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Buhari, Nigerian economy and the next level

Emeka Okoroanyanwu

President Muhammad Buhari a fortnight ago secured a second term in office in an election the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has vowed to contest its outcome in the court of law. The president had in his first tenure, which would expire on May 28, 2019 laid his administration’s action plan on the three-prong issues of insecurity, corruption and economy and for these years, he battled the issues, albeit with minimal success.

However, during his campaign for a second tenure, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) unveiled the “Next Level” slogan, promising to pursue a five-pronged agenda, which would include rejuvenation of the nation’s economy, creating jobs through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, N-Power, improving Ease of Doing Business, etc. He promised that N-Power would engage one million graduates with another promise to skill up 10 million people under a voucher system in partnership with the private sector.

He also promised that several millions of jobs would be created through agriculture, using the “Anchor Borrowers’ programme to support inputs and jobs to one million farmers. He further said a Livestock Transformation Plan would create 1.5 million jobs.

On infrastructure, Buhari said he would focus on four areas, namely, roads, rail, power, and the Internet, promising to complete the Second Niger Bridge. The same progress is expected from the government on the railway by completing the Lagos- Ibadan-Kano Rail, Eastern Rail (Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri), taking the network through Aba, all South-east state capitals, Makurdi, Jos, Bauchi and Gombe, and the Coastal Rail (Lagos-Calabar).

Similarly, Buhari promised to move broadband coverage to 120,000km of fibre network across Nigeria, after ‘addressing uniform Right of Way charges’, and prioritise Internet access to education, markets, primary healthcare and business clusters. All these will enhance the economy and provide more jobs for skilled and unskilled Nigerians.

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Through renewable, clean energy sources, such as solar, he promised to ‘energise’ nine universities and up to 300 markets across the country to have an uninterrupted power supply.

On electricity generation, the president promised that “a minimum of 1,000MW new generation incremental power capacity per annum on the Grid that would get to 7,000MW under Distribution Expansion programme.”

For ease of doing business, he promised to “legislate and enforce deadlines for issuance of government licences and permits” and “simplify investments, Customs, Immigration, trade and production procedures.”

Nigerians are, however, expectant that the second coming of Buhari should consolidate on his economic development programmes and make it come alive to improve the living standard of Nigerians, which has taken a hit because of the inflationary trends in the country.

Reacting to President Buhari’s reelection, members of the Organised Private Sector (OPS) and investment analysts, were of the opinion that his victory would bring about policy stability and continuity in governance, even as the Stock Market reacted negatively to the news of the president’s reelection, losing about N198 billion in two days of trading.

They said that Buhari’s second-term in office would lead the country to sustainable growth and development, saying that was the brain behind his victory.

The economic and business experts, who spoke to The Nigerian Xpress highlighted the economic implications to include continuity in governance, stability in policy, boosting of foreign direct investment (FDI), among others, and provide opportunities for the government to review its economic performance and make some amendments to ensure optimal performance.

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It would also be recalled that the country recorded a negative growth of -1.5 per cent in gross domestic products (GDP) in 2016, and in  recognition of the deep weaknesses of the nation’s economy and the potential for further weakening, the Federal Government  developed an Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) for the period 2017–2020.

The ERGP lays out the government’s strategy for achieving the government’s vision of sustained and inclusive of growth. Essentially, the plan aims at economic recovery in the short-term, and

structural reforms aimed at diversifying the economy to set it on a path toward sustained and inclusive growth over the medium to long-term.

Speaking at the weekend, Managing Director of Financial Derivatives Company Ltd., Mr. Bismarck Rewane, said that one of the positive implications of the reelection of the president is policy stability, which he said would ensure continuity in the implementation of policy.

He said the present administration had started some economic projects; hence the reelection of the president would ensure their continuity and stable implementation to logical conclusion.

He suggested that President Buhari must do things differently now that he has been reelected, adding that he must focus on the economy, which he said had suffered in the last two or three years.

He said Buhari had to work to bring the ailing economy out of the wood and restore it to the part of sustainable growth.

The Director General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said stability of economic policies and improvement on the existing economic platforms were among the association’s expectations from the re-election of President Buhari.

Ajayi-Kadir said Buhari should take stock of his administration’s past achievements and improve upon various policy initiatives, particularly the Ease of Doing Business and the implementation of the Executive order 003.

He also advised that a more concrete timeline for assessing and renovating the system must be put in place and accurately followed for the delivery of economic growth.

“We look forward to recover deepening of all processes particularly the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan. There has to be an evaluation on performance, lapses and the involvement of a monitoring process that is inclusive of both the private and public sectors,” MAN said.

Reacting also the Director General of the Nigerian Employers Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Timothy Olawale, said that the reelection of President Buhari had implications for policy continuity, improvement on the Ease of Doing Business, Federal Government intervention funding of the private sector through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), adding that it is a boost for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country.

He said the fears were that the emergence of a new administration would result in policy somersaults, which, he said, would not have been in the interest of the country.

Managing Director of BIC Consultancy Services, Dr. Boniface Chizea, said, “We also expect better performance with the growth of GDP so that idle hands are better engaged hopefully leading to reduction in social tension.”

“The economy at large, the fiscal authorities would now be able to pay attention to urgent matters of managing the economy for desired growth and development. We had the 2019 Budget presented to the National Assembly, which we would recall witnessed a show of shame, as the office of the President of the country was denigrated.”

Former Registrar and CEO of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), Dr. Uju Ogubunka, said it is now very early to comment because the cabinet has yet to be constituted. Given the dwindling fortunes in the market, the reactions have not been favourable.

“Because the opposition said it would go to court to challenge the outcome of the elections. Fifty – fifty, people are going about their normal businesses because of uncertainty, and when there is uncertainty, you know what that means,” he said.

The Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry went further to unveil a 17-point agenda for President Buhari to move the economy forward. They want President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to commit to policies and programme that will accelerate economic growth and ensure that the growth rate surpasses the rate of growth of population.

President of the Chamber, Mr. Babatunde Ruwase, said last week in Lagos that the government should commit to the creation of an enabling environment to bring about a quantum leap in private investment.

Consequently, tax policy, trade policy, monetary policy, and foreign exchange policy must be in alignment with their set objectives.

The LCCI said it recognised the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), as the main economic policy document of the present administration and called the government to position the private sector to play the role expected of it.

The LCCI urged the Buhari administration to focus on attracting investments, through an appropriate Public Private Partnership through the financing of bankable public sector projects.

On the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AFCTA), the LCCI calls on the government to ensure that appropriate safeguards and measures are put in place to protect vulnerable sectors of the economy.

The Lagos Chamber calls on the government to work out a credit guarantee scheme for MSMEs that will promote lending and provide guarantee of loan repayments.