President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday responded to talks that his administration has not done anything since coming to office last May, promising to deliver on his election promises in the next three years.
Speaking at the National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Abuja, the President sought Nigerians’ understanding to enable his administration meet their expectations.
He said with the National Assembly’s passage of the budget and savings of over N3 trillion in the Treasury Single Account (TSA), things would begin to move fast.
Turning to his party leaders, the President said: “I will like you to continue to make sacrifice. I know you are being harassed since the election, with people saying that they have not seen anything on the ground. Well if you have any explanation that could be accepted, it is that you have three more years to go.”
The President added: “When we came in after 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there were 42 ministries. We reduced them to 24; removed 21 Permanent Secretaries.
“So, imagine the volume of work …So, you have to appreciate the position we are in”.
The agencies, Buhari said, had to be pruned and their boards reconstructed following the reduction of ministries.
His administration, the President said went back on it decision to reconstitute the boards of some universities after discovering that the law was breached.
“There is nothing wrong in saying sorry and going back on your decision. So,we said sorry and allowed all the universities to continue with their boards. So, please, try to bear with us as we reflect on where we found ourselves”, he said.
Presided over by APC National Chairman Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, the NEC meeting – the second by the party since it took power– was attended by its leaders at all levels.
Noting that only nine out of the 36 states are able to meet their obligations to pay workers’ wages, Buhari said: “The fall of oil prices is a disaster. If from 1999, oil sold above $100 per barrel with an export of about two million barrels per day, how come Nigeria failed to make some arrangement to cushion the effect of a probably volatile oil market? Again, it shows failure of the last administration.
“But we are now to pick the pieces as an APC government and so, there is no need complaining, but let us concentrate and see how much we can do with whatever remains of the economy.
“We realised that agriculture and solid minerals are two areas that can help us to recover economically, at least in terms of employment and feeding ourselves and more importantly, saving the hard currency to ensure that our industries continue to employ Nigerians and produce.
“The policy we are trying to implement is the TSA. We insist that we have to know what comes in and what goes out, for us to make a comprehensive amendment to the economy.
“If you go and see the Central Bank Governor, he will tell you that in the TSA, we have more than N3 trillion. Where would this money have been if TSA was not in vogue? I was made to understand that vouchers would have quickly been raised towards the end of the financial year and cheques made. Whether they are going into projects or private pockets, nobody can prove it to you.
“But that money is there, it is identified, it is quantified and when the budget comes back eventually, the ministry of finance will see how to allocate it to the rest of the country.
“We have tried to make sure that the NNPC is reorganised, so that we know how much of our crude is taken, how much of it is sold and to which account the money is going.
“But I tell you that up till the time we came, if anybody told you that he knew how crude is exchanged either on the high seas or reaching their destination and the accounts the money went into, that person is not telling you the truth.”
On the Rivers State legislative rerun, the President described as shameful, the killings that marred the election.
Buhari urged security agents to give Nigerians the confidence to go out and perform their constitutional responsibility without molestation.
He said: “Of course, the leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been changed, I appeal to the leadership of the military, security agents and INEC that what I want Nigerians to remember me for, even if I have to leave the Presidency tomorrow, is that I respect them.
“I want all Nigerians to believe and hold their PVC as personal entitlement as Nigerians and use it the way they like and vote for whoever they like during election.
“If they voluntarily sold it, it is part of their right and so, let them sell it and remain at home and not participate in any election.
“But let the law enforcement agencies must give them the confidence that nobody will come out to hire thugs, give them drugs and stop people from exercising their fundamental right.
“I am afraid I did not succeed in the (rerun) elections in Kogi, Bayelsa, Rivers. I think that more Nigerians are killed or killed themselves in Rivers than in any particular state. At this stage of our political development, to remain brutal is shameful and as a government, I promise we will do something by the next general election”.
Speaking further, the President said: “On Niger Delta, the militants are sending some conflicting messages. Some have said they are ready to drop their arms and join the rest of the nation to build it. But others are still sabotaging installations, thereby making investments in that lucrative area of Nigeria difficult because nobody will submit his riches to financial institution; get money only to suffer huge losses.
“So, the environment for investment is being sabotaged by Nigerians. We are doing our best to persuade them to join the rest of the country because in unity lies our strength.
On his foreign trips, he said: “Sometimes, you need to present your case on personal basis to your economic colleagues and neighbours. Nothing is better than personal touch and I believe that we are learning a lot and eventually, the nation will realize so.”
Odigie-Oyegun said it would have been a time to celebrate, but for the prevailing hardship, he said: “we are very well aware of the hardship in the land and for that reason, it should be a period of introspection, a period for memories and a period for reminiscences.
“The problems we have are well known, of course originating from two well known factors, our squandered patrimony of course, the unfortunate coincidence of the collapse of the price of crude. Nevertheless, in spite of these, our government has recorded strides that are worth mentioning, that are worth celebrating and that are worth noting.
“No question at all, that the vigorous and focused leadership provided in the fight against insurgency has yielded results that we all, as a nation, must be proud of. The insurgents have been deprived of the possibility of ever again, holding Nigerian territory and hoisting any of their dastardly flags.
“It is true, these are hard times, but hard times create challenges. Challenges call for men and women to agree in leadership, united, focused, passionate in the policies that they stand for, which means that this party must rediscover itself, which means that this party must stand as one behind the success of our president and of the policies that we stand for and of the promises he has made to the Nigerian people.
“This also means that this is a time to stand together, which means that this is a time to rededicate ourselves and the party to the vision to which the people of this nation voted. We must leave this arena once more as a strong, united fighting force dedicated to delivering on the promises made by Mr president to the Nigerian people”.