Examining top 10 Buhari’s claims in Independence Day speech

Nigeria’s Independence Day has for the past 57 years served as a platform for governments to preach unity, highlight their achievements and announce plans for the future.

By Samuel Ogundipe.

Yet, most of those speeches are often laced with falsehoods or half-truths. President Olusegun Obasanjo’s 2005 Independence Day speech was criticised for its inconsistencies, and President Goodluck Jonathan’s 54th Independence Day address in 2012 was ridiculed for its devious attempt to amass strong anti-corruption credentials on the coattails of Transparency International.

While President Muhammadu Buhari promised a break from all ills of the past, he has been caught with unsubstantiated claims since assuming office in 2015.

In his October 1, 2017 address, the president falsely claimed that opposition parties did not start winning elections at local, state and federal levels until he became president. He also incorrectly stated that power generation reached an all-time high last month.

Not all of the president’s claims in the speech, his third Independence Day address, were deceptive, however. To separate fact from fiction, PREMIUM TIMES is examining top 10 claims made by the president a week ago.

Claim One

“We should remind ourselves of the recent journey from 1999-2015 when our country happily returned to democratic rule.

“However, in spite of oil prices being an average of $100 per barrel and about 2.1 million barrels a day, that great piece of luck was squandered and the country’s social and physical infrastructure neglected.

“We were left with no savings and huge infrastructure deficit,” Mr. Buhari said.

First, the part about depleted coffers and a dearth of infrastructure is a matter of both fact and personal opinion. Nigeria, as a developing country, is still far behind in infrastructure. That’s a statement of fact.

But what counts as “no savings” remains vague. The National Sovereign Investment Authority, established in 2011, had more than N200 billion in savings when Mr. Buhari assumed office in 2015.

The government also met a dividend of $2.1 billion on its equity in the state-owned Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Limited.

Also, the excess crude account had a balance of $2.07 billion as at May 2015 when Mr. Buhari gained power.

While these funds cannot be described as significant for a country of estimated 180 million people, it would be inaccurate to claim that ‘no savings’ were met.

This point is also worth emphasising because Mr. Buhari had once stated that he met a “virtually empty treasury” with humongous debt.

Now, is it true that Nigeria recorded “an average of $100 per barrel and about 2.1 million barrels a day” between 1999 and 2015?

Not according to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC. The cartel has data on crude sales since 1960.

Statista, a data collation platform, published the average annual crude price recorded by OPEC since 1960 here.

Based on the OPEC data, the average price of crude oil between 1999 and 2015 was $61.07 per barrel, which is clearly a far cry from the president’s figure.

For the production output, PREMIUM TIMES obtained data from the National Bureau of Statistics and Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

Data from the NBS, which was sent to this newspaper by its Director-General Yemi Kale, showed that Nigeria had a daily average of 2.3 million barrels per day between 1999 and 2015.

Waziri Adio, NEITI’s executive secretary, also made production data available for his agency, from 1999 to 2014.

The NEITI data placed Nigeria’s daily production output at 2.3 million barrels between 1999 and 2014. Both figures are more than what the president claimed, strengthening his case there.

But back to the average price, even Mr. Buhari has not been consistent with the timeline of his claim.

Since 2016, the president had attached at least three different timelines to his $100-a-barrel claim.

In his 2016 May 29 Democracy Day speech, he said: “From 2010, average oil prices were $100 per barrel.”

By October 1, when he addressed the country at Independence, Mr. Buhari had modified his statement to oil prices being “an average of hundred USD per barrel over the last decade,”

By this year’s Independence Day, the timeline had widened to “1999-2015.”

If anything, these inconsistencies speak to the unreliability of the president’s own source.

Since the president got one of two assertions right, PREMIUM TIMES rates this claim as half true.

Claim Two

“In the past two years, Nigeria has recorded appreciable gains in political freedom.

“A political party at the centre losing elections of state governor, National Assembly seat and even State Assemblies to the opposition parties is new to Nigeria,” Mr. Buhari.

This claim has no bearing with what Nigeria’s democratic experience has been for nearly two decades of uninterrupted constitutional republic.

In 2003, the Peoples Democratic Party was in control of the federal government and most states following its victory in 1999.

Although the general elections of April 2003 saw the party maintain its grip on the centre — as well as a majority of states— nine states went to the opposition parties across the country.

The opposition parties included Mr. Buhari’s own All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP, under which he ran for president in the 2003 election, losing to Mr. Obasanjo.

At the 2007 elections, with Mr. Obasanjo still president, 12 states went to opposition parties.

The 2011 polls saw the number of opposition state governors increase to 13, out of the 36 states.

A day after his re-election on July 14, 2012, former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, appreciated Mr. Jonathan for his hands-off approach during the exercise.

“I am impressed because the army actually played a neutral role in the election,’’ Mr. Oshiomhole said, describing Mr. Jonathan as “a statesman” and “a man of honour.”

Clearly, Mr. Buhari was not telling the truth when he claimed opposition only started flourishing under his government.

Interestingly, only one governorship candidate running on opposition platform clinched victory under Mr. Buhari. Two of the three gubernatorial elections held since 2015 went to the ruling All Progressives Congress. Governor Seriake Dickson won re-election in Bayelsa on the platform of PDP while Edo State and Ondo State went to the APC.

This claim is therefore rated false.

Claim Three

“On security, Nigerians must be grateful to our gallant Armed Forces for rolling back the frontiers of Boko Haram’s terrorism, defeating them and reducing them to cowardly attacks on soft and vulnerable targets,” Mr. Buhari said.

We looked at this claim when the president made it during his 2016 Independence Day speech and found it to be mostly false.

Very little has changed since then. While Boko Haram has not carried out attacks as vigorous as it used to in recent months, it cannot be said to have been defeated.

As recently as July, the sect still carried out a major assault on soldiers and oil prospectors in Borno State, where it has run riot since 2009, leaving dozens dead.

Similarly, an estimated 223 people were killed by terrorists between April and September this year, according to Amnesty International.

Regular attacks are still being reported, with the Army admitting an assault on soldiers as recently as last week.

Due to the gallantry of our troops and the significant improvement in the Chibok girls debacle, we upgrade this claim from being incorrect last year to barely true now.

Claim Four

“Power remains a huge problem. As of September 12th, production of power reached an all-time high of 7,001 Megawatts,” Mr. Buhari said.

This claim is rated false because Nigeria already attained an average available capacity of 7,141 between January and August 2015, according to Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry.

Claim Five

“I am glad to say that after many years of limbo, Mambilla Power Project has taken off,” Mr. Buhari said.

This statement needs better context for a concise conclusion.

Located in Taraba State, north-eastern Nigeria, the Mambila Power Station has been described as one of the largest in Africa. It was proposed in 1982 to generate up to 3,000 megawatts in hydroelectricity.

The site of the power plant, inside the picturesque Mambila Plateau, had been cleared for several decades, with the hope that its completion would significantly improve Nigeria’s pathetic power generation.

As Mr. Buhari stated, little progress had been made in the construction since 1982. Because of the complex nature of the project, from economic to environmental landmines, past efforts could not yield anything tangible.

In 2012, former President Jonathan signed a memorandum with a Chinese firm, Sinohydro, for the construction of the project.

The agreement later fell apart a year later because the Ministry of Power was “working on firming the project cost,” Daily Trust reported.

Since assuming office, there’s little evidence to show that President Buhari had approved any contract for the construction or mobilised contractors to the site.

It was barely a month ago that the administration announced a memorandum that is almost similar to the one that collapsed under Mr. Jonathan.

“The memorandum from the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing was to the award of the Mambilla Hydro-Power plant,” Minister Babatunde Fashola said.

Mr. Fashola said the project, put at $5.7 billion, would be jointly financed by the federal government and the China Export-Import, EXIM, Bank.

EXIM bank would provide 85 percent of the cost while the federal government would provide 15 percent.

As noted earlier, this announcement is not a sufficient basis for declaring that the project has “taken off.” While the memorandum has been signed, there’s no evidence that it will lead to final contract agreement.

Even if it results in substantive contract award, it is not clear when funding would be made available, considering the fact that a lot of preliminary work still needs to be done and the administration has less than two years left.

This claim is, therefore, rated mostly false.

Claim Six

“Since December last year, this administration has produced over seven million 50Kg bags of fertiliser. Eleven blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated. We have saved $150 million in foreign exchange and N60 billion in subsidy. Fertiliser prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500,” Mr. Buhari said.

While it is true that the government revived some moribund plants and ramped up production of fertiliser in recent months, the pricing aspect must be contextualised.

Undoubtedly, fertiliser production has increased since December 2016 as the president stated.

This is due to a deal which the Buhari administration signed with the Moroccan government on production and supply of phosphate, a major ingredient in the production of fertiliser.

The pact, announced on December 3, 2016, when the King of Morocco visited Mr. Buhari at the State House, started yielding results barely a few weeks after it was signed.

With regular and fair quantity phosphate supply from Morocco, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority was able to revive 12 fertiliser blending factories across the country as at July 2017, according to its managing director, Uche Orji.

The revived 12 were amongst the 28 moribund fertiliser plants which the NSIA identified. The progress resulted in fertiliser prices dropping from N14,000 to N5, 500, Mr. Orji told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview on July 3.

Also in July, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, then in his capacity as acting-president, commissioned an Indorama fertiliser plant near Port Harcourt.

The Chinese-owned factory had the capacity to produce up to 4,000 metric tons per day, according to a statement from Mr. Osinbajo’s office.

These moves have helped stabilise fertiliser supply and pricing, according to farmers interviewed by PREMIUM TIMES.

But the farmers were unable to corroborate Mr. Buhari’s claim that his government drove down the price from N13,000 to N5,500.

In fairness, the president did not give a timeline about high and low figures he gave. (Like other parts of this fact check, his spokespersons did not respond to request for clarification on this aspect of the president’s speech.)

Yet it is also fair to say that the president was likely referring the cost of fertiliser under his own government in 2016, when prices went through the roof.

Under the last administration (2010-2015), fertiliser sold at a maximum N6,000, an agricultural economist at the University of Ibadan found.

The administration was also widely praised for its Growth Enhancement Support scheme, which eliminated the menace of middlemen and drove prices of inorganic fertiliser, which contains nitrate, phosphate and potash, to as low as N2,500 for those purchasing directly from the government.

The policy was driven by Akinwunmi Adesina, the President of African Development Bank who was the Minister of Agriculture at the time.

Mr. Buhari suspended the policy shortly after he assumed office, citing alleged irregularities and sharp practices that characterised the scheme. The Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh, also said the GES had piled up billions of naira in subsidy debt.

The administration later revived the policy in September 2016, after farmers had been left strandeddue to the scarcity caused by the suspension of GES and fertiliser subsidy.

Therefore, while it is true that some of Mr. Buhari’s recent policies have contributed to driving the prices of fertilisers down, it was his actions that caused the scarcity and attendant increases in the first place.

The claim can, therefore, is rated as mostly true.

Claim Seven

“The country has recorded seven consecutive months of lower inflation, Naira rate is beginning to stabilise, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 today,” Mr. Buhari said.

These claims are true, but they are not entirely an achievement as the president apparently suggested.

When Mr. Buhari assumed office in May 2015, inflation rate stood at nine percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

It started rising from June, reaching 9.55 percent at the end of 2015.

At the end of 2016, the rate was 18.55. It peaked in February 2017 at 18.78 percent.

It was not until March 2017 that the rate started easing, a progress that had been steady since then.

As for the dollar, Mr. Buhari cited parallel rate rather than the official rate. This is rich coming from the same president that vowed never to murder the naira amidst pressure for a devaluation when the national currency was in a freefall against the dollar.

The dollar surpassed the N500 mark at the black market in February, a situation the government frowned at and blamed on speculators.

But when Mr. Buhari assumed office in May 2015, the parallel rate was N220 per dollar, according to a 2015 chart by The Cable. It started falling considerably in July at N230 a dollar, reaching N240 a dollar by November as the administration’s statements and actions started having impact on the economy.

Officially, the naira exchanged for N199.05 on the day Mr. Buhari was sworn in, according to data obtained from investing.com.

By August 9, 2016, it was exchanged at N322.250 against the dollar.

On August 3, 2017, it sold for N365.550 per dollar. And it is currently N305 per dollar at the official rate.

Therefore, the current parallel rate of N360 against the naira, though true, cannot be described as an achievement since it was Mr. Buhari’s government who was responsible for the crisis.

This claim is true but citizens are advised to be wary of the context.

Claim Eight

  • State Excess Crude Account loans,
  • Budget Support Facility,
  • Stabilization Fund Release to state and local government as follows:
  • N200 billion in 2015
  • N441 billion in 2016
  • N1 trillion in 2017

Altogether totalling N1.642 trillion.

This was done to enable states to pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years.

This claim is true. The administration has advanced a series of slush payments to the states within the last two years for reasons the president cited.

Although he did not specify, it is safe to assume the Paris Club refund constitutes a major bulk of the N1 trillion so far released this year, using the 2017 budget performance document from the Budget Office.

Claim Nine

“In addition, the Government’s current N500 billion Special Intervention Programme is targeting groups through;

  • Home Grown School Feeding Programme,
  • N-Power Job creation to provide loans to small-scale traders and artisans,
  • Conditional Cash Transfer,
  • Family Homes Fund and
  • Social Housing Scheme,” Mr. Buhari said.

This claim is true. The Buhari administration started the home-grown school feeding programmeamongst other aforementioned policies which were part of his campaign promises.

Claim Ten

“We are determined to eradicate corruption from our body politic.

The Administration’s new institutional reforms include:

  • Enforcing Treasury Single Account,
  • Whistle-Blower Policy,
  • Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System,” Mr. Buhari said.

This claim is rated mostly false. Even though the president has been enforcing the TSA, it was the brainchild of the Jonathan administration, and cannot be categorised as a “new institutional reform”.

As at January 2015, the policy, first tested in 2012, had been implemented by over 500 agencies, the Vanguard reported.

In May, the administration acknowledged that the TSA kicked off in 2012 in it compiled its achievement for the first two years in office.

Similarly, the IPPIS, a department of the Office of Accountant General of the Federation responsible for paying over 300,000 federal workers across 459 agencies, had been active since 2007, according to its Web site.

Only the whistle-blower policy was started by Mr. Buhari.

Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button