Democracy Day Speech By Acting President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo

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DEMOCRACY DAY SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, THE ACTING PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, COMMEMORATING THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY OF THE BUHARI ADMINISTRATION, MAY 29, 2017

Dear Nigerians, I bring you good wishes from President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, who as we all know is away from the country on medical vacation.

1. Today marks the second anniversary of our assumption of office. We must thank the Almighty God not only for preserving our lives to celebrate this second anniversary, but for giving us hope, strength and confidence as we faced the challenges of the past two years.

2. Our administration outlined three specific areas for our immediate intervention on assumption of office: these were Security, Corruption and the Economy.

3. In the Northeast of our country, the terrorist group Boko Haram openly challenged the sovereignty and continued existence of the state, killing, maiming,and abducting, causing the displacement of the largest number of our citizens in recent history. Beyond the North East they extended their mindless killings, as far away as Abuja, Kano And Kaduna.

4. But with new leadership and renewed confidence our
gallant military immediately began to put Boko Haram on
the back foot. We have restored broken-down relations with
our neighbours, Chad, Cameroon and Niger – allies without
whom the war against terror would have been extremely
difficult to win. We have re-organized and equipped our
Armed Forces, and inspired them to heroic feats; we have
also revitalized the regional Multinational Joint Task Force,
by providing the required funding and leadership.
5. The positive results are clear for all to see. In the last two
years close to one million displaced persons have returned
home. 106 of our daughters from Chibok have regained
their freedom, after more than two years in captivity, in
addition to the thousands of other captives who have since
tasted freedom.

6. Schools, hospitals and businesses are springing back to
life across the Northeast, especially in Borno State, the
epicentre of the crisis. Farmers are returning to the farms
from which they fled in the wake of Boko Haram. Finally, our
people are getting a chance to begin the urgent task of
rebuilding their lives.

7. Across the country, in the Niger Delta, and in parts of the
North Central region, we are engaging with local
communities, to understand their grievances, and to create
solutions that respond to these grievances adequately and
enduringly.

8. President Buhari’s New Vision for the Niger Delta is a
comprehensive peace, security and development plan that
will ensure that the people benefit fully from the wealth of
the region, and we have seen to it that it is the product of
deep and extensive consultations, and that it has now
moved from idea to execution. Included in that New Vision
is the long-overdue environmental clean-up of the Niger
Delta beginning with Ogoni-land, which we launched last
year.

9. More recent threats to security such as the herdsmen
clashes with farmers in many parts of the country
sometimes leading to fatalities and loss of livelihoods and
property have also preoccupied our security structures. We
are working with State governments, and tasking our
security agencies with designing effective strategies and
interventions that will bring this menace to an end. We are
determined to ensure that anyone who uses violence, or
carries arms without legal authority is apprehended and
sanctioned.

10. In the fight against corruption, we have focused on
bringing persons accused of corruption to justice. We
believe that the looting of public resources that took place in
the past few years has to be accounted for. Funds
appropriated to build roads, railway lines, and power plants,
and to equip the military, that had been stolen or diverted
into private pockets, must be retrieved and the culprits
brought to justice. Many have said that the process is slow,
and that is true, corruption has fought back with
tremendous resources and our system of administration of
justice has been quite slow. But the good news for justice is
that our law does not recognize a time bar for the
prosecution of corruption and other crimes, and we will not
relent in our efforts to apprehend and bring corruption
suspects to justice. We are also re-equipping our
prosecution teams, and part of the expected judicial reforms
is to dedicate some specific courts to the trial of corruption
cases.

11. We are also institutionalizing safeguards and deterrents.
We have expanded the coverage of the Treasury Single
Account (TSA). We have introduced more efficient accounting
and budgeting systems across the Federal Government. We
have also launched an extremely successful Whistleblower
Policy.

12. The Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance has
succeeded in plugging leakages amounting to billions of
naira, over the last two years. We have ended expensive and
much-abused fertilizer and petrol subsidy regimes.

13. We have taken very seriously our promise to save and
invest for the future, even against the backdrop of our
revenue challenges, and we have in the last two years added
US$500m to our Sovereign Wealth Fund and US$87m to the
Excess Crude Account. This is the very opposite of the
situation before now, when rising oil prices failed to
translate to rising levels of savings and investment.

14. Admittedly, the economy has proven to be the biggest
challenge of all. Let me first express just how concerned we
have been, since this administration took office, about the
impact of the economic difficulties on our citizens.

15. Through no fault of theirs, some companies shut down
their operations, others downsized; people lost jobs, had to
endure rising food prices. In some States civil servants
worked months on end without the guarantee of a salary,
even as rents and school fees and other expenses continued
to show up like clockwork.

16. We have been extremely mindful of the many sacrifices
that you have had to make over the last few years. And for
this reason this administration’s work on the economic front
has been targeted at a combination of short-term
interventions to cushion the pain, as well as medium to long
term efforts aimed at rebuilding an economy that is no
longer helplessly dependent on the price of crude oil.

17. Those short-term interventions include putting together
a series of bailout packages for our State Governments, to
enable them bridge their salary shortfalls – an issue the
President has consistently expressed his concerns about. We
also began the hard work of laying out a framework for our
Social Intervention Programme, the most ambitious in the
history of the country.
– One of the first tasks of the Cabinet and the Economic
Management Team was to put together a Strategic
Implementation Plan for the 2016 budget, targeting
initiatives that would create speedy yet lasting impact on the
lives of Nigerians.
– Indeed, much of 2016 was spent clearing the mess we
inherited and putting the building blocks together for the
future of our dreams; laying a solid foundation for the kind
of future that you deserve as citizens of Nigeria.
– In his Budget Presentation Speech to the National
Assembly last December, President Buhari outlined our
Economic Agenda in detail, and assured that 2017 -would be
the year in which you would begin to see tangible benefits of
all the planning and preparation work. It is my pleasure to
note that in the five months since he delivered that speech,
we have seen tremendous progress, as promised.

1. Take the example of our Social Investment Programme,
which kicked off at the end of 2016. Its Home Grown School
Feeding component is now feeding more than 1 million
primary school children across seven states and would be
feeding three million by the end of the year. N-Power,
another component has engaged 200,000 unemployed
graduates – none of whom needed any ‘connections’ to be
selected. Beneficiaries are already telling the stories of how
these initiatives have given them a fresh start in their lives.

2. Micro credit to a million artisans, traders and market men
and women has begun. While conditional cash transfers to
eventually reach a million of the poorest and most
vulnerable households has also begun.

3. Road and power projects are ongoing in every part of the
country. In rail, we are making progress with our plans to
attract hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to
upgrade the existing 3,500km narrow-gauge network. We
have also in 2017 flagged-off construction work on the
Lagos-Ibadan leg of our standard-gauge network, and are
close to completing the first phase of Abuja’s Mass Transit
Rail System.

4. In that Budget speech in December, the President
announced the take-off of the Presidential Fertilizer
Initiative. Today, five months on, that Initiative – the product
of an unprecedented bilateral cooperation with the
Government of Morocco – has resulted in the revitalisation
of 11 blending plants across the country, the creation of
50,000 direct and indirect jobs so far, and in the production
of 300,000 metric tonnes of NPK fertilizer, which is being
sold to farmers at prices significantly lower than what they
paid last year. By the end of 2017, that Fertilizer Initiative
would have led to foreign exchange savings of US$200
million; and subsidy savings of 60 billion naira.

5. The Initiative is building on the solid gains of the Anchor
Borrowers Programme, launched in 2015 to support our rice
and wheat farmers, as part of our move towards
guaranteeing food security for Nigeria.

6. All of this is evidence that we are taking very seriously our
ambition of agricultural self-sufficiency. I am delighted to
note that since 2015 our imports of rice have dropped by 90
percent, while domestic production has almost tripled. Our
goal is to produce enough rice to meet local demand by
2019. In April, the President launched our Economic
Recovery and Growth Plan which built on the foundations
laid by the Strategic implementation Plan of 2016. The plan
has set forth a clear vision for the economic development of
Nigeria. I will come back to this point presently.

7. Another highlight of the President’s Budget Speech was
our work around the Ease of Doing Business reforms. As
promised we have since followed up with implementation
and execution. I am pleased to note that we are now seeing
verifiable progress across several areas, ranging from new
Visa on Arrival scheme, to reforms at our ports and
regulatory agencies.

8. The President also promised that 2017 would see the
rollout of Executive Orders to facilitate government
approvals, support procurement of locally made goods, and
improve fiscal responsibility. We have kept that promise.
This month we issued three Executive Orders to make it
easier for citizens to get the permits and licenses they
require for their businesses, to mandate Government
agencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced
goods, and to promote budget transparency and efficiency.
The overarching idea is to make Government Agencies and
Government budgets work more efficiently for the people.

9. The impact of our Ease of Doing Business work is
gradually being felt by businesses small and large; its
successful take-off has allowed us to follow up with the
MSME Clinics -our Small Business support programme,
which has taken us so far to Aba, Sokoto, Jos, Katsina, and
we expect to be in all other states in due course.

10. Let me note, at this point, that several of our Initiatives
are targeted at our young people, who make up most of our
population. From N-Power, to the Technology Hubs being
developed nationwide, to innovation competitions such as
the Aso Villa Demo Day, and our various MSME support
schemes, we will do everything to nurture the immense
innovative and entrepreneurial potential of our young
people. We are a nation of young people, and we will ensure
that our policies and programmes reflect this.

11. One of the highlights of our Power Sector Recovery
Programme, which we launched in March, is a N701 billion
Naira Payment Assurance Scheme that will resolve the
financing bottlenecks that have until now constrained the
operations of our gas suppliers and generation companies.
Let me assure that you will soon begin to see the positive
impact of these steps.

12. Our Solid Minerals Development Fund has also now
taken off, in line with our commitment to developing the
sector. Because of our unerring focus on Solid Minerals
development over the last two years, the sector has,
alongside Agriculture, seen impressive levels of growth – in
spite of the recession.

13. On the whole, just as the President promised in the
Budget Speech, these early months of 2017 have seen the
flowering of the early fruit of all the hard work of our first
eighteen months.

14. We opened the year with an overwhelmingly successful
Eurobond Offer – evidence of continuing investor interest in
Nigeria. We have also launched the Economic Recovery and
Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, to build on the gains of last
year’s Strategic Implementation Plan. And the
implementation of our 2017 Budget, which will soon be
signed into law, will bring added impetus to our ongoing
economic recovery. In the 2016 Budget we spent 1.2 Trillion
Naira on infrastructure projects, another milestone in the
history of this country. Our 2017 Budget will double that
investment.

15. That budget also provides for substantial investment to
implement the rollout of Industrial Parks and Special
Economic Zones (SEZs), as well as our Social Housing
Programme. The Industrial Parks and Economic Zones will
fulfill our ambition of making Nigeria a manufacturing hub,
while the Family Home Fund of our Social Housing
Programme will provide inexpensive mortgages for low-
income individuals and families across the country.

16. These plans offer yet more evidence that we are ramping
up the pace of work; the work of fulfilling all that we
promised. In the next two years we will build on the
successes of the last two. We have demonstrated a
willingness to learn from our mistakes and to improve on
our successes. The critical points that we must address fully
in the next two years are : Agriculture and food security,
Energy, (power and Petroleum,) Industrialization and
Transport infrastructure. Every step of the way we will be
working with the private sector, giving them the necessary
incentives and creating an environment to invest and do
business.

17. Our vision is for a country that grows what it eats and
produces what it consumes. It is for a country that no longer
has to import petroleum products, and develops a lucrative
petrochemical industry. Very importantly it is for a country
whose fortunes are no longer tied to the price of a barrel of
crude, but instead to the boundless talent and energy of its
people, young and old, male and female as they invest in
diverse areas of the economy.

18. And that vision is also for a country where the wealth of
the many will no longer be stolen by or reserved for a few;
and where the impunity of corruption – whether in the
public or private sectors – will no longer be standard
operating practice; a land rid of bandits and terrorists.

19. As citizens you all deserve a country that works, not
merely for the rich or connected, but for everyone. And our
promise to you is that we will, with your support and
cooperation, take every step needed to create that country
of our dreams.

20. We also know that this journey will of necessity take
time. But we will not succumb to the temptation to take
short-cuts that ultimately complicate the journey. We did not
find ourselves in crises overnight, and we simply do not
expect overnight solutions to our challenges.

21. The most important thing is that we are on the right
path, and we will not deviate from it, even in the face of
strong temptation to choose temporary gain over long-term
benefit. As the President has summed it up: “The old Nigeria
is slowly but surely disappearing, and a new era is rising.”

22. And so we commemorate this second anniversary of our
administration with confidence and optimism. I firmly
believe that we have put the most difficult phase behind us;
and we are witnesses to the ever-increasing intensity of the
light at the end of the tunnel. We ask for your continued
cooperation and support, to enable us realise all our best
intentions and ambitions for Nigeria. On our part We will
continue to carry you along on this journey, speak to you,
explain the challenges, and share our Vision.

23. And while we all daily pre-occupy ourselves with
pursuing the Nigerian Dream – which is the desire to better
our lives and circumstances vigorously and honestly – it is
inevitable that grievances and frustrations will arise from
time to time.

24. This is normal. What is not normal, or acceptable, is
employing these frustrations as justification for indulging in
discrimination or hate speech or hateful conduct of any
kind, or for seeking to undermine by violent or other illegal
means the very existence of the sovereign entity that has
brought us all together as brothers and sisters and citizens.

25. Nigeria belongs to all of us. No one person or group of
persons is more important or more entitled than the other
in this space that we all call home. And we have a
responsibility to live in peace and harmony with one
another, to seek peaceful and constitutional means of
expressing our wishes and desires, and to resist all who
might seek to sow confusion and hatred for their own selfish
interests.

26. Before I end this speech, let me ask for your continued
prayers for the restoration to full health and strength and
the safe return of our President.

27. I congratulate all of you on today’s commemoration of
this important day in the democratic calendar our country.
Nigeria is on a journey of greatness, and together we shall
arrive at the destination of our dreams.

28. May God bless you all, and bless the Federal Republic of
Nigeria.