Today, President Muhammadu Buhari has called on Nigerians to give thanks to God and pray for the founding fathers as Nigeria celebrates her 56th independence day anniversary. In his address to the nation this morning, Buhari said today is a day of celebration for Nigeria as she achieved the most important of all human desires, freedom and independence, 56 years ago. Here are some highlights from his speech:
1. On economic recession
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. I believe that this recession will not last. 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.
2. On security
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. 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.
3. On Niger Delta militancy
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. 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. We have however, continued to dialogue with all groups and leaders of thought in the region to bring lasting peace.
4. On corruption
Corruption is a cancer which must be fought with all the weapons at our disposal. 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.
5. On restructuring the economy
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. There are no easy solutions, but there are solutions nonetheless and government is pursuing them in earnest. 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.
6. On power generation
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. 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. Hence the plan to produce one thousand two hundred megawatts of solar electricity for the country would be realized on schedule.
7. On road construction
Roads construction and rehabilitation has taken off. The sum of twelve billion naira was allocated to this sector in the 2015 Budget, not enough even to pay interest on outstanding unpaid claims.
8. 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.
9. On housing
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. According to the president the programmes outlined will revive the economy, restore the value of the naira and drive hunger from the land. Buhari commended Nigerians for their patience, steadfastness and perseverance.