Buhari has taken Nigeria close to Next Level target ― Lai Mohammed

Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Monday said President Muhammadu Buhari has delivered on his electoral promises, declaring that the administration was at the verge of taking the country to the next level target it promised the people of Nigeria.

Mohammed made the declaration while speaking with newsmen in Lagos, just as he reeled out the major achievements of Buhari’s administration for the outgoing year in key sectors of the economy.

According to the minister, the nation’s economy under President Buhari, in the outgoing year, has witnessed a strong performance, while building on the steady recovery since the last recession, describing 2019 as a momentous year.

“2019 has been a momentous year, and this administration has taken Nigeria closer to its Next Level target. The economy has continued to witness a strong performance, building on the steady recovery since the last recession.

“ln 2019, the Nigerian economy grew at an average rate of 2.2 per cent over the first three quarters, compared to 1.7 per cent over the same period in 2018.

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“Both the oil and non-oil sectors performed considerably better in 2019 than in 2018.

“The oil sector grew at an average of four per cent over the three quarters, compared to 2.4 per cent in 2018, while the non-oil sector grew by two per cent, compared to 1.7 per cent in 2018,’’ he said.

Speaking further, Mohammed said the average daily oil production level rose to its highest in the last three years, reaching two million barrels per day (mbpd) in 2019, compared to 1.8 mbpd in 2016, and 1.9 mbpd in both 2017 and 2018.

In particular, the minister said in the third quarter of 2019, the major growth drivers were: Information and communications, agriculture, mining and quarrying, transportation and storage as well as manufacturing, noting that the major growth drivers all had seen considerable focus by the government.

He said in the third quarter of 2019, a total of 34 economic activities witnessed positive expansion, same as in 2018, even as Mohammed allayed the fears of Nigerians on the country’s debt profile.

“Nigeria has not reached its debt ceiling of 25% in total public debt stock to GDP (Debt/GDP), as it is currently on 18.99%, but its debt service to revenue ratio has been higher than desirable, which explains why the government is moving ahead with its economic diversification efforts, in addition to increasing oil and non-oil revenues and widening the tax base,” Alhaji Mohammed said.

The minister equally scored the administration of President Buhari high on security of lives and property, saying such remained the priority of All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government.

According to him, in spite of various challenges, tremendous improvement has been witnessed in fighting terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other acts of criminality to cancel what he described as “doomsday predictions from the political opposition and their allies.”

“Security of lives and property has remained a priority of this administration, hence the tremendous improvement that has been witnessed in fighting terrorism, banditry, kidnapping and other acts of criminality. It was indeed a challenging year in terms of  insecurity, but the federal government faced the challenge squarely to cancel doomsday predictions from the political opposition and their allies.

“The fight against insecurity was boosted by the border drill, which curtailed access to weapons by terrorists and other criminals,” he said.

Besides, Mohammed said the border closure had helped in ensuring massive boost in rice production locally, and, thereby “creating millions of jobs and moving Nigeria closer to achieving self-sufficiency in rice production.”

According to him, the effect of the border drill has been phenomenal and positive, adding,’’That Nigeria is closer to attaining self- sufficiency in rice production than at any time in the country’s history, thanks to the border drill that has drastically reduced rice smuggling into the country and catalyzed rice production by our farmers across the country.’”

“It is, however, disturbing that some neighbouring countries circumvent the ECOWAS protocol on transit. For clarity, the ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country. Unfortunately, experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol. Rather, they break the seals of containers at their ports and trans-load goods destined for Nigeria,” he said.

On war against corruption, the minister said the federal government had also made some headway, noting that it had received a shot in the arm, with the launch of the Administration’s Financial Transparency Policy and Portal.

He said the initiative had ensured an “increased prosecution and convictions and the tracking of the huge resources being allocated to constituency projects.”

‘’The government has continued to revamp the nation’s infrastructure while taking more steps to increase its earnings from its natural resources through the amendment of the necessary laws,” he said.

The minister urged the opposition to join hands with us to move Nigeria to the Next Level, instead of engaging in scorched-earth opposition that benefits no one.

On inflation rate, the minister said the trends indicated that overall macroeconomic stability was being achieved, with inflation rate steadily trending downwards.

“Year-on-year headline inflation rate declined steadily from 15.1 per cent in January 2018 to 11.9 per cent in November 2019.

“Year-on-year core inflation rate slowed from 12.1 per cent to nine per cent between January 2018 and November this year.

He also said that the year-on-year food inflation rate decreased from 18.9 per cent in Jan. 2018 to 14.5 per cent in Nov. 2019.

Speaking further, Mohammed said for the first time since 1999, the Executive, in collaboration with the National Assembly succeeded in introducing the 12-month (January to December) budget cycle.

He described the development as important and major, considering the damage that delayed passage of budgets had done to the economy over the years.

He assured that with the new cycle, there would be a more rapid infrastructure development as well as more job creation.

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