THE OUTLOOK OF NIGERIA’S economy, was expected to, reasonably, look upward, when in September 2019, four months into Buhari’s second tenure of four-years, he appointed eight-member distinguished economists and financial experts, as his Economic Advisory Council, EAC. Doyin Salami, a professor and erudite economists, headed the team. Buhari had no expert economic team in the first four years of his government.
Buhari ignored calls from eminent citizens and experts, from May 2015, when he became president, to engage experts to manage the economy. Olusegun Obasanjo, former president, seen by many as a sage in leadership in Nigeria and Africa, advised Buhari before 2015 election, to appoint experts to manage the economy and foreign relation, if he became president.
Obasanjo said he knows Buhari’s limitations and capacity. That he could do well in fighting corruption; and also, do well in dealing with insecurity in the country; but not the economy and foreign relation. Buhari’s limitations in handling the nation’s economy and foreign relation, became manifestly naked, in his first four years in office, and he caredless about it. The economy deteriorated and poverty engulfed the country.
Rather than engage experts to manage the economy, Buhari, on resumption as president, in 2015, assembled some cabinet Ministers, Directors-General of agencies, Governor of Central Bank, with the Vice President, as his Economic Management Team, EMT. Some or all the members of the economic management team, according to analysts, are without solid background on economic issues, lack understanding and workings of the nation’s economy.
Over four years, 2015 to 2019, Buhari ran Nigeria’s economy, with the rule of the thumb, without expert economists managing Nigeria’s resourceful economy. However, the vice president’s economic management team, churned out economic policy documents, such as the Economic Sustainability And Growth Plan, among others, aimed at reviving the economy. Rather than improving the economy, the economy further declined and worsened.
Godwin Emefiele, Governor of Central Bank, stepped in; in the absence of experts economic team. CBN team embarked on economic intervention programmes in some sectors of the economy, such as Agriculture, among others, to breathe life into the economy. Analysts berated Emefiele’s initiatives as running a “parallel government”, due to CBN’s interventions to boost economic growth. They accused the CBN of abandoning its core mandate as monetary policy regulator.
WITH THE CONSTITUTION of Economic Advisory Council, EAC, Buhari disbanded the vice president’s ministerial economic management team. Doyin Salami led the EAC as Chairman; Mohammed Sagagi [Dr] an economist, Vice Chairman; Charles Soludo, professor in economics and former Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria; Ode Ojowu, professor in economics and former CEO National Planning Commission, are members.
Others are Shehu Yahaya [Dr] career in Academics and Development Finance; Iyabo Masha [Dr] economist with experience in International Monetary Fund; Bismark Rewane [Mr] an economist, banker and financial analyst; and Mohammed Salisu [Dr] an economists and Senior Special Assistant to the President, on Development Policy, who serves as secretary of the Economic Advisory Council, EAC.
The EAC, according to its terms of reference, advised Buhari on economic policy matters – fiscal analysis, economic growth, and other internal and global economic issues; worked with relevant cabinet members and heads of monetary and fiscal agencies. Monthly, the EAC held technical sessions; held scheduled quarterly meetings with the President; with caveat that the Chairman, Doyin Salami, could have unscheduled meetings with the president, when necessary.
With Salami’s Economic Advisory Council in place, expectations were high on rebuilding the battered economy, that left the citizens haemorrhaging in abject poverty. Unknowingly, the worst was yet to come. The economy plummeted further, while Salami’s EAC became toothless. No valid reason was advanced, while from September 2019 to the end of 2021 – over two years, Salami’s EAC failed to make impact on the economy.
Nigeria, presently, is reeling on heavy external debts burden due to government’s unbridled appetite for borrowing, in the guise of developing infrastructure. Endlessly, the government continued to borrow. On the positive note, however, analysts believe Salami’s EAC would have done its best, but the president listens to no one.
JANUARY 2022, DOYIN SALAMI, transformed to Buhari’s Chief Economic Adviser, from Chairman, Economic Advisory Council, EAC. President Buhari, through his Special Adviser, Media And Publicity, Femi Adesina, announced the appointment of Salami as his Chief Economic Adviser. Adesina’s statement, summarised government’s expectation from Salami.
Salami is expected to address all issues on the domestic economy and present his views on them to the President; closely monitor national and international developments, trends and develop appropriate policy responses; develop and recommend to the President national economic policies to foster macro-economic stability, promote growth, create jobs, and eradicate poverty, among others.
Analysts have asked, what Salami will do differently, about sixteen months to Buhari’s exit in May 29, 2023; which the eight-member distinguished Presidential Economic Advisory Council, EAC, could not achieve from September 2019 to December 2021 – over 24 months, when he served as Chairman. If Buhari ignored or refused to key into eight-member Economic Advisory Council’s advice, would he be disposed to accept Salami’s advice? Many more questions.
Concerns, doubts and hopes have been expressed by analysts about Salami’s appointment as the president’s Chief Economic Adviser. Some believe it is coming too late in the life of Buhari’s administration; with a president known to loathe advice, public views and opinions, no matter how genuine and well intention. Will Salami be able to make significant impact in such environment?
Others noted that Buhari will be implementing the 2022 budget, as his government’s “last full circle budget” before exiting in May 29, 2023. They asked, what input did Salami make to the 2022 budget, which he will be supervising the implementation, as Chief Economic Adviser. They noted further that Economic Adviser contributes to packaging national budget. What was Salami’s contribution to Buhari’s 2022 budget?
Despite the concerns, some analysts are hopeful that Salami could make impact on the economy, if the government would listen to his advice. But the stark realities Salami would confront, in sixteen months, include the removal of the controversial and contentious petrol subsidy, scheduled for the second quarters of 2023; increase in electricity tariff; devastating poverty in the country; and government’s huge borrowing.
Salami is bringing into Buhari’s administration, as Chief Economic Adviser, sound economic experience with good knowledge of monetary policy. He has been a member of Nigeria’s Central Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee, MPC. He is a brilliant choice for the job, no doubt.
Salami’s choice in accepting Buhari’s offer as Chief Economic Adviser – sixteen months to the president’s exit in May 29, 2023, could mar or make his reputation. The overwhelming views, however, are that Salami, may not be able to make significant impact to Buhari’s government before exiting in May 29 2023.
Bottom line of the appointment. Buhari could just be fulfilling, last minutes righteousness, of working with an expert Chief Economic Adviser during his tenure; while Salami, on the other hand, could just want to earn the status of a Chief Economic Adviser to a president.