Mathew Dadiya, Abuja
Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari has said that the nation’s economy has witnessed 8 quarters of positive growth with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) expected to grow by 2.7 per cent in 2019.
The President said that his administration was laying the foundation and taking bold steps in transforming the country and liberating its people from the “shackles of poverty.”
Buhari disclosed this on Wednesday in his address during the June 12 Democracy Day celebration at Eagle Square, Abuja.
He said that Nigeria’s external reserves have risen to $45 billion enough – to finance over 9 months of current import commitments.
The President assured that his administration would take steps to integrate rural economies to the national economic “grid” by extending access to small-scale credits and inputs to rural farmers, credit to rural micro-businesses and opening up many critical feeder roads.
For small-scale enterprises in towns and cities, President Buhari said that his government shall expand facilities currently available in order to continue to encourage and support domestic production of basic goods and reduce the country’s reliance on imported goods.
“For the next four years, we will remain committed to improving the lives of people by consolidating efforts to address these key issues as well as emerging challenges of climate change, resettling displaced communities and dealing decisively with the new flashes of insecurity across the country, and the impacts on food scarcity and regional stability.
“We are not daunted by the enormity of the tasks ahead. Instead, we are revived by this new mandate to work collaboratively with State and Local Governments, Legislators, the Diplomatic Corps and all Nigerians to rebuild and reposition our country as the heartbeat and reference point for our continent.
He noted that despite the enormous resources pledged to infrastructure development these past four years, there remains the urgent need to modernize the nation’s roads and bridges, electricity grid, ports and rail systems.
Whilst agriculture and industrial output have recovered since the recession, President Buhari assured that his administration was more committed than ever to work with the private sector to improve productivity and accelerate economic growth.
“The Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index which is the gauge of manufacturing activity in the country has also risen for 26 consecutive months since March 2017 indicating continuous growth and expansion in our manufacturing sector.
“It still takes too long for goods to clear at our seaports and the roads leading to them are congested. It still takes too long for routine and regulatory approvals to be secured.
These issues affect our productivity and we are committed to addressing them permanently.
The Nigerian leader further noted that the ECOWAS and Sahel regions, starting from Chad to Mali, “are also experiencing adverse impacts of drought and desertification, which have triggered waves of human displacement; conflicts between farmers and herdsmen; terrorism; and a fundamental socio-economic change to our way of life.”
The problems, President Buhari said, called for increased regional and international cooperation in developing a sustainable solution.
“At the heart of inequality and insecurity, is pervasive corruption. When we took office we realised that if you fight corruption, corruption will fight back – and we have seen this at all levels.
“For Nigeria to progress, a collective resolution to address corruption and foster broad-based prosperity is required to create a country that is not only for a few privileged but for all Nigerians,” he added.
Buhari stressed that “this charge is not only to Civil Servants, Ministers, Legislators and State Government functionaries, but also to Corporate leaders.”
He reassured that his government shall make greater investments in rural economies and shall aggressively source locally our raw materials.
He said, “We have incentives for investments specifically made in rural communities.”
However, the President pointed out that nationwide development cannot occur from Abuja alone; it must occur at States, adding that government cannot do it alone.
He implored all state governments especially those with large rural economies, to aggressively solicit investments in your states.
He urged the state governments to invest in developing human capital, reducing bureaucracy and corruption, hosting and attending an investment summits and improving the ease of doing business.
He expressed gratitude to the entrepreneurs, investors and venture capitalists who have built or are building agro-processing projects; petrochemical plants;
crude oil and solid mineral refineries; energy exploration; software development projects; telecom infrastructure; health, education and manufacturing projects; and the like, across the country.
For local manufacturers of goods for exports, the President assured that his administration would continue to listen to their ideas and plans not just about how the government can secure more investment, but how their plans can help create a more equitable economy.
I also thank the labour unions, farmer groups and associations organized private sector and the civil society organisations for their support and cooperation with our government these last four years.
“Over the next four years, we are committed to assembling a strong team of Nigerians, and allies, to implement our transformative plans and proposals.
“We will see the significant focus, resource and, where necessary reform, in tertiary and technical education, to reposition Nigeria’s workforce for the modern technological age.
“We will accelerate investments in primary, secondary and tertiary healthcare programs, interventions and infrastructure as well as in upgrading of our medical personnel to stem the flight of our best trained people.
“On food security, our farmers have made great strides in local production of rice, maize, cassava, poultry, fertilizer, fisheries and sesame. We remain resolute in supporting the private sector in emphasizing backwards integration and export expansion plans.
“Felling of trees to provide energy for domestic use is taking its toll on our rain forests, our ecology and our climate. Accordingly, we are taking steps to harness cleaner and more sustainable sources of electricity. We export over 2 million tons of cooking gas, yet we consume less than half a million tons.
“We will work to address this issue and support rural communities with challenges of safely switching from firewood to cooking gas.
“Dedicated agro-industrial processing zones will be developed on a PPP basis to increase farming yields, agricultural productivity and industrial output.
“Over 2,000 kilometres of ongoing Federal road and bridge projects across the country will be completed to reduce journey times and the cost of doing business”, the President stated.