in Q2 2022, from

3.11% in Q1 2022. Many sectors recorded positive economic growth,

reflecting the effective implementation of policy measures prescribed

in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), Annual Budgets, Finance

Acts and National Development Plan (NDP),” he said.

On debt, he said the former Vice President said ‘we will review the

country’s debt strategy by focusing on concessional and

semi-concessional sources with lower interest rates and relatively

long-term maturity.’ Again, he said that is already being done by this

Administration.

“In order to manage debt service cost and reduce refinancing risk, the thrust of the strategy is that this administration will maximize concessional borrowing from multilateral and bilateral sources.

“In addition, new borrowing in the domestic and international capital markets would be for long tenors. Concessional borrowings are, in any case, long-term loans.

“To confirm the commitment to the above strategy and their implementation, over 58 per cent of the External Debt Stock as at March 31, 2022 was from multilateral and bilateral sources while short term domestic debt was less than 22 per cent of the Total Domestic Debt Stock as at the same date,” he said.

In any case, he said the Lagos-Ibadan, the Abuja-Kaduna and the Warri-Itakpe

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standard gauge rail lines were constructed with concessional loans,

just like the ongoing rehabilitation of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri

narrow gauge line.

“Same applies to the new airport terminals in Abuja,

Lagos, Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt. So, the former Vice President

has not said anything new,” he stated

And on security, he said “all that the leader of a party that frittered the

money meant for the purchase of weapons and platforms for the military

on frivolous activities could say is ‘we will take tough and difficult

decisions on security matters without fear or favour.’

“Really? While

they lost confidence in our military and opted instead for mercenaries, President Buhari, who has never wavered in his belief in the capability of our fighting forces, steadily and surely re-equipped

the military, which today is decimating the bandits and terrorists

that had held sway in some parts of the country, thus restoring

security.”

He further stated that he is not really very surprised that His

Excellency the former Vice President only reeled out, “in his so-called

Economic Blueprint, what we have been doing in the past seven years

plus in infrastructure development, infrastructure financing, poverty

reduction, power reform, job creation, relationship with the private

sector, debt management and the overall management of the economy.”

He said that’s what you get from someone who leaves the country after losing an election, only to parachute into town when another election is due.

“It is a measure of how much this Administration has achieved in

all sectors that the best the opposition could do is to seek to copy

what the Administration has been doing.

“Yet, the opposition – in its

desperation to get power – has continued to deny and derogate the

Administration’s achievements. For the record, there is nothing we

have said today on the achievements of this Administration that we

haven’t said before.

“No amount of deceit, misrepresentation, scaremongering, distortion of facts or derogation can subtract from

the visible achievements of the Buhari Administration,” he said.

He added that an Administration that engaged in massive infrastructure

development despite paucity of resources, an Administration that

introduced the most expansive and effective poverty reduction and job

creation policy in the history of this country, an Administration that

re-equipped the military to tackle daunting security challenges

instead of resorting to the use of mercenaries, an Administration that

is moving the nation from darkness to light by embarking on the

most-ambitious electricity project yet, an Administration that is

partnering with the private sector to tackle the challenges facing the

nation, and an Administration that borrowed to rebuild rather than for

consumption should not be denigrated by an opposition that lacks originality, and an opposition that is aping a government it derides.

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