The Task Awaiting Buhari’s ‘Wise Men’


On September 20, 2015 4:48 am
MORE than three months into the life of
the current administration led by
President Muhammadu Buhari, it is yet
to formally unveil its economic blue
print for the next four years.
In fact, a former Deputy Governor of the
Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Dr.
Obadiah Mailafia, in the frenzy,
following the recent JP Morgan’s
announcement of the delisting plan of
Nigeria from its Bond Index for
Emerging Markets, declared that beyond
the lack of liquidity excuse tendered by
JP. Morgan, the real reason behind the
action may be the seeming lack of
economic policy direction that Mr.
Buhari wants to thread.
As an institution which is guiding
foreign investors on investment decision,
it wants to be sure beyond doubt what
economic agenda a country has, so as to
ascertain whether it would be favourable
or not. Therefore, the earlier the
government comes up with an economic
blueprint, the better for it, because this,
to a large extent, drives foreign direct
investments,” Mailafia said, while giving
a perspective to a television debate in
Abuja few days ago.
Again, a development economist and
former Diasporan Nigerian, Mr. Odilim
Enwegbara, has warned President
Buhari to be very proactive to ward off
the looming economic recession by
ensuring that his economic management
team pursues a pro-growth, investment
and jobs fiscal policy direction.
This, according to the economist, should
be the team’s first step, adding: “The
team’s comprehensive fiscal stimulus
package should focus on an
unprecedented infrastructure
investment. Here, the target should be on
power sector with an ambition to
generate not less than 100,000MW
within the next 10 years.”
All these assertions, somewhat, go to
support the claims by President Buhari
and Vice President Osibajo, on
assumption of duties when they painted
the picture of a bad situation of the
economy, as they told Nigerians that
they met an empty treasury, with a
burgeoning debt portfolio, which has
spiraled to over $60 billion.
All the claims seemed plausible as
governments, in all tiers then, were
battling with meeting their basic
commitments of paying workers salaries,
until the new administration had to
intervene with some stimulus packages,
which saw the holding of two Federation
Accounts Allocation Committee (RAAC)
meetings in one month, where
Federation revenue was distributed, as
well as a N338 billion life line for states,
which were still cash strapped after the
two FAAC meetings to meet up with
payment of their workers’ salaries.
Experts say the President needs to do
more than just resorting to ordering the
CBN to print Naira as bail-out for states
or the Federal Government, because
these measures would send out wrong
messages to Nigeria’s global partners
and investors’ confidence in the country.
That is why he needs to ensure that the
team expected to be unveiled soon must
be men and women with capacities to
provide solutions to 21st century
For instance, it is absurd to know that
nine moths into a fiscal year, not a
single penny has been released to
Ministries Departments and Agencies
(MDAs) for the purpose of executing
capital projects, which are the only
source from where the citizenry can
benefit from government.
Again, the tardy nature of capital budget
implementation by the MDAs, even when
funds are released to them, leaves so
much to be desired. As such, who ever is
going to be assigned the role of the
Finance Minister, must be someone with
a mind of his or her own, who cannot be
easily dissuaded from insisting on the
right things being done.
One area that the President needs to
confront in the budget administration in
Nigeria is the appetite for MDAs to hide
projects that could be done on a Public
Private Partnership (PPP) basis to save
government huge resources from the
The Director General of the
Infrastructure Concession and
Regulatory Commission, Mallam Aminu
Dikko, attested to this fact in a chat with
The Guardian.
He said: “Whereas, the Federal
Government has developed a robust
World Bank, AFDB backed public private
partnership (PPP) model for project
financing in Nigeria, where private
funds could be deplored to fund public
utilities, some MDAs would prefer to take
the projects for government financing,
because of the pecuniary gains they
derive from government funding, which
most times is always prohibitive to
carter for various interests in the award
of the contract.”
Still expected to pose a great challenge to
the change plan of the President will be
how he confronts the fraud in the import
waivers granted by the Federal Ministry
of Finance and tax concessions for
investors recommended by the Nigerian
Investment Promotion Council to the
Federal Inland Revenue Service, which is
robbing the country of several billions of
Naira. How the in-coming President
tackles this menace would go a long way
in mitigating the paucity of funds in the
Some of the perceived challenges may
have provoked Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, last
May, to declare that the Nigerian
economy had reached its worst moment
in history.
Giving a perspective to the situation, a
development economist and public
affairs commentator, Mr. Odilim
Enweagbara, described it, as ‘Nigeria at
a crossroads’ because of the myriad of
challenges seeking equal urgent
attention. He then advised the new
President to immediately hit the ground
running before Nigeria becomes a
laughing stock amongst the comity of
Enweagbara also said government should
seek “alternative sources of revenues.”
He added, “besides high import tariffs
and increasing value added tax (VAT),
government should also seek other novel
sources of raising its revenues to meet
its growing budgetary needs. This has
become inevitable in an era oil revenues
are no longer enough to meet
government’s increasing needs to invest
in the country’s economic
diversification, which is needed should
be hope to diversify government
revenues too.”