In his first Democracy Day speech to be marked on June 12, instead of the traditional May 29, President Muhammadu Buhari has given a breakdown of what his government has been able to achieve and progress made in some key sectors.
During a national broadcast to the nation on Friday morning, the the president also explained that the lockdown imposed to contain to outbreak of the coronavirus was eased to ensure a balance between lives and livelihoods.
The president also spoke on the recent spate of violence by bandits in the northern part of the country and the growing rate of gender-based violence against women and children.
Buhari described the new Democracy Day as a day to honour our founding fathers who toiled to establish our republic and every Nigerian who has worked tirelessly to sustain it.
This, he said was despite celebrating this year’s Democracy Day despite the COVID-19 pandemic which afflicts our nation and the whole world.
He said, “The dedication of our health and other essential services staff towards containing this virus is a testament of our courage and resilience as a people and as a great nation, and I use this opportunity to say thank you to all of you for your service to the nation.”
Sustaining our democracy thus far, he said “has been a collective struggle, and I congratulate all Nigerians and particularly leaders of our democratic institutions on their resilience and determination to ensure that Nigeria remains a shining example of democracy.”
The president said, “In my 2019 Democracy Day address, I promised to frontally address the nation’s daunting challenges, especially insecurity, economy and corruption. I therefore find it necessary to give an account of my stewardship on this day.
“We have recorded notable achievements in the course of implementing our nine priority objectives and are establishing a solid foundation for future success.”
On the economic front, “Our objectives have remained to stabilise the macroeconomy, achieve agricultural and food security, ensure energy sufficiency in power and petroleum,” he said.
The government he said, remains committed to expanding our mining sector. “To this end, I have directed the resuscitation of the Ajaokuta Steel Plant based on Government-to-Government financing and a Public-Private Sector financing.”
With foreign and domestic investments and the participation of Small Scale Miners, Buhari said the government is harnessing the supply value chain in gold production.
He said, “Our agreement with Siemens will transmit and distribute a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023, to serve our electricity needs.
“On transportation, another critical sector to improving our economic competitiveness, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure.”
He added that through the SUKUK-Funded Road Projects, a total of 412km of the targeted 643km road projects had been completed, representing 64 per cent.
Buhari said, “The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund projects are also progressing very well. On the 2nd Niger Bridge, piling work has been completed and the approach roads are being constructed. 48% of work on this bridge has been achieved.
“We have constructed 102km of the 376km Abuja – Kaduna – Kano Road, representing 38%, and the 42.9km Obajana – Kabba Road is 87.03 per cent complete.”
He said, “We are extending and upgrading our railway network too. We are introducing more locomotives, coaches and wagons for the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line. The Central Ajaokuta – Itakpe – Warri Line has been completed and is being extended from Itakpe to Abuja on one end and from Warri Town to Warri Port on the other.
“The Lagos-Ibadan Rail Line is 90 per cent completed and would be extended to the Lagos Port which would help address the long-standing grid-lock at the Apapa port.”
He said, “The Kano-Maradi Single Track Standard Gauge Railway, Coastal Railway Project and Port Harcourt – Maiduguri Standard Gauge Railway, with its associated branch lines running through the South Eastern and Gombe States, industrial park and Bonny Deep Sea Port are all ready for concessioning.”
On COVID-19, Buhari said, “There is no doubt that this pandemic has affected the global economy and all known socio-economic systems.
“It has also brought grief and pain to families that have lost their loved ones. Like many Nigerians, I feel the grief and pain not only as your President but also as someone who has lost a close member of my staff and some relatives and friends.”
He said, “The impact of the pandemic has disrupted our economic system and to ensure its functioning while still addressing the spread, the Federal Government put in place a number of various non-pharmaceutical measures to slow down the spread of the virus, in addition to a progressive re-opening of the economy.
“I receive regular briefing from the PTF on COVID-19. I note that the National Response relies on Science, Data and Experience in taking decisions. This informed my approval for the ease of lock down phase to ensure a balance between lives and livelihoods.”
The president expressed confidence that the steps being taken by the PTF would result in flattening the COVID-19 curve. “I, therefore, implore all Nigerians to abide by the approved guidelines and protocols. There is hope for us all if we take individual and collective responsibility.”
Government, he said was determined to turn this COVID-19 challenge into a motivation to action by building a nation-wide public health care system that will help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for any future outbreak.
Already, he said, “We have begun to look inward and I charge our inventors, researchers and scientists to come up with solutions to cure COVID-19.”
He said the Nigerian women remained a particular treasure to Nigeria and that’s the reason his administration had continued to give them a place of pride in the affairs of the country.
“I salute your courage, enterprise and resilience as well as your contributions to national development. I wish to assure all our women of this administration’s determination to fight Gender Based Violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation.”
“I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape especially of very young girls. The Police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice,” he added.