Happening Globally

The economy Buhari met versus what he’s leaving for Tinubu eight years after

When Muhammadu Buhari was elected as president in 2015, Nigerians remained hopeful that the bringer of change would get to work immediately in stabilizing the economy.

However, the economic policy of the Buhari-led administration got off to a shaky start.

Despite Nigeria’s economy growing by over six percent in 2014, economic growth reduced to about three percent by 2015, which is the lowest in the democratic era.

For a long time after he took office, Buhari did nothing much to improve the economy.

He took a rather hands-off attitude to economic management, as seen by his inability to appoint ministers until about six months after to took over.

Some economic experts said that Buhari’s failure to appoint his whole cabinet until 166 days after taking office led to a period of uncertainty that accelerated capital flight and weakened trust in the economy.

Late in 2015, when the administration finally showed signs of life, the economy was in shambles and on the verge of its first yearly recession since 1991.

Meanwhile, the CBN’s foreign exchange control policy, which was adopted with the lresident’s implicit consent, devalued the naira even further and exacerbated the pressure on domestic and international firms.

Despite widespread support for a switch to a market-based exchange rate, which would have helped the economy recover more quickly, the CBN has doubled down on its policies, strangling the foreign exchange market and, by extension, the economy.

For the first time ever, $1 went for over N500 at parallel market in the beginning of 2017.

Meanwhile, the outgoing president, on Sunday, May 28, defended his record on the economy.

However, available data shows that the country’s economy is performing poorly.

Buhari came into office in 2015 after promising to reboot the economy and end corruption, unemployment, insecurity, among other issues, but it seems the problems have worsened under his watch.

Poverty and unemployment

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) recently disclosed that 133 million Nigerians were multi-dimensionally poor.

Reports also showed that Nigeria surpassed India as the country with the largest number of people living in life-threatening poverty in the world.

A World Bank report titled, “A better future for all Nigerians: 2022 Nigeria poverty assessment,” released early this year, noted that poverty reduction had stagnated in this country since 2015, with more Nigerians falling below the poverty line over the years.

Also, the nation’s unemployment rate in the last quarter of 2015 stood at 10.4 percent.

The figure went up to 14.2 percent at the end of 2016.

At the end of 2017, it moved up to 20.42 percent, and it moved up to 23.1 percent in 2018, and the latest figures from the NBS indicated that the unemployment rate stood at 33.3 percent as of 2020, translating to about 23.19 million unemployed people.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The GDP report of a country is significant because it gives information about the size of the economy and how it is performing.

The growth rate of real GDP is often used as an indicator of the general health of the economy.

In broad terms, an increase in real GDP is interpreted as a sign that the economy is doing well.

The administration before Buhari had 6.07 percent growth in four years, but the NBS said that the economy grew by an average of 1.40 percent under this regime.

However, due to naira redesign policy and the consequent cash crunch, which resulted in severe hardship for Nigerians, the nation’s GDP declined by 2.31 percent in the first quarter of 2023, according to the NBS.

Almost all sectors of the Nigerian economy have been experiencing excruciating strains in the past seven years, according to various economic reports.

In the non-oil sector (the biggest contributor to Nigeria’s GDP), agriculture, finance, insurance and transport are struggling.

Nigeria’s inclement economic environment has slowed them down.

A large number of farmers can’t access their farms due to the activities of terrorists; manufacturing continues to plunge while crude oil production is sliding.

The World Bank, in its 2022 Nigeria public finance review report, said that, “Nigeria’s development progress has stagnated.

“Between 2001 and 2014, Nigeria was a rising star in West Africa, with an average growth rate of seven percent per year, and it ranked among the top 15 fastest-growing economies in the world.

“However, this trend ended abruptly in 2015, as oil prices fell, the security situation deteriorated, macroeconomic reforms were reversed, and economic policies became increasingly unpredictable,” it added.


Nigeria’s inflation rate was 9.01 percent in 2015 when Buhari assumed office.

According to the NBS, the country’s inflation rate skyrocketed in the first quarter of the transition year and hit 22.22 percent in April, the fourth consecutive increase in 2023.

In 2015, a bag of rice was sold at N8,000 while a litre of petrol was N87.

As of May 22, 2023, a bag of rice is sold for N40,000, while a litre of fuel is more than N200.

The exponential rise in the cost of commodities, hitting harder on commoners, aside from the global inflation following the pandemic, sums up how Nigeria failed to ramp up production in the last eight years, thereby affecting the import-to-export ratio to its economic disadvantage.

Foreign exchange

In 2015, when Buhari assumed office, the dollar was exchanged at N198/$ in the parallel market.

By 2018, it was N306 to the dollar, and in 2019, it went up to N360 to the dollar and eventually exchanged at N520 in 2021.

From 2021 till date, the dollar at the parallel market has been exchanging for between N600 and N760.

Experts have called for reforms that will affect the country’s exchange rate, forex availability, interest rate and cash flows, noting that these will impact local production and business growth.

For an administration that met naira at N198/$1, leaving it at N460 (at the official rate), and an outrageous parallel market rate of N760, shows how the country’s currency has lost its value in the last eight year.

Debt burden

Former president Goodluck Jonathan had approved a N4.5 trillion budget, which was already running before Buhari assumed office in 2015.

Despite the country’s infrastructure deficit, only N755 billion made it into capital expenditure that year.

However, Nigeria’s budget grew exponentially to N6.08 trillion in 2016, N7.29 trillion in 2017, N9.12 trillion in 2018 and N8.92 trillion in 2019.

Despite shortfalls in revenue targets, hinged hugely on oil price performances and taxes, Nigeria’s budgets rose to N10.80 trillion in 2020, N13.60 trillion for the 2021 fiscal year and N21.3 trillion in 2023.

The nation’s budget deficit has increased as the budget expands.

Since the government started experiencing a significant shortfall in revenue, it has relied heavily on the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to finance its expenditure programmes via Ways and Means, which balance, as of December 2022, stood at N22.7 trillion.

Also, the Debt Management Office (DMO) which reported Nigeria’s debt profile as N12.12 trillion in June 2015, now put it at N77 trillion.

This includes the debt of the 36 state governments and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Economic performance

The incoming president, Bola Tinubu is inheriting a weak economy, record debt and shrinking oil output.

Double-digit inflation, which has eroded savings and wages, is one of the biggest issues confronting him when he is sworn into office.

Written by Sami Olatunji.

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