“I Am Alive”, Former President Ibrahim Babangida Speaks From Germany

Former Nigerian Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, has dispelled the rumour of his death.

In the last 24 hours, there has been rumour that he was dead, prompting journalists to lay siege to his Hilltop Mansion in Minna, Niger state.

But surprisingly, Babangida called into a popular programme, ‘Journalists Hangouts’ on Television Continental (TVC) on Wednesday, to dispel the rumour.

He said on phone from Germany, “I am alive”, assuring that he would soon return to the country.

General Babangida, fondly called IBB has been receiving treatment in Germany for weeks now.

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President Buhari Maintains High Approval Rating, Among Nigerians In The UK – APC UK

The majority of guests that attended a TV Town Hall meeting anchored by Barrister Jenny Okafor in London to mark 365 days of President Muhammadu Buhari’s time in office think he is doing a great job. 

In the 2015 elections, Nigerians who campaigned for change believed President Buhari GCFR was the best person to tackle the issue of security and corruption.

At the meeting which took place on Saturday (3rd June) and would be aired on BEN TV on Thursday (7th June), Nigeria’s 14th head of state received high scores on how he had dealt with the crucial challenges faced by Nigerians. 

The guest all acknowledged that the President who is to arrive in London today for a 10 day visit, had done well in fighting the deadly Boko Haram sect and was also doing a good job fighting corruption. 

Victoria Obaze applauded the President for raising awareness of corruption, to the jeering of many. 

Another guest, Comrade Bunmi Ogunleye who completed a walk 7km to celebrate Muhammadu Buhari’s victory at the polls said the President has not disappointed him. In an interview with APC UK, last year, the East Londoner had expressed confidence in President Buhari’s ability to fight corruption.

Mr Ade Omole acknowledged the diverse nature of the audience.  He said it was good to see that the President had gained the confidence of those “that are not APC party members.”  

APC UK remains impressed with the Presidents determination to bring change to the country.  We salute you sir.  We are right behind you.  Well done, PMB.  Keep doing it! 

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Presidency Ask Nigerians To Pray For Buhari, Insists President Is Not Sick

The presidency on Monday urged Nigerians to pray fervently for President Muhammadu Buhari as the country’s leader embarked on a 10-day trip abroad during which he would seek treatment for a persistent ear infection.

“Rather than going into frenzy, I will urge Nigerians to show goodwill and patriotism; they should pray for him and wish him well,” Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity told journalists shortly before Mr. Buhari took off to London on Monday.

“Things about health, life and death are in the hands of God, but I believe that all is well. God will take care of him and take care of the country.’’

Mr. Adesina, who issued a statement last night saying the President was seeking further treatment for his ear infection abroad, on Monday dismissed reports that Mr. Buhari was ill.

The presidential aide said the Nigerian leader was going to London to spend part of his annual leave.

He explained that the president would use the opportunity of his vacation to see an ENT specialist for a persistent ear infection.

According to Mr. Adesina, the president effectively performed his presidential duties until he left Nigeria for London on Monday.

“The buzz going round town is that the president is “ill”, but “ill” will be a misnomer; it should not be the right word to use.

“The President is going for 10-day rest and during that period, he will see specialists who will look at his ear; he has been treating that ear locally for some time.

“Nigerian physicians have looked at it and now they have said, `you are going to UK, now that you will be there let specialists look at the ear.’

“They (Nigerian physicians) have treated it locally. So, it is not a question of whether the President is ill.

“If he is ill, it presupposes that there are certain things that he cannot do.

“Till the very last minute that he is traveling, the president performed the duties and functions of his office as president.

“So, illness is not the issue, but as a human being, yes he can rest. He has been President for one full year, you know that in February he took 5 days leave; he is taking another 10 days now that means 15 days leave in one year.

“You and I take more than that, so it is natural that the president as a human being is taking 10 days rest but he is not ill. We need to underscore that.”

Shortly before departing, President Buhari told State House correspondents at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, that he had formally notified the National Assembly of his 10-day vacation as required by law.

He dismissed insinuation that his trip abroad might cause tension in the country, saying “is there anybody that doesn’t fall sick?’’

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The Options Before President Buhari By Simon Kolawole

I remember this encounter all the time. My wife and I were on a trip to the US a few years back. When the immigration officer at the JF Kennedy International Airport, New York, began to check our passports, he launched into a conversation with me on “the problem with Nigeria”.

“Why do you think Nigeria is still struggling to develop?” he asked me.

I know the drill. He wanted me to pinpoint corruption — the international template for diagnosing Nigeria’s ailments. I would not fall for his trick, I told myself.

“I really can’t say. Maybe leadership deficiency?” I was half-stammering. I knew I was holding back my thoughts. But, hell, I didn’t travel to the US to discuss Nigeria’s problems. I spend all my life discussing the problems. I deserved a one-week holiday in the US with my family. Normal service would resume after the break.

He smiled, stamped the passports and returned them.

“I will tell you one thing,” he promised. “Some countries have political problems. Some have economic problems. Nigeria has both economic and political problems.”

I nodded sincerely. I could not agree less, and I praised him for his laconic diagnosis. He seemed gratified. Political problems plus economic problems. What a deadly combination. That is what Fela would call “double wahala for dead body”. There was a time in my life, particularly in the 1990s, when I believed the nonsense that Nigeria could develop in spite ofpolitical instability. My model in those days was Italy — which was changing governments and prime ministers the way a lady changes her shoes, yet the economy was stable. I used to conclude that political problems need not lead to economic problems. I wouldn’t repeat that statement again.

Recent socio-political upheavals in Nigeria are dampening my enthusiasm. Low oil prices and the resultant economic crunch should be enough trouble for us, but political tensions are arising from the menace of the herdsmen, the renewed agitations for Biafra and the rebirth of Niger Delta militancy. Without peace in the yard, we are going nowhere. We are already saddled with low oil income, forex scarcity, unpaid salaries, increasing unemployment, skyrocketing cost of living, and a looming recession. Now add herders, Biafra and Avengers. These are too much to bear. Political problems plus economic problems. Deadly.

I do not consider the issue of the herdsmen too much of a problem: it is mainly about enforcing law and order, on the one hand, and addressing grazing needs, on the other. The herders’ problem has been with us for decades and has nothing to do with a Fulani being president of Nigeria. But our bitter politics has worsened matters, and things easily got compounded when President Muhammadu Buhari himself did not as much as show some concern and empathy. At least, the menace is getting national attention now. I’m a bit more confident that concrete steps will be taken to address this issue decisively.

My bigger worries are coming from the south-east and the south-south. There is a renewed agitation for Biafra in the south-east, and no matter what we think, this will not go away easily. I know there is an attempt, even by the Igbo elite and intelligentsia, to dismiss this with a wave of the hand, but I am not that generous with cynicism. I have heard people argue that the Igbo stand to lose more if they leave Nigeria, but again that is not the point. We are not discussing facts and logic here: we are discussing political emotions. The Biafran flag is flying, even if at half-mast, in the hearts of a vast number of south-easterners. It is unhelpful to deny this.

Presidential spokesman, Mr. Femi Adesina, recently said the renewed Biafra agitations only came after President Goodluck Jonathan lost the 2015 election. That, exactly, is what bothers me. The south-east voted massively for Jonathan, who lost. Word started going round that they would pay dearly for it. I have heard well-marshalled arguments that since the Igbo voted for Jonathan, they know the score. They should pay the price. I shiver. No country can make progress with a winner-takes-all definition of politics. I don’t know what is driving the renewed Biafra agitation, but we must find a way to calm things down. We need the peace badly.

I can imagine Buhari being pulled in different directions by the hawks and the doves. The hawks would be saying: Mr. President, you owe the Igbo nothing; let them do whatever they want; make sure you use a strong arm to keep the protesters in check; do not yield an inch to blackmail. The doves would be saying: Mr. President, the election is over; it is time to embrace everybody and forget the past; accommodate everyone no matter their political choices in the past; let everybody have a stake in your government; we need all hands on deck. For me, I favour anything that will bring down the tension. We need political stability to build economic prosperity.

While we are at it, the Niger Delta militants have gone for our economic jugular. They have vowed to bring oil production to zero, and, so far, they are on target. They are even threatening to test-run surface-to-air missiles. Mr. Bismarck Rewane, respected economist and public affairs analyst, thinks there is a link between the attacks on oil pipelines and the stepping up of the anti-graft war. “The destruction of assets at this time happens to coincide with the step-up on the anti-corruption war. Is there a link between the anti-graft war and the militancy? What is this all about? There’s a riddle that needs to be unravelled,” he said on Channels TV on Monday.

Again, this worries me. All along, I thought it was all about the toning down of the amnesty programme and the reported scrapping of the maritime university. In my mind, these issues could easily be resolved: just restore the amnesty programme and bring back the university. But Rewane seems to suggest something more complex: the probes are hitting officials of the Jonathan administration below the waist; indeed, there have been rumours that Jonathan himself might be arrested and prosecuted. No former Nigerian president has been so treated, no matter the allegations. Many even argue that the anti-graft war is targeted only at PDP members.

Now the dilemma: are we going to advise Buhari to call off the chase, appease the militants and halt the bleeding of pipelines — if indeed it is a reaction to the probes? Or do we ask Buhari to assert Nigeria’s sovereignty and launch a full-scale military war? The hawks will be saying: Mr. President, go for it; crush them; you would be sending the wrong signal, or even a mixed message, by engaging with the militants or bargaining on the anti-graft war. The doves, on the other side, would be saying: you’ve arrested Jonathan’s associates; you’ve clamped them into detention; you’ve recovered billions of naira and dollars; what else do you want, Mr. President?

Ultimately, it is Buhari’s call. The one thing I can say — be that as it may — is that he can only tackle our economic problems when there is peace and stability. Upheavals will be a major distraction. The longer these agitations dominate the agenda, the more distracted we will be. I would also say the military option could be costly, time-consuming and unpredictable. Between asserting the sovereignty of the Nigerian state and working out compromises to keep the country going, Buhari will have to design a solution that will leave both his reputation and Nigeria intact. He must carefully weigh his options in this conundrum. He needs all the wisdom he can get.

AND FOUR OTHER THINGS…

BLASPHEMY MURDER

What’s the value of human life in Nigeria? Accused of blasphemy, 74-year-old Bridget Agbahime, a market woman in Kano state, was killed on Thursday by mobsters who heartlessly slit her throat. Last Sunday, Methodus Emmanuel, a 24-year-old trader in Padongari, Niger state, was accused of blasphemy and murdered by a mob. So I am asking: is there no proper mechanism for dealing with these issues rather than jungle justice? So if we just had argument on who is more beautiful between my wife and your wife, I can easily accuse you of blasphemy and get you murdered by the mob? Senseless.

JAMB AND JAMBOREE

So the federal government has scrapped the post-UTME (unified tertiary matriculation examination)  conducted by the tertiary institutions? The test came about as a result of distrust in the examination handled by the Joint Admissions Matriculation Board (JAMB). Well, I have a different problem. I thought the natural logic is to scrap JAMB itself. Where in the world does one body conduct entrance examinations for tertiary institutions? Can’t each school set its own standards and conduct its own entrance tests? JAMB is one of the leftovers of our military history that needs to be trashed and given a state burial. Anachronism.

BUHARI AND JONATHAN

Critics of former President Goodluck Jonathan will never agree with me, but conceding the 2015 presidential election and calling to congratulate President Muhammadu Buhari remains historic. You just can’t wish that feat away. We have seen politicians set the house on fire after losing elections, dating back to the 1960s. Buhari admitted on Monday that Jonathan’s phone call left him “shocked”, remarking: “For him to have conceded defeat even before the result was announced by INEC, that was quite gracious of him.” I’m happy it’s not everybody who thinks it was “normal” — and I’m glad it happened during my lifetime. Exemplary.

THE GREATEST

The Rumble in the Jungle. The Thrilla in Manila. Sting Like a Bee. Float like a Butterfly. Rope-a-dope. Dear God, we cannot thank you enough for creating Muhammad Ali, for allowing him to add so much colour to our lives, and for allowing him to live with us for 74 years. The boxing world will never forget his bitter rivalry with Joe Frazier whom he nicknamed “The Gorilla”, even giving us unforgettable poetry: “It will be a killa and a thrilla and a chilla when I get the Gorilla in Manila.” He won 56 of 61 professional fights, 37 by knockout. We can’t stop loving him. Adios.

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President Buhari’s Address At The Launch Of The Clean-up Of Ogoniland

DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, VICE PRESIDENT

Today marks another milestone in the life of our Administration. I recall the time as a Military Head of State when I visited Bodo Town in Ogoniland. During that visit, I commissioned a large fish pond and planted a tree as a sign of the government’s concern for the environment. Unfortunately, since then, the degradation of land, water and the air has done huge damage to the fragile ecosystem of the Niger Delta, particularly Ogoniland.

2. Oil exploration and production has been going on in Nigeria for six decades. Oil has given a boost to the Nigerian economy. But the ecosystem of the Niger Delta has been severely damaged. Fishing and agriculture have been badly affected. There are Acts, enactments’ guidelines and regulations to govern the operators of the oil industry. However, either because of lack of will or willful non-compliance with environmental laws and regulations, the environment was put in jeopardy.

3. The various communities in the Niger Delta region, noting the negative impact of oil production and lack of consideration for best oil field practices, quite rightly commenced the struggle for justice and fair play in the conduct of business by the oil industry operators. This process unfortunately led to the loss of lives and properties. International concerns were raised, while past Governments were urged to take decisive steps in addressing the damage.

4. The Administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo engaged the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to undertake an environment assessment study of Ogoniland. UNEP report detailed a number of issues for consideration while recommendations were made for its implementation. The report was submitted to my predecessor in office in 2011 but the implementation was not accorded the necessary support it needed. The people of Ogoniland continued to suffer from pollution of air, land and water.

5. On Thursday the 8th day of January 2015, in the course of our presidential campaign, we made an unscheduled stop in Ogoniland. After listening to the address presented on behalf of the Ogoni people by Senator Magnus Abe, we made a solemn commitment, that, if given the opportunity we shall implement the UNEP report on Ogoniland. We are determined to put right the wrongs of the past, where the people of this land were treated unfairly and their environment unduly degraded and polluted.

6. Today we are in Ogoniland, in the heart of the Niger Delta, to fulfill our promise to you,and to bring justice and succour to our people. The clean-up of this land will require change on the part of all of those who deal with the Niger Delta environment, particularly the oil companies and our communities. The tempo of activities for this assignment increased when my cabinet was constituted. The Honourable Minister of Environment consulted all relevant Ministries that could actualize the UNEP Report. Several stakeholders’ meetings and activities were held. We are therefore laying a solid foundation today, for the restoration of the fragile ecosystem of Ogoniland and the rest of the Niger Delta. This is an epoch making event in the history of Nigeria. The UNEP Report indicated a timeline of 25-30 years to achieve a full restoration of the environment in Niger Delta. The first step begins with a solid foundation which will be brought about through consultation, transparency , accountability , investing in people and the environment. There is therefore a serious need for all Nigerians, irrespective of political, ethnic or religious affiliations to support the great effort of this Administration. I have given approval to the constitution of the necessary institutional framework that will drive a hitch free implementation of the UNEP Report. Our lives, socio-economic and political interests depend to a great extent on the quality of our environment.

7. Let me sieze this opportunity to sound a note of warning. The current illegal oil refining activities and oil theft will no longer be tolerated. The regulators in the oil industry must also live up to expectations. They must ensure that oil companies carry out their operations in line with universal oil field best practices. This Administration is laying a foundation for change, therefore the rule of law, good governance as well as the security of our people are paramount.

8. The government places high emphasis on the diversification of our economy. The drive is to ensure that the Nigerian economy is strong and capable of supporting her teeming youths through jobs and wealth creation. The clean-up of Ogoniland has embedded in the programme, livelihood and sustainable development components. A Centre of Excellence that will identify the skills gaps and provide the necessary training will be put in place. The methodology for the clean-up will ensure job creation for the youths. The agro-allied industries required for the processing of the agricultural produce will also be put in place in the course of the clean-up project.

9. The Host Communities, as well as transit communities are enjoined to keep their environment clean, devoid of oil pollution. The reports of oil pollution in the Nigerian environment show that over 70% a significant percentage are due to sabotage and willful vandalism of oil companies’ facilities. The recent upsurge in the blasting of pipelines in the operation areas of Shell Petroleum Development Company, Chevron Nigeria Limited, and Nigerian Agip Oil Company is a case in point. These incidents brought about drastic reduction in our daily oil production as well as the quantum of gas that feed power plants for electricity generation.

10. Inadequate power supply has consequential implications on our economy and wealth creation. The action of these saboteurs of our economy therefore increases the poverty cycle everywhere including their own communities. Given the current situation in the Niger Delta, it must be borne in mind that, destroying the Niger Delta environment by oil companies, militants, or oil thieves have the same end result. The important thing is that the present government can do justice to all without us destroying our environment. I enjoin the traditional rulers, the elite, opinion leaders, the press, women as well as youths of Ogoniland and the Niger Delta to work conscientiously and to ensure that we put an end to all oil installation vandalism.

11. I wish to place on record, the appreciation of the Federal Government of Nigeria to the United Nations Environment Programme which continues to support the efforts aimed at making our environment a safe place to dwell in. It is my hope that we will all join hands to make this epoch-making event a grand success. I hope to come and inspect progress of this assignment before long and I expect to see visible improvement in the environmental conditions here.

12. The choice is for you to keep your environment clean and nurture the Niger Delta back to its lost glory. The beginning of this clean-up exercise is clear evidence that Ken Saro Wiwa and other sons of Ogoniland who fought hard for environmental justice did not fight in vain. Let this mark the beginning of the restoration not just of the environment of Ogoniland, but of peace and prosperity to the great land and people of Ogoniland. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Nine Key Milestones In President Buhari’s First Year

As military Head of State, what he did was to lock them up until they proved their innocence. As an elected President, he has sworn to uphold the constitution which guarantees citizen rights.

Things are changing with impunity in the country.  For the first time, VIP suspects are being asked questions by the investigating agencies and they are being charged to court.  Many, who would have snubbed the bailiff and go scot-free, are now undergoing trials.  Would anyone have thought that a former Chief of Defence Staff, Service Chiefs, pretenders to thrones, the children of “natural rulers” including “toy” Sultans, Kings, Emirs and Chiefs, will be brought to trial and kept in prisons? Ending impunity is one of the key milestones of this administration.

The country today basks in the aura of a major battle against corruption and the impunity that goes with that and world is supporting the President. Within one year of his administration, a miracle has happened, which is that there has been the total absence of multi-billion naira corruption scandals that had characterised previous administrations.

Global diplomacy

In one year, the President has successfully reset the relationship between this country and her immediate neighbors and with our lost friends, both far and near.  The West, Far East and Middle-East countries as well as our neighbors who walked away from this country on account of the arrogance of our past leaders, corruption and the abuse of human rights have all come back to us.

Over the past one year in which the President visited many countries, he has successfully convinced the world that Nigeria is now under a responsible management with a government that is inviting of prospective investors. As a result of his trips, Nigeria’s image has improved and the country now occupies a preeminent place in the comity of nations.

President Buhari has indeed been a revelation to the world. Besides improving the standing of the country, his personal integrity has given him the best ever international attention by any of his predecessors President of this country. The trips have opened doors that were shut against Nigeria, doors that bring security cooperation, and eventually, trade and economic benefits to the country.

Fuel import liberalisation

The fuel subsidy issue is a well-known cause of trouble in this country.  Every government in the past that tried to remove it got tested in its political will and dropped it like a hot metal.  There is nothing in this country that is as politically unpopular.

Yet, even those who vocally supported it knew that it wasn’t working for the ordinary citizens. The secret service surveyed the price regime of N86 per liter and reported to government five months ago that the price prevailed only in Lagos and Abuja with the rest of the country paying higher. Petrol subsidies served as a scam to line the pockets of officials and cronies in business.

Acting in the best national interest, the President took the very brave action of liberalising the import of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) by first removing subsidy from the budget and then opening the door to marketers to bring in the products to sell at a profit, saving the country trillions of naira in fraudulent subsidy payments. Due mainly to the trust they reposed in him, Nigerians have accepted this change in the belief that the president means well.

Major Infrastructure products, diversification

The President’s campaign for the diversification of the economy, away from over-dependence on oil is already setting the tone for the transformation of the economy into an agrarian and industrial one. He has equally fared well in his efforts to attract investment into Nigeria following his trips to some of those countries. Discussions are ongoing with a number of them with rich foreign reserves that have indicated a willingness to pour foreign capital to develop the economy and create jobs here. From the sometimes zero capital allocation of the past, his budget this year has 30 per cent of its content devoted to capital projects. After many years of delay, there will be a serious attempt to improve roads and rail transport as well as power projects. His administration is determined to improve the country’s infrastructure landscape in a short while.

Social welfare programme

President Buhari’s administration is the first in Nigeria’s history to take a major step towards the institution of a social welfare scheme as enunciated by the APC. One million of country’s poorest of the poor will get a monthly supplement of N5, 000.00. Another one million will get start-up loans from the Bank of Industry (BoI).  Five hundred thousand graduates will get teaching jobs and 375,000 others without degrees will receive training to acquire skills.  Under this year’s budget, there is money for scholarship for medical, science and technology students in tertiary institutions and a meal-a-day for five million children in primary school. For the first time, the ordinary citizen can claim that he/she has a budget of his/her own.

Within a year in office, the Buhari administration has taken major steps to secure the country and curtail corruption while attracting investors with a view to promoting industrial growth and job creation.  Although Nigeria is confronted with many problems that don’t have quick fixes, the administration has revealed a fine talent for finding lasting solutions to those kinds problems that had defied solution under the past governments.  Given the tenacity with which he fought the Boko Haram insurgency and corruption, the economy, which is still work in progress, will receive a lot more attention going forward. The rate of job creation and manufacturing should improve from the third quarter of the year when the implementation of the budget gathers steam. Happily, voters are still hopeful that President Buhari will produce the cure for the ills of the economy.

While many still believe that it is too early to assess the overall performance of the administration, the sentiment that prevails across the country is that Nigeria will improve a lot under his leadership; that he has a good vision and he is committed to Nigeria and Nigerian people.

Early enthusiasm and high expectations have their challenges, especially in times of low earnings from exports. Given this situation, delivery will take time but the promised change will not fail to come.

In one year, the President has fused his own ideas with APC’s programme which is strong on social welfare.  His administration has brought hope and respect to the country.  He has made a strong start on security, war against corruption, foreign policy even as the sticking issue remains the limping economy he inherited which is hamstrung by corruption and the past failure to diversity.

The President is tirelessly working for Nigeria and will continue to do so with hard work, diligence and honesty during his tenure.

Credit: TheNation

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Who Wants Our President Dead? By Olalekan Waheed Adigun

What started as a big joke suddenly became a reality. In a desperate bid to stop the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari the heat of the 2015 presidential election, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, the Ekiti state Governor, did the unthinkable. He single-handedly placed an “obituary” of a living person on the front pages of The Punch and The Sun (January 19, 2015). What was his reason for this: “Will you allow history to repeat itself? Enough of State burials.” These he told Nigerians who listened to him eagerly.  Suffice to say that many political analysts described the advert as one of the lowest moments in the run-up to the election. Trust “Prophet” Fayose he did his utmost to make his “prophesies” come to pass. He told us all that Buhari had “advance stage” cancer, even coming up with a “medical report” from Ahmadu Bello Teaching Hospital (I meant the one in Ikare, not ABUTH please)!

Let us spare the Fayose’s infantile theatrics for a while. Recently, a group that calls itself the Niger-Delta Avengers (NDA), threatened to assassinate President Buhari if he goes on with his intention of going to Rivers state on official visit on Thursday 2 June, 2015. An NDA member reportedly issued a threat to the President on his visit to the volatile region.  In a phone monitored on the pirate Radio Biafra, the militants say the president will be signing his death warrant by visiting Ogoniland as scheduled. If the President is visiting the land with a history of oil spills to assess the extent of damage(s) done by multinational oil companies in the region, it still baffles rational minds to know those who really wish the president dead!

I happened to be one of the people who wished the President will call the bluffs of these so-called militants who threatened to assassinate him should he attempt to visit the region. I was so disappointed to know that the president will later shelve his plans to attend the official launch of the cleanup of Ogoniland. The reason for my disappointed steams from the fact that, as Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, the President should not be seen to be cowardly. This was the reason some of us supported him in the first instance. Is there any part of the federation that the President cannot visit? Can the so-called Avengers be more powerful than the Nigerian Army? What becomes of the morale of hardworking soldiers under the Joint Task Force (JTF) fighting the militants when his C-in-C is “too afraid” of “assassination threats” from a ragtag group? That also reminds us, why the president made the visit a public announcement when he could have appeared unannounced?

Let us take the argument of these groups that they are indeed fighting a course on behalf of their “offended” ethnic groups. Let us assume for the sake of analysis that the NDA wants to “right the wrongs” meted out on them by the Federal Government in the past. To whose benefit really is the cleanup of Ogoniland when it is finally done?

On getting the news of the cancelled Buhari’s visit to Ogoni, a colleague of mine quickly, in a desperate attempt to attract my attention, told me how he wished to “disappoint” me with the piece of news having barely resumed work that day. “Buhari shouldn’t be afraid of these Niger-Delta Avengers because they are smaller than Boko Haram. Buhari should have gone to launch the cleanup.” I had to agree with him. While agreeing with him, I thought about the what the headlines will be in the online media. “Coward President Buhari Succumbs to Niger-Delta Militants” will be a good one on an anti-Buhari media platform. Is is just about the president not honouring his own visit, or is he just being “bullied” or misadvised?

I remember sometimes last year when late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe’s son, Chukwuma, was to be buried. The drama was so sensational that, just for some people to justify their arguments of Buhari “hating Igbos”, they won’t mind insulting the late son of the Zik of Africa even in death just because of his friendship with the President. He was buried, Buhari did not attend the ceremony and they were happy! To these ones, as long as Buhari has no ‘footings in the South East’, the party can continue.

On the assassination threats coming from the Avengers is really nothing new. If Buhari had attended the event, the worst that would have happened would have been some pockets of protests here and there just to “show the world how unpopular Buhari’s administration is.” Their own problem is that they see it as a taboo that a Fulani man (a tribe they told the world hates them) is the one to commence the cleaning up of the oil spills in “Biafra land” a feat “our son” could not achieve in several years in power. Does it surprise anyone that as Buhari was planning to launch Ogoniland’s cleanup brought “our son” back home from his “hiding spot”?

Earlier this year, the fiery Enugu Catholic priest and Founder, Adoration Ministry, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, alleged that there were plans by unnamed people to assassinate President Muhammadu Buhari. According to the clergyman, many people were plotting to kill the President because of what he described as his campaign against corruption, saying, “I am not a sycophant, but I want to tell you that so far, God is happy and he, who God has blessed, no one can curse. Many people are planning to kill Buhari – there are many plans on how to eliminate his life so that corruption will continue, so that embezzlement will continue.”

When Mbaka made this statement, the so-called NDA that threatened to assassinate Buhari was still in incubation. They were waiting to see whether some of their paymasters, like Sambo Dasuki will be granted a leave to travel abroad for “medical treatments” or granted bail on his present corruption charges. The question some of us ask ourselves is whether Dasuki comes from Niger-Delta that these ones are avenging!

The forces that has been battling the president before his elections are not giving up the fight as one may have thought. For these once, they will prefer a dead man occupying Aso Rock than for Buhari to withdraw from them their daily bread!

Olalekan Waheed Adigun is a political risk analyst and independent political strategist. Email: olalekan@olalekanadigun.com, adgorwell@gmail.com. Follow me on twitter @adgorwell.

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Former President Jonathan Returns To Nigeria

Former President Goodluck Jonathan has returned to the country after weeks abroad.

His party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), disclosed this in a tweet on Wednesday.

The tweet read: “The hero of our democracy is back home,” and showed a picture of the former president at an airport.

A source at the hierarchy of the party also confirmed to TheCable that the former president was back in the country.

During his absence, there were reports that he had gone into exile for fear of arrest by the government of President Muhammadu Buhari, but he debunked the news, saying he was out of the country to get some rest, and would soon return.

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One Year After: President Buhari’s Foreign Trips In Perspective By Johannes Tobi Wojuola

It is a year since President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office.  And within this time frame, he has visited countries in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe and North America. About a week back, he returned from London on yet another foreign visit. It is to be recalled that in fact, President Buhari started his first week in office with trips to Niger, Chad and Germany. The travelling President, some may rant.

In recent months, the President’s trips were made the subject of discourse: from the print, to the electronic, to the social media. Some critics have asked why President Buhari cannot spend time at home to deal with the myriad daunting problems that Nigeria is facing. Some are even worried that his frequent travels constitute distractions to him. Yet, there are those who cynically ask what gains the frequent travels have brought to Nigeria.

Convinced of the “negative impact” of the President’s travels, some analysts have gone to the extent of concluding that the trips constitute a serious drain to the nation’s lean purse; arguing on the cost associated with running the Presidential Aircraft, retinue of Presidential staff and other government officials in tow on these trips.

This small, but virulent minority believes and expects that benefits from the President’s external trips must be immediate, quantifiable, visible and commensurate with the financial cost of undertaking them. So vociferous and strident is this view point that the public narrative of President Buhari’s handling of his foreign policy in the last one year has come to be defined in pejorative terms of the President’s disinterest in managing Nigeria’s domestic affairs, frivolity, lack of commitment and outright waste of state resources.

Those who hold these views are entitled to their opinion; after all, freedom of expression is a cardinal tenet of democracy. Under Nigeria’s bourgeoning democracy, one should expect no less than an unfettered democratic space for people to vent their feelings as enshrined in the country’s constitution.  What is problematic with this unfettered expression of freedom is the fact that critics of the President’s foreign policy management want to assume centre stage in their narrative.

At this point in Nigeria’s tough journey – post an administration that ineffectively managed a war against terrorists in the North Eastern parts of the country; allowed an untrammeled stealing of Nigeria’s resources and lived with a monotonic focus on crude oil as the major source of revenue – the President can ill-afford to cocoon himself in the confines of Aso Villa to fix the  myriad of problems we currently face; there is no country that can stand alone in this face of challenges.  Mutual partnerships and relationships must be forged to tackle these issues that are in truth extra-territorial.

Many people are not aware of the fact that the President’s travels, apart from those that he has undertaken, and rightly so, to attend multi-lateral meetings such as the United Nations, African Union, the Commonwealth and others, every other visit has been at the invitation of the Sovereigns (Heads of State or Government) of the countries he has visited. An Official or State visit of any Head of State to another is a mark of great respect for the visitor. It follows therefore, that when a Head of State does not receive an invitation from a colleague somewhere to visit, it means one of several things: the Head of State does not enjoy the respect of his peers; there are ongoing differences or disputes, or simply the Head of State has some issues with the International community. Fortunately for Nigeria, this is not the case under President Buhari.

By this reasoning, it follows that the invitations extended to President Buhari are indicative of the regard he is held with by his peers. Indeed, Mr. President came into office with a commodity that is in very short supply today and this commodity is called TRUST. His election in 2015 in a free, fair, credible and transparent election attests to the trust that the overwhelming majority in Nigeria has in him. He did not assume office with any legitimacy deficit. On the contrary, he emerged as a leader that Nigerians believed in and trusted to the extent that they gave him the mandate to lead the country.

An undiscerning mind would take for granted that a person’s integrity counts for nothing at the international level.  This is a fallacy that must be discarded.  In the global arena, persona and perception are two sides of the same coin. Mr. President has received invitations to participate in meetings that were reserved for a select few. It was a matter of pride to hear leaders of the G-7, all of them advanced democracies, where the quality of governance is assured, refer again and again to President Buhari’s integrity. This has resonated every where he has visited. For the avoidance of doubt, integrity is not only in short supply, more especially, with regard to African leaders, but even more so, it cannot be bought off the shelf of shop in a mall.

President Muhammadu Buhari is easily the most powerful leader in Africa. In the West Africa  sub region his influence is palpable. Only two weeks ago, President Buhari hosted in Abuja the second Regional Security Summit with the theme, Consolidating Collective Efforts for Regional Peace and Development. Hosting the conference reinforced the primal role Nigeria now plays in regional security affairs. Significantly, in attendance were President Francois Hollande of France, the Heads of State of Niger, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Chad, Cameroon, Central Africa Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Ghana, Ministers from United States, United Kingdom, and the People’s Republic of China, and plenipotentiaries of the UN, EU, AU, ECOWAS, World Bank, IMF, and Lake Chad Basin Commission.

In February early this year, politicians in Niger Republic, Nigeria’s neighbours to the North, were seen using President Buhari’s picture side by side with theirs – presenting themselves to have Buhari’s most cherished and rare trait, integrity. The campaign trucks of the current President who was then seeking a second term displayed President Buhari’s picture beside his. And it was not surprising that grass-root politicians there called themselves “Buharin Niger”.

Leading from the front in the areas most deficient and affecting African countries – anti-corruption and good governance, economic prosperity and security – has earned President Buhari this global adoration.

It was not fluke or casted lot when President Buhari was invited to the Anti-Corruption Summit hosted by Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron; he wasn’t just invited to attend, he was also designated the prominence of delivering the Summit’s keynote address: Why We Must Tackle Corruption Together. The summit, a first of its kind sought to galvanise a global response to tackle corruption, a move that President Buhari is already leading in sincerity and action domestically.

President Buhari’s international prowess, respect and acceptance has fetched many benefits for Nigeria in the kitty. The obvious is the refacing of Nigeria’s image abroad. With a leader that brings a rare commodity to the table, the corollary is the renewed opinion now held about Nigeria and Nigerians by foreigners.

Financial benefits, though not immediate as we will all have loved in these times of dwindling earnings, are Nigeria bound. Through investments, repatriated funds from Nigeria’s stolen commonwealth stashed in foreign havens, grants and aids, the fruits of these trips will be felt soonest – especially given the prudent management known of President Muhammadu Buhari.

The foreign policy of the Buhari administration leans towards fulfilling the tripod mandate which he campaigned on: To secure Nigeria and her people, to fight corruption and to rejuvenate the economy. He has embarked on trips geared at fostering the needed relationships and supports that would make his roadmap for Nigeria a reality.

Long term and sustainable relationships underpin the goals of each journey. Nigeria is headed towards reclaiming its Big Brother role in Africa. And trip by trip, the giant of Africa itches out of her slumber.

Johannes Tobi Wojuola is a Lawyer, and a Global Shaper at the Abuja Community Hub.

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Open Letter To President Muhammad Buhari And The Presidential Committee On Anti-corruption By Abdullahi Ishaq

Your Excellency with due honour and respect. First and foremost accept my warmly congratulations as you mark one year in office. May Allah guide and protect you to lead us with all fairness. I write to bring to your attention the internal Corruption in EFCC. These are three factors that have bedevilled EFCC, which also requires your timely intervention… 1- INTERNAL CORRUPTION, 2- VICTIMIZATION, and 3- WELFARE…..

Your Excellency sir, Internal Corruption has gone deep in EFCC which is being perpetrated by the Senior Police officers, right from the leadership of Ibrahim Lamorde to date. Frustrating high profile cases in different forms. The Director of Administration known as DOS, is Lamorde’s boy and confidant. He is notorious in awarding contracts to his cronies and relative’s without bidding. The Account Department also is headed by another Lamorde’s loyalist ( http://www.nigeriannation.news/nigeria/news-headlines/exclusive-fresh-multi-million-naira-fraud-rocks-efccdirector-of-accounts-bukar-abba-under-probe/attachment/614921/). Millions of money allocated by either the Federal Government or the UNODC is being diverted and mismanaged by the Senior Police officers and some none Police principal officers who are heading the department concerned.

Your Excellency, Police and Regular Cadets made up the EFCC, the Police are seconded staff and are meant to served for the period of 3 to 4 years, while the Cadets are the Regular and Pensionable staff. Sir, things have changed to a different dimension, whereby the Police have consistently victimized the Regular staff by indicting, suspending and dismissing Regular staff, whose fault does not require such punishment or penalties. Right from Lamorde’s time to the present leadership, about 30 Regular staff who are very intelligent and who also handles many high profile cases were suspended and dismissed, by using them as scapegoats to give the public the impression that they are fighting internal corruption.

Similarly, whenever a Policeman committed any wrongdoing, they will deploy him back to their Mother organization, without penalizing or prosecuting him for that offence. Am appealing to your good office to constitute an independent committee to investigate the activities of the EFCC from inception to date. Your Excellency sir, Nigerians owe you a greater responsibility of coming out the truth in the fight against corruption in all ramifications, as well as unearthing and exposing those who feel they cannot be fingered or investigated. I also respectfully advice the National Assembly to conduct a Public hearing on the role and activities of the EFCC, to ascertain my claims.

Even after the exit of Ibrahim Lamorde from the Comission, there are still many corrupt police officers, who also are Lamorde’s loyalists. Welfare of staff and training are being denied, considering as against during the leadership of Mrs. Farida Waziri. However each and every Nigerian is optimistic that fighting corruption is one of your cardinal objectives, and EFCC is the lead Anti graft Agency that is responsible for that. But how can we achieve that objective, while there is internal Corruption in the Commission. The relationship between the Police and Regular staff is extremely sour and victimization persists every day.

Your Excellency, the following police officers are among the most corrupt ones in EFCC; DCP. Bolaji Salami who is heading the Admin Dept and DCP. Muhammad Wakili who investigates all Pension cases where hundreds of millions, Exotic cars and properties were extorted, but Lamorde refused to investigate and prosecutes him and team.Also, DCP. Wakili was recently redeployed back to the Police, but yet to be investigated.

I am apealling to your office to investigate him and also revisits all Pension cases investigated by the EFCC. On the other hand, CSP. Usman Imam is another senior Police officer who had served from inception to date. He has made millions from cases he investigated, and had acquired properties in Kano, Apo Abuja, Lagos and other places. He is one of the Lamorde’s boy still working in the Commission to protect his boss’ interests. Habibu Adamu Aliyu ( https://www.naij.com/826102-efcc-boss-ibrahim-magu-gets-new-task.html ), a closed boy to Lamorde and Wakili is well known to be collecting huge amount of money from high profile suspects of Pension cases for his bosses. He recently resigned his appointment from the Commission for the fear of being probe, since all he made was kept hidden with his elder brother who was a former House of Representative Member. Another top collecting point for Lamorde is his SA, known as Mr. Isah Dogonyaro, he had recently left the Commission and gone for a study leave to evade being exposed. There are many more senior Police officers and few Regular Staff, who perpetrated and protect the Corrupt tendecies of their bosses.

Your Excellency sir. For the benefit of this great country and for Fairness, Equity and Justice I am appealing and pleading with you to as a matter of urgent national importance, cause investigation into EFCC as well as reviewing all staff indicted, suspended and dismissed. Sir this is the truth and nothing but the truth, about what has been going on in EFCC. May Almighty help and guide us right.

I implore and craved the indulgence of the public to transmit this medium to President Muhammadu Buhari, and any other person or organisation concerned. Because saboteurs, will always make sure the President does not get such vital information of Whitsle-Blowing. Thank you all…

 

Abdullahi Ishaq

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President Buhari’s One Year In Government By Babafemi Ojudu

May 29, 2016 marks President Muhammadu Buhari’s first year in office. It has indeed been an all-round exhilarating year, not only for the government but also for the generality of Nigerians. There is nobody in Nigeria today who does not agree that the current challenges that the government face stems from deep seated rot in the system which pervaded the entire nation prior to President Buhari’s assumption of power.

Precisely one year ago, President Buhari took over the mantle of office to wide acclaim from Nigerians. Before that fateful day, Nigerians had watched aghast and rather helplessly as the country continued a fast downward spiral, as if racing to join the ignoble category of failed nations. A year ago, though the sorry state of the economy was partly due to the falling prices of oil, Nigeria’s biggest foreign exchange earner, a bigger part of the problem, however, was unbridled corruption, mindless depletion of our foreign reserves and gross mismanagement of the country’s dwindling resources.

To compound our people’s woes, Nigerians lived in fear. In the Northern parts of the country, especially in the North East, it was the fear of the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram. In the southern parts of the country, the fear of being kidnapped was rife, while armed robbery completed the pathetic picture of insecurity in the land. As if that was not enough misery in people’s lives, the perpetual darkness the country was plunged into due to the ever present power failure made living in Nigeria almost unbearable.

In the knowledge of the truth that Nigerians deserve better, President Muhammadu Buhari campaigned vigorously round the country using the slogan “Change”. Nigerians embraced that change by voting massively for President Buhari. One year after, the President is not unmindful of the fact that “change” which he is midwifing has come with some necessary pain. Changing a system that has decayed beyond the widest imagination of even the most fertile minds comes with some pain. It is this pain that Nigerians now face. However, this fleeting pain shall pass. President Buhari has stated repeatedly that he feels the pain that we feel. He is assiduously working to mitigate and calm our pains with the proverbial ‘balm of Gilead’.

It requires great courage for a leader to tell his people an inconvenient truth. The truth is that the reality of the times demands some measure of sacrifice from every citizen, if the country is to be returned to the glorious path to prosperity. President Buhari, characteristically, has shown his mettle as a courageous leader even as he tackles the numerous challenges that confront the country. When the history of Nigerian Presidency is written, President Buhari will be remembered as the most consequential President in Nigeria who stepped in at a critical time to change the unfortunate trajectory of a nation that was on a downward spiral.

Taking stock of the past 365 days; while it cannot be said that the country is out of the woods, there is no denying the fact that the hemorrhaging in the system has been stopped. On the day President Buhari mounted the saddle of office as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he promised to deal decisively with the godless terrorist group, Boko Haram. That promise which he put into action immediately by relocating the military high command to Maiduguri is almost a “fait accompli”. There is no doubting the fact that the Nigerian military with the coalition of neighboring countries which President Buhari forged, have routed Boko Haram. What remains is to clean out the fleeing remnants of the group. President Buhari has been able to achieve this feat by restoring the dignity of the Nigerian Armed Forces and equipping them properly to combat this unprecedented and unconventional warfare. The rescue of one of the Chibok girls from the den of terrorists is a flicker of hope that the rest of the girls would be returned safely to their parents and loved ones.

Another battle which the President promised to wage on his inauguration day is the war against corruption that has permeated and eaten so deeply into the Nigerian socio-economic and political fabric. President Buhari has also kept faith on this. Since his assumption in power, he has relentlessly waged this “non-negotiable” war against corruption. It is the President’s belief that the battle against corruption holds the key to the reconstruction of Nigeria’s economic and social systems destroyed by past governments. The Billions of Naira of Nigeria’s stolen money that has so far been recorded bears eloquent testimony to the huge successes recorded in this area.  Gone is the era of looting the country’s treasury with impunity.

In line with his promise to cleanse the system, President Buhari’s searchlight has beamed brightly on the Nigerian National petroleum Corporation (NNPC), cleaning in the process the national scam that was the fuel subsidy regime. In the fullness of time, Nigerians would start reaping the benefits of the deregulation of the Oil industry. Without a shadow of doubt, this is an area that past Nigerian governments refused to touch, even with a ten foot pole. President Buhari has shown tremendous courage by dealing with this issue once and for all.

Critiques of President Buhari’s administration harp on his foreign trips as costing the country money. What they fail to point out are the huge benefits that have continued to accrue to the nation as a result of these trips. Close watchers of President Buhari’s government will readily admit that Nigeria’s leadership position in the world stage and at the Sub-Saharan Africa level has been restored. The frosty relationship between Nigeria and many world powers no longer exist. In the recent past, the country’s near pariah position in the world stage made it impossible for a country of Nigeria’s stature to purchase even the most rudimentary armaments for its military that was prosecuting a war against terrorism.

One of the greatest achievements of President Buhari’s first year in office is that of reducing the size and cost of governance. No longer is Nigeria running an over bloated political system that bogs down the economy. The President has reduced the number of Ministries, Departments and Agencies, thereby saving the country billions of Naira now being channeled towards other developmental projects and infrastructure. In addition, the introduction of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has helped block many leakages in the system through which the country’s funds were siphoned into private pockets. Reportedly, about 2 Trillion Naira has been saved as a result.

As Presidents Buhari’s government enters its second year, Nigerians will begin to see the positive impact of various policies measures that the government has put in place to restore the country’s economy and strengthen our democracy. While his first year in office has been spent cleaning the Augean stable, the coming years will see Nigerians benefitting from the government’s programmes to create employment for the teeming youths; strengthen the institutions of government; revitalize the economy by encouraging indigenous and foreign investments and improve the energy situation in the country. With the current passage of the budget and other measures so far put in place by the government, Nigerians will have cause to smile again. The best is yet to come.

 

Senator Babafemi Ojudu is the Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters

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Full Text: President Buhari’s Democracy Day Broadcast

My compatriots,

It is one year today since our administration came into office. It has been a year of triumph, consolidation, pains and achievements. By age, instinct and experience, my preference is to look forward, to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead and rededicate the administration to the task of fixing Nigeria. But I believe we can also learn from the obstacles we have overcome and the progress we made thus far, to help strengthen the plans that we have in place to put Nigeria back on the path of progress.
We affirm our belief in democracy as the form of government that best assures the active participation and actual benefit of the people. Despite the many years of hardship and disappointment the people of this nation have proved inherently good, industrious tolerant, patient and generous.

The past years have witnessed huge flows of oil revenues. From 2010 average oil prices were $100 per barrel. But economic and security conditions were deteriorating. We campaigned and won the election on the platform of restoring security, tackling corruption and restructuring the economy. On our arrival, the oil price had collapsed to as low as $30 per barrel and we found nothing had been kept for the rainy day. Oil prices have been declining since 2014 but due to the neglect of the past, the country was not equipped to halt the economy from declining.

The infrastructure, notably rail, power, roads were in a decrepit state. All the four refineries were in a state of disrepair, the pipelines and depots neglected.

Huge debts owed to contractors and suppliers had accumulated. Twenty-seven states could not pay salaries for months. In the north-east, Boko Haram had captured 14 local governments, driven the local authorities out, hoisted their flags. Elsewhere, insecurity was palpable; corruption and impunity were the order of the day. In short, we inherited a state near collapse.

On the economic front, all oil dependent countries, Nigeria included, have been struggling since the drop in prices. Many oil rich states have had to take tough decisions similar to what we are doing. The world, Nigeria included has been dealing with the effects of three significant and simultaneous global shocks starting in 2014:
A 70% drop in oil prices.
Global growth slowdown.
Normalization of monetary policy by the United States federal reserve.

Our problems as a government are like that of a farmer who in a good season harvests ten bags of produce. The proceeds enable him to get by for rest of the year. However, this year he could only manage 3 bags from his farm. He must now think of other ways to make ends meet.

From day one, we purposely set out to correct our condition, to change Nigeria. We reinforced and galvanized our armed forces with new leadership and resources. We marshaled our neighbours in a joint task force to tackle and defeat Boko Haram. By the end of December 2015, all but pockets and remnants had been routed by our gallant armed forces. Our immediate focus is for a gradual and safe return of internally displaced persons in safety and dignity and for the resumption of normalcy in the lives of people living in these areas.

EFCC was given the freedom to pursue corrupt officials and the judiciary was alerted on what Nigerians expect of them in the fight against corruption. On the economy, in particular foreign exchange and fuel shortages, our plan is to save foreign exchange by fast tracking repair of the refineries and producing most of our fuel requirements at home. And by growing more food in Nigeria, mainly rice, wheat and sugar we will save billions of dollars in foreign exchange and drastically reduce our food import bill.

We resolved to keep the Naira steady, as in the past, devaluation had done dreadful harm to the Nigerian economy. Furthermore, I supported the monetary authority’s decision to ensure alignment between monetary policy and fiscal policy. We shall keep a close look on how the recent measures affect the Naira and the economy. But we cannot get away from the fact that a strong currency is predicated on a strong economy. And a strong economy pre-supposes an industrial productive base and a steady export market. The measures we must take, may lead to hardships. The problems Nigerians have faced over the last year have been many and varied. But the real challenge for this government has been reconstructing the spine of the Nigerian state. The last twelve months have been spent collaborating with all arms of government to revive our institutions so that they are more efficient and fit for purpose:
That means a bureaucracy better able to develop and deliver policy
That means an independent judiciary, above suspicion and able to defend citizen’s rights and dispense justice equitably.
That means a legislature that actually legislates effectively and
Above all; that means political parties and politicians committed to serving the nigerian people rather than themselves.

These are the pillars of the state on which democracy can take root and thrive. But only if they are strong and incorruptible. Accordingly, we are working very hard to introduce some vital structural reforms in the way we conduct government business and lay a solid foundation on which we can build enduring change.

An important first step has been to get our housekeeping right. So we have reduced the extravagant spending of the past. We started boldly with the treasury single account, stopping the leakages in public expenditure.

We then identified forty-three thousand ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information system. That represents pay packets totalling N4.2 billion stolen every month. In addition, we will save Twenty-Three Billion Naira per annum from official travelling and sitting allowances alone.

Furthermore, the efficiency unit will cut costs and eliminate duplications in ministries and departments. Every little saving helps. The reduction in the number of ministries and work on restructuring and rationalization of the MDAs is well underway. When this work is complete we will have a leaner, more efficient public service that is fit for the purpose of changing nigeria for the good and for good.

As well as making savings, we have changed the way public money is spent. In all my years as a public servant, I have never come across the practice of padding budgets. I am glad to tell you now we not only have a budget, but more importantly, we have a budget process that is more transparent, more inclusive and more closely tied to our development priorities than in the recent past. 30% of the expenditure in this budget is devoted to capital items. Furthermore, we are projecting non-oil revenues to surpass proceeds from oil. Some critics have described the budget exercise as clumsy. Perhaps. But it was an example of consensus building, which is integral to democratic government. In the end we resolved our differences.

We have, therefore, delivered significant milestones on security, corruption and the economy. In respect of the economy, I would like to directly address you on the very painful but inevitable decisions we had to make in the last few weeks specifically on the pump price of fuel and the more flexible exchange rate policy announced by the central bank. It is even more painful for me that a major producer of crude oil with four refineries that once exported refined products is today having to import all of its domestic needs. This is what corruption and mismanagement has done to us and that is why we must fight these ills.

As part of the foundation of the new economy we have had to reform how fuel prices had traditionally been fixed. This step was taken only after protracted consideration of its pros and cons. After comprehensive investigation my advisers and I concluded that the mechanism was unsustainable.

We are also engaged in making recoveries of stolen assets some of which are in different jurisdictions. The processes of recovery can be tedious and time consuming, but today I can confirm that thus far: significant amount of assets have been recovered. A considerable portion of these are at different stages of recovery. Full details of the status and categories of the assets will now be published by the Ministry of Information and updated periodically. When forfeiture formalities are completed these monies will be credited to the treasury and be openly and transparently used in funding developmental projects and the public will be informed.

On the Niger Delta, we are committed to implementing the United Nations Environment Programme report and are advancing clean-up operations. I believe the way forward is to take a sustainable approach to address the issues that affect the delta communities. Re-engineering the amnesty programmes is an example of this. The recent spate of attacks by militants disrupting oil and power installations will not distract us from engaging leaders in the region in addressing Niger Delta problems. If the militants and vandals are testing our resolve, they are much mistaken. We shall apprehend the perpetrators and their sponsors and bring them to justice.

The policy measures and actions taken so far are not to be seen as some experiment in governance. We are fully aware that those vested interests who have held Nigeria back for so long will not give up without a fight. They will sow divisions, sponsor vile press criticisms at home and abroad, incite the public in an effort to create chaos rather than relinquish the vice-like grip they have held on Nigeria.

The economic misfortune we are experiencing in the shape of very low oil prices has provided us with an opportunity to restructure our economy and diversify. We are in the process of promoting agriculture, livestocks, exploiting our solid mineral resources and expanding our industrial and manufacturing base. That way, we will import less and make the social investments necessary to allow us to produce a large and skilled workforce.

Central Bank of Nigeria will offer more fiscal incentives for business that prove capable of manufacturing products that are internationally competitive. We remain committed to reforming the regulatory framework, for investors by improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, the first steps along the path of self-sufficiency in rice, wheat and sugar – big users of our scarce foreign exchange – have been taken. The Labour Intensive Farming Enterprise will boost the economy and ensure inclusive growth in long neglected communities. Special intervention funds through the Bank of Agriculture will provide targeted support. Concerns remain about rising cost of foods such as maize, rice, millet, beans and gari. Farmers tell me that they are worried about the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and the absence of extension services. The federal and state governments are on the same page in tackling these hurdles in our efforts at increased food production and ultimately food security.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the increasing role that our women are playing in revitalizing the agricultural sector. Modern farming is still hard and heavy work and I salute our Nigerian women in sharing this burden. In this respect I am very pleased to announce that the government will shortly be launching the national women’s empowerment fund, which I have approved to provide N1.6 billion in micro-finance loans to women across the nation to assist in rehabilitating the economies of rural communities, particularly those impacted by the insurgency and conflict.

With respect to solid minerals, the minister has produced a roadmap where we will work closely with the world bank and major international investors to ensure through best practices and due diligence that we choose the right partners. Illegal mining remains a problem and we have set up a special security team to protect our assets. Special measures will be in place to protect miners in their work environment.

For too long, ours has been a society that neglects the poor and victimizes the weak. A society that promotes profit and growth over development and freedom. A society that fails to recognize that, to quote the distinguished economist Amartya Sen “ poverty is not just lack of money. It is not having the capability to realize one’s full potential as a human being.”

So, today, I am happy to formally launch, by far the most ambitious social protection programme in our history. A programme that both seeks to start the process of lifting many from poverty, while at the same time creating the opportunity for people to fend for themselves. In this regard, Five Hundred Billion Naira has been appropriated in the 2016 budget for social intervention programmes in five key areas. We are committed to providing job creation opportunities for five hundred thousand teachers and one hundred thousand artisans across the nation. 5.5 million children are to be provided with nutritious meals through our school feeding programme to improve learning outcomes, as well as enrolment and completion rates. The conditional cash transfer scheme will provide financial support for up to one million vulnerable beneficiaries, and complement the enterprise programme – which will target up to one million market women; four hundred and sixty thousand artisans; and two hundred thousand agricultural workers, nationwide. Finally, through the education grant scheme, we will encourage students studying sciences, technology, engineering and maths, and lay a foundation for human capital development for the next generation

I would like to pay a special tribute to our gallant men and women of the armed forces who are in harm’s way so that the rest of us can live and go about our business in safety. Their work is almost done. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.

Abroad, we want to assure our neighbours, friends and development partners that Nigeria is firmly committed to democratic principles. We are ready partners in combating terrorism, cyber crimes, control of communicable diseases and protection of the environment. Following on the Paris Agreement, COP 21, we are fully committed to halting and reversing desertification. Elsewhere, we will intensify efforts to tackle erosion, ocean surge, flooding and oil spillage which I referred to earlier by implementing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report.

We are grateful to the international community notably France, the US, UK and China for their quick response in helping to tackle the recent Ebola outbreak in our sub-region. We also acknowledge the humanity shown by the Italian and German governments in the treatment of boat people, many fleeing from our sub-region because of lack of economic opportunity. We thank all our partners especially several countries in the EU.

We appreciate the valuable work that the UN agencies, particularly UNICEF, ICRC, the World Food Program have been doing. We must also appreciate the World Bank, the Gates Foundation, the Global Fund and Educate A Child of Qatar for the excellent work in our health, education and other sectors.

Fellow citizens let me end on a happy note. To the delight of all, two of the abducted Chibok girls have regained their freedom. During the last one year, not a single day passed without my agonizing about these girls. Our efforts have centred around negotiations to free them safely from their mindless captors. We are still pursuing that course. Their safety is of paramount concern to me and I am sure to most Nigerians. I am very worried about the conditions those still captured might be in. Today I re-affirm our commitment to rescuing our girls. We will never stop until we bring them home safely. As I said before, no girl should be put through the brutality of forced marriage and every Nigerian girl has the right to an education and a life choice.

I thank you and appeal to you to continue supporting the government’s efforts to fix Nigeria.

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