Nigeria: What President Buhari's Last Year Tells Us About His Coming Years

President Muhammadu Buhari
31 May 2021

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Deji Elumoye carry out a critical appraisal of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration in the last one year

The year 2020 was a year the entire world will not forget very easily. The entire year became identified, to a large extent, with the COVID-19 global pandemic. No country was spares the harrowing experience that took millions of lives around the world and devastated the economies of countries in the world including Nigeria. Although the outbreak of the pandemic was reported by the end of 2019 in China, most countries failed to pay attention to the information with the believe that the pandemic was an Asian medical challenge that will be restricted to that part of the world, not knowing that in a matter of weeks it was going to affect the entire universe.

Incidentally, Nigeria was one of the countries that reacted late to the COVID-19 epidemic challenge. It took the first COVID-19 reported case in Lagos in March, 2020 for the Federal Government to actually rise up to the occasion by putting necessary machinery in place to fight the scourge.

While the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) has been in charge of Nigeria's Coronavirus response in the areas of testing, communication, and surveillance, the task of coordinating vaccination rests squarely on the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).

To demonstrate seriousness and commitment to the fight against the disease, the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 was established by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 9, 2020, to coordinate and oversee Nigeria's multi-sectoral inter-governmental efforts to contain the spread and mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria. The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha heads the PTF.

Earlier this year, the Federal Government announced that the COVID-19 vaccine will arrive by March, which is exactly one year after the disease was reported in Nigeria..

The Government of Nigeria through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) is leading Nigeria's efforts to access safe, effective and efficacious COVID-19 vaccines.

NPHCDA shared a link to a website where citizens were expected to book their vaccination appointments. Despite the outlined phases, it was discovered that there are no restrictions around the vaccination dates available to different population groups or around who is able to register.

The registration process also does not provide any means for the government to verify those claiming to be front-line workers. As at now , a greater number of the populace are yet to get the first jab of the vaccination but there are assurances that more vaccine will be imported to take care of the demands while those who have gotten the first jabs are also waiting in the wings for the second jab.

Only about 10 percent pf Nigeria's population have been vaccinated. At the weekend, President Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo received the second dose of vaccination.

A few states have stated clearly that they cannot continue to bear the cost of vaccination for citizens, therefore the fate of many is hanging in the balance.

With this apparent uncertainty in many states of the country, many have criticised the federal and state governments for giving the vaccine free to wealthy Nigerians and politicians who can afford to pay for it, while having no plans for the poor and the vulnerable. The way things are going, the government's plans to inoculate 40 percent of Nigeria's 200 million people this year and another 30 percent in 2022 may not be realised.

In many parts of the country, life has seemingly returned to normal with little or no observance of COVID-19 protocols. Nigeria is Africa's most populous and Nigerians have a reputation for travelling widely around the world, marking the country out for close monitoring by global health institutions like the World Health Organisation (WHO).

EndSARS Protests

The EndSARS protests were a series of mass protests against police brutality in Nigeria with the central protest point at Lekki toll gate in Lagos. Within a few days of renewed protests, on October 11, 2020, the Nigerian Police Force announced that it was dissolving the unit with immediate effect. The move was widely received as a triumph of the demonstrations. However, it was noted in many quarters that similar announcements had been made in the past years to pacify the public without the unit actually being disbanded, and that the government had merely planned to reassign and review SARS officers to medical centres rather than disband the unit entirely. Protests were thereafter intensified with the Federal Government maintaining a pattern of violent repression including alleged killing of demonstrators.

This move resulted in EndSARS protests being intensified at international level in London, Moscow and other cities across the globe. As the protest was hijacked by hoodlums who used the opportunity to steal, destroy and burn public and private property, it resulted into an unfortunate bloody confrontation with security forces The, which allegedly led to loss of lives. SARS personnel were thereafter recalled by the Police High Command to the Force Headquarters in Abuja for proper profiling and redeployment and ever since nothing much has been heard about affected police officers and men.

In Lagos, which was the epicentre of the protests, the estimated loss from public buildings alone was put at trillions of Naira.

However, the judicial commission of inquiry established in many states have continued to work behind the scene, while unearthing mind boggling atrocities of SARS operatives.

Buhari's Medical Trip

The COVID-19 pandemic which hit the country in 2020 did not allow the President to travel overseas for his routine medical check up. But as the pandemic lockdown eased in 2021, President Buhari made a 19-day medical trip in March to London, United Kingdom to see his doctors. The President's overseas medical trip brought to the front burner the need for Nigerian hospitals to be equipped in line with global best practices. It is the believe of medical experts that the high rate of medical tourism by Nigeria's political leaders was a direct reflection of the policy failure in the country's health sector. There is therefore the need for the Federal Government to adequately equip the teaching hospitals as well as the federal medical centres so that there would be no need for any public official to embark on medical tourism overseas.

Another issue which got tongues wagging during Buhari's absence from the country was the fact he did not handover the administration to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. The President's confidently said he could rule Nigeria from anywhere, but the point that the President exploited was that he did not stay away from the country longer than the constitution permits.

Review of the 2020 Budget

The 2020 Appropriation Act which was assented to by President Buhari in December, 2019 was adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic as the global price of oil fell and it affected the revenue being expected from crude oil sales ro the Federal Government. The executive therefore had no choice but to do a review of the already passed budget. In the revised budget, allocations were made to cushion the effect of the pandemic on the citizenry after necessary consultation with the legislative arm of government.

In the revised N10.8 trillion budget, N500 billion was earmarked as intervention funds for the fight against COVID-19, while the health sector got N186 billion allocation.

The review of the budget was necessitated by the impact of the COVID-19 which adversely affected the oil price and by extension the revenue projections of the government.

The passed 2020 revised budget is N300 billion more than the budget plan that was originally submitted by President Buhari. It also increases the projected oil price by $3 per barrel, which is from $25 per barrel to $28 per barrel.

Sack of the Service Chiefs and the IGP

For the better part of 2020, the rising level of insecurity across the country became a cause of concern to all and sundry with various calls from individuals and groups for the sack of the service chiefs. But despite the mounting security challenges and the calls to sack the service chiefs , the President retained them and never moved against the top military brass until early in 2021, giving room to all kinds of insinuations including thoughts he may have entered a pact with them that ensured that the President was returned for a second tenure in 2019. When they were eventually relieved of their appointments and later appointed as ambassadors of Nigeria to foreign countries those who canvassed the 'agreement theory ' between the President and the service chiefs found a reason to gloat.

While the President relieved the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the three service chiefs early in 2021, he allowed Mohammed Adamu to remain as Inspector General of Police. In fact when Adamu's tenure ended in February, the President extended his tenure by three months to allow for a proper successor but midway into the extension the police boss was removed in March while the President was on medical vacation in the United Kingdom.

With the replacement of the service chiefs and IGP, the security architecture of the country is expected to change and the new military helmsmen and IG have pledged to meet the peoples expectation by ensuring that security skirmishes across the country become a thing of the past in shortest possible time.

More Loans for the FG

The Federal Government has continued to defend its request for foreign loans to keep the economy running. The Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed, was always at hand to defend the executive's move to take loans from World Bank as well as other international finance bodies.

Late last year, the executive had presented a $22.7 billion proposal for infrastructure development to the legislative arm for approval

In the loan request letter, President Buhari explained that the external borrowing plan targets projects cuts across all sectors with special emphasis on infrastructure, agriculture, health, education, water supply, growth and employment generation.

The request was approved in April, 2021 after the consideration of the report of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts presented by Chairman of the committee, Senator Clifford Ordia, who read the report which recommended that the Senate approve the request. After heated arguments by the Senators, the loan request was approved.

The main concern here is the need to ensure that the approved external loans are used for the purpose they are meant. This brings into focus the need for the two chambers of the National Assembly to be alive to their responsibilities especially in the area of oversighting the executive arm in line with the provisions of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (As amended).

The APC Caretaker Committee

Only the President's intervention saved the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) from disintegration when reined in all the contending forces after a court removed Comrade Adams Oshiomhole as the National Chairman of the APC. So far, respect for the President and the solution which he offered in the form of a caretaker/extraordinary convention Committee seems to thinning out as the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led committee has used every ploy to extend its tenure from the initial six months to one year. The APC lost Edo, but retained Ondo state. Only a few weeks, the party returned its colours to the South-south region of the country with the defection of Governor Ben Ayade of Cross River State from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the APC.

Insecurity Unlimited, Calls for Impeachment, Resignation

There is no gain saying that the Buhari administration has lost control of effective security of lives and property of Nigerian citizens. As this report was being written, a prominent politician from Northern Nigeria and member of the APC, Ahmed Gulak was hacked to death in Imo State in the South-east. There were reports that 200 students were kidnapped in Niger State, where Governor had earlier alerted the nation the Boko Haram insurgents were a few kilometres away from Nigeria's federal capital, Abuja. The remaining students from Greenfield University were freed by abductors after over 40 days and payment of tens of millions of Naira by their parents who said they received no help from government.

The Indigenous Peoples pf Biafra (IPOB) ordered a sit-at-home in the South-east states, where a Police CID headquarters was burnt in Abia State. All of these happened in 48 hours. In Akwa Ibom the police has been sacked in Essien Udim local government area. In Rivers State, there is an unending war between security forces and elements of the IPOB. Offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are routinely destroyed around the country. There is no part of the country that is secure and at peace. This worrisome scenario has led to calls for the President's resignation or impeachment from prominent individuals and organisations including the Northern Elders Forum, who insist that the primary constitutional duty of government is to ensure the live and property of the people. A duty they claim the President has failed.

QUOTE 1

A few states have stated clearly that they cannot continue to bear the cost of vaccination for citizens, therefore the fate of many is hanging in the balance.

With this apparent uncertainty in many states of the country, many have criticised the federal and state governments for giving the vaccine free to wealthy Nigerians and politicians who can afford to pay for it, while having no plans for the poor and the vulnerable. The way things are going, the government's plans to inoculate 40 percent of Nigeria's 200 million people this year and another 30 percent in 2022 may not be realised

QUOTE 2

Despite the mounting security challenges and the calls to sack the service chiefs , the President retained them and never moved against the top military brass until early in 2021, giving room to all kinds of insinuations including thoughts he may have entered a pact with them that ensured that the President was returned for a second tenure in 2019. When they were eventually relieved of their appointments and later appointed as ambassadors of Nigeria to foreign countries those who canvassed the 'agreement theory ' between the President and the service chiefs found a reason to gloat. While the President relieved the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and the three service chiefs early in 2021, he allowed Mohammed Adamu to remain as Inspector General of Police. In fact when Adamu's tenure ended in February, the President extended his tenure by three months to allow for a proper successor but midway into the extension the police boss was removed in March while the President was on medical vacation in the United Kingdom

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