With the escalating attacks and bombing of oil and power installations in the Niger Delta region, President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday said that the militants, vandals and sponsors involved will not go unpunished.
He however said that the ongoing attacks will not stop dialogue with the Nigeria Delta leaders towards finding a lasting solution to the crisis.
This was part of his 30 minutes National Broadcast marking his one year in office and Democracy Day.
The President described the last one year as a year of triumph, consolidation, pains and achievements, noting that the people have proved inherently good, industrious tolerant, patient and generous despite the many years of hardship and disappointment.
Buhari disclosed that a significant part of the looted funds have been recovered by the government.
The President therefore directed the Ministry of Information to publish the details and regurlar give updates to the public when new recoveries are made.
The recovered funds, he said, will be openly and transparently used in funding developmental projects.
He said: “The recent spate of attacks by militants disrupting oil and power installations will not distract us from engaging leaders in the region in addressing Niger Delta problems. If the militants and vandals are testing our resolve, they are much mistaken. We shall apprehend the perpetrators and their sponsors and bring them to justice.
“The policy measures and actions taken so far are not to be seen as some experiment in governance. We are fully aware that those vested interests who have held Nigeria back for so long will not give up without a fight.
“They will sow divisions, sponsor vile press criticisms at home and abroad, incite the public in an effort to create chaos rather than relinquish the vice-like grip they have held on Nigeria.” He added
He however said that his administration is committed to implementing the United Nations Environment Programme report and advancing clean-up operations.
Harping on a sustainable approach to address the issues affecting the Niger Delta communities, he noted that re-engineering the amnesty programmes was an example to follow.
On recovered stolen funds, he said: “But today I can confirm that thus far: significant amount of assets have been recovered. A considerable portion of these are at different stages of recovery.
“Full details of the status and categories of the assets will now be published by the Ministry of Information and updated periodically.
“When forfeiture formalities are completed these monies will be credited to the treasury and be openly and transparently used in funding developmental projects and the public will be informed.” He said
But the President noted that the processes of recovering stolen assets, which are in different jurisdictions, are tedious and time consuming.
According to him, the economic misfortune of low oil prices, which averaged at $100 per barrel from the year 2010 and fell to $30 per barrel at the inception of his administration, has provided Nigeria an opportunity to restructure her economy and diversify it through agriculture, livestocks, solid mineral resources, industrial and manufacturing base.
By doing that, he said that Nigeria will import less and make the social investments necessary to boost large and skilled workforce.
Noting that the past administration did not keep anything for the rainy day, he said: “Oil prices have been declining since 2014 but due to the neglect of the past, the country was not equipped to halt the economy from declining.
“The infrastructure, notably rail, power, roads were in a decrepit state. All the four refineries were in a state of disrepair, the pipelines and depots neglected.
“Huge debts owed to contractors and suppliers had accumulated. Twenty-seven states could not pay salaries for months. In the north-east, Boko Haram had captured 14 local governments, driven the local authorities out, hoisted their flags. Elsewhere, insecurity was palpable; corruption and impunity were the order of the day. In short, we inherited a state near collapse.
“On the economic front, all oil dependent countries, Nigeria included, have been struggling since the drop in prices. Many oil rich states have had to take tough decisions similar to what we are doing.
“The world, Nigeria included has been dealing with the effects of three significant and simultaneous global shocks starting in 2014:
A 70% drop in oil prices.
Global growth slowdown.
Normalization of monetary policy by the United States federal reserve.
“Our problems as a government are like that of a farmer who in a good season harvests ten bags of produce. The proceeds enable him to get by for rest of the year. However, this year he could only manage 3 bags from his farm. He must now think of other ways to make ends meet.” He said
He also promised that the Central Bank of Nigeria will offer more fiscal incentives for business that prove capable of manufacturing products that are internationally competitive.
Stressing that his administration is committed to reforming the regulatory framework and improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria, he said that the first steps to self-sufficiency in rice, wheat and sugar, which are the big users of Nigeria’s scarce foreign exchange, have been taken.
The Labour Intensive Farming Enterprise, he said, will boost the economy and ensure inclusive growth in long neglected communities.
He said: “Special intervention funds through the Bank of Agriculture will provide targeted support. Concerns remain about rising cost of foods such as maize, rice, millet, beans and gari. Farmers tell me that they are worried about the cost of fertilizers, pesticides and the absence of extension services.
“The federal and state governments are on the same page in tackling these hurdles in our efforts at increased food production and ultimately food security.
“And by growing more food in Nigeria, mainly rice, wheat and sugar we will save billions of dollars in foreign exchange and drastically reduce our food import bill.” He stated
On foreign exchange and fuel shortages, he said that the plan of the administration is to save foreign exchange by fast tracking repair of the refineries and producing most of the fuel requirements at home.
He expressed the belief of his administration in democracy as the form of government that best assures the active participation and actual benefit of the people.
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Source: The Nation Business News