• Let’s negotiate
From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to the militants destroying oil installations in the Niger Delta to sheath their swords and negotiate with his administration to resolve any misunderstanding.
Buhari said this, yesterday, when residents of the Federal Capital Territory led by the minister, Muhammed Bello, paid him a Christmas homage at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The President said negotiation was the best option to decide how the nation’s resources can be managed, instead of picking up arms.
Buhari, for the umpteenth time, blamed past administrations for failure to save for rainy days.
He said all the problems he outlined during the campaigns that preceded the 2015 presidential election were still lingering almost 18 months after he took over the mantle of leadership and appealed to Nigerians to be patient with his government.
Buhari assured that Nigerians were uppermost in his mind, hence, he would continue to do all within his powers to improve their living conditions.
“I want you to be patient with the government. We are always thinking about our country and our people.
“God blessed Nigeria with both human and materials resources; we better do the same thing for our children and grandchildren.
“I assure you that the country and the people are always uppermost in our minds. With our performance in the North-East, Nigerians know that this government is serious.
“For our friends in the Niger Delta area, we will persuade them to please sit down with us and agree to manage our resources rather than think of fighting it out,”the president said.
Buhari specifically identified power and lack of infrastructure as major challenges facing the nation in addition to other problems he identified during campaigns.
He also regretted that while proceeds from agriculture were used to develop oil, agriculture was discarded immediately oil started yielding resources for the country.
Buhari reiterated his administration’s determination to create jobs through infrastructure development.
“It is almost 18 months since we resumed. I believe some of you followed us during our campaigns and what we identified are still fundamental problems.
“The first is security; and we kept on saying whether it is an organisation or a country, we have to first secure it before we can manage it properly. Without security, nothing can work.
“The second is economy and unemployment of able-bodied persons. From 1999 to 2014, the crude production was over 2.2 million barrels per day. The average cost per barrel was $100.
When we came, it was $37. I think it is now between $40 and $50. I asked for savings and there was none. I asked them what they used the money to buy, they said they bought food and oil. I do not know how long it took me to recover from the shock.”
Bello in his opening remarks had commended Buhari for the success recorded by the nation’s troops that cleared Sambisa Forest of insurgents last week.
“Some of you will recall, either by history or discussion, that it was cocoa, palm kernel, cotton, agro allied industry that we used to build infrastructure, be it rail or school.
“We also used proceeds to develop oil. When we got the oil, we threw everything away. We thank God this year, the harvest was quite good, otherwise, I do not know what we would have done.
“Power is still our main problem. Old roads have dilapidated and they needed to be repaired from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt up to Maiduguri. We want to develop rail lines from Lagos to Calabar, from Lagos to Kaduna and the Abuja one.
“If we can get the infrastructure done, we cannot even know the number of Nigerians that will get job. So, we have to get infrastructure. It will take tankers and other articulated vehicles off the road, we will save vehicles and we will save lives and creat jobs for a lot of Nigerians.”
Earlier, Bello in his opening remarks commended Buhari for the success recorded by the nation’s troops that cleared Sambisa Forest of insurgents last week.
“We are very proud of this milestone and we pray Boko Haram doesn’t rear its head in any part of the country again,” the minister said.
Also, the Chairman of the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN), FCT branch, Rev. Jonah Samson said they were in the Presidential Villa to identify with Buhari and commend him for his leadership which he said had impacted positively on Nigerians.
Samson, particularly, commended the President for his administration’s anti-corruption war.
He expressed the hope that the anti-graft war would not end with this administration.
“Corruption is a cankerworm. It is a terrible thing that we must kill. We urge you to ensure that the war continues. It should not end during this administration.
“We thank God for the victory over Boko Haram. It is a thing of joy worthy of celebration,” he said.
The minister and his aides later presented a giant greeting card to Buhari for the Christmas.
Representatives of the Aso Villa Chapel also presented a card and locally made artworks to the President.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the visit, a Senator representing FCT, Philip Aduda urged Nigerians to support the present administration.
He expressed the hope that 2017 would be better for the nation.
The delegation that visited the President included Christian and Muslim leaders, National Assembly members, traditional rulers, top government officials and security chiefs, among others.