By Ali Baba-Inuwa
The Buhari Media Organisation (BMO) has described Punch newspaper’s editorial on the Buhari years as a skewed and unfair assessment of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration.
The group said in a statement signed by its Chairman Niyi Akinsiju and Secretary Cassidy Madueke that the editorial was a reflection of the newspaper’s barely disguised animosity towards the President and his administration.
“Our attention has been drawn to an editorial by Punch newspaper titled ‘The Buhari years: an era of gross economic fiasco’ in which it described the Buhari era as ‘eight locust years’.
“This jaundiced view is however not surprising considering that the newspaper has an editorial policy that has, for years, been blatantly anti-Buhari. Everyone can easily recall how it opted to refer to the administration as a regime and the President as a Major General in its reportage.
“So it is against this backdrop that we view the editorial as a continuation of the newspaper’s animus against Buhari while at the same time attempting to set the record straight.
“Yes, Punch half-heartedly acknowledged that the Buhari administration inherited a battered economy, but rather than mention what Buhari did to steady the ship, the newspaper was more interested in working towards its pre-existing stance which was couched in the editorial title,” it said.
The group added: “For the avoidance of doubt, Buhari inherited an economy tottering towards recession from a high of 6.53 per cent GDP growth rate in Q2 of 2014 to 2.35 per cent in Q2 2015 when he assumed office.
“This is the reality that Punch glossed over without a thought to how the man it described in very uncomplimentary terms initially stemmed the drift towards recession as a result of plunging oil prices.
“The newspaper described the President as one who ‘failed to demonstrate any real grasp of modem economic ideas’ and pretended that it was not aware of the Economic Recovery and Growth Programme (ERGP) which he initiated to fight recession as well as make the economy more resilient in such a way that the vagaries of global oil prices would not bring the country to its knees.
“It was a 2017-2020 plan that leveraged the power of the private sector to achieve the desired economic recovery and transformative growth through the entrepreneurial spirit of Nigerians ranging from MSMEs to the large domestic and multinational corporations.”
“We make bold to say that those who put together that editorial are people who have little or no understanding of what they dabbled into because indeed Nigeria exited the first recession quickly and also made a swift exit from the coronavirus-induced global recession, so much so that it received plaudits from the international community.
“Like the President himself has said, we admit that everything has not been rosy, especially with what is going on around the world, but it is worrisome that a respectable national newspaper would make wild claims including the one on diversification that borders on absolute falsehood.
“Today, the country is firmly on the path of economic diversification with the immense contribution of the non-oil sector to Nigeria’s GDP which at 504billion dollars still makes the country Africa’s largest economy.
“In addition, we find it baffling that punch claimed that the administration’s Executive Orders were implemented in the breach and we wonder whether the writers are indeed Nigerians. Are they aware of Executive Order 007 on Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme amongst others, and their impact on the landscape or are they part of the bad choices ascribed to Buhari.”
“Also strange is the manner Punch stated that Buhari would be leaving behind 5,000 megawatts of power and mentioned Egypt and its 2014-2019 timeline of 60,000MW but acted like it did not know that Nigeria was in the middle of a similar transformation which was slowed down by COVID-19.
“All these showed that the newspaper was simply out to get at a man that it had since 1999 declared as an enemy,” the group added.
BMO also said that some parts of the editorial looked like information sourced from uninformed news sources.
“It beggars belief that punch claimed that the Anchors Borrowers Programme(ABP) has run into loan repayment crisis and that the ‘rice revolution’ has faltered without rationalising those claims.
“The fact is that the Central Bank of Nigeria has since the inception of the programme disbursed N1.079 trillion to N4.57million small holder farmers under the programme, out of which N503billion or 52.39 per cent has been repaid.
“The disbursement was done on the watch of a President who Punch prefers to call names, but the programme has led to the cultivation of 6.02m hectares of 21 commodities across the country.
“Besides, rather than seeking to discredit the administration or the programme, a quick check with CBN would reveal that some of the outstanding due balances on loans are still under moratorium owing to the COVID-19 forbearance granted to beneficiaries of the apex bank’s interventions”.
BMO said that it was indeed surprising that Punch Newspaper took its animosity against Buhari and his administration to this low level.