By Emmanuel Elebeke
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, speaks on the achievements of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in the last one year. Excerpts:
Fight against insecurity, revamping the economy and fighting corruption are the three areas the administration promised to make the difference. Let’s talk about the report card in the last one year…
Late last year, the Federal Government took bold the decision on border drill, which many people call border closure. The decision was taken, primarily, not only for economic consideration but also for security consideration. It was a joint effort between the various border authorities, customs, immigration, the armed forces and police, but coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser.
One of the major takeaways from the border closure is that it drastically reduced proliferation of small arms into the country. That has also impacted on armed robbery, banditry and kidnapping because, before then, our porous borders were veritable avenues for proliferation of small arms and drug trafficking. Today, there are fewer drugs on the streets now and less illegal arms as a result of that. That is why generally there has been a reduction in crime. Border drill also led to more revenue coming to customs. They used to make about N4. 5b daily, after the border drill, it moved to between N5 and 8billion daily, unfortunately until the last three months because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The border drill, in terms of security, encouraged inter-agency cooperation.
We have the new visa policy which was also launched in February and which is a bold policy and, today, we have 79 categories of visa, but the one that interests most is the one for ECOWAS, the one for Africans, one for business men, and it has been so simplified such that, with the new visa policy, any member of ECOWAS does not need a visa to enter any ECOWAS country. All you need is your valid passport. Frequent travellers have a category also. The beauty of this visa relaxation is that it will encourage more investment in the country, make tourism easier and lead to better integration among Africans.
War against insurgents, kidnappers and bandits…
In the last couple of weeks, our armed forces have taken the battle to insurgents. The combination of air power, the new morale of the army and the new platforms acquired by the air force, in particular, has resulted in not just in the routing of Boko Haram insurgents but also the surrender of many of their commanders. Clearly the last couple of months have witnessed some successes in our battle against insurgents.
Then of course bandits and kidnappers are being checkmated. They might not be completely eradicated, but compared with what it was this time last year to what it is today, you are going to have some isolated cases of banditry and kidnapping. I can say that the combination of better platforms and better morale for the military has resulted in the containment of insecurity in the North-East and other parts of the country.
In the area of infrastructure, government remains focused and convinced that you cannot achieve economic development without investing in infrastructure. Government took one of the boldest moves to improve the power situation and banish power cut when, in 2019, it signed agreement with Siemens of Germany, a power giant, to give us constant power in the first instance by the end of 2021, deliver and ramp up our power supply to 7,000mw by 2023 ramp up to 11,000mw and thereafter ramp it up to 25,000mw after it would have addressed the challenges of transmission and distribution.
As of today, we generate 13,000mw but what gets to our households and factories is about 3,500mw due to obsolete infrastructure. With the agreement signed with Siemens and cooperation of Gencos and transmission companies, we are confident that by the end of next year, power will reach our homes on the constant and regular basis after it must have been increased to 7,000mw, more than double of what we are enjoying now.
That is going to impact on our economy and social lives, create more jobs and improve output of our factories. We have always prided ourselves to have delivered on infrastructure, mostly in the areas of roads, bridges and power. Despite COVID-19, we are resuming work in 50 sites in 26 states in the next couple of weeks as directed by the Ministry of Works and Housing.
These include major works like Abuja-Kano Road, 2nd Niger Bridge, the PH-Enugu Expressway, Lagos-Ibadan and Ore Exchange. Similarly, FERMA is resuming work in 92 sites spread over 24 states. And work has already resumed on laying tracks on Lagos-Ibadan Standard Rail Gauge and, as a matter of fact, has started test-run. Also in area of infrastructure, a contract awarded in Ebonyi will impact in 22 LGAs. In the last one year, government has ramped up effort in infrastructure development.
Job Creation/Revamping Economy…
M-Power is being upgraded and only recently Federal Government directed the Ministry of Labour and Employment to engage 1,000 workers from each LGA of the federation, making 774,000 young men and women at least for the initial period of three months and will be earning salary of N20, 000 a month. Despite COVID-19 which has affected health and livelihood of Nigerians, FG has put in place palliative meant to cushion the effect of the pandemic, ranging from interest reduction, to providing N50billion by the CBN for households and SMEs and another N1.3trillion put aside for our pharmaceutical companies and manufacturers.
Before lockdown, FG directed the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment to ensure that industries, manufacturers operate without any hindrance and that raw materials reach factories in good time. All these are to ensure that the impact is not as devastating. FG has also reduced the size of budget to a level manageable because it believes that this is the time to have astute management of resources.
Fight against corruption…
Fight against corruption remains very much on track. The major agencies have continued to do their work. In the last one year alone, the ICPC was able to recover N81bn. The breakdown is N42bn from review of MDAs personnel expenditure and capital development fund; confiscated lands, vehicles and buildings worth about N35bn; recovered N2bn cash from TSA; recovered about 770million from constituency projects, which they tracked and another N1bn from the completion of constituency projects when contractors returned to site which they abandoned before and 400 jobs done.
Another N1bn was recovered from completed constituency projects and another N86mn from other accounts. 424 projects were tracked in the last one year this led to the completion of several projects among them. As at today we have about 400 of such projects completed in the area of education, health, water resources and agriculture. In the area of prosecution, they received 1,934 petitions and investigated 588 petitions and currently pursuing 105 of those petitions in courts and have been able to secure 25 convictions in the last one year alone.
The ICPC did not stop at that, they escalated the use of administrative sanctions in public service by submitting to the executive arm of government officers that are facing disciplinary sanctions or charged to court. As at the last count, 52 names were submitted for sanctions by the ICPC and FG obliged them unlike in the past it was rare for a public servant to be charged for illegalities.
The ICPC believes in prevention than cure by reviewing the expenditure and personnel cost of 201 MDAs and it was this activity that led to the saving of initial N42bn.
EFCC, on its part, has secured 1,270 convictions in the last one year and recovered N36bn and, in addition, recovered $10,348, 758,158 Pounds Sterling, 183,475Euro, 294,950 Saudi Riar, 2,800 Chinese Yen, 3,800 Canadian dollars and 500 Sefa. The important thing about EFCC conviction is that it includes high profile personalities. It has just succeeded in prosecute and convicted the PID fingered in the massive scandal in which Nigeria was asked to pay $5.6bn and we were able to prosecute not just the director but the company itself. Today, the entire company has been forfeited to the FG and it has been liquidated.
In the area of Executive Orders, this government wants to further deepen democratic practices. The President in February and May this year signed EO that will give state legislature and judiciary financial autonomy. This is very important because not only that it will help deepen the separation of powers doctrine but also allow for speedier delivery of justice. And now, state legislatures are not hampered by lack of funds because they do not wait for the centre to release fund to them.
This is one area government has made very bold statement. About weeks ago, it approved what it called Green Imperative, the biggest agricultural revolution Nigeria will witness in many years. It is a Nigerian/Brazil bilateral agricultural development programme. And this is the culmination of four years’ negotiation which included technical and diplomatic visits between Brazil and Nigeria. This is a programme that has been very successful in Brazil called More Food International programme. The programme is unique because it is a $1bn programme and it will be repaid over 10 years. The insurance for the funding is provided by Brazilian Guarantee and Food Management Agency and Islamic Cooperation for Insurance for Export.
How it will work?
It is a sustainable one at mechanizing agriculture in Nigeria. For the first time we are moving away from hoe and cutlass to mechanised agriculture. We are going to import completely knocked down tractor parts and farm implements which will be assembled in Nigeria. Already the technical committee has already inspected 6 assembling plants in Nigeria, one in each geo-political zone, where these farm implements will be assembled.
This assembly plants have been activated waiting for the CKD to arrive. This will not only revive moribund plants, create jobs but also transfer technology. Unlike other programmes of agriculture, this is going to be completely private sector driven and apart from guaranteeing the loans, the Federal Government will play no role. Then 142 agro processing service centres will be established to add value to raw materials. This programme is going to establish 632 mechanised service centres. They will support primary production in the LGAs. At the end, every LGA will have either processing or mechanised centre.
Were you taken by surprise by COVID-19?
Covid-19 took the entire world by storm but I will say one of the countries that was not taken by surprise is Nigeria because a whole full month before the first incident, Nigeria had mounted vigilance on all its airports because, I remember, we came in, in January and, from that point in time, our temperature was being taken, we were being asked to fill forms when even most parts of the world did not take such precautions.
The thing about our response to this pandemic is that we are guided by science, by expert advice because, as a member of the PTF on Covid-19, we meet every day and, fortunately, we have the UN representative; so we are abreast with the latest developments in the world. We are guided solely by science and experts and our risk communication committee has done so well in enlightening Nigerians.