Sunday Ode, Abuja.
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday declared that the nation has been brought back on its feet courtesy of his first term administration.
According to him, this feat is in spite of some vested interests that were not receptive to his change agenda.
He said: “In my first term, we put Nigeria back on its feet. We are working again despite a difficult environment in oil on which we depend too much for our exports. We encountered huge resistance from vested interests who do not want Change, But Change has come, we now must move to the Next Level.
“By the Grace of God, I intend to keep the oath I have made today and to serve as President for all Nigerians.”
. He said the country must now move to the “next level.”
Buhari spoke at the inaugural celebration of June 12 as Democracy Day at the Eagle Square, Abuja
The Democracy Day event, which witnessed military parade and cultural dances, was graced by leaders of several countries including Ghana, Togo, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Tchad, Niger Republic, Mauritius, Equatorial Guinea, Venezuela, North Korea, Rwanda, among others.
The President noted that he had respected the independence of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), noting that the last general elections were the free, fair and peaceful.
According to him, “Throughout the last four years, I respected the independence of INEC. I ensured that INEC got all the resources it needed for independent and impartial management of elections in the country.
“All interested parties are agreed that the recent elections, which except for pockets of unrest, were free, fair and peaceful.
“I thank all the people who worked for our party, who campaigned and who voted for us. I thank my fellow Nigerians, who, since 2003 have consistently voted for me.
“Victory is your greatest reward; peace, unity and greater prosperity will be our collective legacy.”
Buhari remarked that he would consolidate on his achievements in the years to come and correct observed lapses.
“The principal thrust of this new Administration is to consolidate on the achievements of the last four years, correct the lapses inevitable in all human endeavors and tackle the new challenges the country is faced with and chart a bold plan for transforming Nigeria,” he stated.
While noting the existence of various challenges, the President said with good leadership and sense of purpose, about 100 million Nigerians will be lifted out of poverty in 10 years.
He stated: “In face of these challenges, our Government elected by the people in 2015 and re-elected in March has been mapping out policies, measures and laws to maintain our unity and at the same time lift the bulk of our people out of poverty and onto the road to prosperity.
“This task is by no means unattainable. China has done it. India has done it. Indonesia has done it. Nigeria can do it. These are all countries characterized by huge burdens of population.
“China and Indonesia succeeded under authoritarian regimes. India succeeded in a democratic setting. We can do it.“With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
“Following the 60 percent drop in oil prices between 2015 and 2016, through monetary and fiscal measures, we stimulated economic growth, curbed inflation and shored up our external reserves.
“We now have witnessed 8 quarters of positive growth in the economy and our GDP is expected to grow by 2.7 percent this year.
“Furthermore, our external reserves have risen to $45 billion enough to finance over 9 months of current import commitments.
“This Administration is laying the foundation and taking bold steps in transforming our country and liberating our people from the shackles of poverty.
“First, we will take steps to integrate rural economies to the national economic “grid” by extending access to small-scale credits and inputs to rural farmers, credit to rural micro-businesses and opening up many critical feeder roads.
“Secondly, for small-scale enterprises in towns and cities, we shall expand facilities currently available so that we continue to encourage and support domestic production of basic goods and reduce our reliance of imported goods as I will outline later.
“For the next four years, we will remain committed to improving the lives of people by consolidating efforts to address these key issues as well as emerging challenges of climate change, resettling displaced communities and dealing decisively with the new flashes of insecurity across the country, and the impacts on food scarcity and regional stability.
“We are not daunted by the enormity of the tasks ahead. Instead, we are revived by this new mandate to work collaboratively with State and Local Governments, Legislators, the Diplomatic Corps and all Nigerians to rebuild and reposition our country as the heartbeat and reference point for our continent.”
On infrastructure development, President Buhari stressed the need to modernize, saying: “Despite the enormous resources pledged to infrastructure development these past four years, there remains the urgent need to modernize our roads and bridges, electricity grid, ports and rail systems.
“Whilst agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession, we are more committed than ever to work with the private sector to improve productivity and accelerate economic growth.
“The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index which is the gauge of manufacturing activity in the country has also risen for 26 consecutive months since March 2017 indicating continuous growth and expansion in our manufacturing sector.
“It still takes too long for goods to clear at our seaports and the roads leading to them are congested. It still takes too long for routine and regulatory approvals to be secured. These issues affect our productivity and we are committed to addressing them permanently.
“Our Government will continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programs, education, technology and improved information.
“Our social intervention programs are a model for other nations. Together with state governments, we provide millions of school children with meals in primary schools, micro loans to traders and entrepreneurs, skills and knowledge acquisition support to graduates and of course, conditional cash transfers to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society.
“A database of poor and vulnerable households is being carefully built based on age, gender, disability, educational levels for proper planning in this Administration’s war against poverty.
“A database of unemployed but qualified youth has also been developed under the National Social Investment Programme which can be used by the public and private sectors for recruitment purposes. Cumulatively, nearly 2 million beneficiaries have received aid under this Programme apart from Anchors Borrowers Programme and School Feeding initiative each reaching 2 million recipients. And we will do more. Much more.”
The President drew a correlation between economic inequality and insecurity, blaming the situation on decades of neglect.
His words: “Fellow Nigerians, Your Excellencies, Ladies & Gentlemen, we know that there exists a strong correlation between economic inequality and insecurity.
“When economic inequality rises, insecurity rises. But when we actively reduce inequality through investments in social and hard infrastructure, insecurity reduces.
“The disturbing increase in rates of kidnapping, banditry and other criminal activities can be attributed to the decades of neglect and corruption in social investment, infrastructure development, education and healthcare.
“This issue is further compounded by the impact of our changing climate and ecology.
“The ECOWAS and Sahel regions, starting from Chad all the way to Mali, are also experiencing adverse impacts of drought and desertification, which have triggered waves of human displacement; conflicts between farmers and herdsmen; terrorism; and a fundamental socio-economic change to our way of life.”
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