PMB’S
NEW YEAR SPEECH: GOOD OR NOT GOOD?
On New Year’s Day, I
did not get to listen/watch the President’s New Year message. However, I
downloaded the soft copy of the message from the internet the next day. I read
the totality of the message and I could not help but to marvel at its genius. The
President’s speech started with a well-throughout and a commendable acknowledgement
of the fuel scarcity saga, its debilitating effects on citizens and residents
of our great country and efforts currently ongoing to nip it in the bud. The
President also told us about how the economy and polity fared in the previous
year and his administration’s successes and achievements in 2017.

Additionally, He told
us about his government’s plans for 2018 and beyond and he also gave an insight
into how our individual and collective efforts are needed to navigate the
country through stormy waters on the path to full economy recovery. A video
clip of the message is below;

Similarly, you can read
the full length of the message in the subsequent paragraphs and give your
opinion in the comment box provided below;

”I
join my fellow citizens this morning to welcome and celebrate the New Year
2018. This year promises to be pivotal in our quest for CHANGE.
Unfortunately,
I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays
have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship
and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe
hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.
The
consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay
exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken
measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the
root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever
groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so
again.
Such
un-patriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set
ourselves. Our government’s watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must
change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the
race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.

My
address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you
about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our
country’s huge infrastructural deficit.We are going to make significant
in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.
The
Ministry of Power, Works and Housing is one of the drivers of this Government’s
commitment to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to
achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery
and Growth Plan.
With
regards to Railways, we have set ourselves ambitious targets. Already in
construction stage is the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway. The line should
reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million
passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every
year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.
Construction
of the Kano – Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna
by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we
will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route. The
Abuja – Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday
and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.

At
the same time, I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first
part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri,
Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and
Damaturu.  The Abuja to Itakpe line will
go through Baro and terminate in Warri with construction of a new seaport at
Warri. Negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway
lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura,
Katsina, Jibia to Maradi.

Secondly,
Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” 
through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri,
Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar.  In the next few years, all these Nigerian
cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost
to the social and economic life of our people. With respect to the Abuja
Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98% completion, as at 64% completion
when we assumed office.  Only test runs
remain before start of operations.
This
train service will stimulate economic activities in the Federal Capital and
provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system.  Twelve railway sub-stations around the
capital over a 45.2 kilometre route will serve as a catalyst and a pull factor
to the economy of the area.  The Light
Rail System will reduce traffic congestion and carbon emission in line with the
Administration’s policy on climate change. Management of the Federal Road
Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been reconstituted and has been charged with a
12 week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political
zones. Government is undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the
six geo-political zones.

Twenty
five major highways will be funded under the N100b SUKUK facility. Each
geo-political zone will benefit by an equal amount of N16.67b. The following
major highways are to receive special attention:
A.
Oyo – Ogbomosho,
B.
Ofusu – Ore – Ajebandele – Shagamu,
C.
Yenagoa Road Junction – Kolo Otuoke – Bayelsa Palm,
D.
Enugu – Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way,
E.
Onitsha – Enugu Expressway,
f.    Kaduna Eastern Bypass,
g.
Dualization of Kano – Maiduguri Road,
h.
Dualization of Abuja – Lokoja – Benin Road,
i.
Dualization of Suleja – Minna Road.

In
addition, Government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja
– Kaduna – Zaria – Kano road which is in a state of disrepair. Work will soon
start and is expected to be completed in 2019.

More
Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their
homes and businesses.  However, power
remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have
regular and reliable supply. The Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which
started in January 2016 has enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to
raise so far N701 billion to assure Generation Companies of at least 80%
payment for any power delivered to the national grid.

Consequently,
generation has now reached 7,000MW. On December 8, 2017 the country achieved
5,155MW of power delivered to consumers, the highest level ever recorded. Several
moribund projects have been revived. 
Repairs of Afam Power Station added 110MW in 2017 and another 240MW will
be added this year through a private investment partnership. Katsina Power
Project is now being tested and producing 10MW of power from wind for the first
time in Nigeria.  It should be fully
operational this year. The Zungeru 700MW Hydroelectric Power Project, stalled
by court cases is due for completion in 2019. 
The transmission and other requirements to operate the 30MW Gurara Phase
1 Hydroelectric Plant, the 40MW Kashimbilla Hydroelectric Plant and the 215 MW
Kaduna Gas/LPG/Diesel Power Plant will also be completed this year.
 A
landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project is at last taking
off.  This project has been on the
drawing Board for 40 years, but now the engineering, procurement and
construction contract for the 3,050MW project has been agreed with a Chinese
joint venture Company with a financing commitment from the government of
China.  Completion is targeted for 2023.

As
I mentioned earlier, the Transmission Company of Nigeria can now distribute all
the 7,000MW that can be generated.  TCN
and the Niger Delta Holding Company have added 1,950MVA of 330 down to 132KV
transformer capacity of 10 transmission stations and 2,930MVA of 132 down to
33KV transformer capacity of 42 sub-stations including Ikot Ekpene, Aba,
Alagbon, Ajah, Ejigbo, Funtua and Zaria. This Administration is working with
the privatized distribution Companies to overcome the continuing challenges of
distribution.
These
massive public works should spearhead the recovery and lead millions back to
employment. You will recall that it was not until last year that we got out of
the economic recession into which the country had fallen as a consequence of
past unsustainable economic policies which projected short-term illusory
growth. The government is slowly stabilizing the economy. It was in order to
change the steady and steep decline that we adopted the more sustainable
policies and programmes captured in the Economic Recovery Plan. Diversification
efforts have resulted in improved output particularly in agriculture and solid
minerals sectors. The relative exchange rate stability has improved manufacturing
sector performance.mWe have got to get used to discipline and direction in
economic management. The days of business as usual are numbered.
Two
years ago, I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified
that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to
re-structure the economy. Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher
and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on. 

By
the same token, I am today appealing to enterprising Nigerians with ideas and
unemployed graduates and other able-bodied and literate men and women with
ideas not to just sit and wait for employment from the government or the
Organized Private Sector. Great nations are built by enterprising people who
turn their hands to anything that circumstances dictate.

In
respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the on-going
debate about “Restructuring”. No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever
structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing
circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments. We Nigerians can
be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be
possible considering our resources and capabilities. When all the aggregates of
nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more
to do with process than structure.
We
tried the Parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries
for a return to the Parliamentary structure. In older democracies these systems
took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our
purposes. We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system
we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.
However,
there is a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the
public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for
the better. I assure you that government is ever receptive to ideas which will
improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability. As the
electioneering season approaches politicians must avoid exploiting ethnicity
and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics.
Such must be avoided at all costs if we are to live in harmony. In this respect
the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have
successfully internalized religion, ethnicity and politics.

Political
discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional
manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and
entrench the rule of law. We should draw encouragement from the series of
bye-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence free
and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair.
Before
I conclude my address, I must reassure my fellow citizens that security of life
and property is still top of our government’s agenda. We have since beaten Boko
Haram. Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot
prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror as we have
seen during the past years in Europe, Asia, and Middle-East, elsewhere in
Africa and in America.

Our
government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our
election pledge and promises. On behalf of all Nigerians let me offer our
thanks to the Armed forces, the Police, other para-military forces and
traditional authorities who are working round the clock to ensure that you and
I go about our normal business in reasonable safety. Terrorism and urban crimes
are world-wide phenomena and our security forces are continuously adapting
their responses to changing threats.

With
regard to rampant cases of kidnappings, we are taking immediate short-term
measures to combat this new evil creeping into our societies.  Tighter police methods and swift and severe
punishment for those proved to be engaged in kidnapping are on the way. With
respect to Niger Delta, Government is still engaging responsible leadership of
the Communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the
region. Our clean-up programme in collaboration with the United Nations is
making satisfactory progress. I am grateful to all the Governors and other
Political & Community leaders of the Niger Delta States for their part in
bringing relative peace to the areas.

Finally
let me again express my heartfelt thanks to all Nigerians who prayed for me
during my illness last year. I feel deeply humbled by your prayers and good
wishes and I am more determined than ever to serve you to the best of my
ability.
Good
morning. And I wish everyone a Happy New Year.
God Bless Nigeria.

Olusanya, Oluwole
Sheriff
Oluwole Olusanya
Oluwole Olusanya is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of one of the fastest-growing lifestyle and entertainment website in the country. He is a banker, writer, blogger, public affairs analyst and a tax consultant. He anchors Trending Topics on SHEFFA where he shares his thoughts and opinions on trending issues. He is currently studying for a Master’s Degree in Business Administration at the University of South Wales, Wales, United Kingdom. He has diplomas in Banking and Finance, Investigative Journalism, Creative Writing, and Linguistics from Lagos State Polytechnic, Isolo, Lagos, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland and The Open University, Milton Keynes, United Kingdom.