By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari on Monday night lamented the high level of poverty pervading in the country at the moment, saying that the situation makes him uncomfortable.
The president expressed his displeasure on the nation’s poverty rate when he played host to Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, the Ministers, Service Chiefs, Heads of Security Agencies and Chief Executives of Federal Government Agencies and Institutions to a breaking of fast at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He frowned at the inability of the Nigerian elites to address the welfare and educational needs of the less-privileged in the society.
President Buhari who noted that too many people were running around unable to find something to eat, challenged the elite to do something very urgent to ameliorate the pathetic situation.
He stated that already Federal Government had introduced people friendly programmes like the School Feeding and `Trader Money’ to alleviate the hardship being experienced by the less-privileged individuals across the country.
He, therefore, commended the Vice-President for successfully managing the school feeding and `trader money’ programmes
According to him, “When I drive around the country what upset me very much is the status of our poor people in this country – you see young people, the so-called Almajiris with tore dresses, with plastic bowl. They are looking basically for what to eat.
“The question of education (to them) is a luxury. I think Nigerian elite we are all failing because I think we should have a programme that will at least guarantee some basic education for our people no matter how poor they are.
“So, I welcome the Vice-President initiate of the School feeding programme. If you check in your localities the enrolment into schools improved because a lot of children can get at least one good meal a day. This is the position of this country.
“But, culturally some of us are quiet merciless, we don’t care about what happen to others we just keep on moving forward.
“This `market money’ I warned the Vice-President I don’t like him to be mobbed, especially the way I see hefty women coming and confronting him, he should be very careful.
“These are very good initiates. Initially, I was quite reluctant but I must admit that they are very good programmes and they endear this government to a lot of poor people because of these N5,000 or N10,000 being given to them as loans.
“They are fantastic programmes and I have to admit quite honestly that the Vice-President was ahead of me by insisting on them.
“But he knows me if he insists I will say `okay go and do what you like.’ He did it and I’m very pleased as he is being very successful,’’ he said.
Speaking at the event, Vice-President Osinbajo, thanked the president for inviting them, both Muslims and Christians, to the breaking of fast with him.
He said that regardless of ethnic and religious affiliations Nigerians must continue to be their brothers’ keepers and must work towards building a united nation.
He, however, condemned some politicians, who were bent on dividing the people along ethno-religious lines.
On the Ramadan period, Osinbajo said: “Mr President I must say that there are some reasons I had always look forward to the Ramadan session. But some of those reasons are now being seriously challenged.
“The first of those reasons is that during the Ramadan meetings are usually very short. But, unfortunately last Wednesday Mr President seemed to have destroyed that very good notion by taking us through the longest FEC meeting in the history of the Federal Executive Council.
“So, we shouldn’t expect anymore that meeting will necessary be short during the Ramadan.
“The second is that some of my friends are far less troublesome during the Ramadan. People like Lai Mohammed, Abba Kyari, Adamu Adamu they are usually very well behaved during the Ramadan. But I’m not even sure that that is true anymore.
“So, I think that all we can truly expect now from the session is possibility what it was meant to do which is to remind us of some of our responsibilities to ourselves as brothers and to our fellow men/women especially our roles as leaders.
“I think it is auspicious that this particular Ramadan falls at the eve of the new term in office.
“So, it is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves over the core mandates which is the welfare and security of majority of our people,’’ he said.
Those, who joined the President for the fast-breaking meal known as Iftar, included some heads of federal government agencies and institutions.
The Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, the Director-General of the Nigerian Television Authority, Alhaji Yakubu Ibn Muhammed, and the Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria, Abdullahi Mukhtar, were among the dignitaries at the event.