•President: Culprits’ll be punished severely
From Juliana Taiwo- Obalonye, Abuja
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to severely punish all those involved in the “padding” of the 2016 budget, describing their actions as disappointing and embarrassing. He spoke in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday while addressing the Nigerian community.
The President, who described those behind the distortion as those with “entrenched interests,” said the unauthorised alterations had completely changed the document from the one he presented to the National Assembly.
He said: “The culprits will not go unpunished. I have been a military governor, petroleum minister, military Head of State and headed the Petroleum Trust Fund.
“Never had I heard the words “budget padding”. Our Minister of Budget and National Planning did a great job with his team. The minister became almost half his size during the time, working night and day to get the budget ready, only for some people to pad it. What he gave us was not what was finally being debated. It is very embarrassing and disappointing. We will not allow those who did it to go unpunished,” Buhari vowed.
The President also assured members of the Nigerian community that his administration was working diligently to fulfil its campaign promises, particularly on security, unemployment, and corruption.
Buhari, while reaffirming his government’s zero tolerance for corruption, said the war against graft is a monumental task that he was determined to tackle successfully.
“We have zero tolerance for corruption and other unethical practices. We will deal decisively with anybody found wanting,” he said.
President Buhari also briefed his audience on his administration’s efforts to end the Boko Haram insurgency.
“Our Armed Forces have done a great job of dealing decisively with Boko Haram. We are collaborating with our neighbours in the operations of the Multinational Joint Task Force to handle security threats in the West African sub-region and we have significantly destroyed the capacity of the insurgents,” he said.
He also spoke on efforts to diversify the economy, stressing that more opportunities are now open for local and foreign investors.
Meanwhile, the President has said his administration was fully committed to increasing productivity in agriculture and solid minerals sectors to save the nation from the harsh effects of lower crude oil prices.
He disclosed this in Riyadh during a meeting with leading members of the Council of Saudi Arabian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
According to him, with declining revenues from crude oil exports, Nigeria’s hopes of economic resurgence now lie in the rapid development of its immense agricultural and solid mineral resources.
Buhari, who invited the Saudi Arabian businessmen to invest in both sectors, said his administration welcomes greater foreign investment in support of its efforts to rapidly diversify the economy.
President Buhari regretted that Nigeria depended too much on crude oil exports while neglecting other resources.
“With the downturn in the global prices of oil, we now have to prospect our solid minerals. We have to return to agriculture. Mining and agriculture are our hopes now. We will welcome investments in these areas. We will appreciate an in-flow of more resources and expertise to help us achieve our objective of economic diversification,” the President said.
The governors of Osun, Ogun, Katsina, Borno, and Zamfara states, who were part of the President’s delegation, also addressed the Saudi investors, assuring them of good returns.
Chairman of the Council of the Saudi Arabian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Dr Abdulrahman Al Zamil, said agriculture is a very important area of investment for its members, adding that they were already in Brazil, the United States of America and Sudan, “where we have huge farms.”
Declaring that they will invest in Nigeria, Al Zamil said his colleagues were the leading investors in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Kenya and Ethiopia.