Innocent Oweh; Samuel Ogidan; Chinyere Abiaziem
Abuja / Lagos – As Nigeria marks its 59th independence anniversary, President Muhammadu Buhari has ordered the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning to release the sum of N600 billion for capital expenditure within a three-month time frame.
Buhari, who is fast settling down for his second term as president, claimed he had previously ordered the release of N1.74 trillion for capital expenditure as at June 20, 2019.
The N1.74 trillion so far spent was encapsulated in the 2018 budget.
He said the implementation of the 2019 capital budget, which was only approved in June 2019, will be accelerated to ensure that critical priority projects are completed or substantially addressed.
Buhari in his Independence Day address did not fail to criticise the administration of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, saying he dwelt more on oil revenue to the detriment of the non-oil sector which held better prospects for economic growth.
Buhari also took a swipe on social media fanatics in Nigeria, insisting that more often than not, they leverage on information technology to cause hatred among Nigerians.
He warned that his administration will not relent in sanctioning any erring personality found wanting in that regard.
On security, Buhari scored his administration high, saying a lot has been achieved in taming terrorism, but noted that such wouldn’t have been possible without the commitment of the various security agencies.
“The Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning has been directed to release N600 billion for capital expenditure in the next three months.
“1st October each year is an opportunity for us to reflect and thank God for his endless blessings on our country. It is also a time for us, collectively, to:
“Remember the sacrifices made by our founders and great leaders past; by soldiers, by distinguished public servants; by traditional leaders, by our workers —- sacrifices on which Nigeria has been built over the 59 years since Independence in 1960; and rededicate ourselves to attaining the goals which we have set for ourselves: a united, prosperous and purposeful nation in the face of 21st century opportunities and challenges.
“In the past four years, the majority of Nigerians have committed to change for the better. Indeed, this administration was re-elected by Nigerians on a mandate to deliver positive and enduring change – through maintaining our national security; restoring sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development; and fighting corruption against all internal and external threats.
“This change can only be delivered if we are united in purpose, as individuals and as a nation. We must all remain committed to achieving this positive and enduring change. As I stated four years ago, ‘change does not just happen… We must change our lawless habits, our attitude to public office and public trust… simply put, to bring about change, we must change ourselves by being law-abiding citizens.’
“Good governance and economic development cannot be sustained without an enabling environment of peace and security. In the last four years, we have combatted the terrorist scourge of Boko Haram. We owe a debt of gratitude to our gallant men and women in arms, through whose efforts we have been able to achieve the present results. We are also grateful to our neighbours and allies – within the region and across the world – who have supported us on this front.
“The capacity of our armed forces to defend our territorial integrity continues to be enhanced by the acquisition of military hardware as well as continued improvements in the working conditions of our service men and women.
“The Ministry of Police Affairs has been resuscitated to oversee the development and implementation of strategies to enhance internal security. My recent assent to the Nigerian Police Trust Fund (Establishment) Act has created a legal framework to support our police with increased fiscal resources to enhance their law enforcement capabilities.
“These initiatives are being complemented by the ongoing recruitment of 10,000 constables into the Nigeria Police Force. This clearly demonstrates our commitment to arrest the incidence of armed robbery, kidnapping and other violent crimes across our nation.
“We remain equally resolute in our efforts to combat militant attacks on our oil and gas facilities in the Niger Delta and accelerate the Ogoni clean-up to address long-standing environmental challenges in that region.
“The recent redeployment of the Niger Delta Development Commission from the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, to the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs underscores our commitment to enhance the living standards of our communities in the Niger Delta, through coordinated and appropriate programmes.
“This administration inherited a skewed economy, where the oil sector comprised only 8% of Gross Domestic Product but contributed 70% of government revenue and 90% foreign exchange earnings over the years. Past periods of relatively high economic growth were driven by our reliance on oil sector revenues to finance our demand for imported goods and services. Regrettably, previous governments abandoned the residual investment-driven non-oil sector, which constituted 40% of Gross Domestic Product and comprised agriculture, livestock, agro-processing, arts, entertainment, mining and manufacturing activities that provide millions of jobs for able-bodied Nigerians and utilize locally available raw materials and labour for production.
“To address this imbalance, our commitment to achieving economic diversification has been at the heart of our economic strategies under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which I launched on the 5th of April, 2017.
“We will also continue our fight against illegal bunkering of crude oil and the smuggling of refined petroleum products across our borders, including the diligent prosecution and conviction of offenders found guilty of these acts. Whilst Nigeria remains committed to free and fair continental and international trade, we will not hesitate to take all necessary steps to tackle illegal smuggling, transshipment and other predatory trade practices that destroy jobs in our country.”
On fighting corruption and restoring good governance, the president said, “Our institutional reforms to enforce the Treasury Single Account policy, introduce the whistle-blowers’ initiative, expand the coverage of the Integrated Payroll Personnel and Information System as well as the Government Integrated Management Information System have saved billions of naira over the last four years, and deterred the rampant theft and mismanagement of public funds that have plagued our public service.”
He noted that the P&ID arbitral award has underscored the manner in which significant economic damage has been caused by the past activities of a few corrupt and unpatriotic Nigerians.
He, therefore, called on states to intensify their own efforts to instill greater fiscal transparency and accountability and to ensure greater fiscal efficiency and optimum use of our very scarce resources.
He reiterated call for unity across Nigeria.
Jonathan, Lawan, Okowa, Lalong Urge Renewed Faith In Nation
Meanwhile, former President Goodluck Jonathan; Senate President Ahmad Lawan; Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau have called on Nigerians to renew their faith in Nigeria and work towards its greatness and prosperity for the citizens.
The former president stated this in a goodwill message on the occasion of Nigeria’s 59th Independence anniversary, in which he encouraged Nigerians not to despair in the face of challenges.
Jonathan also urged Nigerians to reflect on the achievements of past heroes even as he charged them to look to the future by drawing inspiration from the “efforts of our numerous compatriots whose heroism and patriotic endeavours have continued to lift the status of our nation”.
The former president stated this in a statement on Monday.
Part of the statement reads: “Fifty-nine years ago, we walked into the road of political freedom when the Union Jack was lowered and the Green-White-Green flag hoisted as the symbol of our sovereignty.
“Citizens sang for joy, with heartbeats of hope and eyes flooded with a new vision of liberty and justice.
“In these past decades, we have lived with the mixed reality of abundance and lack, peace and conflict, hope and despair.
“Despite the challenges, we have kept faith in the strength of our unity and stood firmly to uphold Nigeria’s honour and glory. It is for this spirit, that we have always emerged stronger in the face of trials.”
There’s Still Much To Be Done— Lawan
Senate President Ahmad Lawan and his deputy, Ovie Omo-Agege, on Monday expressed appreciation to Nigerians as the country marks its 59th Independence anniversary.
While Lawan said there was still much to be done, Omo-Agege called on Nigerians to keep praying for the continued peace and unity of the country.
Lawan, in a statement, said Nigeria’s challenges were a stepping stone to greatness, and admonished other Nigerians to continue to have faith that Nigeria would be great and remain the indissoluble entity envisioned by the founding fathers.
“As Nigeria comes of age, with its people increasingly asserting themselves in every sphere of life across the globe, there is indeed much to be proud of in being a Nigerian. Let us count our blessings and be driven forward by them.
“But there is still much to be done to fully realise the lofty dreams that inspired our founding fathers in their brave struggle that ended colonialism on our shores 59 years ago. We must never lose sight of our God-given potentials and we must be prepared to do our part in realising Nigeria’s greatness.”
The Deputy President of the Senate, Omo-Agege, on his part, called on Nigerians to join hands with President Muhammadu Buhari to take the country to greater heights.
Omo-Agege, in a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Yomi Odunuga, stressed the need for oneness and accommodation, emphasizing that with determination the country would surmount its present challenges and emerge stronger.
“Many great minds have quietly been making great sacrifices in the best interest of our great nation. On this special day, we should resolve to further the onerous task of nation-building.
“I salute all our heroes past and present, especially our teachers, farmers, public servants and all those security and law enforcement agents whose diligent service means a lot to the current and future generations”, Omo-Agege stated.
Let’s Rebuild Our Nation — Okowa
Gov. Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta has called on citizens to eschew divisions and unite to rebuild the nation as the nation marks its 59th independence anniversary.
The governor made the call in a goodwill message to Nigerians on the anniversary as conveyed in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Olisa Ifeajika, on Monday in Asaba.
He said there was need for all Nigerians to shun primordial sentiments of ethnicity, religion and all forms of sectionalism, and collaborate to rebuild a nation where peace, justice and economic growth would reign.
He said that the people had suffered avoidable hardship because of lack of commitment on the part of leaders and called for a greater commitment toward nation-building.
Lalong Urges Nigerians To Be United In Tackling National Challenges
Gov. Simon Lalong of Plateau has urged Nigerians to be united in tackling the challenges facing the nation in the interest of even development.
Lalong, who is also the Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, made the call on Monday in a statement by his Director of Press Affairs, Dr. Simon Macham, in Jos.
He said that the 59th Independence anniversary celebration should remind Nigerians of the need to strengthen national unity and collective resolution of national challenges.
“As Nigerians, we have to remain resolute and join hands to overcome the challenges that face our nation, we should work together to build a virile nation,” he said.
Donald Trump Writes PMB On Independence Day
President Donald Trump has issued a letter of congratulations to President Muhammadu Buhari Nigeria’s 59th Independence anniversary.
“Nigeria is among our strongest partners in Africa. We share common goals of expanding trade and growing our economic relationship. We are allies in the global battle against terrorism, and we want to see Boko Haram and ISIS-West Africa driven out of the region and other insurgencies like them dismantled”, the 45th President of the United States wrote in a letter he personally signed.
“Dear Mr. President, on behalf of the American people, I extend our warmest greetings and congratulate you on the 59th anniversary of Nigeria’s independence.
“The United States welcomes efforts by your administration to diversify opportunities for your talented, creative, and hardworking people to the benefit of our countries, Africa, and the world.”
Nigeria Dying Under Buhari, APC’s Watch— Secondus
Prince Uche Secondus, national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), on Monday said Nigeria was dying under the watch of President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Secondus said the nation needed a rescuer urgently, adding that every index pointed to the fact that “our beloved country is going down and only truth and nothing else will save us”.
Secondus, in a statement by his media aide, Ike Abonyi, said ordinary Nigerians deserved salute for their dexterity in the face of failed leadership as witnessed in the last four and half years.
The PDP national chairman recalled that the 58th anniversary last year was marked with a richly endowed nation like Nigeria being declared the headquarters of the world’s poorest due to what he described as the inept leadership of the APC administration.
He expressed regrets that one year after, the situation had deteriorated from bad to worse with no clear direction regarding where the nation was headed.
He said: “What happened in the country last February at the presidential election remains a sad reminder of the damage this country has done to our democratic psyche as a nation.
“The poor governance delivery from the APC administration since 2015 has been a huge setback to our independence glory as a leading black nation.”
The national chairman charged the nation’s judiciary to guide jealously their independence, refuse to be intimidated, and save the country from the ongoing slide.
Secondus noted that the prospects of a better Nigeria was very bright if democracy flourished and the people were allowed to exercise their franchise at will, with all the three arms of government and the press playing their roles without any fear or harassment from the executive.
He, however, urged Nigerians not to lose hope but continue to urge the judiciary to stand up courageously and save the country, assuring Nigerians that the PDP would continue to fight for democracy in “our land even in the face of hostilities from the dictatorial regime of the APC”.
Keep Hope Alive, Don’t Despair, PDP Urges Nigerians
As the nation celebrates its 59 years of Independence, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has urged Nigerians to keep hope alive and not to surrender to despondency in the face of excesses, impunity, and recklessness of retrogressive forces in high places.
This is even as the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) said President Muhammadu Buhari had turned Nigeria into a joke and that there was nothing to celebrate except pains, division, incompetence, banditry, tribalism, and hopelessness.
Saluting Nigerians on the occasion of the 59th Independence anniversary, the PDP, in a statement by its spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan, on Monday commended the citizens for their resilience in standing up for the unity and survival of the nation despite the daunting challenges.
The party lamented that there were forces “seeking to undermine our national cohesion, freedom of our citizens as guaranteed by the constitution as well as emasculate the will and aspiration of Nigerians as a people”.
The PDP noted that the October 1 date remained an undying signpost of “our freedom and unity as a nation”.
According to the opposition party, “It reminds us of the roots of our national cohesiveness; the sacrifices of our heroes, and our determination to live harmoniously and succeed as one people, in all spheres of human endeavours; a national distinctiveness for which we are known and respected all over the world.”
The party celebrated the resilience and industry of Nigerians in various fields within and outside the shores of the country as well as the fortitude displayed by the citizens to remain united despite the odds.
Meanwhile, the CUPP said Buhari’s leadership style was a mockery of the efforts of the nation’s founding fathers, adding that Nigeria was now on the path to imminent collapse.
The CUPP said: “Tomorrow (today) being Tuesday, 1st October, 2019, Nigeria will be celebrating its 59th Independence anniversary, having gained independence from its colonial masters on October 1, 1960.
“That event of 1960 was celebrated with fanfare because of the hope that it will usher in a new lease of life for the nation and its citizens.
“Nigerians and friends of the nation expressed the strong belief that independence would bring prosperity to replace poverty, peace to replace insecurity, and joy to replace years of anguish and mourning.
The CUPP, in a statement by its spokesman, Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, added: “Many years down the line, especially 59 years after, the Coalition of United Political Parties regrets that the nation has again returned to bondage under the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“The Buhari administration that rode into power in 2015 on the promise of bringing change to the country has turned Nigeria into a huge joke among the comity of nations.”
Atiku Laments Rot, Tyranny In Governance
Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last general election, has lamented the rot in the nation, as Nigeria celebrates its 59th Independence anniversary.
The former vice president, who said the nation’s founding fathers would not have fathomed what is happening to the nation after 59 years as an independent nation, added that their ideals should not be set aside on the altar of tyranny.
Atiku expressed this concern in a statement on Monday, and noted that the time for rhetoric had long passed.
He said this was time for all lovers of Nigeria to take concrete steps to aid its progress.
“Our nation’s founding fathers could never have fathomed that 59 years after birthing the largest black nation on earth, we would be facing a situation where we do not have a free press, our judiciary is under attack, and our youths and activists, who should ordinarily be the future of Nigeria, would be facing the very real threat of arrest and intimidation should they speak out about the state of the nation”, he said.
He added: “My dear citizens of Nigeria, I could go with the flow and the cliché and say all is well with Nigeria, but as the late Chinua Achebe once wrote, ‘when an adult is in the house, the she-goat is not left to suffer the pain of parturition on its tether’.
“I could call for prayers, as others would indeed call for today. I could also call on Nigerians to show more understanding, as indeed many have said in the past and will undoubtedly say again today.
“But I am mindful of the fact that the time for rhetoric has long since passed and now is the time for all lovers of Nigeria to take concrete steps to aid Nigeria’s progress, by not just praying and showing understanding, but also taking democratic action to ensure that the ideals of our founding fathers – Unity and Faith, Peace and Progress – are not set aside on the altar of tyranny.”
Lamenting that all was not well with the nation, the former vice president said: “All is not well when judges are persecuted for enforcing the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens.
“All is not well when Nigeria is now officially the world headquarters for extreme poverty and out of school children, yet the cost of maintaining those in government continues to grow, and the needs of the governed are not being met.
“And, certainly, all is not well when the media cannot freely express itself without the fear that those who wield the big stick would use it on them for saying things as they are.
“So, rather than just call for prayers today, I am calling on all Nigerians to believe in Nigeria’s betterment, to work for Nigeria’s betterment, and to insist that no one in Nigeria, no matter how highly placed, shall be bigger than the laws of our land.”
Atiku, who expressed optimism that there was still hope for the nation, added that when the citizens put Nigeria first, the country’s dream is not only revived, but unity, faith, peace, and progress are also revived.
“It is not all gloom and doom, however. There is still hope. Much hope. I took time to listen to a recent remark made by the Emir of Kano, HRM Muhammed Sanusi II, about why we need to pay more attention to the issue of girl-child education.
“It is an age-long truism that women are the teachers of a nation. I make bold to say that the greatness of our country, Nigeria, has much to do with how well we educate how children, especially the girl-child. My commendation goes to Governor Bello Matawalle of Zamfara State for leading the way by massively investing in public education.
“I also specifically want to cite the example of Chief Allen Onyeama and his public spiritedness which saw him offer relief to Nigerian citizens who were victims of the recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
“By repatriating hundreds of Nigerians back home, at his cost, Mr. Onyeama and Air Peace have revived hope in the Nigeria of our founding fathers’ dream.
“I would like to quote Mr. Onyeama. When the first plane of repatriated Nigerian citizens landed at Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos, Mr. Onyeama said: ‘When I stepped inside the aircraft to welcome them, they mobbed me and started singing the Nigerian national anthem, there was nobody there singing about separation, they felt proud to be Nigerians, they rose in unison, that drew tears from me.
“You see, when we put Nigeria first, we not only revive the Nigerian dream, we also revive unity and faith, peace and progress, which were the ideals that our founding fathers had in mind when they came together to put forward this new and independent nation 59 years ago on October 1, 1960”, he said.
Nigeria Is Bleeding, Needs Competent Leaders— Cardinal Okogie
As the nation marks its 59th Independence anniversary, His Eminence, Anthony Cardinal Olubunmi Okogie of the Catholic Church in Nigeria, has expressed sadness that the nation and the people were going through hard times under incompetent and dishonest leaders.
According to the revered cleric, “The truth is, at 59, our country is wounded, bleeding and dying, having being nailed to the cross of governmental inefficiency and falsehood.”
Okogie, who said Nigeria was in dire need of salvation, lamented that deceit, greed, and allergy to truth were the nation’s greatest undoing.
Assuring that Nigeria’s woes would be in the past if it sincerely turned to God, he stressed that the best gift the leaders and the led could present to the nation was to match prayers and honesty with hard work.
In a statement titled, ‘At 59, What Will Save Nigeria?’ and made available to Daily Independent on Monday, Okogie stated: “We must overcome our addiction so that we can enjoy the numerous blessings with which the Almighty had endowed us as a country—our addiction to falsehood. Our allergy to truth is our greatest undoing.
“But there is no therapy for denial in addiction. Addiction requires admission if there is to be real and effective therapy. Salvation is therapy, and Nigeria must admit that she is in urgent need of the therapy that salvation is. But what will save Nigeria? What, if not truth?”
“Our salvation begins when we begin to bear witness to the truth, when we begin to admit the truth that, fifty-nine years after independence, instead of getting better, things are getting worse. We and our leaders have a duty to our benevolent God and to our children’s children to work for a better Nigeria.”
He added: “The best present we can offer to Nigeria at 59 is to repent from sins against God and against Nigeria.
“We must, individually and collectively, resolve to work for a better Nigeria. The truth is our democracy is sick unto death, perhaps dead already, because men and women who have never stood up for democracy are the most vocal, the most active, and the most influential in our different political parties and in government circles.”
While expressing sadness that kidnapping and partisan anti-corruption war had overtaken the land, he demanded the proper training and equipping of security agents as well a review of the system where members of the political class lived in luxury with the electorate languishing in penury.
“The truth is Nigerians are unhappy because truth has been abandoned, justice banished. Honesty has become a crime, dishonesty is rewarded.
“Competence no longer matters. But Nigeria needs leaders who are intellectually, ethically, and technically competent to manage her affairs.
“Living in penury, Nigerians hear of senators and their cars. Unable to make ends meet, Nigerians are compelled to pay more taxes and higher banking fees.
“Their salaries are peanuts while the servants they thought they elected are receiving fat salaries. For the sake of morality and integrity, this country must reduce the salaries of its political officeholders.”
He continued: “We and our leaders must quit the path of deceit. Our president and governors, ministers and commissioners, members of National and State Assemblies, our judges and legal practitioners, we religious leaders, and we citizens—we all must take responsibility for healing this country,” Okogie stated.
Advising media aides of leaders in every tier of government, he asked them to bear in mind that “insolence and falsehood do no service to Nigerians”.
He added: “You are not paid to insult Nigerians for daring to hold views that diverge from those held by those who appointed you.
“You do not serve Nigeria by insulting Nigerians on behalf of your principal. History will remember every lie you told in the name of the government. Never will the God of history forget any of those lies. Therefore, bear this in mind at all times: only the truth can save Nigeria.”
In conclusion, he stated: “At 59, we pray, using the words of the second stanza of our national anthem: May God guide us and our leaders right. May God be merciful to Nigeria and grant that we know the truth, love the truth, and make ourselves available for the truth to save us.”