..2017 Worst Year of hardship for most Nigerians – PDP …Tasks him not to issue any new promises but fulfil earlier ones By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, and Dirisu Yakubu
As the year, 2017 approached twilight, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP were yesterday engaged in a war of words over the achievements of the All Progressives Congress, APC led administration. While President Buhari beat his chest in posting successes in food supply, security and the economy, his aides marshaled what were described as 17 key achievements of the administration in the outgoing year.
The president and the APC administration were, however, put on the spot by the PDP which charged the government not to make any new promises at the beginning of the New Year, 2018 saying that the government had failed to keep to the promises it made in the past. The PDP particularly cited what it claimed as failed promises of bringing down fuel supply, making the naira to exchange for one dollar and what it described as the failed promises of providing security to the nook and cranny of the country. The PDP which responded through its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondinyan said the achievements were the figment of the imagination as they existed nowhere saying the outgoing year is easily the worst year of hardship for most Nigerians. Speaking when he received a delegation from Kebbi State led by Governor Atiku Bagudu, President Buhari while blaming the elite class for earlier trying to distract his administration said: “We are not doing badly in the agricultural sector and Nigerians, and the world, are beginning to appreciate our efforts. We will not be satisfied; we will work harder until we start exporting food. “We are happy that rice and beans importation into the country have gone down by 90 per cent, and visibly everyone can see how productive states like Kebbi have turned out to be and states like Lagos, Ogun and Ebonyi are following the example,” he said. He said Kaduna, Katsina and Sokoto states had already reported remarkable turnaround in the agricultural sector, with more youths taking interest in entrepreneurship. Blames elites The President said he disagreed with the astronomical food import bill presented by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) from the inception of the administration, pointing out that it was later discovered to be “fraudulent practices” by some of the elites to deplete the foreign reserves. “When I was told that the CBN had no savings after the windfall of selling oil for more than $100 per barrel for many years, and the production was 2.1 billion barrel per day, I did not believe them. “I did not believe them because majority of Nigerians cannot afford imported food; they rely on what is locally grown. It turned out that 50 per cent of the export bills were fraudulent. That is what the Nigerian elites did. Unfortunately, we will not know all that happened because the elites worked in collusion with institutions in developed countries, like insurance firms and other financial outfits, to perpetuate the fraud,” he added. On security, President Buhari said the return of farmers to their farm lands in the North East, with glaring results of high yields, was a testimony to the relative peace that had been achieved. He assured that more would be done to check the mayhem of suicide attacks. The President said his administration would put in more effort to reposition the educational and health sectors to compete with other global institutions. In his remarks, the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu said the APC family was pleased with the performance of the administration in securing the country, reviving the economy and fighting corruption. Bagudu and members of the delegation, which include the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami and former PDP stalwarts in Kebbi State, also prayed for the quick recovery of the President’s son, Yusuf. Earlier yesterday, President Buhari’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina had posted what he claimed as the 17 key achievements of the administration. He said: *Nigeria exited its worst recession in decades. After five quarters of negative growth, the economy bounced back into positive territory. Agriculture was one of the stars of 2017, posting consistent growth levels even throughout the recession. Also, Inflation fell for ten consecutive months during 2017 (February to November). *The Naira stabilised against the dollar, after the Central Bank introduced a new forex window for Investors and Exporters. The stability has attracted billions of dollars in portfolio investments since April 2017. *On the back of a stable Naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 percent. *Nigeria saw bumper food harvests, especially in rice, whose local production continues to rise significantly (States like Ebonyi, Kebbi, Kano leading the pack, with Ogun joining at the end of 2017). The price of a 50kg bag of rice – a staple in the country – has fallen by about 30 percent since the beginning of 2017, as local production has gone up. *The Federal Government launched a 701 billion Naira Intervention Fund (‘Payment Assurance Programme’) aimed at supporting power generation companies to meet their payment obligations to gas and equipment suppliers, banks and other partners. The impact is being felt, the amount of power being distributed is now currently steady at around 4,000MW – higher than previously recorded. *The Federal Government began paying pensions to police officers who were granted Presidential pardon in 2000 after serving in the former Biafran Police during the Nigerian Civil War. These officers, and their next of kin, have waited for their pensions for 17 years since the Presidential pardon. *Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, and earned a place on the List of Top 10 Reformers in the world. *Nigeria’s foreign exchange reserves grew by $12 billion, reaching the highest level since 2014. Nigeria also added, this year, an additional $250m to its Sovereign Wealth Fund. Also, Nigeria’s trade balance crossed over into surplus territory, from a deficit in 2016. *Nigeria successfully issued two Eurobonds (US$4.5bn), a Sukuk Bond (100 billion Naira), a Diaspora Bond (US$300m), and the first Sovereign Climate Bond in Africa, raising billions of dollars for infrastructure spending. *The Federal Government launched a Tax Amnesty scheme expected to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in additional revenues when it closes in March 2018. *The Federal Government successfully commenced implementation of a Whistleblowing Programme that has so far seen recoveries of tens of millions of dollars. *The Social Investment Programme – Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever – rolled out across dozens of states. (Currently, 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily; 200,000 unemployed graduated enlisted into the Npower Job Scheme, and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers). *The number of Nigerians facing food insecurity in the northeast dropped by half, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). *The Nigeria Customs Service recorded its highest-ever revenue collection, crossing the One Trillion Naira (N1,000,000,000) mark. [The target for 2017 was 770 billion Naira (N770,573,730,490); 2016 Collection was just under 900 billion (N898,673,857,431.07)] *The Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB), under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted 7.8 billion Naira to the coffers of the Federal Government. The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was 51 million Naira. *2017 was also the Year of Nigeria’s Agriculture Revolution, embodied by the successes of the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative (PFI) and the Anchor Borrowers Programme. More than a dozen moribund fertilizer blending plants were revived under the PFI this year. *Finally, 2017 will be the Year that laid the foundation for a 2018 that will be Nigeria’s Year of Infrastructure. A number of important infrastructure projects, in power, rail and road, are scheduled to come on-stream or inch close to completion next year. PDP reacts Reacting to the 17 achievements, Ologbondiyan said: “These supposed achievements are figments of their imagination as they exist nowhere. 2017 will be remembered as the worst year of hardship in the lives of several Nigerians. “The APC-controlled Federal Government is too far from reality to understand the economic pains of Nigerians.” Earlier, the PDP had advised the APC Federal Government not to issue any new promises charging the government to fulfil those it issued in the past which it claimed were largely unfulfilled. The party said Nigerians had been left dispirited by the litany of woes visited on them in the past two years by the APC government, stressing that it would be the height of irresponsibility on the part of government to spew another round of propaganda and false hope in the name of New Year messages. In a statement issued by the National Publicity Secretary,Ologbondiyan, the party queried: “What else would they tell Nigerians apart from inventing new lies and propaganda as they had always done, particularly at the turn of each New Year? “Every New Year, since 2016, the APC and its federal government have been reeling out heaps of promises which they had no intentions to fulfil. Now they are warming up to reel out fresh ones in January 2018. “What is the need of a New Year message from APC government when it would be replete with propaganda? What is the need of their yearly assurances when the only thing we see is an arrogant and incompetent government plunging the nation into economic recession and visiting the citizens with the worst forms of untold hardship? “What seriousness should any Nigerian attach to a government that takes governance for granted, puts off its federal executive meeting at the slightest whims and blame imaginary invasion of its offices by rats for the inability to meet required statutory functions? “What else should Nigerians expect from a government that promised massive employments only to render 7.74 million Nigerians jobless between 2016 and September 2017; with combined unemployment and underemployment rate hitting 40.0% as declared by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS)?” The party further mocked government monetary policy, adding that it failed to keep faith with pledges made to the Nigerian people. “This is the same APC that promised to deliver naira exchange at N1 to 1USD but ended up wrecking the currency from N160-N170 to a scandalous N350-N400; the same party and its government promised to reduce the price of fuel only for it to rise from where the PDP left it at N86.50 to N300-N400 per litre. “What do we expect from a government that so devastated the economy in 2017 that Nigerians were forced to turn to Ponzi schemes like the Mavrodi Mundial Movement (MMM) for survival only for an estimated three million of them to lose about N18 billion in the process. “The APC misrule literarily turned 2017 into a harvest of woes; hunger, disease, violence, and deaths while the nation is now being pummelled by ethnic and religious agitations and attendant violence in all parts of the country,” it noted. The statement stressed that “Measured against all key performance indicators, the APC controlled federal government has fallen below the expectations of Nigerians. “Painfully, instead of channelling the nation’s resources for the good of the citizens, the “zero corruption” federal government is busy providing cover for APC interests who are diverting public funds through padded budgets, multi-billion dollars secret oil subsidy regimes, illegal lifting of crude using unregistered APC fronts, pillaging of Nigeria’s foreign reserves, diverting of funds meant for fight against insurgency and rehabilitation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the northeast; and attempts to steal $1bn from the Excess Crude Account (ECA).”