Buhari Counts Gains of Democracy, Revels Progress in Economy, Security

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Muhammadu Buhari

•Orders employment of 774,000 youth for public works
•Worries about rising cases of rape, violence against women PDP, Afenifere, PANDEF punch holes in Democracy Day speech Hafsat Abiola: Nigerians poorer after dad’s death

By Deji Elumoye, Omololu Ogunmade, Chuks Okocha and Udora Orizu

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday listed gains of his administration in the nation’s economic development and security, stating that since 2019 when he delivered Democracy Day address, the country had witnessed 11 consecutive Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growths.

Speaking during his national broadcast on this year’s Democracy Day in Abuja, yesterday, Buhari stated that the growth only declined in the first quarter of this year as a result of the pandemic which he said had affected global economy.

The president, while delivering the address, ordered the employment of 774,000 youth for public works to improve their socio-economic status, but added that he was concerned about rising cases of rape, and violence against women.

Regardless of the thumbs up the president gave to his administration, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), all punched holes in the Democracy Day speech.

Also, Hafsat Abiola, the daughter of Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, whose denied mandate led to the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day, has knocked the government, saying Nigerians have become poorer after her dad’s death.

However, according to President Buhari, a deliberate effort to stabilise the economy had resulted in the decision to strengthen the external reserves, which he said consequently grew from $33.42 billion to $36 billion between April and May this year, submitting that the country’s economic decline amid the pandemic had been mild.

The President also spoke on efforts to achieve optimal results in the power sector, pointing out that the deal that Nigeria entered into with a German firm, Siemens, would result in both the transmission and distribution of no lesser than 11,000 megawatts of electricity in 2023.

Describing the power sector as critical to meeting the country’s aspiration for Nigeria’s industrial development, Buhari said existing challenges in the sector were being tackled through different strategies, highlighting some power projects being implemented by the federal government.

He also spoke on various efforts made to grow the agricultural sector and the resultant outputs, noting for instance that efforts in growing non-oil exports led to the growth of revenue from cocoa and sesame seed by $79.4 million and $153 million last year.

He argued that the visa on arrival policy along with various initiatives meant to boost micro small and medium scale enterprises, as well as robust electronic registration and payment system and seamless processing of business registration and reduction of the cost of registering business by 50 per cent, aided Nigeria’s rise by 25 places in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking.

According to him, efforts to expand the mining sector led to his directive for the revival of Ajaokuta Steel Company on the basis of government-to-government financing and a public-private sector financing.

The president added that with both foreign and domestic investments, as well as the participation of small scale miners, supply value chain in gold production was being harnessed.

On road projects, Buhari said 48 per cent completion rate had been achieved on the second Niger Bridge, adding that 102 kilometers of the 376 kilometers Abuja – Kaduna – Kano Road had been achieved in addition to 87 per cent completion work on Obajana – Kabba Road.

Buhari also said the Federal Roads Maintenance Agency had completed routine maintenance jobs on over 4,000 kilometres of federal roads out of the 5,000 kilometres targeted.

On aviation, he said Abuja, Lagos and Kano airports were undergoing expansion while all other airports in the country were being upgraded to international standard, noting also that the rehabilitation of Enugu Airport was almost completed.

Buhari, who promised the completion of the East-West Road in 2021, said the funding of sections one to four of the road would be pursued. He said he was determined to ensure that the people of the Niger Delta experienced the development they deserved.

According to him, it was against this background that he ordered the audit of the Niger Delta Development Commission, whose head office, he said, would be commissioned soon.

The president said in the effort to create jobs and reduce the effect of COVID-19, he had directed the employment of 1,000 youth from each of the 774, 000 local governments of the country through Special Public Works Programme to cushion the effects of the economic downturn.

He lamented that both democracy and humanity were being threatened by COVID-19, expressing optimism, however, that Nigeria would come out stronger as it had survived many crises in the past.

Buhari urged Nigerians to bear the threat posed by the global pandemic in mind, irrespective of their dreams and aspirations. “Nigeria has survived many crises before and came out stronger. I am confident that by God’s grace we shall overcome this one and emerge stronger and more purposeful.”

The President, who said the celebration of 21 years of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria called for reflection, added that it also provided a platform to celebrate Nigeria’s founding fathers, describing this year’s celebration amid COVID-19 as a very difficult moment.

“It is a day to honour our founding fathers who toiled to establish our republic and every Nigerian who has worked tirelessly to sustain it. We are celebrating this year’s Democracy Day despite the COVID-19 pandemic which afflicts our nation and the whole world.

“It is indeed a very difficult time for everyone, especially those who have lost loved ones to the virus and those whose sources of livelihood have been severely constrained by the stringent measures we introduced at every level of government to contain the virus and save lives,” Buhari said.

The President said the pandemic had disrupted Nigeria’s economic system, explaining that in government’s efforts to sustain the economy, it put in place a number of non-pharmaceutical measures to slow down the spread of the virus, in addition to a progressive re-opening of the economy.

He said priorities had been given to efforts aimed at ending insurgency, highlighting some which he said had been made to fight insurgency in the North-east and revive the economies of affected places.

He also said he regretted the recent mass killings by bandits in Borno and Katsina states, promising that security agencies would pursue the criminals and bring them to book.

He said: “Ending insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones.

“All the Local Governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas that were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.

“The total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to our food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities.

“I regret recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno states as a result of criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions. Security Agencies will pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice.”

On anti-corruption war, Buhari said anti-graft agencies had secured more than 1,400 convictions and recovered funds over N800 billion, saying “these monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.”

While praising the contribution of Nigerians to national development, Buhari said he was upset by increasing cases of violence against women in recent times, particularly the rape of young girls, pledging the federal government’s preparedness to deploy extant laws to fight violence against women.

“I salute your courage, enterprise and resilience, as well as your contributions to national development. I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation.

“I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape, especially of very young girls. The Police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice,” he said.

He thanked the media for what he described as their “doggedness in the struggle for attainment of democracy since the beginning of our nationhood,” noting that even though the relationship of successive governments with the media had not been smooth, they have remained “an effective watchdog for the society, especially in holding public officers to account.”

PDP: Buhari’s June 12 Broadcast, a Slap on Democracy

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) yesterday described the president’s Democracy Day address as a huge and unpardonable slap on the face of the nation’s democratic process.

According to a statement by the National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, “Our party stresses that President Buhari’s silence on the values of democracy, as well as the myriads of violations under his watch has further vindicated its stance and that of majority of Nigerians that the Buhari administration has no regard for democracy and is not prepared to uphold its tenets in our country.”

PDP urged Nigerians to note that the President’s speech had no space for Chief MKO Abiola, stating, “This only goes to show that the Buhari Presidency and the All Progressives Congress (APC) have no regard for Chief Abiola and the essence of June 12, but only used their nomenclature to gain selfish political capital.”

The PDP further said, “It is scandalous that on a day like this, President Buhari had no assurances on electoral reforms and credible election; which is the hallmark of democracy.”

Also, the PDP said, the President had no words of assurance towards respect for the constitution, particularly the principles of separation of powers, federal character, equality, equity, fairness, transparency and respect for the sensibilities of the federal structure.

Rather, it said that the President and his handlers sought to divert attention from their failures and violations associated with this administration by taking the nation on a merry-go-round of recycled false performance claims that are not backed by any empirical or verifiable data.

Moreover, he said that Nigerians have been in shock that while bandits were busy killing compatriots in Katsina, Kaduna, Zamfara, Borno, Kogi and various parts of the nation, even on the eve of his broadcast, President Buhari was claiming that his government had secured the nation.

The PDP, however, urged Nigerians not to resign to despondency or allow the failures and violations of the APC administration to erode their faith in the nation’s democracy but should remain united in their commitment to the stability of the nation.

PANDEF: Buhari’s Address Fell Below Expectation of Citizens

The apex socio-cultural body of Niger Delta people, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), has punctured the 2020 Democracy Day address of the president, saying the presentation fell short of the expectation of the general public.

The Forum, however, called for unity and greater understanding among Nigerians as they celebrate June 12 as the new democracy day in the country.

PANDEF in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Ken Robinson, described President Buhari’s broadcast to the nation as rhetoric, apathetic and largely, a promissory note, as usual.

According to him, PANDEF had expected to hear commitment from the president on the Amendment of the 2010 Electoral Act, which he withheld assent to in 2019; particularly, with off-season gubernatorial elections around the corner in Edo and Ondo states.

PANDEF, further expressed regret that the only achievement in the Niger Delta that President Buhari could cite in his address, was the supposed completion of an NDDC Head Office.

“Apparently, the only interest of the federal government in the Niger Delta is sustained crude oil production, while the people of the region continue to suffer socioeconomic and infrastructural depravity. The strategic East – West Road, which traverses six states of the Region, has been abandoned, and rendered a sanctuary for criminals, and a deathtrap. Phase five of the Road, from Oron – Calabar has been totally forgotten,” PANDEF said.

Afenifere: Buhari’s Speech Failed to Address Real Issues Affecting the Nation

The Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afenifere, has said President Buhari’s democracy day speech failed to address real issues confronting the nation.

The group, in a statement issued by its spokesman, Yinka Odumakin yesterday described the speech as a long one that was very short on the fundamental issues that are making Nigeria seekers of debts at a time we should be seeking ways to generate wealth.

It stated that the group had expected the president to give report of the steps in the democracy journey, especially on a Democracy Day like June 12.

Hafsat Abiola: Nigerians Poorer After dad’s Death

The daughter of the late Moshood Abiola, Hafsat Abiola-Costello, has expressed concern over the poverty level in Nigeria.

She spoke at the Lagos State Democracy Day Youth Webinar.

Abiola-Costello lamented that the poverty that her father campaigned to fight against had become one of Nigeria’s greatest challenges.

She also regretted “the direction of Nigeria,” saying “I feel deeply honoured. My family feels deeply honoured. I’ve been receiving emails and messages saying Happy Democracy. At the same time, I’m concerned about the direction of the country.

“June 12 was meant to address poverty in Nigeria. But we still have more poverty in Nigeria and even more people in poverty in Nigeria. This is what my father campaigned to fight against. and it is still there after his death, I am concerned.

“My father was a pan-Africanist engaging in national issues. We need to return to that, so that we can have inclusive growth.”

She urged the government to put a workable economic system in place, urging leaders in the country to shun ideas that have been “invalidated globally.

“Nigeria exists within a larger continental and global economic contest. We need to challenge the ideas that have been invalidated globally.

“My message to the Nigerian young people is not to lose faith. The whole continent is looking to Nigeria for leadership. We have that self-confidence and need to exercise that leadership responsibly,” she said.