…Sets agenda for the new administration
The New administration has been urged to address priority areas begging for attention in the country.
The Managing Director/Editor- in –Chief, of the Guardian Newspapers, Martins Oloja, stated this at the Investiture of the New executives of the Commerce and Industry Correspondents Association of Nigeria, CICAN, with the theme: Agenda Setting for the incoming Federal Government Last week in Lagos.
These areas he listed to include Nation Building, Public Service Reforms, Ruling APC and Parliamentary Reform, Education, Health And Knowledge Development, Subsidy, power grid crashes dog energy sector and N77trn debt amid rising inflation.
Others are health, education, ASSU strike, Buhari’s uncompleted projects such as $3.02bn Port Harcourt/Maiduguri rail line and Kaduna-Kano standard gauge rail line
This according to him should be on top of the agenda of the administration by focusing on using existing institutions such as Federal Character clause in the constitution supported by the federal character commission, FCC, and strong presidential/gubernatorial bureaucracy to share values, power, infrastructure, top positions fairly and equitably.
“There shouldn’t be perception after the national assembly election this week or thereabouts that the five top positions in the country are occupied by people from one section or faith in the country”, he said.
Is it also true that it has been impossible to find Leah Sharibu The Guardian calls the ‘goddess of resistance’, in 2019 among other missing school girls in Chibok, Borno State? He asked.
Speaking on public service reforms he said, “to deal with corruption with legal institutions of governance such as office of the Auditor-General of the Federation; Fiscal Responsibility Act/Commission; Public Procurement Act/National Public Procurement Council and Freedom of Information Act/Open Government Partnership. This according to him will reduce attention to EFCC, ICPC and CCB.
“The Bureau of Public Service Reform, BPSR, can be revived to deal with audit of public servants to deal with management of waste/redundancies and ghost workers”, he added.
How much does the FG spend monthly on civil servants and what percentage of that of Nigeria’s controversial population? Can the presidency have the political will to merge ministries and scrap those ones that 21st century doesn’t need such as ministries of information? Do we need agriculture and Water Resources separately? Do we need Interior and Police Affairs Ministry separately? What about Transport and Aviation in two ministries? What do we do with the many protocol SUVs? He asked.
“The Government should tackle bureaucratic delays and reduce opportunities for corruption as these are essential elements for setting the business environment for success. There is need to keep governance costs and overheads low and match ambition with pragmatism and growth will follow, as has been shown in the case of airlines such as Ethiopian and Emirates airlines…
It is urgent that the critical reform initiatives begin now because it will be too late once the large population of young people with smartphones and high expectations arrive in the cities”, he noted.
Talking about Ruling APC and Parliamentary Reform, he said, “This is the most important arm of government. Without it there is no democracy. This is where people are represented for the purpose of solving federal and federation problems”, he stressed.
“How much does each member earn monthly? Why is it opaque? Can we have an independent national assembly that won’t be a rubberstamp of the executive arm? When should we have state assemblies that can curb executive excesses in the 36 states and Abuja (federal legislature)? When do we have organic investigations that will shake tables? When do we have national and state assemblies that will equip good and world-class libraries where they can research for development? When do they use the parliament to dignify the majesty of democracy through debates on public policies that will attract attention of the people they represent?”, he asked
On Education, Health And Knowledge Development, the Managing Director stated that this should be on top priority. “The Ministers of Education and Special Advisers of Education should not be just political figures. They should be resourceful enough to assist the president on more than mere audit of the quality of public education generally”, he stated.
“Do we need more or better universities? How do governments recruit and sustain first class brains to teach the STEM/STEAM subjects? This is the component of reform that will also affect medical science education and revival of health sector. What happened to Nigerian Teaching Hospitals? Why do our leaders fly over our hospitals to the U.K to see their dentists?, he asked further.
“It has been discovered that we talk so much about Singapore and South Korea without looking at the roots of their competitive advantage. It is education quality. Just as the United States where the quest for excellence and exceptionalism once led to discovery that there was once a ‘Genius Factory’; This is through a 2005 ground breaking research by David Plotz, a professor who ‘unravels the mysteries of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank, which led to production of many geniuses and Nobel laureates in the United States”, he pointed out.
On Subsidy, power grid crashes dog energy sector, he said, “The removal of the petrol subsidy, the crashing or hike in the petrol price presently at over N190 per litre, as well as making petroleum products available are the immediate hurdles the incoming Tinubu administration must resolve after May 29”.
“So far, the government has spent over N6 trillion as petrol subsidy in less than 18 months but Nigerians have endured over a year of petrol scarcity amidst multiple hikes in the product’s price from N165 per litre to N195/l official rate in less than one year”, he revealed.
“Nigerians have not had a national grid beyond 5,600MW so far and even at an average daily peak power of 4,000MW generation, there are complaints of multiple daily outages across states along with an increasing tariff”, he noted further.
“There is also an over N3trn market shortfall with a worsening situation that has caused several DisCos to be given 60 days, ending in June 2023, to remedy their defaults in the remittance of energy revenue collections to the Market Operator, MO, of the Transmission Company of Nigeria, TCN’, he maintained.
The MD pointed out that the Siemens Presidential Power Initiative (PPI), a brainchild of Buhari has not yielded the much expected results. So far, raising the grid to 7,000MW from the 5,000MW did not happen in 2022 and the target of reaching 11,000MW this year may be elusive with seven months left.
On N77trn debt amid rising inflation, he said “The first glimpse of the Nigerian economy Tinubu will catch will be a portfolio of an inherited N77 trillion federal and state debt along a rising inflation highway at 22 per cent”.
“Although President Buhari, who is left office on Monday along with state governors, is leaving a N77trn debt portfolio, the federal government is seeking fresh permission to borrow $800 million (about N330 billion) from the World Bank after securing approval for $800m as palliatives for previously planned petrol subsidy removal”, he advised.
“Buhari’s government had gathered N23trn local debt through the CBN W&M which the national assembly approved to be integrated into the debt profile and dragged it to N77trn. DMO’s breakdown shows that the CBN debt was N23.7trn, adding to Nigeria’s total debt stock of N44.06tr, which DMO said largely reflected the weakness of the local unit, the naira”, he amintained.
On health, he said that Nigeria’s health sector is bedevilled with a lot of challenges and the incoming administration has a lot to do in improving the health system, as well as making healthcare affordable and accessible to millions of Nigerians who cannot access the care they require.
The education sector according to him is one of the critical areas where Nigerians’ expectations are high considering that it has been challenged by inadequate funding, incessant strikes at the tertiary level, a high number of out-of-school children and inadequate qualified teachers among others.
Speaking on ASUU strike, he noted that the feud between the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, and the federal government due to the failure of the latter to meet the demands of the union on welfare, infrastructure, among others has always led to strike action grounding activities of both federal and state universities in the country.
The strike always affects students learning who in most cases stayed at home for months. The new government should find ways to put this to permanent rest, the stakeholders said.
Speaking further on the uncompelled projects of the outgoing administration is the $1.96bn Kano-Katsina-Jibiya-Maradi Rail Line for which a virtual ground-breaking ceremony was performed by President Buhari on February 9, 2021.
The plan for the construction of the 284km Kano-Maradi rail line linking Nigeria to neighbouring Niger Republic according to him is to boost the Lagos-Kano-Jibiya, LAKAJI, economic corridor, which both the World Bank and the US have been highlighting.
On $3.02bn Port Harcourt/Maiduguri rail line, he noted that another project which requires the attention of the incoming government is the $3.02bn Port Harcourt/Maiduguri rail line.
He stated that ground-breaking was done by President Buhari for a complete revamp of the Port Harcourt–Maiduguri Narrow Gauge Rail. The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, in a factsheet released on the seventh anniversary of the Buhari administration, said work kicked off in 2022.On October 7, 2020, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, approved the sum of $3.02 billion for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge railway project.
The Guardian boss pointed out that another important project expected to be of priority for the incoming Tinubu administration is the Kaduna-Kano Standard Gauge Rail Line. Construction commenced on the Kaduna-Kano Standard Gauge Rail Line following the ground-breaking by the president in July 2021. Also, some segments of the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road are yet to be completed.
“Our new leaders should develop their own tactics to put across the sense of urgency and prove that they are materially attentive to the needs of their citizens”, he noted further.
He pointed out that President Alvaro Uribe’s performance in Colombia bears study, as he was instrumental in turning that country around within a decade from a failing to a functioning state.
Presented with a huge security challenge, he nonetheless refused to stay in Bogota, opting instead to go out every weekend to visit municipalities and talk to local people. He often gave them his personal phone number and encouraged them to call him if they had a security-related problem. Uribe used these visits to understand the challenges and drive change. African leaders will have to give similar thought to what kinds of profiles they should adopt in order to change the prevailing political culture.
Central to the turnaround of many countries, enabling them to implement pro-growth policies was creating a sense of urgency, a realization that business as usual would lead to disaster.
Several Asian countries, including our case studies of Singapore and Indonesia, and also South Korea and Taiwan, were able to use their crises to create a narrative that allowed leaders to implement difficult policies and to explain why changes were needed.
Leaders were able to show first that the state itself, protector of the current population, would be threatened if difficult decisions were not made immediately.
“There has to be a focus on what the state must do and what it should not do. Case studies have revealed that there is a vital role for the state in setting up a business environment that promotes confidence and growth, and in developing robust institutions. Given the limited human and material capacity of African governments, it is also important to understand what states should not do, so that they can focus on the initiatives that they are required to lead. In this country excessive bureaucracy is serving to constrict economic growth by adding a huge administrative burden to businesses. The onus should be on government to reduce bureaucracy by, for example, cutting the number of permits required by businesses to operate and by making it straightforward to obtain them”, he opined.
“Fourth, tremendous energy and attention must be devoted to developing a healthy private sector. Businesses in many African countries are currently incentivised to live off the patronage that the state provides because there are few other ways to make money. If jobs are to be created, businesses must assume their proper role of generating investment and creating employment”.
Let’s round off with this word of hope by Warren G. Bennis, Robert J.Thomas to our new leaders:
‘Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and…those ripples build a current, which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance’.