By our reporters
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, warned Niger Delta militants that they could not continue to hold Nigeria to ransom. Buhari also said his administration was working hard to reposition Nigeria for prosperity, urging Nigerians not to be deterred by the current economic crisis, which, according to him, will not last. The President, who recalled his promises during his campaigns as a presidential candidate, stated that he would not deviate from the hallmark of transparency and honesty. The remarks were contained in his broadcast to commemorate the 56th independence anniversary of Nigeria.
Buhari’s warning to the militants in the oil-rich region came barely one week after the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) resumed hostilities following several weeks of ceasefire to facilitate dialogue on issues in the area.
He began: “Today – 1st October is a day of celebration for us Nigerians. On this day, 56 years ago, our people achieved the most important of all human desires – freedom and independence. We should all, therefore, give thanks and pray for our founding fathers without whose efforts and toil we would not reap the bounties of today.
“I know that uppermost in your minds today is the economic crisis. The recession for many individuals and families is real. For some It means not being able to pay school fees, for others it’s not being able to afford the high cost of food (rice and millet) or the high cost of local or international travel, and for many of our young people the recession means joblessness, sometimes after graduating from university or polytechnic.
“I know how difficult things are, and how rough business is. All my adult life I have always earned a salary and I know what it is like when your salary simply is not enough. In every part of our nation people are making incredible sacrifices”.
Reflecting on his motive for running for the presidency, Buhari said: “But let me say to all Nigerians today, I ran for office four times to make the point that we can rule this nation with honesty and transparency, that we can stop the stealing of Nigeria’s resources so that the resources could be used to provide jobs for our young people, security, infrastructure for commerce, education and healthcare. “I ran for office because I know that good government is the only way to ensure prosperity and abundance for all. I remain resolutely committed to this objective.
“I believe that this recession will not last.”
‘We have crushed Boko Haram’
Highlighting his achievements in almost one and a half years of his government, the President said he placed security ahead of every other thing, saying the terror group Boko Haram, had been defeated.
“Temporary problems should not blind or divert us from the corrective course this government has charted for our nation. We have identified the country’s salient problems and we are working hard at lasting solutions”, he stated.
“To re-cap what I have been saying since the inception of this administration, our problems are security, corruption and the economy, especially unemployment and the alarming level of poverty.
“On security, we have made progress. Boko Haram was defeated by last December – only resorting to cowardly attacks on soft targets, killing innocent men, women and children.
“Nigerians should thank our gallant men of the Armed Forces and Police for rescuing large areas of the country captured by insurgents. Now, residents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa States, as well as several neighbouring states go about their daily business in relative safety. People can go to mosques, churches, market places in reasonable safety.
“Commuters can travel between cities, towns and villages without fear. Credit for this remarkable turn-round should go to our Armed Forces, the Police, various sponsored and private vigilante groups, the local traditional leaders. Security is a top to bottom concern and responsibility.
“Besides Boko Haram, we are confronting other long-running security issues, namely herdsmen vs farmers, cattle rustling, kidnappings. This administration is firmly resolved to tackle these challenges and to defeat them.”
`I will deal with Niger-Delta militants’
On the attacks on oil and gas installations in the Niger-Delta, Buhari vowed to crush militants. The President said: A new insurgency has reared up its head in the shape of blowing up gas and oil pipelines by groups of Niger Delta Militants. This administration will not allow these mindless groups to hold the country to ransom.
“What sense is there to damage a gas line as a result of which many towns in the country including their own town or village is put in darkness as a result? What logic is there in blowing up an export pipeline and as a result income to your state and local governments and consequently their ability to provide services to your own people is reduced?
“No group can unlawfully challenge the authority of the Federal Government and succeed. Our Administration is fully sympathetic to the plight of the good people of Niger Delta and we are in touch with the State Governments and leaderships of the region. It is known that the clean-up of the Ogoniland has started. Infrastructural projects financed by the Federal Government and post amnesty programme financing will continue.
“We have however, continued to dialogue with all groups and leaders of thought in the region to bring lasting peace”.
‘Corruption must be fought’
On corruption, Buhari said it is a cancer which must be fought with all the weapons at our disposal. He explained: “It corrodes the very fabric of government and destroys society. Fighting corruption is Key, not only to restoring the moral health of the nation, but also to freeing our enormous resources for urgent socio-economic development.
“In fighting corruption, however, the government would adhere strictly by the rule of law. Not for the first time I am appealing to the judiciary to join the fight against corruption.
“The third plank in this administration’s drive to CHANGE Nigeria is re-structuring the economy. Economies behaviour is cyclical. All countries face ups and downs. Our own recession has been brought about by a critical shortage of foreign exchange. Oil price dropped from an average of hundred USD per barrel over the last decade to an average of forty USD per barrel this year and last.
“Worse still, the damage perpetrated by Niger Delta thugs on pipelines sometimes reduced Nigeria’s production to below One million barrels per day against the normal two point two million barrels per day. Consequently, the naira is at its weakest, but the situation will stabilize.
“But this is only temporary. Historically about half our dollar export earnings go to importation of petroleum and food products! Nothing was saved for the rainy days during the periods of prosperity. We are now reaping the whirlwinds of corruption, recklessness and impunity”.
Providing solutions to economic crisis
Saying there are no easy solutions to the economic crisis facing the nation, the Prersident said there are solutions nonetheless and government is pursuing them in earnest. His words: “We are to repair our four refineries so that Nigeria can produce most of our petrol requirements locally, pending the coming on stream of new refineries. That way we will save ten billion USD yearly in importing fuel.
“At the same time, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank have been mobilized to encourage local production of rice, maize, sorghum, millet and soya beans. Our target is to achieve domestic self-sufficiency in these staples by 2018.
“Already farmers in thirteen out of thirty six states are receiving credit support through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme. Kebbi state alone this year is expected to produce one million tonnes of locally grown rice, thanks to a favourable harvest this year. As part of the 13 states, Lagos and Ogun are also starting this programme. Rice alone for example costs Nigeria two billion USD to import.
“The country should be self-sufficient in basic staples by 2019. Foreign exchange thus saved can go to industrial revival requirements for retooling, essential raw materials and spare parts. It is in recognition of the need to re-invigorate agriculture in our rural communities that we are introducing the LIFE programme.
“Government recognises that irrigation is key to modern agriculture: that is why the Ministries of Agriculture and Water Resources are embarking on a huge programme of development of lakes, earth dams and water harvesting schemes throughout the country to ensure that we are no longer dependent on rain-fed agriculture for our food requirements.
“In addition, government is introducing Water Resources Bill encompassing the National Water Resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy to improve management of water and irrigation development in the country. We are reviving all the twelve River Basin Authorities, namely:
Anambra – Imo, Benin – Owena, Chad Basin, Cross River, Hadejia – Jama’are, Lower Benue, Lower Niger, Niger Delta, Ogun – Osun, Sokoto – Rima, Upper Benue and Upper Niger.
“The intention is eventually to fully commercialise them to better support crop production, aqua –culture and accelerated rural development.
“This administration is committed to the revival of Lake Chad and improvement of the hydrology and ecology of the basin. This will tune in with efforts to rehabilitate the thirty million people affected by the Boko Haram insurgency in the Lake Chad basin countries.
“The second plank in our economic revival strategy is centred on the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing. The Ministry will lead and oversee the provision of critical infrastructure of power, road transport network and housing development.
“Power generation has steadily risen since our Administration came on board from three thousand three hundred and twenty four megawatts in June 2015, rising to a peak of five thousand and seventy four megawatts in February 2016.
“For the first time in our history the country was producing five thousand megawatts. However, renewed militancy and destruction of gas pipelines caused acute shortage of gas and constant drop in electricity output available on the grid.
“There has been during the period June 2015 to September 2016 big improvement in transmission capacity from five thousand five hundred megawatts to the present seven thousand three hundred megawatts.
“There were only two system collapses between June and December 2015, but due to vandalism by Niger Delta militants the over-all system suffered 16 system collapses between March and July 2016 alone. As I have said earlier, we are engaging with responsible leadership in the region to find lasting solutions to genuine grievances of the area but we will not allow a tiny minority of thugs to cripple the country’s economy.
“In the meantime, government is going ahead with projects utilizing alternate technologies such as hydro, wind, and solar to contribute to our energy mix. In this respect, the Mambilla Hydro project, after many years of delay is taking off this year. Contract negotiations are nearing completion with Chinese firms for technical and financial commitments.
“The project is to be jointly financed by Nigeria and the Chinese-Export-Import Bank. In addition, fourteen Solar Power Projects have had their power purchase agreements concluded. Hence the plan to produce one thousand two hundred megawatts of solar electricity for the country would be realized on schedule.
“And in line with the objective of government to complete all abandoned projects across the country, the Rural Electrification Agency’s projects needing completion are provided for in the 2016 Budget. Bringing electricity to rural areas will help farmers, small scale and cottage industries to integrate with the national economy”.
On roads construction and rehabilitation nationwide, which Buhari said has taken off, he explained that N12 billion was allocated to the sector in the 2015 budget, “not enough even to pay interest on outstanding unpaid claims”.
“Notwithstanding the budgetary constraints, the current budget allocated two hundred and forty billion naira for highway projects against twelve billion naira in 2015. Many contractors who have not been paid for three years have now remobilized to sites. Seven hundred and twenty point five billion naira has so far been released this budget year to capital projects”, he stated.
“The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has received one hundred and ninety seven point five billion naira. Work on the following highways has now resumed: Dualization of Calabar – Itu Road in Cross River/Akwa Ibom States, Dualization of Lokoja – Benin Road, Ehor – Benin city, Edo State,
Re-construction of outstanding sections of Benin – Shagamu Express way, Edo/Ogun States, Expansion works on Lagos – Ibadan Dual carriageway, Ogun/Oyo States, Rehabilitation of Onitsha – Enugu Expressway, Anambra/Enugu States, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual carriageway, Abia/Rivers States, Rehabilitation of Hadejia – Nguru Road, Jigawa State, Dualization of Kano – Katsina Road, Kano State, Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road, Borno State, Dualization of Azare – Potiskum Road, Azare – Sharuri Road, Bauchi State, Rehabilitation of Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Birnin Gwari Road, Kwara State, and Construction of Oju/Lokoja – Oweto Bridge over River Benue, Benue State.
“Other major highways are in the queue for rehabilitation or new construction.
“Already contractors have recalled about nine thousand workers laid off and government expects that several hundreds of thousands of workers will be re-engaged in the next few months as our public works programme gains momentum.
“On railways, we have provided our counterpart funding to China for the building of our standard gauge Lagos -Kano railway. Meanwhile, General Electric is investing two point two billion USD in a concession to revamp, provide rolling stock, and manage the existing lines, including the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Line. The Lagos-Calabar railway will also be on stream soon.
“We have initiated the National Housing Programme. In 2014 four hundred million naira was voted for Housing. In 2015 nothing. Our first budget this year is devoting thirty five point six billion naira. Much of the house building will be private – sector led but Government is initiating a pilot housing scheme of two thousand eight hundred and thirty eight units uniformly spread across the 36 states and FCT.
“We expect these units to be completed within 4 – 6 months. These experimental Nigeria House model Units will be constructed using only made in Nigeria building materials and components. This initiative is expected to reactivate the building materials manufacturing sector, generate massive employment opportunities and develop sector capacity and expertise.
“The programmes I have outlined will revive the economy, restore the value of the naira and drive hunger from our land”.
Restoring Nigeria’s image abroad
The President disclosed that Nigeria’s standing abroad has changed beyond belief in the last 18 months. “We are no longer a pariah state. Wherever I go, I have been received with un-accustomed hospitality. Investors from all over the world are falling over themselves to come and do business in Nigeria. This government intends to make business environment more friendly because we can not develop ourselves alone”, Buhari said.
“All countries, no matter how advanced, welcome foreign investments to their economy. This is the essence of globalization and no country in the 21st century can be an island. Our reforms are therefore designed to prepare Nigeria for the 21st century.
“Finally, let me commend Nigerians for your patience, steadfastness and perseverance. You know that I am trying to do the right things for our country.”
Abubakar, Ekwueme, Sambo, Ukiwe, Diya at celebration in Aso Villa
- N/Assembly has 20 resolutions to revive economy – Saraki
Later, yesterday, a former military Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, and former Vice Presidents Alex Ekwueme and Namadi Sambo joined Buhari and his deputy, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, to celebrate the Independence anniversary.
Also, the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Mr. Mahmoud Mohammed, and the Service Chiefs were present at the event. Others who also made it to the colorful occasion were the former Chief of General Staff, CGS, Commodore Ebitu Ukiwe and his counterpart under General Sani Abacha, Lt. Gen. Oladipo Diya. The event was celebrated at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. It lasted about 2 hours. The ceremony started around 10 am at the fore-court of the Presidential Villa with the arrival of Buhari. He was ushered in by the Brigade of Guards band and later proceeded to receive the national salute which was followed by the National Anthem.
The President was assisted by some of the dignitaries in attendance to cut the anniversary cake. Speaking to journalists afterwards, Osinbajo said hope is not lost as Nigeria would get out of its current economic recession.
NASS has proposed 20 resolutions to salvage economy-Saraki
Also speaking to journalists, Saraki x-rayed Nigeria’s past, saying the country had weathered many storms. He said that despite many challenges, the country had stayed as one indivisible entity. On the current economic hardship, the Senate President said the National Assembly had proposed at least 20 resolutions to help the executive resolve the recession problem, adding that the federal parliament would take a critical look at the budget of the Niger-Delta Amnesty Programme in the 2017 budget to resolve the restiveness in the region.
“We have been able to achieve a lot for the country. I am sure in present times, people will wonder what we are celebrating. As a country, we have stayed united. We have have taken up a lot of challenges and we have come out better. I believe we have the capacity and the expires to do it this time around. People just have to believe in the country and we will get there.
“Already, as you have seen, we have sat down to address the important issue which is the economy. We have come out with about 20 point resolutions to the executive that we think they should do. We also have about four for ourselves. And we have started doing it already. In the last session, we started addressing some of these issues that we are sure will make us come out of this recession in a short while. We will start preparing for 2017 budget to ensure that there will be releases of funds that would be spent to do that.
Nigeria’s development impaired —Obasanjo
In his own anniversary message, former President Olusegun Obasanjo said Nigeria’s development is impaired, saying the country is not what it should be. Obasanjo spoke during a lecture organised by the Youth Fellowship of the Owu Baptist Church as part of the activities to mark the Independence anniversary. The former President was optimistic that Nigeria would surmount its challenges, saying Nigerians and their leaders must get it right .
“Our development is impaired, it is not what it ought to be but we must get it right,” he stated. As one of the major ways to move the country forward, he stated, “We must all accept responsibility, we must stop passing the buck” .
Obasanjo, who spoke on ‘Nigeria Development for Nigerians by Nigerians’, insisted that development of the country must not be by Nigerians alone but also include foreign investors and all friends of Nigeria.
He added that all those interested in assisting the country in its developmental efforts must also be encouraged to help it. He mentioned peace and security, education, food, sanitation, shelter as well as transportation as some of the items of development. Obasanjo lamented that one of the major things threatening the peace of the country was the high level of unemployment.Ebonyi: Umahi increases workers pay, pardons 32 prisoners
In Ebonyi State, Governor David Umahi announced the increase of workers salary. Umahi spoke during the independence day celebration and Ebonyi at 20 held at the Abakaliki Township Stadium. Umahi, who also pardoned 32 prisoners and commuted the death sentence of 14 others to life imprisonment, was full of praises for the founding fathers of the state.
He thanked a former governor of the state, Dr. Sam Egwu, for mediating during the government-labour dispute in Ebonyi, last year, and also hailed the Nigeria Labour Congress for its show of understanding.
“Let me thank the labour leaders for your commitment and for your understanding. You were pushing me because,you didn’t want workers to suspect you. Thank you for the wisdom you deployed in arriving at what we have today. And so let me announce on behalf government of Ebonyi State,that effective from October I, the increase in salaries of Ebonyi workers by five per cent.”
Ebonyi: We’ve a lot to celebrate despite challenges – Ugwuanyi
In Enugu: Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi hailed the sacrifice of the founding fathers of the nation, noting that their contributions laid the foundation for the peace, unity and progress of the nation.
Ugwuanyi’s message was contained in a broadcast to the people of Enugu State to commemorate the independence day.
The governor said that “notwithstanding the current economic challenges facing us as a nation, we have sufficient cause to celebrate”, noting that his administration was committed to delivering on its promises and advancing the frontiers of development in all sectors of the state’s economy remain unwavering. He thanked Buhari, members of the armed forces and other security agencies for their contributions towards the development and security of the country.
Nigeria’s unity not negotiable —Oshiomhole
In Edo, Governor Adams Oshiomhole said Nigeria’s unity is non-negotiable. He said, in his anniversary message, that no amount of sponsored acts of sabotage will lead to the negotiation of the nation’s unity, adding that no nation in the world is perfect.
He said: “I am one of those who believe and I am not reluctant when I say and I wish to repeat today that the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. The unity of Nigeria cannot be re-negotiated. It is not whether it is perfect or not perfect. I know of no nation that is perfect, and our elite must rethink.
“If things go wrong as Karl Marx taught us, the masses will have nothing to lose. The political elite will have everything to lose. All of us must put the national interest over and above our personal interests. Our political frustrations cannot be an excuse to sponsor people to sabotage the economy.”
Niger: Bello kicks against secession
In Niger State, Governor Abubakar Sani Bello called on those agitating for the breaking up of the country to have a rethink, adding that rather than agitate for secession, they should work towards its unity.
In his address to mark the Independence of the country at the Trade Fair Complex, Minna, the governor said the creation of Nigeria was not accidental. He recalled the solid foundation already laid by founding fathers of the country, pointing out that rather than destroy the foundation, we should build on it to make it safer for all living and those yet unborn.
Akwa Ibom: We need viable economic framework – Emmanuel
In Akwa Ibom State, Governor Udom Emmanuel emphasized the need to institutionalize a viable economic framework that would grow and sustain the Nigerian economy.
Emmanuel, during the independence day celebrations in Uyo, regretted that Nigeria had not fared well economically after 56 years of independence due to long neglect of viable sectors of the economy such as agriculture.
He, therefore, challenged every Nigerian to exhibit the patriotism and zeal to ensure that the country was redeemed from its present harsh economic situation stressing that Nigeria must regain its pride as the giant of Africa.
Ekiti at 20: Fayose commends Abacha, Fayemi, others
In Ekiti State, Governor Ayodele Fayose commended the late General Sani Abacha for making the state a reality. Fayose also commended the contributions of the administrations of Col. Mohammed Usman, Commodore Atanda Yusuf, Dr Kayode Fayemi, Niyi Adebayo and Segun Oni, in building the state. Ekiti was created on October 1, 1996 alongside Bayelsa, Gombe, Nasarawa, Ebonyi and Zamfara states. Fayose spoke while addressing stakeholders at Oluyemi Kayode Stadium, shortly after the Independence Walk to mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of the state.
Kogi: Support change mantra – Bello
In Kogi State, Governor Yahaya Bello announced the setting up of a commission of inquiry to probe the state administrations from 2003 to date to recover looted funds.
The governor spoke at the independence day celebrations in Lokoja, the state capital. “We have set up Judicial Panel of Inquiry charged with the responsibility to review the activities of the past administrations; whoever is found culpable will be sanctioned in accordance to the law of the land”, Bello said. “This past 56 years has been very challenging no doubt, but there have also been years in which the Nigerian spirit have proved how been indomitable and resilient we are in keeping the country as one”.
Ogun: Let us support Buhari -Amosun
In Ogun State, Governor Ibikunle Amosun urged Nigerians to join hands with Buhari’s administration to tackle the challenges facing the country, saying: “We all have important roles to play in the development of the nation.” Amosun also praised the selfless contributions of heroes that fought for the nation’s independence and urged politicians in the country to emulate them.
The governor spoke at the celebration of the independence anniversary held at the M.K.O Abiola International Stadium.
Amosun said, “We have weathered together a lot storm as a nation and experiences have taught us to have resilience and we have come out stronger and we will continue to come out stronger. We will use our diversity which is indeed our strength, it is a testament to our resilience that we are still standing as a nation.
“Some of the most recent threats that have impede our nation are the attacks of Boko-Haram insurgence group in the NorthEast, the militancy in the Niger-Delta and so many of these crises but one thing that we cannot take away from our Nigerianness is our ability despite all the challenges, we are resolved that we will all be together.”
Buhari out of touch with reality – Fani-Kayode
In his own anniversary message, the former spokesperson for the President Goodluck Jonathan’s Presidential Campaign Organisation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, took a swipe at Buhari, saying he was out of touch with reality, just as he stressed that Nigeria has been divided along religious and ethnic lines under his government more than any government in the nation’s entire history.
According to him, the President’s solution and remedies to the complex economic problems of a modern-nation state in 2016 were simply the same with the ones that he proffered and “which failed him woefully when he was military Head of State between 1983 and 1985”. Fani-Kayode added: “We really appear to be going down the drain under his leadership.”
In his Independence message, titled, “ Nigeria at 56 and the worship of Baal”, Fani- Kayode said the Buhari government was only good at blaming all the past PDP Presidents, for its failures and inability to perform.
Emulate our heroes past -PDP, South Africa Chapter
Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, South-Africa Chapter, in its own message, urged Nigerian leaders to emulate the labour of our heroes past as it remains a major recipe for Nigeria’s development.
The Chairman, Hon. Ekos Akpokabayen, who spoke in Lagos, said: “Nigeria at independence showed heroic personal sacrifices made by the likes of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Michael Okpara which are quite commendable and should be emulated by Nigerians.
“It is important to hang our hopes on the fact that there will always be trying times in the life of every nation, but times like this are meant for sober reflections which will culminate into that will drive us into that future of our dreams.”
Delta: Be proud of Nigeria – Okowa
In Delta State, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa said God did not make a mistake in his decision to make us Nigerians, urging the people to be proud of their nation.
Okowa, who spoke in Asaba during the independence day celebrations, said: “We should be proud to be Nigerians. God, in His infinite wisdom, did not make a mistake in His decision to plant us in Nigeria as Nigerians.
“Today (yesterday) is a day to celebrate the free spirit of Nigeria; we should be gratified to be part of such a glorious state and great nation; let us pay tribute to our countrymen and women who sacrificed so that we can celebrate this day; we should never forget their sacrifices.”
Delta Deputy Speaker preaches unity, patriotism
Also, Delta State Speaker House of Assembly, Rt. Hon. Friday Ossai Osanebi, called on Nigerians to tackle the challenges bedeviling the country with a sense of purpose and commitment.
Osanebi, in a statement marking the independence anniversary, noted that the nation was passing through challenges, which need corporate approach and not further division along party, tribal and religious lines.
British ex-serviceman calls for unity in Nigeria
Mr. Babatunde Odunuga, a frontline social and political activist, called on Nigerians to use the celebrations to come together as one to fight for a common goal. Odunuga said the country has every justification to dwell more on what is not right, especially as Nigeria goes through a difficult period of recession. Odunuga spoke at a forum in London organised to celebrate Nigeria’s independence day, which he tagged, ‘Nigeria and the Unity of all Tribes.’
Globacom, in its own independence day message, felicitated with the government and people of Nigeria. The company said the anniversary called for celebration because of the ability of the people to keep the nation together notwithstanding the challenges over the years.
The data grandmasters noted that Nigerian citizens had through uncommon resilience, patriotism, industry and enterprise kept the country as one entity since gaining independence in 1960. It said it was of the firm belief that the current economic challenges were only temporary and that Nigerians would have cause to cheer in the near future.