Despite evidence to the contrary, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari insists he is leaving Nigeria in a better situation than he met it.
Mr Buhari said this in his farewell address to Nigerians on Sunday morning.
“I am confident that I am leaving office with Nigeria better in 2023 than in 2015,” the president said.
Contrary to Mr Buhari’s claim, however, most development and economic indicators show that the country is worse off now than it was when Mr Buhari was sworn in in 2015.
For instance, Nigeria’s inflation rates remained at single digits in 2014, a year before Mr Buhari assumed office. Since then, the nation has seen a surge in inflation rates. The latest data released by the statistics bureau, NBS, shows that in April 2023, Nigeria’s inflation rate hit 22.22 per cent amid poor purchasing power.
In the same vein, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose from 9.9 per cent in 2015 to 33.3 per cent, translating to some 23.2 million people living without jobs in the country.
Similarly, poverty has remained a disturbing feature of Nigerian life. The last poverty survey from the NBS showed that 63 per cent of the Nigerian population, or almost 133 million people, are multi-dimensionally poor.
The NBS in its latest GDP report also said that Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate slowed to 2.31 per cent (year-on-year) in real terms in the first quarter of the year compared to 3.52 per cent recorded in the preceding quarter, and 3.11 per cent in Q1 2022.
Under President Buhari eight-year administration, the nation slipped into recession twice, first in 2016 and later in 2020 as Nigeria recorded weak economic growth.
There are however other indicators and an alternative perspective that provides a justification for the complex state of affairs the country is in, Mr Buhari and his aides have argued.
In its early days, the government said it inherited a fiscal crisis and massive decline in revenue in the country which it said was due to the dual challenges of the fall of the price of oil and dramatic decline in quantity available for export due to the escalation of the Niger Delta militancy. The administration also said it met an empty treasury due to the corruption of the previous government.
At the height of its economic crisis, the government also blamed COVID-19, the health pandemic that decimated global economies. Recently, the government blamed the Russia-Ukraine war for the nation’s economic woes.
While all of these events indeed triggered several economic challenges for both the Nigerian and global economy, analysts opine that Mr Buhari’s policy choices worsened the situation at the domestic level.
Meanwhile, the president also introduced social intervention programmes such as the Anchor Borrower Programmes, an intervention that offers single-digit loans, extension services, and farm inputs that were aimed at helping smallholder farmers scale up, achieving food security, and ensuring self-reliance in rice production.
“We increased the ability of the poor and rural Nigerians to earn a living, provided more food for millions in our villages and gave our women opportunities to earn a living,” Mr Buhari said in his farewell speech.
“Young men and women in urban centres were also supported to put their skills into productive use. Our administration also provided an enabling environment for the private sector to engage in businesses for which their return on investments is guaranteed.”
Nigeria now has at least 68 rice mills from 10 in 2015, an over 500 per cent jump, following the ABP. Also, up until 2015, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (UN FAO) said Nigeria’s rice production remained at 3.7 million metric tonnes and the country’s consumption at 6.7 million metric tonnes per annum.
The country’s local rice production also jumped to about 5 million metric tonnes while the share of agricultural contribution to GDP increased to 29.9 per cent in the third quarter of 2021 from 22.9 per cent in 2014.
“Mindful of the need to ensure adequate infrastructure to drive economic growth, we completed age-long projects and processes notably amongst which are the Petroleum Industry Act, completion of some power projects, completion of the second Niger bridge and various important roads linking cities and states,” Mr Buhari said.
In his final week in office, the president commissioned several infrastructural projects, including the long-awaited Second Niger Bridge, the Ikom Bridge, the Loko-Oweto Bridge; the 200km Kaduna-Zaria-Kano section of the Abuja-Kano Highway, a Railway Wagon Assembly Plant, the new International Terminal Building of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano; new Headquarters of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS); three (3) Federal Secretariat Complexes, in Anambra, Bayelsa and Zamfara; among others.
The Buhari administration has made considerable efforts to improve Nigeria’s agricultural sector and infrastructure as data shows.
But, the president’s claim of “leaving Nigeria better in 2023 than in 2015” is not entirely true as this newspaper’s fact-check showed last year.
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