President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that in the effort to diversify the economy and create more jobs, his government has embarked on reviving all the 12 river basin authorities in the country. The river basins are: Anambra – Imo, Benin – Owena, Chad Basin, Cross River, Hadejia – Jama’are, Lower Benue, Lower Niger, Niger Delta, Ogun – Osun, Sokoto – Rima, Upper Benue, and Upper Niger. He disclosed this in his 56 Independence Anniversary speech, yesterday.
The intention, according to the president is to eventually “fully commercialise them to better support crop production, aqua –culture and accelerated rural development.” In addition, government is introducing Water Resources Bill, encompassing the National Water Resources Policy and National Irrigation and Drainage Policy to improve management of water and irrigation development in the country.
To further boost farming, he disclosed that the Ministry of Agriculture and the Central Bank have been mobilised to encourage local production of rice, maize, sorghum, millet and soya beans, towards achieving domestic self-sufficiency in these staples by 2018.
President Buhari said to meaningfully drive the agricultural initiative of his government, farmers in 13 out of 36 states are receiving credit support through the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Anchor Borrowers Programme. As part of its benefits of the credit support, Kebbi State, this year alone, he said, was expected to produce one million tons of locally grown rice. “As part of the 13 states, Lagos and Ogun are also starting this programme. Rice alone for example costs Nigeria two billion USD to import. The country should be self-sufficient in basic staples by 2019. Foreign exchange thus saved can go to industrial revival requirements for retooling, essential raw materials and spare parts. It is in recognition of the need to re-invigorate agriculture in our rural communities that we are introducing the LIFE programme,” he said.
The president also revealed that the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing has received N197.5billion to commence work on the 12 federal road projects that include: dualization of Calabar – Itu Road in Cross River/Akwa Ibom states; dualization of Lokoja – Benin Road, Ehor – Benin city, Edo State; re-construction of outstanding sections of Benin – Shagamu Express way, Edo/Ogun states; expansion works on Lagos – Ibadan dual carriageway, Ogun/Oyo states; rehabilitation of Onitsha – Enugu Expressway, Anambra/Enugu states; rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual carriageway, Abia/Rivers states; rehabilitation of Hadejia – Nguru Road, Jigawa State; dualization of Kano – Katsina Road, Kano State; dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road, Borno State; dualization of Azare – Potiskum Road, Azare – Sharuri Road, Bauchi State; rehabilitation of Ilorin – Jebba – Mokwa – Birnin Gwari Road, Kwara State; and construction of Oju/Lokoja – Oweto Bridge over River Benue, Benue State.
On railways, he disclosed that the federal government has released counterpart funding to the Chinese for the building of standard gauge Lagos -Kano railway, while, General Electric is investing $2.2billion in a concession “to revamp, provide rolling stock, and manage the existing lines, including the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri Line. The Lagos-Calabar railway,” which he said, would come on stream soon.
In the area of provision of affordable housing, he said National Housing Programme has been initiated. He noted that while N400 million was budgeted for housing in 2014; zero allocation in 2015, his government’s 2016 Budget devoted N35.6 billion to housing. “Much of the house building will be private sector led but government is initiating a pilot housing scheme of 2,838 units, uniformly spread across the 36 states and FCT.
“We expect these units to be completed within four to six months. These experimental Nigeria House model units will be constructed using only made in Nigeria building materials and components. This initiative is expected to reactivate the building materials manufacturing sector, generate massive employment opportunities and develop sector capacity and expertise,” the president said.
In the area of power generation, President Buhari said his government was going ahead with projects utilising alternate technologies such as hydro, wind, and solar to contribute to the country’s energy mix. In this respect, the Mambilla Hydro project, which has suffered many years of delay is to take off this year; and that “contract negotiations are nearing completion with Chinese firms for technical and financial commitments.”
The project, he said, was to be jointly financed by Nigeria and the Chinese Export-Import Bank. In addition, 14 solar power projects, he said, have had their power purchase agreements concluded, in the direction of the plan to realize the production of 1200 megawatts of solar electricity for the country on schedule.
President Buhari said in line with the objective of his government to complete all abandoned projects across the country, the Rural Electrification Agency’s projects needing completion are all provided for in the 2016 Budget. The actualization of this will bring electricity to rural areas as well as help farmers, small scale and cottage industries to integrate with the national economy.
The president notes that power generation has steadily risen since his administration came on board from 3,324megawatts in June 2015 to a peak of 5,074megawatts in February 2016.
“For the first time in our history, the country was producing 5000megawatts. However, renewed militancy and destruction of gas pipelines caused acute shortage of gas and constant drop in electricity output available on the grid, the president noted.
President Buhari revealed that his government would embark on the repair of the refineries to save the country the embarrassment of fuel importation and cost. “We are to repair our four refineries so that Nigeria can produce most of our petrol requirements locally, pending the coming on stream of new refineries. That way we will save $10billion yearly in importing fuel,” he said.
The president promised no way out for corruption, which he described as cancer that must be rooted out in the system, through the instrumentality of the rule of law. “Corruption is a cancer which must be fought with all the weapons at our disposal. It corrodes the very fabric of government and destroys society. Fighting corruption is key, not only to restoring the moral health of the nation, but also to freeing our enormous resources for urgent socio-economic development. In fighting corruption, however, the government would adhere strictly by the rule of law. Not for the first time, I am appealing to the judiciary to join the fight against corruption.
“I ran for office four times to make the point that we can rule this nation with honesty and transparency, that we can stop the stealing of Nigeria’s resources so that the resources could be used to provide jobs for our young people, security, infrastructure for commerce, education and healthcare,” he said.
He assured that the current biting recession would not endure for much longer, disclosing that he ran for office so as to deploy good governance towards ensuring prosperity and abundance for all, noting “I remain resolutely committed to this objective.” He blamed “critical shortage of foreign exchange,” for the recession; a shortage he said followed oil price drop from an average of $100 per barrel over the last decade to an average of $40 per barrel this year and last, noting also that “the damage perpetrated by Niger Delta thugs on pipelines sometimes reduced Nigeria’s production to below one million barrels per day against the usual 2.2 million barrels per day.
In the area of security, he said his government has made progress and credits the military, vigilante groups and the police for the success against Boko Haram in the North-east. “Boko Haram was defeated by last December – only resorting to cowardly attacks on soft targets, killing innocent men, women and children. Nigerians should thank our gallant men of the armed forces and police for rescuing large areas of the country captured by insurgents,” the president said. Buhari noted that, residents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states, as well as several neighbouring states now go about their daily business in relative safety. “People can go to mosques, churches, market places in reasonable safety,” the president noted.
Besides Boko Haram, President Buhari said his administration was confronting other long-running security issues, namely herdsmen versus farmers, Niger Delta militants, cattle rustling, and kidnappings. He assured that his administration was firmly resolved to tackle these security challenges and to defeat them. He described Niger Delta militants as “mindless,” whom his administration he said will not allow to hold the country to ransom. While noting that his government would continue to engage the militants in dialogue, he observed that “No group can unlawfully challenge the authority of the Federal Government and succeed.”