The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has reiterated government’s commitment in fulfilling promises made during the electioneering campaign. Speaking at a town hall meeting with Broadcasting Organization of Nigeria (BON) stakeholders at the Transcorp Hilton Abuja on Thursday, the minister maintained that he will not hesitate to say the government is on track.
Alhaji Lai Mohammed, joined by his counterparts in Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enalameh, Labor and employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Mohammed Musa Bello, and the Minister for Power, works and Housing, Bar. Babatunde Raji Fashola described the meeting with BON as an expanded edition of the earlier meetings.
The Minister spoke just as majority leader of the House of Representatives, Rep. Femi Gbajiabiamila on Thursday, faulted insinuations that the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari does not have an economic blueprint, declaring that the 2016 budget contained the economic policies of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led administration. Alh. Mohammed said, “This meeting, coming ahead of Sunday’s first year anniversary of this Administration. Many Nigerians have been asking; to what extent has the Administration fulfilled its electoral promises.
My answer is simple: We are on track! Recall that we campaigned on three major issues: Tackling insecurity, fighting corruption and revamping the economy. Any dispassionate observer of the activities of government in the past one year will admit that the Administration has made great strides towards fulfilling its promises”. “We appreciate the great and unprecedented trust that Nigerians repose in the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari to steer the ship of state to safe shores. We acknowledge that the Nation is passing through a very difficult situation at this time, with the loss of over 60 per cent of our national income due to the crash in the price of crude oil.
Many have asked me if indeed Nigeria is broke. In answering them, I have shunned semantics. I have simply asked them: If a man earning 100,000 Naira a month suddenly sees his salary plummet to 40,000 Naira, what is that called? Will he not have to make some painful adjustments? If he was living in a three-bedroom apartment, he would have to move out to perhaps a two-bedroom apartment. If his children had been in an expensive private school, he would have to change them to public schools. He might even have to sell his car, if he had any.
“This Administration is aware that it was not elected to make excuses but to put the nation back on a sound economic footing, ensure the security of lives and property and banish corruption. We have therefore decided to turn the disaster that we inherited into a blessing by diversifying our economy away from the mono-product of oil, leveraging on Agriculture, Solid Minerals as well as Culture and Tourism, among others. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, all misfortune is but a stepping stone to fortune”.
Alhaji Mohammed assured Nigerians that the Change promised is real despite the tough situation at the moment saying, “under the dedicated and visionary leadership of President Buhari. In fact, I make bold to say that had this government not been elected, there would have been no economy today. Now, make no mistake about it: The road will be rough. But as the saying goes, the darker the night, the brighter the morning. Our long suffering people will surely smile again. “Change is no instant coffee. It is a process. We are now laying a solid foundation for our country. By earmarking 30 per cent of our budget to capital expenditure, we are building and rebuilding infrastructure.
Through our massive social intervention this year alone, we are catering for the weak among us through the conditional transfer of 5,000 Naira to the vulnerable, we are creating jobs as we move to employ 500,000 graduates and 100,000 non-graduates, we are offering soft loans to market women, men and traders, we are ready to feed 5.5 million school children once daily, and we are providing scholarships to 100,000 students studying Science Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In total, over 8 million Nigerians will benefit directly, and millions more indirectly, from our social intervention fund. “Almost every country that is great today has passed through a rough road. The US survived the Great Depression that started in 1929 and lasted till the 1930s to become the world’s top economy; The depression also spread to Canada which today is a member of the G7 Group of Advanced Countries.
Back here in Africa, about 20 years ago, people around the world were contributing money to feed Ethiopia. Today it is a model of sustainable economic development in Africa. Rwanda survived genocide to become an African success story. Nigeria will overcome the economic catastrophe, caused by years of bad governance, mind-boggling corruption and unprecedented profligacy, we must not despair, and we must keep hope alive”. The Minister expressed the successes of the admin istration’s scorecard in tackling insecurity, fighting corruption and revamping the National Economy.
“This Administration is pulling Nigeria out of a tough economic situation while preserving the gains it has recorded in battling insecurity and tackling corruption”, he added. Meanwhile, Rep. Gbajabiamila, who stated that the 2016 budget is Buhari’s blueprint while fielding questions from journalists during the second edition of the quarterly report on legislative activities of the 8th House of Representatives at the National Assembly complex.
He insisted that the Buhari administration has an economic blueprint contrary to insinuations that the government lacked such a programme, asserting that the “economic blueprint of any government is the budget. “If you look at this government’s budget, it is the largest and most robust; money is pumped into government to stimulate the economy, there is the social safety net. “If anybody wants to see the blueprint of this government, let the person pick up the budget”. The lawmaker added that the government would make more money if the tax regime was broadened, just as he disclosed that President Buhari was influenced into accepting the deregulation of the downstream of the oil sector and the fuel price increase based on present realities.
However, while acknowledging that Nigerians were passing through difficult times, he said that such hardship being experienced by majority of Nigerians was not peculiar to the country as other countries were also experiencing such hardship. He said that “we are all feeling the difficult times Nigerians are passing through, it happens all over the world. This has nothing to do with policies of government, but it has become a mantra of some people who never see anything good with the APC government. “I still maintain that things sometimes have to be difficult in order to get better.”
Gbajabiamila further stated that President Buhari was not in total support of deregulation and fuel price increase, but was made to change his mind. Assessing the one year anniversary of the APCled federal government, the House Leader said, he refused to make an assessment as it was premature to do so, adding that the nation’s constitution gave a four-year duration for the assessment of any government. He said the administration hasn’t spent one year in office and that considering what the government met on ground when it came onboard, it would be better to assess the government after two years.
“Giving what government found on ground and the prevailing oil situation all over the world, I think this government has done well. What government has done so far is unprecedented anywhere in the world. “If I am supposed to rate this government, it has done very well, it has dealt with the fundamental problem. The man (President Buhari) was elected on the basis of anti-corruption”, he added.