Says economic misfortune, opportunity for diversification
Threatens Avengers To negotiate with Boko Haram
By Abdullahi M. Gulloma
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday fell short of his promise to disclose names and amounts recovered from alleged looters of the nation’s treasury, on Democracy Day (May 29)).
Rather, Buhari, in the May 29 nationwide broadcast, said, the Ministry of Information and Culture will release the names at a time he never stipulated, just as he described the nation’s economic misfortune as an opportunity for diversification.
The president, who said government was still doing everything possible to fix the Niger Delta environment, however, warned that erring militants would be brought to justice, even as he said his administration’s “efforts have centred around negotiations to free them (Chibok secondary school girls) safely from their mindless captors.”
In an interview with Channels Television in the United Kingdom on May 14, 2016, the President, assured he would on May 29, speak on the recovered stolen funds from persons indicted in the fight against corruption.
He said: “So far, what has come out, what has been recovered, in whatever currency, from which ministry, department and individuals, I intend on the 29th to speak on this because all that Nigerians are getting to know are from the newspapers, radio and television. We want to make a comprehensive report by May 29.
“We want to successfully prosecute them. But you know you can’t go to the court unless you have the documents to do your prosecutions – where some of these people sign for these monies, send it to their personal bank accounts. Their banks gave a statement that the money is there when it came how much of it available and so on.”
However, the President yesterday dashed the hopes of Nigerians who waited enthusiastically for the fulfilment of the presidential promise during the nationwide broadcast to the nation to mark his administration’s one year anniversary.
The President said the Ministry of Information and Culture would publish details of the recovered funds and would be updating it periodically.
“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,” he said.
He said the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was given the freedom to pursue corrupt officials and the judiciary was alerted on what Nigerians expected of it in the fight against corruption.
On doing the right thing to reduce the cost of governance, the President said government had identified 43,000 ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System, which he said, represents pay packets totalling N4.2 billion stolen every month.
He said government would also save N23 billion per annum from official travelling and sitting allowances alone, adding that the efficiency unit would cut costs and eliminate duplications in ministries and departments.
“The reduction in the number of ministries and work on restructuring and rationalisation 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,” he said.
On the fight against insurgency, the president said from day one, the present administration was purposely set out to change the country. “We reinforced and galvanized our armed forces with new leadership and resources. We marshalled 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,” he said.
“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.”
“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.
“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 and 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 and normalisation 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.
“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.”
On the Niger Delta, the President said government was committed to implementing the United Nations Environment Programme report and advance the clean-up operations, maters sing that the way forward was 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,” he said
“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, livestock, 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,” he added
On the missing Chibok secondary school girls, the president assured that a negotiation process was on to secure their release. “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.”