Un­veils 360,000 New Job Scheme Saraki, Mark, Ek­w­ere­madu Preach Unity, Na­tional Re­birth Nigeria Has Achieved A Lot De­spite Set­backs – Yaka­sai, Akanbi, Oth­ers

Sunday Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Isi­aka Wak­ili

Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari says though re­cent calls for re­struc­tur­ing are quite proper in a le­git­i­mate de­bate, they have let in highly ir­re­spon­si­ble groups to call for dis­mem­ber­ment of the country. The pres­i­dent, there­fore, cau­tioned those behind the breakup calls, say­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion “can­not and we will not al­low such ad­vo­cacy.”

Pres­i­dent Buhari stated this to­day in his Oc­to­ber 1 na­tion­wide broad­cast.

He said as a young army of­fi­cer, he took part from the be­gin­ning to the end in the na­tion’s “tragic civil war cost­ing about two mil­lion lives, re­sult­ing in fear­ful de­struc­tion and un­told suf­fer­ing.”

He said those 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.”

Buhari said he was “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.”

He said at all events, proper di­a­logue and any de­sired con­sti­tu­tional changes should take place in a ra­tio­nal man­ner–at the Na­tional and State As­sem­blies–as “these are the proper and le­gal fora for Na­tional de­bate, not some lop­sided, un-demo­cratic body with pre­de­ter­mined set of ob­jec­tives.”

He said his gov­ern­ment was keeping up the mo­men­tum of di­a­logue with stake­hold­ers in the Niger Delta to keep the peace as it in­tended to ad­dress gen­uine griev­ances of the com­mu­ni­ties, adding that his ad­min­is­tra­tion was grate­ful to the re­spon­si­ble lead­er­ship of those com­mu­ni­ties and will pur­sue last­ing peace in the Niger Delta.

The pres­i­dent noted that over the years, the country had gone through tri­als and tribu­la­tions, say­ing however that Oc­to­ber 1 is al­ways a day for cel­e­bra­tions, thanks­giv­ing, re­flec­tion and re-ded­i­ca­tion.

“It is also a day for re­mem­brance. We should re­mind our­selves of the re­cent jour­ney from 1999 - 2015, when our country hap­pily re­turned to demo­cratic rule. However, in spite of oil prices be­ing an av­er­age of $100 per barrel and about 2.1m bar­rels a day, that great piece of luck was squan­dered and the country’s so­cial and phys­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture ne­glected. We were left with no sav­ings and huge in­fra­struc­ture deficit.The APC gov­ern­ment’s cam­paign ral­ly­ing cry to re­store se­cu­rity, re-bal­ance the econ­omy and fight cor­rup­tion was not all rhetoric.”

Buhari said the country must first be se­cured and the econ­omy “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.

“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.”

On se­cu­rity, he said 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 or­ga­nized 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. Our armed forces in an ef­fort to en­hance the op­er­a­tional ca­pa­bil­ity of troops of Op­er­a­tion Lafiya Dole have es­tab­lished Mo­bile Strike Teams in the North East. These will en­sure the final push to wipe out the rem­nants of Boko Haram.

“In ad­di­tion, through tar­geted air strikes most of the lead­er­ship and iden­ti­fied lo­gis­tics bases and routes of the in­sur­gents have be strikes most of the lead­er­ship and iden­ti­fied lo­gis­tics bases and routes of the in­sur­gents have been neu­tral­ized. The armed forces have es­tab­lished a Naval pres­ence in the Lake Chad Basin as part of the co­or­di­nated mil­i­tary ef­forts to cur­tail the move­ments or re-emer­gence of the sect in the area.”

Buhari said his gov­ern­ment was work­ing round the clock to en­sure re­lease of the re­main­ing Chi­bok girls as well as other per­sons in Boko Haram cap­tiv­ity.

He as­sured that his ad­min­is­tra­tion would con­tinue to sup­port the armed forces and other se­cu­rity agen­cies to fight not only ter­ror­ism, but kid­nap­ping, armed rob­beries, herds­men/farm­ers vi­o­lence and as well as to en­sure peace, sta­bil­ity and se­cu­rity in the country.

He also stated that with re­spect to the econ­omy, the gov­ern­ment had re­mained pro-ac­tive in its di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion pol­icy as its agri­cul­tural An­chor Bor­row­ers Pro­gramme, launched in Novem­ber 2015, had been an out­stand­ing suc­cess with N43.92 bil­lion re­leased through the CBN and 13 par­tic­i­pat­ing in­sti­tu­tions, 200,000 small holder farm­ers from 29 states of the fed­er­a­tion ben­e­fit­ting and 233,000 hectares of farm­land cul­ti­vat­ing eight com­modi­ties, namely rice, wheat, maize, cot­ton, soya-beans, poul­try, cas­sava and ground­nuts, in ad­di­tion to fish farm­ing.

“These ini­tia­tives have been un­der­taken in close col­lab­o­ra­tion with the states. I wish to com­mend the ef­forts of the Gover­nors of Kebbi, La­gos, Ebonyi and Ji­gawa states for their sup­port to the rice and fer­til­izer rev­o­lu­tions. Equally com­mend­able are con­tri­bu­tions of the Gover­nors of Ondo, Edo, Delta, Imo, Cross River, Benue, Ogun, Kaduna and Plateau states for their sup­port for the Pres­i­den­tial ini­tia­tive for palm oil, rub­ber, cashew, cas­sava, pota­toes and oth­ers crops.

The pres­i­dent dis­closed that a new pres­i­den­tial ini­tia­tive was start­ing “with each state of the fed­er­a­tion cre­at­ing a min­i­mum of 10,000 jobs for un­em­ployed youths, again with the aid of CBN’s de­vel­op­ment fi­nance ini­tia­tives.”

Pres­i­dent Buhari ad­mit­ted that power re­mains a huge prob­lem, point­ing out that “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 log jam be­dev­il­ing the in­dus­try. We hope to reach 10,000 Me­gawatts by 2020.

“Key pri­or­i­ties in­clude bet­ter en­ergy mix through so­lar and hy­dro tech­nolo­gies. I am glad to say that after many years of limbo, Mam­billa Power Pro­ject has taken off.”

He said else­where in the econ­omy, the spe­cial window cre­ated for man­u­fac­tur­ers, in­vestors and ex­porters, for­eign ex­change re­quire­ments had proved very ef­fec­tive, stress­ing that “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.”

Buhari, said Nigeria had “recorded 7 con­sec­u­tive months of lower in­fla­tion, Naira rate is be­gin­ning to sta­bi­lize, ap­pre­ci­at­ing from N525 per $1 in Fe­bru­ary this year to N360 to­day. Broad-based eco­nomic growth is lead­ing us out of re­ces­sion.”

He noted that in or­der to sta­bi­lize the polity, the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment gave ad­di­tional sup­port to states in the form of State Ex­cess Crude Ac­count loans, Bud­get Sup­port Fa­cil­ity, Sta­bi­liza­tion Fund Re­lease to state and local gov­ern­ments as fol­lows: N200 bil­lion in 2015, N441 bil­lion in 2016 and N1 tril­lion in 2017 to­tal­ing N1.642 tril­lion.

He said this was done to en­able states to pay out­stand­ing salaries, pen­sions and small business sup­pli­ers who had been all but crip­pled over the years.

He also noted that his gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent N500 bil­lion Spe­cial In­ter­ven­tion Pro­gramme is tar­get­ing groups through Home Grown School Feed­ing Pro­gramme, N-Power Job cre­ation to pro­vide loans to small-scale traders and ar­ti­sans, Con­di­tional Cash Trans­fer, Fam­ily Homes Fund and So­cial Hous­ing Scheme.

On cor­rup­tion, he said his ad­min­is­tra­tion was fully aware that fight­ing it 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.”

Buhari, who as­sured of his de­ter­mi­na­tion to erad­i­cate cor­rup­tion from the na­tion’s body polity, said his gov­ern­ment had em­pow­ered teams of pros­e­cu­tors, as­sem­bled de­tailed data­bases, 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.

Pres­i­dent Buhari said his gov­ern­ment ex­pected a lot from the ju­di­ciary’s anti-graft com­mit­tee chaired by Jus­tice Ayo Salami.

He com­mended the Na­tional As­sem­bly for re­fo­cus­ing on its over­sight com­mit­tees, charg­ing the leg­is­la­ture, however, to en­sure swift pas­sage of en­abling cor­rup­tion laws.

Em­pha­sis­ing that fight­ing cor­rup­tion is a bot­tom to top op­er­a­tion, Buhari called 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.”

He pro­mosed that his gov­ern­ment, for its part, would “work for ac­count­abil­ity at all lev­els fed­eral, state and local gov­ern­ments. Change will then be real.”

The pres­i­dent also stated that “As we en­ter the sec­ond half of our term of of­fice, we in­tend to ac­cel­er­ate progress and in­ten­sify our re­solve to fix the country’s chal­lenges and prob­lems.”

The vis­it­ing Com­man­der, Royal Jor­da­nian Air Force Maj.-Gen. Yousef Al-Hnaity (3rd right) in­spects some am­mu­ni­tion and bombs at an Air force base in the North-East in prepa­ra­tion for his country’s mil­i­tary aid to boost the war against Boko Haram in­sur­gent

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