IT was a Wednesday morning. And as usual the news-stands at the Ikeja Under Bridge in Lagos played host to a throng of patrons and free readers poring over the newspapers on display and arguing heatedly about sundry news reports of interest.
With most of the dailies featuring reports of the latest violence, killings and other criminal activities in different parts of the country, it was not surprising that insecurity was the common subject of debate among those present.
But soon one of the participants, a bearded fellow with a noticeable paunch, provided a digression bordering on dramatic relief, as he pointed at a news item that caught his interest. It was a news headline which quoted the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, as saying that no past Nigerian president had achieved as much as what the current administration under President Muhammadu Buhari has so far accomplished since coming into office six years ago.
"Abeg, what is this Lai Mohammed man talking about sef?" queried the fellow in an aggrieved, truculent voice. "What special thing has Buhari achieved since 2015 that he became our president? He promised us that the economy will improve under his government. But instead Nigerians are today suffering because of high cost of living as the prices food items and other essential goods are now hitting the roof and most Nigerian families can no longer feed themselves. Even the corruption he promised to fight to the end is still there as many government officials that even the EFCC said are corrupt have not been arrested and prosecuted. The most disappointing part is that insecurity that made most Nigerians to vote for him has become a very big monster that is about to destroy the entire country while he is there looking helplessly," he submitted querulously.
His sentiment was shared by some of those present. But a gaily dressed woman differed. For her, it was important that the full story under the headline be read to get the drift of the minister's argument before passing judgement on it. Some voices immediately concurred. So, picking a copy of the paper, the woman had read the relevant portion of the statement the minister made during a media briefing to mark the six anniversary of the Buhari administration.
The news report quoted the minister to have said: "Never in the history of our country has any administration done so much with so little as the Buhari Administration has done. It's easy to forget now, but when this administration came into office in 2015, the price of crude oil, which provides 80 per cent of Nigeria's budgetary revenues and 95 per cent of foreign exchange earnings, dropped drastically and, along with it, the fund available to the government. It is therefore monumental that this administration has achieved so much despite the paucity of fund.
"I want to state emphatically that while more attention has been given, especially in recent times, to the security challenges facing our country; those challenges are fleeting and will not define the legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari.
"Let me say that President Buhari's legacy is assured, and will be defined by his massive achievements in office. The roads, rails, bridges, mass housing, port development, improvement in power supply and other massive infrastructural development will last for generations to come and will help propel economic growth and national development".
The debate flared at this point as more conflicting contributions were made, with those present now sharply divided about the merits and demerits of the minister's claim. But one thing was certain: reading Mohammed's statement afforded the impromptu parliamentarians the opportunity of critically appraising the reality of the challenges confronting the country at this time and how the administration is striving to tackle them and bring needed relief to embattled Nigerians.
Lai Mohammed's statement in this regard is tune with the same message that Mr. Femi Adesina, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President Buhari has been passionately preaching in recent time. Like a salesman so sure and convinced of the authenticity of his product, Adesina has been on a marketing trail, trying to make Nigerians to see what the Federal Government is doing to make life better for them even in the face of grave challenges he said were not of the making of the administration. For instance, in a beautiful piece he penned titled: "Buhari Administration at 6: Even the Blind Can See Certain Things", the president's spokesman waxed most eloquent in his sales pitch to convince his readers/listeners that in spite of the challenging times and the raging criticisms, the Buhari administration is worth their continued trust, faith and patronage.
According to him: "As the Buhari administration clocks six, revisionists will want to paint just a picture of woes, a thoroughfare of woes. But reality says no. In the words of former British Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill: 'Truth is incontrovertible. Ignorance may deride it, panic may resent it, malice may destroy it, but there it is'. No doubt, Nigeria faces a lot of challenges, particularly in the areas of security and the economy. And it has affected the quality of lives of the people. Will we pull back? Yes, we are pulling back already, and our country is being retrieved. Soon, we will arrive Canaan, flowing with milk and honey.
"President Buhari inherited a land that was badly riven, a boat filled with holes, and taking in water massively. He struggled and stabilized the craft. Things got better, as the battle was taken to the enemies of the country. Then, suddenly, it got worse again. If insurgency was the main problem, banditry joined. Kidnapping for ransom threw its hat into the ring. Murders, mayhem, cult killings, violent criminalities, all joined, till it began to seem that nothing else was happening in the land, except killings, and more killings. True? False.
"Despite the overwhelming nature of security challenges, the Muhammadu Buhari administration is taking some giant strides that make one believe that happier days lay ahead of the country. But that is for those who choose to see the bright, and not perpetually gloomy side of things."
So, for him the administration is poised to surmount the challenges and bring a new lease of life to Nigerians. He anchored his confidence on what he deemed as concrete reality of achievements of the Buhari administration that Nigerians cannot ignore, even at this period of national trial and lamentation.
Indeed the fact-sheet from the President's media office bears eloquent testimony of these remarkable achievements in transportation(including rail, road and ports infrastructure), power, housing, agriculture, oil and gas infrastructure and so on. With regards to transportation, the Buhari administration has always boasted of its signature achievements in rail and roads development. Often cited as references in this regard are the Abuja Light Rail completed in 2018, the 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail completed and commissioned 33 years after construction began, as well as the 156km Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail awaiting commissioning and revamp of Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri Narrow Gauge Rail, while financing negotiations for the Ibadan-Kano Standard Gauge Rail project are ongoing. For roads, the administration readily reminds all of the over a billion dollars Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, PIDF, has invested in three flagship projects: Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Second Niger Bridge, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway. This is besides the more than N360 billion worth of Sukuk Bonds raised since 2017 for dozens of critical road projects across all six geopolitical zones as well as over a trillion Naira Highway Development and Management Initiative, HDMI, a public-private partnership programme is expected to mobilise for the development and maintenance of 12 Roads, amounting to 1,963km in length.
The administration also takes pride in celebrating its achievements in agriculture and have all the evidence to back this up. The flagship of this evidence is obviously the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP, of the Central Bank of Nigeria which was launched by President Buhari on November 17, 2015 and has since reportedly made more than N300 billion available to more than 3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities (including rice, wheat, maize, cotton, cassava, poultry, soy beans, groundnut, fish), cultivating over 3.8 million hectares of farmland. This is in addition to several other investment interventions to boost agricultural development in the country.
Ports, power, housing, oil and gas have similarly received and are still receiving investment interventions for both infrastructure and operational development. For instance, the completion of new terminals for international airports in Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt and the construction of new runway for Abuja and Enugu International Airports are regarded as worthy of praise. Just like the Presidential approval for four International Airports as Special Economic Zones: Lagos, Kano, Abuja and Port Harcourt.as well as approval for new private-sector funded deep sea ports: Lekki Deep Sea Port ( with construction already well underway and completion slated for 2022); Bonny Deep Sea Port (with ground-breaking done in March 2021); Ibom Deep Sea Port; and Warri Deep Sea Port.
For oil and gas, there have also been significant government attention and massive investment, according to government officials. And they readily remind you that to underline importance of this sector, the Buhari administration declared this decade the "Decade of Gas". And clear pointers to this recognition include:
*Ground-breaking on 614km Ajaokuta-Kaduna-Kano Gas Project.
*Successful completion of Nigeria's first Marginal Field Bid Round in almost 20 years, expected to raise in excess of half a billion dollars, and open up a new vista of investment in oil and gas.
*Launch of National LPG Expansion Programme (including Removal of VAT from the domestic pricing of LPG)
*Financial close and signing of contract for NLNG Train 7, which will grow Nigeria's production capacity by about 35%
*Nigeria and Morocco have in 2021 signed an agreement to develop a US$1.4 billion multipurpose industrial platform (Ammonia and Di-Ammonium Phosphate production plants) that will utilize Nigerian gas and Moroccan phosphate to produce 750,000 tons of ammonia and 1 million tons of phosphate fertilizers annually by 2025. It will be located in Ikot-Abasi, Akwa-Ibom State.
*Commissioning, in December 2020, of the new NPDC Integrated Gas Handling Facility in Edo State, the largest onshore LPG plant in the country, with a processing capacity of 100 million standard cubic feet of gas daily, producing 330 tonnes of LPG, 345 tonnes of propane and 2,600 barrels of condensate, daily.
*Establishment of a $350m Nigerian Content Intervention Fund, to finance manufacturing, contracts and assets in the oil and gas industry