As we kick off year 2017, there is need to appraise all possibilities and chances that would be available to provide the best for citizens and the country at large. In government, what they do towards the end of an outgoing year is to prepare a budget that will outline fiscal and economic policies of government for the incoming yea
In most cases, the budget is like a gamble, because it states what government would do if the variables projected are realizable. Outside government, some who operate in the spiritual real prefer to do forecast of events that are likely to happen. We who are neither in government, and do not engage the crystal ball just take a panoramic view of the outgoing year and recent ones, to project.
Some have started postulating on what the polity would be. There is no certainty in the affairs of men. Only God has the final say. Therefore, what is more certain is to read the affairs as they occur, critique them and suggest what could have been, or how it could have been.
The economy of 2016 was blighted by a number of factors. First was that the Federal Government had no firm handling of the situation, in terms of policy and implementation. The break-neck speed to recover stolen monies dictated largely the fiscal policy of government, which was aimed to starve the system of forex. The initial policy of this government on operation of domiciliary account was issued with the mindset that everyone who operated domiciliary account and transacted foreign exchange must have lifted crude, or shared in the former NSA’s funds meant to combat the terrorists in the Northeast.
Genuine operators of international business were affected negatively because they were unable to access forex to do business. Even those who needed forex for domestic operations, like attending to health issues and payment of school fees were affected. The implication was that people became scared, including genuine investors to bring in forex. That was the initial road to bad economy in 2016.
The downward plunge in oil price was to deal severe blow to government’s projection for the year. Despite that oil was projected to account for less than 20 percent of the revenue for 2016, government soon realized that other success of funding the budget were not that buoyant. The production capacity was significantly hampered by activities of angry young men in the Niger Delta. Instead of more than two million barrels of crude per day, production was reduced to around 1.5m, amid severe bombing of oil infrastructure.
Going forward in the New Year, oil revenue is put at 40 per cent of the total 2017 budget estimate. Oil remains the most trusted forex earner and if government must achieve reasonable level of implementation of the estimates, production has to remain steady. I see a situation where President Buhari will be forced to step down from the height built for him by his kitchen cabinet to make concessions that will sustain today’s relative calm in the Niger Delta. Leaders of the zone have met with the President and it is hoped that in the New Year, there will be a surge in pronouncements and activities signaling readiness to deal with the issues.
They have always been there, and each political leader has found a way to deal with it. Of all, late president Umaru Yar’Adua’s model has shown to be the best. It did not achieve 100 percent, in terms of ensuring sustainable development of the area. But it ensured that Nigeria earned substantial oil revenue to attend to the economy. It did not succeed in the overall goal of amnesty as envisaged by the technical committee headed by Ledum Mitee to work out lasting solution to restiveness in the zone. That is why a new wave of face-off and actors have resurfaced. They do not know Yar’Adua, but they know Buhari, and they expect him to do justice.
What is expected now is a deliberate step towards political solution. The issues have been addressed severally, and positions have been well canvassed and articulated. The most recent and far-reaching was the 2014 national conference, whose report our president s yet to read. So much was revealed last year in interviews he granted some media platforms. It is time to look at the document and see what aspects of it can be implemented and what aspects will require the National Assembly to debate and legislate on. I have taken more time on issues of the budget, oil revenue and the Niger Delta because it concerns the economy.
In the area of security, I expect the president to change tactics in the New Year. There seems to be a mindset somewhere, not to take serious cries of anguish in Southern Kaduna, and other areas where herdsmen are annihilating communities and farmlands. There seems to be a mindset that what is going on is tit for tat, and that it is justice, so far it enables the herdsmen to pay back some injustice meted to them sometime past. I think it is a wrong mindset, whether the imagination that fires it is real or contrived, because the tables will certainly turn at a no distant future and those who think they have upper hand today could be at the receiving end. Those who control the security apparatuses today are supposed to use them on behalf of all Nigerians, to secure them irrespective of tribe and religion. But if someone, somewhere thinks he should abdicate or collude, and allow herdsmen to do whatever they like, in the name of reprisal. That is not justice.
And this where many think our vice president, Yemi Osinbajo, SAN, is abdicating, or perhaps hampered. He told a congregation of Nigerians a few months back in the US that 800 suspected herdsmen have been arrested and put somewhere for trial. We do not know where they are and how long it will take for persons to answer to their activities in the Agatu communities and those in Enugu communities and so on. That is not justice. The All Progressives Congress (APC) promised to address injustices of the past during the 2015 campaigns. They promised to carry reforms in justice administration, to allow Nigerians demand reparation from those who wronged them. The APC did not promise reprisal attacks on farming communities; neither did they promise to unleash herdsmen on voters. As a law Professor, Nigerians want the vice president to champion justice reforms that will lead to safety of lives and property, for herdsmen and for farmers.
President Buhari, also in interviews he granted to some newspapers, last year, promised that his security teams were yet to or were about to profile the herdsmen, to know whether they were Nigerians or those roaming West Africa. He alluded to arms coming from Libya and all of that, but that has not stopped the killings and we are yet to hear anything concrete from government on who these killers are. One day you will hear one thing from the Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar Saad, the next day they will tell you the killers are not Fulani herdsmen. In 2017, we want to see concrete action on internal security. We are tired of stories.
This year could be the last chance for APC to redeem itself. The promises of 2015 have been largely explained away as the failure of the previous governments. But that will not put food on the table in 2017. A lot of the failure of government is political. You need sagacity to rally a crowd, whether in recession or out of it. I am saying that the party in government must reorganize itself to deliver to Nigerians justice. A good economy is to be found in an environment where justice is upheld. A good investment destination is where investors and the host communities will find justice. A winning political party is where owners and voters will find justice, not broken promises. In 2017, let there be justice. Happy New Year!