1 October 2017

Nigeria: Buhari - Restructuring Talks Ignite Calls for Breakup

Photo: https://twitter.com/mbuhari?lang=en
Nigeria's independence.

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 lop-sided, un-democratic body with pre-determined 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."

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