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Reopening Jonathan’s Bags of Many Promises by Theophilus Abbah

November 21, 2014

President Goodluck Jonathan made many campaign promises before the 2011 presidential election. In this introductory piece, we have outlined many of the promises, and made brief remarks on them. However, in the coming weeks, Sunday Trust will be examining them individually in a series, based on investigations being conducted across the country. This is an endeavour to find out the extent to which the regime has redeemed its promises.

On March 3, 2011 in the ancient city of Oshogbo, the sweltering sun tore through the pores of the skins of the people, creating discomfort for which the people sought shelter. The hot sun could be considered as pains inflicted on the people by nature. But there was another incident that made the people to gasp for breath. It was a spiralling gridlock. All major routes in the capital city had been flooded by a sea of assorted vehicles – political vehicles – that accompanied President Goodluck Jonathan and his army of campaigners to Osun State. Commercial activities were halted. Commercial vehicles were prevented from engaging in their trade for many hours on that day. Among those on his elongated and time-consuming entourage were Vice President Namadi Sambo, the National Acting Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Bello Mohammed, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Dimeji Bankole, Kwara State Governor, Bukola Saraki, Minister of Youth Development, Olasunkanmi Akinlabi and members of the National Assembly. Then, there were the innumerable political jobbers and rented crowd who jerked up the hope of the president’s re-election with a make-belief support.

Upbeat after meeting the Ooni of Ife Oba Okunade Sijuwade, President Jonathan reeled out some of the things he would do if re-elected in the presidential election billed to take place in April, 2011. According to him, “I have just received a report from the chairman of the Nigeria Railway Corporation that by the end of this month, segment of railway between Lagos and Jebba would be completed and people will begin to board train from Osogbo. We have formidable youth in Nigeria and we are going to use them maximally for the benefit of this country. They are needed to stimulate our economy for the development of our great country.”

In this few sentences, Jonathan made three major promises to the people. First, the revival of rail system in the country, and secondly, the creation of jobs for the teeming population of unemployed youths. The third promise he made was his plan to stimulate the economy for the development of Nigeria into a great country. In addition, he promised to complete the ongoing dam projects in Ilesa and Ile-Ife, which he said would be completed by his administration to boost agricultural production in the state.

These campaign promises in Oshogbo may be considered as just four out of over 50 pledges he made to Nigerians during the five-month campaign from November 2010 to March 2011. The promises are aggregated from reports in newspapers like Daily Trust, Champion, Punch, Thisday, Vanguard, The Guardian, as well as The News, Tell, and Newswatch magazines; television debates on the African Independent Television (AIT), and President Jonathan’s inaugural speech to Nigerians when he assumed office. In its compilation of these promises by the International Press Centre (IPC), Lagos, the organisation claimed to have a list of 91 promises, but many of them overlap, such that the major pledges could be reduced to 20.

The promise to revive the rail sector was partly fulfilled, though critics consider the achievement in that sector as laughable, if the snail speed to the trains that ply Lagos to Kano is compared with the modern speed trains that boost the economy of other developing countries. Passengers who have boarded the train from Lagos to Kano have lamented the 36-hour journey, punctuated by discouraging breakdowns over mechanical faults severally before the termination of the trip.

The rail system revival is an aspect of the infrastructural development which the president promised to implement between 2011 and 2015. A dozen other promises he made along this line include the revitalisation of the moribund Nigeria Machine Tools in Oshogbo, the modernisation of the Nigerian ports, the completion of the River Niger bridge before the expiration of his tenure, the transformation of all major routes in Damaturu, Yobe State, to federal roads, and the resuscitation of all collapsed industries in Kano State. Others include the repairs of the road leading to the Murtala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos, making Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu an international airport, repair of Benin-Ore road, repair of Sokoto-Kontagora road, and the possession of Federal Government landed properties in Lagos.

Sunday Trust gathered that the Nigeria Machine Tools in Oshogbo has been privatised, and the buyer and business mogul Aliko Dangote is in the process of transforming it to a state that its potentials could be realised.

Work is ongoing on the River Niger Bridge, though the pace of work has been too slow to please Igbo leaders. Akanu Ibiam Airport in Enugu has assumed international status, thanks to the Minister of Aviation Stella Oduah, who pushed the project through and insist that foreign airlines should include the route on their schedules.

Also, Benin-Ore road is being repaired, but not much is being done to put Sokoto – Kontagora road in a good shape. Our reporter who plied that road recently described it as a death trap, as even the patch work being done by the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) is half-hearted and poorly done, such that the roads get damaged weeks after the repairs.

Moreso, there is no sign that collapsed industries in Kano are being resuscitated. The new industries springing up in Kano are mainly Chinese-owned. Again, no single road has been built by the federal government in Damaturu since the re-election of Jonathan in 2011. Sunday Trust learnt that all the road construction work ongoing in Damaturu were being done by the state government, and this has led to lamentation by government, which is weighed down by the burden of catering for soldiers in the emergency rule dispensation. The only federal government signature on roads in Yobe State is the rehabilitation of 33-kilometre road between Gashua and Nguru. The roads leading to Murtala Mohammed Airport Road in Lagos have been rehabilitated, but the traffic situation has not abated. Therefore, it needs to be expanded to accommodate the stream of vehicles that use the roads.

One other sector which the president promised to transform is power. During his campaign, the president stated, “We all know the importance of power. We look forward to a time when Nigerians can enjoy uninterrupted power supply from the beginning to the end of a year, and we are working hard to ensure that that objective is attained within the life-span of this administration.” Along this line, he promised that government would ensure Nigerians do not use generators more than two times in a week. Others are, to explore coal deposits in Benue and Kogi states for improved power supply, to construct more dams to build more hydro-power stations, to reduce the importation of generators by at least, 90 per cent before the end of the tenure, to raise power generator to about 4,747 megawatts by December 2011, and to put an end to epileptic power supply in the country in 2012, just as fuel queues at petrol stations were ended.

As it were, there was a major policy shift in the power sector, as government sold the sector to power generation companies (GENCOs) and power distribution companies (DISCOs). Under this arrangement, government is putting the burden on the shoulders of the private sector. Before the sale of the sector, there were discordant tunes on how power supply had improved. But power generation is put at about 3,000 megawatts as at the time of writing this report, Nigerians have continued to patronise generator merchants.

The president made many promises on how to turn around the economy of Nigeria. According to him, the private sector would be encouraged to stimulate industrial growth.

Other promises he made was to introduce a 5-year term budgeting, to diversify the economy, to revive the Ajaokuta Steel Complex and Itakpe Iron Ore Company, to diversify the economy in order to address unemployment; to get industries in Lagos up and running, to attract industries to the Niger Delta; and to create 1.5 million jobs in a space of two years. Along this line, the president promised to transform the economy within four years, review importation rules and regulations to encourage local manufacturers, and to deliver Nigeria from poverty in the space of time.

From the foregoing, the job creation is a cardinal objective of the economic programme of the Jonathan administration. Efforts have been made through YOUWIN scheme, under which government support young entrepreneurs with basic capital to enable them develop their business ideas and employ youths in the process of actualising their projects. Also, under the SURE-P regime, government has provided jobs for 3,000 youths in each state, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), But there is this resounding doubt on the status of such engagements. The N10,000 stipend paid to them monthly cannot be considered as salary because it is N7,000 below the national minimum wage.

On the Ajaokuta Steel and Itakpe Iron Ore projects, nothing has been done to revive them, though President Jonathan reiterated last year that government would ensure the companies were revived.

Government has commenced the 5-year term budgeting, though the National Assembly has continually faulted the underlying principles behind it. The benchmark for the sale of Nigeria’s crude oil, for instance, stalled the presentation of the 2014 budget for three months.

In the Energy and Gas sector, the president told Nigerians that the cornerstone of its policy would be through the Petroleum Industry Law, which is not yet a law. He had planned that jobs would be created through the local content element of the law. Among the promises made along this line were the construction of two world scale petrochemical plants, two fertilizer plants and two fertilizer blending plants. It is not clear if the two fertilizer blending plants being built by Dangote in Kano and Edo states are under the federal government’s arrangement. However, the fertilizer blending plant in Bauchi is owned by the state government. In this sector, Jonathan projected an inflow of foreign investment worth $10 billion in three years. He also talked about the establishment of petrochemical plant around Koko Free Trade Zone in Delta State; to build a $3 billion central gas processing facility by 2012 to be sited in Obiaruku, Delta State; to make Nigeria export refined petroleum products instead of export crude oil alone; to create 600,000 new jobs in the gas industry; and to invest in the petro-chemical, mining, research and development. Much of the achievements in this area will be explored in the next few weeks.

During his campaign, the president told Nigerians that he would tackle insecurity, and from the budgetary allocations to the sector, which has been an average of N1 trillion annually, it is apparent that he is not sparing the naira in his desire to arrest bloodshed in the country. Jonathan promised to overhaul the national security architecture, to make sure that no part of the country is allowed to be a sanctuary for armed robbers, kidnappers and other criminals. He also promised to confront ethno-religious violence headlong, to pursue all bombers and terrorists from the shores of the country, and to adopt modern methods to tackle the problem of political violence.

The president vowed to fight against corruption and ensure that all crimes are investigated and prosecuted to a logical conclusion. The president also pledged his commitment to strengthen the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

It is difficult to say that any of these has been achieved considerably. Armed robbery and kidnapping are still haunting the South-East and South South states, while the Boko Haram insurgency has begun to recede, but would not just go. It is for this reason that the president declared a state of emergency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, but the occasional surprise attacks by the insurgents, leading to multiple deaths of soldiers and peasants in villages is a source of concern to Nigerians. However, government is upbeat about tackling the menace. On government’s promise to strengthen the EFCC and ICPC, the opposite of this vow is what Nigerians have witnessed in the last three years. Budgetary allocation to these two anti-corruption agencies is on the decline. They now engage in advocacy, while high profile corruption cases are not taken up.

Government has been beating its chest, claiming to have achieved a lot in the agricultural sector. For instance, the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, received a controversial award from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for his achievement in this sector. During his electoral campaign, President Jonathan promised to provide farmers with information on agricultural production and move toward mechanised agriculture.

Also, the president said he would work towards making each state to specialise in two crops production: cash and local crops. He promised to earmark funds to revitalise ailing industries so that farmers could produce raw materials which would be used by these industries to produce finished goods.

Jonathan further promised to boost farming activities by providing power and water; provide alternatives marketing board, build silos to help farmers preserve their products, provide irrigation to enhance crops production in season and out of season. In 2012, the Ministry of Water Resources through the Sokoto Rima River Basin Development Authority introduced wheat production through irrigation at Bakalori and Jibia irrigation areas. It has been successful. However, farmers have complained that they have nobody to buy their products. Traders are pricing the wheat below production cost.

Another prominent irrigation project has been embarked upon by the Lagos State government, but it is not clear what contributions the federal government has made to the irrigation project.

Also, government has empowered cotton and ginnery companies by giving them loans to enhance cotton production in the country. State governments were urged to provide farmlands to the companies. Kogi, Edo and Bauchi states, have so far provided land for this project. The companies give farmers loans to produce cotton. At harvest, the companies buy back the produce from the farmers and deduct the loans from the proceeds. The silos vision is dead because some contractors didn’t execute the projects, while those executed are not in use and, therefore, abandoned. Even the fertilizer project, which is one of the projects government has boasted about, is not reaching the majority of farmers in the country.

In the education sector, the president promised to establish at least one federal university in each state by the end of 2012; improve hostel facilities across the nation; revamp Alimajiri system of education; and work on how to improve the teaching and learning environment. He also promised to ensure that every Nigerian of school age has access to basic education. As it were, the Alimajiri project has taken off in several states in the North, but there are issues of the number of schools because the few schools cannot absorb a significant number of children roaming the streets in many cities.

However, in his January 1, 2014 address to the nation, the president claimed that 125 Almajiri schools had been established across states in the North. As against his promise to establish one new federal university in each state, government has established 12 out of the expected 36. It is not clear if more universities would be established before 2015. In terms of hostel accommodation, the situation has not improved, unless part of the funds approved after the six-month ASUU strike would do the magic between now and 2015. The hostels in most universities are overcrowded, with an average of eight students cohabiting in one hostel. Therefore, facilities become inadequate.

In terms of mineral resources, the president promised to ensure that hydro-carbon deposits in some part of the North are fully exploited. He also promised to revamp mining activities in Jos, and make solid mineral key revenue source in Nigeria. On water resources, he promised to rebuild the Ilesha water scheme, complete Ife’Ijesha dam, provide succificent water to the people of Taraba, and ensure the completion of Mambilla dam.

Other sundry promises he made include the plan to stop any form of discrimination based on ethnicity or religion, and to ensure the conduct of free and fair elections.

Jonathan also promised to run an open government, stand for national unity and wealth creation, reform the Customs to conform to global practices and facilitate a bill to the National Assembly to give constitutional backing to traditional rulers as custodians of the traditions and customs of the people.

To tackle the problem of multiple taxation about which businessmen have complained, he promised to evolve a new tax policy, while pledging that his government would be committed to fairness, equity and justice for all.

On the Niger Delta, he promised to put in place a four-year development plan that would create coastal roads, railways and mechanised agriculture. The objective is to look for ways of exporting produce from the region. He promised to set up committees on the execution of the development plan.

The president also promised to work with the Cross River State government to make sure Tinapa is vibrant and productive. He also pledged to ensure that National Boundary Development Agencies are funded to tackle the challenges that arose from the ceding of Bakassi to Cameroon.

Among his pledges was his plan to woo investors to establish petrochemical industries in Niger Delta. Of all these projections, it is the East-West road project that is being emphasised, and it is expected to be completed in 2014. Already, over N400 billion has been sunk into it, from budgetary allocations and the SURE-P funds. The four-year development plan is yet to take off, while Tinapa has been bought over by the Asset Management Company of Nigeria (AMCON) because of the huge debt it had accumulated over the years.
Goodluck Jonathan

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