The 1st Anniversary of any administration is usually a period to take stock. While views were divergent of what one year of President Buhari’s administration, even his critic must admit that he has gone about rebuilding Nigeria to the best of his abilities and in line with the promises he made about how he will go about it. While the foundation of the previous sixteen years might have been faulty, the administration have gone about demolishing the old foundation, digging deeper to build a more resilient one and of course we have the “wailers” crying why a new super structure is not up twelve months later. Give us a break.

While his critic may not like the knee breaking speed of his anti-corruption goons, or the errant human rights abuse alleged or court orders ignored, even they will submit that he is fighting one heck of a fight. With respect to Boko Haram and security, a lot clearly has been done while a bouquet remains to be touched upon even as new crisis in the Niger Delta, East and Herdsmen/Farmer clashes are getting deadlier. Be it as it may, the one area the administration have generally score low has been in the economy even though one may argue that the work being done on security and corruption itself is laying a solid foundation for an inclusive economic growth future, instead of the growth without development of its predecessor.

But something started happening in May, even as the budget was signed. Not only was a stimulative budget enacted and passed against all odds, the President in one quick marching order all but eliminated two subsidy loopholes for racketeers and economic saboteurs called Nigerian elites i.e. fuel subsidy and the foreign exchange subsidy for a category of items but forty two. Both subsidies created distortion, and led to shortages of both fuel and foreign exchange. It was as such an economically sound decision ultimately when the President assented for let it to happen despite personal reservations. This three in one week achievement put Nigeria decisively on the path of growth and investments.

Given however that the President’s hang ups on these issues are known, interestingly he would have to go further to really put the country in position to harness the gains of the pain therapy now being applied. For example, the gains of petrol subsidy removal will not be fully harnessed if anti-monopoly laws are not put in place and the current plethora network of enforcement agencies (DPR, Petroleum Equalization Fund and the PPRA) are streamlined into a single agency with more alert staff to protect vulnerable consumers now subject to full market forces. Indeed, this must go hand in hand with full deregulation that allows supply to flood the market and push prices down.

Further to this, it should not be enough for filling stations to have permit to operate, the new enforcement agency must enforce a minimum number of days (and hours in it) of operation otherwise which they should lose their license. This license loss will send to marketers that the days of impunity were over, even as supply will become plentiful as a result as they feel the pressure of fulfilling their permit requirements. The comprehensive energy reform that the Petroleum Industry Bill should also be quickly examined, to ensure passage in whole or in parts, especially given that components like the Host Community Fund can help bring peace back to the Niger Delta.

Indeed, while the president might have mocked the idea of quick wins in year one, it is important that he expends his energy efficiently in year two by doing the three fundamental things that can radically change the face of the country one year thence. These are:

  • Public Sector Reform to save the budget from shoddy preparation even though it was heartening to hear the president talk about a “fit for purpose” civil service, which will be “rationalized” and eliminate duplicated agencies and MDAs. This is surely the fierce need of the moment for the President and can be his enduring legacy to Nigeria. Just so it can be far reaching, it will be nice to have a Bureaucracy Act that will limit the number of our MDAs to such backed by law, so that future presidents would stop growing the public service like before.
  • Taking the pains to fully enroll Nigerians in a single identity management system that begins to identify who the Nigerian is. This has implication for our security (see Fulani herdsmen, Niger Delta avengers and Boko Haram issues), implication for cutting graft and corruption in payroll and in public service, can create employment cum economic efficiencies and is actually a low hanging fruit given that we already hold disparate databases (INEC, SIM Cards with NCC, PVN, FRCN and Immigration) that can be harmonized in few months before refinement and addition.
  • Judicial Reforms starting with a drive to expel range of corrupt judges with EFCC spotlight, creating special corruption courts to try politically exposed persons. Such reform must include creating a system for appointing professional prosecutors on senatorial district basis to be confirmed by the Senate and working with the office of Attorney General who will be responsible for prosecuting all federal crimes in their districts and who can be benchmarked as against the ad hoc methods currently employed by the AG office on criminal and corruption cases. It will also be nice to see experimentation with jury trial, perhaps at federal courts in the nation’s capital. Related to this fundamental reform is quickening the devolution of the police force as promised in the ruling party’s manifesto and implementing reforms on what is left of the federal police after pushing a state police constitutional amendment through.

When it is all said and done, it will be necessary for the President to get real and get to work, as soon as the euphoria of Democracy day celebration is all said and done. God Bless Nigeria.


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