President Muhammadu Buhari has reassured Nigerians that the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign-rallying cry to restore security, re-balance the economy and fight corruption was not all rhetoric.
This is even as he described the era when oil prices was an average of $100 per barrel and oil production stood at about 2.1 million barrels a day, as a great piece of luck that was squandered and the country’s social and physical infrastructure neglected.
According to him, “we were left with no savings and huge infrastructure deficit.”
The President, however, said his administration intends to accelerate progress and intensify its resolve to fix the country’s challenges and problems.
In his Independence Day broadcast to mark the nation’s 57th anniversary, he said despite the trials and tribulations the country has gone through, October 1 remains a special date for all Nigerians as it marks the day when “we attained one of the most precious of human desires — freedom.”
The President stressed that the country must “first be secured. The economy must be re-balanced so that we do not depend on oil alone. We must fight corruption, which is Nigeria’s Number One Enemy. Our administration is tackling these tasks in earnest.”
He said it was gratifying that in the past two years, Nigeria has recorded appreciable gains in political freedom.
“A political party at the centre losing elections of State Governor, National Assembly seat and even State Assemblies to the opposition parties is new to Nigeria. Added to these are complete freedom to associate, to hold and disseminate opinions. Such developments clearly attest to the country’s growing political development. But like all freedoms, this is open to abuse.”
Buhari said the call for restructuring was proper but regretted that it’s been hijacked by secessionists. He said: “Recent calls on re-structuring, quite proper in a legitimate debate, has let in highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country. We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy. “As a young Army Officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about two million lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. Those who are agitating for a re-run were not born by 1967 and have no idea of the horrendous consequences of the civil conflict, which we went through.
“I am very disappointed that responsible leaders of these communities do not warn their hot-headed youths what the country went through. Those who were there should tell those who were not there the consequences of such folly.
“At all events, proper dialogue and any desired constitutional changes should take place in a rational manner, at the National and State Assemblies. These are the proper and legal fora for national debate, not some lopsided, undemocratic body with pre-determined set of objectives.” The President, while commending the Niger Delta leaders for restoring peace in the region, promised to address genuine grievances in the region soon. “Government is keeping up the momentum of dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta to keep the peace. We intend to address genuine grievances of the communities. Government is grateful to the responsible leadership of those communities and will pursue lasting peace in the Niger Delta.”
Buhari commended the military leadership in the country for working very hard to crush the activities of Boko Haram, and also the country’s neigbhours for their support in the fight against terrorism.
“On security, Nigerians must be grateful to our gallant Armed Forces for rolling back the frontiers of Boko Haram’s terrorism, defeating them and reducing them to cowardly attacks on soft and vulnerable targets. “Nigeria is grateful to its neighbours and the international community for the collective efforts to defeat this world-wide menace of terrorism.
“Not even the most organised and most equipped police and security forces in the world can escape the menace of modern day terrorism, as we have seen in recent years in Europe and other parts of the world. But we are not letting up,” he affirmed. The President further reiterated his administration’s commitment to ensure the release of the remaining Chibok girls as well as other persons in Boko Haram captivity.
With respect to the economy, Buhari said government has remained proactive in its diversification policy, noting that Federal Government’s agricultural Anchor Borrowers Programme, which was launched in November 2015, has been an outstanding success.
He disclosed that a new presidential initiative would start with each state of the federation creating a minimum of 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths with the aid of the Central Bank of Nigeria’s development finance initiatives.
The President admitted that power has remained a huge problem for the country but expressed optimism that his administration would attain 10,000 megawatts by 2020.
“Power remains a huge problem. As of September 12th, production of power reached an all time high of 7,001 megawatts. Government is increasing its investment, clearing up the operational and financial logjam bedeviling the industry. We hope to reach 10,000 megawatts by 2020. “Elsewhere in the economy, the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements has proved very effective. Since April, about $7 billion has come through this window alone. The main effect of these policies is improved confidence in the economy and better investment sentiments.
“The country has recorded seven consecutive months of lower inflation, naira rate is beginning to stabilise, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 today. Broad-based economic growth is leading us out of recession.”
On the fight against corruption, the President admitted that it has not been an easy task but assured that his administration would see the war to its logical conclusion. “We are fully aware that fighting corruption was never going to be a straightforward task. We expected corrupt elements to use any weapon to fight back, mainly judicial obstruction and political diversion. But we are determined to eradicate corruption from our body politic. “In this fight, the government has empowered teams of prosecutors, assembled detailed databases, and accelerated the recovery of stolen funds. “The administration’s new institutional reforms include enforcing Treasury Single Account, Whistle-Blowers Policy, Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System.
“We have signed multi-lateral cooperation agreements on criminal matters with friendly countries. There are signs of increasing cooperation from the Judiciary. Recently, the Chief Justice of the Federation directed Heads of all our Courts of first instance and Appeal to accelerate hearings of corruption cases and dismiss any judicial officers found to have been compromised.
“I commend the National Assembly for refocusing on its oversight committees. They should, in addition, ensure swift passage of enabling corruption laws. But fighting corruption is a bottom to top operation. I call on all Nigerians to combat corruption at every turn. By not asking for and refusing to accept a bribe, by reporting unethical practices or by blowing a whistle, together we can beat corruption. The government for its part will work for accountability at all levels – Federal, State and Local Governments. CHANGE will then be real,” the President said.