President Muhammadu Buhari, recently revisited riot act to ministers and other top government officials at the state house, Abuja. He gave an overview of an exercise that sought to reaffirm government’s commitment to its mandate, also with less than two years to the end of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, he observed a two-day mid-term ministerial performance retreat for Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and other top government functionaries which was put together by Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to Government of the Federation.
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The event, which held from October 11 to 12, 2021, at the Conference Hall of the State House, Abuja, and had as its theme as “Enhance Security, fight corruption and transform the economy”, was attended by President Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, President of the Senate, Dr Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila as well as ministers and heads of departments and agencies of government.
Setting the tone for retreat, President Buhari, in his opening remarks, stressed the readiness of the federal government to de-emphasise dependence on foreign supply of military weapons to fight security challenges facing the nation.
To this end, he said he had already instructed the Ministry of Defence to create a modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons to meet some of the requirements of the country’s armed forces.
According to him, the establishment of the industrial complex would address Nigeria’s over-dependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics.
The project, he explained, was being implemented under the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), a military department responsible for arms manufacture.
“To address our over-dependence on other countries for military equipment and logistics, I have instructed the Defence Ministry to create a modest military industrial complex for the local production of weapons to meet some of the requirements of the country’s armed forces. This is being implemented under the Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), a military department responsible for arms manufacture”.
On other steps being taken by his government to strengthen national security, Buhari said it was gratifying to note that Nigeria had received six A-29 Super Tucano propeller-driven aircraft, which are currently being used for training, surveillance and attack by the military.
He said, “It is gratifying to note that only recently, we received six A-29 Super Tucano aircrafts as part of our efforts to boost the nation’s campaign against insecurity. The propeller-driven aircrafts are being used for training, surveillance and attack by the Military.
“As part of the efforts towards strengthening our national security, we have increased investments in arms, weapons and other necessary equipment; expanded the National Command and Control Centre to 19 states of the Federation; and established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund, which will significantly improve funding for the Nigeria Police Force.
“We have also approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of the Community Policing initiative across the Country, as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at enhancing security nationwide.”
He also highlighted some of the federal government’s notable achievements in the last two years by listing accomplishments in the areas of infrastructure, transportation, economy, electricity supply, the petroleum industry, among others.
He expressed delight that over the past two years, ministers have rendered reports to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) on their activities related to the achievement of their ministerial mandates.
“Some of the notable achievements include the establishment of InfraCo Plc in 2020, as a world class infrastructure development vehicle, wholly focused on Nigeria, with combined debt and equity take-off capital of N15 trillion, to be managed by an independent infrastructure fund manager.
“The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund was also established in 2020 with more than USD 1Billion in funding. In addition, we have launched the Nigeria Innovation Fund by the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). This is aimed at addressing investment opportunities in the domestic technology sector: data networking, datacenters, software, Agri-tech, Bio-tech, and more.”
He listed the 11.9km Second Niger Bridge, 120 km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 375 km Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria- Kano expressway and the East West Road as some of the efforts targeted at improving transportation in the country.
“Our administration has made tremendous progress on railway projects in the country. Upgrading of our railway network is being extended with the recent completion of the Lagos – Ibadan line. The Itakpe-Ajaokuta rail line, has finally been completed and commissioned after 30 years of its conception,” he said.
He assured the people that work would soon commence on the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri line and Calabar-Lagos Coastal Line to connect the southern and eastern states of the country, adding that there was noticeable progress in the upgrade of the country’s airports, with the state-of-the-art facilities in line with world class safety standards.
“On the economy, we witnessed three consecutive quarters of growth, after negative growth rates recorded in the second and third quarters of 2020. The GDP grew from 0.8 per cent in 2017 to 2.2 per cent in 2019, but declined in the first quarter of 2020, as a result of the downward trend in global economic activities triggered by the COVID-19 Pandemic.
“As at Second Quarter 2021, GDP growth rate was at 5.01 per cent, the highest since the inception of this administration. On the power sector, implementation of a ‘Willing Buyer-Willing Seller’ policy has opened opportunities for increased delivery of electricity to underserved homes and industries.
“We are also executing a number of critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, which will result in achieving the national goal of improved power supply by 2025,” Buhari noted.
The Nigerian leader, however, reckoned that by signing the Petroleum Industry Bill, 2021,into law on August 16, 2021, and directing the implementation committee to complete the processes for the successful operationalisation of the act within 12 months, his government had put in place, a legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the Nigerian Petroleum Industry, and for the development of host communities.
Listing as parts of his government’s efforts to empower the youth and other vulnerable groups through the expansion of the National Social Register, Buhari identified the official database for the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer programme, by 1 million additional households and the establishment the N75Billion Nigerian Youth Investment Fund created to boost the Nigerian economy through leverage and access to finance for youths.
His words: “These accomplishments are a testament to the fact that all hands are on deck in establishing a solid foundation for even greater successes in future,” even as he implored ministers to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries to ensure accelerated and effective delivery of the policies, programmes and projects in their respective priority areas.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, however, served as compere during the two-day event, which attracted 62 resource persons and panelists drawn from both public and private sectors.
Also, there were technical presentations by Vice President Osinbajo, who gave a progress report on the economic sustainability plan implementation of the Buhari administration,while the President of Africa Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, made a presentation on Nigeria’s economic resurgence – learning from the African experience.
The resource persons spoke on various priority areas and programmes of the present administration, which were later debated upon by the participants.
They included the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele; Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Zainab Ahmed and Minister of State for Budget, Clem Agha, dissecting the topic: “Stabilising the nation’s macro-economy”, while the topic, “Achieving Agriculture and food security was handled by the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor and Water Resources Minister, Suleiman Adamu.
Minister of state for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva; Power Minister, Abubakar Aliyu; Group Managing Director of Nigeria National Petroleum Company (NNPC), Mele Kyari; President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote and Group Managing Director of Sahara Petroleum, Kola Adesina, did justice to the topic, Ensuring Energy Sufficiency in Power and Petroleum Products.
The topic, “Improving transportation & other Infrastructure, was taken by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, his Works and Housing counterpart, Babatunde Fashola and the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Enterprise, Alex Okoh.
Discussing Drive Industrialisation, focusing on SMEs were Trade and Industry Minister, Otunba Niyi Adebayo; his Communications and Digital Economy counterpart, Isa Pantami and Mines and Steel Development Minister, Olamilekan Adegbite, while the topic,Improving health, education & productivity, was marshalled by Health Minister, Dr. Osagie Ehanire and his Education counterpart, Adamu Adamu.
The issue of enhancing social inclusion by scaling up social investments was discussed by Minister of Women Affairs, Pauline Tallen; her Sport and Youth Development counterpart, Sunday Dare as well as Minister for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs, Sadiya Farouq.
The topic, Fight corruption and improve governance, was taken by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami; Chairman of Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), Prof Bolaji Owasanoye; Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abdulrasheed Bawa and the Head of Service of the Federation, Folasade Yemi-Esan.
Providing security for all citizens was taken up for discussion by the Interior Minister, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd) and the National Security Adviser (NSA), Major-General Babagana Monguno (rtd).
The topic, collaborating to deliver foster executive/legislative working relationships, was handled by the Senate President, Dr Ahmad Lawan; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila; Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha and the Minister for Special Duties, Senator George Akume.
President Buhari, who participated in all the technical sessions of the two-day retreat, in his closing remarks, directed the ministers and permanent secretaries to redouble their efforts and work in synergy towards total delivery of the set target to improve livelihood of all the citizens.
The President also instructed the ministers to “ramp up implementation” of their mandates along the nine priority areas of his government, stressing the need for synergy between the fiscal and monetary authorities in the country to keep the economy on the trajectory of growth.
Buhari noted that intensive discussions at the retreat provided an opportunity to reflect on what the administration had done and areas it needed to improve and refocus attention.
He said, “The retreat provided an opportunity for us to undertake an objective assessment of our stewardship, in line with the contract we signed with the Nigerian people to deliver on our electoral promises. From the assessment report and discussions at this retreat, I am glad to note that progress has been made towards the achievement of our objectives.
“The independent performance assessment report presented on day one of the retreat, indicates that significant progress has been achieved in the delivery of ministerial mandates.
“Distinguished participants, the discussions at the retreat have prompted the need for us to ramp up implementation on the deliverables. We must close the gaps in our implementation efforts to ensure that we attain set targets by 2023.”
The president also directed the office of the SGF to immediately begin the process of convening quarterly coordination of meetings for each priority area, based on the collaborative results framework.
He explained that the aim of the meetings was to ascertain the status of implementation across the nine priority areas, identify bottlenecks, and proffer immediate solutions.
“All ministers and permanent secretaries must be in attendance. These are not meetings to delegate,” Buhari said.
He further instructed the office of the SGF to immediately commence engagement with stakeholders to agree and push forward a framework for the institutionalisation of the Central Delivery Coordinating Unit.
“All ministers and permanent secretaries are to promote a robust performance culture across the Ministries, Department and Agencies, MDAs, by setting up intra-ministerial delivery task teams,” the president said.
Besides, he further directed the Head of Service to, as a matter of urgency, invest in capacity strengthening of the Planning, Research and Statistics departments in all MDAs, saying, “This should be done in collaboration with the Central Delivery Coordinating Unit”.
Yet, an important takeaway from the programme was the content of a slide presentation that showed the performance indexes of corresponding miniseries against the priority areas in the context of the deliverables set for 2023.
The slide tracked performances of government agencies in actaulising set goals. While some of the policy projects are up and running, there were some that were yet to kickstart or were not moving at expected speed due to specified conditions.
This provided the opportunity for those saddled with the responsibilities of implementation to identify where they stood, provided the national leadership with insight on situation and gave members of the public opportunity to track and understand development in various sectors of the economy.
It was against this backdrop that the retreat advised ministries to reprioritise and focus more on those deliverables that have the highest impact on respective priority areas that could be delivered by 2023, ensuring capacity, strengthening the PRS department in MDAs, while focusing on target setting, tracking and reporting.
The National Bureau of Statistics was also urged to expand their scope to include key outcome metrics that measured the impact of the nine priority areas, while ministries and their agencies were encouraged to set up mini delivery units to improve systems and process of tracking and reporting on their deliverables.
The SGF, Mustapha, expressed optimism that through the bilateral meetings and high-level engagements organised earlier in 2021 to sensitize leadership of all federal ministries on the new results framework and the performance management system, there were reliable evidence that MDAs had a better understanding and appreciation of how their ministerial mandates contributed directly to the priority areas and the possible impact of their activities on the lives of Nigerians
“Over the past 25 months, Ministers have continued to implement the deliverables assigned to them in line with their ministerial mandates jointly signed with the Permanent Secretaries,which serve as a performance bond with Mr. President,” Mustapha stated.
Itemizing some of the performance of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), the SGF said during this second term of President Buhari from May 29, 2019, to August 31, 2021, the FEC has held 52 meetings and granted 579 approvals comprising of 381 contracts, 110 policies and 88 briefs/notes.
According to him, “Overall, the total number of contracts, policies and briefs/notes approved by the FEC between November 2015 and August 2021 stand at 1,403, comprising of 878 contracts, 319 policies and 206 briefs/notes. The 878 contracts approved by FEC have mostly targeted the provision of infrastructure, geared towards enabling faster economic growth and development.
“In the same vein, the analysis also showed that the government remained focused on its cardinal responsibility of responsively addressing the myriads of needs and challenges of its citizens through the 319 approved policies initiated during the period.”
Further dwelling on the import of the retreat in an exclusive chat with THISDAY, where he analysed the importance and success of the exercise, Mustapha said, “The objective of the retreat was to remind ourselves of the three cardinal objectives of the administration: security, economy and corruption.
“Prior to the retreat, in 2019, we developed nine priority areas, which were supposed to deal with the myriads of problems we have in this country. That’s from stabilising the economy – macroeconomy to security for all. The objective of the retreat was achieved in evaluating and analysing, and how we have come thus far. We were quite satisfied that, we have done remarkably well and as for that, by independent assessors.
“If you noticed, the entire workings of the retreat was facilitated by my office in terms of attendance and ensuring that all the submissions were made. A British agency helped us in developing the dashboard – the performance management. So, what we have done is to coordinate this thing and ensure government is run as one business, so, everybody knows what is happening in terms of the nine priority areas and to also evaluate, where we are in terms of the deliverables and routinely, I’ll make that available to the President. So, that’s the objective of the retreat and I can say to a large extent, that we have succeeded in that.
“The other component why the retreat was adjudged to have been very successful is that, we brought in the corporate world as a value added to the subject of discussion. You can’t talk about energy sufficiency in supply of power and petroleum products without bringing Dangote as a key player. There are three refineries that we are trying to repair and put to use in terms of capacity production, it’s almost half the price of his combined. So, when it comes to this, he’s going to be a major player. That’s why we brought people like him.
“We brought in a private organisation, KPMG, to help evaluate if what we are saying is true. Look, this is the first time, in the history of this country that, a government is this transparent. We opened our books to people to evaluate, because we are all working for the people of Nigeria. And it is because of the kind of leadership that President Muhammadu Buhari provides: the openness, his transparency, his willingness to be interrogated. Some past president would not let you do a critique of what they’ve been able to achieve.
“So, I believe strongly that the objectives of the retreat have been achieved, even in terms of the deliverables; in terms of the comments we got and the inputs. The other component of it is that we decided to make it a Nigerian affair. We brought in Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Akinwunmi Adesina, Amina Mohammed, to speak to us.
“And we said, look, this is our country, you are our ambassador, what’s happening out there? Like Ngozi’s topic was, Trade: The Nigeria We Want. Adesina talked about the resurgence of the Nigerian economy: The African Experience. What’s happening in other climes and what do we borrow to ensure that we have a sustainable and improved economy?
“I feel quite satisfied that we did a very good job and the president truly appreciates it, and it’s as a result of the quality of leadership he gives. You know, it’s quite risky for a president to say, hey, come and evaluate me; this is what I have been able to do. He had no say in the evaluation and he accepted it. The same document we gave was the same document we transmitted.”
The ADB President, Dr. Adesina, who spoke on the theme: ‘Nigeria’s Economic Resurgence: Learning from the African Experience,’ expressed optimism that the GDP growth rate for the continent would recover to 3.4 per cent in 2021 and said Nigeria’s economic growth rate was projected to rebound to 2.4 per cent and could reach 2.9 per cent by 2022.
He, however, hinged the country’s recovery from the devastating effects of COVID 19 on the twin issues of vaccines and how the nation tackles debt concerns. He, therefore, implored the Nigerian government to build world-class local pharmaceutical industries, able to effectively tackle the production of therapeutic drugs and vaccines.
“Nigeria must revamp its local pharmaceutical industry and launch strategic investments for local vaccine manufacturing. Africa should not be begging for vaccines; Africa should be producing vaccines. The African Development Bank will invest $3 billion in support of local pharmaceutical industries in Africa, including in Nigeria.
“Nigeria must decisively tackle its debt challenges. The issue is not about debt-to-GDP ratio, as Nigeria’s debt-to-GDP ratio at 35 per cent is still moderate. The big issue is, how to service the debt and what that means for resources for domestic investments needed to spur faster economic growth.
“The debt service to revenue ratio of Nigeria is high at 73 per cent. Things will improve as oil prices recover, but the situation has revealed the vulnerability of Nigeria’s economy. To have economic resurgence, we need to fix the structure of the economy and address some fundamentals,” Adesina urged.
When the event came to an end, it had achieved one very important thing: it gave opportunity for both retrospect and introspect. Everyone was able to evaluate where every government functionary stood in accelerating the actualisation of governmental programmes and the need to work towards meeting the expectations of Nigerians, before exiting in 2023. It was, no doubt, a good self-appraisal system that held government accountable to the people.
Time will tell if the directives given by the President during the retreat would be complied with by the Ministers and other senior officials of government. Besides, the retreat was the second held since May 29, 2015, when Buhari first took office.