By Ismaila Chafe
President Muhammadu Buhari has reiterated the determination of his administration to win the ongoing war against corruption “however hard the road is’’.
The president made his position known in a nationwide broadcast to commemorate the 19th year of Nigeria’s democracy and the 3rd Anniversary of his administration in Abuja on Tuesday.
“”The second primary object of this Administration is to fight corruption headlong.
“”Like I have always said, if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will destroy the country. Three years into this Administration, Nigerians and the international community have begun to applaud our policies and determination to fight corruption.
“”We are more than ever before determined to win this war, however hard the road is.
““I therefore appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians to continue to support us in this fight,’’ he said.
The president observed that various policy measures already put in place to stem the tide of corrupt practices have been yielding remarkable results.
He said that some of the key reform policies which included the Treasury Single Account (TSA) had realised billions of Naira being saved from maintenance fee payable to banks.
According to him, N200 billion has so far been saved from elimination of ghost workers in the public service while Whistle-Blowing Policy had helped to recover over N500 billion.
He stated that the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, set up with a mandate to validate controls, assess risks, prune personnel costs, ensure compliance with Public Financial Management reforms, had helped to identify and remove over 52,000 ghost workers from the Federal Government MDAs Payroll.
“”The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS), aimed at expanding tax education and awareness, has offered the opportunity for tax defaulters to regularise their status in order to enjoy the amnesty on overdue interest, penalties and the assurance of non-prosecution or subject to tax investigations,’’he said.
President Buhari disclosed that the Sovereign Wealth Fund project portfolio had been expanded with an injection of 650 million dollars.
He said the recapitalization of the Fund was meant to strengthen its investment in local infrastructure, power, health, re-construction of Abuja-Kano road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, East West Road (Section V) and the Mambilla Hydro-electric Power project as well as the construction of the 2nd Niger Bridge.
He also revealed that the fight against corruption through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission had resulted in recoveries of billions of Naira, as well as forfeiture of various forms of assets.
“These, alongside other efforts, have improved Nigeria’s international image and regional cooperation.
““We have retained the services of one of the world’s leading assets tracing firms to investigate and trace assets globally.
“”This is in addition to the exploitation of provisions of existing Treaties, Conventions as well as Bilateral Agreements with Multilateral bodies and Nations,’’ he added.
President Buhari stated that Nigeria had also signed Mutual Legal Assistance Agreements with a number of countries to ensure that there was no hiding place for fugitives.
He, therefore, maintained that his administration was focused on revamping the ailing economy it inherited in 2015.
He said: ““In 2016, Government executed an expansionary budget and developed the Strategic Implementation Plan.
“”For the first time, 30 per cent of the budget was earmarked for capital expenditure which represents an upward review when compared with the 2015 budget.
““The SIP was followed by the development of a comprehensive medium term plan – the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan 2017 – 2020.
“The broad strategic objectives of the ERGP were restoration and sustaince of economic growth; Build a globally competitive economy; and Invest in ourbpeople.’’
He noted that the implementation of the ERGP had started yielding results, saying the National Bureau of Statistics reported that the economy grew by 1.95% in 1st quarter 2018,
According to him, this is a good performance when viewed against -0.91 in 1st quarter 2017 and -0.67% in 1st quarter 2016 respectively.
He also noted with delight that the nation’s foreign reserve had improved significantly to 47.5 billion dollars as of May, 2018 as against 29.6 billion dollars in 2015 while the inflationary rate had consistently declined every month since January, 2017.
““Recently, Government conducted Focus Labs in three key sectors of the economy namely, Agriculture & Transport, Manufacturing and Processing as well as Power and Gas.
“”These have yielded significant prospects for investments and job creation to the tune of 22.5 billion dollars with a potential for creating more than 500,000 jobs by 2020.
“”These investment generation initiatives are expected to increase capital inflows in the form of foreign direct investment. There is a high prospect that the cumulative investments from this first phase of the Labs will hit 39.2 billion dollars by 2025,’’ he said.
On agriculture, President Buhari said that Nigeria had continued to pursue a strategic food security programme built around self-sufficiency and minimization of import.
He said as a result of this policy, rice importation from other countries had been cut down by 90 per cent which he said had a direct impact on foreign reserves.
On the the Social Investment Programmes (SIP), President Buhari said the programme was created as a means to graduating citizens from poverty through capacity building, investment and direct support.
He said the major strategic objective was to restore livelihood, economic opportunities and sustenance for the poor across the country.
President Buhari explained that the SIP programmes and projects included the Home Grown School Feeding Programme where about 8.2 million pupils in 24 states were being fed with over 75,000 catering staff engaged under the programme.
He stated that the Conditional Cash Transfer aspect of the programme had so far recorded over 297,000 caregivers who are being trained by 2,495 Community Facilitators in 21 states.
“”Less privileged Nigerians are now being paid N5,000 monthly stipend in nine pilot States of Bauchi, Borno, Cross River, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Niger, Osun and Oyo.
“Eventually the scheme will cover all the 36 states of the federation including the FCT, he said.
Under the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme, President Buhari disclosed that about 264,269 loans had been disbursed to 4,822 societies in the 36 states and FCT, while another 370,635 were awaiting release of funds.
He revealed that the N-Power Job creation Scheme was also targeted at providing jobs for unemployed young graduates and had so far recruited 200,000 youths.
He said that the next batch of 300,000 youths under the scheme had been selected, verified and would soon be deployed across the 36 states and the FCT.
“Furthermore, 20,000 non-graduate volunteers have also been selected to kick off the N-Build programme in collaboration with the National Automotive Design and Development Council and the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria,’’ he added.