President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to deal with any group of persons or individuals sabotaging his government’s efforts at ensuring adequate supply of petroleum products across the country.
The President in a nationwide broadcast this morning to usher in 2018, lamented the hardship experienced by Nigerians during Christmas as a result of long fuel queues at filling stations nationwide.
Buhari noted that it was unfortunate that most Nigerians could not travel because of high fares caused by what he described a collective blackmail to hoard fuel and sell at exorbitant rates by some individuals.
Petrol sold between N200 and N500 per litre in different parts of the country as against the official pump price of N145 per litre.
According to Buhari, what happened during Christmas is unacceptable given that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots.
“I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.
“Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country,” he stressed.
Buhari also challenged Nigerians to change from their old ways of doing things in the New Year if the desire to transform the country must be achieved.
He said his administration’s policy trust remained that of change, which was central to repositioning Nigeria and uplifting the lives of the citizens.
“Our government’s watchword and policy thrust is Change. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity,” the President said.
According to Buhari, the Federal Government under his watch was in the right direction of providing critical infrastructure in various sectors including roads, power, housing among others as a deliberate step to renew and increase Nigeria’s stock of infrastructure in order to achieve global economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
Buhari said that already a major feat has been recorded in the power sector with generation and distribution capacity of electricity increased presently to 7,000 megawatts.
“The Transmission Company of Nigeria can now distribute all the 7,000MW that can be generated. TCN and the Niger Delta Holding Company have added 1,950MVA of 330 down to 132KV transformer capacity of 10 transmission stations and 2,930MVA of 132 down to 33KV transformer capacity of 42 sub-stations including Ikot Ekpene, Aba, Alagbon, Ajah, Ejigbo, Funtua and Zaria,” Buhari noted.
The President noted that “more Nigerians across the country are experiencing improved power supply to their homes and businesses. However, power remains a concern to this government because too many people still do not have regular and reliable supply.
“The Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which started in January 2016 has enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise so far N701 billion to assure Generation Companies of at least 80% payment for any power delivered to the national grid.
“A landmark project, Mambilla Hydroelectric Power Project is at last taking off. This project has been on the drawing board for 40 years, but now the engineering, procurement and construction contract for the 3,050MW project has been agreed with a Chinese joint venture company with a financing commitment from the government of China. Completion is targeted for 2023,” the President said.
The President assured that in the coming months and years, his government will make in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.
He also said that given the level of success recorded in the agricultural sector, beginning this year, the Federal Government will end the importation of rice into the country.
“Two years ago I appealed to people to go back to the land. I am highly gratified that agriculture has picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to re-structure the economy.
“Rice imports will stop this year. Local rice, fresher and more nutritious will be on our dishes from now on,” he added.
Speaking on other efforts by the administration, the President said the Federal Government has set for itself ambitious targets in the rail sector.
His words: “Already in construction stage is the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway. The line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019 and will carry two million passengers per year and five million tons of cargo will be transported every year giving a substantial boost to the country’s economy.
“Construction of the Kano–Kaduna segment is expected to commence this year and reach Kaduna by the end of 2019. By the end of 2021 the two ends will be joined so that we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.
“The Abuja–Kaduna route will be boosted by additional rolling stock next Thursday and will be able to handle one million commuters annually.
“Negotiations are also advanced for the construction of other railway lines, firstly from Kano to Maradi in Niger Republic passing through Kazaure, Daura, Katsina, Jibia to Maradi and secondly, Lagos to Calabar the “Coastal Rail” through Ore, Benin, Agbor, Asaba, Onitsha, Sapele, Ughelli, Warri, Yenagoa, Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo and Calabar.
“In the next few years, all these Nigerian cities will be linked by functional modern rail systems, giving enormous boost to the social and economic life of our people.
“With respect to the Abuja Capital Light Rail, progress has reached 98 per cent completion, as at 64 per cent completion when we assumed office. Only test runs remain before start of operations,” Buhari said.
The President stated that “this train service will stimulate economic activities in the Federal Capital and provide residents with an efficient and safe transportation system,” he added.
Buhari explained that the Management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency (FERMA) has been charged with a 12-week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones in the country.
Government, according to him, is undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.
The President assured that 25 major highways will be funded under the N100 billion SUKUK facility in the coming months with each geo-political zone benefiting by an equal amount of N16.67 billion.
The major highways expected to receive special attention include Oyo–Ogbomosho; Ofusu–Ore–Ajebandele–Shagamu; Yenagoa Road Junction–Kolo Otuoke–Bayelsa Palm; Enugu–Port Harcourt Dual Carriage Way; Onitsha–Enugu Expressway and Kaduna Eastern Bypass.
Others are the dualization of Kano–Maiduguri Road, dualization of Abuja–Lokoja–Benin Road and dualization of Suleja–Minna Road.
The President said the Federal Government has approved work to start on the re-construction of Abuja–Kaduna–Zaria–Kano road which is in a state of disrepair.
Buhari, who advised Nigerians to buckle up and get used to discipline and direction in economic management, said the days of business as usual were numbered.
Speaking on the continued agitation for the restructuring of Nigeria, President Buhari said that no human law or edifice is perfect.
He explained that the problem of Nigeria has more to do with process than structure.
“When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure,” he said.
The President also called on politicians as the country moves into a politicking year to avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics.
He said such must be avoided at all costs if we are to live in harmony.
“In this respect the rest of Nigeria could learn from the South Western States who have successfully internalised religion, ethnicity and politics,” he stressed.