While many have been questioning the achievement claims of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to merit another term of four years, Adebayo Adejobi looks at the silent but pronounced strides of the government even if some of them are at the macro level of the economy
It has often been argued that economic growths in the macro level always take long to manifest at the micro level. Economists believe that it is at the micro level that the ordinary man on the streets and low income earners, who form the larger population in any society, usually feel the effects of these growths. But it is unarguable that before there could be growth at the micro level, it has to take place at the macro level. Certain indices have to be guaranteed before their effects could percolate down to be felt at micro level. And that is why the Transformation Agenda of the present administration might be looking a bit a paper affair but a careful study of economic figures in the last few years will reveal massive growth indices that show that the nation is actually growing economically. Perhaps, the need for the ordinary man on the streets to feel these impacts has made many analysts to conclude that the nation has been at a standstill. But contrary to this, it has been massive movement towards economic renewal for the nation.
Before the coming into power of President Goodluck Jonathan, the nation was a massive importer of food stuffs. Nigeria was spending an average of N1.4trillion annually on food importation alone, thereby growing the economy of countries where these foodstuffs were being imported from. Today, this has changed. The volume of food imports has reduced by at least 50 per cent as it is now less than N700billion per annum. Sources close to the president say the president is still not satisfied with this as he believes that with the kind of climate and soils nature God has blessed the nation with, Nigeria has no business importing food.
Early in the year, the nation’s economy was rebased by international agencies like International Monetary Fund, IMF, the World Bank and other relevant institutions to determine the value and strength of the Nigerian economy. At the end of the exercise, it was revealed that the value of the Nigerian economy was now $510billion from the initial $169billion in 2009. This made it the biggest economy in Africa.
If there is one area where the country could beat her chest and say she has done well, it is in the area of direct foreign investment, DFI. In 2013 alone, the country attracted over $7billion in direct foreign investment, making it the number one investment destination in the whole of Africa. Yet, one of the things that made this possible, but which perhaps went unnoticed, was the port reforms carried out by the Jonathan administration. It now takes seven days to clear trouble-free cargo, down from 39 days before. And to make this more effective, the number of agencies at the ports has been reduced from 13 to seven, streamlining bureaucratic and financial requirements for clearance and decongestion.
In the agricultural sector, it has been massive reforms aimed at boosting food production and making the sector a major income earner for Nigerians and also attracts direct foreign investment. In the last two years alone, investments attracted to the sector have reached a whopping $4billion. Apart from this, the reforms in the fertilizer distribution network has led to increased food production in the country. Last year alone, there is an increase of over one million metric tonnes increase in rice production in the northern states. This could not have been possible but the e-wallet platform created by the government for farmers in the Northern part of the country. By this, over six million farmers on the e-wallet platform received subsidised farm inputs without middlemen, thereby checkmating decades of corruption in the system. With this, over N50billion saved so far from the fraud associated with middlemen being in charge of fertilizer distribution. Beyond this, is the issue of storage facilities for farmers. Many are of the opinion that no nation can achieve any significant success in food production if there are no adequate facilities. In the last four years, the number of silos in the country has increased by over four hundred per cent.
As part of efforts to save the environment and prevent desert encroachment, the government procured a total of 6,720,000 tree seedlings raised in seven front line states of Adamawa, Bauchi, Jigawa, Yobe, Kebbi, Katsina, Kano, Yobe, Sokoto and Borno States to combat desertification. In the same vein, there was over 1.07 million metric tonnes increase in farm output following the introduction of dry season farming through irrigation in 10 northern states of Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Gombe, Niger and Bauchi last year.
If there is one area many will give kudos to the Jonathan administration, it is in the area of road construction. By the time the administration came in, the total number of federal roads that were in good condition was 12,000 kilometres. Today, that figure had risen to about 28,000 out of a total of 35,000 kilometres. The reason for this was not just the desire to get these roads fixed, but the reforms put in place by the minister of works, Mike Onolememen. In a recent interview with THISDAY, the minister said when he came in, he discovered that the system in place in the ministry did not give room for any effective service delivery and project monitoring. He said the director of monitoring had to rely on reports rather being able to do an on the spot assessment of projects. Apart from this, accessing counterpart funding for road projects had been at paltry low level of 35 per cent. Onolememen explained.
“When I came in, the Road Sector Development Team, RSDT, had what we call Federal Road Development Project, which was being handled by the collaboration between the World Bank and the Federal Ministry of Works. The major projects under that was the Nigeria-Cameroun highway facilitation project. Before I took over, the Ministry was barely able to access five to seven per cent of the funds. When I came in and took over, by the end of 2012, when I was just one year in office, we had accessed over 37% of that fund because of better project delivery strategy. And by the end of 2013 we had hit about 80% utilisation. As we speak, I have completed the projects I inherited under that programme: the Enugu-Abakaliki road, the Abakaliki-Ogoja road, the Ogoja junction to Ikom road and Ikom to Mfom Having completed that section of the road last year, I now started the outstanding corridors which are the Mokwa-Bida road and of course, the Akure -Ilesha road. Those projects were awarded between October-November last year and they properly commenced about January this year. Both projects have recorded about 65% completion. We are upbeat that by April next year we must have completed them and that will bring to an end the First Phase of the Federal Roads Development Projects.”
One sub-sector under the transportation sector that Nigerians mourn its hey days is the railway sector. It used to serve the nation in terms of goods transportation and haulage. But years of neglect and deliberate mismanagement ensured that the sector nearly died. But its massive rejuvenation under the present administration has been second to none. As at the last count, major routes like Lagos-Kano-Sokoto-Lagos, Enugu-Port Harcourt-Enugu, and Lagos-Kaduna-Lagos have been rehabilitated with modern trains some of which are air-conditioned. Even intra-city routes, especially within Lagos, have been equipped with new trains with facilities for comfort and smooth journeys depending on the economic wherewithal of passengers.
Last week, the Vice-President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo, commissioned the Enugu-Port Harcourt-Enugu inter-city train service. Speaking on behalf of the president, the former Kaduna State governor said the Jonathan administration had impacted positively on the lives of Nigerians.
“We have managed the economy such that it has risen to be the greatest economy in Africa and one of the largest in the world. We have changed the course of history
with the railway system in the last 30 years from the neglected sector to a rehabilitated and revitalised one by rehabilitating the existing narrow gauge railway lines, its operations and maintenance.”
Beyond this, perhaps many are not aware that the Lagos-Kano, Port Harcourt-Maiduguri and Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail lines that were moribund before have also been rehabilitated.
The gateway to any country is its airports. But for over 30 years, the nation’s airports were allowed to decay to the extent that they became an embarrassment to the country. Many countries were blacklisting the nation and advising their nationals to be very careful whenever they landed in Nigeria’s airports. But for the first time in the history of the country, all the nation’s 22 federally-owned airports were rehabilitated at the same time that even critics could not but admit that it has been a major departure from what was obtainable in the past.
During a meeting with would be investors in the power sector before its privatization, the minister of finance and co-ordinating minister of the economy, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, had told the investors that President Goodluck Jonathan was so passionate about solving the nation’s power problem as if his whole depended on it. As a result of this, the government was ready to give major incentives to these would-be investors to boost their confidence in order to convince them to invest in the sector. However, one of the major steps the administration took was having the political will to unbundle the old Power Holding Company of Nigeria, PHCN, privatise it and sold different aspects of its operations to different investors. While this was not expected to bring succour to long suffering Nigerians, both in private and commercial capacities, as far as power was concerned, a solid foundation had been laid to get a final solution to the nation’s electricity power problems.
Apart from privatisation, the administration has completed and commissioned at least three power plants out of the six it inherited from the previous government. The last commissioned was the one at Omotosho, a rural community in Ondo State. The plant was capable of generating at least 500 megawatts. Upon commissioning, the plant had to be shut down due to transmission issues as there was no adequate facility in place to transmit the power being generated to consumers. When everything is in place, the plant is capable of providing electricity to three states.
Civil Service Reforms
One of the areas where effective service delivery has been hampered in terms of good governance is the civil service. It has been established that there is no way a country can achieve its aims and objective without effective civil service that implements government policy. Gone are those days when the service was populated by men and women who wanted to make a difference and drive the nation. One area the service has become an albatross to the nation is in the area of ghost workers. Every year, billions of naira are lost to these fake workers and the money ends up in private pockets.
It was a as a result of this that the present administration introduced the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, IPPIS. This idea exposed that the federal government alone had over 50,000 ghost workers. By the time these fake public servants were weeded out of the system, over N139billion was saved by the government.
Since the money saved from this was diverted to provide social amenities and productive sectors of the economy, the poverty rate in the country was reduced to 33.1% from 62.2% that it was in 2013. This was according to the Harmonised Nigeria Living Standard Statistics, HNLSS, report according to the World Bank.