President Muhammadu Buhari’s last Independence Day speech as Nigeria’s President on October 1, 2022, was not significantly different from his earlier speeches on such occasions. As expected, he reeled out his achievements and regrets as well as the way forward for the nation. He also recalled that he had pledged at inception to tackle corruption, improve the economy and fight insecurity. This pledge, he said, was further strengthened by his commitment to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years as the central plank of his second term in 2019.
With regard to the fight against corruption, he noted that his administration had strengthened the institutions for tackling corruption and also cultivated international support which aided the repatriation of huge sums of money illegally kept outside the country. Noting that his administration would continue to block opportunities that encouraged corrupt practices, Buhari said the increasing number of prosecutions and convictions, with associated refunds of large sums of money, was ongoing. This notwithstanding, this regime has recorded many corruption cases, especially by public servants. It is such that Nigeria has progressively scored low marks on corruption perception index by Transparency International.
It is on security that the present administration appears to have not done so well. The President believes he has done his best to tackle the problem. For instance, he said his administration worked methodically in reducing insurgency in the North East, militancy in the Niger Delta, ethnic and religious tensions in some sections of Nigeria along with other problems threatening the country.
Actually, Nigeria has made some progress in the fight against terrorism in the North East. But, Nigerians have never had it so bad as far as other forms of insecurity are concerned. Thousands of schoolchildren have been victims of a series of abductions that occurred in different parts of the North. About 16 of them died from such incidents.
According to Nigeria Security Tracker, between 2015 and 2022, Nigeria experienced about 10,500 security-related incidents and over 57,000 deaths. From about 111 kidnap incidents in 2015, the number of kidnappings increased to about 590 in 2021, the highest so far. In the first nine months of this year, over 400 cases were recorded. The situation is such that no region or area is safe, not even Abuja, the seat of power.
On economy, the country has not fared better despite the contrary view of the President. He acknowledged that Nigeria went through two economic recessions in 2016 and 2020 but said the efforts of his administration in re-setting the economy, implementing the Treasury Single Account and cutting down on the cost of governance manifested in the country exiting the two recessions. Besides, he acknowledged that the passage of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021 removed the uncertainty for potential investors in the oil and gas sector and created opportunities for foreign investments in addition to improving transparency in the management of the sector. He also spoke about the administration’s efforts in the agricultural sector and noted that such efforts had created the required leverages for Nigerians towards self-sufficiency in food and the necessary attraction for farming as a business. The reality though is that many farmers have abandoned their farms due to insecurity just as Nigeria has been listed among the 10 leading nations threatened by hunger in the world.
Although the President said his administration was confronting current economic challenges such as debt burden, growing inflation, living standards and increasing unemployment, it is obvious that his efforts have not yielded the expected results. From available statistics, the rate of inflation, which stood at a single digit of 9.01 per cent in 2015, is now 20.5 per cent, the highest in 17 years. Unemployment rate is over 33 per cent. Debt profile has skyrocketed from N21.725 trillion in 2017 to N42.85 trillion as of September 2022. It is estimated to rise to over N60 trillion by 2023.
It is not certain how this administration recognises the importance of a well-educated populace as a panacea to most of the country’s challenges as the President claimed. Since February 2022, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has been on strike. This has crippled activities in the universities and seriously affected the quality of education. We cannot continue to pay lip service to education and expect that the country will move forward.
We commend the President for his commitment to bequeathing a credible electoral process to Nigerians. To ensure the practical realisation of this promise, he signed the Electoral Act 2021 as amended and has continued to assure that our elections would be improved upon as we move towards the 2023 general election. The hope of many Nigerians is that the President maintains his pledge on this score. Doing so will deepen our democracy.