Chris Steven, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said he felt like absconding from Nigeria when he learnt of the massive corruption that trailed previous administrations under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) especially that of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to Buhari,nobody should ascribe blames to his administration over the economic hardship Nigerians were going through as the recession which has become a global phenomenon was not a making of the present government.
The President said the unprecedented level of corruption which cut across all sphere still baffles him till date,especially when those at the helm of affairs busied themselves importing foreign foods and paying billions of dollars in subsidy claims for products we could source locally.
He made these remarks when he addressed Senior Executive Course 38 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies(NIPSS) who were at the Presidential Villa to present their research findings and report to the President.
“For 16 years and eight consecutive governments of the other party and you know that there was unprecedented revenue realized, the oil projection which can be verified was 2.1 million barrels per day. 1999-2015 the average cost of each Nigerian barrel of oil was $100 per barrel.
“When we came it fell to less than $30 per barrel and is now its oscillating between $40 and $50 dollars per barrel.
“Actually I felt like absconding because 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries and we know they have no other source than to depend on salaries to pay rent and raise their families.
“And I asked any savings? I was told there was no savings, I then asked what have you done on agriculture, power, rails, roads. Nothing. You know more than I do because you move around. I have not been moving around since after elections but you do, how many of the Trunk A-B roads are still good enough?
“How many power do we have although there are some elements of sabotage. I was told the money was used to import food and fuel. I didn’t believe the answer and I still don’t believe it. Until now substantial number of people in the East eat garri and groundnut, in the West pounded yam, cassava, vegetables, in the North tuwo which is made from any of the grains, millet, sorghum.
“They eat it in the night and warm it in the morning and eat it and take fura dinunu in the afternoon. How many of those people can afford foreign food?
Then they said I should check out the petroleum, the legislature dedicated 445,000 barrels per day and that is just 60 per cent of our requirements.
“I said okay what of the 40 per cent? The marketers that are bringing it just present documents, papers are just stamped and monies are taken away. This is the type of things that the Nigerian elites are doing for our own country. When you go back look at your colleagues and encourage them to be true Nigerians,”the President said.
Buhari also alluded that poverty had been a bane for Nigeria’s development,hence his administration’s resolve to nip the challenges at the bud.
He said rather than lamenting about the scale of the problem, the important thing was to find out strategies of tackling them to bring about lasting solutions.
He lauded the Course 38 participants for their excellent research on the topic,”Strengthening Institutional Mechanisms for Poverty Reduction and Inclusive Development”.
He said their research has exposed lots of issues on poverty and remedial measures which his administration would tap from to correct the ills.
His words,”Today, poverty reduction and inclusive development have become pillars of this administration and very close to my heart.
“I have looked forward to receiving this report because it touches on one of the fundamental problems confronting our nation. The report came at a time when our economy is experiencing a downturn and all efforts are being made by this administration to get our country moving again.
“In the last one and half years of this administration, the economy has experienced some tough times, particularly with the decline in oil revenues, which has some harsh impacts on Nigerians at the grassroots.
“It is also important to note that the economic recession is not the making of this administration, but rather a consequence of bad management of the economy in the past couple of decades. Nor is recession limited to Nigeria – there are far, far worse cases than Nigeria.
“Whatever the scale of the problem the important thing is how one tackles it. Accordingly, this administration is committed to finding lasting solutions to our economic structural imbalance.
“Let us have faith in our great nation that we will come out of this recession vibrant and strong. I am glad that the report presented today has given us reason to keep faith in our ability to overcome our challenges.
“There is no doubt that poverty for decades has been a major challenge to us as a nation despite the country’s enormous wealth. Several policies and programmes that have been implemented over the years, as rightly observed by the report, have not broken the cycle of poverty in Nigeria.
“From the findings of the research by the participants, it is evident that strengthening our institutions is key to reducing poverty and engendering inclusive development”.
Buhari however pledged his administration’s commitment to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals(SDGs).
“It is impossible for this administration to ignore the poor who made great sacrifice to bring us to government. Ours more than any other government in the history of Nigeria is a people’s government. We therefore must and we will keep faith with the people.
“This administration to the Sustainable Development Goals, most especially to ending extreme poverty in Nigeria. It is not going to be easy, but we are committed to dealing with the challenges in a decisive manner. Fortunately, the Report of the Participants has prescribed some concrete measures on how to reduce poverty in the country”.
Meanwhile, Acting Director General of NIPSS, Jonathan Juma said a lot can be done by the national institute if more robust budgetary support is extended to it.
He said such measures were necessary for the institute to operate as an “apex institution” and be at the forefront of relevant researches for national development
Juma said adequate funding would go a long way in recruiting and retaining top level academics, very senior technocrats and other experienced specialized experts.
He said,”at the moment, I must confess to you that the national institute is operating below its conceived capacity due to its inability to attract a full complement of requisite staff who would conduct research across broad strategic areas of national life and also impact new knowledge.
“The financial situation of the national institute is precarious. The payments for utility services are in arrears and worse still, we have to live with threats of litigation from numerous creditors.
“Operational vehicles in the institute’s fleet have aged and are a source of constant embarrassment . We have looked inward and appealed to the generosity of individuals and corporate Nigeria for support and we are glad that some have responded positively. However, a decisive presidential intervention for a sustainable funding of NIPSS is urgently required”.