“I firmly believe that we have put the most difficult phase behind us; and we are witnesses to the ever-increasing intensity of the light at the end of the tunnel.”
This was the thrust of the Democracy day speech by the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo to all Nigerians as the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration marks its second year in office.
Osinbajo also called for continued prayers for the President who is currently in the United Kingdom on medical vacation.
The Acting President noted that the present administration assumed office with three specific agenda in mind: Security, Corruption and the Economy.
According to him, the one that has proved the most tasking is the revitalization of the economy, as the federal government has recorded appreciable progress in improving the country’s security and fighting corruption.
He said: “In the Northeast of our country, the terrorist group Boko Haram openly challenged the sovereignty and continued existence of the state, killing, maiming,and abducting, causing the displacement of the largest number of our citizens in recent history. Beyond the North East they extended their mindless killings, as far away as Abuja, Kano and Kaduna.
“But with new leadership and renewed confidence our gallant military immediately began to put Boko Haram on the back foot. We have restored broken-down relations with our neighbours, Chad, Cameroon and Niger – allies without whom the war against terror would have been extremely difficult to win.
“The positive results are clear for all to see. In the last two years close to one million displaced persons have returned home. 106 of our daughters from Chibok have regained their freedom, after more than two years in captivity, in addition to the thousands of other captives who have since tasted freedom.
Osinbajo also said that Security has greatly improved, in the Niger Delta, and in parts of the North Central region as government is “engaging with local communities, to understand their grievances, and to create solutions that respond to these grievances adequately and enduringly.”
He noted that the administration’s vision for the Niger Delta “is a comprehensive peace, security and development plan that will ensure that the people benefit fully from the wealth of the region.”
“Included in that New Vision is the long-overdue environmental clean-up of the Niger Delta beginning with Ogoni-land, which we launched last year,” he added.
Osinbajo further said that government at the centre is concerned and is working with State governments and security agencies to design effective strategies and interventions that will bring the menace of herdsmen/farmers clashes that has led to deaths and loss of livelihoods.
He further said: “In the fight against corruption, we have focused on bringing persons accused of corruption to justice. We believe that the looting of public resources that took place in the past few years has to be accounted for.
“Funds appropriated to build roads, railway lines, and power plants, and to equip the military, that had been stolen or diverted into private pockets, must be retrieved and the culprits brought to justice.
“Many have said that the process is slow, and that is true, corruption has fought back with tremendous resources and our system of administration of justice has been quite slow.
“But the good news for justice is that our law does not recognize a time bar for the prosecution of corruption and other crimes, and we will not relent in our efforts to apprehend and bring corruption suspects to justice.
“We are also re-equipping our prosecution teams, and part of the expected judicial reforms is to dedicate some specific courts to the trial of corruption cases.”
The Acting President added that in addition to the whistleblower policy of the federal government, the coverage of the Treasury Single Account, TSA, has been expanded and more efficient accounting and budgeting systems introduced to further curb corruption.
“The Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance has succeeded in plugging leakages amounting to billions of naira, over the last two years.
We have ended expensive and much-abused fertilizer and petrol subsidy regimes,” he added.
Osinbajo, however admitted that “the economy has proven to be the biggest challenge of all.”
He noted that FG was not unmindful of the fact that “through no fault of theirs, some companies shut down their operations, others downsized; people lost jobs, had to endure rising food prices.
“In some States civil servants worked months on end without the guarantee of a salary, even as rents and school fees and other expenses continued to show up like clockwork.”
“And for this reason this administration’s work on the economic front has been targeted at a combination of short-term interventions to cushion the pain, as well as medium to long term efforts aimed at rebuilding an economy that is no longer helplessly dependent on the price of crude oil.
“Those short-term interventions include putting together a series of bailout packages for our State Governments, to enable them bridge their salary shortfalls – an issue the President has consistently expressed his concerns about.
“We also began the hard work of laying out a framework for our Social Intervention Programme, the most ambitious in the history of the country.”
But in what analysts have described as the signature tone of blame gamesby the present federal government, Osinbajo noted: “Indeed, much of 2016 was spent clearing the mess we inherited.”
He added that this FG is “putting the building blocks together for the future of our dreams; laying a solid foundation for the kind of future that you deserve as citizens of Nigeria.”
“Take the example of our Social Investment Programme, which kicked off at the end of 2016.
“Its Home Grown School Feeding component is now feeding more than 1 million primary school children across seven states and would be feeding three million by the end of the year.
“N-Power, another component has engaged 200,000 unemployed graduates – none of whom needed any ‘connections’ to be selected.
“Beneficiaries are already telling the stories of how these initiatives have given them a fresh start in their lives.
“Micro credit to a million artisans, traders and market men and women has begun. While conditional cash transfers to eventually reach a million of the poorest and most vulnerable households have also begun,” he said.
“And so we commemorate this second anniversary of our administration with confidence and optimism,” the acting President continued.
“We ask for your continued cooperation and support, to enable us realise all our best intentions and ambitions for Nigeria.
“On our part We will continue to carry you along on this journey, speak to you, explain the challenges, and share our Vision.”