President Muhammadu Buhari said the federal government needed to take tough decisions on issues affecting Nigerians for the nation to survive.
The president, who said the nation’s 60th Independence Anniversary was an opportunity for the nation to retrace its steps, also declared there was no going back on the new fuel price.
The president spoke Thursday in a nationwide broadcast to mark the nation’s Independence Anniversary.
While stressing that national resources were becoming scarcer than previous administrations had to work with, the president said his government was doing much with a very lean budget.
“Today, we grapple with multiple challenges with a population exceeding 200 million occupying the same land mass but 52% residing in urban areas.
“Sixty years of nationhood provides an opportunity to ask ourselves questions on the extent to which we have sustained the aspirations of our founding fathers. Where did we do the right things? Are we on course? If not where did we stray and how can we remedy and retrace our steps?
“Upon attaining independence, Nigeria’s growth trajectory was anchored on policies and programmes that positively impacted on all sectors of the economy. However, this journey was cut short by the 30-months of civil war. We came out of the civil war with a focus on reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation that enabled the country to put in place world class development structures and a strengthened public service that well served the government. This positive trajectory continued with a return to democratic government which was truncated by another round of military rule,” he said.
The president also hit back at leaders in past administrations who had in recent times heckled him and his administration for decisions and actions being taken, blaming them for almost grinding the nation to a halt.
“No government in the past did what we are doing with such scarce resources. We have managed to keep things going in spite of the disproportionate spending on security. Those in the previous Governments from 1999 – 2015 who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticize our efforts,” he said.
On the decision of government to remove petroleum products’ subsidy, the president said Nigeria’s pump prices were comparatively some of the cheapest in the world.
“Our government is grappling with the dual challenge of saving lives and livelihoods in face of drastically reduced resources.
“In this regard, sustaining the level of petroleum prices is no longer possible. The government, since coming into office has recognized the economic argument for adjusting the price of petroleum. But the social argument about the knock-on effect of any adjustment weighed heavily with the government.
“In the circumstances, a responsible government must face realities and take tough decisions. Petroleum prices in Nigeria are to be adjusted. We sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate the point; Chad which is an oil producing country charges N362 per litre; Niger, also an oil producing country sells 1 litre at N346; In Ghana, another oil producing country, petroleum pump price is N326 per litre.“Further afield, Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia,” he said.
On strengthening the country’s electoral process, the president said the recent build-up and eventual outcome of the Edo state elections should encourage Nigerians about his commitment to bequeath to the country processes and procedures that would guarantee that the people’s votes count.
“The problems with our electoral process are mainly human induced as desperate desire for power leads to desperate attempts to gain power and office.
“Democracy, the world over and as I am pursuing in Nigeria, recognises the power of the people. However, if some constituencies choose to bargain off their power, they should be prepared for denial of their rights.
“This call is made more urgent if we realise that even after a transparent, free, fair and credible election, desperation leads to compromising the judiciary to upturn legitimate decisions of the people.
“It is necessary to, therefore support the enthronement of the rule of law by avoiding actions which compromise the judiciary,” he said.
The president said there was the need for healing of old wounds in the country and to strengthen government establishments, stressing that institutions such as the civil service, police, the judiciary and the military had all suffered from a general decline.
“We need to begin a sincere process of national healing and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are.
“The stereotype of thinking of ourselves as coming from one part of the country before seeing ourselves as Nigerians is a key starting point to project us on the road to our deserved nation’s evolution and integration.
“To start this healing process, we are already blessed with the most important asset any nation requires for such – OUR PEOPLE – and this has manifested globally in the exploits of Nigerians in many fields. It has been demonstrated time and time again that Nigerians in the Diaspora frequently excel in science, technology, medicine, sports, arts and many other fields.
“Similarly, the creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Nigerian at home have resulted in globally recognised endeavours. I am convinced that if we pursue our aspirations TOGETHER we would be able to achieve whatever we desire. That informed our adopting the theme TOGETHER to mark this epochal event.
“Together we can change our condition for the better and more importantly, together we can do much more for ourselves and for our country,” he said.
The president said the present administration has done a lot to address the development challenges facing the country and its people.
“Nigeria is not a country for Mr. President, any ruling or opposition party but a country for all of us and we must play our part, irrespective of challenges we face, to make this country what we desire.
“To achieve this, we must focus our minds, TOGETHER as a people, on ways of resolving the identified critical challenges that underlie our present state. These include: Evolving and sustaining a democratic culture that leaves power in the hands of the people; Supporting the enthronement of the rule of law, demanding accountability of elected representatives and contributing to good governance; Increasing our commitment to peaceful co-existence in a peaceful, secure and united Nigeria; Harnessing and Optimizing our tremendous human and natural resources to attain our goal of being in the top twenty economies of the world and in the process; Lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years; Strengthening institutions to make them stronger in protecting national interests; and imbibing tolerance in diversity,” he said.
Labour faults president
Faulting the president, however, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) said comparing Nigeria and Saudi in terms of oil pricing was wrong.
Raising the position in a statement Thursday, TUC President Quadri Olaleye said the comparison of Nigeria with a country like Saudi Arabia was unnecessary because “we are not at par in all ramifications with Saudi Arabia and the countries mentioned.”
“Come to think of it, what has Nigeria achieved with all the money made from oil since over six decades of oil exploration in commercial quality? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. All successive leaderships have done is loot, launder and buy properties in foreign land.
“In many of these countries money does not move around the way it does in Nigeria. Our politicians spray dollars at weddings in Nigeria! They use foreign hospitals, shop abroad and do all manner of crazy things. So, if the president is defending the hike, what does he want to do with the surplus they will make from the hike? The same old story of providing infrastructure! Our roads are nothing but death traps. Our leaders are not patriotic at all.
“The president may not be corrupt but he has NOT been able to check his appointees. Many are very corrupt. Government is robbing Peter (masses) to pay Paul (politicians and cronies). It is ungodly and evil in the sight of God.
“It is unarguable that in Nigeria everyone is a local govt but in Saudi roads, water, and to some extent job are not big issues. PHCN gives over 70% of Nigerians estimated bills. They have refused to meter our houses so they can continue to prey on us yet govt is not doing enough to change the narrative. It is not fair.
“It is ridiculous to compare Nigeria with Saudi, Dubai, or any other country, not even in Africa. With the natural resources that we have we could rule the world, but government is not interested.”