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Analysis: Verifying Some Claims From Buhari’s June 12 Speech

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CLAIM 1: We have made solid progress in fighting corruption in the past four years

CONCLUSION: While “solid progress” is difficult to measure, data shows that Buhari has prosecuted more corruption cases than his predecessor. However, this progress is marred by the general belief that it is “selective”, as well as Transparency International’s Report ranking Nigeria as 144 out of 180 countries in its Corruption Perception Index

CLAIM 2: We have made solid progress in the area of economic growth and agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession

CONCLUSION: Again, a vague term is used but reports by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, World Bank and even NBS show that the economy didn’t do as much as projected. In fact, unless the economy picks up significantly in the next quarters, 2019 will be the third straight year in which economic growth falls short of the ERGP’s projection

CLAIM 3: Today, we are meeting the challenges of security with much greater support to the security forces in terms of money, equipment and improved local intelligence. We are meeting these challenges with superior firepower and resolve

CONCLUSION: Although there appears to be a marked improvement, Amnesty International in 2018 accused the Nigerian government of not doing enough to curb series of violence that claimed. Data from the Nigeria Security Tracker showed that since the beginning of the current administration, crisis situations mostly Boko Haram attacks have caused the death of 10,108 persons in the north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. In Melete, some Nigerian soldiers in a video accused top commanders in the army of leading them to “Boko Haram insurgents armed with obsolete weapons while enriching themselves with cash meant for buying better arms.”

CLAIM 4: Our Social Intervention Programmes have become a model for other nations. Together with the State Governments, we provide millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and of course, conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society

CONCLUSION: There’s no reference, in the media, of the SIPs being models for other countries. Investigations carried out have also shown how the SIPs have been steeped in fraudulent practices, corruption, kickbacks, fraud and partisanship. Recently, a new report by the world poverty clock showed that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, despite these “model programmes”

FULL TEXT:

On June 12, many Nigerians, including leaders from several African countries gathered at the Eagle Square, Abuja to commemorate the 2019 Inaugural Democracy Day.

Before now, Nigeria always commemorated the restoration of democracy  on May 29. But last    year, in a move that drew cheers from many quarters, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law, the Public Holiday (Amendment) Bill, which legalized June 12 as Nigeria’s new democracy day. The change was to among other things, honour the winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, MKO, Abiola.

The event of June 12, 1993 has been described by many observers as the most significant and most memorable in Nigeria’s post-independence political history even as the election is still being viewed as the freest, fairest and most peaceful ever held in Nigeria.

On May 29, the president failed to give his inauguration speech even after he took the oath of office signaling the commencement of his tenure as Nigeria’s President for a second term. He finally delivered it on June 12- Nigeria’s new democracy day.

While delivering his speech, Buhari made quite a number of promises all of which revolved around his determination to move the country to the next level. He also spoke about some of the challenges his administration has faced so far as well as achievements recorded in the past four years.

[To listen to his entire speech, see this video.]

 

CLAIM ONE: “None but the most partisan will dispute that in the last four years, we have made solid progress in fighting corruption”

Upon his election and swearing-in as President on 29th May, 2015, Buhari focused on the anti-corruption war by tweaking the headships of key Federal Government’s anti-corruption agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC); Department of State Security (DSS); Nigeria Immigration and Prisons Services; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); the Armed Forces Services Chiefs; Nigeria Police Force; among others.

Expectedly, he has prosecuted high profile politicians, civil servants and retired military officers for corruption and secured convictions in a handful of cases, with billions of naira recovered.

Available data show that between 2015 and May of 2019, there were a total of 1,192 convictions of all the cases filed in court. A further break down of the data shows that in 2015, there were 103 convictions; in 2016, there were 194 convictions; in 2017, 189 while 315 convictions were secured in 2018 and 391 between January and May, 2019.    

Although data reviewed showed that the number of convictions since 2015 outweighed that of the former administration between 2010-2014, where the EFCC secured only 465 convictions out of the 1,610 cases filed, public opinion suggests that the current president’s scorecard in fighting corruption has been selective and  targeted mostly at members of the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).

To start with, Buhari’s failure to prosecute a prominent State Governor, Ganduje, who is one of his close political allies, after the governor was secretly filmed collecting $230,000 which is part of a series of cash advancement to the governor in a total bribery deal of $5 million and subsequent reference to the governor as a responsible leader, has accentuated the perception that he is only interested in dealing with his political enemies.

In fact, the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) had written to the President over his failure to direct the Minister of Justice or appropriate anti-corruption agencies to investigate allegations of bribery on the governor. But no response from the presidency.

Also, the EFCC has refused to say whether it had launched an investigation to find out how former Governor and national leader of the APC, Bola Tinubu, came about the bullion vans that drove into his home in February 2019, just a day to the general elections. Nigerians had mounted pressure on the anti-graft office to open money laundering probe against him. But the Commission said that it was a matter of principle by the EFCC not to discuss in public, issues that border around investigations.

Furthermore, Buhari implemented the Treasury Single Account initiative which theoretically makes it more difficult for officials to steal money. But there is no available data to show how the $1bn (£775m) Buhari released from the country’s Crude Excess Account to fund the fight against Boko Haram has been spent.

Even the Home Grown School Feeding Programme which aims to provide free school meals to pupils in order to reduce the primary school dropout rate, as well as other Social Investment Programmes have been shrouded with secrecy on how money is being spent and the direct recipients of these initiatives. To make things worse, the wife of the President, Aisha Buhari lamented at a State House function that her husband’s “social investment programmes have failed”,

Although the president appears to be selective in his corruption fight, media reports suggest that the EFCC has set up an investigative team to probe four former governors, three out of which are members of the APC, for corruption.

They include: Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, Abdufatah Ahmed of Kwara State, Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun and Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State. While Yari was alleged to have diverted $500,000 from the state coffers in 2017, Amosun would be investigated for misappropriation of N4billion Anchors Borrowers Fund given to the state by the Central Bank of Nigeria.

Okorocha would be investigated for moving over 1 billion from the state government to aid the campaign activities of Uche Nwosu, his son-in-law while Ahmed would be investigated for diverting the sum of N1billion from the state coffers, a few days before the presidential election.

A political ally of the president and a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation who was credibly accused of N544m fraud with three other suspects is currently being prosecuted in court.

Nevertheless, in its Corruption Perception Index (CPI) for 2018 released in January, 2019, Transparency International reported that Nigeria scored 27 out of 100 points which means that the country ranks 144 out of 180 countries this year. 

Although this means that Nigeria has moved up 4 places (from 148 in 2017 to 144 in 2018), the anti-corruption body maintained that Nigeria is still perceived as a country deep in corruption without clear policies to address the menace.

In 2016, Nigeria scored 28 points and ranked 136th in the ranking of countries. With the one point reduction in the score, Nigeria slipped in the country ranking by 12 positions, from 136 in 2016 to 148 in 2017.

 

CLAIM TWO: “Solid progress has been made in the area of economic growth and agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession”

Several reports from newspapers reviewed and data accessed from researches and studies carried out show that the president’s claim here is far from the truth.

A newly published report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services network titled “Nigeria Economic Outlook - Top 10 themes for 2019, shows that Nigerian is not among the fastest growing economies in Sub-Saharan Africa. The report ranked the countries based on the percentage growth in GDP and the opportunities for business growth, particularly when considering an expansion into new regions.

In the latest World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking for 2018, Nigeria ranked 146 among 190 economies, dropping by a spot from its 145th position in 2017.  In 2016, the country ranked 169 and in 2015, it ranked 170. The available data shows a level of inconsistency in the country’s ranking.

After Nigeria suffered a recession in 2016 – its first in over two decades, the government came up with a plan which led to its launch of theEconomic Recovery and Growth Plan” (ERGP) in March 2017 with lots of bold projections which focused on restoring growth, investing in people and building a globally competitive economy.

Latest data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that the plan is well off-course. While the ERGP projected strong GDP growth rate of 4.5% in 2019, NBS report shows the economy grew by 2.01% in the first quarter of the year- a slowdown in growth from the growth rate of 2.4 in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Unless the economy picks up significantly in the next quarters, 2019 will be the third straight year in which economic growth falls short of the ERGP’s projection.

Unemployment, especially among young people is still widespread and it keeps growing, having increased to 23.1 percent in the third quarter of 2018 from 22.70 percent in the second quarter and 21.8 in the first quarter of the same year.

CLAIM THREE: “The difference between 2015 and today is that we are meeting the challenges of security with much greater support to the security forces in terms of money, equipment and improved local intelligence. We are meeting these challenges with superior firepower and resolve

The Government and the leadership of the military have repeatedly talked of how they have dealt with the lingering challenge of insecurity, especially, insurgency. But how true is the claim. What do existing facts and figures say?

A report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), an NGO that collates and analyzes data on political violence and protest around the world shows that Boko Haram’s activity and associated fatality “are down since 2015 but the group remains active and deadly.”

Data from the Nigeria Security Tracker showed that since the beginning of the current administration, crisis situations mostly Boko Haram attacks have caused the death of 10,108 persons in the north-eastern states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, as against the 22,360 persons killed under the same circumstances between 2011 and 2015.

Although this appears to be a marked improvement, Amnesty International in 2018 accused the Nigerian government of not doing enough to curb series of violence that claimed more than 1,800 lives the same year. The body insisted that by failing to hold murderers to account, Nigerian authorities are encouraging impunity that is fuelling rising insecurity across the country.

Insurgents have attacked several military bases and killed scores of military men, with the recent  attack on a military location in Borno State, where the Commanding Officer of 158 Battalion, and an undisclosed number of soldiers were killed.

On November 18, 2018, an army base in Melete, Northeastern State of Borno was overrun by Boko Haram militants. It was estimated that over one hundred soldiers were killed and significant military material looted.

The toll was said to be among the highest since President Buhari came to power in 2015. After the attack, the president reiterated his administration’s commitment to ensure appropriate funding for the Armed Forces in order to enhance the capacity of its personnel and deepen professionalism in the fight against insecurity.

But last July, Amnesty International reported that Zamfara State was at the mercy of armed bandits as at least 371 people have been killed in 2018 alone, with at least 238 of these killings taking place after the deployment of the Nigerian air force.

Recall that in 2017, the government launched Operation Harbbin Kunama I, which marked the first deployment of special forces to curb the crisis. In 2018, it launched the second phase of the operation. But nothing much has changed. On April 1, 2019, the government launched the third phase of the operations which has still not translated into protection for remote, vulnerable communities in the state.

Zamfara has been at the centre of a wave of attacks by bandits since the beginning of the year, with over 262 civilian deaths so far from the attacks. On July 17th there was the report of how triple suicide bombing by Boko Haram killed 30 people in the northeastern Nigerian town of Konduga and left over 40 people injured.

Before the attack in Melete, some Nigerian soldiers in a video accused top commanders in the army of leading them to “Boko Haram insurgents armed with obsolete weapons while enriching themselves with cash meant for buying better arms.”

There have been claims that the Buhari administration and the Nigerian military are inadequately equipping soldiers for the fight against insurgency and other security challenges. This seems to be the reason for their not-so-encouraging outing against insurgents.

Commanding officers in the army have pointed to several years of complaints about inadequate food and equipment supplies, some of which have led to confrontations with military chiefs.

In December 2016, for instance, there was the report of how some soldiers attempted to lynch Victor Ezeugwu who was the then commander of Nigerian Army 7 Division headquarters at Maimalari Cantonment, after he left them on the battlefront for two days without food supplies.

Similarly in 2017, soldiers on the battlefield talked about how they were enduring weeks without allowance, which they had long decried as inadequate considering the assignment they were being given.

As if to corroborate this, the Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, in a report by Premium Times accused soldiers of displaying a poor commitment to defend the country in almost every task they had been assigned, a situation he described as “unfortunate”.

“It is unfortunate, but the truth is that almost every setback the Nigeria army has had in our operations in recent times can be traced to insufficient willingness to perform assigned tasks” he was quoted to have said.

  

CLAIM FOUR: Our Social Intervention Programmes have become a model for other nations. Together with the State Governments, we provide millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and of course, conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society

In answer to the demand of Nigerians on Buhari’s Government to act quickly and take the country out of recession, President Buhari introduced some Social Investment Programmes (SIPs) aimed at alleviating the suffering of the teeming masses.

In his 2016 anniversary speech, Buhari enumerated the SIPs to include: The Home Grown School Feeding Programme for primary school pupils; the Conditional Cash Transfer to the extremely poor; the N-Power volunteer Corps 500,000 jobs intervention scheme for University Graduates; and the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme, which is essentially a loan scheme to be handled by the Bank of Industry.

Investigations carried out have shown how the SIPs have been steeped in fraudulent practices, corruption, kickbacks, fraud and partisanship.

The 5,000 monthly cash transfer, for instance, is ultimately to bring the recipients out of poverty. But since December, 2016 when the payment started, only 297,973 caregivers are being paid in what appears to be a drop in the ocean. Every two months, the Federal Government disburses nearly 3 billion to the beneficiaries (which no one knows). But with millions of outstretched hands in need of financial assistance, the cash transfer scheme has turned into a lottery.

There have been calls for the end of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme which has gulped N49 billion in the last two years, according to the presidency, through feeding 9,300,892 pupils in 49, 837 schools in 24 states across Nigeria, and empowering 96,972 cooks. When put together, a total of N220 billion has so far bee­n released within the period to facilitate the imp­lementation of GFs N-Power, NHGSFP, NCTP and GEEP, the four major components­ of the programme.

And a new report by the world poverty clock has shown that Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day. This is despite the FGs touted SIPs. There’s also no reference, in the media, of the SIPs being models for other countries. 

 


From the analysis above, it is arguable that the president only tried to calm frayed nerves with his democracy Day speech because the country does not seem to be faring as he claimed. With the skewed corruption fight, dwindling economic policies, lingering security challenge, Nigerians continue to ask for better days.

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