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Nigeria @ 59: Buhari restates commitment to fighting insecurity, directs release of N600bn for capital projects

Buhari Ipaye

Politics

Nigeria @ 59: Buhari restates commitment to fighting insecurity, directs release of N600bn for capital projects

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed the release of N600billion for capital project implementation from the 2019 budget in the next three months.

This directive was contained in the President’s broadcast to the nation to mark the country’s 59th independence anniversary.

He also said that as of June this year, total capital releases from the 2018 budget, stood at N1.74trillion to underscore the commitment of his administration to build infrastructure and take Nigerians out of poverty.

The broadcast was devoted almost entirely to the ‘change mantra’ of the Buhari administration, which was started in 2015 and the three cardinal areas of fighting insecurity, corruption and building the economy.

He noted that for change to happen, all Nigerians must support him and think like him to get the country from the old ways of doing things.

“This Change can only be delivered if we are united in purpose, as individuals and as a nation. We must all remain committed to achieving this positive and enduring change.

“As I stated four years ago, ‘Change does not just happen… We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust… simply put, to bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens”‘, the President stated.

Buhari reeled out the administration’s achievements in the key areas on insecurity, corruption and the economy, saying that so far, it had been cheerful news.

On security, he said,

“In the last four years, we have combatted the terrorist scourge of Boko Haram. We owe a debt of gratitude to our gallant men and women in arms, through whose efforts we have been able to achieve the present results. We are also grateful to our neighbours and allies – within the region and across the world – who have supported us on this front.

“The capacity of our armed forces to defend our territorial integrity continues to be enhanced by the acquisition of military hardware as well as continued improvements in the working conditions of our service men and women.

“The Ministry of Police Affairs has been resuscitated to oversee the development and implementation of strategies to enhance internal security. My recent assent to the Nigerian Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act has created a legal framework to support our Police with increased fiscal resources to enhance their law enforcement capabilities.

“These initiatives are being complemented by the ongoing recruitment of 10,000 constables into the Nigeria Police Force. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to arrest the incidence of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes across our nation.

“We remain equally resolute in our efforts to combat militant attacks on our oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta and accelerate the Ogoni Clean-up to address long-standing environmental challenges in that region.

“The recent redeployment of the Niger Delta Development Commission from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs underscores our commitment to enhance the living standards of our communities in the Niger Delta, through coordinated and appropriate programmes.

“Our attention is increasingly being focused on cyber-crimes and the abuse of technology through hate speech and other divisive material being propagated on social media. Whilst we uphold the Constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the rights of other citizens or threatens to undermine our National Security, we will take firm and decisive action.

“In this regard, I reiterate my call for all to exercise restraint, tolerance and mutual respect in airing their grievances and frustrations. Whilst the ongoing national discourse on various political and religious issues is healthy and welcome, we must not forget the lessons of our past – lessons that are most relevant on a day such as this.”

“The path of hatred and distrust only leads to hostility and destruction. I believe that the vast majority of Nigerians would rather tread the path of peace and prosperity, as we continue to uphold and cherish our unity.”

On the economy, the President spoke on he launched his Economic Recovery and Growth Plan on April 5, 2017, to steer the country out of recession.

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He gave details,

“This Administration inherited a skewed economy, where the oil sector comprised only 8 per cent of Gross Domestic Product but contributed 70 per cent of government revenue and 90 per cent foreign exchange earnings over the years. Past periods of relatively high economic growth were driven by our reliance on oil sector revenues to finance our demand for imported goods and services.

“Regrettably, previous governments abandoned the residual investment-driven non-oil sector, which constituted 40 per cent of Gross Domestic Product and comprised agriculture, livestock, agro-processing, arts, entertainment, mining and manufacturing activities that provide millions of jobs for able-bodied Nigerians and utilise locally available raw materials and labour for production.

“To address this imbalance, our commitment to achieving economic diversification has been at the heart of our economic strategies under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which I launched on the 5th of April, 2017.

“This medium-term development plan charted the trajectory for our economy to exit from recession and return to the path of sustainable, diversified and inclusive growth for Nigerians. Pursuant to these reforms, the economy has recovered and we have had nine successive quarters of growth since our exit from recession. The exchange rate in the last three years has remained stable, with robust reserves of US$42.5 billion, up from US$23bn in October 2016.

“Learning from the mistakes of the past, this Administration is committed to responsibly managing our oil wealth endowments. We will continue to prudently save our oil income and invest more in the non-oil job-creating sectors.

“In this regard, we are significantly increasing investments in critical infrastructure. Last year, capital releases only commenced with the approval of the Budget in June 2018. However, as at 20th June this year, up to N1.74tn had been released for capital projects in the 2018 fiscal year.

“Implementation of the 2019 capital budget, which was only approved in June 2019, will be accelerated to ensure that critical priority projects are completed or substantially addressed. The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has been directed to release N600bn for capital expenditure in the next three months.”

Buhari spoke on other measure being taken, including partnering the private sector to deliver infrastructure and strengthen the economy.

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He stated,

“To maximise impact, we shall continue to increasingly welcome and encourage private capital for infrastructural development through Public Private Partnerships. Through the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, which I initiated in January this year, we are giving incentives to private sector inflow of over N205 billion in 19 Nigerian roads and bridges of 794.4km across in 11 States of the Federation.

“As we push to diversify the economy, we still remain focused on optimising the revenues generated from the oil and gas sector. We will, working with the Legislature, soon pass the Petroleum Industry Bill and amendments to the Deep Offshore Act and Inland Basin Production Sharing Contracts Act into law, to ensure Government obtains a fair share of oil revenues, whilst encouraging private sector investment.

“We will also continue our fight against illegal bunkering of crude oil and the smuggling of refined petroleum products across our borders, including the diligent prosecution and conviction of offenders found guilty of these acts. Whilst Nigeria remains committed to free and fair continental and international trade, we will not hesitate to take all necessary steps to tackle illegal smuggling, transshipment and other predatory trade practices that destroy jobs in our country.”

On the power sector, the President said,

“We are resolute in reforming the power sector. In August this year, we launched the Presidential Power Initiative to modernise the National Grid in 3 phases: starting from 5 Gigawatts to 7 Gigawatts, then to 11 Gigawatts by 2023, and finally 25 Gigawatts afterwards. This programme, in partnership with the German Government and Siemens, will provide end-to-end electrification solutions that will resolve our transmission and distribution challenges.

“The programme will also look to localise the development and assembly of smart meters as well as the operations and maintenance capabilities of transmission and distribution infrastructure.

“I am pleased with the improved inter-agency collaboration between the Ministry of Power and the regulators in the banking and power sectors to ensure that electricity sales, billings and collections are automated and become cashless.

“These initiatives are important to ensure that the technical and collection losses in the sector are substantially reduced. I remain confident that Nigerians will have affordable and uninterrupted electricity supply in the not too distant future.

“Our efforts to improve the power sector will complement other infrastructure investments projects under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, which is investing in the Mambilla Power Plant project, as well as key economic road infrastructure such as the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Second Niger Bridge and Abuja-Kano Expressway. The first set of these projects remain on track to be completed by 2022.”

He further said that innovations were to ensure food security, job creation and the recent of an Economic Advisory Council to “advise me on inclusive and sustainable macroeconomic, fiscal and monetary policies.”

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He explained the role of the ECA further,

“This independent body will work with relevant cabinet members and the heads of key monetary, fiscal and trade agencies to ensure we remain on track as we strive for collective prosperity. However, we are also committed to ensure that the inconvenience associated with any painful policy adjustments, is moderated, such that the poor and the vulnerable, who are most at risk, do not bear the brunt.”

On the war against corruption, Buhari said measures such as the Treasury Single Account policy, Whistle-blowers’ Initiative and Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System, all helped government to pluck leakages.

He added that the Ministry of Justice, the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission, and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission would continue to deliver more on their mandate in the years ahead.

Buhari spoke more on his anti-corruption drive,

“We must commit to installing a culture of good governance in all we do. This Administration has fought against corruption, by investigating and prosecuting those accused of embezzlement and the misuse of public resources. We have empowered teams of prosecutors, assembled detailed databases of evidence, traced the proceeds of crimes and accelerated the recovery of stolen funds.

“Furthermore, we partnered with our friends abroad to combat tax evasion, smuggling, terrorism and illicit financial flows. In June 2018, I assented to the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act, to provide a domestic legal framework for obtaining international assistance in criminal matters.

” This measure has already strengthened our law enforcement agencies in obtaining evidence, investigating suspects and facilitating the recovery, forfeiture and confiscation of property implicated as proceeds of crime.

“An example is the US$300 million recently identified as part of the Abacha money-laundering case, working closely with the Government of the United States of America. The Federal Ministry of Justice is working with the US Department of Justice to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding to expedite the repatriation of these funds.

“The P & ID Arbitral Award has underscored the manner in which significant economic damage has been caused by the past activities of a few corrupt and unpatriotic Nigerians.

“The policies that we are putting in place today are to ensure such criminal and unpatriotic acts do not go without consequences. Our renewed partnership with the 9th National Assembly will facilitate the swift passage of enabling laws that will institutionalised these anti-corruption efforts in our criminal justice system.”

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