· Says Critics Should Assess Objectively
Conscious of the criticisms that may trail the presentation of his mid-term scorecard, President Goodluck Jonathan has called on Nigerians to develop criteria upon which the administration would be assessed.
Presenting a 250-page document entitled “Mid-term Report of the Transformation Agenda” on Wednesday at the International Conference Centre, Abuja; he said a politician could be subjective in assessing another politician.
The report, which the details the achievements of his administration sector-by-sector in the past two years was summarized by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.
Though not billed to make formal address, President Jonathan however, commented on an assessment published in a national daily which awarded average performance to the Ministers of Trade and Investment and National Planning, Olusegun Aganga and Samsudeed Usman respectively.
President Jonathan argued that both ministers have performed brilliantly well to deserve commendation, urging critics to always develop criteria upon which future assessment would be based.
His words, “on Monday, I looked through one of our dailies that assessed the performances of the ministries. The first thing I looked for but I didn’t see was the criteria that were used to assess the performance of the ministers.
“I know that for you to mark a student, you must have a marking scheme because assessment could be very subjective. If a politician is assessing a fellow politician, you assess the person based on the heartbeat.
“I also noticed that some ministries- National Planning was given average, Trade and Investment was given average. From 2007, I have worked with two ministers of national planning and two ministers of trade and investment; they have never done what has been done today.
“In terms of foreign direct investments that they attracted to this country by the activities of that ministry, it has never happened. In spite of security challenges, there is so much interest of businessmen wanting to come to Nigeria.
“Before now, that ministry is almost like a dead end. Until Samsudeen came on board, we didn’t even know that we have a planning ministry. But these two ministries are scored average; I asked what are the criteria used?” Jonathan wondered.
The President expressed delight that the Minister of National Planning has been able to come up with the detailed report which will be available to Nigerians in hardcopy and online to assess the administration’s performance in the past two years.
He spoke further, “today we are marking the end of the first 24 months which is our mid-term review and my duty is to formally present a document that all Nigerians will be able to read and assess us.
“So, I am not meant to talk and of course, you have heard from the Planning minister, the finance minister and the Secretary to the Government that will give you the idea of what we have done.
“The idea is to formally present a document to all Nigerians about the activities of government in the past two years. I plead with all of us especially those who want to assess and write about it to develop criteria because without a marking scheme, you cannot mark any student’s paper.
“Two year of a government, this is what we have done, develop your marking scheme and score us”.
In his welcome address, Vice President Namadi Sambo was full of praises for the President, saluting his courage in the vigorous pursuit of the transformation agenda.
He told Nigerians that marking democracy day should not just be seen a mere declaration of public holiday, but rather an opportunity for the led to render account to the electorates.
Vice President Sambo also expressed conviction that democracy is an attitude of mind, urging Nigerians to imbibe the spirit of accommodating one another.
“Our public institutions are being rebuilt, our National Assembly is vibrant, our judiciary is truly independent and our press is feared all over the world,” the Vice President said about the present administration.
In her presentation, the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said the economy has been growing at 6.5 percent annually making it one of the fastest in the world. The exchange rate she said has been relatively stable at between N155 and N160 to a dollar.
According to her, the foreign reserve has increased to N50 billion. She disclosed that trade has improved tremendously with oil export standing at 70percent and non-oil export constituting 30 percent, saying it is an indication that the economy was shifting to non-oil sector.
The Minister said the annual borrowing has been brought down considerably as a deliberate way of stabilizing debt management. To this effect, she said $75 billion USD has been paid off this year “with the objective to keep debt at very manageable level”.
Also, she highlighted measures being taken by the federal government to block leakages across all sectors. According to her, N14 billion has been recovered from fuel subsidy fraud, adding that salaries are now being paid directly by the Ministry of Finance to stem leakages.
The Minister spoke on the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), saying the federal government has so far drawn N180 billion from the programme that have been channeled into specific areas like transportation, health and road infrastructure.
She explained that the recent drop in power supply was as a result of withdrawal of 800 mega watts from the national grid for maintenance, assuring that supply would improve as soon as the repairs are over.
In the manufacturing sector, she expressed delight that some of the policies put in place by government to encourage local manufacturers were yielding fruits. She said 28 million metric tons of cement are now being manufactured in the country even when domestic consumption stands at 20 million metric tons thus, making eight million tons available for export.
The presentation marking Democracy Day was attended by the First Lady, Dame Patience, Senate President David Mark, former Head of State, Gen Yakubu Gowon, former President Shehu Shagari, former Head of Interim Government, Ernest Shonekan and Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mariam Alooma Mukhtar.
Also in attendance were Rev Jesse Jackson from America, former Head of Interim Government in Liberia, Prof Amos Sawyer, Ministers, Presidential aides, PDP leadership and top politicians from the six geo-political zones.
However, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Heads of State, Generals Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar as well as the Speaker Aminu Tambuwal were conspicuously absent.