HIS EXCELLENCY, PRESIDENT MUHAMMADU BUHARI’S BROADCAST TO THE NATION ON ELECTIONS  FEBRUARY 14, 2019

Fellow Citizens,
On Saturday, February 16, 2019, you will, once again, be called upon to choose the leaders who will pilot the affairs of our great nation for the next four years. This is a constitutional right which should be freely exercised by all eligible voters.
2. I wish therefore to start by assuring all Nigerians that this Government will do its very best to ensure that the 2019 elections take place in a secure and peaceful atmosphere.
3. It was indeed such free, fair and peaceful elections that made it possible for our Government to emerge, despite the fact that we were contesting against a long-standing incumbent party.
4. And as your president and a fellow Nigerian, I ask that you come out and queue to fulfill this important obligation you have to yourselves and your fellow citizens – and to our common future.
5. Let me at this point, reaffirm the commitment of the Federal Government to the conduct of free and fair elections in a safe and peaceful atmosphere. Just yesterday, I signed the Peace Accord alongside 72 other presidential candidates.
6. I want to assure all Nigerians, the diplomatic community and all foreign election observers of their safety and full protection. Any comments or threats of intimidation from any source do not represent the position of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
7. As Government has a critical role in maintaining the democratic traditions, so do citizens. I therefore urge you all, as good Nigerians, to take a personal interest in promoting and maintaining peace in your respective neighbourhoods during the elections. This is certainly not a time to allow personal, religious, sectional or party interests to drive us to desperation.
8. At this point, I want to make a special appeal to our youth: Do not allow yourselves to be used to cause violence and destruction. The people who want to incite you are those preparing the ground for discrediting the elections. Having lost the argument, they fear losing the elections.
9. When you elected me in 2015, it was essentially in consequence of my promise of CHANGE. We committed ourselves to improving security across the country, putting the economy on a sound footing and tackling rampant corruption, which had in many ways become a serious drawback to national development.
10. Our Government spent the last 3 years and 9 months striving faithfully to keep this promise, in spite of very serious revenue shortages caused mainly by a sharp drop in international oil prices and an unexpected rise in the vandalisation of oil installations, which, mercifully have now been curtailed.
11. We nevertheless pressed on in our quest to diversify the economy, create jobs, reduce commodity prices and generally improve the standard of living among our people.
12. The damage that insecurity and corruption have done, over time, to our collective livelihood is incalculable. However, it is pleasing to note that our frontal attack on these twin evils is gaining momentum and bringing about visible progress.
13. The recovery of the economy from recession is complete and Nigeria is back on the path of steady growth.
14. The key to creating more jobs lies in accelerating this momentum of economic growth. Happily, we have succeeded in making the fundamental changes necessary for this acceleration, and we are now beginning to see the efforts bearing fruit.
15. Our ease of doing business policies and programmes are already impacting medium, small and micro industries, as well as Manufacturing, Mining and Agriculture, among other key sectors.
16. Our commitment to critical infrastructure – that is Roads, Rails, Bridges, Airports and Seaports – will create more jobs, improving the efficiency and competitiveness of our industries.
17. Many of these projects are at different stages of completion, and those who use them regularly will attest to the fact that even while construction is ongoing, they are beginning to see reduced travel times. This will ultimately translate to reduced costs and greater convenience, making transportation, and business in particular, much easier.
19. The economic recovery that we promised is well underway, as demonstrated by the recently released statistics. In 2018, the economy grew by 1.93%, with the Fourth Quarter growth being 2.38%, up from 1.81% in the Third Quarter.
20. Remarkably, the strong economic performance was driven by the Non-Oil sector, which grew at 2% as at full year. Indeed, Non-Oil growth rose to 2.7% in the Fourth Quarter of 2018, up from 2.32% in the Third Quarter. These results further underscore our commitment to diversifying the economy away from the past dependence on Oil.
21. Other indicators confirm the economy’s steady recovery. Our monthly food import bill has declined from $664 million in January 2015 to $160 million as at October 2018. Inflation fell from 18.72% in January 2017 to 11.44% in December 2018. Our External Reserves have risen from $23 billion in October 2016 to $43.12 billion as at 7th February 2019.
22. Now that the recession is well behind us, our next task is to redouble our efforts, accelerate the growth and use it to create even more jobs for our people.
23. The Executive Orders, No. 5, and No. 7 issued by me, and the recently approved National Infrastructure Maintenance Policy demonstrate our commitment to accelerated job creation and infrastructure development.
24. We believe that Governments cannot simply proclaim jobs into existence. Job creation will only expand as a result of economic policies that enable the private sector to flourish, and this is the approach our Administration has taken.
25. Executive Order No 5, which Promotes Nigerian Content in Contracts, as well as Science, Engineering and Technology, will preserve and prioritize job creation for our citizens.
26. Executive Order 7, on the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, seeks to mobilize private capital and capacity for infrastructure development.
27. It responds to the demands of manufacturing and industrial complexes which wish to construct access roads without waiting for government, so long as they are allowed to recover the cost from taxes they would have paid to government.
28. We expect that this approach will boost industrial expansion and rural development, consequently creating more jobs for our people.
29. Similarly, our recently issued Maintenance Policy targets artisans, carpenters, welders, tailors, painters, bricklayers, electricians, plumbers, landscapers and many more Ordinary Nigerians at the base of our economic pyramid who will get regular and large-scale opportunities to improve themselves.
30. It is an economic solution that also brings the relevant artisans and professionals into long term sustainable employment to maintain our Schools, Court Rooms, Hospitals, Police Stations, Federal Secretariats and other Public Buildings.
31. Human Capital Development has also been a key priority for this Administration, which has increased investments in health and education. Innovative measures have been introduced to complement the traditional budgetary allocations to the relevant Ministries.
32. For instance, Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority has invested US$21 million in three healthcare projects as a Public Private Partnership with three Federal medical institutions. These include two modern Medical Diagnostic Centres located at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano and the Federal Medical Centre, Umuahia; as well as one outpatient Cancer Treatment Centre in Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Lagos – which I commissioned on 9th February 2019.
33. Of course, our radical commitment to developing Critical Infrastructure is the foundation upon which we will deliver an all embracing national prosperity and a shared commonwealth.
34. There is no country that aspires to greatness without spending massively on its Critical Infrastructure. Rather than the discredited policy of ‘stomach infrastructure’, which could only benefit a few for a little while, we are focused on real infrastructural development for the growth of our economy and the long-term benefit of all Nigerians.
35. When you voted for our message of CHANGE, you invited us to assume office and depart from that bad and most regrettable choice. We have responded by making a choice for real infrastructure of Roads in every State, Housing in 34 States, Power Stations across Nigeria, Rail from Lagos to Kano.
36. The choice that now confronts us is whether we want to continue with real infrastructure development, which is the road to prosperity and jobs or return to the era of ‘stomach infrastructure’.
37. Agricultural Self-Reliance and Food Security is also a choice we made in fulfilment of your mandate for change.
38. Our Presidential Fertiliser Initiative has resulted in savings of US$150 million in foreign exchange due to local sourcing of inputs at 16 Blending Plants. It has also conserved N60 billion in Subsidies as well as supported tens of thousands of farmers and agro-dealers nationwide.
39. Our Anchor Borrowers’ Programme has substantially raised local rice yields from as low as two Metric Tonnes per hectare, to as high as eight Metric Tonnes per hectare.
40. Through this programme, the Central Bank of Nigeria has cumulatively lent over N120 billion to over 720,000 smallholder farmers cultivating 12 commodities across the 36 States and Abuja. Targeted crops and livestock have included cattle, poultry, fish, cassava, soybeans, ground nut, ginger, sorghum, rice, wheat, cotton and maize.
41. As a result, we have seen a remarkable rise in the production of key agricultural commodities. I am pleased to note that in major departmental stores and local markets, there has been a surge in the supply of high quality Nigerian agricultural produce.
42. Behind each of these products, are thousands of industrious Nigerians working in factories and farms across the nation. Our interventions have led to improved wealth and job creation for these Nigerians, particularly in our rural communities.
43. Again, these outcomes have been a major departure from the previous focus on consuming imported food items, which literally exported our children’s jobs to food-exporting nations, whilst depleting our precious foreign exchange reserves. This, of course, caused a closure of our factories while keeping open other peoples’ factories.
44. The choice made by this Administration to assist farmers directly and promote agriculture in every way possible has gone a long way to enhance our food security while enabling us to tackle poverty by feeding over nine million children daily under our Home-Grown School Feeding Programme. It also puts us clearly on the road to becoming a food secure and agriculture exporting nation.
45. Next to Agriculture, we are focusing on Manufacturing Sector. The Purchasing Managers Index, which is the measure of manufacturing activities in an economy has risen for 22 consecutive months as at January this year, indicating continuous growth and expansion in our manufacturing sector.
46. I will conclude by going back to where I started: that our choices have had consequences about employment and cost of living.
47. In making your choice this time, please ask yourself whether, and in what ways, others will do anything different to address the issues of Agriculture, Infrastructure, Security, Good Governance and Fighting Corruption.
48. If they are only hoping to do what we are already doing successfully, we are clearly your preferred choice.
49. Think carefully and choose wisely. This time, it is a choice about consolidating on growth for Jobs and Prosperity.
50. February 16th is all about a choice. But it is more than a choice between APC and the opposition. It is a choice about you, it is a choice between going back or keeping the momentum of CHANGE.
51. The road to greater prosperity for Nigeria may be long, but what you can be assured of is a Leadership that is not prepared to sacrifice the future well-being of Nigerians for our own personal or material needs. You can be assured of my commitment to remain focused on working to improve the lives of all Nigerians.
52. Thank you very much for listening. God bless you, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Minimum wage: We’re losing patience with Fed Govt – NLC warns

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Sunday described the Federal Government’s silence on the N30,000 minimum wage proposal as provocative, stressing that it expected President Muhammadu Buhari to have sent a draft bill to the National Assembly weeks after report on the minimum wage was submitted to him.
Organised labour said it would not wait till eternity for the government on the issue.
In an interview, the General Secretary of the NLC, Mr Peter Ozo-Eson, said members of the union were becoming restless with the way the government had handled the issue, adding that unless government acted fast, the union might meet again to review government’s position and take necessary action to press home its demand.
But he did not say when the leadership of the union would likely meet.
Ozo-Eson said, “The latest about the issue of the minimum wage is clear. We expect that since the Presidency had already received our report, the President should have drafted an executive bill to the National Assembly on it so that they can begin to legislate on it.
“That has not been done even though we expect that it should have been done already. We cannot continue to wait forever.
“The next step as I said is for the President to transmit a draft bill to the National Assembly. The FG’s delay on the issue is provocative, our members are becoming restless and the FG must act fast on our report.
“If the delay continues, our next step will be made public after we meet again to review the steps taken so far.” – Punch.

UNIPORT alumni confirm Jonathan’s doctorate degree as ex-president replies detractors

The University of Port Harcourt (UNIORT) Alumni Association has denied media report that former president Goodluck Jonathan was parading a fake doctorate degree he claimed to have obtained from the university decades ago.
The former students of UNIORT confirmed that Jonathan duly enrolled into the school and diligently finished his academic works that earned him the doctorate degree.
National President of the association, Chris Adokeme, in a statement in Abuja, at the weekend, challenged anyone in doubt to visit the school to confirm with the school authorities or consult previous statements to get details.
He said: “UNIPORT had explained in different fora that former president Jonathan got his doctorate degree in Zoology in 1995, after he obtained Master of Science degree in Hydrobiology and Fisheries in 1985 and a Bachelor’s degree in Zoology in 1981.”
Adokeme suspected that some unnamed politicians might have begun another round of media campaign, like in 2015, to possibly tamper with the credibility of the former president, particularly as 2019 election draws closer.
He, however, challenged the columnist, Olatunji Dare, to unearth academic sleaze of many Nigerian leaders with questionable academic attainment and not the doctorate degree of Jonathan, that could be traced.
Meanwhile, Ikechukwu Eze, the Media Adviser to Dr. Jonathan, has responded to the article casting aspersions on the former president’s academic qualifications.
A press release by the media aide made to THECITIZEN on Sunday, stated as follows:
Our attention has been drawn to an article written by a newspaper columnist Dr. Olatunji Dare in which he hid behind innuendo to criticize former President Jonathan’s new book and cast aspersions on his doctorate degree.
Writing in his column of Tuesday November 27, in the Nation newspaper, Dare in a piece entitled ‘Matters Miscellaneous’, weighed in on the prevailing robust media reviews of Jonathan’s new book ‘My Transition Hours’.
In his intervention, he chose to go with the opinion of the cynical minority that had typically assumed a dim mien, even before reading the book.
Coincidentally, the popular writer let down his guard by allowing himself to fall into the same unscholarly trap

Nigeria records 6,562 deaths in 11 months

Four weeks to the end of 2018, many Nigerians would be eager to bid the year goodbye and welcome 2019 with open arms.
Nigerian troops rallied to flush out Boko Haram rag tag forces in Guzamala
Reason: 2018 has been a harbinger of death, tears of blood and gnashing of the teeth for a host of people and families in all parts of the country.
Literally, Nigeria could be described as a killing field in 2018 as no fewer than 6,562 Nigerians, according to Sunday Vanguard’s checks, were slaughtered through the Boko Haram insurgency, herdsmen and farmers’ clashes, cult clashes, sectarian and communal clashes, kidnapping, ritual killings, and armed robbery, among others.
The Boko Haram insurgency and herdsmen and farmers’ clashes accounted for the bulk of the deaths.
The North-Central, North-East and North-West zones were the apex theatres of the killings with states like Borno, Benue, Plateau, Zamfara, Kaduna, Kogi, Nasarawa, and Taraba being the epicentre of the killings.
The death figure is conservative because it is based on but not even limited to reported incidents and deaths. Many killings were not reported or the casualty figures were not disclosed. If those who died in the custody of kidnappers were added, the tally would be much higher. The 6,562 deaths recorded since the beginning of 2018 exclude those who died from illnesses, accidents, flooding, infant mortality, Lassa fever, malaria, HIV/AIDS, etc.
Those killed include civilians and security agents as well as the insurgents.
In the first 10 weeks of the year as tallied by Sunday Vanguard in March 2018, no fewer than 1,351 people were mowed down.
In January, 676 Nigerians were killed, and in February, no fewer than 517 people died violently, across the country. For the remaining months the death tolls are as follows: March, 485; April, 670; May, 508; June, 639; July, 357; August, 363; September, 926; October, 1,033; and November, 388.
The deaths have made Nigeria one of the countries affected most by terrorism. According to the Global Terrorism Index, GTI, Nigeria is the fourth country with the highest number of deaths resulting from terrorism. In 2016, the GTI said 2,164 persons died through terrorist acts in Nigeria.
The Committee on Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, set up by the Plateau Government, said penultimate week that 1,801 persons were killed and 50,212 people displaced by the recent attacks in the state.
AVM Bala Danbaba (retd), Chairman of the committee, while presenting the committee report to Governor Simon Lalong, in Jos, said the committee identified 115 communities cutting across Jos North, Jos South, Bassa, Riyom, Barkin Ladi and Bokkos Local Government Areas, that were affected by the crisis. He said the committee, whose one month mandate was later increased to two months, received 55 memoranda and visited 27 camps where the IDPs were quartered, noting “The only IDPs camp we did not visit was the one at Lere, in the Dorowa area of Barkin Ladi Local Government. We could not go there because of security reasons. ‘’
Last July, the Amnesty International (AI) said the killings in Zamfara were under reported, saying of then 371 people had been killed in the state.
Amnesty International recalled that on Friday 27 July, 18 villages in the Mashema, Kwashabawa and Birane districts of Zurmi local government area of Zamfara state were attacked, leaving at least 42 people dead.
“At least 18,000 residents of the affected villages who were displaced over the weekend are now taking refuge at various locations in the local government headquarters. The following day a further 15 people were kidnapped in Maradun local government area.
“On Saturday 28 July, President Muhammadu Buhari announced the deployment of 1,000 troops to Zamfara. This is the third time since November 2017 that the authorities have deployed the military in response to attacks, but villagers told Amnesty International that this has not translated into protection for remote, vulnerable communities.
“Previous military interventions have failed to end the killings, especially in rural areas of Zamfara. At least 371 people have been killed in Zamfara in 2018 alone, and at least 238 of these killings took place after the deployment of the Nigerian air force. The government is still neglecting the most vulnerable communities in this region,” said Osai Ojigho.
“Villagers described feeling helpless and on edge, constantly bracing themselves for attacks. Men said they are sleeping outside their homes and in trees as a way of keeping vigilant, while women and children are sleeping together in groups for protection. Villagers described a pattern where they receive warnings ahead of attacks, including by phone, ordering them to pay huge sums of money or be killed or abducted,” AI further disclosed. – Vanguard.

Fuel scarcity looms as marketers give govt 7-day ultimatum to settle subsidy debts

Oil marketers on Sunday in Lagos gave the Federal Government seven-day ultimatum to settle outstanding debts totalling N800 billion, failing which depots would cease operation across the country.
The marketers, comprising Major Oil Marketers Association of Nigeria (MOMAN), Depot and Petroleum Products Marketers Association (DAPPMA) and Independent Petroleum Products Importers (IPPIs), said failure to meet the deadline would force its members to disengage workers from depots.
Confirming the seven-day notice, Mr Patrick Etim, Legal Adviser to IPPI told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that banks have taken over investments and assets of oil marketers over unpaid debts.
According to Etim, marketers have no choice that to ask their workers to stay at home over unpaid salary arrears due to huge subsidy debts owed by the government.
“The only way to salvage the situation is for government to pay the oil marketers the outstanding debts through cash option instead of promissory note being proposed.
“As I speak, nothing has been done several months after assurances received by government saying it would pay off the outstanding debts.
“The oil marketers have requested that Forex differential and interest component of government’s indebtedness to marketers be calculated up to December 2018 and be paid within next seven days from the date of the letter sent to the government,’’ he said.
Etim said that several thousand jobs were on the line in the industry, as oil marketers began cut-down of their workforce due to inability to pay salaries
“At the inception of the current administration, marketers engaged the government with the view to secure approval for all outstanding subsidy-induced debts handed over to the current administration,’’ he said.
The counsel said that the current administration paid part of the debts with a substantial portion of the subsidy interest and foreign exchange differential still pending.
The Executive Secretary of DAPPMA, Mr Olufemi Adewole, also confirmed the seven-day ultimatum notice.
Adewole disclosed that the oil marketers on Nov. 28 served the ultimatum letter on the Debt Management Office (DMO), Minister of Finance, Chairman, Senate Committee on Petroleum Downstream, Department of State Services and Minister of State, Petroleum Resources.
“We urge the DMO to process and pay marketers in cash for their outstanding forex differentials and interest component claims, together with the amount already approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the National Assembly.
“Marketers are not in a position to discount payment on the subsidy-induced debt owed as proposed by DMO.
“The expected payment is made up of bank loans, outstanding admin charges due to PPPRA, outstanding bridging fund due Petroleum Equalisation Fund (Management) Board and in a few cases AMCON judgment debts.
“We urge that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved payment instrument, (the promissory note) be substituted with cash and paid through our bankers to stop the avoidable waste of public funds through these debts accruing interest,’’ he said.
DAPPMA also urged government institutions involved in resolving the lingering problem to appreciate the situation marketers faced and expedite payment of the debts in full without further delay.

STATEMENT BY H.E OLUSEGUN OBASANJO ON THE OCCASION OF HIS REGISTRATION FOR COALITION FOR NIGERIAN MOVEMENT

Ladies and Gentlemen and members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm, I welcome you to this simple but important ceremony of my registering as a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement and I thank you for being here.

Last week, I issued a statement which I did not do lightly or frivolously but out of deep concern for the situation of our country. I gave an expose on some aspects of our situations as I have observed them. I also took liberty to offer advice politely knowing fully well that my advice could be heeded or may be ignored.

However, heeded or not, I strongly believe that Nigeria cannot continue with business as usual. So, I proffered a way out or a way forward.

If the instruments we have used so far in our nation-building and governance since independence have not served us well, it is imperative that we should rethink and retool. It was Einstein who stated that it would amount to height of folly for anybody or any group to continue to do things in the same way and expect different results.

Coalition for Nigeria Movement is proposed as the new direction to mobilise our population for unity, cooperation, development, rule of law, employment, law and order, justice, integration, peace, security, stability, welfare and well-being. In these regards, special attention and space must be given to youths and women, who in most cases, have been victims and underlings.

I am particularly happy that yesterday, men and women (of all ages) of like minds joined hands to launch Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM). Among many other things that CNM will do is to raise standards generally but particularly standards of political leadership and governance.

Like all countries, Nigeria has many challenges. That, by itself, is not what we should worry about. What should matter is how, when and with what instruments we address or fail to address these challenges or create more problems.

Let me emphasise important areas, programme, priorities, or processes for improved attention. To start with, we seem to have taken nation-building for granted. Nation-building must be given continued attention to give every citizen a feeling of belonging and a stake in his or her country. For instance, the federal character principle, as espoused in our constitution, was to guide the leadership to search for competent holders of major offices to be distributed within the entire nation and avoid the concentration in a few ethnic hands or geographical places as we currently have in the leadership of our security apparatus. To avoid such non-integrative situation, we have the National Assembly and the Federal Character Commission, both institutions which must raise alarm or call for correction of actions by the executive that violates the spirit of our constitution. In like manner, the spate of violence, criminality, organised crime, insurgency and terrorism have not received sufficient proactive ameliorative responses through transformational leadership – a determined leadership that brings cohesion and wholesomeness to the polity. Nobody and no group should feel excluded in his or her own country. Inclusion and popular participation must be visibly pursued in terms of politics, the economy and our overall social life.

am happy to be a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement. The movement is a pressure point towards good governance. This is the commencement for our popular and grassroots association. Of course, the membership will be free to collectively decide on whether CNM becomes a political party. If the Movement decides to transform itself and go into partisan politics, I will cease to be a member. And as a member for now, I accept all the conditions attached to membership of the Coalition.

We must promote the CNM and mobilise membership all over the country including membership from the Diaspora.

This is an opportunity for women and men, especially youths who have hitherto been feeling marginalised and helpless to go all out and bring friends and families into the CNM fold.

The CNM will remain a popular socio-economic Movement open to all Nigerians who believe in the greatness of Nigeria and are ready to contribute to it.

Some people have started worrying about the problem of personalities, in which some, in other efforts allocate positions to themselves. This Movement is not about personality or personalities; but about platform and system. Our system so far has not given us what we must have. For the first time we are building a platform from bottom-up. The Movement’s base is the grassroots and the people – all the people. When the platform is formed and the new system is put in place, the Movement may decide to sponsor/support candidates or transform itself into a political machine for that purpose.

A socio-economic popular Movement needs to be the new vehicle to give hope to the youths, dignity and encouragement to women and security, confidence, and a promising future to all Nigerians. It must work to bring about a new democratic and efficient Nigeria. The Movement must speak up boldly and bluntly about the truth but politely in accordance with African culture. The Movement will also act collectively with political awareness, social responsibility, sustained and sustainable economic development and progress. Timidity and cowardice must not be part of its make-up or culture and neither must there be indifference. He who keeps quiet, inactive and indifferent in the face of bad act is an accomplice to that act. Self-interest, self-centredness and selfishness must be put aside. National interest must be paramount. The Movement will teach what it believes and practice what it teaches.

It is necessary to make it clear that this movement does not regard itself as a third force. It sees itself as a popular movement that can accommodate all Nigerians irrespective of their political interest or affiliations and will propel Nigeria forward. Nigeria belongs to all Nigerians to be made right and the Coalition with others of the same view and like minds will leave no stone unturned to actualise God-given potentials of our country. The Movement will spearhead process, programme, policies and priorities to make Nigeria a great country playing its expected roles within West Africa, Africa and the world.

Nigerian youth will be emboldened, empowered, have employment, and play meaningful and responsible roles in the leadership and governance of the country in all ramifications. Nigerian women will have dignity, responsibility and equal consideration with men in the affairs of Nigeria.

The Movement is a means to an end. The end is Nigeria, unshackled, united, dynamic, strong, secure, cohesive, stable, and prosperous at home and respected outside, and as result, able to play decisive roles assertively within the comity of nations. A Nigeria of hope, aspiration and assurances which belongs to all with no sacred cow nor sacrificial lamb is what we want. My Nigeria, your Nigeria and our Nigeria with enchanting present and secure and glorious future.

Join the Movement to build a new Nigeria that will be in the hands of God.

The New Year presidential speech – Thisday Newspaper Editorial

President Buhari may disapprove, but there is a dire need to restructure the federation 

The choice of the beginning of a new year to deliver a progress report and map a new policy direction is not so usual. Most New Year speeches usually dwell on homilies and good wishes. But rather curiously, President Muhammadu Buhari chose last Monday, which ordinarily should be to welcome Nigerians into 2018, to literally launch an infrastructure renewal agenda with items that will not be completed in less than another 36-48 months.

While there is nothing wrong about such a not-so-subtle second term bid declaration, it is nonetheless disappointing that there was nothing in the speech on elements that could alleviate the growing hardship within the populace: healthcare delivery; meaningful educational revamp; access to affordable housing; economic strategy that matches the president’s populist pretensions, etc. Easily the most credible point was made on agriculture. But increase in agricultural production without an integral industrial processing strategy will only leave us exporting primary produce to markets we don’t control.

On the whole, therefore, there was not much to inspire in the speech. Yet, there are two aspects to worry about. First, the president dismissed the calls for restructuring the country on the pretext that, “our problems are more to do with process than structure”; and then, his only solution to the problem in the downstream sector which has led to incessant fuel scarcity in recent years is not to deregulate or end the corrupt and grossly inefficient subsidy regime but rather to finger-point and blame marketers, despite what his Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, is saying about the reason for the crisis we face and the choices that have to be made.

On restructuring, President Buhari’s position flies in the face of the position of several prominent Nigerian stakeholders, including the one canvassed last September by the All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu on how the glaring failings of the present arrangement in the country should compel a rethink because, as he said, “it would be better to restructure things to attain the correct balance between our collective purpose on one hand and our separate grassroots realities on the other.”

While the major problem in the system today is more about the absence of good governance at all levels, we must nonetheless acknowledge that we have a serious structural problem. When complemented with mechanism for improving accountability, the proposal being pushed by many critical stakeholders has the potential for strengthening the structural design for good governance and human development in Nigeria.

As we have consistently argued on this page, most of the current 36 states are too small and too under-resourced to be economically viable, such that they depend almost entirely on allocations from the Federation Accounts the bulk of which they expend on salaries and other recurrent expenditures. The counter-veiling mechanisms that ensure some level of accountability at the centre are either non-existent or too weak in these fragmented units and the logical result is that the promise of good governance embedded in the theory of decentralisation is delivered almost always in the breach.

On the fuel subsidy, the current situation harms rather than help the people. What President Buhari and his administration must realise is that as long as the subsidy remains, the incentive for private and public actors to game the system will continue to be there. Also, as long as there is default in subsidy payment, which is not inconceivable given the current state of our finances, supply will be constrained, thus pushing up the pump price many times above the market price, with untold hardship on the populace, especially the poor, as we witnessed during the last Ch ristmas holiday.

In all, last Monday’s speech did not reflect the reality of the Nigerian condition and there is much cause to worry, especially now that President Buhari is seeking a second term.