President Muhammadu Buhari [PHOTO CREDIT: @Buharisallau1]Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari likes to boast about the progress he claims the West African nation has made under his administration, which started in May 2015. In many speeches and interviews, he talks about his governance records and how he has performed better than his predecessors, particularly in the areas of anti-corruption, economy, and security.
In addition, the president almost always blames past administrations for current challenges, many times citing the “near destruction of the country” under the PDP which had ruled Nigeria and produced three presidents – Olusegun Obasanjo (1999-2007); late Umaru Yar’Adua (2007-2010); and Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015) – in 16 years.
On June 20, Mr Buhari claimed his administration is leaving Nigeria in a “far better place than we found it” seven years ago. The president said this in a written response to questions from Bloomberg.
“We leave Nigeria in a far better place than we found it. Corruption is less hidden, for Nigerians feel empowered to report it without fear, while money is returned; terrorists no longer hold any territory in Nigeria, and their leaders are 2deceased, and vast infrastructure development sets the country on course for sustainable and equitable growth,” Mr Buhari said regarding his performance in fulfilling his pledges to fight corruption, secure the country and fix the economy.
A lot has happened since 2015 when Mr Buhari came into office and his administration is now rounding off, with less than one year to complete his full two terms of four years each.
But how true is the claim that Nigeria is better than he met it in 2015?
Before now, the president has been caught several times making unsubstantiated claims in his speeches. Therefore, to separate facts from fiction, PREMIUM TIMES is examining the three areas of governance that Mr Buhari was asked about in his interview with Bloomberg – corruption, security, and the economy.
Prior to 2015, Nigeria’s inflation rates remained at single digit–even as analysts opined at the time that it was high. For instance, in the whole of 2014, the nation’s inflation rate moved between 7.7 per cent, which was the lowest, to the highest point of 8.5 per cent, official data shows.
By 2015, when Mr Buhari took over power, the inflation rate averaged 9 per cent.
Since then, the nation has seen a surge in inflation rates. Data released by the statistics bureau, NBS, has shown that under Mr Buhari, Nigeria’s inflation rate hit a 16-year high amid an increase in prices and poor purchasing power.
In 2016, inflation rose to 15.68 per cent and jumped to 16.52 per cent in 2017. The numbers dropped to 12.09 per cent in 2018 and down to 11.40 per cent in 2019. By 2020, the inflation had risen to 12.2 per cent and closed in 2021 at 16.95 per cent.
In May, NBS said the inflation rate climbed to 17.71 per cent.
A key element of inflation in Nigeria in recent years is the skyrocketing prices of food and general goods and services.
Over the last seven years, food inflation in Nigeria has averaged 17 per cent – rising, for instance from 9.78 per cent in May 2015 to 20.3 per cent in November 2017.
In 2014, meanwhile, the nation’s food inflation was at 9.2 per cent. It rose to 10.4 per cent at the end of 2015; 17.4 per cent in 2016; 19.42 per cent in 2017; 13.56 per cent in 2018; 14.67 per cent in 2019; and 19.56 per cent in 2020.
Food inflation climbed to 20.57 per cent year-on-year in January 2021, according to data released by the NBS, making it the highest in over 11 years. It closed at 17.37 per cent in December 2021.
In May, however, the food inflation rose to 19.5 per cent amid an increase in prices of staple food across the country. The Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated the problem but prices started surging with hardship deepening well before the conflict.
It is not only inflation that has increased under President Buhari, when he took over power in the second quarter of 2015, the unemployment rate rose to 9.9 per cent in the third quarter of that year from 8.2 per cent in the second quarter, according to the NBS.
Since then, unemployment, poverty, and economic disempowerment have remained a disturbing feature of Nigerian life. Between May 2015 and May 2021, Nigeria’s unemployment rate has more than tripled.
The current data on the NBS dashboard shows Nigeria’s unemployment rate is 33.3 per cent, translating to some 23.2 million people, the highest in at least 13 years and the second-highest rate in the world.
Similarly, the last poverty survey from the NBS showed that 40 per cent of the Nigerian population, or almost 83 million people, live below the poverty line.
According to the NBS ‘2019, Poverty and Inequality in Nigeria report, which was based on data from the Nigerian Living Standards Survey conducted in 2018-2019 with support from the World Bank’s Poverty Global Practice, the nation’s poverty line was put at 137,430 nairas ($381.75) per year.
In June, the World Poverty Clock also put the number of people living in extreme poverty in Nigeria at 83 million, or 39 per cent of the population, while the country’s total population stood at 214 million.
Also, between 2014 and 2019, Nigeria dropped nine places on the Global Human Development Index, HDI, published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The country was ranked 152 out of 187 countries in 2014. But, in 2019, the index placed Nigeria 161 out of 189 countries worldwide. The country scored low on all three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, knowledge, and a decent standard of living.
Also, between May 2015 and now, the Nigerian economy has fallen into recession, twice.
Under Mr Buhari’s stewardship, the economy fell into recession, first, in 2016 when the economy contracted 2.06 per cent between April and June, and in 2020 when COVID-19 decimated economies all over the world.
In November 2015, barely six months after Mr Buhari was inaugurated as president, the naira sold against the dollar at N197. Between then and now, the Nigerian currency has gone through ceaseless devaluation, with two of such exercises occurring in 2020 alone.
This year, the currency had been trading between the range of N417 and N422 for a dollar on the relatively flexible spot market window but on the black market, dealers exchanged the naira at N600 and above.
In the same vein, Nigeria’s debt profile has risen considerably since Mr Buhari took over power, as budgetary proposals have been designed considerably around debts.
According to the Debt Management Office (DMO), Nigeria’s debt profile stood at N12.12 trillion as of June 2015, shortly after Mr Buhari took office. The DMO said Nigeria’s total public debt as of March 31, 2022, was N41.6 trillion. The figures include the Debt Stock of the Federal and State Governments, as well as, the Federal Capital Territory.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how the Buhari administration borrowed three times the combined amount by past governments since 1999.
Having looked at these key economic indices – inflation, unemployment rate, exchange rate, GDP and recession, food prices, and debt level, PREMIUM TIMES found that all these elements have worsened under Mr Buhari than they were before he took office in 2015.
Hence, the president’s claim that Nigeria is better economically is false.
Before Mr Buhari took office in 2015, Nigeria was beleaguered by security threats, most considerably Boko Haram holding a large territory within the borders of the country and causing a humongous humanitarian disaster in the country’s North-east.
Since 2015, Nigeria has made advances against the terrorists and pushed them to the fringes of Sambisa Forest and Lake Chad Islands when the Islamic State in West Africa, ISWAP, is believed to be headquartered. But the re-capturing of much of the areas, especially northern Adamawa, including Michika, Mubi, and Madagali, and parts of Borno, including Gwoza and Bama, occurred between late 2014 and early 2015 under President Goodluck Jonathan.
PREMIUM TIMES’ reporters have repeatedly conducted on-the-ground reporting in the area and Nigeria newspapers, including ours, published reports of the military successes in those areas just before Mr Jonathan exited.
But the area remains highly militarised and several villages around Michika and Madagali in northern Adamawa and Gwoza, Uba, and Lassa in Borno remain prone to Boko Haram attacks. Fishing activities on the Lake Chad islands are still largely controlled by ISWAP, a key part of their financing. In June, the House of Representatives noted an “increase” in Boko Haram attacks in northern Adamawa and mandated the military to reinforce security in the affected communities.
While success is being recorded in the North-east, other parts of the country have become hotbeds of violence. Outside Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe states, the original base of the terrorists, ISWAP has claimed responsibility for attacks on military formations and civilians in Taraba and Kogi States this year.
Then, apparent mismanagement of the country’s diversity by Mr Buhari, who repeatedly made divisive comments (the 97 vs 5 comments, for example), has aggravated ethnoreligious distrust and tensions and fuelled secessionist agitations.
In the northwest, bandit groups are virtually in charge, operating from ungoverned forests and exploiting the absence of police and local administration. Having originated in Zamfara State, the gang violence has since spread to five other nearby states, namely Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi, and Niger, the last of which is in North-central.
In the middle part of the country, thousands of people have been killed in increasingly vicious land disputes between cattle herders and farmers. Farther to the south, the Biafran agitation has turned increasingly violent in the South-east. And in various pockets throughout the country, kidnapping has become common on major highways and schools.
Recently, rarely does a day go by without the press reporting a deadly attack or a kidnapping. In the first quarter of 2022, at least, 2,968 people were killed from mass atrocities while 1,484 were abducted, according to data released by the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST).
Our findings revealed that while significant progress has been in the northeast, Mr Buhari has, on a larger scale, failed to keep the promise of securing Nigeria.
This claim by the president is, therefore, rated not true.
The perception of corruption in Nigeria under Mr Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, averaged 25.8 per cent. The score fluctuated between 24 and 27 per cent during the five years of Mr Jonathan.
Mr Buhari’s tenure as of 2020 averaged 26.6 per cent. Within the five years since he assumed office, the country’s score has ranged between 25 and 28 per cent, according to Transparency International (TI).
Nigeria’s ranking on the global index has, however, not been impressive. Between 2016 and 2020, Nigeria has slipped in the country ranking by 13 positions, from 136 in 2016 to 149 in 2020. The rankings are from 1 to 180, with 180 indicating the country that has the worst perception of corruption.
But a country’s placement on the ranking may not be because the country was perceived to be more corrupt; instead, the perception of corruption in other countries changed, Transparency International said.
A PREMIUM TIMES analysis of the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) by TI showed that Mr Buhari had the best performance in fighting corruption compared to his predecessors since 1999.
Mr Buhari has not made a significant ethical impact on the system by force of personal example and political will. He has not disclosed what his treatments in the United Kingdom for undisclosed ailments cost taxpayers and he has been captured at various times forging political alignments with individuals either indicted and being prosecuted or being investigated for corruption by the anti-graft agencies.
Cases of alleged serious corruption – like those of Stella Oduah, Danjuma Goje, and Godswill Akpabio – are believed to have gone “silent” after the affected politicians joined Mr Buhari’s APC or aligned with his political interest.
Also, after Panama Papers and Pandora Papers investigations offered the law enforcement agencies actionable intelligence with the releases of Nigerian past and serving officials who may have breached the country’s code of conduct law, no action has followed.
Then, Mr Buhari pardoned two former governors – Joshua Dariye, Plateau State; and Jolly Nyame, Taraba State – who were convicted and jailed for corruption, devastating the morale of the country’s anti-graft operatives, who had committed many years of work to investigate and secure the convictions.
Apart from appointing individuals already under investigation for monumental corruption to serve in his government, he allowed serving officials exposed for corrupt practices, especially procurement fraud, to remain in service. A think thank, Centre for Democracy and Development says that Mr Buhari’s anti-corruption promises remain “largely unmet”
Despite having been indicted twice for corruption by separate probes, the vice-chancellor of the University of Lagos remains in office. And Mr Buhari allows the NDDC to remain without a board and substantive management, making the organisation vulnerable to corruption. The result of an audit of the NDDC by the president is yet to be made public.
“As the candidate who rode into office in 2015 on a wave of popular anger with entrenched elite corruption, he has made little effort to reform Nigeria’s patronage-fueled, scandal-prone public sector or hold his top officials accountable for their business-as-usual approach,” CDD said in its report, titled, “Buhari’s Anti-Corruption Record at Six Years: An Assessment.”
This claim by the president is, therefore, rated not true.
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