Jonathan Nda-Isaiah, Ahuraka Isah, Solomon Ayado Abuja and ABU NMODU, Minna
President Muhammadu Buhari today morning vowed to fish out those sabotaging government’s efforts in the oil sector, resulting in the fuel scarcity that caused Nigerians untold hardship during the Christmas and New Year celebrations.
He regretted that this year’s Christmas and New Year holidays had been anything but merry and happy for Nigerians due to shortage of petroleum product in the country.
In a New Year broadcast to the nation aired live on national televisions and radios at 7:00am this morning, the president who said he is determined to get to the root of what he described as collective blackmail of all Nigerians noted that the fuel scarcity is deplorable considering the fact that measures had been taken to ensure petroleum products were available at all the depots in the country.
He said, “Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.
“The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.
“Such unpatriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watchword and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity”.
Welcoming Nigerians to the New Year, Buhari however said “this year promises to be pivotal” in his administration’s quest for Change.
President Buhari also informed Nigerian about the intense efforts being made by his administration to address the country’s huge infrastructural deficit.
He assured that the federal government is going to make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.
According to him, the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing “is one of the drivers of government’s commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan”.
Noting that the management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been reconstituted and has been charged with a 12-week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones, Buhari said government is currently undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.
He hinted that 25 major highways in the country will be funded under the N100 billion SUKUK facility, with each geo-political zone benefitting by an equal amount of N16.67 billiion.
The president listed the major highways that are to receive special attention to include Oyo – Ogbomosho, Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu, Yenagoa Road Junction – Kolo Otuoke – Bayelsa Palm, Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way, Onitsha – Enugu Expressway, Kaduna Eastern Bypass, Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road, dualisation of Abuja – Lokoja – Benin Road and Dualization of Suleja – Minna Road.
He added that, while government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano road, which is in a state of disrepair, work on the project will be completed in 2019.
In respect of railways, he said government has set for itself ambitious targets, noting that the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway is already in construction stage.
He said the line, wich will reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019, will carry 2 million passengers per year and 5 million tons of cargo will be transported every year, giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.
He also spoke about other segments of the railway, including the Kano – Kaduna segment, which he said is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019.
He explained that the Light Rail System will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emission in line with his administration’s policy on climate change.
The president stated that more Nigerians across the country are now experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses, noting however that power remains a concern to his government, as too many people are yet to get regular and reliable supply.
He said the Payment Assurance Guarantee, which started in January 2016, has enabled the Nigerian bulk electricity trader to raise N701 billion to assure generation companies of at least 80 per cent payment for any power delivered to the national grid.
Consequently, he declared that generation has now reached 7,000MW, following the 5,155MW of power delivered to consumers on December 8, 2017, being the highest level ever recorded.
“Several moribund projects have been revived. Repairs of Afam Power Station added 110MW in 2017 and another 240MW will be added this year through a private investment partnership. Katsina Power Project is now being tested and producing 10MW of power from wind for the first time in Nigeria. It should be fully operational this year”, Buhari added.
On the economy, he said, “You will recall that it was not until last year that we got out of the economic recession into which the country had fallen as a consequence of past unsustainable economic policies which projected short-term illusory growth. The government is slowly stabilizing the economy.
“It was in order to change the steady and steep decline that we adopted the more sustainable policies and programmes captured in the Economic Recovery Plan. Diversification efforts have resulted in improved output particularly in agriculture and solid minerals sectors. The relative exchange rate stability has improved manufacturing sector performance.
“We have got to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business as usual are numbered”.
The president said he is gratified that agriculture has picked up and is contributing to government’s effort to re-structure the economy two years after he had appealed to Nigerians to go back to the land.
“Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on”, he stated, just as he appealed to “enterprising Nigerians with ideas and unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with ideas not to just sit and wait for employment from the government or the Organized Private Sector.
Buhari also foreclosed the possibility of restructuring the country, saying it will not solve Nigeria ‘s problems.
Noting that Nigeria’s problems are more to do with process than structure, President Buhari however said there is a “strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better”.
He assured that government is ever-receptive toideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability
He said “In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments.
“We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.
“We tried the Parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose”.
Buhari further warned politicians in the country to avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics as the electioneering season approaches.
Maintaining that this kind of politicking must be avoided at all costs if Nigerians are to live in harmony, he said Nigeria could learn from the Southwestern states, which have successfully internalised religion, ethnicity and politics.
According to him, political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner.
“We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law. We should draw encouragement from the series of bye-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence free and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair”, he added
The president also reassured Nigerians that security of life and property is still one of the primes of his government’s agenda.
He said, “We have since beaten Boko Haram. Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror as we have seen during the past years in Europe, Asia, Middle East, elsewhere in Africa and in America.
“Our government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our election pledge and promises. On behalf of all Nigerians let me offer our thanks to the Armed forces, the Police, other para-military forces and traditional authorities who are working round the clock to ensure that you and I go about our normal business in reasonable safety”.
On rampant cases of kidnappings, Buhari said his government is taking immediate short-term measures to combat this new evil creeping into our societies.
According to him, tighter police methods and swift and severe punishment for those engaged in kidnapping are on the way.
On Niger Delta, Buhari stated that the federal government is still engaging responsible leadership of the communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the region, even as the clean-up programme in collaboration with the United Nations is making satisfactory progress.
Saraki, IBB, Others Express Hope
Meanwhile, Senate President Bukola Saraki, former Nigeria military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (rtd) and some other prominent Nigerians have expressed hope of a better Nigeria in 2018.
Saraki who urged Nigerians to pray for a full recovery of the economy in 2018 said a strong economy would enable government to achieve physical development and improved standard of living of the people.
In his New Year message, he noted, while God has blessed Nigeria with all the potentials necessary for her to have a strong economy that would take care of its growing population, it is unfortunate that there is still so much underdevelopment in the country.
He noted that most of the problems now threatening the unity, progress and peace of the country are rooted in the poor state of the economy and that there was need for the government and Nigerians to work together in 2018 to ensure the success of policies initiated to rebuild the economy, create employment, attract investment opportunities and make the nation self-sufficient.
He observed that government alone cannot make the economy to work but that it requires the co-operation, prayers and change of attitude on the part of the people to develop the country and make 2018 a more fruitful and beneficial year for the citizenry.
He said, “I wish all Nigerians overflowing happiness on this joyful occasion. The end of one year and the beginning of another is always a time that is full of hope. While 2017 was challenging for many Nigerians, we must look back on the year with the knowledge that better days are ahead.
“Although we still have so much to do to achieve our desired individual and national objectives, let us rise up with courage and determination to make the situation better”.
While lauding the resilience of Nigerians in the face of national challenges and their avowed love for the unity and greater progress for the country, he noted that every Nigerian deserve a better deal.
In his New Year message to the nation, Babangida urged Nigerians to understand honest mistakes made by leaders, with their divine purposes, even as he said that he was optimistic about a greater Nigeria.
In the message released to journalists in Minna yesterday, IBB also stated that that it would not be the wish of anybody who knew the challenges of Nigeria to wish future Nigerians to experience the same challenges
He said, “I urge all of us to take the inspiration offered us by this new year to build Nigeria of our dream, devoid of divisive tendencies and offer government at all levels our support, bearing in mind that as humans we are fallible, perfection is a Godly attribute, no matter how we try we can never be perfect.
“So, as we enter the New Year we must learn to understand and forgive our honest mistakes because there is no person who has not made mistakes and has the guarantee not to make any in his or her life. With that divine purposes of being capable of making mistakes we should be able to reason with our leaders, decipher the complexity of our diversity and move on as one great nation we all desire.
“We are without doubt people with a great past but not without challenges and for the future we will be greater yet with challenges but we have paid our dues for Nigeria, to the extent that we are hopeful that the challenges of the future will not be greater than what we faced in the past”.
On his part, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, reiterated the need for the federal government to attend to needs that have direct bearings on the lives of Nigerians.
A statement issued yesterday by his media aide, Turaki Hassan, quoted Dogara as saying that “2018 presents an opportunity for stock taking”.
Dogara said improvement of the economy, security and welfare of Nigerians must remain government’s priority in the New Year.
He noted: “Although employment generation and wealth creation remain priorities of our All Progressives Congress (APC)-led administration, it is imperative for us to create more employment opportunities for the youth and women in order to underscore our drive for economic recovery and growth.
“We should also endeavour to attend to those needs that have direct bearing on the lives of the people and dire consequences on our nation, as democracy cannot succeed where poverty thrives.
“On our part in the House of Representatives, we will continue to pass laws that will better the lives of Nigerians, create conducive business environment for investments and secure the lives and properties of Nigerians.’’