THE JONATHAN ADMINISTRATION @ TWO: NOTHING WORTH CELEBRATING!!!
It is Nigeria's so-called Democracy Day, and it is therefore important to take stock of the Jonathan Administration two years in office. Yes, two years because the President took office as Acting President shortly before the late President Yar Adua died in office in early May, and became President immediately after the death in office of the former President.
Now, since assuming the Presidency, President Jonathan like his predecessor has consistently said his priority is the economy-the economy first, the economy second, the economy third, the economy fourth and the economy last, so we expect that there are going to be some very ambitious economic develop plans, but the blueprint of those plans are yet to be seen. He made mouth-watering promises about his so-called transformation agenda on the downstream sector, the power sector and other sectors of the economy but they are not any different from similar promises made by his predecessors. Two years has gone by; still we haven't seen a concrete plan and we don't know how quickly we can get that now, not with his many failed promises, especially on the power sector and the downstream sector. The entire economy is in shambles-no electricity, inept downstream sector, paralysed healthcare system, stagnant education system, massive food crisis, widespread unemployment, et cetera.
The electricity issue is very serious, and account for the innumerable problems we face as a people because where there is no electricity; a chain reaction which triggers to all sectors of the economy is established. This is why industries are folding up and why there is massive retrenchment in our industries. In Lagos alone, over a hundred thousand jobs have been lost in the last couple of years due to closure of Industries as a result of the epileptic power supply, and the inability of businesses to cope with rising diesel costs and black oil or Low Pour Fuel Oil (LPFO) costs occasioned by total fuel subsidy removal from these products. Some of the Factories are in the textiles: five Star Industries, Afprint Textile, Aswani Textile, Royal Textile, GDM, Arcee, Rekha, King Carpet, Daltex Textile, Varaman Industries, Emar, President Textile, Moon Diamond, Pacific, Eurosport, Barclays Clothing, Wabattery, Shiram, Monarch and Aflon. Some others are in the cement industries such as Ashaka Cement, Lafarge Cement and Ewekoro Cement. There have also been job losses in industries that make automobile tyres. For instance, Michelin and Dunlop shut down their operations and moved to neighbouring countries with favourable business climate. The Maritime Industry also lost over fifty thousand jobs during this same period.
We do not believe that the Jonathan Administration is serious about resolving the electricity issue, and this isn't just our opinion. The indices are quite clear. In budgets across governments of the Federation, there is huge allocation of billions of Naira for purchases and serving of Generators to power government parastatals. Which government in the World relies on Generators to run its affairs? This shows the level of seriousness the government attaches to electricity. Billions of Naira for Generators! Where will the money for fuelling the Generators come from? Who supplies the Fuel? Who services the Generators? Creating wealth for a few at the expense of Tax payers? It is glaring that this Administration does not have the good of the people at heart.
The Jonathan Administration like his predecessor has also been giving most of the contracts for execution of projects in the power sector to Asian Companies. But the fact remains that most of the Generators in use in this country are supplied by Asian Companies such as Mikano, Ziatech and Jubaili Bros. How then could you leave the solution to your electricity issue to countries that makes money from the issue and then expect them to deliver? These Generators Mafia Companies of Asian stock has totally taken over our power sector so much so that they had even pushed out companies like John Holts Plc due to their cheap but fake products that goes for as low as N10,000 (US$63) which most Nigerians can afford to power their Apartments for a few hours daily. It has gotten so bad that Nigerians can no longer sleep at night if they don't hear the sound of Generators. In addition, when he declared the power sector as his major focus as Acting President and subsequently as President, the various unions in the sector; notably the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE), and the Senior Staff Association of Electricity and Allied Companies (SSAEAC) petitioned him to protest the appointment of Professor Barth Nnaji as Special Adviser, and later Power Minister, and the major power broker of the power committee. For the avoidance of doubts, Professor Nnaji as the Unions rightly pointed out owns and controls Geometrics Power Ltd (GPL) and Aba Power licensed to generate and distribute electricity for more than seven years but have not been able to generate even a kilowatt of Power till today. Moreover, he had engaged PHCN in needless battles to take over control of the Distribution Sector of the Eastern part of the nation. His incompetence was further revealed by NUEE when the body disclosed that the 33KV poles put up by GPL in Aba runs afoul of safety ethics and he rebuffed all entreaties to abide by the necessary safety specifications. The big loophole in President Jonathan's power reform agenda was his accepting the recommendation of the Professor Barth Nnaji's power committee to jumpstart the privatisation process of PHCN and to increase electricity tariff from the N4 (US$0.03) per kilowatt hour (pkh) it was when he took Office to N22 (US$0.14) per kilowatt hour (pkh) which took effect from July 1, 2010. After much agitation by several unions across the country the increment was eventually scaled down to N8.50 (US$0.05) pkh which is about 120%. And since then, electricity tariffs have been increased over 300% with a further increment effective June 1, 2012. This decision has only inflicted more hardship on the masses of Nigerians living on less than a dollar per day. If the President does not retrace drastically his policy missteps, he cannot perform any better than his predecessors. The world is fast moving and in order to keep up with this fast changing world, the governments of most nations are taking a giant leap towards sourcing for alternative energy (renewable energy and solar energy), yet, in our country, our government is still groping in the dark in grappling with basic issues of electricity.
Similarly, the Administration has failed woefully in the downstream sector and with the removal of fuel subsidy; the policy simply increased the sufferings of the Nigerian people, as five months down the line, there is nothing to show for it. The Administration only deceived the Nigerian people. The glut in the sector and the failure of the President to tackle the issue and implement the reports of the House committee and other relevant reports has shown clearly that he is nothing than a preserver of the status quo. His Administration incapacity to stem the fraud and the blind corruption in the sector, his failure to deal with corrupt officials, and the can of worms opened in the N155billion (US$1.1billion) Malabu oil round tripping deal only goes to show that the Administration will never truly tackle corruption.
The security issues and the Boko Haram issue are very critical and seem to be deepening by the day. Although Mr. President has said, the Boko Haram issue was going to be one of the top priority of his government, there appears to be no definite program for what he wants to do. His intentions sound good but there are discrepancies from what the Boko Haram Extremists are demanding. Maybe, he could start by meeting their demands on the extra-judicial killing by the Nigerian police of their founder and leader, Sheik Muhammed Yusuf, their demands on the trial of former Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, and their other legitimate demands. The Boko Haram issue is a delicate one. It could be better if proactive steps are taken or worse if there is delay in the process. Proactive steps should equally be taken to separate the criminality aspects from the legitimate demands destroying the northern sympathy built up over the years for the poor of the north. The criminality aspects must be dealt with as it is with terrorist activities, but that must not cloud the legitimate demands. If there is a master plan for economic development and you have a political plan for further constitutional reforms and electoral reforms, and a plan for environmental remediation and so forth, then you must begin to focus seriously on a security plan, else you finish dealing with the core issues, and you find that there is still a residual security issue. The security issue is no longer a marginal issue; it is a major issue. We recommend strongly that government should first make some progress to urgently address the core issues. That certainly will pacify many of the Boko Haram Extremists and give the feeling that their demands are being addressed.
The Jonathan Administration has equally failed in terms of education and healthcare. Until there is quality access to education, and an army of new and well trained teachers are recruited, then all we do in this nation is mere makeshift. This is because education is a fundamental human right, if not the most human of all human rights, as it is reading and writing that separates humans from animals. Besides, we cannot meet the challenges of the twenty first century without a sound educational system. Our health sector must be properly addressed also to guarantee affordable healthcare to all Nigerians. A situation in which the President and other notable Nigerians have to continuously seek medical attention overseas, leaving the rest of Nigerians to half baked hospitals' and medical centres is not acceptable.
Two years into this Administration, yet Nigerians have nothing to show for it. The Jonathan Administration has done nothing but rolled back the few gains made in the last thirteen years of Democracy. More people are poorer, without jobs, and live below the poverty line. The few that have jobs cannot get home with their take home pay. More are homeless and still more are watching helplessly as their home values dwindle and their investments plummet. The cost of petroleum products is higher and the cost of living is beyond the reach of many. The Nigerian people are tired and in dire need of a better deal because this government has broken their hearts. In short, the Administration is a total failure and on behalf of Nigerians, we pass a vote of no confidence on this government. There is nothing worth celebrating.
To this end, we call on the Jonathan Administration to start walking the talk, deliver his campaign promises and follow through on the promises of democracy, rather than expend tax payer's money on unnecessary celebration, when there is nothing to celebrate. Nigeria cannot integrate into the global market nor compete in the global economy without a robust economy neither can we attain the Millennium Development Goals if this Administration refuses to muster the necessary political will to guarantee adequate power supply for a sustainable economy, address all of the issues raised, make government more accountable, and give the people a new lease of life. Nigerians are tired of cheap rhetoric.
Editor in Chief and Chief Executive