Barely five days to the commencement of electioneering for the 2023 polls, the All Progressives Congress-led federal government and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, yesterday gave a hint of the heated verbal exchange that will characterise the campaigns.
The federal government berated the Atiku Abubakar for, as it claimed, copying President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s economic blueprint, especially in the areas of job creation, infrastructure financing, relationship with the private sector, rejuvenation of the power sector, poverty reduction, debt management, and the overall management of the economy.
It insisted that anyone using its achievement as a campaign stunt, without acknowledging what the current administration had done so far, is cheap and disingenuous.
The minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made this comment while briefing newsmen in Abuja yesterday.
He noted that despite the PDP condemning the administration’s successes, the opposition party’s flagbearer’s economic blueprint was built around the same things that are currently being done by the same administration.
But, in a swift response, Atiku described the minister’s position as a tissue of lies, saying he was dismayed at the very poor attempt by Mohammed to turn truth on its head.
Atiku’s response, contained in a statement by his campaign organisation, said while the minister was making a barren attempt to catalogue perceived achievements of the current APC administration, he did the unbelievable by claiming that the policy documents and proposals espoused by Atiku are a version of the economic blueprint of the APC.
Speaking at the press briefing, the minister said on infrastructure, the former vice president said in his Economic Blueprint that ‘rebuilding infrastructure and reducing infrastructure deficit will enhance the carrying capacity of the economy and unleash growth and wealth creation’.
Mohammed, however, said no one understands this better than the current administration, adding that even the worst critics will agree that infrastructure development under this administration is second to none in the history of this country.
Across the country, he said the federal government had constructed 8,352.94 kilometres of roads, rehabilitated 7,936.05 kilometres of roads, constructed 299 bridges, maintained 312 bridges, and created 302,039 jobs in the process.
He said the current administration had also delivered houses in 34 states of the Federation under the first phase of the National Housing Project.
“We were able to achieve these through a combination of budget increase and innovative infrastructure financing methods.
“Whereas we met a budget of N18.132 billion for the roads component of the Federal Ministry of Works when we assumed office in 2015, the budget for the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing increased exponentially to N260.082 billion in 2016; N274.252 billion in 2017,N356.773 billion in 2018, N223.255 billion in 2019, N227.963 billion in 2020 and N241.864 billion in 2021,” he said.
He went on: “The former Vice President also promised to ‘break the jinx’ in infrastructure financing. Really? We state, unequivocally, that the worst jinx in infrastructure financing was the PDP Administration from 1999 to 2015. Indeed, the Buhari Administration has long broken that jinx, leveraging on such innovative schemes as the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (which is being used to finance the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 2nd Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road), Sukuk (which has delivered a total of 1,881 kilometres of roads between 2017 and 2020) and the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (for the construction and rehabilitation of Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin road, reconstruction of Apapa Wharf road, construction of Apapa-Oworonsoki-Ojota road and the Bonny-Bodo road with bridge).”
According to him, the NNPC-funded part of the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme had also delivered nine roads in North-Central, three in North-East, two in North-West, two in South-East, three in South-South and two in South-West for a total of 1,804 kilometres of roads.
In the area of power, he stated that former Vice President Atiku said ‘investments in additional generation capacity is futile without consideration for the complementary transmission and distribution infrastructure to wheel the additional energy’ and promised to propose legislation to, among others, give states the power to generate, transmit and distribute electricity. The minister said it is apparent that Atiku had either not heard of the Siemens partnership with the federal government under the Presidential Power Initiative, the most ambitious project yet in the efforts to improve the seemingly-intractable power sector on which the PDP frittered over $16 billion to procure nothing but darkness.
“The Nigeria-Siemens partnership was consummated with the signing of the Implementation Agreement on July 22nd 2019. The three-phase project will deliver 7,000MW in the first phase, 11,000MW in the second phase and 25,000MW in the third phase.
“This will positively impact job creation, boost investor confidence, accelerate economic growth and reduce cost of doing business. For those who may be in doubt, let me say that this project is a game changer.
“As you may have read, electricity equipment ordered under the project have started arriving in the country. When they are installed, there will be a major improvement in the supply of electricity across the country.
“It is also amazing that His Excellency the former VP has not heard or read that the Senate has passed the electricity bill 2022 that would allow states to generate and distribute power as well as solve the sector’s challenges.”
On poverty reduction, which Atiku said would be the ‘centrepiece of our economic development agenda’, Mohammed said, “could it be that His Excellency has not heard about our National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), the unprecedented programme that is directly and indirectly impacting the lives of poor Nigerians and creating jobs, especially for the youths, through four clusters, namely: the N-Power Programme, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), the National Home-Grown School Feeding System (NHGSFP) and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme.
He continued, “The former Vice President told his audience that if elected his Administration would ‘establish a strong partnership (with the private sector) in investing in infrastructure, creating jobs, income and in the fight against poverty’.
“Let’s inform His Excellency that the Buhari Administration’s warm handshake with the private sector has delivered and is delivering an unprecedented number of projects, including the 650,000bpd Dangote Refinery, Dangote Fertilizer plant, Lekki Deep Sea Port, BUA Cement, the 5,000bpd Waltersmith Modular Refinery in Imo State; the 2,500bpd Duport Modular Refinery/Energy Park in Edo State; the 2,000bpd Atlantic Modular Refinery in Bayelsa State; the 12,000bpd Azikel Modular Refinery also in Bayelsa; the five LPG Bottling plants and six LPG depots in 10 northern states and Abuja, the 48,000 L/D base oil production plant in Rivers and the 10,000 Metric Tonnes Per Day methanol production plant in Bayelsa, just to mention a few. These refineries and other projects are the result of a ”warm handshake” between the Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board and private sector actors.
“The private sector is also involved in the ongoing infrastructure development through the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, which I mentioned earlier.”
On debt, he said the former Vice President said ‘we will review the country’s debt strategy by focusing on concessional and semi-concessional sources with lower interest rates and relatively long-term maturity.’
Again, the minister said that is already being done by this Administration.
“In order to manage debt service cost and reduce refinancing risk, the thrust of the strategy is that this administration will maximize concessional borrowing from multilateral and bilateral sources.”
And on security, he said “all that the leader of a party that frittered the money meant for the purchase of weapons and platforms for the military on frivolous activities could say is ‘we will take tough and difficult decisions on security matters without fear or favour.’ “Really? While they lost confidence in our military and opted instead for mercenaries, President Buhari, who has never wavered in his belief in the capability of our fighting forces, steadily and surely re-equipped the military, which today is decimating the bandits and terrorists that had held sway in some parts of the country, thus restoring security.”
He further stated that he is not really very surprised that His Excellency the former Vice President only reeled out, “in his so-called Economic Blueprint, what we have been doing in the past seven years-plus in infrastructure development, infrastructure financing, poverty reduction, power reform, job creation, relationship with the private sector, debt management and the overall management of the economy.
“That’s what you get from someone who leaves the country after losing an election, only to parachute into town when another election is due.”
Lai Mohammed Lied Against Truth And Must Apologise to Nigerians – Atiku
On his part, Atiku described the claims by Lai Mohammed as a tsunami of lie.
The former vice president said, “To begin with, it has been openly acknowledged that this current administration came into power without a single sheet of paper of what could be called a policy document. Nigerians are aware that in both 2015 and 2019, it took the APC six months and three months, respectively, to constitute a cabinet.”
He added that the minister might be interested in telling Nigerians if it is also part of the APC manifesto to foot-drag in forming a government.
Atiku added that it is on record that the first economic recession that the country experienced in 2016, “which happens to be the worst economic decline in thirty years, happened primarily because the APC administration applied what can be called a catch-up strategy to the early signals of the recession.”
He noted that Nigerians are more agreeable to the fact that the tenure of the APC has been nothing but a sheer waste of time, “all thanks to the catch-up economic strategy of the ruling party” that has left the people more malnourished, sick and disillusioned.
“The poor records of the APC in the areas of economic management, job creation, education, security and in virtually all spheres of our national life is the reason why there is a lot of anxiety about the 2023 general election. Indeed, it needs to be stressed that next year’s election will be a referendum on the APC and it is not in doubt that the ruling party in Nigeria will present a global case-study of how a political party can lose popular goodwill within a short period of time.
“Nigerians of all hues, both the rich and those that are not; the educated and those who are not; the elderly and the young are all witnesses to the scandal that the APC has become in the art of governance. Nigerians are rallied in their frustration in the APC and the promise of a better future that our presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, holds for the country after his victory in the 2023 presidential election.
“What Minister Lai Mohammed reeled out as achievements of the APC is a compilation of the reasons why Nigerians have roundly rejected the ruling party. It’s nothing but a testimonial of failures. Conversely, what His Excellency Atiku Abubakar presented to the organised private sector in Lagos State last week represents the hopes of a new beginning, which Nigerians eagerly anticipate.
“Trying to associate the Atiku policy plans with the failed policies of the APC is the comical height of Minister Lai Mohammed’s aversion for the truth. It is contempt not just against the PDP and our presidential candidate, but also to the whole nation. Lai Mohammed must apologize to Nigerians for such insensitive onslaught against truth in broad daylight.”
We’ll Remain In PDP, Fight For Inclusivity -Wike
Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike has declared that he will not leave the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for whatever cause and anybody.
He said he was rather interested in preserving the sanity of the party and will stay back to fight for the enthronement of unity, inclusivity, equity and peace in the PDP.
Wike spoke yesterday during a meeting of PDP stakeholders in the state, Government House, Port Harcourt. The governor said he is a man of character, unlike those who cannot keep their words and walked out of the party at the Eagle Square in Abuja in 2014. Wike said: “One thing I have always told people is if anybody is thinking, doing anything to think that we will leave PDP, foul. We will do the fight in the party. We are not like them, when in 2014 they walked out from Eagle Square. They’ve forgotten. They walked out and joined APC. Is it not correct? Did they remain to fight inside the party? But we remained, they ran away. Now, there is a fight in the party, we will not run. We will fight it in this party.
“Those who run away from fight are weak people. We will not. So everybody should know this is the state where we are, so that nobody tells you all kinds of stories.”
The governor insisted that the constitution of the party clearly stated that elective and party offices must be zoned, which should be respected. He wondered why the former PDP BoT chairman will be pressured to resign and the PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu is excusing himself from doing what is right.
Wike said: “You have taken the presidential candidate, you have taken party chairman, you have also taken the D.G. (director general) of the campaign. We are talking about party politics. Decisions are made by the presidential candidate , chairman of the party and the D.G. of the campaign.
“They are telling you they told the chairman of the BOT to resign. You can put pressure on him to resign when his tenure hasn’t come to an end, but you cannot put pressure on the chairman to resign. You think at our level you will deceive us. You’ll tell us stories.”
The governor recalled how in 2015 the federal government used the military to invade Rivers State, interfered with and even annulled elections, but were resisted.
He also recalled he made sure the senatorial results for Rivers East were announced that delivered victory for Senator George Thompson Sekibo, and that of Rivers West that produced Senator Betty Apiafi.
Wike regretted that despite the risk taken to deliver them, the same people are now in Abuja plotting against him. He said they won’t succeed because God has blessed him.