GRADUALLY, the President Muhammadu Buhari administration appears to be abandoning the initial political mode of its first term and settling more into the core governance model of initiatives and greater inclusion.
In his first term, the President ignored calls by well-meaning Nigerians to tackle the economic downturn head-on by assembling a cream of economic advisors and defining a roadmap. He opted to make Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a Professor of Law, the head of his economic team made up mainly of ministers handling economic-related portfolios.
It took the regime over two years to produce the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, ERGP. The economy marginally exited recession at Q2 of 2017 with 0.55 per cent growth rate, according to the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, NBS. By Q2 of 2019 it recorded 1.94 per cent year-on-year.
This is far below the galloping population of the country that topped 200 million last year, compounded by massive borrowings by the Federal and state sovernments, dwindling revenues, the additional heavy burden of a new national minimum wage, among others.
On Monday this week, the Federal Government announced a seven-man Presidential Economic Advisory Council, PEAC, made up of respected economic specialists such as Prof. Doyin Salami (Chairman), Dr. Mohammed Sagagi (Vice Chairman), Prof. Ode Ojowu, Dr. Shehu Yahaya, Dr. Iyabo Masha, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo and Mr. Bismarck Rewane (members).
This group replaces the Osinbajo-led Economic Management Team, EMT, and they are to report directly to the President who has, quite instructively, undertaken to personally drive the nation’s economic initiatives. The discarding of Osinbajo’s team is not altogether surprising because many of its members, such as Senator Udoma Udo Udoma, Okechukwu Enelamah, Kemi Adeosun and others were not in the second term cabinet.
Experts believe that bringing these eminent economists on board is a strong signal that Buhari has budged from his strict statist proclivities to embrace more of the market-driven economic model. Nigerians might have to adjust to total deregulation, especially of petroleum products which last year gulped N730.9bn (over $2bn) according to official sources. This was more than amounts budgeted for infrastructure, education, defence and health.
The new Presidential EAC members are neo-economists who will very likely favour wealth creation and expansion of job opportunities rather than what we saw in the past four years when huge sums of public funds were devoted to supposed social welfare schemes such as “Trader Moni” which critics called “vote-buying”.
Without any further electoral hang-ups to deter him, Buhari, like former President Olusegun Obasanjo, might take some tough decisions that could hurt in the short term but push the economy into a higher growth gear.
We welcome Buhari’s PEAC, and urge Nigerians to give them a chance to rescue our economy.