* Says mindless militants won’t hold nation to ransom
* says fixing of refineries to save $10bn annually from fuel importation
* says 9000 construction workers recalled
From JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, Abuja
As the nation suffers from the effect of recession, President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed to Nigerians not to be blinded by the temporary corrective measures being put in place to provide lasting solutions.
The President who reassured that the current recession will not last, said in his Independence Day address to mark the nation’s 56th anniversary that, “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”.
Buhari who said as a former employee for most of his adult life, he knows when salary is not enough, stated that “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. All my adult life I have always earned a salary and I know what it is like when your salary simply is not enough. In every part of our nation people are making incredible sacrifices”.
The President said he ran for office four times to make the point that the nation can be ruled with honesty and transparency, that the stealing of resources can be stopped so that the nation will have enough to provide jobs for the young people, security, infrastructure for commerce, education and healthcare.
He said “I ran for office because I know that good government is the only way to ensure prosperity and abundance for all. I remain resolutely committed to this objective”.
The President who described as cowardly the attacks on soft targets by Boko Haram insurgents having been defeated defeated since last December by the nation’s military, warned that his administration those he described as “mindless militants” to hold this nation to ransome by blowing up oil and gas pipelines.
He further warned that no group can challenge the authority of the government and succeed.
Buhari said, “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.
“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.
“What sense is there to damage a gas line as a result of which many towns in the country including their own town or village is put in darkness as a result? What logic is there in blowing up an export pipeline and as a result income to your state and local governments and consequently their ability to provide services to your own people is reduced?
“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. It is known that the clean-up of the Ogoniland has started. Infrastructural projects financed by the Federal Government and post amnesty programme financing will continue.
“We have however, continued to dialogue with all groups and leaders of thought in the region to bring lasting peace”.
President Buhari described corruption as a cancer that must must be fought with all at the nation’s disposal, again inviting the judiciary to join in the fight.
“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”.
Buhari also said the repairs of the four refineries will save the nation $10 billion annually from importation of the products.
According to him, “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”.
The President again said the failure of past administrations to save for rainy is responsible the nation now reaping the wild wind of corruption, said “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”.
The President also said his administration was introducing Water Resources Bill encompassing the National Water Resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy to improve management of water and irrigation development in the country.
He said “We are reviving all the twelve River Basin Authorities, namely; Anambra – Imo, Benin – Owena, Chad Basin, Cross River, Hadejia – Jama’are, Lower Benue, Lower Niger, Niger Delta, Ogun – Osun, Sokoto – Rima, Upper Benue and Upper Niger”
“The intention is eventually to fully commercialise them to better support crop production, aqua –culture and accelerated rural development”, he said.
On power he said his administration was going ahead with projects utilizing alternate technologies such as hydro, wind, and solar to contribute to the 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.
“The project is to be jointly financed by Nigeria and the Chinese-Export-Import Bank. In addition, fourteen Solar Power Projects have had their power purchase agreements concluded. Hence the plan to produce one thousand two hundred megawattsof solar electricity for the country would be realized on schedule.
“And in line with the objective of government to complete all abandoned projects across the country, the Rural Electrification Agency’s projects needing completion are provided for in the 2016 Budget. Bringing electricity to rural areas will help farmers, small scale and cottage industries to integrate with the national economy”.
The President also said his administration will continue with infrastructure development, saying already 9,000 workers laid off have been recalled in the construction sector, expressing hope more will be recalled.
The President said work has resumed on key highways across the nation with the injection of N197.5 billion into the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing.
The roads are: Dualization of Calabar – Itu Road in Cross River/Akwa Ibom States, Dualization of Lokoja – Benin Road, Ehor – Benin city, Edo State, Re-construction of outstanding sections of Benin – Shagamu Express way, Edo/Ogun States, Expansion works on Lagos – Ibadan Dual carriageway, Ogun/Oyo States and Rehabilitation of Onitsha – Enugu Expressway, Anambra/Enugu States.
Others are Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual carriageway, Abia/Rivers States, Rehabilitation of Hadejia – Nguru Road, Jigawa States, Dualization of Kano – Katsina Road, Kano State, Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road, Borno State, Dualization of Azare – Potiskum Road, Azare – Sharuri Road, Bauchi State, Rehabilitation of Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Birnin Gwari Road, Kwara State and Construction of Oju/Lokoja – Oweto Bridge over River Benue, Benue State.