Traditionally, it has become the usual for the sitting president to usher his people into the New year with a special message of hope and restoration. Nigerians are not left out in this as the President, Muhammadu Buhari, earlier today gave his speech.
President Muhammadu Buhari this morning unfolded his government’s plan for a comprehensive rollout and investments in roads, rail and power infrastructure in the country.
The high points of the speech include his stance on the popular topic of restructuring. He however urges Nigerians not to blame the current structure for the present situation but the processes. He also vows to deal with the bad oil marketers and finally reinstated that the dreaded terrorist sect, Boko haram, has already been defeated.
The president made the following remarks in his nationwide broadcast to Nigerians with the central idea of intimating Nigerians on the efforts that are being made by his administration to address the huge infrastructure deficit ravaging the nation. More than ever, he added that he is determined to serve Nigerians to the best of his ability, and again thanked them for his prayers when he was ill.
“I feel deeply humbled by your prayers and good wishes and I am more determined than ever to serve you to the best of my
ability,” Buhari said.
He listed the infrastructure projects being pursued by his government to include the Lagos-Kano standard gauge railway, which he said would get to Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, at the end of 2019 with the objective of transporting two million passengers and five million tons of cargo per annum.
Assuring Nigerians that the construction of the Kano-Kaduna rail line will take off this year and would become a catalyst in the North-South trading route in 2021, the president said the Abuja-Kaduna rail line would also witness a boost next Thursday with the capacity to transport one million commuters every year.
“My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructure deficit.
“We are going to make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country. The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is one of the drivers of this government’s commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.
“With regards to railways, we have set ourselves ambitious targets. Already in construction stage is the Lagos-Kano standard gauge railway line. The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million passengers per annum and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.
“Construction of the Kano-Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021, the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.
“The Abuja-Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.
“At the same time, I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu.
“The Abuja to Itakpe line will go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.
“Negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.
“Secondly, the Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar is in the pipeline.
“In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people.
“With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98 per cent completion, as against 64 per cent completion when we assumed office.
“Only test runs remain before the start of operations. This train service will stimulate economic activities in the federal capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system.
“Twelve railway sub-stations around the capital over a 45.2 kilometre route will serve as a catalyst and a pull factor to the economy of the area.
“The light rail system will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions in line with the administration’s policy on climate change,” he said.
On road infrastructure, the president who disclosed that Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) had been reconstituted and ordered to carry out rapid road upgrade within 12 weeks in all the six geopolitical zones, stated that the recent N100 billion raised through Sukuk bond would address 25 major highways with N16.67 billion earmarked for use in each geopolitical zone.
The roads are the Oyo-Ogbomosho, Ofusu-Ore-Ajebandele-Shagamu, Yenagoa road Junction-Kolo Otuoke-Bayelsa Palm, Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriage way, Onitsha-Enugu expressway, Kaduna Eastern bypass, dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri road, dualisation of Abuja-Lokoja-Benin road, and dualisation of the Suleja-Minna road.
Further stating that the federal government had approved the commencement of reconstruction of the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road, Buhari said power supply had improved considerably with the enablement of the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise N701 billion through the Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme to encourage power generating firms to realise at least 80 per cent of payments for power delivered to the national grid.
While disclosing that power transmission had been ramped up to 7,000 megawatts (MW), he said for the first time on December 8, 2017, the country generated 5,155MW of electricity and proceeded to highlight other achievements in the power sector.
“As I mentioned earlier, the Transmission Company of Nigeria can now distribute all the 7,000MW that can be generated. TCN and the Niger Delta Holding Company have added 1,950MVA of 330 down to 132KV transformer capacity of 10 transmission stations and 2,930MVA of 132 down to 33KV transformer capacity of 42 sub-stations including Ikot Ekpene, Aba, Alagbon, Ajah, Ejigbo, Funtua and Zaria.
“This administration is working with the privatised distribution companies (Discos) to overcome the continuing challenges of distribution,” he said.
The president also said that the massive public works currently being spearheaded by his government would lead to the nation’s recovery and simultaneously create millions of jobs, adding that government was slowly stabilising the economy through sustainable policies and programmes captured in the economic recovery plan.
“Diversification efforts have resulted in improved output particularly in the agriculture and solid minerals sectors. The relative exchange rate stability has improved the manufacturing sector’s performance.
“We have got to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business as usual are numbered.
“Two years ago, I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to restructure the economy.
“Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on,” he added
Appealing to “enterprising Nigerians” with useful ideas to get involved in job creation, Buhari noted that advanced countries were built through the involvement of enterprising persons.
On the fuel shortages experienced during the Christmas and New Year holidays, Buhari said the action of oil marketers that created hardship for Nigerians was unacceptable.
He recalled how the crisis had left many Nigerians stranded while those who defied it had to pay through their nose, warning that he would get to the root of the matter and ensure that the culprits are brought to book to serve as deterrents in the future.
“I join my fellow citizens this morning to welcome and celebrate the New Year 2018. This year promises to be pivotal in our quest for change.
“Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many, this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy.
“Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.
“The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares.
“This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.
“Such unpatriotism will not divert the administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watchword and policy thrust is change.
“We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity,” he said.
Speaking on the agitation for restructuring, Buhari said Nigeria’s problems border mainly on processes and not structure as being agitated, disclosing, however, that the government was examining the high cost of governance with a view to improving governance.
“In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the ongoing debate about ‘Restructuring’.
“No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments.
“We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities.
“When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems have more to do with process than structure.
“We tried the parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the parliamentary structure.
“In older democracies these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to neatly fit our purpose. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.
“However, there is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public service long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better.
“I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability,” he said.
As the 2019 electioneering period draws nearer, Buhari counselled politicians to avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion, cautioning that such attitude must be avoided in order to promote harmony.
He also challenged other parts of the country to emulate the South-west which he said had successfully internalised religion and politics.
“In this respect, the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South-western states that have successfully internalised religion, ethnicity and politics.
“Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law.
“We should draw encouragement from the series of bye-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence free and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair,” he said.
Submitting that security remains a top priority of his government, Buhari who recently secured the nod of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) to withdraw $1 billion from the Excess Crude Account (ECA) to fight the insurgency in the North-east maintained that “we have since beaten Boko Haram” and described other attacks that persist as mere isolated attacks.
He also said short-term measures had been evolved to combat kidnapping through what he described as tighter police methods with prescribed severe penalties for kidnappers, adding that the government was effectively engaging Niger Delta leaders with a view to addressing the challenges of the region including the Ogoni clean.
“Terrorism and urban crimes are worldwide phenomena and our security forces are continuously adapting their responses to changing threats.
“With regards to rampant cases of kidnappings, we are taking immediate short-term measures to combat this new evil creeping into our societies.
“Tighter police methods and swift and severe punishment for those proved to be engaged in kidnapping are on the way.
“With respect to the Niger Delta, government is still engaging responsible leadership of the communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the region.
“Our clean-up programme in collaboration with the United Nations is making satisfactory progress. I am grateful to all the governors and other political and community leaders of the Niger Delta states for their part in bringing relative peace to the areas,”.
Reference: This Day Newspaper [01-01-2018].
Written and published on Muzzammilwrites.