By Jonathan Nda- Isaiah, Abuja
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday listed agriculture, energy, industrialisation and transport infrastructure as key areas the President Muhammadu Buhari administration will focus on in the second half of its four-year tenure.
He assured that in the next two years, the administration will build on the successes of the last two years, having demonstrated a willingness to learn from mistakes and to improve on its successes.
In a broadcast to the nation aired live on national television and radio stations to mark this year’s democracy day celebration and in commemoration of the second anniversary of the Buhari administration, Osinbajo urged Nigerians to expect the best from now onwards because the country had already passed through its wilderness.
Reeling out keys areas the administration will concentrate on in terms of development in the next two years, the acting president said, “The critical points that we must address fully in the next two years are: Agriculture and food security, Energy, (power and Petroleum) Industrialization and Transport infrastructure. Every step of the way we will be working with the private sector, giving them the necessary incentives and creating an environment to invest and do business.
“Our vision is for a country that grows what it eats and produces what it consumes. It is for a country that no longer has to import petroleum products, and develops a lucrative petrochemical industry. Very importantly it is for a country whose fortunes are no longer tied to the price of a barrel of crude, but instead to the boundless talent and energy of its people, young and old, male and female as they invest in diverse areas of the economy.
“And that vision is also for a country where the wealth of the many will no longer be stolen by or reserved for a few; and where the impunity of corruption – whether in the public or private sectors – will no longer be standard operating practice; a land rid of bandits and terrorists”.
Osinbajo also outlined the achievements of the administration in the last two years, just as he maintained that better days are ahead as Nigeria marches towards its promise land.
Osinbajo also conveyed the good wishes for Nigerians from President Muhammadu Buhari who is away from the country on medical vacation.
The acting president, however, noted that, while Nigeria did not get into recession overnight, Nigerians should not expect overnight solutions to the socio- economic problems bedeviling the country.
His words: “Today marks the second anniversary of our assumption of office. We must thank the Almighty God not only for preserving our lives to celebrate this second anniversary, but for giving us hope, strength and confidence as we faced the challenges of the past two years.
“As citizens you all deserve a country that works, not merely for the rich or connected, but for everyone. And our promise to you is that we will, with your support and cooperation, take every step needed to create that country of our dreams.
“We also know that this journey will of necessity take time. But we will not succumb to the temptation to take short-cuts that ultimately complicate the journey. We did not find ourselves in crises overnight, and we simply do not expect overnight solutions to our challenges.
“The most important thing is that we are on the right path, and we will not deviate from it, even in the face of strong temptation to choose temporary gain over long-term benefit. As the President has summed it up: The old Nigeria is slowly but surely disappearing, and a new era is rising.
“And so we commemorate this second anniversary of our administration with confidence and optimism. I firmly believe that we have put the most difficult phase behind us; and we are witnesses to the ever-increasing intensity of the light at the end of the tunnel”.
Osinbajo solicited the continued cooperation and support of Nigerians to enable the administration realise all their best intentions and ambitions for the country. “On our part We will continue to carry you along on this journey, speak to you, explain the challenges, and share our Vision”, he added.
The acting president cautioned against hate speeches , ethnicity and acts that could truncate the peace and unity of the country, even as he warned those beating the drums of war and secession to desist from such act.
Noting that the country belong to all and that no person or group of persons is more entitled than the other, Osinbajo stated: “And while we all daily preoccupy ourselves with pursuing the Nigerian Dream – which is the desire to better our lives and circumstances vigorously and honestly – it is inevitable that grievances and frustrations will arise from time to time.
“This is normal. What is not normal, or acceptable, is employing these frustrations as justification for indulging in discrimination or hate speech or hateful conduct of any kind, or for seeking to undermine by violent or other illegal means the very existence of the sovereign entity that has brought us all together as brothers and sisters and citizens.
“Nigeria belongs to all of us. No one person or group of persons is more important or more entitled than the other in this space that we all call home. And we have a responsibility to live in peace and harmony with one another, to seek peaceful and constitutional means of expressing our wishes and desires, and to resist all who might seek to sow confusion and hatred for their own selfish interests”.
Osinbajo recalled that the administration outlined three specific areas for immediate intervention on assumption of office namely, Security, Corruption and the Economy.
According to him, in the Northeast and even beyond, the Boko Haram terrorist group openly challenged the sovereignty and continued existence of the state, killing, maiming, abducting and causing the displacement of the largest number of our citizens in recent history.
He observed that with the new leadership and renewed confidence, the gallant military immediately began to put Boko Haram on the back foot.
“We have restored broken-down relations with our neighbours, Chad, Cameroon and Niger – allies without whom the war against terror would have been extremely difficult to win. We have re-organized and equipped our Armed Forces, and inspired them to heroic feats; we have also revitalized the regional Multinational Joint Task Force, by providing the required funding and leadership”, he added.
Osinbajo averred that the positive results were clear for all to see as in the last two years close to one million displaced persons have returned home.
On Chibok girls, he said, “106 of our daughters from Chibok have regained their freedom, after more than two years in captivity, in addition to the thousands of other captives who have since tasted freedom.
“Schools, hospitals and businesses are springing back to life across the Northeast, especially in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis. Farmers are returning to the farms from which they fled in the wake of Boko Haram. Finally, our people are getting a chance to begin the urgent task of rebuilding their lives”.
Across the country, in the Niger Delta, and in parts of the North Central region, Osinbajo said the administration was engaging with local communities, to understand their grievances, and to create solutions that respond to these grievances adequately and enduringly.
“President Buhari’s New Vision for the Niger Delta is a comprehensive peace, security and development plan that will ensure that the people benefit fully from the wealth of the region, and we have seen to it that it is the product of deep and extensive consultations, and that it has now moved from idea to execution. Included in that New Vision is the long-overdue environmental clean-up of the Niger Delta beginning with Ogoni-land, which we launched last year”, he stated.
On the killings by herdsmen across the country, he said, “More recent threats to security such as the herdsmen clashes with farmers in many parts of the country sometimes leading to fatalities and loss of livelihoods and property have also preoccupied our security structures.
“We are working with State governments, and tasking our security agencies with designing effective strategies and interventions that will bring this menace to an end. We are determined to ensure that anyone who uses violence, or carries arms without legal authority is apprehended and sanctioned”.
On the fight against corruption, the acting president said the administration is focused on bringing persons accused of corruption to justice.
He maintained that the looting of public resources that took place in the past few years has to be accounted for adding that funds appropriated to build roads, railway lines, and power plants, and to equip the military, that had been stolen or diverted into private pockets, must be retrieved and the culprits brought to justice.
He continued: “Many have said that the process is slow, and that is true, corruption has fought back with tremendous resources and our system of administration of justice has been quite slow. But the good news for justice is that our law does not recognize a time bar for the prosecution of corruption and other crimes, and we will not relent in our efforts to apprehend and bring corruption suspects to justice.
“We are also re-equipping our prosecution teams, and part of the expected judicial reforms is to dedicate some specific courts to the trial of corruption cases.
“We are also institutionalizing safeguards and deterrents. We have expanded the coverage of the Treasury Single Account (TSA). We have introduced more efficient accounting and budgeting systems across the Federal Government. We have also launched an extremely successful Whistleblower Policy. “
“The Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance has succeeded in plugging leakages amounting to billions of naira, over the last two years. We have ended expensive and much-abused fertilizer and petrol subsidy regimes”.
He also pointed out that the administration has taken very seriously its promise to save and invest for the future, even against the backdrop of revenue challenges, which is evident in the $500 million added to the Sovereign Wealth Fund and the $87 million added to the Excess Crude Account.
Taking a swipe at the last administration, he noted that what is on ground now is the very opposite of the situation before now when rising oil prices failed to translate to rising levels of savings and investment.
Osinbajo admitted that the economy has proven to be the biggest challenge of the administration, even as he expressed concern about the impact of the economic recession on Nigerians.
He stated: “Let me first express just how concerned we have been, since this administration took office, about the impact of the economic difficulties on our citizens.
“Through no fault of theirs, some companies shut down their operations, others downsized; people lost jobs, had to endure rising food prices. In some States civil servants worked months on end without the guarantee of a salary, even as rents and school fees and other expenses continued to show up like clockwork.
“We have been extremely mindful of the many sacrifices that you have had to make over the last few years. And for this reason this administration’s work on the economic front has been targeted at a combination of short-term interventions to cushion the pain, as well as medium to long term efforts aimed at rebuilding an economy that is no longer helplessly dependent on the price of crude oil. “
“Those short-term interventions include putting together a series of bailout packages for our State Governments, to enable them bridge their salary shortfalls – an issue the President has consistently expressed his concerns about. We also began the hard work of laying out a framework for our Social Intervention Programme, the most ambitious in the history of the country”.
According to the acting president, all of these are evidence that the administration is taking very seriously its ambition of agricultural self-sufficiency.
To this effect, he said, “The President also promised that 2017 would see the rollout of Executive Orders to facilitate government approvals, support procurement of locally made goods, and improve fiscal responsibility. We have kept that promise”.
Osinbajo implored Nigerians to continue with their prayers for the restoration to full health and strength and the safe return of President Buhari.
“I congratulate all of you on today’s commemoration of this important day in the democratic calendar our country. Nigeria is on a journey of greatness, and together we shall arrive at the destination of our dreams”, he added.
…Earmarks N100bn For Family Home Fund
Meanwhile, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has disclosed that the federal government has earmarked N100 billion for the family home fund under its Social Investment Programme (SIP).
He stated this at the second year commemorative event of the federal government under President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja where the achievements of the SIP were showcased.
At the event also titled, ‘A Smile For Every Nigerian’’, Osinbajo stated that the fund is an aspect of the SIP that was not mentioned.
He said, “There is also an aspect of this SIP that has not be mentioned; this is N100b set aside for the FAMILY HOME FUND, our Social Housing Project. The N100b is a yearly contribution to our N1 Trillion Naira Social Housing fund. This is the largest in the history of the country.
“The World Bank, AFDB, are contributors to the fund. From this fund developers of real estates for social housing will borrow 80 per cent of cost of project and counter fund with their own 20 per cent. The same fund will enable us to provide inexpensive mortgages for hundreds of thousands across the country who wants to own homes on their own.
“Anyone who can afford 30000 a month will be able to buy a home under our new social housing fund scheme”.
According to him, the Family Housing Fund is expected to start immediately and rapidly expand construction across the country.
Osinbajo stated that SIP is clearly one of the largest social intervention efforts anywhere in the world.