TRUTHS AND LIES: Fact Checking Buhari’s Farewell Speech

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(News investigators) President Muhammadu Buhari today delivered his farewell speech in a televised broadcast to Nigerians as he hands over to the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu on Monday, May 29.

In the farewell speech, President Buhari made several claims on how he revived economy and improved social wellbeing of Nigerians especially the rural poor.

He also said he was confident that he was leaving Nigeria better than he met it in 2015.

A source -fact checked some of the claims of the President on the backdrop of the reality in the country today.

[b]Claim 1:[/b]Nigeria’s economy became more resilient

President Muhammadu Buhari said that Nigeria’s economy had become resilient to external shocks due to policies put in place by the outgoing administration.

“The Nigerian economy has become more resilient due to the various strategies put in place to ensure that our economy remained afloat during cases of global economic downturns,” Buhari said.

Verification: Checks by Daily Trust show that under Buhari’s reign, Nigeria’s economy went into recession twice, the worst run of recession in 33 years of the country’s existence.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) announced in August 2016 that Nigeria slipped into recession primarily due to inability to address structural adjustments that will avert the recession.

GDP growth figures for Q2 2016 showed that the economy contracted by 2.06 per cent, following the negative growth of 0.36 per cent recorded in Q1 2016.

A recession occurs when an economy records two consecutive negative growth.

Subsequently gross domestic product figures released by the NBS on Saturday showed that the economy recorded a contraction of 3.62 per cent in the third quarter of 2020.

The cumulative GDP for the first nine months of 2020 stood at -2.48 per cent.

The previous time Nigeria recorded such cummulative GDP was in 1987, when GDP declined by 10.8 per cent.

While Analysts attributed the 2016 economic recession to a massive decline in oil prices, and poor management of the currency crisis, the 2020 economic recession however was blamed on the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected many economies of the world.

It further shows that other monetary and fiscal factors have also made Nigeria’s economy fragile and susceptible to external shocks.

For instance, the country’s debt (domestic and foreign) in 2015 when President Muhammadu Buhari took over power was N9.8 trillion. However with the recent securitisation of the CBN loans to the federal government, Nigeria’s debt has now skyrocketed to N77 trillion, showing an increase of almost 700 per cent.

Also, the country’s local currency, the Naira, is currently experiencing the worst depreciation at the parallel market due to inability to manage foreign exchange policies and activities that will improve the naira against other currencies especially the dollars and pounds.

In 2015, naira was trading against the dollar at N180-N190 to $1, dollar today is trading around N700 to $1 at the parallel market and about N470 at the official exchange rate.

Verdict: False

Claim 2 : Provide succour for poor Nigerians to earn a living

President Muhammadu Buhari also stated that his government provided poor Nigerians with a new lease of life and granted women opportunities to earn a living.

He said, “Furthermore, we increased the ability of the poor and rural Nigerians to earn a living, provided more food for millions in our villages and gave our women opportunities to earn a living.”

Verification

It was checked show that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari introduced some empowerment programmes to alleviate poverty and improve skills and social wellbeing of Nigerians.

These programmes include the N-Power, Graduate Entrepreneurship Empowerment Programme, school feeding programme, Conditional Cash Transfer to poor Nigerians, tradermoni, marketmoni, among others.

These programmes formally domiciled in the office of the Vice President were later moved to the ministry of humanitarian affairs.

The federal government has said it spends at least N500 billion annually to execute these social welfare projects.

However, since inception of these programmes in over six years, it has made little or no impact to reduce poverty or make Nigerians earn good living.

This is corraborated by the recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics on poverty.

The “National Multidimensional Poverty Index” report released recently said six out of 10 persons are multidimensionally poor.

The report, which is the first poverty index survey published by the NBS since 2010, said that 65 per cent of the poor (86 million people) live in the North, while 35 per cent (about 47 million) live in the South.

The report also noted that multidimensional poverty is higher in rural areas, with 72 per cent of the people living in poverty and 42 per cent in urban areas.

What is multidimensional poverty?

According to the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, multidimensional poverty entails poor health, lack of education, inadequate living standards, and living in environmentally hazardous areas, among others.

This means that under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, 63 per cent of Nigerians are poor because they lack access to health and education and suffer poor living standards, alongside unemployment and other economic shocks.

Consequently, this entails that any Nigerian that cannot afford more than one of the essential survival needs as stated in the report, such as good health, basic education, good living standards and gainful employment, is multidimensionally poor.

Verdict: Largely false

Claim 3: Provision of enabling environment for private sector business

The President in his speech also said his administration provided a conducive environment for businesses to grow and make profit.

“Our administration also provided an enabling environment for the private sector to engage in businesses for which their return on investments is guaranteed,” Buhari said.

Verification

Contrary to Buhari’s claim, records have shown that under his administration, many businesses have fared badly, suffering multiple taxation and other harsh economic challenges that saw some of them fold up.

Also, a recent report by the Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency (SMEDAN) revealed that the number of MSMEs dropped from 41 million to 39 million. The drop was attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic factors.

Also, inflation and monetary policy rates have reached an over 20 year high at 22.22 per cent and 18.5 per cent respectively, a development analysts and stakeholders say will further worsen Nigeria’s MSMEs growth

A finance analyst, Prof. Uche Uwaleke, said the decision by the Central Bank of Nigeria to further hike monetary rates in May 2023 would stifle credit to Nigerian businesses.

According to him, “The hike in MPR to 18.5% is not in the interest of output growth. Access to credit for MSMEs is further stifled,”

Speaking further, he said there is no certainty that the further hike of rates would impact on inflation.

“Besides, it may do little to halt upward trend in inflation as recent experience has shown.

“Any significant moderation in inflation rate can only come from dealing with supply side factors and structural issues fuelling rising prices such as insecurity, electricity and fuel challenges,” Uwaleke added.

In the same vein,hthe Organised Private Sector (OPS) recently cried out that increase in taxes and other tariffs are killing businesses in the country.

Taiwo Adeniyi in his address during the association’s 65th Annual General Meeting said that members of the OPS are greatly concerned by the dangerous trend of continuous introduction of new levies, taxes and charges at all levels of government.

According to him, in the last one-year, organized businesses have been faced with increase in electricity tariff without corresponding improvement in service delivery; sky-rocketing diesel and other energy costs among many others.

He said, “We also call on the tax authorities and, indeed, the Federal Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning that rather than the introduction of new taxes to fund the national budget and other developmental projects, efforts should be stepped up to expand the tax net and block the numerous leakages in Government institutions.”

Adeniyi said that the impact of the increase in the price of diesel on cost of operation is due to the country’s poor power situation and the reliance on the importation of diesel.

He advocated that in the short run, the government can support businesses by providing financial support to SMEs to survive the current high operating cost induced by high diesel prices.

“In the medium and long term, the government needs to focus on the power and refinery production capacity adding that an improvement in the power situation would reduce businesses’ reliance on diesel to power their operation.

“Also, the government needs to intensify efforts to increase the number of functioning refineries in the country thereby increasing domestic production of refined petroleum products, including diesel.

“Improvement in the power situation and an increase in domestic diesel production would reduce expenditure on diesel, and reduce their overall cost of operation,” he added.

Veridict: Largely false

Claim 4: Reducing terrorism and banditry

In the same vein, the outgoing President in his speech said during his reign, the federal government has been able to curtail terrorism and banditry in the country.

He said, “As I complete my term in office, we have been able to reduce the incidences of banditry, terrorism, armed robbery and other criminal activities considerably.”

Verification

When President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn into office in 2015 to begin his first term and in 2019 following his re-election, his three-point agenda was to tackle insecurity, improve economy and curb corruption.

While terrorism has been considerably put under check in the North East, the government has not been able to decimate banditry in the North West and analyses show that security situation in the country has generally worsened despite trillions of naira spent on security.

At least 54,948 people have been killed in Nigeria due to violent acts, within seven years from May 2015 to May 2022 under the President Muhammadu Buhari, data from the Nigeria Security Tracker (NST).

The Council on Foreign Relations, which collates the data describes the data as a conservative estimate, based on numbers reported by the press.

By implication, it means that at least 21 people have been killed every day during the period.

While deaths attributed to Boko Haram have dropped, by some accounts, up to 90 percent, other violent actors have kept the death rate increasing.

Bandits have increasingly become brazen in kidnapping and killing innocent Nigerians, so as the activities of unknown gunmen in the South East as well as herder/farmer clashes in the North Central part of the country.

Verdict: Partly true

Claim 5: Completion of Second Niger Bridge, other legacy infrastructure projects 

The outgoing President also highlighted some legacy projects which he completed to include Second Niger Bridge and other important roads linking other states.

“Mindful of the need to ensure adequate infrastructure to drive economic growth, we completed age-long projects and processes notably amongst which are the Petroleum Industry Act, completion of some power projects, completion of the second Niger bridge and various important roads linking cities and states,” he said.

Verification

President Buhari actually completed the Second Niger Bridge, a major bridge that links many states of the South South and South East.

The Second Niger Bridge was conceptualised in 2005. In 2014, there was an attempt to begin the project through Public Private Partnership (PPP) but this was not successful.

The construction began in 2016 with the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF). It was however completed and commissioned on May 23, 2023 and was later renamed President Muhammadu Buhari Bridge. The bridge is said to be 1.6 kilometer long.

Under the reign of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Loko-Oweto Bridge was completed across River Benue to link Benue to Nasarawa State and the Ikom Bridge in Cross River State.

Similarly, major road projects completed include the section of the over 200 kilometres of Kano-Kaduna Dual Carriage Expressway. Others include three new Federal Secretariats in Anambra, Zamfara and Sokoto.

Verdict: True

Conclusion: Daily Trust analysed some of the claims by President Muhammadu Buhari and found that while some are true, others are largely false owing to the current socio-economic realities in the country. CULLED DAILY TRUST.

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