By Oscarline Onwuemenyi
ABUJA—PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, said yesterday, that any discussion about convening a Sovereign National Conference in Nigeria should be forgotten, noting it was “highly irrelevant and unnecessary at this time.”
The President who said it was a waste of time for Nigerians to be talking about convening a National Conference, stressed that what was needed was good and visionary leadership to move the country forward.
He said: “Any talk about a convergence of the different ethnic groups should have taken place after the amalgamation in 1914 by Lord Lugard, and not this time when we are four years away from celebrating our centenary (100 years) as a nation. I believe it is irrelevant at this time because we have a 1999 Constitution, and a National Assembly, that should make good laws to govern our country.”
President Jonathan, who was speaking during a Presidential Policy Dialogue at the 16th Nigerian Economic Summit in Abuja, noted that the key to economic transformation lies in effective cooperation between the private and the public sector.
Speaking on the theme of the summit “ Nigeria at 50: The Challenge of Visionary Leadership and Good Governance,” the President lamented that after 50 years of independence, the country was still languishing in corruption.
He noted: “Every Nigerian is concerned whenever we are branded as one of the most corrupt nations in the world. As a government, we are devising ways and means of tackling the menace of corruption and to bring it to the barest minimum.
“We believe that the simple solution to corruption in the country lies in building and strengthening institutions that would fight corruption, by giving them a free hand. I can assure you that if we continue doing this, in the next five years, this whole thing about corruption will go down drastically.
“When people ask me about how we are fighting corruption, I wonder if I’m the policeman whose job it is to fight corruption. But, I guess, the work of the President is to strengthen and equip the policeman and give him a free hand to enable him to do work effectively.”
Jonathan added: “The problem we have now in the Niger Delta today is not militancy; our greatest headache in the region is the high scale bunkering going on in the place.”
He also urged the political class to exhibit discipline and lead by example, adding that the fight against corruption would amount to nought unless the politicians are willing to change.
The President added that the government has traced the issue of militancy to the era of late Isaac Boro, stating that it was now a thing of the past since the Federal Government has put in place the amnesty programme.
He admitted that although the amnesty programme was facing some hiccups, he nonetheless stated that the government was doing everything within its disposal to ensure the success of the projects
Raising alarm over the large scale bunkering going on in the Niger Delta region, the President said that right now, this was the greatest headache of government.
To reduce the grandiose bunkering, the President disclosed that he has mandated the Chief of Naval Staff to wade in with a view to preserving the country’s depleting wealth
On the recent spate of kidnapping going on in the South East, President Jonathan said it was criminal and done for purely commercial reasons.
Talking tough, the President said the government would not fold its hand and allow criminals to scare the citizens and investors coming into the country.
To demonstrate the government’s resolve, he said a lot of spending had been going on in the last few months to procure security equipments that would be deployed in fighting the criminals.
On the important role of power in the economy, the President blamed policy inconsistency on the past of government as one of the reasons for the poor power situation in the country, adding: “Investment in power is not consistent because of instability, the nation cannot grow without investment in power.”
Chairman of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group, NESG, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, said the nation was at a moment of great challenge and great opportunity.
He added: “Fifty years through different systems of government and several development strategies, a consensus has emerged on the need to unravel Nigeria’s development dilemma through the critical interrogation of the nexus between politics and the economy with a view to identifying issues which have constrained the creativity needed to superintend Nigeria towards the realisation of her manifest destiny, as a strong, prosperous and competitive nation.”