President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday acknowledged having been aware of the plight of Nigerians, assuring that the mandate for change remains relevant and will be steadily followed to improve livelihoods.
This too, he said, shall pass away, just as he pointed out that he had “secured the long-overdue return of taxpayers’ monies from overseas, stolen in the 1990s, and put this to use in supporting citizens in dire need”.
The president, who gave the assurance while marking in a low-key the first year anniversary of his second term in office, regretted however that “because of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown measures implemented to stem and halt its spread, much of what the administration strives for and delivered may seem at risk.
“President Buhari realizes the burden so many citizens carry just to make ends meet, and the suffering they endure”, his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, noted in a statement conveying the president’s goodwill message to Nigerians on the occasion of the president’s one year in his second term and five years of his eight-year tenure.
Our sister publication, LEADERSHIP Friday, yesterday reported exclusively that Northern and Southern leaders in the country, while observing that Nigeria’s 21 years of uninterrupted democracy since 1999 had derailed under past administrations, had urged the Buhari administration as well as state governments to work towards bringing it back on track by working towards delivering the dividends of democracy to Nigerians.
And apparently to underscore the president’s awareness of the situation in the country, Shehu yesterday quoted what Buhari said in a recent speech: “We are bolstering our capacity to contain the virus. Soon, when we overcome our present troubles, the work to build Nigeria will start anew. And as we do, we find ourselves before the gates to a new, post-Covid world.
“Thanks to reforms in governance, our war on corruption and the hard work and trust of the Nigerian people, we are better positioned as a nation than ever before to seize new opportunities that await us to trade, build, make and export with the world. I thank you, the people of Nigeria, for your wisdom and your determination for change. We go forward, together”, the president added.
Shehu recalled that even though the campaign and the election were hard fought, the mandate Nigerians gave President Buhari was decisive.
The presidential spokesman noted that the president had won the election with a distance of nearly four million votes, garnering 15 per cent of the total votes cast over his closest opponent.
He said, “It was then – and is today – a mandate for change. For many years Nigerians have yearned for something different: less of the corruption and immoral greed of those who once governed; more decency in public life and fairness, and a chance to succeed. Nigerians yearned for improved security and end to terrorist bombings and for long-delayed infrastructure.
“Day by day, step by step, the President and his team are making the change that Nigerians have demanded. And it is a demand. Elected officials are servants, not masters. They govern at your discretion. The authority is yours to grant – and it is yours to take away”.
He further stated that since last year, Buhari had been striving to implement the plan endorsed endorsed with their votes.
“He has overseen an increase in foreign investment; construction of new roads, bridges and rails, and put structures in place to improve employment, and accomplished the diversification of the national economy through a massive growth in agriculture”, he noted.
PMB Declares Nigeria, Africa Post-COVID-19 Manufacturing Hub
President Buhari also said Nigeria and Africa are positioned to play a critical role in the remolding of a post-coronavirus world that centres on manufacturing.
In an opinion article he personally wrote for Newsweek titled, Post- Coronavirus: Africa’s manufacturing moment, the Nigerian leader noted that for many lost decades, Africa’s manufacturing moment had been on the launch pad, adding that he is convinced this time it could be different this around.
Buhari said Africa would be the last to flatten the curve of the COVID-19 pandemic that has continued to ravage the world.
Hinging his assertions on the premise that Africa was the last to experience the pandemic, he said, “Across the world, as countries and economies slowly reopen, Africa lags behind. We were last to experience the coronavirus—and we expect to be the final continent to flatten the curve.
“Some may say it is too early, that the crisis still too deep and the recovery too distant to dwell upon the future. But that is wrong. In times of global crisis it is critical to think of the life after, and how—through adversity—we can refashion the world around us.
“In this new, post-coronavirus age, Nigeria—and Africa, more broadly—wish to benefit the world, not be a drag on its resources or seemingly forever in need of aid. At last, after years of poor governance, we have the people, the purpose and the political will for this to change.
“What we need now is for the vision of others to match our own. And Africa is positioned to play a critical role in the remolding of a post-coronavirus world that centers around manufacturing.”
President Buhari pointed out that the West had since transformed to a service-based economy, with much of its factory production relocated primarily to Asia.
This, according to him, has led to the creation of home-grown consumer goods from countries such as South Korea and China that are enjoyed around the globe as widely as are their Western equivalents.
Buhari remarked that it was simply untrue that jobs that build the goods of today, once departed from the West to Asia, can never return.
He continued: “Indeed, we see already from “onshoring” trends that this is not the case. Factors of labor cost, transportation, location and availability of natural and energy resources will always come into play.
“What is true is that no country or continent has a permanent monopoly on manufacturing jobs. Indeed, we see how Asian nations are themselves now offshoring manufacturing to their neighbors and, increasingly, to Africa”.
President Buhari contended that Africa is positioned to seize the opportunity from these trends and, in turn, benefit the world.
Explaining further, he said, “Our young population is increasingly well educated; governance reform, while not universal, is growing in strength in most African countries such as my own, where our sustained actions against the seemingly perennial scourge of corruption and malfeasance are well-recognized; and the energy, infrastructure and key natural resources needed to power and supply large-scale manufacturing facilities are in place”.
Buhari stated that the Mambilla power plant, which was finally unlocked for completion after a successful decision by the International Court of Arbitration in Paris earlier this year, will electrify the homes of about 10 million Nigerians.
The president said that Nigeria can now fund some of its priority projects after the repatriation the country looted funds from United States, United Kingdom amon others.
He stated: “We can now move forward with road, rail and power station construction—in part, under own resources—thanks to close to a billion dollars of funds stolen from the people of Nigeria under a previous, undemocratic junta in the 1990s that have now been returned to our country from the U.S., U.K. and Switzerland.
“That these friendly nations agreed to return these funds after so long is testament to the fact that – thanks to our governance reforms – Nigeria is rightly seen as an increasingly stable and beneficial place to transact and invest.
“It is much the same across the continent, with sub-saharan Africa now outpacing Asia, Europe and North America by some measures in terms of foreign direct investment inflows-to-GDP, perhaps for the very first time.
“While that is good news for over one billion Africans, the greatest benefit to those who look to our continent as the brightest global manufacturing location is that we are not, and do not seek, to engage in geopolitical competition.
“That is not to say that African countries do not have interests or preferences. Nigeria already has, and seeks to deepen further, our relations with other Commonwealth countries—particularly in the interests of trade. And the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement, which I signed for Nigeria last year, seeks to bind our continent in mutual growth together for the first time.
“We hold shared values in democracy, freedoms of speech and religion with the Western world—and admiration and determination to learn and follow the rapid economic growth and poverty reduction that has occurred across Asia.
“But ultimately, Africa is an opportunity for all and a threat to no one. There will be no African armies or aircraft carriers in the future, roaming the sands of faraway lands or the straits of foreign seas. We do not seek to grow our manufacturing capabilities in order to grant ourselves a seat at the table of some new great geopolitical game—but merely to play our part as partners in development”.
Nigeria On Irreversible Path To Sustainable Development – Lai Moh’d
Also, the minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, declared yesterday that President Buhari has put Nigeria on an irreversible road to sustainable development in the past one year of his re-election.
Speaking during a press conference yesterday in Abuja, to mark the first anniversary of Buhari’s second term, the minister said the president recorded the feat by some actions “mostly bold and highly visionary” taken.
Mohammed who said that the past one year had been momentous noted that never in the history of Nigeria had so many positive steps been taken in so short a time.
He said, “President Muhammadu Buhari was elected in 2015 on the strength of his promise of change. Nigerians are satisfied with his performance, especially in the cardinal areas of fighting corruption, tackling insecurity and revamping the economy, overwhelmingly re-elected the President in 2019.
“One year later, the President is taking Nigeria to the Next Level of irreversible change for the better”.
On the fight against corruption, he said the cardinal programme of the administration, continued unabated during the period under review and the leading anti-corruption agencies had been unrelenting in facing down the cankerworm of corruption.
Mohammed said in the last one year alone, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Offences Commission (ICPC) has recovered assets worth N81.23 billion.
The minister stated: ”The breakdown are as follows: N 41.98 billion, money restrained on review of MDAs’; Personnel Cost Expenditure and Capital Development Fund, N35.011 billion lands, buildings and vehicles; N1.167 billion cash in TSA; N0.77 billion recoveries from constituency projects tracked; N 1.097 billion completed constituency projects on the return of contractors to site; N 0.865 billion cash (Other Accounts); $1.113 million cash (Other Domiciliary A/C) Converted @ N305/ $.
”The ICPC has also established a Constituency Project Tracking Group, now named Constituency and Executive Projects Tracking Group, to track the performance of publicly-funded projects, especially projects with immediate impact on the livelihood of ordinary Nigerians. 424 of such projects were tracked within the period under review, which led to the completion of several abandoned projects and recovery of billions of Naira on some of the projects. The number of completed constituency projects in education, health, water resources, agriculture and other sectors increased to over 400 nationwide, from those that were specifically monitored.”
He further said over 300 contractors who had abandoned projects returned to site in various parts of the country.
Specifically, the minister said that the intractable power problem was finally being tackled in a way that would end poor power supply that had stunted Nigeria’s socio-economic.
He said the days of unbridled massive importation of food were coming to an end as Nigeria moved to become self-sufficient in major staples, especially rice.
Mohammed added that with the provision of many platforms and improved welfare, the Nigerian military was living up to the task of tackling insurgency.
He said, “With the bold and courageous leadership provided by President Buhari, Nigeria is marching surely and steadily to join the comity of great nations.“Change is never easy, and the birth of a new nation comes with pain.
“We thank Nigerians for their support and perseverance, and hereby reassure them of the administration’s unrelenting commitment to making life more meaningful for the citizenry,” he said.
Assuring that the second year of the second and last tenure of the president would witness the agricultural revolution, the minister said, “I want to inform Nigerians that the stage is set for the implementation of the greatest agricultural revolution in the history of Nigeria.
“The unprecedented recent approval by the Buhari administration to inject 1.2 billion dollars loan into the agriculture sector will revolutionise our agriculture at scale”.
He said the fund was secured through the government-to-government bilateral loan from Brazil with support from Deutsche Bank and the Islamic Corporation for Insurance of Export Credit of the Islamic Development Bank.
Alhaji Mohammed said he would be briefing Nigerians together with the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, in the days ahead.
On border drill, he said the border closure has boosted production of agricultural products especially local rice, tomatoes, pepper and poultry; and this has influenced the growth of the economy positively.
He said today Nigeria was fast attaining self-sufficiency in rice production, as the border drill has drastically reduced rice smuggling into the country and catalyzed rice production by farmers across the country.
The minister pointed out that from N4.5 billion daily before the drill, the Nigeria Customs Service raised its daily revenue to between N5 billion and N8 billion daily, before the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown which has, of course, impacted revenue collection.
On power supply, he said it will be an understatement to say that inadequate power supply, hallmarked by regular blackouts, has stifled Nigeria’s economic development.
He said, ”It is perhaps the single most formidable obstacle to the country’s economic development. But, following an agreement with German company Siemens in July 2019 to boost power supply in Nigeria, the stage is set for the perennial power problem to become a thing of the past.
“Under the three-phase agreement, Nigerians will enjoy 7,000 megawatts of reliable power supply by the end of 2021 (phase 1), 11,000 megawatts by the end of 2023 (phase 2) and 25,000 megawatts in the third phase.
”To put things in perspective, Nigeria’s current power generation capacity is more than 13,000 megawatts, but only an average of 3,400 megawatts reliably reach consumers. In essence, the current amount of power that reaches consumers will more than double by the end of next year. In addition, this will create thousands of jobs and will leapfrog
the country into the next level of industrial and social development