• Says 2019 debate distraction for president
By Lawrence Olaoye
The federal government has reacted to the press statement made available to the public on Tuesday by former President Olusegun Obasanjo wherein he scored the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari low in the management of the nation’s economy.
Obasanjo had also in the widely reported statement counseled Buhari not to seek re-election owing to his poor stewardship so far.
Presenting the government position to newsmen after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting chaired by the President yesterday, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said that the government had no reason to believe that former President had any motive beyond the well-being of the nation in issuing his Special Press Statement.
While taking Obasanjo’s admonition in good faith, and thanking him for taking time off his busy schedule to pen such a long statement, the minister said the government appreciated the ex-President for acknowledging Buhari’s success in two out of the three key issues that formed the planks of his campaign: Fighting corruption and insurgency in the North-east.
The minister said Obasanjo may not have been fully availed of developments in the economic sector in the country because of his busy schedule. He however scored the government high on the economic front by reeling out several successes recorded at uplifting the sector.
Mohammed said “Apparently, the former President believes that the Administration does not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of our three-pronged campaign promises.
“We have no doubt that in the face of massive challenges in this area, this Administration has availed itself creditably. We believe that Chief Obasanjo, because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy, which was battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.
“Today, most of the indices by which an economy is measured are looking up. Permit me to say, however, that Nigeria would not have exited recession through a mere order or if the Administration had not made use of ‘’good Nigerians’’ who could help.
“This Administration is making steady progress in its determined effort to revamp the economy, and the results are showing:
“Foreign Reserves have peaked at $40b, the highest level in about four years, and up from $24 billion just a year ago, even though when we came in, the price of oil had crashed woefully.
“According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), headline inflation has fallen for 11 consecutive months, standing at 15.37% as at Dec. 2017. This is the lowest inflation rate since Jan 2017, and it has met and surpassed the target set for inflation in the Administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Our determined implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has stopped the hemorrhaging of the treasury. Some 108 billion Naira has been saved from removal of maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA. The nation is being saved 24.7 billion Naira monthly with the full implementation of the TSA.
“The elimination of ghost workers has saved the nation 120 billion Naira
“At about 1.8 billion dollars, the capital inflows in the second quarter of 2017 were almost double the $908 million in the first quarter.
“In the wake of a stable Naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 percent.
“Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, and earned a place on the List of Top 10 Reformers in the world.
“According to Q3 2017 figures, agriculture export is up year-on-year by 25%, solid minerals exports are up year-on-year by 78%, raw materials exports are up 70% year-on-year and manufactured goods exports are up 22% year-on-year.
Government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service are reporting highest-ever revenue collection, while JAMB, under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the federal government. The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was a paltry N51 million!”
While acknowledging that the successes outlined may not have had immediate impact on the people, the minister assured that Nigerians will definitely get a new lease of life a short while from now.
He continued “This is because the good news from the agricultural sector, which is recording a bumper harvest, will bring down the cost of foodstuffs, especially such staple as rice, and our massive Social Investment Programme will ease the pain of the most vulnerable in the society.
He also pointed out that the government Social Investment Programme was Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever with 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states currently being fed daily.
“200,000 unemployed graduates have enlisted into the N-power Job Scheme, and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers,” he added.
In the area of infrastructural development, Muhammed listed Buhari’s N achievements to include “Power Generation at an all-time high of 7,000mw and all can be transmitted; ongoing Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge with Lagos-Ibadan sector ready 2019 and Kano-Kaduna to be ready 2019 among others.
The minister said that 25 major highways being funded with the N100b Sukuk Bond, and all geo-political zones are benefitting equally.
He also stressed that the Buhari administration was not unaware of the enormity of the challenges facing the nation, but maintained that the government was up to the task in surmounting them.
Commenting on the incessant farmers/herders clashes in the country, Mohammed said “On the Herders/Farmers’ clashes, this Administration is determined to end the crisis resulting from this once and for all, not minding that fact that the clashes predate us. I will urge Nigerians to have faith in the Administration’s ability to resolve the crisis, and to watch out for concrete measures in this regard.”
Responding to Obasanjo’s counsel that Buhari should forget about second term in 2019, he said “On whether or not President Muhammadu Buhari should run for another term, it is true that many Nigerians have been calling on the President to run again, while others are opposed to his return.
However, we believe this issue is a distraction for the President at this time. This is because Mr. President spends every waking hours tackling the enormous challenges facing the nation, most of which were bequeathed to his Administration by successive past Administrations. He is committed to fulfilling the mandate given to him by Nigerians in 2015. And that’s where we are right now!”