Updated: February 24, 2021
President Muhammadu Buhari’s May 29 speech is cheerless and uninspiring just like the previous ones. President Buhari has only succeeded in telling Nigerians what they spent money on without a coordinated plan to improve the living condition of Nigerians on a sustainable basis. This is the same kind of speech Nigerians get periodically.
President Buhari claimed that security, economy and corruption are the cardinal programs of the government and yet his government has failed woefully on all these areas.
On security, the President claimed that his government has done so well on security but the fact of the matter is that the insecurity of different types is still very much widespread. Boko Haram kidnapping of 110 Dapchi school girls in Yobe shows clearly that insurgency is still a major threat. Besides, kidnapping and armed robbery and other social vices are on the increase. The present administration has failed woefully in their response to herdsmen and farmers clashes across the country in areas of security lives and properties as well as modernising agriculture. The government responds to insecurity wherein buying more arms is the only strategy in the absence of massive social-economic investment to create sustainable jobs is scratching the surface
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On the economy, President Buhari government has also failed woefully. Living conditions of most Nigerians are much worse now than three years ago as a result of the anti-poor policies of the regime. Education is still underfunded and Nigeria has the highest number of out-of-school children in the world that stands at 10.5 million. The government is increasingly commercializing education by periodic hike in fees at the tertiary level and more students are forced out of school. The budgetary allocation to education is about 7% which is criminally inadequate.
It is not an error that the President speech did not capture healthcare; it is simply that the government is giving very little attention to it. The 2018 proposed budget allocates a paltry N340 billion which is about 3.9% to healthcare, one of the reasons there are repeated strikes by health sector workers. The budgetary allocation is less than 15% recommendable by African Union (AU) and 13% recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO). President Buhari cares less of the deplorable state of healthcare since he and his family members embark on expensive treatment abroad. In the same vein, housing was not given attention despite a deficit of 17million housing units and many homeless Nigerians without decent housing.
The President claimed that Niger Delta region has enjoyed relative peace through social inclusiveness and cooperation of the elders; and that the environmental clean-up of the region is progressing satisfactorily. We want to make quite clear that the relative peace in Niger Delta does not mean that the degradation, infrastructural decay and massive joblessness are being addressed. The ruling elite has only succeeded in bribing the militants to stand down while the old order remains. Aside the initial $10 million start-up funds to Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Projects (HYPREP) by the federal government for the cleanup of Ogoni, one year after, the $1billion that is to be contributed by Shell and the government is yet to be paid and concrete cleanup is yet to begin.
There is nothing to cheer about when foreign reserve stands at $47.5 billion because it serves the interest of the rich far more than the poor. Secondly, it is not due to ingenuity of the government but simply because price of crude oil hovers around $70 per barrel compared to about $35 per barrel three years ago. Nigeria’s economy is on auto-pilot and majorly dependent on crude oil price and quantity sold.
Unfortunately, the President reduced food security to increased local production of rice. Most of the rice consumed in Nigeria is still being imported. The Minister of State for Agriculture and Rural Development said that Nigeria spends about $22billion (N6.7 trillion) annually on food importation and yet the proposed budgetary allocation to Agriculture and Rural Development is a paltry N119 billion.
President Buhari said that fight against corruption is taken seriously but the fight so far is largely aimed at those in the opposition camp and long term enemies while his men are shielded. Corruption must be all inclusive and without discrimination to achieve its desirable impact. President Buhari in July 2015 banned 113 Crude Oil Vessels involved in stealing crude oil but were reinstated after two months without prosecution. Mainagate and Babachirgate are examples of how President Buhari’s government treats corrupt practices with kid gloves.
The Social Investment Programmes (SIP) is configured on a weak and unsustainable foundation. The program is not tied to industry, massive service delivery or integrated rural development and modern agriculture. Hence, it is best ascribed as a scheme to address temporary issues but the problem of job is a permanent one. SIP jobs only attract meager salary without the right to unionization and are on a temporary basis. Previous governments since Babangida Junta did similar programs and the economy is still in bad shape. Despite long years of scheme programs, unemployment and underemployment keep growing. 72 million (40% of the population) are unemployed and underemployed. As far as we are concerned, the SIP amounts to throwing money at a problem on a small scale. What is required is setting up industries in all sectors of the economy and it can only be achieved through a plan towards industrialization wherein the key sectors of the economy are linked together in a single plan based on massive investment.
The President applauded his government for generating 7,500 MW of electricity but what he did not tell us is that over $20 billion public funds has been investment in the power sector in the last 15 years. Besides, due to the poor transmission and distribution infrastructure and facilities only less than two-third of the generated MW are eventually supplied to consumers. Fundamentally, 7,500 MW is very small for a population of 180 million people. The President did not address the very vexatious issue of widespread unwarranted and outrageous estimated bills issued to consumers by the Distribution Companies which is a rip-off. Besides, he has stuck with the electricity privatization, which has proved to be a monumental failure.
It is obvious that the All Progressive Congress (APC)-led government just like its predecessors, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has no capacity to develop the economy on a sustainable basis. The socio-economic problems are being compounded by the continuous implementation of neo-liberal policies (privatization, deregulation etc.,) that only serve the profit interest of a few at the expense of the interest of vast majority.
Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) will pursue a policy of industrialization for massive jobs creation; integrated rural development to modernize agriculture and develop rural communities; integrated transport system for an efficient transport network; affordable and uninterrupted power supply; affordable and decent housing and environment; free, quality education and healthcare; potable water; clean and renewable energy etc. SPN will achieve these pro-people and pro-development programs through socialist planning and nationalization of the commanding height of the economy under the management and control of workers and consumers. Through this, the quantum of resources (human and material) can be planned and managed to meet the needs of all.
By Chinedu Bosah, National Secretary, SPN