Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, says the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari has “availed itself creditably in the implementation of its change agenda”.
According to a statement issued on Sunday by Segun Adeyemi, special adviser to the minister, Mohammed made the statement while speaking on the topic, ‘The Change Agenda: The Journey so far’, at the annual general meeting of the Alumni Association of the National Institute (AANI) in Kuru, near Jos, on Saturday.
The minister said that”as far as our change agenda is concerned, the journey so far has been good, and it will definitely get better as we progress”.
“We have faced and tackled, with sincerity and courage, both anticipated and unanticipated challenges. Our major security nightmare, Boko Haram, is fast giving way to a sweet dream, while we have not shied away from taking on other security challenges,” he said.
“We are winning the war against corruption, even as corruption fights back fast and furious. We are committed to diversifying our economy away from oil, while plugging all financial leakages. Our president is working night and day to make our country a respected member of the comity of nations, once again.”
Mohammed said that the All Progressives Congress (APC) campaigned on the core issues of tackling insecurity, especially the insurgency in the northeast, fighting corruption and jump-starting the economy, which encompasses creation of jobs, diversification of the economy away from oil, etc., noting that the administration had made progress in all three areas.
On security, he said while Nigeria had faced the challenges of ethno-religious violence, armed robbery, cattle rustling, kidnapping for ransom, militancy and violent agitations, the most daunting security challenge faced by the country in the past seven to eight years has been the Boko Haram insurgency.
He said that under the leadership of Buhari, Nigeria has successfully tackled Boko Haram, adding that this did not happen by accident but due to the efforts of the president in rallying the country’s neighbours as well as the international community to support the country’s war on terror.
”Today, the President’s efforts have paid off. Boko Haram has been massively degraded and it is gradually moving away from the front pages. The insurgents have lost their capacity to carry out the kind of spectacular attacks for which they became infamous. This did not happen by accident.
“It was the result of purposeful, credible and courageous leadership being provided by President Muhammadu Buhari, who started off by ordering the relocation of the command and control centre of the battle against insurgency from Abuja to Maiduguri, rallied regional and global support for Nigeria’s efforts and boosted the morale and fighting capability of armed troops.”
He reminded the audience that insurgencies do not end overnight, and that there will still be pockets of cowardly attacks against vulnerable targets, saying: ”This is not a surprise since the insurgents have been dispersed and many of them have simply melted into the population. But with a sustained anti-terror campaign, heightened intelligence gathering as well as the cooperation and vigilance of all citizens, even the attacks will fizzle out with time.”
On the fight against corruption, Mohammed said just like it is tackling insecurity, the administration is also fighting corruption and it is winning, despite the fact that corruption has started fighting back ”fast and furious”.
He said unless corruption is fought to standstill, nothing else Nigeria does will yield positive results.
“It was corruption that prolonged the war against Boko Haram and dispatched many soldiers and civilians to their early graves; it was corruption that ensured that while oil was selling for over 100 dollars per barrel, we had nothing to show for the windfall; it is because of corruption that even though our budget has increased from less than a trillion in 1999 to over 6 trillion in 2016, poverty has grown almost at the same rate that the budget has increased; it was corruption that gave us darkness, instead of light, while we supposedly pumped millions of dollars into the power sector,” he said.
He urged the alumni of the national institute to support the anti-graft war, saying that as people who are highly respected in the society, they must not sit on the fence but lend their strong voice to the battle against corruption.
On the nation’s economy, Mohammed said the crash in the price of crude oil has made Nigeria lose over 70 per cent of its revenues, but noted that the administration has decided to turn the disappointment into a blessing “by working assiduously to diversify our economy away from oil”.
“Agriculture, solid minerals, culture and tourism are some of the sectors we are currently working to rejuvenate so they can earn hugerevenues for the country and create jobs,” he said.
“While these efforts are on, the administration has decided to plug all financial loopholes through the treasury single account (TSA), into which over N2trn has accrued so far. Funds that ordinarily would have gone into private pockets are now finding their way into the public treasury, to be used for the benefit of all. Also, thanks to the measures introduced by this administration to plug all loopholes, we have discovered 23,000 ghost workers who have now been expunged from the system.
“Of course you are all familiar with the administration’s budget for 2016, which is now before the national assembly. In an unprecedented act, we have set aside N500bn for massive social intervention, fund that can be assessed by artisans, market women, unemployed graduates and others. The essence of this is to lift millions, not thousands, out of poverty. Of course there is also the plan to engage 500,000 unemployed graduates as teachers, and complete all ongoing infrastructural projects. As soon as the budget, in which capital expenditure has been increased to 30 per cent, is passed, Nigerians will begin to positively feel the impact of the administration’s efforts.”
The minister also defended Buhari’s foreign trips, explaining that the president had taken it upon himself to restore the nation’s lost credibility, reassure investors that they could do business with Nigeria, and also rally global support for the war against corruption and insurgency.