• Says Criminals Taking Advantage Of COVID-19 Restrictions
• Assures Country Will Emerge Stronger Despite Odds
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, decried the rising incidence of insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the country, expressing the commitment of his administration to put an end to the menace.
Buhari, who regretted the troubling development in the land, however, attributed the recent sporadic incidents, with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno states, to criminals who are taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions and vowed to do everything to ensure that security agencies pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice.
In his broadcast speech on the occasion of the country’s democracy day celebration, also known as June 12, the President, however, disclosed that all the local government areas that were hitherto taken over and controlled by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa state have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of the areas who were forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes, adding that the total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to country’s food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities.
He implored state and local governments to revamp their intelligence assets, so that the security agencies can nip any planned attacks in remote rural areas in the bud.
Buhari said government has already expanded the National Command and Control Centre to 19 states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy as part of the strengthening of the internal security architecture.
Notwithstanding the untoward incidents, he said his administration would remain unshaken in the resolve to protect national infrastructure, including on-shore and offshore oil installations, as well as secure the country’s territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said it was in the bid to reduce security challenges through the country’s external borders, especially smuggling of oil products out of the country, inflow of small arms and drugs into the country and equally protect local manufacturers that his administration introduced operation “Ex-Swift Response,” closing the country’s borders from August 20, last year, which has improved the national revenue.
Continuing, the Buhari said his government has continued to work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information, adding: “Our Social Investment Programme has continued to be a model to other nations and has engaged 549,500 N-Power beneficiaries, 408,682 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and 2,238,334 beneficiaries of the Growth Enhancement and Empowerment Programme, in collaboration with the states.
“Similarly, Marketmoni and Tradermoni programmes have provided affordable loans to small and micro-scale enterprises to grow their businesses. Under the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, over 9,963,729 children are being fed to keep them in school and improve their nutritional status.”
The President noted that this year has been like none other, particularly with COVID-19 declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in January, noting: “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 it was in order to have a robust national response that his government approved a Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 to provide guidance and leadership in tackling the pandemic nationwide, stating: “Complementing this was the establishment of a National Emergency Operations Centre responsible for providing technical and professional guidance in the National Response.”
He said the overall objective of the PTF is to ensure the pandemic does not overwhelm the country’s health systems, while ensuring that it maintains an effective case management system to help in containing the spread of the virus, adding: “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.
“As part of the strategy to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on our youths, I directed the employment of 774, 000 Nigerians. These youths will be engaged in Special Public Works Programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn. Each of the 774 local government areas in the country will be allotted 1,000 slots. I am pleased to report that this programme has commenced.
“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 lockdown phase to ensure a balance between lives and livelihoods.
“I am confident 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 is determined to turn this COVID-19 challenge into a motivation to action by building a nation-wide public healthcare system that will help us overcome the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for any future outbreak.”
The President said his government has already begun to look inward and charged inventors, researchers and scientists to come up with solutions to cure COVID-19, saying: “Government has continued to implement accountability and transparent policies through the Open Government Partnership and the transparency portal on financial transactions. Similarly, we have strengthened auditing and accountability mechanisms to ensure that rules and regulations are followed strictly.”
On graft in the country, he said the anti-corruption agencies have secured over 1,400 convictions and also recovered funds in excess of N800billion and “these monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.”
He noted that the public service remains the bedrock for the formulation and implementation of policies, programmes and projects in the country, a reason it continues to evolve, especially as new socio-economic challenges emerge for government to address, adding: “I will continue to give all the necessary support for the ongoing reforms designed to return discipline, integrity and patriotism as the hallmark of the public service.
“In the face of dwindling resources and rising cost of governance, I have authorised that the White Paper on the Rationalisation of Government Parastatals and Agencies be reviewed for implementation.”
Buhari further said the country’s youth population remains a source of strength in achieving development objectives; hence his administration would continue to concentrate in developing their skills, providing them with opportunities to express their entrepreneurial, research and industrial capacities, as well as ample opportunity to take leadership positions in the service of the nation, stating: “The commitment of this administration to the well-being of people living with disabilities remains unwavering.
“Government recognises their contributions to development. I have directed that all relevant government agencies pay special attention to the peculiarities of persons with disabilities in the formulation and implementation of their policies and programmes, and where suitable, their employment.”
Also, the President said Nigerian women remain a particular treasure to the nation, the reason his administration has continued to give them a place of pride in the affairs of the country, assuring them of his administration’s determination to fight gender-based violence through the instrumentality of the law and awareness creation.
He stressed: “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. Our culture provides the basis for our existence as a people and a nation.
“This administration is focused on ensuring that Nigeria would always be governed by the rule of law and I would do my utmost to uphold the constitution and protect the lives and property of all Nigerians.
“In preserving iconic aspects of our national culture, this government has been pursuing the recovery of artefacts removed from Nigeria, promoting heritage sites and festivals and working towards designating some of our heritage sites as UNESCO World Heritage Centres.”
He said government has initiated a number of policies and programmes designed to promote the legal rights of Nigerians, facilitate the institutionalisation of a responsive legal system, provide support to all constituted bodies in implementing their mandates and improve our custodial system of justice, commending the National Assembly, which he said have been an important partner in his administration’s quest to sustain the country’s democracy and achieve its development objectives.
The President particularly thanked the leadership and members of the National Assembly for their invaluable support to his administration at all times.
He equally extended his administration’s appreciation to members of the Press for what he described as their “doggedness in the struggle for attainment of democracy since the beginning of our nationhood,” saying: “I must admit that the relationship between the media and successive governments has not always been perfect.
“But there is no denying the fact that you have been an effective watchdog for society, especially in holding public officers to account. It is sad that in the course of securing our democracy, some of your colleagues have had to pay a heavy price.
“We will continue to guarantee freedom of the Press, as we place high premium on responsible journalism that is devoid of hate speech, fake news and other unethical professional conduct.”