President Muhammadu Buhari has explained that despite the fall in the international price of crude oil, measures taken to block leakages in the nation’s revenue generating agencies would ensure enough cash to fund the N6 trillion budget he recently submitted to the National Assembly.
The president gave the explanation in an interview with Mansur Liman of the BBC Hausa service on Christmas eve. He also spoke on his government’s ‘success’ at defeating the Boko Haram insurgents.
PREMIUM TIMES’ Sani Tukur translated the interview;
Q: You recently submitted the biggest budget estimates in Nigeria’s history to the National Assembly, and this came at a time the price of oil has drastically gone down in world markets. How do you intend to get money to fund the budget?
Buhari: As a government, we inherited N1.5 trillion domestic debt and when foreign debt is added we have about N2.2 trillion. Everybody knows Nigeria is not a poor country, we are rich, and we have human resources, the problem had been that leadership did not take seriously, curbing corrupt tendencies.
Apart from highlighting our debt profile, we have also shown the changes we have made in the Customs for instance, how; much we are making from the Customs service, how much from petroleum, that is NNPC; how much we are making from the ports. There have been lots of leakages in these sectors. If we block these leakages, we would make much more money to run the country despite the fall in the price of oil.
Q: Are you sure you can block all the leakages? Because if one looks at it, it was just the leaders of these agencies that were changed while most of the lieutenants who were part of the system of the “leakages” are still in place. What do you think would change to make sure that “business as usual” does not continue and Nigeria would get those monies?
A: It is generally believed that a fish begins to rot from the head; once the head is rotten, the whole body is also rotten. We have tried to remove all the heads of the organisations, and most of the lieutenants have been changed. A lot is happening in this government that people do not appear to understand; many permanent secretaries of ministries have been changed; we used to have 42 ministers, now we have 36 because the constitution requires that each state of the federation must have a minister; we used to have 42 ministries, now we have 24.
Q: You have also allocated 30 per cent of the budget to capital projects; what informed that decision?
A: It is a must. Remember during the campaigns, we said Nigeria is facing three things and nobody disputed that assertion. Firstly; there was widespread insecurity, war in the north east, while the country’s oil was being stolen at random in the south; secondly; there is massive unemployment, 62 per cent of the nation’s population are youth from the age of 35 years downward; most of them are unemployed, including those who went to school and those who did not, that is a serious problem. Therefore, it has become necessary to restore peace and create employment.
That is why we are returning to agriculture and mineral resources. Thirdly, bribery and corruption was basically suffocating the country. If we don’t kill these monsters, this country would go down.
That is why those who stole monies meant for arms procurement and shared it among themselves are being arrested and are being shown documents, so that they would be asked to refund the money or face prosecution; we would use those documents to prove what they stole, collect all the assets acquired from the proceeds and then jail them.
Q: You have initiated a programme in which poor and vulnerable Nigerians would be paid N5,000 monthly; what have you put in place to ensure that there is justice and fairness in the running of this programme?
A: It is not possible for everyone needing it to get it; but the Federal Government has said it would collaborate with the states and local governments. At the local government level, almost everyone knows each other. It would be easy to identify those to give who would go into trading and how to get it back. It would be like a cooperative and we all know how it operates. Also, state governments would identify those who have capacity to employ more people and all we need to do is to empower them. Our people already know how to go about implementing these modalities to create employment for the citizens.
Q: You earlier mentioned Boko Haram. After your assumption of office, you gave a deadline of December to bring an end to Boko Haram insurgency. We are almost at the end of December, does it mean you and the armed forces have failed?
A: I want people to understand that after I settled down and got good grasp of what the country is going through, we removed all the service chiefs and appointed new ones. We also undertook an investigation and found out how the monies meant for arms procurement were diverted and shared by officials in the last administration. They sent the boys to the war front without arms and ammunition, leading some of them to mutiny after which they were arrested and detained.
We have been able to raise money and fund the war. Go and ask the people of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa; how many of their local governments were under the control of insurgents? And how many are currently still under the insurgents?
May be we would not win the war completely by the end of the month, but the insurgents have now resorted to putting on explosive vests on young children, mostly girls aged 15 and below and then sending them to markets, mosques and churches to detonate. Boko Haram themselves know that the era of them taking over communities and local governments are over. If people would be fair to us, they would know that the Nigerian Army has basically met the deadline and are winning the war. You cannot find any significant number of Boko Haram members in Adamawa, and Yobe, only may be in about three local governments of Borno in the area around our borders with Chad Republic. They are not in a position to threaten Nigeria now, so we have won.
NAFDAC Grants Conditional Emergency Use Authorisation For Jansen COVID-19 Vaccine
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, on Tuesday granted conditional Emergency Use Authorisation for Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to prevent COVID-19 in Nigerians above 18 years of age.
In a press statement made available to the media, the Director-General of the Agency, Prof Christianah Mojisola Adeyeye said after a thorough evaluation, the NAFDAC Vaccine Committee concluded that the data on the vaccine were robust and met criteria for efficacy, safety and quality.
”The data also show that the vaccine’s known and potential benefits outweigh its known and potential risks thereby supporting the manufacturer’s recommended use. Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is the third vaccine recommended in Nigeria for preventing COVID-19.”
On vaccine efficacy, Adeyeye noted that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine is administered as a single dose and results from a clinical trial involving people in the United States, South Africa and Latin American countries found that Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine was effective at preventing COVID-19 in people from 18 years of age.
She added: ”The Phase III clinical trial involved over 44,000 people. Half received a single dose of the vaccine and half were given a placebo (a dummy injection). People did not know if they had been given Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine or placebo.
”The trial found a 67 percent reduction in the number of symptomatic COVID-19 cases after two weeks in people who received Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine”.
On side effects, she said the most commonly reported side effects with the vaccine were pain at the injection site, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and nausea. Most of these side effects were mild to moderate in severity and lasted 1-2 days.
Speaking on vaccine safety, she said in line with the NAFDAC’s Pharmacovigilance and safety monitoring plan for COVID-19 vaccines, Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine would be closely monitored and subject to several activities that apply specifically to COVID-19 vaccines.
”Manufacturers are required to provide monthly safety reports in addition to the regular updates generated by NAFDAC activities. Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine works by preparing the body to defend itself against COVID-19.”
She further explained that unopened vaccine vials can be stored and/or transported frozen at -25°C to – 15°C for up to 24 months and three months when stored at 2 to 8°C.
She also stated that the Ministry of Health and National Primary Health Care Development Agency will announce when the vaccine becomes available for use in Nigeria.
NLC Alleged That El-Rufai Reverted Minimum Wage to N18,000
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) yesterday alleged that the Kaduna State government plans to infiltrate its protest with thugs.
It said it was misled in praising the Nasir El-Rufai administration for being the first to pay the new N30,000 minimum wage.
NLC, in a statement by its Kaduna State Council Chairman, Ayuba Suleiman, said the state had since reverted to the old wage of N18, 000 for council workers. It said 20,000 civil servants have been receiving half salary of less than N18, 000.
The workers union said the state owed its members several allowances. It condemned threats to arrest NLC President Ayuba Wabba.
“We are calling the attention of the general public to the planned mobilisation of thugs by the state government to discredit our peaceful protest. We urge the people of Kaduna State to be vigilant and stand against this plan.
“We implore the general public to remain calm and peaceful throughout the five-day warning strike.
“We are assuring the Kaduna State workers and the general public of our commitment to maintaining peaceful strike action in their interest,” Suleiman said.
FACAN Seeks Partnership With Lagos on Ranching
The Federation of Agricultural Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) is seeking partnership with the Lagos State government on the operation of ranches as part of a road map with investment plans that seek to improve animal productivity and production, as well as increase the value addition of key livestock value chains.
Its President, Dr Victor Iyama told the media that the association is examining various aspects of agricultural development such as investment, demand, consumption, gender and social inclusion and is ready to partner with Lagos in driving out livestock-sector investment interventions, to help the state meet its targets by improving productivity and total production in the key livestock value chains of sheep and cow
According to him, the absence of a roadmap to develop the livestock sector had hindered the successful implementation of previous investment plans for the sector.
He said the creation of the master plan would guide livestock-sector investment interventions in improving feed and water resources, health services, industry and factory and promote private sector investment and business environment.
Urging the Lagos government to pursue the establishment of ranches for hire, Iyama reiterated that investors were convinced the efforts would foster public-private partnerships for livestock development.
According to him, private operators will be ready to rent ranches for meat cattle, indicating that the state remains one of the safest places for increasing industries for meat production and milk processing.
Recently, the Lagos State Butchers Association has requested the provision of about 50 hectares of land from the Lagos State Government for ranching and rearing herds of cattle in the state.
Meantime, the Lagos State Commissioner for Agriculture, Ms Absiola Olusanya, said well over 1.8 million herds of cattle and over 1.4 million herds of sheep and goats, were being consumed in Lagos yearly.
Olusanya called on the private sector to partner with it to establish feedlots in the state for cattle rearing and fattening in furtherance of its reforms and sanitization of the red meat value chain, stressing that partnership becomes necessary as it would ensure better production and supply of cattle for consumption in the state.
According to her, the feedlots when operational would help revive and resuscitate cows that might have travelled from far cities such as Sokoto, Jalingo, Bauchi and Jigawa among others where they may have come to Lagos before slaughtering them.
Olusanya added that the feedlot system would also help in fattening the cows before taking them to the slaughter slabs which would improve the quality of beef as well as help butchers and meat sellers to make more profit. “We have been having discussions around the transformation agenda centred on abattoirs, transportation and markets but there is a revised plan to have a more holistic approach to the red meat value chain.
“We are not just focusing on abattoirs alone which are a processing angle, we are starting right from the animal identification and traceability systems, meaning right from the source or point of origination of the cattle.
“That is why we want to establish feedlots in the state so that we can have cattle fattening centres. Having feedlot centres means that the cattle can rest, they can be fattening.”
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