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\r\n\r\nDear Nigerians, I bring you good wishes from President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, who as we all know is away from the country on medical vacation.\r\n\r\n1. 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.\r\n\r\n2. Our administration outlined three specific areas for our immediate intervention on assumption of office: these were Security, Corruption and the Economy.\r\n\r\n3. 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.\r\n\r\n4. But with new leadership and renewed confidence our\r\ngallant military immediately began to put Boko Haram on\r\nthe back foot. We have restored broken-down relations with\r\nour neighbours, Chad, Cameroon and Niger \u2013 allies without\r\nwhom the war against terror would have been extremely\r\ndifficult to win. We have re-organized and equipped our\r\nArmed Forces, and inspired them to heroic feats; we have\r\nalso revitalized the regional Multinational Joint Task Force,\r\nby providing the required funding and leadership.\r\n5. The positive results are clear for all to see. In the last two\r\nyears close to one million displaced persons have returned\r\nhome. 106 of our daughters from Chibok have regained\r\ntheir freedom, after more than two years in captivity, in\r\naddition to the thousands of other captives who have since\r\ntasted freedom.\r\n\r\n6. Schools, hospitals and businesses are springing back to\r\nlife across the Northeast, especially in Borno State, the\r\nepicentre of the crisis. Farmers are returning to the farms\r\nfrom which they fled in the wake of Boko Haram. Finally, our\r\npeople are getting a chance to begin the urgent task of\r\nrebuilding their lives.\r\n\r\n7. Across the country, in the Niger Delta, and in parts of the\r\nNorth Central region, we are engaging with local\r\ncommunities, to understand their grievances, and to create\r\nsolutions that respond to these grievances adequately and\r\nenduringly.\r\n\r\n8. President Buhari\u2019s New Vision for the Niger Delta is a\r\ncomprehensive peace, security and development plan that\r\nwill ensure that the people benefit fully from the wealth of\r\nthe region, and we have seen to it that it is the product of\r\ndeep and extensive consultations, and that it has now\r\nmoved from idea to execution. Included in that New Vision\r\nis the long-overdue environmental clean-up of the Niger\r\nDelta beginning with Ogoni-land, which we launched last\r\nyear.\r\n\r\n9. More recent threats to security such as the herdsmen\r\nclashes with farmers in many parts of the country\r\nsometimes leading to fatalities and loss of livelihoods and\r\nproperty have also preoccupied our security structures. We\r\nare working with State governments, and tasking our\r\nsecurity agencies with designing effective strategies and\r\ninterventions that will bring this menace to an end. We are\r\ndetermined to ensure that anyone who uses violence, or\r\ncarries arms without legal authority is apprehended and\r\nsanctioned.\r\n\r\n10. In the fight against corruption, we have focused on\r\nbringing persons accused of corruption to justice. We\r\nbelieve that the looting of public resources that took place in\r\nthe past few years has to be accounted for. Funds\r\nappropriated to build roads, railway lines, and power plants,\r\nand to equip the military, that had been stolen or diverted\r\ninto private pockets, must be retrieved and the culprits\r\nbrought to justice. Many have said that the process is slow,\r\nand that is true, corruption has fought back with\r\ntremendous resources and our system of administration of\r\njustice has been quite slow. But the good news for justice is\r\nthat our law does not recognize a time bar for the\r\nprosecution of corruption and other crimes, and we will not\r\nrelent in our efforts to apprehend and bring corruption\r\nsuspects to justice. We are also re-equipping our\r\nprosecution teams, and part of the expected judicial reforms\r\nis to dedicate some specific courts to the trial of corruption\r\ncases.\r\n\r\n11. We are also institutionalizing safeguards and deterrents.\r\nWe have expanded the coverage of the Treasury Single\r\nAccount (TSA). We have introduced more efficient accounting\r\nand budgeting systems across the Federal Government. We\r\nhave also launched an extremely successful Whistleblower\r\nPolicy.\r\n\r\n12. The Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance has\r\nsucceeded in plugging leakages amounting to billions of\r\nnaira, over the last two years. We have ended expensive and\r\nmuch-abused fertilizer and petrol subsidy regimes.\r\n\r\n13. We have taken very seriously our promise to save and\r\ninvest for the future, even against the backdrop of our\r\nrevenue challenges, and we have in the last two years added\r\nUS$500m to our Sovereign Wealth Fund and US$87m to the\r\nExcess Crude Account. This is the very opposite of the\r\nsituation before now, when rising oil prices failed to\r\ntranslate to rising levels of savings and investment.\r\n\r\n14. Admittedly, the economy has proven to be the biggest\r\nchallenge of all. Let me first express just how concerned we\r\nhave been, since this administration took office, about the\r\nimpact of the economic difficulties on our citizens.\r\n\r\n15. Through no fault of theirs, some companies shut down\r\ntheir operations, others downsized; people lost jobs, had to\r\nendure rising food prices. In some States civil servants\r\nworked months on end without the guarantee of a salary,\r\neven as rents and school fees and other expenses continued\r\nto show up like clockwork.\r\n\r\n16. We have been extremely mindful of the many sacrifices\r\nthat you have had to make over the last few years. And for\r\nthis reason this administration\u2019s work on the economic front\r\nhas been targeted at a combination of short-term\r\ninterventions to cushion the pain, as well as medium to long\r\nterm efforts aimed at rebuilding an economy that is no\r\nlonger helplessly dependent on the price of crude oil.\r\n\r\n17. Those short-term interventions include putting together\r\na series of bailout packages for our State Governments, to\r\nenable them bridge their salary shortfalls \u2013 an issue the\r\nPresident has consistently expressed his concerns about. We\r\nalso began the hard work of laying out a framework for our\r\nSocial Intervention Programme, the most ambitious in the\r\nhistory of the country.\r\n- One of the first tasks of the Cabinet and the Economic\r\nManagement Team was to put together a Strategic\r\nImplementation Plan for the 2016 budget, targeting\r\ninitiatives that would create speedy yet lasting impact on the\r\nlives of Nigerians.\r\n- Indeed, much of 2016 was spent clearing the mess we\r\ninherited and putting the building blocks together for the\r\nfuture of our dreams; laying a solid foundation for the kind\r\nof future that you deserve as citizens of Nigeria.\r\n- In his Budget Presentation Speech to the National\r\nAssembly last December, President Buhari outlined our\r\nEconomic Agenda in detail, and assured that 2017 -would be\r\nthe year in which you would begin to see tangible benefits of\r\nall the planning and preparation work. It is my pleasure to\r\nnote that in the five months since he delivered that speech,\r\nwe have seen tremendous progress, as promised.\r\n\r\n1. Take the example of our Social Investment Programme,\r\nwhich kicked off at the end of 2016. Its Home Grown School\r\nFeeding component is now feeding more than 1 million\r\nprimary school children across seven states and would be\r\nfeeding three million by the end of the year. N-Power,\r\nanother component has engaged 200,000 unemployed\r\ngraduates \u2013 none of whom needed any \u2018connections\u2019 to be\r\nselected. Beneficiaries are already telling the stories of how\r\nthese initiatives have given them a fresh start in their lives.\r\n\r\n2. Micro credit to a million artisans, traders and market men\r\nand women has begun. While conditional cash transfers to\r\neventually reach a million of the poorest and most\r\nvulnerable households has also begun.\r\n\r\n3. Road and power projects are ongoing in every part of the\r\ncountry. In rail, we are making progress with our plans to\r\nattract hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to\r\nupgrade the existing 3,500km narrow-gauge network. We\r\nhave also in 2017 flagged-off construction work on the\r\nLagos-Ibadan leg of our standard-gauge network, and are\r\nclose to completing the first phase of Abuja\u2019s Mass Transit\r\nRail System.\r\n\r\n4. In that Budget speech in December, the President\r\nannounced the take-off of the Presidential Fertilizer\r\nInitiative. Today, five months on, that Initiative \u2013 the product\r\nof an unprecedented bilateral cooperation with the\r\nGovernment of Morocco \u2013 has resulted in the revitalisation\r\nof 11 blending plants across the country, the creation of\r\n50,000 direct and indirect jobs so far, and in the production\r\nof 300,000 metric tonnes of NPK fertilizer, which is being\r\nsold to farmers at prices significantly lower than what they\r\npaid last year. By the end of 2017, that Fertilizer Initiative\r\nwould have led to foreign exchange savings of US$200\r\nmillion; and subsidy savings of 60 billion naira.\r\n\r\n5. The Initiative is building on the solid gains of the Anchor\r\nBorrowers Programme, launched in 2015 to support our rice\r\nand wheat farmers, as part of our move towards\r\nguaranteeing food security for Nigeria.\r\n\r\n6. All of this is evidence that we are taking very seriously our\r\nambition of agricultural self-sufficiency. I am delighted to\r\nnote that since 2015 our imports of rice have dropped by 90\r\npercent, while domestic production has almost tripled. Our\r\ngoal is to produce enough rice to meet local demand by\r\n2019. In April, the President launched our Economic\r\nRecovery and Growth Plan which built on the foundations\r\nlaid by the Strategic implementation Plan of 2016. The plan\r\nhas set forth a clear vision for the economic development of\r\nNigeria. I will come back to this point presently.\r\n\r\n7. Another highlight of the President\u2019s Budget Speech was\r\nour work around the Ease of Doing Business reforms. As\r\npromised we have since followed up with implementation\r\nand execution. I am pleased to note that we are now seeing\r\nverifiable progress across several areas, ranging from new\r\nVisa on Arrival scheme, to reforms at our ports and\r\nregulatory agencies.\r\n\r\n8. The President also promised that 2017 would see the\r\nrollout of Executive Orders to facilitate government\r\napprovals, support procurement of locally made goods, and\r\nimprove fiscal responsibility. We have kept that promise.\r\nThis month we issued three Executive Orders to make it\r\neasier for citizens to get the permits and licenses they\r\nrequire for their businesses, to mandate Government\r\nagencies to spend more of their budgets on locally produced\r\ngoods, and to promote budget transparency and efficiency.\r\nThe overarching idea is to make Government Agencies and\r\nGovernment budgets work more efficiently for the people.\r\n\r\n9. The impact of our Ease of Doing Business work is\r\ngradually being felt by businesses small and large; its\r\nsuccessful take-off has allowed us to follow up with the\r\nMSME Clinics -our Small Business support programme,\r\nwhich has taken us so far to Aba, Sokoto, Jos, Katsina, and\r\nwe expect to be in all other states in due course.\r\n\r\n10. Let me note, at this point, that several of our Initiatives\r\nare targeted at our young people, who make up most of our\r\npopulation. From N-Power, to the Technology Hubs being\r\ndeveloped nationwide, to innovation competitions such as\r\nthe Aso Villa Demo Day, and our various MSME support\r\nschemes, we will do everything to nurture the immense\r\ninnovative and entrepreneurial potential of our young\r\npeople. We are a nation of young people, and we will ensure\r\nthat our policies and programmes reflect this.\r\n\r\n11. One of the highlights of our Power Sector Recovery\r\nProgramme, which we launched in March, is a N701 billion\r\nNaira Payment Assurance Scheme that will resolve the\r\nfinancing bottlenecks that have until now constrained the\r\noperations of our gas suppliers and generation companies.\r\nLet me assure that you will soon begin to see the positive\r\nimpact of these steps.\r\n\r\n12. Our Solid Minerals Development Fund has also now\r\ntaken off, in line with our commitment to developing the\r\nsector. Because of our unerring focus on Solid Minerals\r\ndevelopment over the last two years, the sector has,\r\nalongside Agriculture, seen impressive levels of growth \u2013 in\r\nspite of the recession.\r\n\r\n13. On the whole, just as the President promised in the\r\nBudget Speech, these early months of 2017 have seen the\r\nflowering of the early fruit of all the hard work of our first\r\neighteen months.\r\n\r\n14. We opened the year with an overwhelmingly successful\r\nEurobond Offer \u2013 evidence of continuing investor interest in\r\nNigeria. We have also launched the Economic Recovery and\r\nGrowth Plan (ERGP) 2017-2020, to build on the gains of last\r\nyear\u2019s Strategic Implementation Plan. And the\r\nimplementation of our 2017 Budget, which will soon be\r\nsigned into law, will bring added impetus to our ongoing\r\neconomic recovery. In the 2016 Budget we spent 1.2 Trillion\r\nNaira on infrastructure projects, another milestone in the\r\nhistory of this country. Our 2017 Budget will double that\r\ninvestment.\r\n\r\n15. That budget also provides for substantial investment to\r\nimplement the rollout of Industrial Parks and Special\r\nEconomic Zones (SEZs), as well as our Social Housing\r\nProgramme. The Industrial Parks and Economic Zones will\r\nfulfill our ambition of making Nigeria a manufacturing hub,\r\nwhile the Family Home Fund of our Social Housing\r\nProgramme will provide inexpensive mortgages for low-\r\nincome individuals and families across the country.\r\n\r\n16. These plans offer yet more evidence that we are ramping\r\nup the pace of work; the work of fulfilling all that we\r\npromised. In the next two years we will build on the\r\nsuccesses of the last two. We have demonstrated a\r\nwillingness to learn from our mistakes and to improve on\r\nour successes. The critical points that we must address fully\r\nin the next two years are : Agriculture and food security,\r\nEnergy, (power and Petroleum,) Industrialization and\r\nTransport infrastructure. Every step of the way we will be\r\nworking with the private sector, giving them the necessary\r\nincentives and creating an environment to invest and do\r\nbusiness.\r\n\r\n17. Our vision is for a country that grows what it eats and\r\nproduces what it consumes. It is for a country that no longer\r\nhas to import petroleum products, and develops a lucrative\r\npetrochemical industry. Very importantly it is for a country\r\nwhose fortunes are no longer tied to the price of a barrel of\r\ncrude, but instead to the boundless talent and energy of its\r\npeople, young and old, male and female as they invest in\r\ndiverse areas of the economy.\r\n\r\n18. And that vision is also for a country where the wealth of\r\nthe many will no longer be stolen by or reserved for a few;\r\nand where the impunity of corruption \u2013 whether in the\r\npublic or private sectors \u2013 will no longer be standard\r\noperating practice; a land rid of bandits and terrorists.\r\n\r\n19. As citizens you all deserve a country that works, not\r\nmerely for the rich or connected, but for everyone. And our\r\npromise to you is that we will, with your support and\r\ncooperation, take every step needed to create that country\r\nof our dreams.\r\n\r\n20. We also know that this journey will of necessity take\r\ntime. But we will not succumb to the temptation to take\r\nshort-cuts that ultimately complicate the journey. We did not\r\nfind ourselves in crises overnight, and we simply do not\r\nexpect overnight solutions to our challenges.\r\n\r\n21. The most important thing is that we are on the right\r\npath, and we will not deviate from it, even in the face of\r\nstrong temptation to choose temporary gain over long-term\r\nbenefit. As the President has summed it up: \u201cThe old Nigeria\r\nis slowly but surely disappearing, and a new era is rising.\u201d\r\n\r\n22. And so we commemorate this second anniversary of our\r\nadministration with confidence and optimism. I firmly\r\nbelieve that we have put the most difficult phase behind us;\r\nand we are witnesses to the ever-increasing intensity of the\r\nlight at the end of the tunnel. We ask for your continued\r\ncooperation and support, to enable us realise all our best\r\nintentions and ambitions for Nigeria. On our part We will\r\ncontinue to carry you along on this journey, speak to you,\r\nexplain the challenges, and share our Vision.\r\n\r\n23. And while we all daily pre-occupy ourselves with\r\npursuing the Nigerian Dream \u2013 which is the desire to better\r\nour lives and circumstances vigorously and honestly \u2013 it is\r\ninevitable that grievances and frustrations will arise from\r\ntime to time.\r\n\r\n24. This is normal. What is not normal, or acceptable, is\r\nemploying these frustrations as justification for indulging in\r\ndiscrimination or hate speech or hateful conduct of any\r\nkind, or for seeking to undermine by violent or other illegal\r\nmeans the very existence of the sovereign entity that has\r\nbrought us all together as brothers and sisters and citizens.\r\n\r\n25. Nigeria belongs to all of us. No one person or group of\r\npersons is more important or more entitled than the other\r\nin this space that we all call home. And we have a\r\nresponsibility to live in peace and harmony with one\r\nanother, to seek peaceful and constitutional means of\r\nexpressing our wishes and desires, and to resist all who\r\nmight seek to sow confusion and hatred for their own selfish\r\ninterests.\r\n\r\n26. Before I end this speech, let me ask for your continued\r\nprayers for the restoration to full health and strength and\r\nthe safe return of our President.\r\n\r\n27. I congratulate all of you on today\u2019s commemoration of\r\nthis important day in the democratic calendar our country.\r\nNigeria is on a journey of greatness, and together we shall\r\narrive at the destination of our dreams.\r\n\r\n28. May God bless you all, and bless the Federal Republic of\r\nNigeria.