Buhari vows to deal with fuel hoarders who blackmail Nigerians

PHOTO: NAN

• Promises to fund Oyo-Ogbomosho, Lokoja-Benin roads, others from N116.67bn Sukuk facility
• Downplays agitations for restructuring, says ‘no human edifice is perfect’
• Asks Nigerians to shun ethnicity, religion as election approaches 

President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to deal with those responsible for the fuel scarcity that inflicted severe hardship on Nigerians, especially during the yuletide.

Buhari promised to probe the development, which he said was a “blackmail of all Nigerians,” and forestall future manipulation that could inflict hardship on citizens.

“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,” he said.

‎”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.”

President Buhari, in his 2018 new year address to Nigerians, said he was determined to get to the root of the matter and “ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.”

The President assured that unpatriotic actions would not divert government’s change agenda for Nigerians and from the course it had set for itself.

“Our government’s watchword 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.”

On Railways, the President said the government has already set ambitious targets with the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway already in construction stage.

‎He said 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.

Further, President Buhari said 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.”

The President said negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, first 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.”

The train service, he explained, would 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.

He said twenty-five major highways would 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.

He disclosed that government had approved reconstruction work on the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road now in a state of disrepair. It will 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 percent 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 (TCN) 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.”

President Buhari said the administration is working with the privatised distribution Companies to overcome the continuing challenges of distribution.

These massive public works, according to him, 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.”

The President appealed to enterprising Nigerians with ideas and unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with ideas not to just wait for employment from government or the Organized Private Sector.

According to President Buhari, great nations are built by enterprising people who turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate.

On the political turf, the President said he had kept a close watch on the on-going debate about “Restructuring.”
The President argued that no human law or edifice is perfect, and submitted that whatever structure that is developed by the people 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.

On the 2019 campaigns, President Buhari said, 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.

He said that Nigeria must 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.”

On the security situation in the country, President Buhari reassured Nigerians that security of life and property was still top of the government’s agenda. He claimed that his administration has since beaten Boko Haram with only isolated attacks still occurring.

He noted that 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.

He assured that government was determined to protect all Nigerians in line with the party’s election pledge and promises to the citizens of the country.

The President specifically thanked members of the Armed Forces, the Police and other paramilitary forces for their efforts in ensuring 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,” he added.

With regard to rampant cases of kidnappings, the President said his administration was taking immediate short-term measures to combat the new evil creeping into Nigeria.

“Tighter police methods and swift and severe punishment for those proved to be engaged in kidnapping are on the way,” he said.

With respect to Niger Delta, President Buhari said Government was still engaging with responsible leadership of 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.”

The President also seized the opportunity to express gratitude to Nigerians who prayed for him during his 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.”

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