. Kicks Against Call for Restructuring. Appeals for more patriotism from politicians
By Ayo Kehinde
In an early morning broadcast to the nation on New Year Day, President Muhammad Buhari promised to deliver better governance that would lift Nigerians from poverty to prosperity through a massive railway, road and agricultural development.
Railway, roads, security, agriculture are the main sectors that will attract government investment and development in the coming months and years, he said. Starting with an apology for the scarcity of petrol that turned the year end celebration into a nightmare for all Nigerians, he promised to “get to the root cause of the problem and deal with unpatriotic Nigerians” found culpable.
He said: “Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many, this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.
“The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable, given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots.
“I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again. Our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE.
“We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.’’
On railway, he said the Lagos-Kaduna standard gauge will be completed by 2018, while the Kaduna-Kano route will be completed by 2019 to boost the North-South trading routes. The Abuja- Kaduna will also be boosted by the addition of new stocks.
Others that will attract government attention in 2018 are the following: The Port- Harcourt-Maiduguri route which will cut through
Abia, Owerri, Abakaliki, Lafia, Jos, Gombe, Yola, and Damaturu. Another is Lagos-Calabar which will cut through Ore, Benin-City, Agbor, Asaba, Sapele, Ughelli and Warri. Yet another will link Yenagoa, Aba, Port Harcourt, Uyo, and Calabar. Kano and Niger republic will also be linked by railway.
“By the end of the new year, Nigerian cities and towns will be linked by railway to boost economic activities of Nigerians”, he said, adding, “with 12 railway substations spread over 24 kilometres in the FCT, the light rail project will stimulate economic activities in the territory and reduce congestion.”
He said the government has constituted a federal roads maintenance agency to oversea roads repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones, adding that 25 major highways would be funded under the N100bn SUKUK facility with each geo-political zone benefiting an equal amount of N16.67bn
On the federal road projects to be undertaken by the government, he listed them to include; Oyo, Ogbomosho, Sagamu, Ore, Ofosu road (b); Yenagoa- Otueke road; (c); Enugu-Port Harcourt dual carriage way; (d) Onitsha-Enugu Expressway; (e) Kaduna Bye pass; (f) Abuja-Lokoja-Benue and (e) Minna-Mokwa road.
He said that the government has already approved the Kaduna-Zaria and Kano road project and it would be completed by 2019.
Stating that “diversification efforts have resulted in the agricultural and the minning sectors”, he disclosed that rice importation “will stop this year”, while he appealed to entrepreneurs to take advantage of the improved exchange rate and engage employable Nigerians.
Buhari also spoke on the current clamour for restructuring of the country and solicited for understanding on the grounds that the social and economic structure need to be strengthened to serve everybody equitably. He said Nigerians need to exercise patience as the social and economic infrastructures need time to develop, considering the resources available to the country.
He said: “Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments. We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.
“We tried the Parliamentary system, we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies, these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes.
“We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose,’’
He warned politicians to rise above religious and ethnic cleavages in the conduct of their affairs and embrace constitutional steps in resolving disputes. Thanking Nigerians for praying for his recovery during his illness, he praised the armed forces, the police and security agencies for their roles in handling security challenges and promised to tackle all forms of insecurity posed by kidnapping, insurgency. He thanked the stakeholders in the Niger Delta region for towing the path of dialogue with government to bring succour to the people in the oil rich but blighted region.