• Says fight against corruption’ll continue
• Asks Shiites, Niger Delta to embrace peace
• Admits mistakes in handling IDPs
Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that securing the country and taking the economy out of recession would be his main preoccupation in 2017.
The president, in his new year message to Nigerians, said security issues afflicting the country would be decisively dealt with.
The president thanked Nigerians for their support and assured them that the current pains, “are temporary and will ease when the economic seeds in gestation begin to bloom to fruition.”
He urged them to continue to support his administration in its effort to transform Nigeria for the good of all.
He also appealed to militants in the Niger Delta to embrace peace and come to the negotiation table.
Buhari also said his government’s determination to wrestle corruption to the ground remained unshaken.
This fight, which he said would be guided by respect for the rule of law and due process, would not spare anybody or organ of government.
He said: “It is a collective undertaking and resolve that must be seen to its logical conclusion in spite of certain distractions. The fate of our country lies partly in the success of this campaign. It will be unthinkable on my part to allow the boat of this crucial campaign promise capsize mid-stream.”
Noting that the nation was “witnessing a new and impressive turnaround in our security and socio-economic situation., he urged Nigerians to join him in congratulating the heroic and gallant efforts of the military and other security agencies on their remarkable successes to rid the nation of terrorism.
He said: “Following the successful capture of Sambisa Forest, spearheaded by troops of Operation Lafiya Dole, we have entered a new phase in our battle against our common enemy, Boko Haram.
“When we see our beloved 21 Chibok girls reuniting with their families and community for Christmas, it gives us the hope that those who are still in captivity will one day return to the loving arms of family, friends and well-wishers.”
The president called on all Nigerians to be on the alert and watch out for strange figures settling in their communities, and report to the nearest security agencies, as armed forces intensified the pursuit of fleeing terrorists from the captured Sambisa Forest.
Buhari said that misguided elements who decided to take up arms against constituted authorities must be brought to face the full weight of the law.
He said: “The support of all Nigerians to security agencies to enable them successfully execute their mandate is crucial in our bid to effectively secure our country.
“Seeing the joyful return of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to Damasak town in Borno State, following the reopening of Maiduguri/Gubio/Damasak road in Northern Borno on December 25, 2016, reassured us that the voluntary return of IDPs in other parts of the country is imminent.”
The president said government would spare no effort in seeing to the resettlement and rehabilitation of the victims of terrorism and insurgency.
He appealed to state governments, privileged Nigerians, donor agencies and countries to redouble their contributions towards this goal.
Buhari also admitted that mistakes were made in the handling of the IDP affairs and promised to correct such errors.
“Government is aware of some mistakes and wrongdoings in handling the affairs of IDPs. We are taking measures to correct those mistakes and punish the culprits,” he added.
He said: “In this New Year, I want to reassure all Nigerians that our defence and security forces are more than ever before ready to perform their constitutional role of protecting lives and property in the country; and we will surely overcome all other forms of security challenges.
“The lingering security issues in several states will be frontally addressed. These ugly crises cannot be allowed to fester as they strain the unifying bonds of brotherhood and neighbourliness.”
Buhari called on, “some sections of the press and some politicians” to avoid provocative and inflammatory statements, “while the government is painstakingly trying to find solutions to our challenges.”
The president insisted that the nation’s unity was not negotiable.
He said: “I want to remind you on the first day of this New Year of an African proverb that says ‘it is easy to break a broomstick but not a bunch’. Nigeria is a bunch and is more than equal to troublemakers.”
Noting that he had interacted with a broad spectrum of Nigerians, the old and the young, he said they had all told him unequivocally that they believed in the unity and stability of Nigeria.
He said year 2017 would provide an opportunity for Nigerians to build on those aspects of their national life that united them.
He said: “We are courageous, hardworking, hospitable, steadfast and resilient people, even in the face of difficulties.
“These are the attributes that define us and have for years confounded the pessimists who do not believe in our continued existence as a united and indivisible nation. We are a remarkable nation that has succeeded in harnessing our multiple diversities for national development. We must continue to support and tolerate one another and live together as one.”
Buhari promised to continue to pursue peace initiatives in the Niger Delta, as he again, “calls on our brothers in that region who have taken to violent disruptions of economic infrastructure to come to the negotiating table.”
The president also called on followers of Shiites to embrace peace.
He said: “As for our brothers and sisters of the Shia Community, we urge them, too, to embrace peace. They must accept the laws of the country they live in. They cannot be islands by themselves. At the same time, the law enforcement agencies must treat them humanely and according to the rule of law.”
On the Economy, the president said that in the past 20 months, he had focused his energies to turn around the economy, create jobs, fight corruption, and transform agriculture to replace oil and gas as a major revenue earner for the nation.
He said he was encouraged that the country was on the right way.
According to him, the agricultural revolution has begun.
He said: “Farmers in different parts of the country are experiencing bumper harvests; states are getting into strategic partnership towards attaining self-sufficiency in rice, and the era of over-dependence on oil for foreign exchange revenues is gradually waning. I am optimistic that the change we all yearned for in voting this administration to power in 2015 will manifest more and be sustained in different sectors, particularly agriculture, in 2017.”
He stated that his administration’s economic recovery and growth plan in 2017 was anchored on optimizing the use of local content and empowering local businesses.
In pursuit of his administration’s philosophy, he said government would continue to appeal to Nigerians to buy “Made In Nigeria” goods.
“Like I said during the 2017 Budget presentation to the National Assembly, farmers, small and medium-sized manufacturers, agro-allied businesses, dressmakers, entertainers and technology start-ups, will remain the true drivers of our economic future. They are the engine of our economic recovery and their needs underpin our Economic Recovery and Growth Plan,” he said.
On job creation, he said, his administration would sustain existing programmes aimed at lifting a vast number of youth out of poverty, while at the same time creating the opportunities for people to fend for themselves.