The Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, spoke on the moves to bridge the communication gap between government and Nigerians at the second edition of the Town Hall meeting for the South-East held in Umuahia, Abia State capital. Extracts from his speech at the occasion:

The Change Begins With Me campaign, which was launched by President Muhammadu Buhari on Sept. 8 2016, is aimed at achieving a paradigm shift in the way we do things. Simply put, it is geared towards achieving an attitudinal change. As they say, you cannot continue to do things the same way and expect a different result.

With the total breakdown of our core values in the past years, it is imperative that we re-orientate ourselves with a view to restoring those time-tested values of honesty, integrity, diligence, hard work, punctuality, patriotism and abhorrence of corruption, among others. It is important to stress that Change Begins With Me is a national campaign. It has no political, religious or ethnic coloration.

From Left: Deputy Governor of Abia State, Chief Ude Oko Chukwu; Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah; Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige; Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed; Governor of Abia State, Chief Okezie Ikpeazu; Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh and the Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Alhaji Abubakar Bawa Bwari at the second edition of the“South East Town Hall Meeting and the Launch of the National Re-orientation Campaign tagged “Change Begins with Me” in Umuahia, Abia State, on Monday.

This is the ninth in the series of the Town Hall Meetings which we launched in Lagos on April 25, 2016, with a view to bridging the communication gap between the government and the people, carrying the people along in the process of governance and also getting the necessary feedback from the citizens.

So far, we have also held the meeting in Kaduna, Kano, Uyo, Enugu, Ilorin and twice in Abuja. We will continue to engage with Nigerians through this and other fora, because people participation is at the very heart of democracy.

One issue that is very important to our administration is the diversification of the economy away from oil. Boosting industrial development, especially through the local production of goods and services, is a major plank of this policy. Patronising Made-in-Nigeria goods and services is also key to the success of the policy. In this regard, I can boldly say that Abia State is a pacesetter.

Today, the state supplies high-quality military boots to our military, and that is just one of such impressive ventures by the state. So, while the state is boosting local production of goods and services, the military is patronising Made-in-Nigeria goods. It’s a symbiotic relationship, and there is no better way to give teeth to the economic diversification policy.

Talking about Made-in-Nigeria products, let me use this important national platform to announce that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) has already approved measures to sensitize Nigerians to patronize such products. These measures include the approval given to the Bureau of Public Procurement to increase the patronage of Made-in-Nigeria goods and services through a review of its Act.

A major way of encouraging growth and development as well as boosting the nation’s economy is by helping the small businesses to blossom. To achieve this, the Federal Government has taken the bull by the horns by working with the states to address the root problems facing the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME).

This is being done through Clinics organized in each state, and this will be followed up with a huge MSME Trade Fair in Abuja later in the year, where grant agencies and investors will be invited to provide funds for outstanding businesses. I am happy to announce that the Clinic was launched here in Abia State, specifically in Aba, on the 26th and 27th of January 2017. That’s a befitting tribute to Abia’s trail-blazing efforts at nurturing MSMEs.

Also, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council, which is presided over by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, has approved a 60-day national action plan for ease of doing business in Nigeria. The reforms include making it possible for new businesses to be registered online from start to finish without having to visit the CAC office, streamlining the number of agencies operating at the nation’s ports to just six, introduction of Visa on Arrival, Tourist and Business Visas and 48-hour Visa processing procedures by the Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), reducing the number of forms required to incorporate a business in Nigeria from seven to one, and opening of additional 28 offices for issuance of Residence Permits in Nigeria, thus bringing the issuance of Combined Expatriate Residence Permit And Aliens Cards (CERPAC) closer to the doorstep of employers of expatriates at all 36 states and FCT.

There is no doubt that these measures, plus the continuous encouragement of pace-setting states like Abia through patronage and other means, will boost local production in Nigeria and give a much-needed bounce to the nation’s economy.



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