Monday, February 2, 2015 10:14 pm
At a well attended interactive session on Monday morning, the All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, met with members of the Organized Private Sector pledging to work with them closely to grow the economy, create jobs and restore the dignity of labour among Nigerians.
Addressing a cross section of business chief executives, manufacturers and investors at the Lagos House, Marina, in Central Lagos, General Buhari said the policies for implementing his administration’s commitments would be guided “as practical as it is possible to do so”, by the highest consideration of how they create jobs in the country.
According to General Buhari, while Privatization will be supported to achieve its desired objective with the power utilities by going further to transmission, an enabling environment would be created for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to thrive across the country.
The APC Presidential Candidate, who again outlined the priorities of his government to include Security, the Economy and stemming of Bribery and Corruption, said equipping and funding the nation’s security personnel would not be limited to the provision of arms alone but would include uniforms, boots and other accompaniments adding that these would create jobs for the textile and shoemaking industries.
He said his administration would seriously commit to Power supply as a means of quickly galvanizing the economy back to productivity adding that although the APC supports privatization of power utilities, the Party believes that privatization must go further to include transmission of power.
General Buhari expressed regrets that nothing much has been achieved beyond the signing and handing over of the power assets pointing out that after the ceremonies which, according to him , took place a few years back, the real work of producing, transmitting and distribution of power has not been done.
“The reason why the success seems elusive is that apart from the signing ceremony and handover of the power assets, the hard work to connect the various parts of the power chain, gas supply, transformer installation of substations, has not been done”, the APC Presidential Flag bearer said.
Noting that based on a study carried out by the Party, the nation would need no less than 200,000 trained personnel to support the initiative to provide power and light up Nigeria, General Buhari said apart from the inherent direct employment that it would give, the reduction in cost of production, the savings from self-generation by Nigerians would reduce the burden on their disposable income.
The APC Flag bearer said such savings engendered by reliable power supply would help the average Nigerian spend his money on other basic necessities of life and reduce poverty adding that his administration would fully support the initiative to build a refinery in Lagos.
“We will support this initiative because a local refinery means many things including availability of jobs locally at a Nigerian refinery instead of a refinery abroad, local fuel supply and national Security, reduced importation, less demand for foreign exchange and strengthening of the Naira”, General Buhari said.
The APC Presidential Flag bearer said his administration would also invest massively on roads construction “from one end of Nigeria to the other” adding, “Road construction alone will unlock a value chain of opportunities in the built industry for construction companies, builders, engineers, architects, quarry operators, cement and iron production and supply”.
“The successful opening up of Nigeria by the construction of new roads and highways will revive road transportation, truck and tyre manufacture, engine oil and brake pad production on one hand and it will also create a demand for jobs for mechanics, drivers and those engaged in transport support businesses”, he said.
Noting that the manifesto of the APC is the product of a survey that took over six months to develop, General Buhari, who said the issues of insecurity, corruption and the economy were the biggest worries among the electorates, pointed out that those issues were interconnected with Mining, Agriculture, Infrastructure and Job creation in the sense that not much could be achieved without security and eradication of corruption.
According to the APC Flag bearer, “Corruption affects our ability to secure ourselves and it also undermines the performance of the economy. This current Government is being challenged to account for an estimated $20 Billion and the whole country is awaiting a report of a forensic audit. $20 Billion at N210 to $1.00 is equal to N4.2 Trillion- nearly a year’s federal budget”.
“If it is true that this sum cannot be accounted for, this is grossest form of corruption. Just think at N5 Million per vehicle, this money would have bought 840,000 patrol vehicles to improve security in every town and village in the country; at N13.5 Million for a high capacity bus this money would have bought 311,000 buses; from information at my disposal, Lekki Bridge in Lagos cost N29 Billion to construct. N4.2 Trillion would have built 145 Lekki bridges”, he said.
Nigeria, General Buhari noted, is too vulnerable considering that at this moment the country has to import fuel to move her planes, her tanks and her men, adding “We are too vulnerable as you can see that we also have to import arms. We are vulnerable because our troops also depend on imported food”.
While fielding questions from the Captains of industry, General Buhari said what his administration would do differently in fighting corruption would be to insist on due process in awarding contracts as specified in the Constitution adding that the choice of contractors must be based on record of excellence and in the best interest of the nation.
On whether or not his administration would probe past corruption, the APC Flag bearer replied, “If we continue to look back, we will never move forward but the day an APC government is sworn in, those who have been responsible for doing government business will have to behave themselves, that is all I can say”.
He reiterated that his administration would prioritize agriculture, mining and infrastructure to provide jobs for the nation’s teeming youths adding that the fact that majority of the youth who, he said, constitute 40 percent of the population, are jobless is a dangerous situation.
General Buhari promised that an APC government would set up industries to produce tomato puree in the country and stop importation adding that he would also set up facilities to preserve the tomatoes for transportation to markets across the country.
“I was shocked to hear how much was being spent in importing tomato puree because while driving from Kaduna to Kano, I see the quantity of tomatoes wasting while being harvested and transported to markets across the country”, he said.
On what extent the Change being proposed by his Party would go, General Buhari, who said the Change would be positive declared, “Whatever we see on ground that can enhance our programmes will be utilized. As far as continuity is concerned, an APC government will at once try to identify what policies are worth continuing and those that are not”.
On oil and gas, the APC Flag bearer said his administration would collaborate with Shell and British Petroleum (BP) to share their study and see how his government could put an installation that would separate the gas from the crude and channel it to the location where it would be utilized for Power generation.
He declared, “Given the ratio of gas to oil in the country, Nigeria should be more of a gas country than an oil country. Nigeria, honestly, has no business being in the dark because we have all the resources to provide enough Power but it is us, the elite, that have failed to manage these resources”.
In his closing remarks, Director of the General Muhammadu Buhari/Professor Yemi Osinbajo Presidential Campaign Fundraising Committee and Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola SAN, said the difference between the APC and the Peoples Democratic party (PDP) could be found in the manifestoes of the two parties pointing out that while the manifesto of the APC was both people-based and research-based as well as designed for problems in 2015 going on to 2919, what the PDP has was the 1999 manifesto.
“The other point that I want to make in closing is that the transformation that has been put forward has headed South not North. The Naira has weakened, interest rate has skyrocketed and it is for us to choose whether we want four more years of that menu. Meanwhile, the Naira is on a free fall in an economy that is import denominated and it will only mean that the purchasing power of our disposable income will continue to reduce”, the Governor said.
According to him, “The necessity for now is to halt that free fall. That is something we cannot vote continuity on, I will not. But more importantly, as the Candidate has said, it is not very much of how much Nigeria has earned but what value we get out of that money”.
“If we have sold crude oil, our major income earner for almost six years, at over $100 per barrel and all of us are saying there is pain, do we continue when there is reduced income and reduced capacity with the same team and the same management capacity? If they couldn’t do much with over $100 per barrel, can we trust them to do more when the price of oil is less?, he asked.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, Chairman of the Policy and Strategy Committee of the Presidential Campaign Committee and former Governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said the APC believed that the economy of the country was at the heart of whatever progressive transformation that the nation would witness under its administration by good works.
Also present at the interactive session were members of the State executive Council including the Deputy Governor, Hon. (Mrs.) Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire and Commissioner for Finance, Mr. Ayo Gbeleyi, among others, national Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organization and Governor of Rivers State, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, and Captains of Industry as well as other local and foreign Industry stakeholders.