ICYMI

May 18, 2024

Tinubu: One year on; hope deferred, not renewed

Stable power

SPECIAL REPORT BY DR DELE SOBOWALE

‘In all fairness to Tinubu, several of the promises were not meant to be fulfilled in the first year. They remain work-in-process.

Nigerians can only hope that the pledges will eventually be redeemed. Despite that caveat, it is clear that those scheduled for the first year have suffered the fate of politicians’ promises from time immemorial.

‘To crown it all, Nigeria, by the end of this year will decline from the largest economy in Africa to number four’.

“Tinubu wants to build a Nigeria that is confident and competitive on the global stage. Because of this, we can no longer afford certain ways of doing things. We must push past the false comfort of certain ingrained habits and practices, and endure inevitable but temporary discomfort because we are certain that ahead of us lies lasting reward.”

Mohammed Idris, Minister of Information and National Orientation. May 8, 2024.

Mohammed Idris, in an article titled: “Tinubu first anniversary: Propelling Nigeria towards renewal”, presented a truthful summary of the first anniversary of the administration which would have been difficult to beat if it was written by Tinubu’s worst political enemies. Published in all the major newspapers, as well as, online media, it was erudite, logical, good reading and self-damning for the Federal Government.

In the entire 13 paragraphs of the article, only four figures were dropped – “we have seen investment commitments over $300bn, across various sectors” and “disbursement has since commenced of the nano-grants of N50,000 each for one million Nigerians, part of a larger N200bn MSME’s credit programme.”

Since readers were not told what these figures mean in terms of the promises made under the RENEWED HOPE agenda, readers have been left to figure out the implications themselves. Here is one interpretation of what the Minister said – in light of facts available to those diligent enough to search for economic and financial data.

Most often, “commitments” are nothing more than Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, which Nigerian leaders have announced as firm commitments.

The recent embarrassment with the $600 million MAERSK proposed investment in Nigerian ports development, should serve as a warning that government pronouncements about secured Foreign Direct Investment are not always reliable. Nigerians will believe there are $300 billion investment commitments when the funds arrive here. And, nobody knows how long that would take.

Certainly, it will not all come into the country in 2024 and even 2025. A lot of the pledges might never be redeemed. Eight years of Buhari administration and several trips abroad, followed by announcements of investments secured ended with very little to show for the effort.

Touting the N50,000 nano-grants which the FG has started to pay to one million, out of 133 million poor in Nigeria, could not have come at a worse time for the government. The World Bank in a recent report declared Buhari’s efforts in that regard as a waste – which failed to achieve its stated objectives of alleviating poverty stimulating consumption and increasing aggregate employment.

Nothing suggests that Tinubu will succeed where Buhari failed.

The same woolly-headed economics still underlies the initiative. In a world in which earning less than $2 per day is regarded as living in poverty, N50,000 amounts to $1.2 for one person; and $0.30 for a family of four. Self-deception has never been so elegantly proclaimed by a minister of government.

The rest of the article was a mere repetition of promises for the future without mentioning a single achievement.

Nothing was said about the hastily improvised palliatives programme, the Portharcourt and Dangote refineries which were supposed to have started pumping out fuel, the gas-operated buses which would crash road transport fares and the housing units which would have doubled available housing. That is understandable. Like most politicians’ promises, they were never really intended to be fulfilled.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE RENEWED HOPE AGENDA?

“Every country has the government it deserves.” Joseph de Maistre, 1753-1821.
VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS, VBQ p 80.

And, the people should be ready to suffer the consequences of having the government – especially if it is elected. It is too late in the day to waste time on who won the 2023. Power belongs to the people; not even the Supreme Court. We have a government elected by us. The repercussions are now manifesting.

But, long before the elections, there was a document titled RENEWED HOPE in which candidate Bola Tinubu laid out hundreds of promises; telling us what he would do as President. It is one year this month. Below are a few reminders of what Fellow Nigerians were supposed to expect.

SECURITY: peaceful communities, secure borders, safe forests (p 9); reposition Police, no more VIP assignments (p 10).

ECONOMY: our cities and towns will witness a level of industrial activity unprecedented in our nation’s history (p 12); 10% GDP growth rate based on 2021 World Bank data; 2024 GDP — $586.7bn.; National Infrastructure Campaign, government can hire millions of unemployed Nigerians to modernise infrastructure (p14), import substitution (p16), fight corruption and inefficiency, Exchange Rate Management: Our economic policies shall be guided by our desire for a stronger, more stable Naira founded upon a vibrant and productive real economy (p19), Inflation Targeting and Management: To impose the usual anti-inflation medicine of higher interest rates and tighter money-supply will only weaken the patient (p20); Foreign Debt Obligations: Our policy will be such that new foreign currency debt obligations will be linked to projects that generate cash flows from which the debt can be repaid (p21).

INDUSTRIAL POLICY: Our government will make it a priority to encourage industries vital to national development. This means growing our industrial base to provide jobs to an expanding urban population (p22).

AGRICULTURE: Only 35% of arable land in Nigeria is presently cultivated. Our target shall be to increase this number to 65% in four years; COMMODITY BOARDS: We shall introduce commodity boards to establish minimum prices for strategic crops (p26); we will develop a plan to open heretofore uncultivated land to both small and large scale farming and vertically integrated agri-business (p28).

POWER: Eliminate Estimated Billing, we will end this unpopular and harmful practice and ensure that all electricity bills are meter-based (p30).

OIL AND GAS: Ensure Stability of Petroleum Products Supply (p37).

EDUCATION: ensure the abundance of qualified capable educators; prioritise the use of computers (p41); introduce new accreditation standards; establish curriculum committee; improve teacher training (p42); reform Technical and Vocational (p43) ; introduce students loan and Special education loan Fund (p44)

HEALTH: invest greatly in health care; introduce universal health care (p45); healthcare will target poor and marginalised communities (p46); deliberate policy to retain skilled manpower, introduce incentives (p47); improve our public health response to health emergencies (p48).

We will also explore how Nigeria can take greater advantage of relatively recent innovations such as blockchain technology. Blockchain, because of its security and accountability features, has the inherent potential to make daily interactions easier, faster and more convenient (p50).

SPORT, ENTERTAINMENT AND CULTURE: Build a modern Media City modelled on the Dubai Media City; introduce hospitality training programme (p55).

The return of schools sports and grassroots sports will be made the cornerstone of our sports development policy; create Athletes’ Welfare Fund (p56).

YOUTH EMPLOYMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Tinubu administration shall aim to cut youth unemployment in half within four years (p57).

WOMEN EMPOWERMENT: Commercial banks will be encouraged to support women-owned businesses nationwide through the use of concessionary loans and incentives (p60).

OUT OF SCHOOL CHILDREN: Raise to the highest priority the growing problem of out of school children throughout the country….This will also reduce the numbers of disaffected youth who might fall prey to recruitment by terrorist and violent groups (p63).

FEDERALISM AND DECENTRALISATION OF POWER: A Tinubu administration will rebalance the responsibilities and authorities of the different tiers of government (p68).

RESOURCE ALLOCATION: Embark on a review of the federation revenue allocation to recalibrate the division of funds among the three tiers of government (p69).

FOREIGN POLICY: Enhance Nigeria’s political leadership on the continent by establishing a G-5 among major African nations in order to develop common positions on issues of continental and global importance (p72).

Comments

In all fairness to Tinubu, several of the promises were not meant to be fulfilled in the first year. They remain work-in-process. Nigerians can only hope that the pledges will eventually be redeemed. Despite that caveat, it is clear that those scheduled for the first year have suffered the fate of politicians’ promises from time immemorial. There is no need to appraise all the promises seriatim. Readers can easily observe that among others, Tinubu actually vowed to impose the age long remedy of high interest rates and tighter money supply policies in the fight against inflation in the RENEWED HOPE document. Surprisingly, he was not prescient enough to have created a committee or task force to start working on how to manage inflation after being declared the winner of the 2023 election.

Obviously now, he established no Think Tank to study the economic debacle he would inherit, to anticipate the problems likely to be associated with fuel subsidy removal and to devise the policies and programmes to minimise the negative impacts of “fuel subsidy is gone”. From the first day in office, his government has been playing catch-up to events which have taken control of Nigeria.

Today, the government is not in control of the major indices of measuring social and economic welfare. CRUDE OIL production and export, for reasons unclear to Nigerians, had stayed below 1.5 million barrels per day since January.

Right now in May, it has dropped below 1.3mbpd – leaving a daily negative variance of about 400,000 bpd and so many millions of dollar revenue.

Despite the promise that external loans would be tied to self-liquidating projects, none of the debts incurred since January fulfilled that condition. Like Buhari, Tinubu is now borrowing to cover current expenditure obligations. Consequently, 91 per cent of dollar revenue in the first quarter, Q1, went into debt repayment.

Forget capital expenditure. From information available, Q2 dollar revenue will be less than Q1. That likely decline in dollar revenue is the cardinal reason the CBN’s efforts aimed at crashing exchange rates had become a fleeting mirage. Exchange rates are trending up again. After going down close to N1000/US$ in late March and early April, it was up to N1505/US$ on May 11. The immediate future is not promising.

The government’s response, as can be determined rests on two loan packages: a $2.5 billion loan package from the World Bank and a domestic dollar-denominated bond issue. In other words, more loans will be taken.

Regarding the promises on employment and housing, even the least informed Nigerian knows that more houses and working places have been demolished between May last year and today than in the last four years put together. More people are now jobless and homeless now than at any time in our history.

Manufacturers have either closed down or scaled down operations since May 29 last year. More global manufacturers are getting ready to leave any time soon, Food scarcity is more acute; palliatives by governments made a bad situation worse because corrupt government agents paid more than private individuals acting on their own. Some of the food palliatives promised by Tinubu are just arriving at the States – invariably less than promised.

Power supply remains the same; with only one major difference. All Nigerians will henceforth pay more for the same atrocious service. Hope dimmed.

But, why go on? Nobody in his right senses will dispute the obvious fact that close to 99 per cent of Nigerians are worse off today than last year. Tinubu has managed to achieve what most of us thought was impossible last year. He has performed worse than Buhari. To crown it all, Nigeria, by the end of this year will decline from the largest economy in Africa to number four.

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM – BINANCE AND BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY

“We will reform government policy to encourage the prudent use of blockchain technology in finance and banking, identity management, revenue collection and the use of crypto assets.

As part of our reforms, we will establish an advisory committee to review the existing regulatory environment governing blockchain technology and virtual asset services and, where necessary, suggest changes to create a more efficient and business-friendly regulatory framework. We will also encourage the CBN to expand the use of our digital currency, the E-naira.” (p52).

Earlier before that, the RENEWED HOPE document had offered this reason for getting the Tinubu government deeply involved in blockchain technology – if elected.

“Blockchain technology, because of its security and accountability features, has the inherent potential to make daily transactions easier, faster and more convenient….” (p50).

I was alarmed in 2022 when my copy of RENEWED HOPE was delivered to me; and when those pages were reached for several reasons. To begin with, by 2022, blockchain technology and cryptocurrencies had already been revealed as platforms used mainly by criminals – international drug cartels and kingpins, corrupt public and private sector operatives, arms traffickers, financiers of terrorist organisations, human traffickers, tax evaders and money launderers.

Furthermore, while it made transactions easier and faster, it was untrue that it possessed security and accountability. By late 2022, several nations were already clamping down on cryptocurrency – which after an initial surge was declining. Countries like China, whose citizens were among the originators of blockchain technology were aware of its potential to destabilise economies. It was certainly not accountable to any government or any constituted authority.

Young men and some women in Lagos were the first to latch on to cryptocurrency; and being in Lagos, I was very curious. The logical step was to locate those involved and obtain information about the new technology. I also went on the internet to learn more. My discovery was alarming enough to advise my tutors in Lagos to be very careful about this new technology; which to me is a two-edged sword. It can make or break you.

I also discovered that some individuals who knew about the drafting of the RENEWED HOPE campaign were already heavily invested in crypto. It was therefore not surprising that blockchain technology was so seriously promoted. Victory at the elections provided the winners the opportunity to bring in crypto platforms like BINANCE to help the FG institute crypto in Nigeria. It was akin to inviting an unruly elephant into your living room.

Nigeria’s current court case against BINANCE might not be about protecting national interest at all. Information reaching me from the crypto community indicates that a few friends of people in corridors of power had their multi-million dollar accounts looted by international hackers without a trace, and there is no legal way of getting the money back.

Because cryptocurrency platforms are technological conspiracies, the looters of a Nigerian’s account might be based in Russia or North Korea. The stolen funds might be lodged in Peru – without the South American nation knowing about it. Thus, it is almost impossible for the owner to obtain redress for the theft. He can’t go to court in Peru; have the looter repatriated from North Korea, and he dares not report to the Nigerian authorities without explaining how he got the money.

Neither the Nigerian authorities nor BINANCE is telling us what happened. One thing, however, is certain, the government might have inadvertently allowed BINANCE, a global outlaw crypto platform to come into the country; and the entire country is suffering from the consequences of that poor error of judgment.

The Nigerian economy is bedevilled by scarcities – of dollars, naira, regular power and fuel supply, food, housing, jobs and sound economic policies. Tinubu’s Lagos Boys are still missing the point. Supply-side inflation can never be cured by increasing interest rates but by increasing the supply of commodities.

Hope has not been renewed; at best, it has been deferred.

Follow me on Facebook @ J Israel Biola
Vanguard News Nigeria