President Goodluck Jonathan
By Muhammad Bello
President Goodluck Jonathan Monday rallied Nigerians to soldier on in the march towards national development, notwithstanding the myriad of problems confronting the country.
The president, in a nationwide broadcast to mark Nigeria’s 52nd independence anniversary, said despite the determined efforts of his administration to make life better for the people, the nation faces many challenges that are hampering its progress.
He listed the challenges to include security, flooding, corruption and the economy, all of which he said his administration was working assiduously to address.
As part of the Independence Day celebration, the president also superintended over the change of guard parade in the State House, where the creation of a special squad to oversee security within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and its contiguous states, was unveiled.
“Those challenges should not deter us. In the last few weeks, for example, many of our communities have been ravaged by floods, resulting in the loss of lives and property, and the displacement of persons.
“I want to reassure all affected Nigerians that I share in their grief, and our administration is taking steps to address these incidents, in collaboration with the states and local governments.
“I have received the interim report of the presidential team that I set up to assess the flood situation across the country.
“The Federal Government has taken measures to assist the affected states, while considering long-term measures to check future reoccurrence.
“We must continue to work together, confidently and faithfully, to ensure that our country’s potentials are realised to the fullest; that our dreams are translated into reality; and that our goals are achieved,” he added.
The president also seized the occasion to update the citizenry on the efforts his administration has been making in tackling the various challenges and what it has achieved so far.
He saluted the nation’s founding fathers for their struggle in winning independence for Nigeria from the British colonialists, adding that yesterday’s event was also an occasion to “celebrate the unfailing optimism and resilience of Nigerians who remain proud of our national identity”.
He expressed the hope that even with its challenges, Nigeria would continue to be a source of pride to its citizens, to Africa and humanity.
He said: “On this special day, I call on every Nigerian to remain steadfast, because our nation is indeed making progress. I call on every Nigerian to rediscover that special spirit that enables us to triumph over every adversity as a people.
“I consider it a priority and sacred duty to continue to strengthen the bond of unity that holds our nation together and to promote and nourish the creative energies of our people.
“This is a central objective of our administration’s Transformation Agenda. Nigeria, I assure you, will continue to grow from strength to strength.
“We are working hard and making progress on many fronts. We have cleaned up our electoral process; our elections are now globally acclaimed to be free and fair. Nigeria is now on a higher pedestal regarding elections.
“Over the past five years, the global economy has been going through a weak and uncertain recovery. During the same period and particularly in the last two years, the Nigerian economy has done appreciably well despite the global financial crisis. Nigeria’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown by 7.1 per cent on average.
“Our country’s power supply situation is improving gradually. We are successfully implementing a well-integrated power sector reform programme, which includes institutional arrangements to facilitate and strengthen private sector-led power generation, transmission and distribution.
“We have also put in place a cost-reflective tariff structure that reduces the cost of power for a majority of electricity consumers.
“We are continuing to improve and stabilise on our crude production volumes; our 12-month gas supply emergency plan, put in place earlier this year, has produced more than the targeted volumes of gas for power generation.
“A robust Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) has been placed before the National Assembly. Its passage into law will ensure far-reaching reforms, transparency, accountability, increased government revenue and predictability for investors in the oil and gas sector.”
The president said economic reforms by his administration had yielded results by attracting over N6.8 trillion local and foreign direct investment commitments to the country to make Nigeria the preferred investment destination in Africa.
On security, he said the Federal Government had taken measures, including constant consultation and collaboration with neighbouring countries and other friendly nations, to check the menace.
In addition, Jonathan said his administration is fighting corruption, which has resulted in ending endemic corruption in fertiliser and tractor procurement and distribution, in pension management and in the fuel subsidy scheme.
The efforts, he added, had made Transparency International (TI), in its latest ranking, showed Nigeria as the second most improved country in the efforts to curb graft.
He promised to sustain anti-graft efforts and to strengthen institutions statutorily entrusted with fighting corruption.
As part of activities to mark the anniversary, Jonathan inspected a guard of honour at the State House, Abuja, during which he announced the creation of a special unit to take charge of security within the FCT and neighbouring states in view of the state of insecurity in the North.
During the ceremony, 160 officers and men of the Guards Brigade of the Nigerian Army were involved in the presentation of national and regimental colours to the newly-established 176 Special Forces Battalion of the Guards Brigade.
Jonathan, who was the special guest of honour at the parade, was decked in a Nigerian Army uniform with the rank of Field Marshal in line with his status as the Commander-in-Chief of the nation’s Armed Forces.
Before he presented the national and regimental colours to the new battalion, the president witnessed the presidential change of guards’ parade, which involved a foot and arms drill, rhythmic and calculated checking of weapons and uniforms, posting sentries and a colour parade.
The ceremony proper started with the arrival of Jonathan and prayers offered by the President, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, and the Chief Imam of the Abuja National Mosque, Sheik Usman Muhammad.
After the presentation of colours and change of guards, Jonathan signed the anniversary register. Jonathan then released pigeons signalling peace and cut the anniversary cake.
Among the dignitaries who witnessed the event were Vice-President Namadi Sambo, Senate President David Mark, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Emeka Ihedioha and former Head of State, Gen. Yakubu Gowon.
On why the celebration was low-key, Special Adviser to the president on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, debunked the speculation by the opposition that the celebration of the 52nd independence anniversary was moved to the State House for security reasons.
According to Abati, “The anniversary is also low-key this year; taking place within the precinct of the State House.
“President Jonathan has personally responded to the allegations that the event is being held within the State House by making it clear that in 2014, we will have a big event; the centenary of Nigeria's celebration, since amalgamation.
“A few years ago, we had the 50th anniversary of Nigeria's independence and that was a big event.
“The president’s take on this is that between that 50-year anniversary and the centenary of Nigeria's amalgamation, we should have low-key celebrations.
“Those who are looking for celebrations on a grand scale should wait till 2014 when we will have100 years of Nigeria’s amalgamation.”