Measures to Rebuild Nigeria May Lead to Hardships, Buhari Warns

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Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that some of the measures his government will take to rebuild the country may lead to hardships.

In his Democracy Day broadcast, Buhari said that the real challenge for his government has been reconstructing the spine of the Nigerian state.

According to him, the last twelve months have been spent collaborating with all arms of government to revive institutions so that they are more efficient and fit for purpose.

He said: ” That means a bureaucracy better able to develop and deliver policy.That means an independent judiciary, above suspicion and able to defend citizen’s rights and dispense justice equitably.

“That means a legislature that actually legislates effectively and
Above all; that means political parties and politicians committed to serving the nigerian people rather than themselves.”

He described the aforementioned as
the pillars of the state on which democracy could take root and thrive.

“But only if they are strong and incorruptible,” he added.

He said he his government was working very hard to introduce some vital structural reforms in the way government business was done and lay a solid foundation on which an enduring change could be built.

He said: “An important first step has been to get our housekeeping right. So we have reduced the extravagant spending of the past. We started boldly with the treasury single account, stopping the leakages in public expenditure.

“We then identified forty-three thousand ghost workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information system. That represents pay packets totalling N4.2 billion stolen every month. In addition, we will save Twenty-Three Billion Naira per annum from official travelling and sitting allowances alone.”

He also said the efficiency unit would cut costs and eliminate duplications in ministries and departments.

He added: “Every little saving helps. The reduction in the number of ministries and work on restructuring and rationalization of the MDAs is well underway. When this work is complete we will have a leaner, more efficient public service that is fit for the purpose of changing nigeria for the good and for good.”

The president said he resolved to keep the Naira steady, as in the past, devaluation had done dreadful harm to the Nigerian economy.

He said he supported the monetary authority’s decision to ensure alignment between monetary policy and fiscal policy.

Buhari said: “We shall keep a close look on how the recent measures affect the Naira and the economy.

“But we cannot get away from the fact that a strong currency is predicated on a strong economy. And a strong economy pre-supposes an industrial productive base and a steady export market.

“The measures we must take, may lead to hardships. The problems Nigerians have faced over the last year have been many and varied. “

Apart from savings, Buhari said he had changed the way public money was spent.

He said that in all his years as a public servant, he never come across the practice of padding budgets.

He said: “I am glad to tell you now we not only have a budget, but more importantly, we have a budget process that is more transparent, more inclusive and more closely tied to our development priorities than in the recent past.

“30 per cent of the expenditure in this budget is devoted to capital items.

“Furthermore, we are projecting non-oil revenues to surpass proceeds from oil.

“Some critics have described the budget exercise as clumsy. Perhaps. But it was an example of consensus building, which is integral to democratic government. In the end we resolved our differences.

“We have, therefore, delivered significant milestones on security, corruption and the economy.

“In respect of the economy, I would like to directly address you on the very painful but inevitable decisions we had to make in the last few weeks specifically on the pump price of fuel and the more flexible exchange rate policy announced by the central bank.

“It is even more painful for me that a major producer of crude oil with four refineries that once exported refined products is today having to import all of its domestic needs. This is what corruption and mismanagement has done to us and that is why we must fight these ills.”