TEXT OF THE PRESS CONFERENCE ADDRESSED BY THE HON. MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, IN ABUJA ON MONDAY, MARCH 28TH 2022
Good afternoon gentlemen and welcome to this press conference. As you know, the folks on the other side have been doing everything in recent times to overheat the polity, distort the achievements of our Administration and spread misinformation. Yes, it is very cold out there for the hungry and desperate opposition, but every indication is that they don’t even want to wait for the 2023 elections before testing their popularity or acceptability at the polls.
2. How else does one explain their court case seeking the declaration of our convention as illegal? How do you explain their threat of another EndSars that pushed Nigerian to the brink? How do you explain their glaring misinformation regarding the nation’s state of affairs?
3. Gentlemen, there is nothing wrong in having a fiery and viable opposition in a democracy. We were there before and we remain the ones to beat in terms of a determined, viable and relentless opposition. But, in our time, not once did we advocate the destruction of Nigeria just because we couldn’t have our way. Not once did we seek to gain power via a desperate court action. If you destroy the country you are seeking to govern, what country will you govern? Must you cut your nose to spite your face?
4. In their most recent act of desperation, they sought to erase seven years of unprecedented achievements by the Buhari Administration. In the most egregious show of shamelessness and a blatant refusal to be remorseful, they even had the audacity to express righteous indignation that the damage they inflicted on the country in their 16 years of misrule has not been totally undone in just seven years. In other words, those who brought the country to its knees are now accusing those working hard to repair things of non-performance. They said they are ready to rescue Nigeria. Pray, where do kidnappers rescue their victims? These same guys who kidnapped the fortunes of their country are suddenly posing as rescuers. CAVEAT EMPTOR. Buyers beware! NIGERIANS BEWARE!
5. Gentlemen, we are not unmindful of the challenges facing this Administration, either in the area of economy, security, power, etc. But we have risen stoutly to the challenges, judiciously utilizing the very scarce resources that we have, and we are making an impact. Nigerians are making great sacrifices because they know that today’s difficulties are like the pangs heralding the birth of a new baby.
Today’s pains won’t endure, but the new Nigeria that will emerge will surely do!
6. The people on the other side say infrastructure is not important. In their derisive posturing, they ask: ‘na infrastructure we go chop?’ But they have forgotten the role of infrastructure in economic development via higher productivity and service delivery, job creation and poverty alleviation, just to mention a few. Little wonder they frittered away the resources of the commonwealth instead of using such to develop our infrastructure during their time in the saddle.
7. We are proud that in our time, Nigerians are once again able to travel by rail, this time in total comfort and safety. Lagos-Ibadan, Abuja-Kaduna, Warri-Itakpe-Ajaokuta and Abuja Metroline are shining examples of our rail revolution. And we are just getting started. We have the rehabilitation of the Port-Harcourt-Maiduguri Eastern Narrow Gauge Railway project that cuts through Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Ebonyi, Gombe, Yobe, Adamawa and Borno states, and the Bonny Deep Sea and Railway Industrial Park. We have the Kano-Maradi standard gauge line that passes through some economic hubs of the country, including Kazaure, Daura, Katsina and up to the border town of Jibiya and the city of Maradi in Niger Republic.
– We are proud of the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure (also known as Deep Blue Asset), aimed at managing, controlling and protecting Nigerian waterways towards the advancement of coastal prosperity.
– We are proud that in our time, long abandoned roads and bridges are either being repaired or built anew. The Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which is due to be completed this year, is already offering a joyful ride to happy motorists, saving lives and man hours in the process.
Among others, we have already delivered the following roads:
a) The 26.27km Nnewi-Uduma Road, Sections I and II in Enugu and Ebonyi States;
b) The 100.08km Kano-Maiduguri Road Section II (Shuwarin-Azare) in Jigawa and Bauchi States;
c) The 106.34km Kano-Maiduguri Road Section III (Azare-Potiskum) in Bauchi and Yobe States;
d) The 24km Vandeikya-Obudu Cattle Ranch Road Phase I and II in Benue and Cross River States;
e) And the 304km Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega-Kontagora-Makera Road.
These are just a part of the over 800 ongoing road (covering 13,000km) and bridge projects (37 of them undergoing maintenance and repairs that have been due for decades) in the country. In fact, there is at least one road or bridge project in every state of the Federation.
– We are proud that in our time, the 2nd Niger Bridge, which they had built on paper several times, is almost ready for delivery. In addition to the 2nd Niger Bridge, we have built or repaired the following, among others:
– Ikom Bridge in Cross River;
– Loko-Oweto Bridge in Nasarawa;
– Ibi Bridge in Taraba and Bamenda-Mfun Bridge linking Nigeria and Cameroon;
– Chanchangi Bridge along Takum-Wukari road in Taraba;
– Koton-Karfe Bridge in Kogi State;
– Bodo Bonny road/Bridge in Rivers;
– We are proud that in our time, we have delivered housing units in 34 states, and they are being commissioned as we speak.
8. They claim that all our projects were started by them. And we say even when this is clear misinformation, of what use are projects started and never completed, which is their strategy for looting the commonwealth? We have now delivered four state-of-the-art new airport terminals in Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt. While they left the aviation industry in tatters during their time, we have turned things around. We have constructed and installed Boeing 737 full motion flight Simulator at the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT) in Zaria, a development that will save Nigeria millions of dollars spent in the retraining of pilots in other countries; We have installed the fully-automated Aircraft Firefighter Training Simulator also at NCAT, the first of its kind in Africa; We are re-fleeting NCAT with Trainer Aircraft, and we have delivered six aircraft so far; We have installed novel Cat III ILS/DME at Lagos and Abuja airports, instruments that will allow flights to land at low visibility; We have procured two mobile control towers in Lagos and Abuja and designated four International Airports in Abuja, Kano, Lagos and Port Harcourt as Special Economic Zones, aimed at encouraging business/investment. We are about to kick-start the construction of the second runway for the airport in Abuja. Recall that the only runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport here in Abuja was left dilapidated until this Administration repaired it.
9. They gloat that Nigerians are suffering under our watch. But we say that while they laid the groundwork for today’s suffering with their mismanagement of national resources at a time of plenty, we have introduced unprecedented measures to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians, especially the very vulnerable. Our National Social Investment Programme (NSIP) is the biggest of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa. The N-Power benefits 1 million people; the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), has benefitted 4 million people; the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) is providing quality meals daily to 10 million primary school pupils, in addition to empowering over 100,000 cooks and the same number of small holder farmers in the local areas where the schools are located; the Household Uplifting Programme (HUP), which has the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) as its flagship intervention, provides N5,000 monthly grants to almost 2 million eligible households across the country, in addition addition to the 1 million Urban Poor who are benefitting from the Conditional Cash Transfers, under the directive of Mr. President to further expand the programme due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
10. Gentlemen, oil producing countries are today smiling to the bank as oil prices are on the rise. Unfortunately, we can not reap the full benefits of the windfall because of years of neglect of the oil industry. For years, they could not stimulate growth in the oil industry because they refused to put in place the Petroleum Industry Law. Better late than never, they say. President Muhammadu Buhari last year signed into law the Petroleum Industry Bill, now the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA). The PIA is envisaged to foster investment in the industry and delineate responsibilities to the various institutions. This is a monumental achievement in the critical oil and gas sector.
11. Today, new businesses are springing up in all sectors, thanks to a conducive business environment. Under this Administration, the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) has implemented over 150 reforms, moving Nigeria up 39 places on the World Bank Doing Business index since 2016. Mr. President also signed the Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020 (CAMA 2020) – Nigeria’s most significant business legislation in three decades. The result of this favourable business environment is the birth of new businesses such as the $2.5 billion Dangote Fertilizer Plant that will produce 3 million metric tonnes of Urea every year; the 650,000 barrels per day oil refinery due to open later this year; Lekki Deep Sea Port, one of the most modern sea ports in West Africa; BUA’s 3 million metric tonnes cement plant; and the 5,000 barrels per day Modular Refinery in Ibigwe, Imo State, and three more modular refineries to be commissioned before May 2023 in Edo and Bayelsa states just to mention a few.
12. While they frittered away the nation’s resources importing rice and other staples, this Administration has worked progressively to ensure our food security as a nation. Today, rice production in Nigeria has increased to over 7.5 million metric tons annually, thanks to the Anchor Borrowers Programme (APB). Before the programme, the average production in Nigeria between 1999 to 2015 was less than 4 million metric tons annually. Before this administration launched the ABP, there were only 15 standard Rice mills in Nigeria. As of today, we have over 50 Standard and integrated Rice mills creating jobs and reducing unemployment. Across Nigeria, more than 4.8 million smallholder farmers have so far been supported by the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, with resultant increase in the production of 23 agricultural commodities including maize, rice, oil palm, cocoa,cotton, cassava, tomato and livestock. In the words of Mr. President, during the launch of the rice pyramid in Abuja, the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme is working; there is no doubt that Nigeria is making steady and assured progress towards self-sufficiency in food production. In fact, no government has invested in agricultural revolution like the Buhari Administration. They say ‘oh, but Nigerians are still hungry, and the price of the staples is still high’. Our response is that the impact of our agriculture revolution will soon be felt on dining tables across the country. In this regard, we want to appeal to our farmers to be more patriotic by not allowing foreigners to buy their commodities at farm gates. They should reciprocate the support being given to them by the Federal Government by slowing down on exports in order to increase the supply of local staples and also reduce prices.
13. Gentlemen, I am proud of our security forces, our men and women in uniform. Despite a myriad of security challenges, they are living up to the billing. The recent string of successes recorded in the fight against Boko Haram and ISWAP is uplifting. As the terrorists and their camps are being decimated, thousand of terrorists and their families are surrendering in droves. The effectiveness of the security forces has been enhanced by the leadership provided by President Buhari and the unwavering commitment of the armed forces and its leadership. The procurement of modern platforms for the armed forces has also gone a long way in raising the level of their operational readiness and efficiency, in addition to boosting their capabilities. Among others, the Nigerian Army has procured 160 MRAPS, 150 trucks and 60 APCs to improve its equipment holding. This is in addition to the provision of accommodation for troops and the recruitment of over 10,000 personnel into the Army. The Nigerian Navy (NN), for its part, commissioned the FALCON EYE Maritime Domain Awareness Capability, the third locally-built Seaward Defense Boat, one helicopter, 4 inshore patrol boats and 90 Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats. Over 1,500 personnel were recruited into the Navy during the year. The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) took delivery of 12 Super Tucanos and 3 JF-17 Thunder Fighter Aircraft and other platforms with which it has conducted several air interdictions, provided close air support to ground troops and destroyed several illegal structures and equipment belonging to terrorists, bandits and other criminal elements. The security forces have also taken the battle to the bandits and put them on the run. The effect is that our country is becoming safer every day. Yes, you still have occasional attacks by the bandits. But their ranks are being decimated by the day by our unrelenting security forces.
– Still on the fight against insecurity, the implementation of the community policing initiative of the current administration has led to the training of 25,000 constabularies in several police colleges across the country. The successful officers, who were trained on basic police duties, modern intelligence gathering techniques, rule of law, etc. were deployed to their Local Governments of Origin to aid in intelligence gathering and improve police visibility in their communities. Also, in an effort to improve the police/citizens ratio, 418 Cadet officers of regular course 3 were successfully graduated in June last year and deployed into the operational asset of the Nigeria Police Force. Through the Police Trust Fund, 200 Buffalo branded vehicles, bulletproof vest, protective helmets, drugs, and medical equipment as well as arms and ammunition, riot control equipment, and combat equipment were procured for the Police Special Weapon and Tactical Squad (SWAT). Recall, gentlemen, that President Buhari has approved the review and upgrade of police personnel salaries by 20 percent, in addition to enhanced duty tour allowance and tax waiver in the sum of N18.6 billion for junior officers to increase the take home pay.
14. The last issue I want to address is the figures being bandied around by the folks on the other side and a section of the press, comparing the prices of some foodstuffs, petrol, diesel, etc pre-2015 and now. This misuse of statistics is clear mischief. Those who bandy around these figures without putting them in context are being clever by half. Let’s take the price of foodstuffs and petrol. Google the price of foodstuffs in other countries, especially the UK and the US, and you will discover a steep rise. Ditto for the price of gas or petrol. What we are saying is that this increase is a global trend, and it’s not limited to any country. Therefore, presenting it as a Nigerian problem is mischievous, disingenuous and a clear act of misinformation. Let me add that the crippling fuel shortage experienced across the country in recent times has started easing, as the measures put in place by the government begin to work.
15. Gentlemen, we have consistently showcased the massive achievements of this Administration in all sectors, even as we admit the challenges we face and work hard to ameliorate things. But against the resort to lies and misinformation by the opposition, it is absolutely necessary for us to dispel their misrepresentation of facts and put things in perspective, which is what we have done today.
16. We are not under any illusion that they will stop their misrepresentation. No, because in their desperation to return to complete their demolition work on Nigeria, these folks will stop at nothing to paint us bad. But the good news is that Nigerians remain traumatized by their 16-year misrule, and will not return to ‘Egypt’ by allowing the ‘demolition gang’ back to office. In the meantime, let them present their 16-year stewardship in all the areas we have listed above and let Nigerians judge!
17. I thank you all for your kind attention