I bring you all warm greetings and best wishes for the New Year on behalf of our dear President, His Excellency, Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua. Although Mr. President has been away from us for sometime on account of a medical condition, he has maintained sustained interest and optimism regarding the various challenges, as well as the possibilities available to us as a nation.
We are also immensely grateful to all Nigerians, both at home and in the Diaspora, for the concern, prayers and best wishes. As Vice President, I am particularly encouraged by this show of goodwill toward Mr. President and the First Family. As a nation, whose moral forte is deeply engrained in abiding faith in Godâ€™s omnipotence and supreme benevolence, we are hopeful Mr. President would return to us before long to continue his good works, with renewed vigour and vitality.
2.Â Â Â Â Today, we enter year 2010, as a nation, as families and as individuals with a new hope and a new promise. As a united and strong Nigerian family, we must embrace the new season determined to make the most out of the opportunities that this year will offer, by translating into reality, our collective hopes and aspirations for a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.
3.Â Â Â Â But first, our thanks and gratitude must go to God Almighty who has always bestowed generous benevolence and favour on us.Â We remain especially grateful to Him for giving both the people and leadership of our country the strength and courage to continue to pilot our countryâ€™s affairs. The year 2010 is particularly significant for us as it heralds our golden jubilee as a sovereign and independent nation.
4.Â Â Â Â Let me assure all Nigerians, that under Mr. Presidentâ€™s visionary leadership and policy direction, the ship of state continues to sail. The nation remains united and driven by a common purpose and is poised to thrive and forge ahead.
5.Â Â Â Â In course of 2009, government recorded far reaching achievements in various areas of our national life through the implementation of the Seven Point Agenda. As this is not an occasion for stock-taking, various ministers have been directed to render details of their achievements in the days ahead. However, the year that has just passed, also threw up numerous challenges for our nation.
For instance, in many parts of the country, poverty remains a number one problem that must be confronted. True progress and development of the country can only begin when all our citizens, without exception, move out of a marginal existence. This is a task that Government is determined to accomplish.Â We must therefore redouble all effort to collectively work towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, which set the appropriate benchmarks and milestones for bringing our entire population to acceptable levels of social and economic wellbeing..
6.Â Â Â Â All of these will require more fiscal discipline, and greater commitment to budgetary implementation.Â We must also do more to ensure project completion and more visible action in cutting down on waste, especially in the public sector.Â We must continue to pursue relentlessly, the national effort to combat corruption in all its manifestations. This is a battle that must be won.
To this effect, let me stress that, in the New Year and beyond, greater demand on accountability, transparency and performance would be placed on all public officers.
7.Â Â Â Â Along the line of Mr. Presidentâ€™s â€œservant leadershipâ€ philosophy, the opportunity of public service by all must be seen and appreciated as a sacred and public trust. Public officers should therefore be prepared to give greater value and account of their stewardship.Â We will also continue with the ongoing reform within the Civil Service to better position it. We will deliver on Mr. Presidentâ€™s promise of good governance and no excuses will be tenable.
8.Â Â Â Â We also face the challenge of keeping our teeming youths gainfully occupied. This is at the core of Mr. Presidentâ€™s desires. Unlike in the past, Nigerian youths of today are well educated, well skilled and mentally well disposed to playing pivotal roles in various aspects of our national life, particularly in the economy.
9.Â Â Â Â Beyond policy pronouncement, priority attention would therefore be placed on training and retraining in the areas of entrepreneurial development, skill acquisition and provision of more financial incentives and packages to position our youth to better manage their own businesses.
10.Â Â The spotlight which we intend to place on youth employment-generation and business development is within the broader context of reinvigorating the overall productive sectors of the economy through deliberate policy measures to boost the private sector.
11.Â Â Â Still on the economy, I am happy to state that prudent macro-economic management and the relative stability which the world energy market experienced in recent times played no small part in aiding our ability to cope with the global financial meltdown. However, the cracks within our financial system and the vulnerability which still confronts us in this sector became obvious, and Government had to take painful but needed measures to bring sanity and rebuild confidence in the banking sector.
12.Â Â The logic of this process, which is still evolving, has inevitably created challenges, including liquidity crunches and staff-rationalization. Let me assure all Nigerians that the National Economic Council and the Governmentâ€™s Economic Management Team are fully aware of these matters.
Shortly, policy measures will be announced to ensure that the individuals who are directly affected by the fallouts of the reforms are spared undue hardship through job creation and economic stimulus programmes.
13.Â Â Peace and security are two of mankindâ€™s most treasured needs. The tide of insecurity which plagued the Niger Delta for years has thankfully been brought under appreciable control. Thanks to Mr. Presidentâ€™s bold amnesty programme, peace has now been restored, thereby creating wide opportunities for a robust programme of development for the area and stability for the national economy as a whole. We will now build on the successes recorded so far and commence concrete implementation of other phases of the programme, especially as they relate to youth empowerment as well as physical, social and economic development of the Niger Delta.
14.Â Â Despite this robust achievement in the Niger Delta, we are aware that in the course of the past year, peace in some other parts of the country was shattered as a result of a number of other unpleasant experiences. Similarly cases of religious intolerance and violence, which resulted in unfortunate loss of lives and property also occurred, causing anxiety and apprehension among peace-loving Nigerians.
15.Â Â As if these were not enough, on Christmas day, we were presented with the most disturbing report that one of our own attempted to commit a most heinous terrorist act. Gladly, tragedy was averted, but this singular act, which is completely alien to our culture and way of life has no doubt inflicted deep wounds in our national psyche.
Following this unfortunate incident, even if isolated, our security services will be more vigilant and also work concertedly to guarantee the security of life and property throughout the country, especially at our ports of entry and exit.
16.Â Â Let me restate as Mr. President has always insisted, Nigerians must be able to live in complete safety and security at all times. Towards this end, we will adopt a mix of proactive actions, including enhanced intelligence-gathering, effective preemptive crime detection and containment as well as result-oriented investigation and law enforcement.
Government will also encourage greater inter-service and inter-agency co-operation and technological optimization to match new challenges. Our overall response will be firm, effective and robust.
17.Â Â At the inception of this Administration, we promised to drastically improve access to electricÂ Â Â power by the end of 2009. This is because power is a basic necessity in a technologically-driven world. Our target, which was modest, was set at generating 6,000 megawatts of electricity by year end.
While I am happy today to report that we have achieved some substantial measure of success, I regret to mention that for a number of unforeseen and unavoidable reasons, this target could not be met. Millions of Nigerian are therefore still without power. For this, I render on behalf of government very sincere regrets..
18.Â Â As we enter this New Year, spirited efforts and resources will be mobilized to address the challenge of power supply and ensure higher generation as well as more effective transmission and distribution.
19.Â Â I note with concern that Nigerians continue to suffer pain and stress at fuel queues. Be assured that this situation is quite disturbing to government. Far-reaching measures are therefore being taken to make this unfortunate trend a thing of the past.
20.Â This year represents a watershed in our efforts to conduct peaceful and credible elections and the consolidation of our democracy. Let me reiterate Mr. Presidentâ€™s commitment that elections must not only be free and fair, but must be all-inclusive and conducted with the utmost transparency. Our elections must enjoy the indelible mark of credibility and acceptability both nationally and internationally. Towards this end, we remain focused in the actualization of the promise of working closely with the National Assembly to implement far-reaching electoral reforms to ensure that future electoral politics in Nigeria will witness a new lease of life.
21.Â Â We must resolve to enter this New Year looking forward with expectation and faith in God who has continued to be our guide, guard and helper. Let us stretch out our hands and reach out to fellow Nigerians, regardless of our beliefs, status and political persuasions. Let us resolve to combine our collective strengths and garner our great store of talents to build our nation.
One thing is certain; Nigeria will prosper when we work together, united in a common purpose, knowing that our labour, even if not seen and acknowledged, is never in vain. The true heroes and heroines of our great nation are often the unseen, and the unnoticed among us. Yet, we all know that the seeds which we plant and nurture now, will, in due season, yield the fruits of our collective dreams.
22.Â Â Nigeria is a great nation of good people; a nation of enterprising men and women who value dignity and hard work. We are a nation specially blessed by God and our best moments are yet to come. Nigeriaâ€™s destiny and destination to greatness is on course.
Let us use this fiftieth year of our statehood as a fulcrum for our national renewal and repositioning for a more productive engagement in the comity of nations. This journey is irreversible. Let us not forget that even as we grapple with our own challenges, we are a source of hope and encouragement to many around us.
These truths form the inspiration we need to re-build our nation and keep aglow the vision of our founding fathers.
23.Â Â On behalf of Mr. President, I wish all Nigerians a happy and fruitful 2010.
24.Â God bless Nigeria.