Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed compiled the administration’s scorecard in the last three years and gave it a pass mark. It has fulfilled its campaign promises, the minister said in a long reflection on the government’s infrastructure battle, security, economy and the anti-corruption war. He said the administration kept its social contract with Nigerians and put the country on the path of sustainable growth.
Mohammed, who spoke with reporters in Lagos, pointed out that concerted efforts had been made to halt the over-reliance on oil through the diversification of the economy. Noting that the Buhari administration inherited many intractable challenges which could inhibit performance, Mohammed stressed that these challenges were converted into opportunities to turn around the country.
He said Nigerians, who have been impacted positively by the good work of President Muhammadu Buhari, were appreciative of the giant strides, based on the feedback to the government.
Mohammed added: “They know that no government in the history of our country has ever done so much with so little. They know and acknowledge the sincerity, transparency and accountability of the Buhari administration. They know and support the administration’s diversification effort, which is paying off.”
Describing President Buhari’s achievements as unprecedented, the minister said the administration has taken power generation to 7,000 megawatts from the 2690 it inherited, moved the country closer to self-sufficiency in rice production and reduced the leakages in government spending through the diligent implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) and the Whistle Blowing Policy.
Mohammed said in three years, 2.7 trillion Naira ($9 billion) had been spent on power, road and rail infrastructure, adding that the capital expenditure in the yearly budget had been raised to an unprecedented 30 per cent on the average.
Tendering vital statistics, the minister pointed out that the economy has recorded a 1.95 growth in the first quarter, external reserves have hit $48 billion while inflation has fallen for the 15th consecutive month from 18.7 per cent to 12. 5 per cent. Hailing the government’s revenue drive, Mohammed said tax revenue increased to N1.17 trillion this year, following the rise of tax payers to 19 million.
He also praised the “Ease of Doing Business Reforms”, which made Nigeria to move up 24 places on the World Bank’s ranking and earn a place on the “List of 10 Most Improved Economies’’. On infrastructural development, Mohammed said: “Road projects are on-going across every state of the country; many of these projects have been abandoned in recent years because of mounting debts owed by the Federal Government to contractors.
“The Buhari administration issued a 100 billion naira Sukuk Bond in 2017, Nigeria’s first Sovereign Sukuk Bond. Proceeds from that Bond are funding 25 major road projects equally distributed across the six geo-political zones.”
Mohammed added: “The administration is upgrading 3,500 km network narrow-gauge railway, with the signing, in April, of the interim phase of a concession agreement between the Government of Nigeria and an International Consortium, led by General Electric (GE). The target of this Interim Phase is that, within the next 12 months, passengers will experience reduced travel time by rail between Lagos and Kano, and for the first time in over a decade, contracted and scheduled freight rail services will be available. ”More than 70 Ecological Fund projects were awarded and completed by the Buhari administration across the six geo-political zones for flood control, erosion control, bridges and dams, channelisation and desilting.”
Mohammed said before the end of the year, there will be more than 2,000 MW of additional power generation capacity, in addition to the 7,000 MW currently being generated.
The minister noted that the Whistle Blowing Policy introduced by the Federal Ministry of Finance in December 2016 had led to the recovery of N13.8 billion from tax evaders, and N7.8 billion, $378 million and 27,800 million pounds from public officials.
He said N8.1 trillion was discovered to have been under-paid to the Federation Account between 2010 and 2015 by revenue-generating agencies.
Mohammed stressed: “MDAs are remitting more money to the Federation Account. From remitting only N51 million between 2010 and 2015, JAMB went on to remit N7.8 billion in 2017, and it is on course to remit a similar amount in 2018. As at March, the TSA had recorded inflow of N8.9 trillion from Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).”
Mohammed applauded the administration’s commitment to security, saying that “to a large extent, security and normalcy have been restored to the Northeast”.
He said the multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) aimed at combating trans-border crime and the Boko Haram insurgency had been rejuvenated.
Mohammed added: “El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club has returned to its home base in Maiduguri in April 2016, two years after relocating to Katsina State because of insurgency. Emirs of Askira and Uba returned home in May 2016, two years after fleeing their palaces on the account of the Boko Haram insurgency. Public primary schools resumed in Borno State on Monday September 26, 2016, after two years of closure. The Maiduguri-Gubio and Maiduguri-Monguno roads reopened in December 2016, after being closed for three years.”
The minister also said that more than a million displaced persons had returned to their homes and communities in the Northeast since 2015, adding that more than 13,000 Boko Haram hostages were freed from captivity, including 106 of the abducted Chibok girls and 105 Dapchi girls.
Mohammed, who lamented the incessant herdsmen/farmers clashes in the Northcentral, said the Joint Military Intervention Force (JMIF) was working to restore peace.
He applauded the successful military operations against insecurity, including the Operation Lafiya Dole, Operation Hold Last, Operation Whirl Stroke, Exercise Crocodile Smile 1 and 11, Exercise Obangame, Operation Awatse, and Exercise Python Dance 1 and 11.
The minister added: “There have also been major arrests of criminals across the country, including Usman Mohammed, aka Khalid Al-Barnawi, leader of the Ansaru Terrorist group and one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, with a US$6m United States bounty on his head. He’s being prosecuted alongside his suspected accomplices.
“Amodu Omale Salifu, leader of an ISIS affiliate group active in North Central Nigeria, plotting to bomb foreign embassies; Ansaru leaders, Ahmed Momoh and Al-amin Mohammed Jamin, both confirmed associates of a prominent Ansaru kingpin terrorising residents in Kogi and Edo states.”