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Full Text of President Buhari’s Address At The First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat

Address By His Excellency, Muhammadu Buhari, President of The Federal Republic of Nigeria, At The First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat, State House Conference Centre, Abuja.
7th September, 2020. Read by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN) as follows:

PROTOCOLS

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you all to the First Year Ministerial Performance Review Retreat. We are meeting a time that mankind is struggling to overcome the economic and social crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has disrupted life as we knew it. The consequences of the pandemic will no doubt influence our deliberations at this gathering, especially as we will have to adjust our policy approaches and methods of working going forward.

  1. I stressed at last year’s Retreat that the Nigerian people expect dedication and commitment by all of us in implementing policies, programmes and projects to improve the quality of their lives and set Nigeria on the path of prosperity. I also reiterated the resolve of this Administration to set the stage for lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next 10 years. Even today, these remain our overriding objectives.
  2. The priorities we set for ourselves were around nine inter-related and inter-connected areas, which are: stabilizing the economy; achieving agriculture and food security; attaining energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products; improving transportation and other infrastructure; driving industrialization with a special focus on SMEs; expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians; enhancing social inclusion by scaling up social investments; as well as building a system to fight corruption, improve governance and strengthen national security.
  3. In the course of the past year, Ministers have rendered reports to the Federal Executive Council on their activities and outputs related to the achievement of these objectives. Some of the notable achievements include:

i. Economic recovery prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. The economy recovered from a recession and we witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 0.8% in 2017 to 2.2% in 2019, but declined in the first quarter of 2020, as a result of the downward trend in global economic activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

ii. Implementation of a Willing Buyer, Willing Seller Policy for the power sector, has opened up opportunities for increased delivery of electricity to homes and industries. We are also executing some critical projects through the Transmission Rehabilitation and Expansion Programme, which will result in the transmission and distribution of a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023.

iii. On transportation, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure. The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund projects are also progressing very well. These include the 11.9 km Second Niger Bridge, 120 km Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, and 375 km Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano Expressway. At the same time, we are actively extending and upgrading our railway networks, as well as our airports which are being raised to international standard with the provision of necessary equipment, to guarantee world class safety standard.

iv. The Government has continued to support the Agricultural sector, the key to diversification of our economy, through schemes such as the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative programme.

v. The work of the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has resulted in Nigeria moving up 39 places on the World Bank’s ‘Ease of Doing Business’ ranking since 2015 and Nigeria is now rated as one of the top ten reforming countries. We are confident that the on-going ease of doing business reforms would result in further improvement of this rating.

vi. Nigeria’s Law Enforcement Agencies have significantly scaled up their footprint across the country. As part of the efforts towards strengthening our internal security architecture, the Ministry of Police Affairs was created. Amongst others, we have increased investments in arms, weapons and other necessary equipment, expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen States of the Federation, and established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund, which will significantly improve funding for the Nigeria Police Force. We have also approved the sum of N13.3 billion for the take-off of the Community Policing initiative across the country, as part of measures adopted to consolidate efforts aimed at boosting security nationwide[1] .

vii. Efforts are also being made to empower the youth and provide for poor and vulnerable groups by enhancing investments in our Social Investment Programmes.

  1. These accomplishments are a testament to the fact that all hands are on deck in establishing a solid foundation for even greater successes in future.
  2. Distinguished participants, when we met one year ago, little did we know that the world would be in a serious economic, social and health crisis that had left even the major economies in disarray, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as in other jurisdictions, the socio-economic landscape of Nigeria has experienced a severe shock. Nearly 55,000 of our people have been infected with the virus while we have recorded 1,054 deaths by 4th September. The economy contracted by -6.1 per cent in the second quarter of this year; normal schooling has been disrupted; businesses are struggling and in certain instances completely closed; many people have lost their jobs and earning a living has been difficult. It has been a trying time for all of us and particularly for those in the informal sector who make their living from daily earnings.
  3. It has not been any easier for Governments, Federal and State alike. As a result of the poor fortunes of the oil sector, our revenues and foreign exchange earnings have fallen drastically. Our revenues have fallen by almost 60%. Yet we have had to sustain expenditures, especially on salaries and capital projects. We acted to mitigate the effect of the economic slowdown by adopting an Economic Sustainability Plan but we have also had to take some difficult decisions to stop unsustainable practices that were weighing the economy down.
  4. The N2.3 Trillion Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP), consists of fiscal, monetary and sectoral measures to enhance local production, support businesses, retain and create jobs and provide succour to Nigerians, especially the most vulnerable. In addition to improving the health sector, the ESP lays emphasis on labour-intensive interventions in agriculture, light manufacturing, housing, and facilities management. It also complements on-going major infrastructural projects in power, road and rail by prioritising the building of rural roads, information and telecommunications technologies as well as providing solar power to homes which were not hitherto connected to the National Grid.
  5. Alongside interventions in these critical areas, including agriculture and food security, affordable housing, technology, health, and providing jobs for youths and women post-COVID; the ESP will also provide different avenues whereby Government will support micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to enable them respond to the economic challenges of COVID-19. This includes safeguarding about 300,000 jobs in 100,000 MSMEs by guaranteeing off-take of priority products; and Survival Fund to support vulnerable SMEs in designated vulnerable sectors in meeting their payroll obligations and safeguarding jobs from the shock of COVID-19.
  6. Under the ESP MSMEs component, both the Survival Fund (Payroll support), and the Guaranteed Off-take Scheme, GoS, are to impact about 1.7 million individuals within a three to five months timeline. Also, 45 per cent of total business beneficiaries will be female owned; and 5 per cent of total business beneficiaries will be dedicated to special needs business owners.[2]
  7. In addition, under the Survival Fund (payroll support) scheme; 250,000 new business names are to be registered at a discounted rate of N6,000 by the CAC, but this will be free for the MSMEs; while 330,000 transport workers and artisans will get one-time grants of N30,000 each.
  8. Following an MOU to be signed by BOI and the FG, the total beneficiaries for Survival Fund Scheme tracks are about 33,000 beneficiaries per State; with a minimum payroll support at N30,000 and maximum support is N50,000.
  9. The COVID-19 pandemic, has led to a severe downturn in the funds available to finance our budget and has severely hampered our capacity to ..one of the steps we took at the beginning of the crisis in March when oil prices collapsed at the height of the global lockdown, was the deregulation of the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) such that the benefit of lower prices at that time was passed to consumers. This was welcome by all and sundry. The effect of deregulation though is that PMS prices will change with changes in global oil prices. This means quite regrettably that as oil prices recover we would see some increases in PMS prices. This is what has happened now. When global prices rose, it meant that the price of petrol locally will go up.
  10. There are several negative consequences if Government should even attaempt to go back to the business of fixing or subsidizing PMS prices. First of all, it would mean a return to the costly subsidy regime . Today we have 60% less revenues, we just cannot afford the cost. The second danger is the potential return of fuel queues – which has, thankfully, become a thing of the past under this administration. Nigerians no longer have to endure long queues just to buy petrol, often at highly inflated prices. Also, as I hinted earlier, there is no provision for fuel subsidy in the revised 2020 budget, simply because we are not able to afford it, if reasonable provisions must be made for health, education and other social services.[3] We now simply have no choice.

Nevertheless, I want to assure our compatriots that Government is extremely mindful of the pains that higher prices mean at this time, and we do not take the sacrifices that all Nigerians have to make for granted. We will continue to seek ways and means of cushioning pains especially for the most vulnerable in our midst. We will also remain alert to our responsibilities to ensure that marketers do not exploit citizens by raising pump price arbitrarily . This is the role that government must now play through the PPPRA. This explains why the PPPRA made the announcement a few days ago setting the range of price that must not be exceeded by marketers. The advantage we now have is that anyone can bring in petroleum products and compete with marketers, that way the price of petrol will be keep coming down.

  1. The recent service based tariff adjustment by the Discos has also been a source of concern for many of us. Let me say frankly that like many Nigerians I have been very unhappy about the quality of service given by the Discos, but there are many constraints including poor transmission capacity and distribution capacity. I have already signed off on the first phase of the Siemens project to address many of these issues. Because of the problems with the privatization exercise government has had to keep supporting the largely privatized electricity industry . So far to keep the industry going we have spent almost 1.7 trillion, especially by way of supplementing tariffs shortfalls. We do not have the resources at this point to continue in this way and it will be grossly irresponsibl e to borrow to subsidize a generation and distribution which are both privatized. But we also have a duty to ensure that the large majority of those who cannot afford to pay cost reflective tariffs are protected from increases. NERC the industry regulator therefore approved that tariff adjustments had to be made but only on the basis of guaranteed improvement in service. Under this new arrangement only customers who are guaranteed a minimum of 12 hours of power and above can have their tariffs adjusted. Those who get less than 12 hours supply, or the Band D and E Customers MUST be maintained on lifeline tariffs, meaning that they will experience no increase. Government has also taken notice of the complaints about arbitrary estimated billing. Accordingly, a mass metering program is being undertaken to provide meters for over 5 million Nigerians, largely driven by preferred procurement from local manufacturers – creating thousands of jobs in the process. NERC has also committed to strictly enforcing the capping regulation which will ensure that unmetered customers are not charged beyond the metered customers in their neighbourhood.
  2. In addressing the power problems we must not forget that most Nigerians are not even connected to electricity at all. So as part of the Economic Sustainability Plan, we are providing Solar home systems to 5 million Nigerian households in the next 12 months. We have already begun the process of providing financing support through the CBN for manufacturers and retailers of Off Grid Solar Home Systems and Mini-Grids who are to provide the systems . The Five million systems under the ESP’s Solar Power Strategy will produce 250,000 jobs and impact up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation [4] This means that more Nigerians will have access to electricity via a reliable and sustainable solar system.
  3. The support to Solar Home System manufacturers and the bulk procurement of local meters will create over 300,000 local jobs while ensuring that we set Nigeria on a path to full electrification. The tariff review is not about the increase, which will only affect the top electricity consumers, but establishing a system which will definitely lead to improved service for all at a fair and reasonable price. [5]
  4. There has been some concern expressed about the timing of these two necessary adjustments. It is important to stress that it is a mere coincidence in the sense that the deregulation of PMS prices happened quite some time ago, it was announced on 18 March 2020 and the price moderation that took place at the beginning of this month was just part of the on-going monthly adjustments to global crude oil prices. Similarly, the review of service-based electricity tariffs was scheduled to start at the beginning of July but was put on hold to enable further studies and proper arrangements to be made. This government is not insensitive to the current economic difficulties our people are going through and the very tough economic situation we face as a nation, and we certainly will not inflict hardship on our people. But we are convinced that if we stay focused on our plans brighter more prosperous days will come soon. Ministers and senior officials must accordingly ensure the vigorous and prompt implementation of the ESP programmes, which will give succour to Nigerians.
  5. In this regard, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has created credit facilities (of up to N100B) for the Healthcare (N100 Billion) and Manufacturing (N1 Trillion) sectors. From January, 2020 to date, over N191.87B has already been disbursed for 76 real sectors projects under the N1TRN Real Sector Scheme; while 34 Healthcare projects have been funded to a tune of N37.159B under the Healthcare Sector Intervention Facility. The facilities are meant to address some of the infrastructural gap in the healthcare and manufacturing sector as a fall out to the COVID-19 pandemic and to facilitate the attainment of the Governors 5-year strategic plan.[6]
  6. Distinguished participants, to address our current economic challenges, and consolidate on our achievements over the past year, this retreat has been designed to:

▪ Review the performance of each Minister in delivering the priority mandates, including programmes and projects assigned to them upon their appointment in 2019;

▪ Identify key impediments to implementation; and

▪ Re-strategize on how to accelerate delivery of results, given the current economic situation.

  1. The retreat would also provide the opportunity to effectively evaluate the activities of the Ministries over the last twelve months with regard to the delivery of our agenda and promise to Nigerians.
  2. The Ministers are urged to work closely with the Permanent Secretaries to ensure accelerated and effective delivery of the policies, programmes and projects in the priority areas. I have also directed the Secretary to the Government of the Federation to intensify efforts at deepening the work of the Delivery Unit under his coordination towards ensuring effective delivery of Government Policies, Programmes and Projects in the coming years. It is also my expectation that progress on performance of the implementation of the 9 priority areas will be reported on a regular basis.
  3. In closing, I encourage optimal participation and contribution by all participants, while observing all the necessary safety protocols and compliance with COVID-19 guidelines.
  4. On this note, it is my pleasure to formally declare this Retreat open. I look forward to a very fruitful session and stimulating exchange of views.
  5. Thank you.
  6. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

PDP Should Account For Failed $460M Abuja CCTV Project, $2bn China Loan – APC

The All Progressives Congress (APC) has fired back on PDP and Atiku Abubakar in a statement signed by Yekini Nabena, the
Deputy National Publicity Secretary
All Progressives Congress (APC).

The APC spokesman said:

“The statement issued by the Media Office of former Vice President, Alh. Atiku Abubakar on the standard sovereign guarantee and sovereign immunity clause embedded in Nigeria’s loan agreements with China to fund the ongoing national railway projects can be best described as unresearched, unintelligent and pedestrian.

As the Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has explained the guarantee/clause in the loan deals is standard irrespective of the the country granting the loan.

Perhaps, Atiku and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) could redirect their energies to explaining to Nigerians the status of the failed $460 million Abuja Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) awarded in August 2010 by the immediate-past PDP administration.”

Mr. Yinka further said that:

“Also, they should explain the over $2billion China loan the PDP administration took between 2010 and 2013 alone; $16billion spent on power with no electricity; fuel subsidy rackets; counter-insurgency funds that were diverted and shared to political cronies among other shocking heists.

Recall that the failed CCTV installation project was initiated by late President Umaru Yar’Adua and awarded in August 2010 by former President, Goodluck Jonathan’s administration to help security agencies in the Federal Capital Territory check the growing insecurity.

Since the agreement became signed, Nigeria has been servicing this loan to China while Nigerians are yet to attest to the visibility of CCTV project and unable to explain the status of the video surveillance project. The matter is subject to a legislative probe.”

“In all of these we are starkly reminded that the PDP remains a corrupted and damaged product. Nigerians must continue to reject the party at all levels of government.

In the area of fiscal discipline, prudence, curbing leakages, are we currently getting it right? An emphatic yes! Every kobo expended on infrastructure counts. Verifiable evidence abound in the fast expanding national railway projects, airport remodelling among other critical infrastructure projects being undertaken by the President Muhammadu Buhari government.

The days of phoney contracts as institutionalised by successive PDP administrations are fast fading.” He concluded.

Bauchi State: Governor Bala’s Aide Respond To ICPC On Abuja Seized Property

Following the move by the ICPC recently, Mukhtar A. Gidado, the Senior Special Assistant Media to Governor Bala Mohammed, said, “ICPC Tell of Lies And Impunity Against Hid Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed”. And respond to the allegation thus:

“Our attention has been drawn to a false and mischievous statement, by the headline: “ICPC Seizes Multi-Million Naira Landed Property from Bauchi State Governor”. Given the prevailing climate of FAKE NEWS hoisted on the world by idle minds and people of questionable character, our initial attitude was to ignore the story and face assiduously, the pursuit and realisation of Senator Bala Mohammed’s avowed commitment to rescuing Bauchi State from the shameful legacy of failed infrastructure, economic collapse and benumbing poverty that his Administration inherited.

However, the story emanated from a release on the official website of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), an agency of the Federal Government charged with the responsibility of ensuring that public officers do not take advantage of their official positions, to short-change the system. In the circumstance, we are compelled to state our own position, given that the Commission’s narrative is not only false and misleading but raises fundamental issues of Constitutionalism bothering on of human rights and rule of law.”

Mr. Mukhtar further posit in what he called “Our Response”, that:

“We refute the Commission’s story in its entirety and state that Senator Bala Mohammed did not flout any policy or break any law, known to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria nor did he, in any way, breach his oath of office to warrant perniciously scandalizing his name or subjecting members of his family to mindless persecution as the ICPC is wilfully pushing. For the records, we wish to state as follows:

  1. Zinaria International School was established and had been long operational, offering quality education, in a cost-effective manner, to all and sundry, long before Senator Bala Mohammed became Minister of the FCT.
  2. Like any other corporate entity, due to planned expansion, the School applied for land, a legitimate right it would have exercised, irrespective of whomsoever was the Minister of the FCT, at the time.
  3. The shareholders and directors of the School are Nigerians who, by their respective ages, were qualified to apply for and be allocated land if they met the conditions precedent. And we make bold to say that all the names listed in the MEMAT of the School are eminently qualified to be allocated land.
  4. It is patently preposterous and mischievous to make heavy weather of the fact that Senator Bala Mohammed has something to do with the School. As official records will clearly show, he had resigned from the School as soon as he was appointed a Minister. So, the issue of conflict of interest could not have arisen.”

He further said:

“From the above, it is crystal clear that the ICPC is on a voyage of discovery, aimed at discrediting Governor Bala Mohammed, at all cost. We can understand that the Governor’s sterling accomplishments, under one year, is causing sleepless nights to his traducers, people who, in spite of the oil windfall of the past, squandered the collective patrimony of the state on the altar of self-aggrandizement thereby placing the state on the lowest rungs of the developmental ladder. But we are hard put to understand the ICPC’s paranoid obsession with demonising Governor Bala Mohammed in breach of the Constitutional protection from prosecution. Otherwise, how on earth would the ICPC approbate and reprobate at the same time. Consider the following:

a. The Commission rightly acknowledges that being a Governor, Senator Bala Mohammed, like all other Governors, is immune from prosecution. That being the case, why is the ICPC disobeying the Constitution? Why is the Constitutional watchdog chewing the bones of the Constitution through this flagrant disregard for one of the pillars of constitutional stability?

b. The Commission admits that the property was allocated to a school, meaning, for educational purposes. To wit, the school is in place. Why is the ICPC in a hurry to disrupt the smooth functioning of a public trust that is devoted to learning, if not for the singular purpose of ingratiating itself to its paymasters by causing maximum damage to the family’s investment?

c. In one breath, the Commission states that it had charged the matter to Court. In another breath, it claims that it has seized the property because it is the “PROCEEDS OF CRIME”. Pray, from where does the Commission derive its powers to label the Governor a criminal? Or has the Commission turned itself into a Court? Even if we assume that it is now a Court, can the Commission be a judge in its own case? It is this kind of institutional IMPUNITY that ridicules our judiciary; when public servants, playing God, usurp the powers of our Courts and the judges and arrogate to themselves the powers of life and death.

Given the campaign to discredit politicians as mindless plunderers who shamelessly misappropriate the public patrimony, it is important that members of the public do not lose sight of the fundamental universal implication of this needless controversy. Is it fair, right or just to deny members of the family of a public office holder their right to the public good, for the simple reason that their benefactor or relation is holding public office?”

“Those who have embarked on this witch-hunt and character assassination know too well that under Bala Mohammed’s watch as Minister, the FCT made land allocations to over 100 educational institutions. These include institutions sponsored by religious groups, individuals and sundry interests. Not to talk of the many secondary schools that also got land allocation under the seal of Bala Mohammed. Why is that of Zinaria International School different? Why are Senator Bala Mohammed’s persecutors silent on institutions?

We state, with all the emphasis at our command, that the approach of the ICPC, in this matter, is totally wronged-headed, capricious and obnoxious. It does little or no credit to the anti-corruption campaign of the Federal Government. Whether the Commission likes it or not, it goes without saying that it cannot stamp out corruption by being a willing tool in the hands of Bala Mohammed’s denigrators. It cannot fight the legal battle of recovering public property when its anti-graft crusade is anchored on manifest illegality; the ICPC cannot enthrone a society hallmarked by honour and integrity when its strategy is premised on bare-faced double standards, favouritism, dishonourable tactics and impunity.”

“Finally, we want to assure the public that Senator Bala Mohammed did not misuse his position as FCT Minister to confer any undeserved privileges or advantages on his family. That he allocated thousands of hectares of land to schools, individuals and business organisations is a matter of public record. That his activities in this regard were consistent with the activities of his predecessors is also a matter of public record. Sadly, that the ICPC is maliciously and unjustifiably persecuting an innocent Nigerian who, the Commission, has pronounced guilty and labelled a Criminal, even before trial in a Court of competent jurisdiction, is also an incontrovertible fact. Without prejudice to his right to seek legal redress, His Excellency, Governor Bala Mohammed earnestly implores all people of goodwill and conscience, no matter their political leanings, to rise and condemn the brazen high-handedness and unconstitutional behaviour of the ICPC. It is Bala Mohammed today; it could be any other person tomorrow.” He concluded.

The Poet: A FALL FROM GRACE

Joy Ahmed, A Poet, Student, Young Writer From Abuja, Nigeria.

The Poet: A FALL FROM GRACE

I fell from grace
That’s a total disgrace
I slowed my pace
Because my sins were too great to run the race
I forgot that there is a place
Where saints and sinners are placed.

I fell from grace
I could no longer behold his face
I no longer feel his overwhelming peace
I’m troubled as one lost in space
I became too far away to see he still cares
I’m even ashamed to pray in his name.

I fell from grace
I went so close to the grave
I was confused as one in a closed cave
I wanted to gain the fame
But ended up in pain and disdain
Everything became sour
I was slowly drowning.

BUT MERCY SAID NO

And he raised me up again
He gave me a chance so that my glory I can regain
In my mess he held me closer
When others had called me a loser
My world was recreated.

Grace spoke for me
And to me a new name was given
He wrapped his arms around me with love
And like the prodigal I was welcomed with a feast.

He clothed me with honour
He anointed my head with the oil of gladness
He took the shackles of shame off me
He restored my lost glory
And granted me abundance of peace.

Daily Watch Press, will always like to feature your work to the rest of the world. Be free to make comments or criticisms of any work of art publish on this up coming blog.