ON the occasion of the 56th Independence Anniversary of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari has assured that his administration was aware of the hardship in the country and was working hard to change the situation.
He has however warned that there there are no easy ways out of the nation’s economic problems although solutions could be found.
In a live radio and television broadcast to mark the occasion on Saturday morning, he said:
“There are no easy solutions, but there are solutions nonetheless and Government is pursuing them in earnest.”
President Buhari noted that the day was a day of celebration for us Nigerians as it was the day 56 years ago that “our people achieved the most important of all human desires – freedom and independence. We should all therefore give thanks and pray for our founding fathers without whose efforts and toil we would not reap the bounties of today.”
He assured that he knew what was uppermost in the minds of the people was the economic crisis, therefore he said: “The recession for many individuals and families is real. For some It means not being able to pay school fees, for others it’s not being able to afford the high cost of food (rice and millet) or the high cost of local or international travel, and for many of our young people the recession means joblessness, sometimes after graduating from university or polytechnic.
“I know how difficult things are, and how rough business is. All my adult life I have always earned a salary and I know what it is like when your salary simply is not enough. In every part of our nation people are making incredible sacrifices.
“But let me say to all Nigerians today, I ran for office four times to make the point that we can rule this nation with honesty and transparency, that we can stop the stealing of Nigeria’s resources so that the resources could be used to provide jobs for our young people, security, infrastructure for commerce, education and healthcare.
“I ran for office because I know that good government is the only way to ensure prosperity and abundance for all. I remain resolutely committed to this objective.
“I believe that this recession will not last.
“Temporary problems should not blind or divert us from the corrective course this government has charted for our nation. We have identified the country’s salient problems and we are working hard at lasting solutions.
“To re-cap what I have been saying since the inception of this administration, our problems are security, corruption and the economy, especially unemployment and the alarming level of poverty.”
The president noted that on security, Boko Haram has been defeated but only now carrying out “cowardly attacks on soft targets, killing innocent men, women and children.”
While noting that situation has improved on the Boko Haram front, Buhari regretted: “A new insurgency has reared up its head in the shape of blowing up gas and oil pipelines by groups of Niger Delta Militants. This Administration will not allow these mindless groups to hold the country to ransom.
“What sense is there to damage a gas line as a result of which many towns in the country including their own town or village is put in darkness as a result? What logic is there in blowing up an export pipeline and as a result income to your state and local governments and consequently their ability to provide services to your own people is reduced?
“No group can unlawfully challenge the authority of the Federal Government and succeed. Our Administration is fully sympathetic to the plight of the good people of Niger Delta and we are in touch with the State Governments and leaderships of the region. It is known that the clean-up of the Ogoniland has started. Infrastructural projects financed by the Federal Government and post amnesty programme financing will continue.
“We have however, continued to dialogue with all groups and leaders of thought in the region to bring lasting peace.”
On corruption, he observed that it was cancer which must be fought with all the weapons at the nation’s disposal.
The president added: “It corrodes the very fabric of government and destroys society. Fighting corruption is Key, not only to restoring the moral health of the nation, but also to freeing our enormous resources for urgent socio-economic development.
“In fighting corruption, however, the government would adhere strictly by the rule of law. Not for the first time I am appealing to the judiciary to join the fight against corruption.”
Also speaking about the economy, President Buhari stressed that his administration’s change agenda was to restructure the economy.
According to him,”Economies behaviour is cyclical. All countries face ups and downs. Our own recession has been brought about by a critical shortage of foreign exchange. Oil price dropped from an average of hundred USD per barrel over the last decade to an average of forty USD per barrel this year and last.
“Worse still, the damage perpetrated by Niger Delta thugs on pipelines sometimes reduced Nigeria’s production to below One million barrels per day against the normal two point two million barrels per day. Consequently, the naira is at its weakest, but the situation will stabilize.
“But this is only temporary. Historically about half our dollar export earnings go to importation of petroleum and food products! Nothing was saved for the rainy days during the periods of prosperity. We are now reaping the whirlwinds of corruption, recklessness and impunity.”
He said government will repair the nation’s four refineries so that Nigeria can produce most of its petrol requirements locally, pending the coming on stream of new refineries.
He assured: “That way we will save ten billion USD yearly in importing fuel.”
The president spoke on the effort to achieve self-sufficiency in agriculture production, noting that abundant harvest was expected this year as states had increased various crops production capacities.
“At the same time, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank have been mobilized to encourage local production of rice, maize, sorghum, millet and soya beans.
Our target is to achieve domestic self-sufficiency in these staples by 2018,” he said.
The president further assured that “The country should be self-sufficient in basic staples by 2019. Foreign exchange thus saved can go to industrial revival requirements for retooling, essential raw materials and spare parts. It is in recognition of the need to re-invigorate agriculture in our rural communities that we are introducing the life programme.”
Listing some of the capital projects his administration was currently executing, Buhari remarked that government’s objective was to complete all abandoned projects across the country.
Continuing, he said: “Notwithstanding the budgetary constraints, the current budget allocated two hundred and forty billion naira for highway projects against twelve billion naira in 2015. Many contractors who have not been paid for three years have now remobilized to sites. Seven hundred and twenty point five billion naira has so far been released this budget year to capital projects.
“The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has received one hundred and ninety seven point five billion naira.”
He was confident that the programmes he had outlined will revive the economy, restore the value of the naira and drive hunger from the country.
Buhari commended Nigerians for their patience, steadfastness and perseverance., saying: “You know that I am trying to do the right things for our country.”