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INDEPENDENCE: Jonathan Tasks Nigerians To Shun Sectionalism; For National Reform

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan


From Ganiyu Nasirudeen/Oyewale Oyelola

Nigerians have been urged to put aside political, sectional as well as other “parochial” considerations and support the efforts of the government and the military, in checking the rampaging insurgents in the country, just as the present administration is set to expand the many frontiers of economic freedom.

President Goodluck Jonathan stated these Wednesday, in his Nationwide broadcast marking the 54 years of Nigeria Independence.

While indicating that the overall objective was to do all that was humanly possible, to sustain in the North-East, the momentum of economic advancement, which is on-going in other parts of the country, President Jonathan declared the “terrorists do not mean well for anyone, of whatever religion or dispensation. Their persistent choice of the weakest and most vulnerable in society, for gruesome attack, provides an insight into their abnormal mind-set”.

Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan

Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan

Mr. President however thanked the international community, including the neighbouring nations who he revealed were working closely with Nigeria in confronting the insurgency challenge. He stated “Our steady progress in weakening the insurgency has certainly justified our cooperation”.

Jonathan, who pledged  to forge  ahead commended the Military and said “As Commander-in-Chief, I will continue to do all it takes to enable them to keep on inflicting devastating blows at the heart of terror…it is our collective duty as patriots to avail our men and women in uniform of all the support they need to fight and win this war”.

He promised that the country would be responsive to grievances brought to the table for dialogue, while restated the task of building a better and greater country must not waver.

The number one citizen called on Nigerians to “unite with one heart and one mind. All our people must have access to the good things of life. All our people must be empowered to pursue the gift of life with happiness. This is our country; we must build it for our common posterity”.

As the next general elections approach, President Jonathan submitted that desperate moves to overheat the polity were becoming a regular occurrence, admonishing the political leaders to realize contest for power should not translate to the destruction of the polity.

“The contest for the leadership of our country must yield good governance, and not ungovernable spaces. The love of country should rank higher than our individual ambitions.

“We must remain committed to a united and indivisible Nigeria within democratic parameters. The protection of individual rights, liberty, equality before the law, freedom of thought, and a progressive pursuit of a sound economy must be our goal” Mr. President specified.

Jonathan also declared that his administration despite challenges has delivered its promise on constitutional reform via establishment of the 2014 National Conference headed by Justice Legbo Kutigi.

He noted that he had walked his talk on commitment to recommendations of the conference by setting up the Ministerial Committee headed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to work out the modalities for implementing its report, insisting  he would fulfil every promise he makes.

“One major lesson which the 2014 National Conference has taught us as a country is that, a multi-ethnic country like ours, must learn to embrace painstaking dialogue until consensus is established.

“To me, the National Conference is the greatest centenary gift to our country that we must cherish and sustain” the President emhasized.

The President while mentioning that his administration has made a commitment to ensure that the country builds and sustains a democratic infrastructure, enjoined the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all security agencies, politicians and the electorates “to work conscientiously and peacefully, together, to consolidate on the gains of the recent elections”, adding that  free and fair elections have come to stay.

President Jonathan also pointed out that his administration was on course on power sector reform with the ultimate objective of generating enough electricity to power homes, industries and businesses, adding that the government was equally making giant strides in the Agricultural Sector which he indicated was being re-positioned to diversify the economy.

“The debasing of our economy, every international monitoring and ratings agency now acknowledges Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, with a Gross Domestic Product of five hundred and ten billion dollars ($510 billion) which also places us as the 26th largest economy in the world. This is progress”, the President justified. .

He corroborated further that the reform informed launch of the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) with the objective of fast tracking inclusive growth, job creation, enterprise development and industrialization.

He also recalled the take off of a special support programme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) with an initial intervention fund of two hundred and twenty billion naira (N220 billion). This he revealed was in addition to the Presidential Job Creation Board which  inaugurated recently with the responsibility to create three million jobs annually.

In demonstration of the current  administration’s commitment to addressing Nigeria’s housing deficit, the President affirmed the government had commenced the new mortgage re-finance programme with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Re-finance Company. The scheme, he pointed out was expected, in addition to creating additional housing units across the country, amounted to huge job creation opportunity.

On social sector, President Jonathan said his government had been globally acknowledged for reducing extreme hunger by more than half, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) presenting the country with an award for achieving the Millennium Development Goal on Hunger three years ahead of the 2015 target date set for the Millennium Development Goals.

He said the achievement was as a result of the deliberate policy of his government to “increase capacity” in agricultural sector of which the first step was to address and eliminate the graft in fertilizer procurement system and ensure that the product gets directly to the farmer, adding that the government was aslo expanding irrigation infrastructure to ensure that farmers have sufficient water supply for dry season farming.

“A benefit of these combined actions is that our national food import bill has declined from 1.1 trillion naira (6.9 billion dollars) in 2009 to 684.7 billion naira (4.35 billion dollars) by December 2013, and continues to decline” the President estimated.

Nigeria, Mr President said over the last four years, through the implementation of the Nigerian Content Act in the Oil and Gas Sector has “ensured major increase in the participation of indigenous Oil and Gas companies in the industry. Several critical infrastructure projects have been commissioned and commenced. The level of indigenous asset ownership has greatly increased and utilization of Nigerian-owned and built assets such as marine vessels and rigs is being progressively enforced”.

The Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) scourge also featured in the President address. According to him, the Presidential directives to the Federal Ministry of Health saw the establishment leading the charge in curtailing the spread of the deadly virus, yet, enjoined Nigerians to continue to adhere strictly to all the guidelines that have been given by the health officials to keep Ebola out of our country.

President Jonathan expressed hope as the country looks forward to another year in its national life, that the future was brighter, saying, “our tomorrow will be better than our yesterday and today. Nigeria has got the human and material resources to excel and we shall lead the way in that journey to our manifest destiny”.

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