As some of you maybe aware, the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly is currently ongoing, top on the agenda are ISIS, Climate change, North Korea, the Refugee Crisis etc. Anyway, as is tradition, all Presidents gave their remarks and I would like to highlight some points by President Buhari (watch video here)and offer my personal thoughts.(This list is by no means exhaustive).
- Economy: He started with the adverse impact of the global economic downturn on Nigeria and said his administration is currently implementing reforms to diversify the economy, attract FDI and create an economic environment for business.He said they are trying to reduce the cost of governance and increase expenditure on infrastructure.
- Corruption:He talked about the progress made in the fight for corruption in terms of assets recovery and asked for international cooperation in the fight against corruption
- Climate change:Nigeria’s commitment to fight reduce the emission of green house gases, Ogoni clean up and other climate issues.
- Terrorism/Human rights:He highlighted the significant progress made thus far in the fight against Boko Haram. He reaffirmed Nigeria’s commitment to upholding humanitarian law and human rights as well as reported cases of human rights violation
- Global/Issues: He rallied the General Assembly to acknowledge the rights of the Palestinians to statehood. He also emphatically called for a reform of the Security Council and insisted that Africa should be given a permanent seat and that Nigeria would be willing to take it up.
These are just some of his talking points which I consider relevant and useful topics for discussion. Obviously, I do not expect him to discredit his administration on a global stage but I could not help by notice some falsehood and inconsistencies in the speech and also the marked difference on some issues between this speech and the one he gave last year at the 70th session of the UNGA.
First on the economy, it is indeed true that that we were adversely affected by the slump in oil prices and regardless of whoever was in charge we would have had an economic crisis. Last year at the 70th session, he said his administration was going to tackle the issues head on but I am sure we all know the extent to which that promise was fulfilled; from taking 6months before forming a cabinet to delays in passing the budget and the absence of an economic recovery plan, he certainly has not kept his word on that. He also said they are working on attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and creating an enabling environment for business but the facts tell a different story; FDI has dropped by 12.71% since 2015 while portfolio investment has dropped by 84.55%. In terms of creating an enabling environment for business, Nigeria still remains one of the worst places in the world to do business , we rank 169 out of 189 economies. In 2015, we ranked 170 but I can hardly classify this as progress.
Some may argue that capital flight was certainly expected given the economic downturn and I agree that is true but the real question is whether it had to be to this extent? While it is given that Investors often flee in times on economic crises, the extent of such flight is partly related to how the government is able to respond in terms of its macroeconomic policies and how the Central Bank uses the various instruments at its disposal. And as many are aware, the central bank has hardly been consistent with many of its policies this year especially the exchange rate regime. Granted, these are uncertain times and there would be lots of ‘trial and error’ to determine what actually works but the President’s open interference with CBN removes any illusion of its independence and this further dampens investor confidence. With regards to reducing the cost of governance; the ratio of recurrent to capital expenditure in the budget; failure to reduce the presidential fleet as promised; budget padding saga; purchase of exotic car by the Senators all paint a different story- Reducing the cost of governance is certainly not a priority for this government, at least not yet.
On corruption, I would let you be the judge. Personally, I think he started with good momentum on this but it has clearly degenerated into a partisan witch-hunt as many of his party/ inner circle members have been unsurprisingly let off the hook.
On Climate change, I agree that for once environment and climate issues have become part of the national discourse and this is thanks to the only Minister I consider effective so far- Amina Mohammed; so maybe we should give him some credit for appointing her. However, with regards to the Ogoni clean up, I think while it is good to commend them on the initiative, we should not get too excited given that the initiative was only recently launched; in a year’s time we can appraise it.
On Terrorism, it is quite telling that the Chibok girls were absolutely left out in the speech; this is in sharp contrast to his speech last year where he promised to bring them back safe and unharmed.In as much as I found this sad, I wasn’t surprised given the recent clashes this administration has had with the BBOG group; clearly, the entire issue was nothing more than a campaign talking point for him. Again, he claimed his administration is committed to investigating human right abuses, Really?! Isn’t it under this administration that over 300 shittes were killed and buried and no-one has been held accountable yet? How about the illegal use of force on Biafra agitators and the illegal detention of Nnamdi Kanu? or the failure of the state to punish the herdsmen who have been terrorising innocent citizens? All of these and more have happened in a little over a year under his watch. This is definitely not evidence of an administration committed to upholding human rights.
Finally, I agree with his call for a reform of the UN security council (and in fact the entire UN system). The UN security council as it stands currently consists of the US, UK, China, Russia and France; not only is this unrepresentative and unfair; it is not suited to solve the challenges the global community faces today. The world is in a radically different place today than it was after the second world war in 1945 so the Security Council has to reflect the current reality. Heck, I assume that this should even be a no-brainer as it is pretty apparent that a system (the security council)established in 1945, 71 years ago! is incapable of fixing the world’s problems in 2016.
Anyway these are my thoughts, I heard he gave another speech at the USAfrica business forum, but I am not interested in reading it because it would most likely be filled with platitudes and rhetoric of ‘my government plans to‘ or ‘ my government is committed to‘ *sigh* . I really should start to be more optimistic about Nigeria though but that is talk for another day.
Anyway, did any one else listen to his speech? what were your thoughts too?