BY MUYIWA OYINLOLA, Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Michael Oche, Solomon Ayado and ADEBIYI ADEDAPO, Abuja
Two years into the first tenure of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration, the federal government has described its achievements as unprecedented.
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made government’s position known in an exclusive interview with LEADERSHIP to commemorate the two years anniversary of the present administration.
Mohammed noted that the federal government has done exceedingly well in the area of security, revamping of the economy, anti-corruption war and every other area where the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) had promised to effect change during the 2015 presidential campaign.
His words: “I say with all sense of humility that what the government has achieved in the area of fight against terrorism is unprecedented. People often forget that at the time the president was being sworn-in on May 29, 2015, over 20 out of 27 local governments in Borno State alone were under the effective control of Boko Haram.
“About that time also, about four local governments in Adamawa Stare and about two or three in Yobe State were under the effective control of Boko Haram, to the extent that they even hoisted their flags, which means that the territorial integrity of the country had been breached. As we speak today, no single square meter of this country is under Boko Haram insurgents. Even the Ground Zero, which is Sambisa forest, has now been taken over by the army.
“People have forgotten that until this administration dislodged the Boko Haram insurgents, Nigerians from the North- eastern part of the country for many years could not visit their homes because of insecurity. Roads were blocked, lives were unsafe, schools were closed, hospitals were closed. But we have returned normalcy to these areas so much so that as we speak today, the Nigeria football league is played weekly in Maiduguri. And I think this is an achievement that is under-celebrated by Nigerians”.
He noted that the Buhari-led government has also made tremendous impact on the economy by reversing its negative growth and also diversifying economy from a mono-economy that largely depended on oil to one that is now also making earnings through Agriculture and Solid minerals.
Accordingly, he noted that government has dramatically reversed the negative growth of the economy.
He said, “The picture you have painted from your question above is far from the truth as I will prove soon. The number of sub-sectors of the economy experiencing negative growth has almost been halved, falling from 29 sub-sectors for the whole of 2016 to 16 in Q1 2017. Growth in manufacturing has returned to positive territory after five quarters of negative growth. It grew by 1.36% in Q1 2017 after falling to -7.0% in Q1 2016.
“Our priority sectors of Agriculture and Solid Minerals, they have seen improved performance, in spite of the recession. Agriculture grew by 4.11% in 2016, while Solid Minerals recorded a 7% increase. The contribution of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development to the Federation Account tripled to about N2 billion in 2016, up from N700m in 2015.
“This government has made savings even at a time of low oil prices and by implication low government revenues. Nigeria’s External Reserves have grown by US$7 billion since October 2016. The Sovereign Wealth Fund has seen inflows of US$500m in 2016 and 2017 (the first inflows since the original US$1bn with which the Fund kicked off in 2012), and the Excess Crude Account has seen an inflow of US$87m, in 2017.
“You look at Phasing Out of Subsidy Regimes for Petroleum Products and Fertilizers. The Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP) of the Central Bank of Nigeria combined with a newly developed soil map designed to aid fertilizer application substantially raised local production of grains in 2016, yields improved from 2 tonnes per hectare to as much as 7 tonnes per hectare, in some states and produced a model agricultural collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi States. Equally, Nigeria’s rice imports fell from 580,000 MT in 2015 to 58,000MT in 2016.
“Moreover, the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative which involves a partnership with the Government of Morocco, for the supply of phosphate), has resulted in the revitalization of 11 blending plants across the country. The benefits include annual savings of US$200 million in foreign exchange, and 60 billion annually in budgetary provisions for fertilizer subsidies. The Scheme has also made it possible for Farmers to purchase fertilizer at prices up to 30 percent cheaper than previously available”.
Mohammed also explained that the Buhari-led government has been supporting Small Scale entrepreneurs through an initiative termed Support for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises.
He stated that the administration has launched series of funding and capacity development initiatives designed to support MSMEs across the country.
The minister continued: “The new Development Bank of Nigeria (DBN) is finally taking off, with initial funding of US$1.3 billion provided by the World Bank, German Development Bank, the African Development Bank and Agence Française de Development) to provide medium and long-term loans to MSMEs.
“The MSME Clinic, which brings relevant Government Agencies and their managements together with small businesses operating in various cities across the country, to enable the Agencies provide direct support to these businesses. The Interactions allow the Agencies to better understand the issues facing small businesses, and provides a platform for speedy resolution”.
In the area of infrastructural development, Mohammed stated that the Buhari Administration has demonstrated a single-minded commitment to upgrading and developing Nigeria’s Transport Infrastructure.
Noting that road projects are ongoing across every state of the federation, he said many of these projects had been abandoned in recent years because of mounting debts owed by the federal government to contractors.
He added that the administration is also pushing ahead with the revitalization of Nigeria’s 3,500km network narrow-gauge railway.
On the anti-corruption war which was part of the change mantra that brought the government to power, Mohammed observed that for the first time in Nigeria, corruption has been driven under the table, unlike before when it used to be negotiated openly.
He stated: “Secondly, we have been able to make Nigerians understand the cost of corruption to their lives. That it is largely because of corruption that we have no infrastructure; that it is largely due to corruption that thousands of young people are roaming the streets without any job; that it is largely because of corruption that we have a society that has placed value on consumption and not production.
“Our goal is to put in place a strong foundation which will be irreversible by anybody; to ensure that henceforth, probity, transparency and accountability become the watchword for any public official”.
Osinbajo Tasks Nigerians On Service To Nation
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday urged Nigerians to stop the blame game and condition themselves to be willing to sacrifice for the country to achieve greatness.
Osinbajo spoke at the 2017 Democracy Day interdenominational church service with the theme, ‘The Dry Bones Shall Live Again’, held at the National Christian Centre to mark the nation’s 18th year of uninterrupted democratic dispensation.
Citing the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37, Osinbajo said Nigerians must not be like the politician and cleric in the story that looked the other way when they saw the man that was attacked by thieves and left to die.
He maintained that Nigerians must emulate the Good Samaritan, a nobody who took compassion on the victim of robbery, poured oil on his wounds, bandage him and took him to the hospital.
He said, “The story is about how the people react when you see the nation that needs to be helped. While the politician and cleric looked the other way when they saw the man that was half dead, the Good Samaritan had compassion on him, bandaged him and took him to the hospital.
“Who truly loves the nation; is it the priest that said a prayer and walked past or the politician that looked and walked past or the Samaritan that took the wounded to the hospital, paid some money and said ‘treat him; on my return I will upset the bill?’
“The nation requires those that can make the sacrifices to make it great, they are those whom Jesus spoke about, people that may not be of note but prepared to make the nation great again. Some are doctors, teachers, young graduates.
“There is sacrifice of integrity against corruption. When you speak against corruption it fights back. So you must be ready to make sacrifice no matter how highly placed or small you are; teachers who are prepared to teach, doctors who are prepared to provide health services no matter what. Make the sacrifices required to make our nation great whether you are a leader or a follower”.
Osinbajo also prayed for President Muhammadu Buhari, saying God will heal and bring him back safely.
Democracy Day: Strong Economy Key To Vibrant Democracy- Saraki
On his part, Senate President Bukola Saraki said that concerted and united effort by all Nigerians to build a strong economy can only be a sure means of sustaining the nation’s democracy.
This was contained in a message of felicitation to commemorate the 2017 Democracy Day celebration, issued by his special adviser on media and publicity, Yusuph Olaniyonu in Abuja yesterday.
According to Saraki, the real challenge to the sustenance of democracy, which the country has experienced in the last 18 years, is the need for a solid economy that will ensure that the citizens enjoy high standard of living.
He urged Nigerians to support the policies of government aimed at involving the private sector in key sectors of the economy, focusing on locally manufactured goods, encouraging small and medium scale entrepreneurs, developing alternative sources of foreign exchange other than oil, directing attention to commercial agriculture and mining of mineral resources, as well as eliminating smuggling and other activities that can sabotage the economy.
He said, “I want to congratulate all Nigerians for the successes we have recorded so far in our democratic journey. We cannot afford to remove our legs from the gas pedal. Government definitely is determined to make life more abundant for our people.
“All Nigerians deserve commendation. We have done well so far. We must strive more to make democracy a way of life. The successes recorded so far, demonstrate the unwavering commitment of Nigerians to sustain and grow our democracy.
“Let us celebrate with hope that the present economic challenges will soon give way to a prosperous country that we can all be proud of. Our democratic institutions need to be strengthened to perform their duties in the service of all Nigerians irrespective of the government in power”.
We’re Losing Patience On Minimum Wage – NLC
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the federal government to use the occasion of the Democracy Day to announce the composition of the tripartite negotiation committee so that negotiation for a new minimum wage can begin.
NLC president, Ayuba Wabba, in his democracy day message said six years after the last salary increment which brought the national minimum wage to N18,000, the workers are now running out of patience.
“with the excruciating suffering of our members as a result of galloping inflation caused by the massive increase in the price of petrol, and the massive devaluation of the Naira, our patience has been tested to the limit”, he stated.
The Congress president also cautioned politicians to perish any thought of a military coup, saying the NLC is “categorically opposed to any further military adventurism in the body politics of our nation”.
Wabba urged the government at all levels to instead work hard to ensure that Nigerians enjoy democratic dividends.
He said, “The damage military incursion into Nigeria’s political arena did over the decades it imposed itself on the people is largely responsible for the underdevelopment of our political culture almost six decades after attaining political independence.
“The damage military rule caused our nation is not only in the realm of our political culture, it deepened and virtually institutionalized corruption in all segments of our national life.
“As some commentators have pointed to the fact that a number of our past military rulers are stupendously rich is a testimony that they indeed appropriated our commonwealth for their individual pockets at the expense of the vast majority of our people.
“The on-going revelations in the various probes of the military top brass again rubbishes any talk about the illusion of the incorruptibility of the military”.
There’s No Better Alternative To Democracy – Dogara
Meanwhile, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday emphasised that there is no better alternative system of government to democracy.
Dogara also scored the All Progressives Congress (APC) administration of President Muhammadu Buhari high as it marks its second year in office, saying many commendable achievements have been recorded within the period.
While restating the commitment of the government to bringing succour to the common man, he saluted all Nigerians for their resilience in the face of challenges they encounter daily, even as he argued that there is no alternative to democracy.
According to a statement signed by his Special Adviser on Media and Public Affairs, Turaki Hassan, the Speaker congratulated President Buhari, acting President Yemi Osinbajo, state governors and the entire leadership and all Nigerians for the 18 years of democracy in the country and second anniversary of the administration.
“We know that within the two years of this administration, the government has achieved a lot in the area of security. In transportation, we are talking about railways, in Agriculture and in diverse fields of our endeavours, a lot has been achieved and a lot need to be done, but we are committed to bringing succour to the common man.