PRESS CONFERENCE BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, ON TOPICAL NATIONAL ISSUES, IN ABUJA ON TUESDAY, 4 MAY 2021
Good afternoon gentlemen, and welcome to this press conference. I appreciate that you could make it here despite the very short notice, and I thank you for always responding to our invitation.
2. As you are definitely aware, the PDP addressed a press conference yesterday, ostensibly to offer suggestions to the Federal Government on some topical issues, especially national security. The main opposition party said it was dropping the toga of politics in the national interest.
3. Unfortunately, the PDP did not respect its own words, as it played cheap politics while playing the ostrich. The party went ahead to make wild accusations against the President and his government. For example, the PDP said the government has refused to engage, and that we were running a ‘government of exclusion’.
4. The opposition party then went ahead to reel out a number of suggestions as a way out of the current challenges facing the nation. Unfortunately, the recommendations by the PDP have exposed the opposition party’s gimmickry, and the fact that it was merely playing politics with serious national issues, especially security.
5. Had it not been so, and had it done its home work properly, the PDP would have known that most of those same recommendations were already contained in the outcome of the Federal Government’s Town Hall Meeting on National Security, which was held in Kaduna on April 8th2021.
6. The PDP accused this Federal Government of not engaging and of running a government of exclusion, forgetting, conveniently, that thisFederal Government has consistently engaged Nigerians on topical national issues, including security, the fight against corruption, terrorism, infrastructure and farmer-herder conflict. The Town Hall Meeting series, which we launched in 2016, has so far been held 18 times across Nigeria. It’s always a no-holds-barred opportunity for the government to engage with critical stakeholders, briefing them on government policies and programmes and getting their feedbacks, thus ensuring inclusion and deepening of democracy.
7. The latest of such Town Hall Meetings was the one in Kaduna which I referred to earlier. I will go ahead and read the 10-point recommendations from that Town Hall Meeting, and you can then judge for yourself who is ahead of the other.
8. With the theme: “Setting Benchmarks for enhanced Security and National Unity in Nigeria”, the Town Hall Meeting reached the following resolutions:
i. That the governance of human society should be based on Law rather than the whims and caprices of human beings and must be obeyed by all as all persons are equal before the law including the law givers.
ii. That there is urgent need for political restructuring and not separation.
iii. That the Judiciary be decentralized and reformed through Constitutional Amendment to remove the unitary control of the Superior Courts.
iv. That governments at all levels should ensure free, qualitative and compulsory Primary Education for all children of school age.
v. That the Military, Police and other Security Agencies should be expanded in number, retrained, provided with modern equipment and technology to cope with emerging security challenge.
vi. That both religious and traditional leaders should encourage and promote inter-marriages for unity as contained in the 1999 Constitution as amended, Article 15, 3(c) which prescribes
inter-marriage among persons from different places of origin, or of different religious, ethnic or linguistic association or ties.
vii. That the establishment of State Police should be supported by the National and State Houses of Assembly to enable State Governments have firm control in addressing security issues.
viii. That Traditional Rulers should be given their age-long role of maintaining peace and security within their domain.
ix. The Local Government Autonomy be actualized to enable them have control of their areas including the ungoverned spaces in tackling security challenges.
x. And finally that the Farmers/Herders clashes be addressed by establishment of ranches, grazing reserves with modern amenities to check the trans-humans of the herders.
9. Gentlemen, these are more encompassing and more far-reaching than the political gimmickry which the PDP embarked upon yesterday. Conveniently, the PDP did not acknowledge this national engagement that featured panellists from academia and civil society. The Lead Presenter was Prof. Jibrin Ibrahim, and the four discussants were Mrs Ibukun Awosika, the erstwhile Chairperson of the First Bank; Prof. Saka Nuru, a renowned veterinary surgeon; Prof Chudi Uwazuruike, an academic and a former member of the House of Representatives, and Prof Kokunre Eghafona, also from academia. The stakeholders who attended included all the service chiefs, members of the legislative and executive arms of government, civil society organizations, traditional and religious leaders, women and youth groups as well as labour. There can be no better engagement than this.
10. Now, we have gone a step further. We have taken those resolutions to the National Economic Council, Chaired by His Excellency the Vice President, and which also includes all the state governors. As a prelude to adopting the recommendations, the NEC has directed all state governors to organize state-wide consultation on them, and then
revert to the Council in its next meeting.
11. You can now see that the PDP was more interested in playing politics with national challenges than helping to find solutions to them. They presented as original thinking some of the same resolutions that we are already working to implement, without a single reference to those same recommendations that emanated from our Town Hall Meeting of April 8th 2021. They disparaged Mr. President and the Federal Government, engaged in name calling and finger-pointing, gloated about the security challenges facing the nation, lied about how they resolved security challenges under their watch and then went ahead to say, at their hysterical press conference, that they have not come to play politics. Who is fooling who here”
12. Finally, I want to comment on one other issue raised by the PDP at its play-to-the-gallery press conference. The PDP alleged that kidnappers and bandits are not being brought to justice. This is apparently aimed at the Federal Government. It is shocking that a party that ruled this nation for all of 16 years does not know that kidnapping and banditry are not federal offences. The PDP should therefore call out the states, including those being controlled by it, to ensure a rigorous prosecution of arrested kidnappers and bandits.
Meanwhile, PDP conveniently forgot that as far as terrorism, a federal offence, is concerned, this Federal Government has successfully prosecuted thousands of Boko Haram members in Kainji, as part of a continuing exercise. We are now seeking the cooperation of the judiciary to continue with the trial of arrested terrorists.
13. Gentlemen, we acknowledge the challenges we face as a nation and we are doing everything possible to tackle them. We call on all Nigerians to support the efforts of the Federal Government to tackle the challenges. We advise those bent on playing cheap politics with the challenges to have a rethink. This is no time for politics.
14. I thank you for your kind attention. I will now take your questions, which must be restricted to the issues I have just addressed.