Anyone who had embarked on space travel in the past four (4) weeks or so wherein he/she had no access to news about events happening on planet earth, would not recognize Nigeria in terms of administrative policy and regulations.
That is because in a rather relatively short space of time, (about four weeks) a seismic change has taken place in the socioeconomic and political landscape of our country.
And all these have happened since our country came under the political leadership purview of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the President, Commander – in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria on 29 May this year.
And in what seems like one week, one bombshell decision of president Tinubu’s administration which is barely four (4) weeks old in office, he had ended petrol pump price subsidy in his inaugural speech on 29 May. And on Friday 10th June, he signed the electricity act that would ramp up electricity power supply in the country and catalyze the much-sought Industrial Revolution.
For too long, insufficient or epileptic electricity power supply has been touted as the bane of our country and the reason the much-sought industrialization of the nation has remained a pipe dream, mirage or castle in the air.
But with a stroke of the pen, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on 10th June turned the tide in the process of unshackling the electricity sector for private investment by signing off on electricity act 2023 which has paved the way for private sector participation in the process of generating and distributing electricity without compulsorily partnering with the government at the centre.
Although,in 2005 following the privatization exercise of the electricity sector,the undergirding law was reviewed to facilitate the sale of equity in existing government owned electricity generating firms,however ,it did not authorize governments at the subnational level or the private sector to generate or distribute electricity without getting into partnerships with the federal government.
In other words ,electricity generation and distribution had remained out of the ambit of state governments and private sector investors as it was only within the exclusive preserve of the federal government to deliver electricity.
That is why the privatization only resulted in the unbundling of the sector for private sector participation but strictly in partnership with the Federer government through the Bureau Of Public Enterprise,BPE.
While it was well known to bureaucrats and even ordinary Nigerians that the reason the nation still produces far less the capacity of electricity needed to industrialize our country is due to the fact that the management of electricity production and distribution was in the exclusive list (only federal government involvement ) rather than the concurrent list, (both federal and state governments involvement) as such,electricity supply remained a central government’s business in an age where government has no business being in business,inefficiency synonymous with government services remained the hallmark of the sector.
The disappointing reality is that none of the past leaders of our country -military or democratically elected-has had the courage to remove electricity generation and distribution activity from the exclusive list to the concurrent ,which is a decision that president Tinubu just made by appending his signature to the electricity act 2023.
Certainly,Industrialization in Nigeria would take-off when private investors start generating and distributing electricity in the manner that telecommunications services providers like GLO, MTN ,Airtel, 9Mobile got involved in telecommunications services provision following the introduction of the law that pried the activity off the fingers of the federal government that was hitherto the exclusive provider of telecommunications.
So,with a stroke of the pen,the electricity sector which had been shackled by archaic law has become an area that all players are welcome to get involved.
When the telecommunications sector was opened up during former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration to private sector participants in year 2000, the number of telephone lines in Nigeria estimated to have been a mere 400,000 grew exponentially into one hundred and seventy two million subscribers which is the current figure.
And the greatest beneficiaries of liberalization in the telecoms sector are the masses who are better off as they are enjoying the benefits of the mantra: customer is king since they are being wooed by the service providers with all sorts of incentives.
Today,as a result of that watershed decision to open up telecommunications sector to private sector participation, apart from South Africa which is ahead with MTN ,Nigeria is one of the leading telecom services provider in Africa through GLO founded by Chief Mike Adenuga Jnr which has footprints in a couple of west African countries and going toe-to-toe with Econet of Zimbabwe and Safaricom of Kenya.
In like manner, investors can now go into electricity generation and distribution sector and sell same to the masses who constitute a huge source of consumers with unmet demand and even go international as GLO has done with GSM telephony in Ghana and Benin Republic.
As we all very well aware ,the Dangote refinery and petrochemicals company in Lekki lagos, commissioned last May generates 12 megawatts of electricity privately. So generating electricity privately has been proven not to be rocket science and Dangote’s plant can be deemed as proof of concept.
Since there is abundance of gas in the Niger Delta to fire electricity plants,enormous body of water in the south west to power hydropower electricity systems and solar and wind energy in the northern parts of our country to generate renewable energy from solar, there are limitless opportunities for investments in electricity generation and distribution sector because there is a market of over 200 million potential consumers with pent up demand for electricity power.
As a result,it is expected that the current electricity Generating firms(GENCOs) and Distribution firms (DISCOS) that are already the major players in the sector, following the unbundling of the public utilities carried out by Bureau For Public Enterprises, BPE.
Perhaps the giants in electricity power production in Europe such as the top four (4) firms: Electricite de France SA (116,977 MW) followed by Enel SpA (82,272 MW), and Iberdrola SA (56,306 MW), Energias de Portugal SA (22,659 MW). that failed to take the bait during the last privatization exercise in 2005 would be motivated to engage more directly in Nigerian electricity power market.
Most Nigerians are well aware of how Nigerian banks have been dominating the African market with subsidiaries across the continent following the opening up of the sector for private sector participation under the watch of Military President, Gen. lbrahim Badamasi Babangida after he took the reins of power in 1985.
Before the liberalization of the financial services sector, it may be recalled that only government owned banks existed.
And Nigerian banking public practically suffered untold hardships in banks to the extent that there was a parody that the banking public literally took mats lie down and wait in the banking halls after obtaining tally numbers in order to get served.
In fact ,the harrowing banking experience of Nigerians back in those days is reminiscent of how the masses used to queue up in petrol stations for days and nights to obtain the commodity until Mr Go-Fast , President Tinubu took the reins of government and abolished petrol subsidy that had imposed government monopoly in the production and distribution of petroleum products in our distressed country.
While the excitement about the aforementioned developments in the electricity sector was still in the air,on June 12 as the democracy day celebrations were afoot,president Tinubu signed off on Access To Education by indigent students in higher institutions bill also known as Students Loan.
In street lingo,that is another monumental decision because its effect is resonating in both the youth and parents segments of society positively.
The assertion above is underscored by the fact that the student loan policy would ease the burden on indigent higher education students and their poor parents that abound in our country and who poverty had conspired to deny access to higher education.
The huge number of our youths who degenerate into street urchins or so called ‘area boys’ motor park touts and political thugs,but are potential Einsteins who owing to poverty level of their parents did not have the opportunity to nurture their God given intelligence and skills via formal education, through provision of loan would going forward be able to successfully acquire education and pay back the cost when they get into employment after school.
There is also the data protection bill which president Tinubu has also singed into an act in his third week of calling the shots in Aso Rock Villa.That too is causing a stir in the economy as stakeholders are over the moon about the development.
Apart from signing of bills into acts of law and of which three have been inked by president Tinubu ,there have also been policy decisions with seismic effects on society.
These are the end of petrol subsidy pronouncement during his inaugural speech on 29 May,the suspension of Central bank of Nigeria,CBN governor during his second week in office and a similar suspension of the chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC chairman in the third week of his taking up the reins of leadership of our country.
In my view ,suspension of the CBN governor and the EFCC chairman are symbolic actions that most leaders take when they first assume office. And these are gestures usually taken by new leaders to enable them have a proper assessment of the state of the nation financially to determine if the incumbent governor has buried some skeletons somewhere as might have been alleged by the aggrieved and the level of corruption also being aided and abetted by the head of the anti corruption agency that is supposed to be fighting it,as also alleged by traducers.
Also to be taken notice of are the silent actions such as the directive that there should be a convergence or collapse into one, the multiple naira and foreign exchange markets such as CBN rate,lmport and Export ,l&E window as well as black/parallel market rates.
To achieve the goal ,a CBN directive that banks are allowed to determine their buying and selling rates has been issued.
As a result,the I&E and parallel market rates are currently merging into one.
What is currently happening is that the naira is being allowed to float (albeit in a managed manner) as it would no longer be defended with our hard earned dollar coming majorly from the sales of crude oil (89%) and gas (11%) adding up to 90% of the foreign exchange income of our country.
Although, since the policy was introduced the,value of the naira has been fast eroding and the fear of the need to recapitalize banks is rife, as banks are falling below the capitalization threshold,the new system aimed at bringing about the convergence of the multiple rates into one is expected to find its equilibrium sooner than later, particularly if there is improved availability of the FX by way of boosting its supply through ramping of crude oil /production and sales.
And that can only happen when the current massive stealing of our crude oil by international syndicates is halted.
Although it is a task that is Herculean, but it is not insurmountable,if the political will similar to what President Tinubu has applied in ending petrol subsidy is deployed.
To say that the aforementioned far reaching and bold decisions so far taking by President Tinubu are having a seismic effect on the sociopolitical and economic landscape of Nigeria is an understatement.
In fact, the impact of the policy decisions are being felt beyond the shores of Nigeria as evidenced by the reactions from foreign news organizations.
Amongst several financial institutions and international media organizations, including Bloomberg, Politico and several others, Reuters n particular noted:
“Just the fact that you have seen quite a bit of movement in a relatively short space of time has gotten a lot of people in the market excited,” said Goldman Sachs economist Andrew Matheny.”
Continuing, it stated
“Nigeria’s international dollar bonds and the country’s stock market have been boosted by the speedy reforms.”, it concluded.
Over all,president Tinubu’s actions in the past one month are restoring hope to Nigerians as barriers to trade and business are being dismantled by the passage of three significant bills into acts of law reforming the economic and business atmosphere of our beleaguered country.
It is perhaps also in the bid to restore confidence in the economy that President Tinubu made the decisions to suspend, and authorize the arrest and investigation of the heads of the monetary policy department of government and the boss of the anti economic and financial crimes agency.
It may be deemed by the incumbent administration that promoting transparency in public administration by probing the aforementioned heads of some critical agencies would help our country regain the confidence and trust of both Nigerians and foreign partners alike.
As such , the leaders of the critical agencies of government that are responsible for making or marring Nigeria including the embattled governor of the CBN,Mr Godwin Emefiele is currently on suspension pending investigations on allegations of crimes amongst which is sponsoring terrorism. Equally so, the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission,EFCC Abdulrasheed Bala, who has also been under attack by governors that he investigated that are counter alleging that he demanded bribe from them is also under investigation.
Nevertheless,presumably,under president Tinubu’s watch, fighting corruption would not occupy right and center of governance as had been the case with immediate past President Mohammadu Buhari’s reign from May 2015-may 2023. That is because we are all witness to how such pursuit in the out gone administration led to double whammy economic recessions in 2016 and 2020 which is unprecedented in our country.
As the tenure of the new political leadership goes into the second month this July, the nation is holding its breathe in anticipation of the next monumental decision by the administration of President Tinubu that appear to be in a hurry to fix our country which was at the precipice before his ascension to the perking order of power in Aso Rock Villa.
Having been a witness to the leadership of Nigeria at the center from the sidelines,especially since the return of multi party democracy in Nigeria,1999 and of which incidentally,President Tinubu has been an active participant its birthing via his critical role in National Democratic Coalition,NADECO that chased the military usurpers of leadership of country back to the barracks,he has had the benefit of being part of the evolution of our country over the past twenty (24) years.
Currently he is not just a participant but the elected leader.
Perhaps it is with the benefit and confidence of having watched the leadership at the centre go awry, when he has good ideas of what to do to stir the ship of state away from the dangerous waters that had been tossing the boat up and down,such that it was heading like a rudderless vessel towards very powerful waves, that Asiwaju Tinubu , then APC national leader felt that things had to be done better.
That is probably what inspired his famous battle cry: ‘emi lo kan’ a Yoruba statement translated into English as :it is my turn.
Arising from the above reality,it is apparent that President Tinubu must have been prepared for the job, hence the speed with which he has made momentous decisions that are having impacts of tectonic shift proportions and he is still rearing to go.
Following the pattern of events in the last one month,and as the youths like to put it: another watershed decision must be loading and awaiting release in the first week of July especially as the National Assembly, NASS resumes next week from recess.
So, it is not expected that the fingers of most Nigerians would be crossed.