Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Liberia
President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday in Monrovia, Liberia, explained that having realised the futility in continuing to subject the Nigerian economy to the vagaries of its mono-product dependence, his administration has instituted policies aimed at the diversifying the national economy which are yielding positive results.
He added that the Economic and Recovery Growth Plan launched by his administration in 2017 is creating the enabling environment for growth, security and economic revival.
He said this in his goodwill message on Friday in Monrovia, where he graced the occasion of the 172nd Independence Anniversary of the West African nation.
Buhari said: “Our government had to adopt appropriate measures including diversification and reforms to address such underlying causes exemplified by our continued dependence on a single-commodity, crude oil, lack of fiscal buffers, leakages, corruption and high governance costs.
“Furthermore, in our efforts to stimulate the economy, our government initiated bold policy interventions that are beginning to yield positive results.”
President Buhari, who was honoured on the occasion with Liberia’s highest award, the “Most Venerable Order of the Knighthood of the Pioneers of the Republic of Liberia with Grade of the Knight Grand Cordon,” said he accepted it “on behalf of all Nigerians and as a tribute to all our countrymen who paid the supreme price in aid of Liberia’s unity and stability.”
He also thanked the government and people of Liberia and expressed his resolve to continue to strengthen cooperation within the sub-region.
Buhari added that, “this gesture can only strengthen my resolve to rededicate myself to the service of my country and work for the prosperity of our people in the sub-region.”
The President likened the Liberian economic situation to what obtained in Nigeria when he assumed office in 2015 and praised the administration of President George Weah for its social intervention programme.
He told President George Weah that “I am fully aware that on assumption of office, your country was experiencing severe economic challenges occasioned by the fall in commodity prices, the main source of revenue for Liberia. This situation is akin to what I inherited on my election in 2015. That was a difficult period for the Nigerian economy which later lapsed into recession.”
He commended Weah’s leadership and vision for initiating since coming to office, people-oriented projects and programmes including the “Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development” (PAPD) launched in 2018.
“I am convinced that this well-articulated programme which is quite similar to our Government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017-2020, if well implemented, could bring the desired transformation and sustainable development to Liberia.”
The president encouraged his Liberian counterpart to take decisive actions to further stimulate the economy of the country. “Mr. President, Liberia under your leadership may wish to learn from our experience by taking courageous steps to diversify its economic base by developing the productive sector that would complement earnings from rubber, iron ore and the increasingly dwindling funds from development partners.
“In this regard, the need for proper management of human resources and investment in agriculture, solid minerals and other sectors such as tourism where the country has a comparative advantage, cannot be overstated.”
President Buhari also conveyed the felicitations of Nigerians to their brothers in Liberia:
“Today represents yet another significant milestone in the life of the brotherly nation of Liberia. Nigerians rejoice with all Liberians on this momentous occasion. It is a matter of pride that Liberia, the first country in Africa to gain its Independence, has successfully preserved its unity and cohesion, despite the tragic events that culminated in an unfortunate civil war.
“I am here to celebrate with you this remarkable achievement while at the same time recalling the enormous contributions and sacrifices made by Nigeria in your recent history.”
President Buhari assured Liberians of continued support of Nigeria to its development. “As Liberia sustains its notable efforts towards economic recovery, I wish to assure you of Nigeria’s commitment to continue to partner the country, for all possible assistance with a view to making our modest contributions that will positively impact on the security and economic well-being of the Liberian people.
“In this regard, Nigeria through its Technical Assistance Programme, will this year provide 50 volunteers in the field of education and health to support Liberia. We are also prepared to deploy additional volunteers in the other fields, in order to contribute to the capacity building in Liberia.”
The Ambassador of Nigeria to Liberia, Mr. James Dimka told newsmen that, that was deserving because “we have done what no other African president has done to the country. We have had close relations (Nigeria and Liberia) and this has only strengthened our relations. Liberia was in war for 14 years and the major country that stood by them was Nigeria. Our military just left this country about a month ago. At some point, the United Nations, ECOWAS was but Nigeria – stayed till the end.
“And so you will recognise that there is a strong relation between Nigeria and Liberia.”
Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti said Nigeria had sacrificed so much for the country even though Liberia is older going by flag independence record.
He said: “Nigeria has done a lot to keep Liberia one. This is the first country we sent the first ECOMOG soldiers to and several Nigerians lost their lives to. Until very recently, a Nigerian, Gen. Abdulrahman was Chief of Defence Staff here and he lost his life in the course of serving this country. Before him, other Nigerians headed their military, Gen Obiakor was the head of mission. I spent some time here on the flip side of the conflict as the mediator and negotiator in the difficult days here. President Obasanjo was critical in the management of the conflict and President Buhari followed up in that capacity and he is still doing a lot for peace in West Africa as chairman of ECOWAS.
“So, it is a fitting and proper honour is done to him and by extension to all of us in Nigeria. Because, somethings, Nigerians wonder why we do so much in the sub-region and Africa without getting much in return. Return comes in various forms and recognising with the highest honour in the land shows how grateful the Liberians are with the role Nigeria continues to play in the country.”
Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State said the honour was for President Buhari and Nigeria considering the role he is playing in the West Africa sub-region and the continent.
He said the award shows how much respect the president commands from his counterparts in the region.
The Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said the award was in recognition of all the country has done to help Liberia.
“This country with the longest history of independence but couldn’t hold together and was helped majorly by Nigeria, with everything we had including our armed forces, resources in other to help them to remain as one united people.
“It is also in recognition of Nigeria’s support for Liberia to rebuild.
“He has offered 50 technical aid corps Liberia and has promised many more in case there is a need.”