Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, declared open the presidential retreat for ministers-designate, federal permanent secretaries and top government functionaries, with a charge to the in-coming Federal Executive Council (FEC) members to work hard to find solutions to the frightening threat of population explosion of the country.
He also tasked them to constantly communicate with each other as well as unite when carrying out their functions.
“By average estimates, our population is close to 200 million today. By 2050, UN estimates put Nigeria third globally, behind only India and China with our projected population at 411 million.
“This is a frightening prospect but only if we sit idly by and expect handouts from so-called development partners. The solution to our problems lies within us,” he said.
Buhari told them that the first term of his administration had identified three areas for close attention and action – to secure the country, to improve the economy and to fight corruption.
“None but the most partisan will dispute that we have made headway in all three areas
“First, we have rolled back the frontiers of terrorism; we are actively addressing other challenges such as kidnappings, farmer-herder violence, improving the safety of our roads, railways, air traffic and fire control capacities.
“Second, we are steadily turning the economy round through investment in agriculture and manufacturing, shoring up our foreign reserves, curbing inflation and improving the country’s infrastructure.
“Third, we have recovered hundreds of billions of stolen assets and are actively pursuing control measures to tackle leakages in public resources. We will not let up in fighting corruption,’’ he said.
The President told his audience that he would rely on them, his advisers and Nigerians willing and able to contribute to the administration’s policies, programmes and projects to lift the bulk of the citizenry out of poverty and set them on the road to prosperity.
According to him, his administration’s eight years will have laid the ground for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
“This outcome will fundamentally shift Nigeria’s trajectory and place us among the world’s great nations,’’ he added.
He told them that, as ministers, they would be responsible for the development and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in their various ministries, departments and agencies, in line with government priorities.
According to the President, the ministers must also ensure that agencies under their ministries are effective, efficient and accountable in the discharge of their responsibilities.
“Honourable ministers-designate, we must work as a team. Although you have been chosen to represent your states as a constitutional imperative, it is vital for all of you to work as Nigerians.
“Also, working as a team demands that we know what the next person is doing. You must open communications with your colleagues. Lack of communication leads to lack of cooperation and sub-optimal performance.
“Finally, although this is called a retreat, I would like to think this is a preparation for an advance to the next level,’’ he said.
The President explained that the purpose of the retreat was, “To familiarise ourselves with our colleagues with whom we shall be working closely for the next four years, God willing; secondly, to reflect and assess the country’s position in 2015 and today; and, thirdly, to chart a course for the country for the foreseeable future.”
The Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, in his opening remarks, said the call to service requires that all appointees fully share in the President’s vision and agenda for the country.
“As members of the President’s team, it behooves on us to join him in providing the leadership required to develop Nigeria and lift the bulk of our people out of poverty.
“The presidential retreat is to further prepare us to be able to share in this vision and sense of purpose,” he said.
Mustapha reiterated that as ministers they would “be required to work with the highest standard of integrity, discipline and dedication that has been set by the President in the service of the country.”
“I would like to remind you that, of all the functions you will be called upon to perform as ministers, none is more important than to help the President deliver the policies, programmes and projects required to move the nation to the next level.
“As the President said, our legacy will lie on how much we are able to deliver, not on how much patronage we are able to extend to associates and supporters,” he said.
The SGF explained to the ministers-designate that the task of governance “requires patience, dedication and total commitment to the objectives we have committed to pursue, especially in realisation of the yearnings for quick delivery of the dividends of democracy by the people.”
Meanwhile, embattledHead of Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, who was recently invited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to answer to allegations bordering on a contract scam to the tune of N3 billion and duty tour allowance falsification and fraud case, was absent at the opening of the retreat at 10:30am.