President Muhammadu Buhari says power remains a huge problem to the country despite the fact that energy production has reached an all time high of 7,001 Megawatts as of Sept 12.
President Buhari stated this in his broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 57th independence anniversary on Sunday in Abuja.
He, however, said that government was increasing its investment, clearing up the operational and financial log jam bedeviling the sector.
“We hope to reach 10,000 Megawatts by 2020.
“Key priorities include better energy mix through solar and hydro technologies. I am glad to say that after many years of limbo, Mambilla Power Project has taken off,” he said.
President Buhari also announced that a new presidential initiative that would create a minimum of 10,000 jobs for unemployed youths across 36 states of the federation and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would be soon inaugurated with the aid of CBN’s development finance initiatives.
He noted with delight that the country had recorded seven consecutive months of lower inflation.
“Naira rate is beginning to stabilize, appreciating from N525 to one dollar in February this year to N360 today.
“Broad-based economic growth is leading us out of recession.
“Elsewhere in the economy the special window created for manufacturers, investors and exporters, foreign exchange requirements have proved very effective. Since April, about seven billion dollars has come through this window alone.
“The main effect of these policies is improved confidence in the economy and better investment sentiments.”
The President devoted part of the 57th Independence anniversary speech to remind campaigners for the dismemberment of Nigeria of the horrendous experience of Nigeria’s civil war between 1967 and 1970.
He did not in any way mention Biafra specifically in the broadcast, the reference was unmistakable as the Indigenous People of Biafra has been the champion of a new Biafra nation, to be excised from Nigeria.
President Buhari restated that the dismemberment campaign, part of the wider legitimate call for restructuring of the Nigerian federation, has violated the red line.
He said his government will never allow such advocacy, being pushed by “irresponsible groups”.
“We can not and we will not allow such advocacy”, he said.
“As a young Army Officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about 2m lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering. Those who are agitating for a re-run were not born by 1967 and have no idea of the horrendous consequences of the civil conflict which we went through.
“I am very disappointed that responsible leaders of these communities do not warn their hot-headed youths what the country went through. Those who were there should tell those who were not there, the consequences of such folly.
“At all events, proper dialogue and any desired constitutional changes should take place in a rational manner, at the National and State Assemblies. These are the proper and legal fora for National debate, not some lop-sided, un-democratic body with pre-determined set of objectives”.
President Muhammadu Buhari said his administration released a bailout of N1.64 trillion to states and local governments between 2015 and 2017 as part of measures to stabilise the polity.
He said that the funds were released to enable the states and local governments to “pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years.
“Furthermore, in order to stabilize the polity, the Federal Government gave additional support to states in the form of State Excess Crude Account loans, Budget Support Facility, and Stabilization Fund Release to state and local government as follows:
“N200 billion in 2015, N441 billion in 2016 and N1 trillion in 2017, altogether totaling N1.64 trillion.
“This was done to enable states to pay outstanding salaries, pensions and small business suppliers who had been all but crippled over the years.’’
The president disclosed that the Federal Government’s current N500 billion Special Intervention Programme targeted groups through the Home-Grown School Feeding Programme and the N-Power Programme as well as providing loans to small-scale traders and artisans.
He said that the intervention programme also covered the Conditional Cash Transfer, Family Homes Fund and Social Housing Scheme.
Civil servants and retirees in some states are still being owed by their governments, backlog of unpaid salaries, pensions and other benefits. These had led to strikes and work stoppages.
Buhari had on Sept. 11, appealed to state governors to pay all understanding salaries of their workers, and accumulated pensions of ex-workers from the additional funds provided to them by the Federal Government.
He made the appeal when he met with members of the National Council of Traditional Rulers at the new Banquet hall, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He had frowned at the inability of the concerned state governments to pay retirement benefits and outstanding salaries of workers with their shares of Paris Club Loan Refunds paid to them.
“We have to digress this much because I would like to convince you that I’m living with the problems of this country day-by-day, and mostly those of the ordinary people.
“There are Nigerians that haven’t been paid for six months; there are Nigerians that have not been paid their retirement benefits for years.
“I’m appealing to the governors (that was why we voted money, we borrowed money), please make sure you pay anybody under you, pay them because most of them depend on that salary to pay rent, school fees,’’ he had said.