Obasanjo’s Letter Makes Some Sense But The Writer Is Not Deserving Of The Letter- Ayo Fayose

Ekiti State Governor, Chief Ayodele Fayose has expressed his point of view on the open letter released by Former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari.

Fayose according to a press statement by his Chief Press Secretary issued in Ado Ekiti on Wednesday described ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari as belated and self-serving.

Fayose said, ” It is a face-saving letter after Obasanjo, who led the cabals that imposed Buhari, had seen that Nigerians have turned back from following the president.

“Damning as the Obasanjo letter was and although it makes some sense, the writer is not deserving of the letter. “Obasanjo is not the right person to write that letter” Fayose insisted “He was the leader of those who deceived Nigerians and lied to the international community to support Buhari. “Nigerians have already made up their minds to show Buhari the exit next year with or without Obasanjo’s self-serving letter “So Obasanjo should not take the credit. He should not reap where he has not sown.

“Nevertheless, President Buhari should heed ex-President Obasanjo’s advice and go home and rest. “President Buhari has overstayed his welcome”, he added “Obasanjo himself should heed his own advice to Buhari by also going home to rest. Both Obasanjo and Buhari are analogue in this digital age and have expired.

“We have been hearing of Obasanjo since we were in the primary school. “It is time for him to vacate the public political space. When Nigerians hear him speak nowadays, they hiss.”

Femi Falana Reacts To Obasanjo’s Letter

Successful Human rights Lawyer, Femi Falana has reacted to ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo’s lengthy letter to President Buhari on Tuesday.

Falana believes that Obasanjo, in his 13-page statement was truly a call to the President to bury any plans of recontesting.

He said:

“President Olusegun Obasanjo’s intervention is a vivid expression of the frustration of the Nigerian people with the Buhari administration.

The statement is a clarion call on President Buhari to remove the incompetent and corrupt cabal of power mongers that has hijacked political power from him.

Through sheer nepotism and cronyism, the regime has lost the massive goodwill that heralded it to power.

The success recorded in the fight against insurgency in the northeast zone has been eroded in the wave of kidnapping and reckless killing of unarmed Nigerians by AK47-bearing herdsmen.The success of the fight against corruption and impunity has been rubbished by the inability of the regime to remove corrupt public officers.

President Obasanjo’s challenge has been taken up by many Nigerians who have already formed a coalition of genuine progressive forces to liberate Nigeria from internal colonialism and imperialist control.”

 

2019: Lamido Woos Tinubu To PDP, Says Buhari Has Neglected Him

Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, presidential hopeful, Alhaji Sule Lamido on Thursday called on a former Lagos governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to defect from the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in order not to be used and dumped again by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.

Disclosing that the Presidency had since after the 2015 elections sidelined and fought Tinubu through governors and ministers from the South-West, he noted that Buhari started integrating the former Lagos governor six months ago because a fresh election is afoot.

Lamido delivered this message to Tinubu through former Lagos Commissioner for Finance, Wale Edun, who represented the APC leader at the 15th Daily Trust Dialogue in Abuja with the theme, ‘’Nigeria and the Challenges of 2019’’.

He told the ex-commissioner, “Tell Asiwaju that his brother and friend says he is in a wrong party. He will only recover and reintegrate himself as a democrat if he leaves the APC.

‘’Asiwaju was only integrated six months ago. They were using his governors and ministers from south-west to fight him! We know all these, he should leave APC for them.’’

The former Jigawa governor hinted that a coalition of forces across party divide would unseat President Buhari in 2019, when he revealed that “2019 will be defined by borderless politicking. Those in APC and PDP will come together to save Nigeria’’.

He linked the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999 to the search of a true national leader who could assuage the South-West for the annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections believed to have been won by the late Chief MKO Abiola.

Going down memory lane, Lamido said, “Under June 12, my party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) won an election that was very transparent and we were all part of that process. We all worked for a very wonderful transition and had elections which were credible, open, and transparent but were annulled.

“Somehow, the west which produced the President was terribly aggrieved that their son, late Moshood Abiola, even though they never liked him, they only saw the fulfillment of their becoming President, which is something none of them has done and so.

“The annulment was seen as a ploy to deny a Yoruba man the opportunity of becoming President.

Then Abacha came and we all know what happened. Those people who are now laying claim to a new found democracy were active participants in Abacha’s government.”

President Barrow Commends President Buhari For His Leadership

The President of Gambia, Adama Barrow, has commended President Muhammadu Buhari and Nigeria as a whole for the support given to his country.

President Barrow who arrived Abuja today, the nation’s capital made this known at a brief meeting held with Buhari.

Barrow further thanked President Buhari for the leadership role he played during the stalemate in the Gambia.

The Gambia President said that the aim of his visit was to thank the President and Nigeria.

What We’re Doing To End Extreme Poverty Among Women, Youths – Maryam Uwais

Hajiya Maryam Uwais is the Special Adviser to the President on Social Investments, Office of the Vice President. In this interview, she provided an update on the national social investment programs, among other activities of her office. Excerpts:

 

You have been coordinating the social investment programs of the Buhari administration in the last two years now. What exactly are you doing?

There are over 26 different programs that we discovered. We did a lot of research and found that some of them were quite effective but there were challenges. The beneficiaries were not really the poorest. A lot of them were selected in a manner that was not transparent. There was no defined method of ensuring that they were actually the poorest of the poor.

The other intervention had people from federal working at state level and that created a lot of tension. The federal officer would assert himself that the money was coming from the federal and that negatively impacted on monitoring and accountability. The state now refused to cooperate because whenever they demanded for information relating to what was happening from the federal, the federal would assert itself and say “I am in charge”. Thus, a conscious decision was taken to actually encourage the state to take ownership of these programs. We had to design a strategy for getting to the poorest of the poor.

Our trained officials now go to those households that have been identified and ask them questions like “how many people are in this household?  How many children? How many go to school?” You put it all down in a device that has a proximity testing formula that ranks everybody that you put on that device, from the poor down to the least poor. It is only those below a dollar a day that we actually pay.

Beyond that information, we ask the community “what is the nature of the access road here?” “How far is the nearest primary and secondary school?” “How far is the nearest primary healthcare center?” “How far is the nearest payment service provider?” All these matter when you want to graduate a community from poverty. There is a community where there is no primary school within 3 km. We showed government all these findings and said that for us to help these communities, we have to build primary schools nearer to them so that they can feel secure about their children walking to school. That is the kind of data we are collating in each state.

Now because it is a process, some states have been faster than others. Some states tell us “we already know who our poor people are” and they send us away. We tell them that we have to do it ourselves. We really need to get to the poorest people. There are many statistics, almost 80 million or thereabout are poor in this country. So you can give me poor people, but that doesn’t mean that they are the poorest. The National Social Register is where we pick people that are under a dollar a day in various communities. Reality is that a lot of these communities are very far from where you can get an ATM, or any bank. Some of them are so poor, that having a phone is a luxury.

What we did now is to work with the mobile money operators who have agents in the field. We pay them and they sign an indemnity with us. They go to those communities and pay them. We have communities as facilitators because we have people we work with that are elected by the communities. The person that receives the money signs off. Anybody that did not turn up, by the next payment, you would refund us the money. We would look and reconcile all the documentation. We were using the banks before but our banks are not interested in handling poor people. They want high network individuals that would pay thousands and millions of dollars. For our poor people, we have to handle them.

We are training the caregivers in basic financial skills and we see very interesting stories coming up. They are doing things like charcoal business, shea butter, weaving, and the rest. We pay them N10,000 every two months.

But your office is popularly known with N-Power instead of other activities? 

This is because N-Power has youths, they have social media, they are graduates that can speak English and can engage within the media. My passion is also with cash transfer because they are poor people and are as important. And journalists don’t go to interview them. I advise that you go to these people and amplify their stories. I tell you they have beautiful stories to tell.

Talking about school feeding, it was designed to boast pupil enrollment into schools. You know we have about 11 million out-of- school children. It was designed also to boast their nutrition. Then go empower our women in the rural communities; as well as boast production for our small holder farmers.

On this, we signed an MOU with the states. We had a stakeholder meeting with the states where they called the Ministry of Agriculture, Women Affairs, Finance, Education, Health to talk about what we intend to do where they designed a menu affordable in each state. We rely on the state to have an open process of selection. We hope they invite the school-based management committee, to invite the PTAs, sit down and do something that the community would feel is helpful. After they select the women, we go and train them on hygiene, allergy and sanitation.  We need the chairpersons if SUBEBs in the states because they know where the schools are located, the number of children to be fed, and so on. We are targeting Primary 1-3 because unfortunately the federal government doesn’t have enough money to cover Primary 4-6. They give us the numbers. We then asked the states to assign to each woman, not more than 150 children and not less than 70 children, because we want quality.  We did that because we want to track who is feeding who and where. So, when the cooks were selected, we also opened account for them because we want to pay them with their BVN. We identified cooperatives in the states where these women will be getting some ingredients such as eggs in bulk and in subsidized price.

There have been challenges. We have had situations where the state officials want to have a piece of the action. They have tried to divert monies and have spoken to the banks that they would do the supply. We have actually gone to SSS and EFCC to try to trace where those monies went because these women are not literate.

N-Power was designed as a Federal Government program to address unemployment of our youth, graduates and non-graduates, to support our artisans and also address the gap in our communities.

We found out that in some states we can have up to 300-400 children with no permanent teacher only if there is a youth corper there but there may be a head teacher. We needed to address that gap so we decided to employ teaching assistants. They can’t be teachers because they haven’t gone through the normal process.

We sat down with the Ministry of Agriculture who sat down with the private sectors in agric to draw up what their needs are. Our youths are not being groomed to be employed by government. It is about them setting up their own business. So if for two years, you are on a program, you will know where your interest lies. Is it in planting, harvesting, or packaging or export? You have been working there for two years so you know where the challenges are.

In the health sector, we sat down with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), and asked them to train them on the modules.

We also have motivational talks on taking charge of your own life, entrepreneurial skills, how to start up your own business, all of it is in that device. Each one of them gets that device.

We then decided to give everybody an open level playing field. When you apply on the portal, you would put in your BVN, your date of birth, your first, second and third name, and your phone Number.

At the end of the exercise, we had applications from over 774 Local governments. Many states didn’t actually believe even though I had briefed the governors on this matter. Very few of them designated business centers for youths to apply for the exercise. We had to use the information we had to do the selection. We decided to take 40 percent of each state application. Those states that were less than 1,000, we added a certain percentage.

On the issue of Abadan (in Borno State), it was first brought to my notice by Senator Kyari, who is in charge of that constituency. I was alarmed when I saw the names. When you open the portal and click on the local government, the first drop down was Abadan Local Government. My presumption then was that a lot of the people just put it in without realizing that they made a mistake. We later removed all of those people after a meeting. We then asked for the people of Abadan and found that only six people who actually lived in Abadan had applied. We now filled up the numbers with those that lived around Abadan so that they would be able to go and teach in the schools there.

When they applied, we then conducted tests for those that were in huge numbers. Those that were selected were about 200,000. We sent them texts informing them that they had been selected. We wanted to ensure that their qualifications were authentic and that they could be deployed to the nearest place that they lived. The state now sent back the deployment lists to us.

You recall that there were protests. Some of those protests were in states that were cosmopolitan. We discovered that states had replaced names, put their own indigenes and had dropped those that had actually received texts from us. For those of you who we sent texts to, we would set up a new verification exercise. I told the state leadership that if they wanted to do an employment intervention for their states, they should use their own money. This is a Federal Government programme. Thus we can’t say that because somebody doesn’t come from your state, he can’t work in your state. This is how we were able to address and start paying backlogs of people who had not been paid because they had been changed by their states. These are just the practical issues behind the N-Power.

The N-Agro is the most commercially viable. We hope to increase the number of the N-Agro this year. We also have the N-Zed, we’ve entered agreement with the automotive council and we’re selecting 20,000 graduates. We did an audit around the country and that was a long process. We would be paying those N10,000 for training in three months and they would now be interns in government or private owned institutions.

We’ve done the audit of all of that and we’ve done the deployment already. We are targeting a primary and secondary school in each senatorial district around the country but we don’t have the funds yet. We have agreed with the CISCO Academy to train them further. We would be putting in computers for the children to be taught programming, coding, animation, graphics and anything to do with ICT. We encourage them to begin to look at those topics while they’re young. For any government school that has more than 20 computers, we would send these trained ICT personnel to them.

You have activities involved so much logistics. How much is your budget?

The first year, we got N500 billion and we were only paid N80 billion. For the 2017 budget, we were given N400 billion and so far we got N55billion. This is why we strive very hard to cut our costs.

Finally, how long would it take you to achieve what you have designed? 

If a state is not ready to give us people that would work with us, we can’t work. If they are not giving us information, we can’t do anything. We have targets and these targets are subject to so many other things. We need the money, unless we have money to accommodate those issues, we can’t accomplish anything.

 

Culled From The Daily Trust Newspapers

Buhari’s Campaign For 2019 At This Time Is Political Sacrilege

Senator Shehu Sani, representative of Kaduna Central, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari to forget his ambition of running for a second term next year and address the security situation of the nation and other national challenges.

The senator said: “It is wrong to be talking of the re-election of Buhari as President when hundreds of lives are being lost and people are being massacred in different parts of the country.

“In time of bloodshed like this, the issue should be how to come together and address the problem. But those marketing the President at a time of this bloodshed are like people dancing on the graves of Nigerians.

“Campaigning for Buhari for next year’s election when people are being killed, when orphans and widows are being produced as a result of the tragedy of these circumstances and people are being kidnapped, I think amounts to political sacrilege.

“It is an insult on the conscience of Nigerians and it is an insult on the moral integrity of Nigerians for anybody to ignore what is happening and simply walk to the President and tell him that what is important at this material time is his re-election campaign for next year’s election…

“If we allow this trend to continue, it would threaten the peace and unity of this country.

“I advise people advising the President and strategising for him to contest the elections to spare him some time, advise him well and provide a solid strategy to end the carnage and atrocities that is going on in the country today.

“Human life is more important than politics, because you cannot preside over dead people. The images we see in both social and traditional media is heart-rending and despicable.

“I can tell you that over a year ago, the President was in Zamfara State in military fatigue to address the problem of banditry and mass killing. The President should be seen in any part of the country where such violence occurs.

“The President must visit Southern Kaduna, Birnin Gwari, Taraba, Benue, Rivers and Adamawa states. It gives people some hope that their Commander-in-Chief is determined and committed to defend and protect them.”

Buhari Appoints Rufai Ahmad As DG, National Intelligence Agency

Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari has approved the appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the substantive Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).

The President’s approval was contained in a statement issued his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina.

Until his appointment, Abubakar was the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs/International Relations.
Abubakar, a retired career Foreign Service officer, had extensive experience working with the United Nations (UN) in peace support operations, the mediation process, preventive diplomacy and good offices, as well as the promotion of good governance and respect for the rule of law and human rights
President Muhammadu Buhari.

The new NIA DG also briefly served as Senior Adviser at the Multinational Joint Task Force, with headquarters in Ndjamena, Chad, before his appointment as SSAP.

Abubakar holds a B.A degree in French Language and Literature, and an M.A degree in Francophone Maghrebian Literature, both from Bayero University, Kano, northern Nigeria.

The statement by Mr Adesina says Abubakar’s appointment is with immediate effect.

Similarly, the official Twitter handle of the President, @NGRPresident also confirmed Abubakar’s appointment by the President.


” President
@MBuhari has approved the appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). Until his appointment he was the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs/International Relations”, the Presidency tweeted.

President
@MBuhari has approved the appointment of Ahmed Rufai Abubakar as the Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA).
Until his appointment he was the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Foreign Affairs/International Relations.
— Presidency Nigeria (@NGRPresident)
January 10, 2018

FULL INTERVIEW: What Benue Gov, Ortom Told Journalists After Meeting President Buhari

Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom was at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday to meet President Muhammadu Buhari as tension continued to rise in his state over the New Year Day attacks by suspected Fulani herdsmen.

The attack left scores of villagers dead in two local government areas of the state.
Mr. Ortom spoke with State House correspondents after the meeting. Excerpts from the
interview.

On his mission to the State House
I had earlier briefed Mr. President when this incident took place on the first of January. After staying back on the ground to do the needful to ensure that we restore normalcy, I said it was important for me to come personally and brief him and that has been done.

Already, because of the communications we have been having when these incidents started, actions have been taken as directed by him (President Buhari). The movement of the DIG, the movement of the IG now to relocate to Benue State to ensure that this challenge is surmounted, was at the instance of Mr. President.

Of course, additional personnel of DSS and Police have been deployed and even the Army. We have additional personnel on ground now. We have adequately and fully given them the logistics support to ensure that our people are protected.

I had to brief him, he is also doing further investigation to know the next line of action. I believe that my request that the leadership of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, who has earlier threatened… and I accused them directly, since June last year I have been writing to the leadership of security agencies, that these people are a threat to our collective interest and they must be dealt with. They must be arrested and prosecuted because we cannot allow impunity to continue to thrive. And, of course, threat and no action has resulted in this killing and I think that Mr. President will also do the needful to ensure something is done.

On allegations that he hired mercenaries from Republic of Ghana to fight herdsmen
I am not aware of this and I don’t even know about that one, I am hearing it for the first time. If someone has done that, it must be this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, that have done it.

On the allegations that he was blocked from seeing the President
I have never accused anyone of blocking me from seeing Mr. President. I’m seeing Mr. President. I told him when this incident occurred, I spoke to Mr. President on phone and followed it up. I know what it entails being a president. Even as governor most times I am not with my phone, people cannot access me the way it used to be, talk less of a president. I didn’t say that and I have not said it. The truth is that I have access to Mr. President anytime I want, I speak to him on phone and I see him personally. I requested to speak to him on phone that day because I couldn’t come to Abuja and he gave me the opportunity and today I’m here and I have seen him.

On suggestion that full blown military operations be set up in Benue like other places
Anything that can stop the killings of my people, I will go for it, I support it. Any policy or any directive, anything that will help stop the killing of these innocent people who are not armed, because this cannot continue. We know that the continuity of this will create greater challenges. I don’t want it to continue. We are struggling with economic issues, we are struggling with political issues and we are struggling with several other issues in this country, security issues and all that, Benue State should not be part of this; there is no need for it.

On allegation that the anti-open grazing law in the state is at the roots of the crisis
The law on prohibition of Open Grazing and Establishment of Ranching was made out of the necessity to ensure that we have peace for herdsmen and farmers and that is what we have done. The law seeks to protect all and as I talk to you, except this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore who are instigating people to fight and to kill us, there are Fulani men in Benue State as I talk to you doing their business.

On allegation by the Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria, MACBAN Chairman, Benue State chapter, Garos Gololo, that the killings were in retaliation for the theft of 1,000 cows by some people in the state

You know that man is a liar. Gololo is a liar, he is a wanted man in Benue State, we don’t even know where he is. He stays somewhere and makes allegations. The other time, he said 1,000 cattle drowned and the herdsman decided to commit suicide by jumping into the river. He has not come out to justify what he said.

On FG’s idea of setting up colonies to solve the problem
I am waiting to be briefed about what colonies means, I don’t understand it and until I understand it…But like I keep saying, for us, the way forward is ranching and up til this time, I am talking to you, the way forward is ranching because is global best practice. And it is not just practised in other parts of the world, on African soil in Swaziland, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, almost all African countries that rear cattle, they ranch. So why can’t we do the same thing here? For the colony thing I don’t know what colony is.

On how many ranches his administration has created
It is not for me to create ranches. I know that as a farmer, I have one in my farm. And there are several other people who have. The permits are available for people who want to ranch their cattle to access land and begin to ranch. So it is free for everybody and that is the right way to go.

And since we started the implementation (of the anti-open grazing law), there has been relative peace amongst farmers and herdsmen. They were doing well until this militia coming from this Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore came and attacked us. And they are known, we know where they are. As I talk to you, they are in Tongua in Awe local government, that is where these people are camped and coming to attack people.

And it is taking a different dimension. Just yesterday (Monday) in Logo local government, mobile policemen that were deployed to Logo to keep vigil to protect the people and the land, these militia came, exchanged fire with them, caught two of them and slaughtered them like goats. Mobile policemen! They shot another one, macheted him and left him in the pool of his blood, but luckily, he did not die. We have taken him to the hospital, we are treating him. The other one that was declared missing was found today (Tuesday).

So when it gets to the level of militia killing security men who are armed and are trained to protect lives and property, is it not taking a dangerous dimension? Who is now safe?

Agriculture Created Six Million Jobs In Two Years – Ogbeh

The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said on Monday that agriculture sector created six million jobs in the in the last two years.

Ogbeh said this while analysing the achievements of his ministry and 2018 targets of the ministry at a strategy retreat in Abuja.

The minister was reacting to reports that over four million jobs had been lost in over two years of President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government.

He explained that the six million jobs were created both on and off farms as a result of the huge increase in local rice production.

According to him, our agriculture is heavily manual and to be able to reduce rice importation by 95 per cent, at least six million extra jobs have happened in the farm.

“There are about 12.2 million members of the Rice Growers Association; we have created more jobs than we have lost,’’ he said.

The minister said the country earned $31m from the sale of purple hibiscus popularly known as zobo leaves in the last one year and that the demand was still increasing.

“We are exporting more than we are importing now and most exportation is agro-products.

“We are growing in agriculture and from the middle of this year; whoever chooses to eat Thailand rice is welcomed to pay duties.

“We shall impose duties on it because we consider it a wasteful luxury and something this country can’t afford,’’ he said.

Ogbeh said the Federal Government would also engage in establishing both cashew and cocoa plantations to boost production and export in 2018.

He said that plans are underway to make the country leading producers of cashew nuts.

The minister said that fertiliser blending would also be improved to accommodate micronutrients in the product.

Ogbeh said the government would also work to ensure quality control of produce both for export and local consumption.

(NAN)

What Buhari Told Nigerians On The Occasion Of 2018 New Year

I join my fellow citizens this morning to welcome and celebrate the New Year 2018. This year promises to be pivotal in our quest for CHANGE.

Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.

The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.

Such unpatriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.

My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our country’s huge infrastructural deficit.

We are going to make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.

The Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is one of the drivers of this Government’s commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan.

With regards to Railways, we have set ourselves ambitious targets. Already in construction stage is the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway.

The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.

Construction of the Kano – Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.

The Abuja – Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.

At the same time I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu. The Abuja to Itakpe line will go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at Warri.

Negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.

Secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar. In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people.

With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98% completion, as at 64% completion when we assumed office. Only test runs remain before start of operations.

This train service will stimulate economic activities in the Federal Capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system. Twelve railway sub-stations around the capital over a 45.2 kilometre route will serve as a catalyst and a pull factor to the economy of the area. The Light Rail System will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emission in line with the Administration’s policy on climate change.

Management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been reconstituted and has been charged with a 12 week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones. Government is undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.

Twenty five major highways will be funded under the N100b SUKUK facility. Each geo-political zone will benefit by an equal amount of N16.67b. The following major highways are to receive special attention:

a. Oyo – Ogbomosho,

b. Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu,

c. Yenagoa Road Junction – Kolo Otuoke – Bayelsa Palm,

d. Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way,

e. Onitsha – Enugu Expressway,

f. Kaduna Eastern Bypass,

g. Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road,

h. Dualization of Abuja – Lokoja – Benin Road,

i. Dualization of Suleja – Minna Road.

In addition, Government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja – Kaduna – Zaria – Kano road which is in a state of disrepair. Work will soon start and is expected to be completed in 2019.

More Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses. However, power remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have regular and reliable supply.

The Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which started in January 2016 has enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise so far N701 billion to assure Generation Companies of at least 80% payment for any power delivered to the national grid.

Consequently, generation has now reached 7,000MW. On December 8, 2017 the country achieved 5,155MW of power delivered to consumers, the highest level ever recorded.

Several moribund projects have been revived. Repairs of Afam Power Station added 110MW in 2017 and another 240MW will be added this year through a private investment partnership.

Katsina Power Project is now being tested and producing 10MW of power from wind for the first time in Nigeria. It should be fully operational this year.

The Zungeru 700MW Hydroelectric Power Project, stalled by court cases is due for completion in 2019. The transmission and other requirements to operate the 30MW Gurara Phase 1 Hydroelectric Plant, the 40MW Kashimbilla Hydroelectric Plant and the 215 MW Kaduna Gas/LPG/Diesel Power Plant will also be completed this year.

A landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project is at last taking off. This project has been on the drawing Board for 40 years, but now the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 3,050MW project has been agreed with a Chinese joint venture Company with a financing commitment from the government of China. Completion is targeted for 2023.

As I mentioned earlier, the Transmission Company of Nigeria can now distribute all the 7,000MW that can be generated. TCN and the Niger Delta Holding Company have added 1,950MVA of 330 down to 132KV transformer capacity of 10 transmission stations and 2,930MVA of 132 down to 33KV transformer capacity of 42 sub-stations including Ikot Ekpene, Aba, Alagbon, Ajah, Ejigbo, Funtua and Zaria.

This Administration is working with the privatised distribution Companies to overcome the continuing challenges of distribution.

These massive public works should spearhead the recovery and lead millions back to employment. You will recall that it was not until last year that we got out of the economic recession into which the country had fallen as a consequence of past unsustainable economic policies which projected short-term illusory growth.

The government is slowly stabilizing the economy.

It was in order to change the steady and steep decline that we adopted the more sustainable policies and programmes captured in the Economic Recovery Plan. Diversification efforts have resulted in improved output particularly in agriculture and solid minerals sectors. The relative exchange rate stability has improved manufacturing sector performance.

We have got to get used to discipline and direction in economic management. The days of business as usual are numbered.

Two years ago I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to re-structure the economy. Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on.

By the same token, I am today appealing to enterprising Nigerians with ideas and unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with ideas not to just sit and wait for employment from the government or the Organized Private Sector. Great nations are built by enterprising people who turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate.

In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments. We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.

We tried the Parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.

However, there is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better. I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability.

As the electioneering season approaches politicians must avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics. Such must be avoided at all costs if we are to live in harmony.

In this respect the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have successfully internalized religion, ethnicity and politics.

Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law. We should draw encouragement from the series of bye-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence free and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair.

Before I conclude my address I must reassure my fellow citizens that security of life and property is still top of our government’s agenda. We have since beaten Boko Haram. Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror as we have seen during the past years in Europe, Asia, Middle East, elsewhere in Africa and in America.

Our government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our election pledge and promises. On behalf of all Nigerians let me offer our thanks to the Armed forces, the Police, other para-military forces and traditional authorities who are working round the clock to ensure that you and I go about our normal business in reasonable safety.

Terrorism and urban crimes are world-wide phenomena and our security forces are continuously adapting their responses to changing threats.

With regard to rampant cases of kidnappings, we are taking immediate short-term measures to combat this new evil creeping into our societies. Tighter police methods and swift and severe punishment for those proved to be engaged in kidnapping are on the way.

With respect to Niger Delta, Government is still engaging responsible leadership of the Communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the region. Our clean-up programme in collaboration with the United Nations is making satisfactory progress.

I am grateful to all the Governors and other Political & Community leaders of the Niger Delta States for their part in bringing relative peace to the areas.

Finally let me again express my heartfelt thanks to all Nigerians who prayed for me during my illness last year. I feel deeply humbled by your prayers and good wishes and I am more determined than ever to serve you to the best of my ability.

Good morning. And I wish everyone a Happy New Year.

BREAKING: Etteh, Gbadegesin, Diekola, Akere, Salinsile, Others Make Federal Board List

By Kehinde Ayantunji

First Female Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, Rt Hon Foluke Etteh who represented Irewola/Ayedade/Isokan Federal Constituency, State of Osun has been appointed as the Board Chairman National Medical Centre Abuja, by President Muhammadu Buhari.

According to the full list of the new appointment release by the presidency, Osun has so far has secured four federal board chairmanship.

Dr Simon Afolayan, former Osun Hospital Management Board Chairman has also been appointed as the Chairman, Nigeria Metro logical Agency, The former State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice Barrister Adedeji Gbadegesin is the Chairman National Agency for Great Grean Wall (NAGGW) while Chief Shola Lawal a fomer Senatorial Aspirant from Osun East was appointed as the Chairman, Ogun-Oshun River Basin Development Authority (ORBDA).

Others who made list includes Alhaji Fatai Diekola, member, Lagos University Teaching Hospital College Board, Chief Mashood Oluawo, Institute for Agricultural Research and Training, Ibadan, Elder Adelowo Adebiyi, Member, National Root Crops Resarch Institute, UMUDIKE and Dr Ademola Onifade, Member, National Steel Raw Material Exploration Agency, Oluomo Sunday Akere, Member, Nigeria Institute of Oceanography and Marine Reasearch (NIOMR), Lagos, Alhaji Rasaq Salinsile, Member, Consumer Protection Council Board among others.