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Atiku’s blueprint, ‘poor version of what’s on ground’ – Full text of Lai Mohammed’s address


Good morning gentlemen

Last week, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, spoke on
his Economic Blueprint at an event in Lagos. Let me say, straightaway, that the so-called blueprint is a crude attempt at copying all that
the Administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has done, especially
in the areas of job creation, infrastructure financing, relationship
with the private sector, rejuvenation of the power sector, poverty
reduction, debt management and the overall management of the economy.

I will give details in the course of this press conference.But it is more shocking that an opposition that has condemned all
that this Administration has done would turn around to weave its
so-called Economic Blueprint around the same things that are currently
being done by the same Administration. This press conference,
therefore, is aimed at exposing the hypocrisy inherent in an opposition that condemns an Administration while also showcasing a
blueprint that is nothing but a poor version of what’s on ground.

Let’s start with infrastructure. The former Vice President said,
in his Economic Blueprint, that ‘rebuilding infrastructure and
reducing infrastructure deficit will enhance the carrying capacity of
the economy and unleash growth and wealth creation’. No one
understands this better than this Administration. Even our worst
critics will agree that our record on infrastructure development is
next to none in the history of this country. Across the country, we
have constructed 8,352.94 kilometres of roads, rehabilitated 7,936.05
kilometres of roads, constructed 299 bridges, maintained 312 bridges
and created 302,039 jobs in the process. We have also delivered houses
in 34 states of the Federation under the first phase of the National
Housing Project. We were able to achieve these through a combination
of budget increase and innovative infrastructure financing methods.
Whereas we met a budget of N18.132 billion for the roads component of
the Federal Ministry of Works when we assumed office in 2015, the
budget for the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing increased
exponentially to N260.082 billion in 2016; N274.252 billion in 2017,
N356.773 billion in 2018, N223.255 billion in 2019, N227.963 billion
in 2020 and N241.864 billion in 2021. Therefore, for anyone using this
as a campaign stunt, without acknowledging what we have done so far,
is cheap and disingenuous.

The former Vice President also promised to ‘break the jinx’ in
infrastructure financing. Really? We state, unequivocally, that the
worst jinx in infrastructure financing was the PDP Administration from
1999 to 2015. Indeed, the Buhari Administration has long broken that
jinx, leveraging on such innovative schemes as the Presidential
Infrastructure Development Fund (which is being used to finance the
Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 2nd Niger Bridge and the
Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road), Sukuk (which has delivered a total of
1,881 kilometres of roads between
2017 and 2020) and the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (for the
construction and rehabilitation of Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin road,
reconstruction of Apapa Wharf road, construction of
road and the Bonny-Bodo road with bridge). The NNPC-funded part of the
Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme has also delivered nine roads in
North-Central, three in North-East, two in North-West, two in
South-East, three in
South-South and two in South-West for a total of 1,804 kilometres of roads.

In the area of power, ex-Vice President Atiku said ‘investments in
additional generation capacity are futile without consideration for
the complementary transmission and distribution infrastructure to
wheel the additional energy’. He then promised to propose legislation
to, among others, give states the power to generate, transmit and
distribute electricity. It is apparent that Alhaji Atiku has either
not heard of the Siemens partnership with the Federal Government under
the Presidential Power Initiative, the most ambitious project yet in
the efforts to improve the seemingly-intractable power sector on which
the PDP frittered over 16 billion dollars to procure nothing but
darkness. The Nigeria-Siemens partnership was consummated with the
signing of the Implementation Agreement on July 22nd 2019. The
three-phase project will deliver 7,000MW in the first phase, 11,000MW
in the second phase and 25,000MW in the third phase. This will
positively impact job creation, boost investor confidence, accelerate
economic growth and reduce cost of doing business. For those who may
be in doubt, let me say that this project is a game changer. As you
may have read, electricity equipment ordered under the project have
started arriving in the country. When they are installed, there will
be a major improvement in the supply of electricity across the
country. It is also amazing that His Excellency the former VP has not
heard or read that the Senate has passed the electricity bill 2022
that would allow states to generate and distribute power as well as
solve the sector’s challenges.

Alhaji Atiku also spoke on poverty reduction, which he said would
be the ‘centrepiece of our economic development agenda’. Could it be
that His Excellency has not heard about our National Social Investment
Programme (NSIP), the unprecedented programme that is directly and
indirectly impacting the lives of poor Nigerians and creating jobs,
especially for the youths, through four clusters, namely: the N-Power
Programme, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP),
the National Home-Grown School Feeding System (NHGSFP) and the
Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme. From 2016 to date, the
NSIP, which has received commendation from many international
agencies, has empowered 1 million youths while an additional 500,000
are undergoing various training under the N-Power programme; enrolled
1,632,480 households in the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and
gave productive cash grants of N150,000 each to 4,234 people. The NSIP
has also stimulated unprecedented enrolments in public primary schools
through the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme that is
feeding 9.8 million children, while there are 2,424,253 beneficiaries
of the GEEP loans under TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni, in
addition to a total of 1,142,783 individuals who have registered to
benefit from GEEP 2.0 under the three loan products. These programmes
represent a practical demonstration of the progressive achievement of
the President’s target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty
by 2030.

The former Vice President told his audience that if elected, his
Administration would ‘establish a strong partnership (with the private
sector) in investing in infrastructure, creating jobs, income and in
the fight against poverty’. Let’s inform His Excellency that the
Buhari Administration’s ”warm handshake” with the private sector has
delivered and is delivering an unprecedented number of projects,
including the 650,000bpd Dangote Refinery, Dangote Fertilizer plant,
Lekki Deep Sea Port, BUA Cement, the 5,000bpd Waltersmith Modular
Refinery in Imo
State; the 2,500bpd Duport Modular Refinery/Energy Park in Edo State;
the 2,000bpd Atlantic Modular Refinery in Bayelsa State; the 12,000bpd
Azikel Modular Refinery also in Bayelsa; the five LPG Bottling plants
and six LPG depots in 10 northern states and Abuja, the 48,000 L/D
base oil production plant in Rivers and the 10,000 Metric Tonnes Per
Day methanol production plant in Bayelsa, just to mention a few. These
refineries and other projects are the result of a ”warm handshake”
between the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and
private sector actors. The private sector is also involved in the
ongoing infrastructure development through the Road Infrastructure Tax
Credit Scheme, which I mentioned earlier.

Shockingly, the former Vice President seems to know little or
nothing about the Buhari Administration’s unprecedented efforts to
make fertilizer available at affordable prices to Nigerian farmers,
and how global developments have negatively impacted on the price of
fertilizer today, when he said ‘farmers now pay 200% more for a bag of
fertilizer – if they see it – than they did in 2020′. This is an
unfortunate statement that reflected the total lack of understanding
of the issues at stake. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative (PFI),
which was flagged-off in Dec 2016 by President Muhammed Buhari, aimed
to support the domestic blending of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer in order
to reduce the challenges of the Nigerian farmers. The PFI delivered on
key outcomes, including over 30 million bags of 50kg NPK 20:10:10
equivalent during the project period and price reduction on fertilizer
from over N10,000 to under N5,500. Over its 5-year run, the programme
succeeded in increasing the number of blending plants from only 4 to
72 through the rejuvenation of 68 moribund blending plants, creating
hundreds of thousands of indirect jobs and thousands of direct jobs in
the process. But a number of factors, which are beyond this
Administration, led to the current situation in which the cost of
fertilizer rose to between 110 and 150% (That’s between N15,000 for
NPK 20:10:10 and N23,000 for NPK 15:15:15). These factors include a
three-fold increase in the cost of natural gas, a primary feedstock in
fertilizer production, post-COVID-19 shutdowns of key raw materials
manufacturing plants,
sanctions imposed on Belarus and Russia, occasioned by the war between
Russia and Ukraine, and the impact of significant domestic inflation
on global and in-country logistics and transportation of fertilizer
raw materials. It is also pertinent to recall that President Buhari
had negotiated a fixed price for Phosphate at $290/MT and a fixed
discount of $15/MT for Potash from the government of Morocco and
Russia, respectively. The Presidential Fertilizer Initiative purchased
raw materials at these prices for four years, between 2017 and 2020.
From 2021 however, upon the restructuring of PFI, raw material
purchases were undertaken at globally-traded prices. Phosphate prices
increased 32% from $290/MT in 2017 to $1,255.0/MT in 2022, Potash
prices rose by 364% moving from $256.0/MT in 2017 to
$1,187.5/MT in 2022, while Urea prices rose by 246% from about $300/MT
in 2018 to $1,037.5/MT in 2022. Under this development, no magic can
keep the price of fertilizer at what it was before the astronomical
increase in the cost of production.

In his presentation, the former Vice President said ‘Nigeria under
the APC-led government has consistently run on budget deficits since
it came to power in 2015′, and that these ‘budget deficits are often
above the 3% threshold permissible under the Fiscal Responsibility
Law’. This is a misrepresentation of the facts. The truth is that
Nigeria has been running on budget deficits since 2009 (not since
2015), even when oil prices were over US$100 per barrel. You will
recall that oil prices fell significantly from mid-2014, resulting in
the country’s economic recession in 2016. The urgency to recover from
the recession through an expansionary fiscal policy resulted in the
continued budget deficits. However, in the last three years, the
deficit level exceeded the 3% threshold stipulated in the Fiscal
Responsibility Act 2007. Again, this is understandable because shortly
after the Nigerian economy recovered from recession, it was hit by the
effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. What His Excellency failed to tell
his audience is that the Fiscal Responsibility Act, Section 12(2),
allows for the budget deficit to exceed the 3% threshold if, in the
opinion of the President, there is a clear and present threat to
national security or the sovereignty of the Federal Republic of
Nigeria. Gentlemen, you will agree that the Covid-19 pandemic
triggered an existential threat in all economies of the world, Nigeria
inclusive. Though Nigeria quickly recovered from the economic
recession, it is now facing the effects
of the Russia-Ukraine war, the lingering impact of COVID-19, and
elevated inflation in most economies, prompting monetary tightening,
with the adverse effects on capital inflow to emerging markets

While Nigeria may be facing economic challenges, the former Vice
President’s pronouncement that the future of the country’s economy is
‘bleak’ is sheer scaremongering. The country’s economic outlook is not
bleak. Instead, the economy has been resilient, having recovered from
two recessions within five years – in 2016 and 2020. The Nigerian
economy sustained its recovery from the 2020 recession for the 7th
consecutive quarter, growing by 3.54% in real terms in Q2 2022, from
3.11% in Q1 2022. Many sectors recorded positive economic growth,
reflecting the effective implementation of policy measures prescribed
in the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), Annual Budgets, Finance
Acts and National Development Plan (NDP).

On debt, the former Vice President said ‘we will review the
country’s debt strategy by focusing on concessional and
semi-concessional sources with lower interest rates and relatively
long-term maturity.’ Again, that is already being done by this
Administration. In order to manage debt service cost and reduce
refinancing risk, the thrust of the strategy is that this
Administration will maximize concessional borrowing from multilateral
and bilateral sources. In addition, new borrowing in the domestic and
international capital markets would be for long tenors. Concessional
borrowings are, in any case, long-term loans. To confirm the
commitment to the above strategy and their implementation, over 58% of
the External Debt Stock as at March 31, 2022 was from multilateral and
bilateral sources while short term domestic debt was less than 22% of
the Total Domestic Debt Stock as at the same date.
In any case, the Lagos-Ibadan, the Abuja-Kaduna and the Warri-Itakpe
standard gauge rail lines were constructed with concessional loans,
just like the ongoing rehabilitation of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri
narrow gauge line. Same applies to the new airport terminals in Abuja,
Lagos, Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt. So, the former Vice President
has not said anything new.

And on security, all that the leader of a party that frittered the
money meant for the purchase of weapons and platforms for the military
on frivolous activities could say is ‘we will take tough and difficult
decisions on security matters without fear or favour.’ Really? While
they lost confidence in our military and opted instead for
mercenaries, President Buhari, who has never wavered in his belief in
the capability of our fighting forces, steadily and surely re-equipped
the military, which today is decimating the bandits and terrorists
that had held sway in some parts of the country, thus restoring

Gentlemen, let me say that I am not really very surprised that His
Excellency the former Vice President only reeled out, in his so-called
Economic Blueprint, what we have been doing in the past seven years
plus in infrastructure development, infrastructure financing, poverty
reduction, power reform, job creation, relationship with the private
sector, debt management and the overall management of the economy.
That’s what you get from someone who leaves the country after losing
an election, only to parachute into town when another election is due.

It is a measure of how much this Administration has achieved in
all sectors that the best the opposition could do is to seek to copy
what the Administration has been doing. Yet, the opposition – in its
desperation to get power – has continued to deny and derogate the
Administration’s achievements. For the record, there is nothing we
have said today on the achievements of this Administration that we
haven’t said before. No amount of deceit, misrepresentation,
scaremongering, distortion of facts or derogation can subtract from
the visible achievements of the Buhari Administration.

An Administration that engaged in massive infrastructure
development despite paucity of resources, an Administration that
introduced the most expansive and effective poverty reduction and job
creation policy in the history of this country, an Administration that
re-equipped the military to tackle daunting security challenges
instead of resorting to the use of mercenaries, an Administration that
is moving the nation from darkness to light by embarking on the
most-ambitious electricity project yet, an Administration that is
partnering with the private sector to tackle the challenges facing the
nation, and an Administration that borrowed to rebuild rather than for
consumption should not be denigrated by an opposition that lacks
originality, and an opposition that is aping a government it derides.

I thank you for your kind attention

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