By Henry Umoru
ABUJA—THE Presidency, yesterday, gave an insight into why the Federal Government was slow at rescuing the over 200 Government Secondary School girls kidnapped by Boko Haram insurgents in Chibok, Borno State, on April 14.
The Presidency also disclosed that plans were being put in place by the Federal Government to block domestic and international sources of funds for the insurgents group.
According to the Presidency, the present slow and steady method became imperative to avoid a repeat of the 2004 experience when 300 children were killed in an attempt by Russians to free hostages held by Chechens in the North Caucasus region of Russia.
Speaking yesterday at a Chatham House lecture series held at the Royal institute of International Affairs in London, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr Doyin Okupe, said that the Nigerian military, other security agencies as well as their international allies, have the wherewithal to secure the freedom of the over 200 Chibok girls from their abductors, but would like to thread with caution because making Nigeria and Nigerians happy at the end of the day would be to bring back the girls alive to reunite with their families.
Dr Okupe who spoke on Priorities and Progress in Nigeria: Imperatives for stability and Growth, described tackling the current insecurity in the North Eastern part of the country as the major priority of the Federal Government. He, however, lamented that the various acts of insurgency were slowing down growth in other equally important sectors of the economy.
According to Okupe: “We are taking advantage of the offers from our international military and intelligence allies to get a greater understanding of the landscape and identify key locations . We are working with our neighbours to secure the borders and limit the movements of the Boko Haram fighters, building on the agreements reached at the recent summits in Paris and London”
While speaking on the various milestones attained by the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan in the last three years, Dr Okupe said the reduction of Nigeria’s food import bills by half as well as successful implementation of reforms in critical sectors of the economy are crucial to the attainment of social and economic stability.
The presidential aide asserted that since Nigeria attained independence in 1960,no administration has done so much as the Jonathan administration in guaranteeing food sufficiency, better power output,effective transportation and general macro economic stability.
He said, “ Consequent upon the faithful implementation of the transformation agenda , by the end of 2013 Nigeria’s nonoil exports had increase ten fold over two years, reaching almost 3 billion dollars from 276 million dollars in 2011. Nigeria is once again the world’s largest producer of cassava, a major rawmaterial in the European and Asiatic food markets, and also accounted for thirty six per cent of the total global cocoa exports in 2013″
While describing the reforms carried out in the transportation sector in the last three years as unprecedented , Okupe said, “President Jonathan inherited a road transport network that was near total collapse. Critical economic roads, such as the Lagos Ibadan expressway, the Shagamu Ore Benin road; the Kano Maiduguri expressway, the Abuja Abaji Lokoja expressway, the Enugu Port harcourt road, and the East West road, were in a state of total or near total disrepair resulting in countless accidents and needless loss of life with the attendant extreme frustration of commuters who spend countless hours travelling across the country but massive reconstruction and rehabilitation which were embarked upon ensured that well over 60 per cent of Nigeria’s total existing road network have been repaired or are undergoing rehabilitation.”
According to him, that train services which were almost non existent in 2011 had been revitalised with old rail lines rehabilitated and new modern ones being constructed, adding, “The trains now provide means of transportation to over four million Nigerians annually. There are new gauge lines under construction from Ajaokuta to Warri, Abuja to Kaduna while the Eastern axis of railway from Portharcourt to Maiduguri is nearing completion”
On the reforms carried out by the Jonathan administration in the Power sector, Dr Okupe said it was significant that Nigeria rose from a power generation capacity of less that three thousand megawatts in 2011 to almost five thousand megawatts in 2013.
He said the completion of ten new power plants as we’ll as successful privatisation of the power infrastructure have increased the capacity of the Nigerian power sector to gradually meet the needs of the 165 million Nigerian population and that within the next few years most Nigerian cities would be having a minimum of 18 hours uninterrupted power supply.
On the forthcoming 2015 general elections, Okupe said President Jonathan remains committed to ensuring that the vote of every Nigerian counts in deciding who occupies which elective office and that the President would not waiver in his resolve to maintain the independence and integrity of the Electoral body.
The Chatham House lecture was chaired by The Director, Area studies /International Law and Head of the Africa Programme of the Chatham House, Alex vines .