By Our Correspondnets
President Muhammadu Buhari this morning reasserted his stance on the restructuring debate that the National Assembly is the proper and legal forum to address ongoing call to restructure the country.
He faulted the national conference organised by former President Goodluck Jonathan and others, saying national debates should be handled by the federal legislature and not some lopsided, undemocratic body with pre-determined set of objectives.
The president restated this in a live broadcast to the nation to mark Nigeria’s 57th Independence Day celebration, which was on national television and radio stations at 7:00am today
He regretted that some highly irresponsible groups were hiding behind the restructuring debate to call for dismemberment of the country.
Buhari noted, however, that the country has recorded appreciable gains in political freedom in the past two years.
“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”, he observed.
Insisting that the National Assembly remains the proper platform address the national debate on restructuring, the president also took a swipe at South East leaders for not calling the agitators for secession in their domain to order.
He said, “Recent calls on restructuring, quite proper in a legitimate debate, has let in highly irresponsible groups to call for dismemberment of the country. We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy.
“As a young Army Officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about 2 million lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. Those who are 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.
“I am 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.
“At all events, proper dialogue and any desired constitutional changes should take place in a rational manner, at the National and State Assemblies. These are the proper and legal fora for National debate, not some lop-sided, un-democratic body with pre-determined set of objectives.”
For the Niger Delta, the president was full of praises for leaders of the region, even as he said, while the federal government is sustaining the thrust of dialogue with the people, it is determined to address grievances that are genuine.
He stated: “Government is keeping up the momentum of dialogue with stakeholders in the Niger Delta to keep the peace. We intend to address genuine grievances of the communities. Government is grateful to the responsible leadership of those communities and will pursue lasting peace in the Niger Delta.”
“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.”
Buhari noted that October 1st remains a special date for all Nigerians as it marks the day when they attained one of the most valuables of human needs, which is freedom.
Over the years, he said, the country has gone through trials and tribulations, noting however that October 1 had always been a day for celebrations in the country.
“It is a day for thanks giving, 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”, he pointed out.
He, however, regretted that even though oil prices stood at an average of $100 per barrel and about 2.1million barrels per day during this period, that great piece of luck was squandered by previous administrations, abandoning the country’s social and physical infrastructure.
His words: “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.
“The country must first be secured. The economy must be 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”.
On security, Buhari urged Nigerians to be grateful to the military for rolling back the frontiers of terror unleashed by the Boko Haram terrorists by defeating them and reducing them to cowardly attacks on soft and vulnerable targets.
He expressed the country’s gratitude to its neighbours and the international community for the collective efforts in defeating terrorism, which he describe as world-wide menace.
He said, “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.”
He added that through targeted air strikes most of the leadership and identified logistics bases and routes of the insurgents have been neutralized, with the Armed Forceshave establishing 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.
The president assured that government is working round the clock to ensure the release of the remaining Chibok girls, as well as other persons in Boko Haram captivity.
“Government will continue to support the Armed Forces and other security agencies to fight not only terrorism, but kidnapping, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers violence and to ensure peace, stability and security in our country”, he stated.
On the nation’s economy, Buhari explained that the government has remained pro-active in its diversification policy.
He said that the federal government’s agricultural Anchor Borrowers Programme, which he launched in November 2015, has been an outstanding success, with N43.92 billion released through the CBN and 13 participating institutions and 200,000 small holder farmers from 29 states of the federation benefitting, as well as 233,000 hectares of farmland cultivating eight commodities, namely Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, soya-beans, Poultry, Cassava and Groundnuts, in addition to fish farming.”
Noting that these initiatives have been undertaken in close collaboration with the states, he commended the efforts of the governors of Kebbi, Lagos, Ebonyi and Jigawa States for their support to the rice and fertilizer revolutions.
He equally commended the 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.
He further stated that with the abundance of rainfall last year and this year, agriculture has enjoyed Divine intervention.
His words: “Since December last year, this Administration has produced over 7 million 50Kg bags of fertilizer. Eleven blending plants with a capacity of 2.1 million metric tons have been reactivated. We have saved $150 million in foreign exchange and N60 billion in subsidy. Fertilizer prices have dropped from N13,000 per 50Kg bag to N5,500.
“Furthermore, a new presidential initiative is 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.
While admitting that power remains a huge problem ,Buhari noted that as of September 12th, production of power reached an all — time high of 7,001 Megawatts andGovernment 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”.
Elsewhere in the economy, Buhari said the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements has proved very effective.
According to him, since April about $7 billion has come through this window alone and the main effect of these policies is improved confidence in the economy and better investment sentiments.
He said the country has recorded 7 consecutive months of lower inflation, as Naira rate is beginning to stabilize, appreciating from N525 per $1 in February this year to N360 presently.
Buhari further recalled that in order to stabilize the polity, the federal government gave additional support to states by way of State Excess Crude Account loans, Budget Support Facility, Stabilization Fund Releases to states and local governments.
He listed the intervention funds doled out to state to include N200 billion in 2015, N441 billion in 2016, N1 trillion in 2017, totaling N1.642 trillion.
The president noted that the federal government did so to enable states pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years.
He added that the 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, Buhari said his administration was fully aware that fighting corruption was never going to be a straightforward task.
He said, “We expected corrupt elements to use any weapon to fight back, mainly judicial obstruction and political diversion. But we are determined to eradicate corruption from our body politic.
“In this fight, the Government has: Empowered teams of prosecutors, assembled detailed databases, accelerated the recovery of stolen funds”.
He listed the administration’s new institutional reforms to include enforcing of the Treasury Single Account, Whistle-Blowers Policy, Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System.
Buhari continued: “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. Justice Salami has just been appointed to chair the Judiciary’s anti-graft committee. Government expects a lot from this Committee”.
He commended the National Assembly for refocusing its oversight committees, saying they should, in addition, ensure swift passage of enabling corruption laws.
Noting that fighting corruption is a bottom to top operation, He said, “I call 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. The government for its part will work for accountability at all levels – Federal, State and Local Governments. CHANGE will then be real.
“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”.
Secession Agitations, Conflicts, Hate Speeches Senseless- IBB
Meanwhile, as Nigeria marks her 57th Independence anniversary today, former military president, General Ibrahim Babangida (rtd), has said those at the forefront of secession, chanting slogan of war and hate speeches are senselessly derailing the nation’s development and unity.
In his message to mark the independence anniversary, IBB, as he is fondly called, urged all Nigerians to always embrace peace and dialogue as the best way to resolve conflict and dissenting views.
He noted that though some of the agitations and conflicts Nigeria was bedeviled with are senseless and needless, there is need for careful appraisal of the journey to nationhood to be able to move forward.
Babangida who returned to the country from his medical vacation quietly yesterday evening at Minna airport on a chartered flight said, “The resilience of armed forces of Nigeria to curtailed secessionists agitation throughout our nation’s post-independence era has reduced tensions and unnecessary destruction of Lives and property.
“Dialogue remains the best option in resolving conflicts and agitations in the country, adding that recent conflicts and agitations, chanting slogan of war and hate speeches are derailing the nation’s development and unity.
“As an active participant in the Civil War and as a retired military officer, with the hard lesson learnt, I will never be tired on calling for the oneness and unity of our great nation. We will forever be ready to sacrifice for a United and prosperous Nigeria when call again.
“During our tenure in government we deliberately formulated policies, programmes, projects and even the creation of states to further weaken unwholesome agitations for secession and promote mutual and peaceful coexistence devoid of ethnic, religious and regional discrimination.”
He further urged government at all levels to continue to encourage mutual tolerance and protect the life of every Nigerian who should feel at home anywhere they find themselves in the country.
Saraki, Dogara, Govs, ACF Insist On One Nigeria
Meanwhile, the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara and the state governors yesterday unanimously insisted that Nigeria as a country must be kept as one.
Saraki congratulated Nigerians on the 57th anniversary of the country’s independence and for sustaining her status as a united and progressive country.
In his goodwill message to mark this year’s Independence Anniversary Saraki also urged Nigerians, irrespective of creed and tribe, to continue to work for the peace, unity and stability of the country.
He also urged leaders – political, traditional, religious and business – to close ranks in order to initiate and implement ideas and strategies that would further develop the country and increase the standard of living of the citizenry.
Saraki said that the task for a greater Nigeria is a collective responsibility of every citizen, just as he enjoined every citizen to believe in the project Nigeria and pray for peace and progress of the country.
“It is apparent that the need for peace, unity and stability in our nation cannot be compromised. Our togetherness, abundant resources and diversity are our greatest asset. Therefore let us refrain from tendencies that tend to pull us apart”, Saraki stated.
The Senate President also noted that the country is in a better stead today than it was a year ago, even as he called for more concerted effort to enhance the lives of all Nigerians by continuing the consolidation of our present positive economic outlook.
On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, stressed the need for Nigerians to strengthen the bond of unity and cohesion as a people of common interest and destiny in the process of nation building.
In his 57th independence anniversary message to Nigerians, Dogara noted that the country would only attain greatness in an atmosphere of peace, unity and stability.
The Speaker enjoined Nigerians to shun every harbinger of hate, division and violence.
He said, “May I use the occasion of this year’s Independence Anniversary to urge us all to reflect on those things that unite and bring us together as a people, and shun individuals and groups with divisive tendencies.
“At this time, more than any other, we must adopt the right strategies and utilize the advantages of our diversity to our benefit as well as blend our differences for positive outcomes in the process of building the Nigeria of our dream”.
The speaker also enjoined Nigerians to eschew ethnic, religious and sectional chauvinism and come together as one people and “one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity” as encapsulated in the country’s National Anthem.
On his part, Governor Tanko Al-makura of Nasarawa State adviced Nigerians to see the unity of the country as part of their daily schedule for the nation to forge ahead.
A statement signed by Ahmed Tukur, the special assistant on media and publicity to Al-makura urged citizens to continue to offer selfless service for the unity of the country and for the future of the next generation.
Al-makura said Nigerians should use the 57th Independence Anniversary celebration to reflect on the struggle of the country’s founding fathers and ensure the sustenance of peace and unity
In his message to Nigerians, Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello called on Nigerians to fire up the spirit of patriotism that propelled Nigeria’s founding fathers in their quest to build a united, indivisible and prosperous nation mad respect our differences.
He made the call in a radio and television broadcast in Minna today to mark the nation’s 57th Independence Day celebration.
The governor maintained that Nigerians need to take their commitment beyond the remarkable achievements of theirr founding fathers by reflecting on the gains and lessons learnt over the years in order to take charge of the challenges ahead.
He said, “We need to take it ( our commitment) beyond our hero’s past to reflect on the gains and lessons learnt over the years to take charge and face the challenges of our time.
“The tributes we pay to our fallen and living heroes must not end alone on our lips as we sing the National anthem, but must be evident in our character of selflessness and sense of responsibility that characterized the lives of our heroes”.
For his part, the governor of Edo State, Mr Godwin Obaseki, congratulated Nigerians as the country celebrates 57 years of independence today, urging them to co-exist peacefully.
Obaseki said the joy of being independent people cannot be qualified as it brings limitless freedom and a high sense of self-worth.
He urged Edo People and Nigerians in general to remain broad-minded, their our diversity.
But the apex Northern sociocultural group, Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), lamented that in spite of the years attained after independence, it is yet to realize full potential and deliver on the expectations of its citizens.
ACF, in a statement issued by its national publicity secretary, Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, noted that the journey over the years- considering the country’s diversity and complexity-has been full of challenges in the areas of national security, peaceful coexistence, political and economic development.
It further observed that Nigeria’s founding fathers laid a good foundation for a prosperous Nigeria, stressing however that the instability witnessed in the polity, especially the military coups and the civil war, had affected and distorted the journey to a developed nation at 57.
“Although Nigeria as a nation at 57 is yet to realize its full potential and deliver on the expectations of its citizens, we cannot ignore the fact that, despite the upheavals due to shortcomings, we have been able to sustain the unity and stability of the country’, ACF noted.
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