In Defense Of President Buhari: Is This The Change We Voted For? Yes It Is, By Garba Shehu

THE LAST COUPLE of weeks have witnessed the heaviest public criticism of the Muhammadu Buhari administration since he came to power after inflicting a heavy defeat on the Peoples Democratic Party and their candidate Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. Much of it has been on account of the unresolved social and economic problems facing the country.

Unfair criticism of the Buhari administration especially on account of escalating prices of foodstuff and the liberalization of the currency exchange needs to be challenged before it overshadows the commendable job the President has done in fighting terrorism as part of overall effort to secure the country, reducing corruption and yes, arresting the economic slide before it sinks the the nation.

The Hausa have a saying: “Ba zomo na kashe ba, rataya a ka bani,” meaning literally “I killed no rabbit, I am helping to carry the prey.”

Wherever they go these days, in London, Dubai, Beijing, Washington, New York or Tokyo, Nigerians get the good feeling of being asked the question, how is President Muhammadu Buhari?

It is a proud moment for many citizens that the country is being perceived differently now that it has a different kind of leader creating a positive buss abroad, the kind of sentiment that can lead to foreign investments when properly capitalized upon.

The lavish praise the President gets abroad and the wide public support he enjoys among the lower segment of the local population is, by contrast, given a short shrift in the local press, mainstream and online. At its lowest point, this unambiguous media rebuke has created a wave of sympathy for anyone with a view that runs counter to the President’s.

Boko Haram terrorist leader, Shekau or the pipeline vandal from the Delta region is more likely to get newspaper front pages today than the Minister of Labour, Governor Emeka Ngige or the Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun talking about jobs creation in the economy.

I don’t say that media criticism is not reflective of the feeling of the citizens.

President Buhari has himself on numerous occasions admitted that the change mantra has brought with it pain and suffering which he likened to the pains of labor. It is a passing phase.

When they ask the question, is this the change we voted for, the critic forgets how far we have come from the scam-tainted years of the PDP rule.

How many people have given a thought to the possibility of Nigeria doing something that the combined strength of Europe and America have failed to do?

There are many today who take for granted the declared victory over the Boko Haram terrorists, forgetting the reign of the bomber who made it almost impossible for regular attendance in Churches and Mosques in many of our cities, including the Federal Capital City, Abuja.

Victory over Boko Haram has brought peace not only to Nigeria but to the countries in the Lake Chad region.

The world leaders are still at work trying to contain the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, ISIS, which threat sadly continues to become more potent.

Everyone living in Nigeria knows that there is a major movement against corruption as part of the ongoing change. This war has forced the return to the treasury of billions of Naira and millions of Dollars stolen by past officials.

On account of this war, government suspects that the biggest trigger of the opposition to the change agenda is the army of the corrupt. With the enormous resources at their disposal; money that is unearned, these forces are ready to throw in everything to gag the Buhari administration.

When he assumed office, President Buhari said he understood the outcry of Nigerians and was determined to right those wrongs. I will remind you of his inaugural speech where he said: “At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”(Emphasis added).

He has said times without number that his government is dedicated to the poor. As can be seen from the 2016 budget, this is a government that is determined to hugely empower the disadvantaged groups- the poor, the jobless, the widows and the orphaned children including those of the North-East.

As a listening government, the President was prepared to open the door to additional food imports but given the processes involved, the turn around in any such import of commodities would have taken a long time as to coincide with the harvest of home grown grains and cereals now in progress. The market would have been deluged and the local grower given the short end of the stick.

Calls on Hausa radio by a rabble-rousing section of the opposition for the “reopening of borders” to “allow food come in” are redundant and mischievous because all the county’s borders remain open till date.

Following the budget, the administration has begun rolling out several social welfare programs. The direct cash transfer to the poorest of the poor, the school feeding and the recruitment/skills training of about one million jobless citizens are such an example.

In addition to hard work, all leaders need luck on their side to create what is sometimes seen as economic miracles. As leader, President Buhari never had the luxury of high oil prices as did his predecessors in office.

When he first emerged as the military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari saw oil price, the mainstay of the nation’s economy sank to as low eight Dollars a barrel.

He rolled up his sleeves, worked on diversification strategy of the economy only to be eased out of power just as they began to take hold. Thereafter, his successors abandoned these efforts.

On his second coming, this time as a democratically elected leader, the collapse of oil prices has challenged President Buhari to quicken efforts towards the diversification of the economy with emphasis given to agriculture and solid minerals mining. Every crisis, it is said, is an opportunity. Not so in Nigeria. This is a county that inherited massive technological inventions from Biafra, yet failed to take it forward. We must not lose this opportunity to diversify the economy and our foreign earnings presented by the present oil crisis.

As the country hopes for a bumper harvest this year, government is taking steps to ensure that no farmer will sell at a loss or fail to find markets for their harvests. Grain silos are being readied nationwide to receive excess produce for warehousing to ensure food security, avert market glut and price collapse. By this, government will ensure a minimum guaranteed price.

In dealing with challenges of the economy, the administration is devoting attention to ridding the country of its notoriety as a difficult place of doing business.

The government has been making quiet but significant progress in this area, thanks to the leadership given by the National Economic Council under the Vice President and the combined efforts of the Ministries of Trade and Investment, Finance, Interior, Foreign Affairs, Budget and Planning and the Customs under new leadership.

Everyone in this sector is doing everything in their power to boost up Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s infrastructure initiatives will see country making progress with intractable projects such as the Second Niger bridge, the East-West expressway, the green field Lagos-Abuja expressway and important national railway projects, Lagos-Calabar and Lagos-Kano which had been on the drawing boards for as long as anyone can remember.

These projects will be counted among the accomplishments of the administration alongside the 4,000 MW Mambila power plant which the President has declared a national priority. Government has also taken several bold steps to boost renewable energy. It has opened the door for a new conversation on the environment with decisive steps towards the clean-up the Ogoniland in the Niger Delta.

The currency liberalization and the deregulation of the petroleum products sale will make President Buhari one of the best presidents till date. The removal of subsidies on the petrol products has saved the government more than two trillion Naira annual expenditure in this respect.

President Buhari’s foreign trips have brought many things to the country. He has energized our foreign policy. Beyond the enormous goodwill reaped from “resetting” age-old but damaged relations with neighbors and distant partners and friends, the President has attracted foreign development assistance and direct investments (FDI). It is generally accepted that good foreign relations bring foreign direct investment. So much is currently being done one year into the administration. This is in spite of the world economy being sluggish and recession-stricken.

It bears repeating that President is a different kind of leader, who just happens to be a victim of the tyranny of high expectations. He has brought positive intention, commitment, honesty and personal integrity into governance. This is why the country’s poor hold him so dear; this is why the world is in love with him.

His knack for prudent spending and effective management of resources is in the belief that this country can only prosper when there is transparency, reduced corruption and a drastic cut in bureaucratic red tape.

His decision to have a small cabinet, reducing government ministries from 46 to 24 has the effect of relieving the treasury of the burden of salaries, allowances and miscellaneous expenses now being counted in billions of Naira.

President Buhari should be credited for the the unblemished record of his ministers. This is a government that has stayed above scandal for a year.

If all of these are not desirable changes, to be appreciated and adored, it is hard to know or determine what some of our critics want.

These reforms certainly represent major milestones in change which have led to a decline of corruption at the top.

As to the question of these leading to a resurgent economy, it all means that in a democracy everything takes times. The President needs our support with understanding and patience. No matter how hasty a president wants to bring changes, there is no magic wand in that office to make everything change from bad to good or make all of us prosperous with a wave of the hand. This change is on course. It requires patience.

The change is working for the nation and sooner than later, the testimony shall be given.

Garba Shehu.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

Ramadan: Buhari Calls For Restraint From Wrong Practices

President Muhammadu Buhari said on Sunday that he would use the palliative measures and faithful implementation of the 2016 national budget to reduce the sufferings of Nigerians.

The promise was contained in his Ramadan message made available to journalists by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

The President said no elected government would intentionally want to make life difficult for the people that gave it the mandate to serve.

The message also quoted Buhari as advising Muslim faithfuls to use the holy month of Ramadan as opportunity for seeking forgiveness and getting closer to Allah through worship and good deeds.

He said the month of Ramadan was a time of spiritual reawakening which demands not only abstention from food and drinks, but also all wrongdoing in their lives.

The President explained that he was always disturbed on why people seek to make brisk profits by hiking food prices as soon as the month of Ramadan starts.

He called on Muslim traders, businessmen and women, civil servants and political office holders to use the month of Ramadan to seek forgiveness of God by abandoning wrong practices for personal gains at the expense of others.

The statement read in part, “According to the President, a religion should serve as a moral restraint from bad practices, regretting that those stealing national resources are merely paying lip service to religion.

“He advised that anybody holding position of trust should primarily remember that they would be accountable one day either on earth or the hereafter.”

Buhari Orders IGP, Minister Of Defence To Stop Recurrent Attacks

President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin and Inspector General of Police Solomon Arase to immediately secure communities under herdsmen’s attacks.

The President also ordered the security chiefs to go after groups terrorizing innocent Nigerians in communities and villages.

Minister of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed unfolded the President’s directive yesterday in Abuja at the presentation of the book, “Who will Love my Country”, written by Deputy Senate President Ike Ekweremadu.

Some public commentators have accused the President of “not talking” about the herdsmen’s rampage especially the Sunday night killings in Uzo Uwani Local Government, Enugu State.

Mohammed, who represented the President at the event, quoted him as warning that his administration will no longer allow the attacks to continue.

Buhari said: “Let me start by condemning in strongest terms the attacks by herdsmen in Enugu State on Monday. I deeply sympathise with those who lost their lives as well as those who lost their property.

“I have directed the Chief of Defence Staff and the Inspector – General of Police to secure all communities under attacks by herdsmen and to go after the groups terrorising innocent people all over the country. This government will not allow these attacks to continue.”

A statement by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President Mallam Garba Shehu, said acting on the President’s directive, the IG and heads of other security agencies are already taking urgent steps to fully investigate the attacks, apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice.

Ending the recent upsurge of attacks on communities by herdsmen reportedly armed with sophisticated weapons, the statement said, is now a priority on the Buhari Administration’s agenda for enhanced national security.

“And the Armed Forces and Police have clear instructions to take all necessary action to stop the carnage.” It added

”In keeping with the President’s directive, the Inspector-General of Police, the General Officer Commanding the 82nd Division of the Nigerian Army and the Director of the Department of State Security in Enugu State have visited Ukpabi Nimbo to personally oversee investigations into the attack on the community and ongoing efforts to apprehend the culprits.”

President Buhari was billed to meet with Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to receive further briefing on the attack and discuss additional measures to forestall similar attacks and restore public confidence.

It said the President urged all Nigerians to remain calm and assured of his administration’s readiness to deploy all required personnel and resources to remove the new threat to the collective security of the nation

The police chief yesterday ordered the arrest of a policeman fingered by community leaders for alleged complicity in the attacks.

Arase, who visited the village, vowed to unmask the herdsmen who allegedly killed no fewer than 48 people at Ukpabi Nimbo community.

The IG assured the community that the police would do everything to arrest the attackers.

He was accompanied by top police officers and commissioners of police in the Southeast zone.

The police boss described what he saw as quite “depressing”.

He said: “I want to assure Nigerians that those involved in the barbaric act cannot go unpunished, they must be brought to book.”

The police chief, also advised the people especially youths of the area to remain calm, and allow the police hunt for the suspects.

The IGP added that he came personally to the community to see things for himself, and get first hand information on the incident.

“I decided to come here personally to get first hand information on the incident because of the conflicting media reports we have been getting on the attack”

Buhari Moves To Check Food Price Inflation While Appealing For Patience From Nigerians

To check food price increases and exploitation of common people by traders, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered for the release of 10,000 tons of grains from the national strategic grains reserves for national distribution.

This decision was contained in a statement issued by the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu.

Buhari has also directed the Minister of Agriculture, Audu Ogbeh to ensure that all the able-bodied men and women in IDP camps be assisted to return to farming immediately.

The directives were in reaction to calls for government measures to ease hardship associated with food inflation.

The Presidency however asserted that the devastation of the economy was caused by the Boko Haram insurgency, corruption and the lack of planning by the past administrations and one that should not be blamed on the Change Agenda of the Muhammadu Buhari administration.

The Presidency also rejected the insinuations that poverty and lack are products of the Change mantra.

The statement reads: “This should be dismissed as an erroneous and misplaced opposition criticism. The President understands the pain and the cries of the citizens of this country and he is spending sleepless nights over how he can make life better for everyone.

“Contrary to assertions by a faction of the opposition Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP), the President’s energy and focus are on changing the life of Nigerians, with a view to making it better than he met it.

“Change is a process. Change does not happen overnight. Change can be inconvenient. Change sometimes comes with pain. Over the past year, the government has been working night and day to deliver on its promise of change to Nigerians, and the painful process is still ongoing.

“This is work in progress. As life gradually returns to normal in much of the country and the northeast in particular, agriculture will resume and traders from neighbouring African countries will once again feel safe to do business with us, yet another boost for our economy.”

The Presidency maintained that it is only when Nigerians appreciate where they are coming from that they will grasp the full meaning and essence of what the ongoing journey entails.

Buhari Pledges To Build Resilient Nigerian Cities

President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Shanghai, China, said his administration would give priority to the building and development of resilient and viable cities comparable with other developed cities across the globe.

A statement by Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the President, Mallam Garba Shehu, said

Buhari spoke at separate meetings with the Mayor of the Chinese city of Shanghai, Mr Yang Xiong and the Director of Shanghai Free Trade Zone, Liu Fangzhou.

Buhari said the Federal Government would give full support to Free Trade and Export Processing Zones in the country to spur rapid economic development.

The President, who visited the Shanghai Free Trade Zone, said Nigeria was prepared to learn “how to make our cities more viable from those that have achieved development.

“We have already identified the development of infrastructure which will bring industries that create jobs and help us to diversify the economy.

“We are going to work hard to achieve these within the period we have in office. Nigerians will see progress and feel the impact,’’ he said.

He commended the hard work and incredible success story of the city of Shanghai, Buhari said the virtues of hard work were central to every human achievement and development.

The Shanghai Mayor expressed the willingness of Chinese businesses to key into the vision of the Chinese President Xi Jinping for Africa by investing in Nigeria.

The statement also quoted the Director of the Free Trade Zone Liu Fangzhou, as commending the effort of the Nigerian government towards the diversification of the economy.

Presidency Replies UK Telegraph On Story Accusing Buhari Of Funds Mismanagement

The presidency has replied a staff writer of The Telegraph, United Kingdom, Mr. Con Coughlin over his recent reports where he claimed that President Muhammadu Buhari was fighting his political opponents with foreign financial aids meant to fight insurgency in Nigeria.

The presidency in a reaction through the Senior Special Assistant to president Buhari on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu stated that the piece was full of factual inaccuracies which the writer did not seek to verify.

He regretted that the writer did not call the attention of Nigeria to confirm his story before going to press.

The statement reads in full.

“Our attention has been drawn to a piece published on April 12, 2016, in The Telegraph (London) paper, by one Con Coughlin (identified as ‘Defence Editor’), and titled, ‘Nigeria using UK aid to persecute president’s political foes rather to fight Boko Haram.’

“The piece is not only full of factual inaccuracies, it also betrays a shocking ignorance of Nigeria and the country’s ongoing war against terrorism.

“Mr Coughlin’s editorial tactic is to quote unnamed “senior officials” and “Western diplomats” and “Western officials” and “political opponents” making fact-free and unfounded statements. It also appears that he sought out only those opinions which suited and reinforced his disgracefully false headline. Nowhere in the piece is there anything that suggests he attempted to contact the Nigerian government for its own side of the story.

“Coughlin writes that “American officials are also angry that $2.1 billion of aid given to the Nigerian military to tackle Boko Haram has not been properly accounted for.”

It does not occur to him that the $2.1 billion he refers to was budgeted for and wholly spent by the government that President Buhari and his party defeated in the March 2015 presidential elections, and that one of President Buhari’s priorities has been investigating the misuse of those funds.

“It also does not appear to occur to Mr. Coughlin that the “political opponents” he is falsely accusing President Buhari of “targeting” and “persecuting” are actually on trial on account of how they spent the $2.1 billion in question. Mr. Coughlin is equally unaware of the fact that the investigating panel set up by Mr. Buhari to probe the $2.1 billion recently published a preliminary report that confirmed that much of that money was indeed looted or mis-spent by the accused persons, and that the government has started to recover the funds.

“Coughlin accuses President Buhari’s government of attempting to cover-up the abductions of 400 women and children “abducted last year by militants from the Nigerian town of Damasak.”

“This is absolutely untrue. The Damasak abductions he’s referring to, which were recently widely reported, took place, not “last year” as he says, but in late 2014, well before Mr. Buhari was elected President of Nigeria. (And, by the way, President Buhari came to power on May 29, 2015, not July, as Coughlin reports).

“A simple search by Mr. Coughlin of his paper’s archives would have revealed these facts. A simple fact-check by his copy-editors would have spared the Telegraph the embarrassment of publishing this drivel.

“There are several other inaccuracies and baseless statements in the piece, but Mr. Coughlin is too enamoured of his anonymous sources to realise they might be misleading him, or be as ignorant about the situation as he is. The suggestion that Boko Haram is going “from strength to strength” is an eminently laughable one; not even Nigeria’s opposition party would make such an absurd claim.

“Since President Buhari took office, schools in Borno State, shut for more than one year under the previous government, have reopened. The same applies to the airport in Maiduguri, shut down in December 2013 after a devastating Boko Haram attack on the nearby Air Force Base.

“Thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) have now started returning home. Last Sunday, El-Kanemi Warriors Football Club played its first game in its home base of Maiduguri in more than two seasons. Until now they had been forced to play home games outside the region, on account of security concerns. There are several more examples of how the people of the region are finally getting a chance to rebuild their lives, as the Nigerian Armed Forces and a Multinational Joint Task Force continue their work of routing the terrorists.

“Mr. Coughlin not only sounds like a spokesperson for the very people whose corruption and mismanagement allowed Boko Haram to bring Nigeria to its knees – and whose disastrous legacy President Buhari has spent the last one year redeeming Nigeria from – he is also guilty of failing to observe the most basic rules of responsible journalism.

“Mr Coughlin needs a refresher course on responsible journalism as much as he needs a crash course on Nigeria. Until he submits himself to these, we’re afraid he will continue to embarrass not only himself, but also the revered British media institution that is the Telegraph.

Buhari Creates Technical Committees On New Joint Nigeria/China Projects

President Muhammadu Buhari has directed that technical committees be immediately established to finalize discussions on new joint Nigeria/China rail, power, manufacturing, agricultural and solid mineral projects.

The president gave the directive Tuesday in Beijing after talks between his delegation and high-ranking Chinese government officials led by President Xi Jinping, his spokesman, Garba Shehu said in a statement.

The technical committees are to conclude their assignments before the end of May.

President Buhari had at the talks welcomed China’s readiness to assist Nigeria in her bid to rapidly industrialize and join the world’s major economies.

President Jinping agreed that Nigeria’s chosen path of development through economic diversification was the best way to go.

To help Nigeria to achieve this, China promised to fully support the country through infrastructural development and capacity building.

China also expressed an interest in setting up major projects in Nigeria such as refineries, power plants, mining companies, textile manufacturing and food processing industries as soon as the enabling environment is provided by the Federal Government.

In response to President Muuhammadu Buhari’s desire to make Nigeria self-sufficient in food production, President Jinping offered 15 million U.S. dollars agricultural assistance to Nigeria for the establishment of 50 Agricultural Demonstration Farms across the country.

China and Nigeria also agreed to strengthen military and civil service exchanges as part of a larger capacity-building engagement.

In line with this, China offered to raise its scholarship awards to Nigerian students from about 100 to 700 annually. In addition, 1,000 other Nigerians are to be given vocational and technical training by China annually.

President Jinping applauded the war against corruption being waged by President Buhari.

The Chinese leader assured President Buhari that Nigeria will always have a special place in the affairs of the Peoples Republic of China.

After the talks, President Buhari and President Jinping witnessed the signing of several agreements and memorandums of understanding by Nigeria and China.

The agreements include a “Framework Agreement Between the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the National Development and Reform Commission of the Peoples Republic of China.”

Others were a “Memorandum of Understanding on Aviation Cooperation between the Ministry of Transportation (Aviation) of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Ministry of Commerce of the Peoples Republic of China” and a “Memorandum of Understanding Between the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Government of the Peoples Republic of China on Scientific and Technological Cooperation”.

A “Mandate Letter Between the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and the Central Bank of Nigeria on Renminbi (RMB) Transactions was also signed.

Forex Allegation: Buhari’s Spokesman, Garba Shehu Demands Apology From PDP Within 72 Hours

President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, has threatened to sue the Peoples Democratic Party for accusing him of illegally trading in foreign exchange, except the party apologises to him.

Mr. Shehu said the party has up to 72 hours to withdraw its claim and tender an apology.

The PDP, through its twitter handle @PDPNigeria, had accused Mr. Shehu of buying USD800, 000 from the Central Bank of Nigeria at official rate, and selling it off the same day at black market rate.

Mr. Shehu, in an earlier response, denied the allegation, and said, “The day I choose to start trading in FOREX I will resign as a presidential spokesman”.

He then threatened legal action if he knew the “coward and psychopath” behind the @PDPNigeria handle.

Having verified that the twitter handle in question (@PDPNigeria) is the official handle of the PDP, Mr. Shehu, through his lawyers, Cherish Solicitors, wrote to the national PDP chairman, Ali Modu Sheriff, asking him to write a letter of apology and a retraction of the publication within 72 hours of the receipt of the letter.

“We shall be left with no option than to have recourse to our client’s rights under the law,” Mr. Shehu’s lawyer said.

“We condemn your defamatory and libellous actions in the strongest terms and we state that this is least expected from an organization of your standing which produced past and present crops of leaders, expected to be role model in the country,” stated the letter, signed by Aliyu Abdullahi.

FG Has Provided N3tn For Projects This Year – Presidential Spokesman

Malam Garba Shehu, the Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, on Sunday, said the Federal Government had set aside N3 trillion for projects in 2016.

Shehu disclosed this while speaking with newsmen on the sidelines of a dinner held to celebrate the child dedication of Mr Paul Ibe, the Head of the Atiku Media Office in Abuja.

According to him, the government of President Buhari will make sure that contractors are mobilised and paid for executing the jobs.

He urged Nigerians to be patient with the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led government as it would deliver.

He added that “unlike what we have in the past, this government will award contracts and back them up with money to ensure their conclusion.

“Nigerians will be happy in a short while; let us just have a little more patience.”

The presidential aide, who said he attended the event to identify with the celebrator who had been a long standing companion, noted that the Federal Government had saved more than N3 trillion from the Treasure Single Account (TSA).

He said “Paul has been my friend for long; as a bureau chief and as editor; we have worked closely together for long.

“When he decided to leave ThisDay Newspapers, he accepted to serve with me at Atiku Media office.

“We were there as coordinator and deputy coordinator until my latest appointment.”

On her part, Hajiya, Titi Abubakar, wife of the former Vice-President, Atiku Abubakar, said that the hardship being faced by Nigerians at present would not be long.

She said that some wrongs ought to be put right before the economy would pick up.

She added that “anything God gives us, we have to say thank you to him; if at this particular time there is change, we have to put the country right before things get well again.

“We have to endure the hardship for a while and all will be good for us by the grace of God.

“Paul is my husband’s staff and we have come here to celebrate with him; God has answered his prayer and we give Him all the glory.”

Responding, Ibe said that the reason for the gathering was to give thanks to God for wiping away his tears.

He said God had renewed his commitment to mankind -that if man remained consistent, his words would be fulfilled.

“When we remain committed to Him, His promises may be delayed but must come to pass,’’ he said.

Ibe said he had waited for long for a child, adding that with persistence, God would always show His glory to those who trusted in him.

The new baby boy was named `Onweghihekaririchukwu’ –nothing is bigger than God.

Presidency To Commence Town-Hall Meetings Nationwide

The Senior Special Assistant, SSA, to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media, Garba Shehu, said on Sunday that the presidency will soon begin to hold town hall meetings with Nigerians.

Mr. Shehu made this known while answering reporters’ questions in Abuja.

According to him, government decided to embark on such meetings because it has realised the importance of information communication to the people at the grassroots.

“I know that there is a plan that the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo would start town hall meetings in zones.

“It would then be broken down to the states and so on.

“Government realises that there is a need to take information to the people and there are steps that are being taken in order to ensure that is done,” he said.

Mr. Shehu criticised the National Orientation Agency, NOA, for being indifferent to the Federal Government’s change mantra.

“We have an agency like NOA with 773 offices nationwide.

“Each has not less than 5 to 7 staff and well-equipped, but you know also, sometimes democracy has its own dark side.

“The President came and he wanted to really be fair to every Chief Executive. If he wanted to fire people on assumption (of office), he would have done it and he would not have violated any rule.

“He decided to give everyone a chance to see whether they would imbibe the change mantra, to see whether they were prepared to go along (with him).

“I will say with all sincerity that NOA was a source of worry for us in government; the people and the leadership never believed in what we are doing.

“They never believed in change. They just folded their arms and watched us for the period of 8 to 9 months that they were there.

“I believe the new leadership would begin to formulate things for agencies like that,” he said.

The presidential aide praised Nigerians for steadfastly supporting the present administration especially during a period most people considered to be difficult.

Mr. Shehu congratulated Nigerians on the achievements the President had recorded fighting insurgency and explained that the military have tagged their success against Boko Haram a “technical victory” because no city is presently under curfew.

The SSA said that with the passage of the budget by the National Assembly, the next phase for the President would be to rebuild damaged facilities and infrastructure.

He said that with the Central Bank of Nigeria realising more than N3 trillion through the introduction of the Treasury Single Account and the passage of the budget, a lot of activities would pick up.

On the quest by Nigerians to know the amount of money the Federal Government had so far recovered from treasury looters, Mr. Shehu said the litigation hurdles associated with the looted funds would have to be scaled before Nigerians were availed of the figures.

(NAN)

Buhari Sympathizes With Victims Of Kano, Kebbi Fire Incidents

President Muhammadu Buhari has sympathized with the victims of the fire incidents in Sabon Gari Market, Kano State and Birnin Kebbi Central Market in Kebbi.

A statement issued in Abuja on Saturday by Mallam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to the president, said President Buhari commiserated with the government and people of the two states.

According to the statement, President Buhari shares in the pain of the victims knowing that the two fire incidents had created major setbacks for all those that had business outfits in the markets.

He also noted with sadness that the incidents had also affected the livelihood of the victims’ families and setting back economic activities in the states.

The President advised the Kano and Kebbi state governments to find out the immediate and remote causes of the fire disasters in the states in order to forestall future occurrences.

President Buhari also called for strict adherence to precautionary standards in buildings and operations in all markets to avoid fire out breaks.

He prayed that the Almighty God would comfort and replenish all those that incurred losses in the incidents.(NAN)