BY DAUD OLATUNJI & FRANKLIN ALLI
ABEOKUTA — President Goodluck Jonathan, yesterday, echoed the anger and frustration of the generality of Nigerians over the menace of Boko Haram in the country, saying Nigerians are tired of bombing.
The president who spoke at the official commissioning of six million metric tonnes Dangote Cement Manufacturing Plant, Ibese, Ogun State also lamented the rate of unemployment in the country, describing it is our greatest problem. He also defended the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger, (GCON) given to the Chairman, Dangote group of companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote by the Federal Government.
Speaking on challenges of insecurity in the country, Jonathan said, Nigerians want to hear about commissioning of industrial plants and not bombing.
He said: “Story about commissioning is what Nigerians want to hear; Nigerians are tired of hearing that there is bomb explosion in Maiduguri or Kano or Bayelsa states. Yes, we have security challenges in the country. We have challenges in terms of infrastructure but we are totally committed individually and collectively to getting the country out of this situation. Our children want a better Nigeria than this”.
On the unemployment situation in the country, President Jonathan said: “Our greatest problem as a country is the rate of unemployment. If anybody can come up with policy and programmes that will create jobs, definitely, government will embrace that person and will continue to encourage that person”.
Jonathan defends GCON award to Dangote
Reacting to criticisms that trailed the award of GCON to Alhaji Dangote, the president said: “Let me appreciate Aliko Dangote for what he has been doing for this great country. In fact, when I honoured him by giving him the GCON, a number of people condemned it out of ignorance. People even said I gave the award reserved for Vice-President to a person who did not hold a political office”.
President Jonathan also promised to review the concessioning of major highways such as the Lagos/Ibadan Expressway and Benin-Ore Road with a view to fast-tracking their reconstruction and enhance socio-economic development of host states and the nation.
He commended the government of Ogun State for making its land conducive for business investments and lauded the contribution of Alhaji Aliko Dangote to the economic development of Nigeria. He noted the importance of the new cement plant towards addressing the unemployment situation in the country and reducing the pressure on foreign exchange occasioned by importation of cement.
President Jonathan restated the determination of his government to transform the country by providing enabling environment for private investment.
While speaking at the occasion, Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, appealed to the Federal Government to save the Lagos-Ibadan and Sagamu-Benin-Ore Expressways, which he described as the busiest in Africa and of strategic importance to the economy of Ogun State and Nigeria in general.
Amosun tasks FG on federal roads
According to Amosun: “It is noteworthy that industrialisation cannot take place without easy and safe movement of persons and goods. Ogun State is fortunate to have over 80 per cent of the Lagos–Ibadan Expressway located in its territory while it equally hosts significant portion of the Sagamu–Ore-Benin Expressway. We therefore believe that these roads deserve better attention than they are currently receiving.”
He called on the Federal Government to review existing agreements on the two highways, especially the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway saying, Ogun State was ready to partner with the Federal Government to ensure that the roads were properly reconstructed to serve all Nigerians.
He reiterated the determination of his administration to pursue policies aimed at industrialising the state in line with the 5-point agenda of his administration through provision of basic infrastructure and enabling environment for business to thrive. The governor promised to restore agriculture to its former glory, making it the backbone of the state’s economy.
He commended the Chairman of Dangote Group of Companies, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, for his outstanding entrepreneurial skills and giant strides in reshaping the landscape of Nigeria for good. He urged Dangote Group of Companies to consider making major interventions on adjoining roads leading to the new plant like the Papalanto-Ilaro-Ibese and Itori-Onigbedu-Ibese Roads. Governor Amosun also thanked the President for “creating the enabling environment for this kind of gigantic project to materialise”.
In his remarks, Chairman, Dangote Cement Plc, Aliko Dangote, described the event as a watershed, that would transform Nigeria from a net importer to self-sufficient, exporter of cement. He lauded the backward integration policy of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and thanked President Jonathan’s continuous support for private investment in Nigeria.
Dangote who hinged achievement of vision 20:2020 on industrialization, disclosed that by 2014 his company would have covered 14 African countries as well as production of 60 million metric tonnes of cement per annum. This, according to him, would place Dangote among the top eight cement producing companies in the world.
The Ibese company, according to Dangote, would provide 7,000 jobs. He promised to expand Obajana Plant to become the biggest in the world. Alhaji Dangote commended Governor Amosun for ensuring law and order and making the state a safe haven for investors.
He commended president Jonathan for his unwavering commitment to providing the enabling environment which according to him, has helped businesses to thrive in the country.
The multi-billion naira Ibese Cement Plant, the largest in Sub-saharan Africa, is a green field plant with capacity of six million metric tonnes cement production per annum. Except for the typical grade of gypsum, all required raw materials for producing cement such as limestone, shale and red soil are readily available at Ibese Mines in Ogun State.
At the commissioning ceremony were Governors Musa Kwankwaso of Kano, Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Adams Oshiomhole (Edo), Chris Wada (Kogi) and Peter Obi (Anambra). Other top public functionaries at federal and state levels, traditional rulers and leading industrialists also graced the occasion.