Contrary to President Muhammadu Buhari’s claim on Friday that his discussion with the President of the World Bank Group, Jim Yong Kim, was twisted, a huge chunk of the financial institution-backed projects in partnership with the Federal Government is based in the North, SUNDAY PUNCH can report.
The President has always been accused by his critics of favoring the northern part of the country, citing lopsidedness in various appointments made by his administration.
The latest criticism took place when Kim, divulged that Buhari had asked the bank to concentrate on northern Nigeria.
The Presidency, however, said what the President asked for was “rebuilding of the beleaguered North-East.”
But critics argued that the explanation was not tenable because Buhari was not a president of the North or North-East alone and should be canvassing for development of all parts of Nigeria, equally affected by different types of disasters.
SUNDAY PUNCH’s findings on Saturday on the World Bank website, projects.worldbank.org, showed that out of the 14 World Bank-sponsored projects in the country, seven are exclusively for the North, while six others are meant for the whole nation (South-West, South-South, South-East, North-West, North-East, North Central and North West); and the remaining one is for Lagos State. Titled ‘Projects and Operations’, these projects were listed under June 2015 – June 2017 projects.
The implication is that in addition to solely getting the lion’s share of the projects, the North also shared in the remaining 50 per cent with the South-West, South-East and South-South.
The projects exclusive to the northern region worth $1bn are: Multi-Sectoral Crisis Recovery Project for North-eastern Nigeria ($200m; Borno, Yobe and Adamawa); State Education Program Investment Project ($100m; North-East states); Community and Social Development Project ($75m; Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, and Gombe); Youth Employment and Social Support Project ($100m; Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, and Gombe States); Additional Financing Nigeria State Health Investment Project ($125m; Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Taraba and Yobe) and the Third National Fadama Development Project ($50m; selected area in the North-East). The seventh northern project worth $350m is for the Kaduna State Economic Transformation Program-for-Results Project $350m. The KSETPRP, which was approved in June 2017, is expected to close on March 31, 2021.
Projects worth $2.9bn were earmarked for the nation which northern states are also expected to benefit from. They are: Better Education Service Delivery for All ($611m); Mineral Sector Support for Economic Diversification Project ($150m); NEITI Reporting Compliance ($0.32m); the Polio Eradication Support Project ($125m); National Social Safety Nets Project ($1.8b); and $200m-Agro-Processing, Agricultural Productivity Enhancement and Livelihood Improvement Support Project specifically designed for Kano, Kaduna, Lagos, Cross River, Kogi, Enugu and three other states.
There was also the Third Lagos State Development Policy Operation ($200m), a stand-alone project which was approved on June 26, 2015 and ended on December 31, 2016.
The World Bank documents did not contain any programme or project specifically designed for the South-East, South-South and the Middle Belt regions since Buhari got into power.
A document containing the details of the project on the bank’s website explained the purpose of the Kaduna project thus: “The development objective of Kaduna State Economic Transformation Programme-for-Results Project for Nigeria is to improve the business enabling environment and strengthen fiscal management and accountability in Kaduna State. This operation is fully aligned with the World Bank. Group’s Country Partnership Strategy for the Federal Republic of Nigeria for FY14–FY17. This Programme-for-Results focuses on increasing the number of jobs in the modern private sector and boosting the productivity of traditional economic sectors. Another important and complementary focus of the PforR is to support Kaduna State to increase its fiscal space and enhance expenditure effectiveness to boost investments in human capital and physical assets sustainably.”
According to the bank’s documents, the $200m-MSCRP, meant for only North-East states, is to “support the government of Nigeria towards rehabilitating and improving critical service delivery infrastructure, improve the livelihood opportunities of conflict and displacement-affected communities, and strengthen social cohesion in the North-East states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa; and in the event of an eligible crisis or emergency, to provide immediate and effective response to the said eligible crisis or emergency.”
Similarly, the SEPIV’s objective is to finance activities to support the Federal Government’s emergency programme for the North-East to address teachers’ needs in conflict-and-displacement-affected areas; strengthen school-level management and accountability for the improvement of education quality through school grants funding; “and to enhance technical assistance to address the needs of the North-East.”
For the CSDP, the World Bank will finance the costs associated with scaling up project activities in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Taraba, Bauchi, and Gombe states to support the provision of basic social and natural resource management infrastructure and services to returnees and host communities with the main goal of assisting their resettlement, recovery, and welfare.
The fund, the document said, would also be “used to provide trauma and psychosocial support to returnee households and internally displaced groups and individuals, as a form of social assistance intervention.”
Shedding light on why half of the projects were exclusively allocated to the North and no special projects for the other regions, the World Bank boss at a press conference in Washington DC, United States, on Thursday, had disclosed that the bank focused more on the region based on Buhari’s request.
“You know, in my very first meeting with President Buhari, he said specifically that he would like us to shift our focus to the northern region of Nigeria and we’ve done that. Now, it has been very difficult. The work there has been very difficult.
“Focusing on the northern part of Nigeria, we hope that as commodity prices stabilise and oil prices come back up, the economy will grow a bit more. But very, very much important is the need to focus on what the drivers of growth in the future will be,” the bank’s president had said.
Weighing in on the matter through a series of tweets, a former World Bank Vice President and ex-Minister of Education under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Oby Ezekwesili, said, “I want everyone to know that the statement made by the World Bank president is not as it sounds. I should know; I was VP (vice president) there (the bank). Our president and his government should seize the moment to conduct a diversity review of the administration. The current tension is, of course, triggered by context of existing tension occasioned by our president’s poor management of our diversity.”
Ezekwesili, however, berated Adesina for worsening the situation, “The terribly indecorous press release by Femi Adesina worsens a fractious debate. This FG (Federal Government) cannot be leaders of toxicity in public debates. Healthy debates are important for managing our diversity. The government of President Buhari should rein in his media team and re-train them to be effective.”
On Saturday, prominent Nigerians and the major opposition party in the country, the Peoples Democratic Party, further expressed their views on the matter.
Commenting on the cost of the projects, a renowned professor of Economics, Sheriffdeen Tella, pointed out that inasmuch as the North-East might require substantial rehabilitation, the same should be for the Niger Delta.
“The figures show that $650m projects are specifically for the North-East, while about $2.9bn worth of projects is for the whole of the country, including the northern states. The ones for Kaduna and Lagos states are state-requested loans, not federal. Just as the North-East deserves special attention, so also is the South-South where oil spillage has devastated many areas. There should have been specific financial commitment for that also.
“The amount committed to the North-East is worth it if we are to keep them from coming to the South to create social and economic problems in the nearest future. But attention must also be paid to specific problems of special areas in the South, more so when large proportions of the funds to offset the loans will come from resources in the South – particularly from the South-South with oil spillage problem.”
According to the Peoples Democratic Party, the President’s approval of more World Bank projects for the North, as revealed by Kim, was not in the interest of the country.
Reacting to the comment, the spokesman for the major opposition party in the country, Prince Dayo Adeyeye, said, “We’ve always said Buhari is not acting as the president of the country. He has demonstrated that through his lopsided appointments. That’s all we can say.”
Similarly, a nationalist and elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, told SUNDAY PUNCH that Kim only confirmed what people already know about Buhari’s preference for the North.
“Is it those he surrounds himself with? Is it about the lopsided appointments he’s made? Buhari telling the World Bank president that more attention should be given to the northern region shows which section of the country matters most to the president. Buhari can never change. He’s a sectional leader,” he said.
Speaking further, Tella noted that if what the World Bank president claimed Buhari told him was true, such a gesture would be unfair to other regions in the country.
“There are other parts of the country to focus on. It is not the fault of Nigerians that the North in general is lagging behind. The northerners should hold their state governments and political elites responsible for any backwardness. Just as the southern states collect money from the Federal Government, so do northern states. What have they done with their resources?”
The Executive Chairman of the Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Debo Adeniran, people should not be quick to criticise the President.
“Let’s agree it’s nepotism and nepotism is a form of corruption. I also believe that the common wealth of the country should be evenly distributed. Be that as it may be, we must not trivialise equity. It’s not out of place to allocate more projects to the North-East because of the challenges of that area. It may not sound fair. We want the President to defend his action. He has a responsibility to justify it.
“You should now realise why people clamour for a rotational presidency; give a madman a hoe, he’ll make ridges for himself. If a president comes from the North or South, it’s expected he’ll take care of his own first. Admittedly, this is antithetical to democracy,” Adeniran said.