8 March 2009

Nigeria: Recession - Yar'Adua Hints At Austerity Measures

Abuja — President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has given notice of the introduction of austerity measures by his administration as a way to tackle the global economic recession.

In view of this, the president said, tightening of belts and suitable measures must be put in place, including effective leaderships at all levels in order to redirect and reintegrate the nation's economy.

Speaking at the 10th National Programme of Commemoration of the death of his brother, Maj.-Gen Shehu Musa Yar'Adua, in Abuja, yesterday, Yar'Adua said that with the challenges the world is faced with today, it should "draw inspiration from the ideals for which the late Shehu Yar'Adua lived and died - courage in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulties, loyalty, love, diligence, and abiding faith in God and country."

He stated: "The stark realities of globalisation and the unfolding global economic crisis facing the world today call for clear-headed, courageous, visionary and disciplined leadership. This is the essence of the challenge to the political leadership not only in Nigeria but on our continent today. We cannot run away from the centrality of good governance to the realisation of our vision of a stable, secure and prosperous Africa to the extent that current economic engagements are technology - and knowledge-driven."

Restating that the challenges of the global economic meltdown are real, President Yar'Adua said Nigeria should take advantage of it and take opportunities it presented "rather than be defeated by the problems it creates."

Speaking as the guest lecturer on the occasion, the president of MacArthur Foundation, Dr Jonathan Fanton, said that there is cause for hope that Nigeria would emerge a strong nation as it has reached a "point of extraordinary promise."

Despite news of "the strife in the (Niger) Delta, examples of corruption and imperfections in the electoral process", he said, "the signs are encouraging: back-t-back elected civilian leaders, prospective educational reforms, an increasingly independent judiciary and economic gains."

Said Fanton: "Nigeria is growing. Foreign reserves are up, debts have been cancelled, GPD is rising and the country is more fiscally sound than it has been in decades. Second, Nigeria is developing. Infrastructure is improving, telephone coverage has expanded as has primary school enrolment, the number of universities has tripled over the past decade, key health indicators such as the rate of HIV/AIDS are moving in the right direction."

The MacArthur Foundation president praised Nigeria for strengthening the rule of law, adding. "Through aggressive enforcement, the National Agency for Food and Drug."

Detailing MacArthur Foundation's partnership with some select Nigerian universities, Dr Fanton said that studies has shown that "a direct link between improvements in higher education and a rise in national prosperity. Such gains are essential to help this country harness its most valuable asset: knowledge, a source of energy found not in Nigeria's soil, but in its people."

He advised that Nigerian education "should cultivate in young people a capacity for critical thinking, a comfort with complexity and a commitment to civility. These qualities are essential to the democratic process and a bulwark against closed ideologues of all kinds."

Among those who attended the ceremony were the president of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete (represented by former president of Tanzania, Mr Benjamin Mkapa), Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate president, Senator David Mark, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, members of the National Assembly, ministers and members of the diplomatic community.

But many invited guests were locked out because President Yar'Adua arrived at exactly 10.00am, the time the programme was to start. Then, security operatives locked the outer gate and asked all the invited guests who were late to leave. Among those turned away were a convoy of executives of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led by its national chairman, Prince Vincent Ogbulafor, former minister of communications and governor of Kano State Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, former minister of Finance Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji, members of the National Assembly, top politicians and diplomats.

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