Fellow Nigerians, As we mark forty eight years of nationhood today, I wish to thank God Almighty for the bountiful blessings he has continually bestowed on us as a people, in spite of the many challenges that we have had to face.
My dear countrymen and women, today brings with it another opportunity for us to reflect on the trying terrain we have had to traverse these past forty-eight years, while setting our sights firmly on the boundless opportunities and exciting possibilities that lie before us.
It is also a time to reflect on the critical elements of our commonality with the rest of the African continent, the African Diaspora, and humanity at large.
Our Administration came into office, resolved to frontally face up to Nigeria’s development challenges, and set the nation on an assured path to becoming a properly grounded stable democracy and one of the world’s twenty largest economies by the year 2020.
We are under no illusion as to the complexity and magnitude of the task we have set ourselves. We understand that sustained economic growth is only possible if peace, security and stability are assured. We recognize that constructive engagement and productive partnership with all major stakeholders and our development partners are vital imperatives. We are aware that single-minded, people-focused, results-oriented, creative, sincere and courageous leadership is critical.
Our appreciation of the enormity of our national transformation drives our steadfast pursuit of the ideals of democracy, good governance, free enterprise, and the rule of law. Our Seven-point Agenda is aimed at a structured approach to tackling the challenges which we must overcome if we are to sustainably raise the living standards of Nigerians, achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and realize our Vision 20-2020.
We are resolved as an Administration, not to resort to quick-fix methods and short-cuts in approaching fundamental problems which require methodical and sustainable solutions. The review of key sectors of our national economy, which we have embarked upon so far, points to the wisdom of this approach.
Fellow Nigerians, our economy is on a strong footing with an average growth rate of about 6.9%, a single digit inflation rate, external reserves of about 63 billion dollars, and the Naira appreciating steadily against the major currencies. This is a consequence of our policies aimed at maintaining relative stability and predictability in Nigeria’s macro-economic environment.
However, we are aware that our physical infrastructure deficit cannot sustain the level of economic development which we envision for Nigeria. This brings to the fore the imperative to rapidly rebuild, maintain, upgrade, and expand our critical infrastructure. In our quest for practical solutions to our endemic energy problems, we have set in motion far-reaching reforms which have started to yield some positive results.
We have evolved a holistic strategy for the development and rehabilitation of the nation’s transport system. We intend to concession the most economically viable roads across the country, while aggressively pursuing a road sector development and maintenance programme estimated to cover 5,700 km.
With the railways, we plan to concession some existing routes including the Western and Eastern rail lines as well as the uncompleted Central line; while rehabilitating and expanding the existing rail system. Notably, the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission is expected to commence work shortly.
In the Agricultural sector, we have resolutely pursued a policy of sustained support for small-scale farmers, and structured development of medium and large-scale agriculture. We intend to utilize the National Resources Development Account to boost domestic production of food crops and development of agro-allied industries. Our goal is assured food security.
In order to properly focus our efforts at fashioning out a durable solution to the crisis in the Niger Delta region, we have sustained constructive engagement with the major stakeholders. More critically, we have set up a Niger Delta Ministry to anchor in a holistic manner, the execution of the Niger Delta Development Master Plan. We are confident that this is the way to go in meaningfully addressing the physical infrastructure and human capital development challenges which the region presents.
From inception, we have identified security and public safety as one of the critical areas of concern to both the Government and people of this country. This informs the seriousness with which we intend to implement the recommendations of the Police Reform Committee aimed at enabling the Nigeria Police effectively and efficiently meet their constitutional mandate of ensuring public safety and security, as well as the enforcement of law and order in every part of this country.
Our commitment to the entrenchment of transparency and accountability in the conduct of Government business remains unwavering. In practical demonstration of our efforts to sanitize the financial and budgetary processes, we have realized over N400 billion from unspent capital releases to Ministries, Departments, and Agencies. The strengthening of the anti-corruption institutions and other law enforcement agencies is a direct consequence of our determination to institutionalize zero-tolerance for corruption.
Our ultimate goal is to engender a culture of prudence, diligence, honesty, sincerity, decency, transparency, selflessness and accountability in our polity.
Fellow Nigerians, we have defined for ourselves a clear national objective to which we are totally committed: the transformation of our country into a strong, stable, democratic, and progressive major player on the global stage by the year 2020.
As we collectively face up to this challenge, I am inspired by the unquenchable spirit, the astounding drive, the passion, and consummate zeal of the average Nigerian.
Ours is an enduring story of courage, uncommon resilience and abiding faith in the common cause of fulfilling Nigeria’s promise and our collective destiny.
On this forty-eighth anniversary of our nation’s independence, let us all, dear countrymen and women renew our faith in Nigeria and recommit to the transformation of our Fatherland.
I wish you very happy celebrations.
May God continuously bless Nigeria. Thank you.