It is with full gratitude to God that today, we celebrate Nigeria’s sixty first Independence Anniversary.
For 1st of October 1960 to happen, all hands were on deck. East, West, North all came together to celebrate freedom.
Today should not only serve as a reminder of the day the British handed over the reins of power to Nigerians, but also unified Nigerians from all ethnic groups, religions and regions.
Today, despite the challenges we face, most Nigerians still maintain the spirit of 1st October.
That positive outlook and determination to make Nigeria a peaceful and prosperous nation.
It is due to this collective attitude that Nigeria doggedly continues to remain a united and indivisible nation.
Fellow Nigerians, the past eighteen months have been some of the most difficult periods in the history of Nigeria.
Since the civil war, I doubt whether we have seen a period of more heightened challenges than what we have witnessed in this period. Our original priorities for 2020 were to continue stabilising our economy following the deep recession while restoring peace in areas confronted with security challenges.
But the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on all nations meant we needed to shift gears and re-strategise.
Nigerians came together as one to fight against COVID-19. It is this attitude and by the special grace of God, we continue to survive the pandemic as a nation and indeed, provide leadership and example at regional and international levels.
The dooms day scenario predicted for our country never came. Even as the Delta variant continues to spread, we have built the capacity we need to respond now and into the future.
I will therefore appeal to Nigerians not to take COVID lightly, adhere to public health and social measures, put your mask on and get vaccinated. We can control this pandemic, but it requires effort on everybody’s part.
The investments we made in response to COVID-19 will also serve our country to tackle any future disease outbreaks or pandemics.
Despite the global inequity in access to vaccines, the Government of Nigeria has continued to explore all available options to ensure Nigerians have free access to safe and effective vaccines.
Some five million vaccine doses have been administered to Nigerians through efforts led by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and we will continue to explore options for purchase or acquisition of vaccines such as through COVAX and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust.
I will take this opportunity to remind the global community that the current state of access to COVID-19 vaccines is unacceptable.
We cannot afford a situation where a handful of countries keep the global vaccine supply to themselves at the expense of other nations. We must act now to accelerate equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
This is the message I conveyed to the international community in New York last week.
As we push to source vaccines for our immediate needs, we shall invest more to support our pharmaceutical and research agencies to come up with ideas for locally developed vaccines.
Should another pandemic arise in the future, our question is simple; will Nigeria be ready?
Accordingly, I have directed the Ministries of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Health, Education and Science and Technology to work with Nigerian and International pharmaceutical companies and research organisations to enhance Nigeria’s domestic pharmaceutical capacity.
Already, the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority is raising a $200 million fund for this initiative that will complement the Central Bank of Nigeria’s ongoing N85 billion Healthcare Sector Research and Development Intervention Scheme to support local researchers in the development of vaccines and drugs to combat communicable and non-communicable diseases, including COVID-19.
This is just the beginning. Similarly, on our approach to food security, I am proud to announce Nigeria has commenced its journey to pharmaceutical independence.
This journey, which will take years to achieve but will ultimately result in Nigerian based companies developing the Active Pharmaceutical substances and competence needed for us to make our own drugs and vaccines.
As our economy continues to open after the COVID-19 related lockdowns, we have also seen the resurgence of insecurity in certain parts of the country.
In the last four months, the gallant men and women of the Military and Security Agencies have made tremendous progress in addressing these new security challenges. We are taking the fight to our enemies from all angles and we are winning.
Earlier this year, I launched the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, the Deep Blue Project, which is designed to secure Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea.
I am happy to inform Nigerians that we have taken delivery of key assets for this project and very soon, its impact will be felt. In the North East region alone, over eight thousand Boko Haram terrorists have surrendered.
To support our surge approach to fighting banditry, the Nigerian Armed Forces have recruited over 17,000 personnel across all ranks.
Furthermore, I have also approved for the Nigerian Police Force to recruit 10,000 police officers annually over the next six years.
I am also pleased to note that most of the Air Force platforms we acquired over the past three years have started to arrive in Nigeria.
These will positively impact our security operations in all parts of the country. In line with section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), the security and welfare of Nigerians continue to be the prime focus on which programmes and projects of our government revolves.
Therefore, as a Government, we are ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action. Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering.
That said, our hope is not to fight for peace. We can always settle our grievances peacefully without spilling any blood.
I will therefore take this opportunity, on this special day that symbolises the unity and oneness of our great nation, to ask all Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue, whatever your grievances.
The seeds of violence are planted in people’s heads through words. Reckless utterances of a few have led to losses of many innocent lives and destruction of properties.
Such unfiltered and unsubstantiated lies and hate speeches by a few evil persons must be stopped. Our media houses and commentators must move away from just reporting irresponsible remarks to investigating the truth behind all statements and presenting the facts to readers.
We must all come out and speak against the lies being peddled.
At this point, I would want to sincerely appreciate the large number of our Traditional, Religious and Community leaders as well as other well-meaning Nigerians who, in their various fora are openly spreading the message of peaceful co-existence and conflict settlement through dialogue in their respective communities.
Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable. And its ultimate success can only be achieved if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation. We shall continue to work on dialogue based solutions to address legitimate grievances.
But we remain ready to take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten our national security.
The recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, and the ongoing investigations being conducted have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind these individuals.
We are vigorously pursuing these financiers including one identified as a serving member of the national assembly.
This is a clear example of how people abandon their national leadership positions for their selfish gains.
Instead of preaching unity, they are funding and misleading our youth to conduct criminal acts that sometimes lead to unfortunate and unnecessary loss of lives and property.
As the so-called leaders run abroad to hide, our innocent youths are misled and left in the streets to fight for their senseless and destructive causes.
Government will continue, with greater level of peoples’ participation and in collaboration with our international partners, to improve the security architecture, reduce enabling environment for criminality to thrive and eliminate opportunities for terrorism financing.
Our unrelenting effort at resolving an almost two-decade stalling on the management of our Petroleum resources and ensuring equitable consideration to our host communities has resulted in the enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act, 2021.
This Act not only overhauls the Institutional, regulatory and fiscal framework of the Petroleum Industry but also reduces the previous opacity associated with this sector.
This is the first step to the reforms as the process is a continuous one. Already, to further improve the governance framework, I have sought for an amendment of sections 11(2)(b) and 34(2)(b). We will also continue to review and amend as appropriate.
At this juncture, it is very appropriate that I salute the leadership and members of the Ninth Assembly for their patriotism, dedication to duty, candour and most importantly the dispatch with which they have enacted legacy legislations for this nation. I do not take such level of cooperation for granted and hope it continues for the overall efficiency of the Federal machinery.
Nigeria’s Roadmap on Local Refining is on track with the Commissioning of a Modular refinery in Imo State.
A second is scheduled for commissioning by the end of this year in Edo State and the third one in Bayelsa State by 2022.
In addition to the modular projects, we also have the two mega refinery projects coming up in Lagos and Akwa Ibom States.
As these refineries are commissioned, more employment opportunities are created and there would be increased petroleum products available for local consumption which will significantly reduce our reliance on importation.
In further demonstrating our plan to reduce our dependence on oil and tapping from our enormous gas resources, this administration remains committed to the “Decade of Gas” Initiative, which is aimed at bringing to focus the utilization of our huge gas resources.
Already, we are supporting and promoting various gas-based projects including NLNG Train 7 and the mega urea and ammonia projects in the South-South region.
As we continue to optimise and enhance our oil and gas sector, I am also proud and delighted to state that our economic diversification strategy remains on course with the persistent increase in Non-Oil Sector contribution to GDP.
We recovered from economic recession in quarter four of 2020 with a GDP growth rate of 0.11%, and grew by 0.51% and 5.01% in real terms in the first and second quarters of 2021.
The Agricultural sector remains key to our economic diversification efforts as the sector has been a consistent driver of the non-oil sector contributing 22.35% and 23.78% to the overall GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021.
We have seen significant private sector investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value chain. And these have continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, as our food production capacity has increased, food prices have been going up due to artificial shortages created by middlemen who have been buying and hoarding these essential commodities for profiteering.
To address this, I am hereby directing the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to rehabilitate the National Food Reserve Agency and also work with security agencies, the Nigerian Commodity Exchange, and the National Assembly to find a lasting solution to these disruptive and unpatriotic hoarding activities.
To further enhance food production, we have completed several new dams and are in the process of rehabilitating several River Basin Development Authorities to enhance ground water supply for rainfed agriculture as well as surface water for irrigation agriculture.
The water projects we completed between 2015 to 2020 have improved Nigerian’s access to potable water to 71% between 2015 and 2020. This means 12.5 million additional Nigerians now have direct access to potable water.
This Government remains concerned by the significant transportation infrastructure deficit we have. Addressing the challenges our commuters and lorry drivers face on the motorways is still a high priority to us.
To complement our budgetary allocations, the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund and the Road Infrastructure Development and Refurbishment Investment Tax Credit Scheme, we recently established a N15trillion Infrastructural Corporation of Nigeria Limited (INFRACO), which is expected to begin operation by the fourth quarter of this year.