Connect with us

Focus

‘Nigeria’s Economic Recovery ’ll Pick Up Pace In 2018’

Published

on

Being a text of the 2018 Budget Proposals presented to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.
Exerpts.

Protocols
I am here to present 2018 Budget Proposals. Before presenting the Budget, let me thank all of you distinguished and honourable members of the National Assembly, and indeed all Nigerians, for your support and prayers for my full recovery while I was on medical vacation.
I am very pleased to address this Joint Session of the National Assembly, on the revenue and expenditure estimates, and related matters, of the Federal Government of Nigeria for the 2018 fiscal year.
The 2018 Budget will consolidate on the achievements of previous budgets and deliver on Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2018 – 2020.
Overview Of Economic Developments In 2017
2017, so far, has been a year of uncertainty on many fronts across the world. Whether it is Brexit, the crisis in the Korean Peninsular, or indeed, the political uncertainty in key oil producing nations of the Middle East and South America, we can all agree that these developments have in one way or another impacted Nigeria’s economic fortunes.
By all accounts, 2018 is expected to be a year of better outcomes. The tepid economic recovery is expected to pick up pace and the global political terrain is expected to stabilise. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is anticipating global GDP growth of 3.7 percent in 2018. Emerging markets and developing economies are expected to lead with GDP growth of 4.9 percent, while advanced economies are projected to grow at a slower rate of 2 percent.
Nigeria’s journey out of the recent recession was a revealing one. We heard many opinions from within and outside Nigeria on how best to address our economic woes. We listened carefully and studied these proposals diligently. Our belief has always been that the quickest and easiest solution may not necessarily be the best solution for a nation as diverse as ours. We took our time to create a balanced and equitable response, keeping in mind that only tailored Nigerian solutions can fix Nigeria’s unique problems.
And from the recovery that we are seeing today, it is clear that we made the right decisions. Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, I am now asking you to continue to support our economic policies in order to consolidate and sustain on the success achieved so far. We simply cannot go back.
In the non-oil sector, crop production has been one of the main contributors to non-oil growth, which rose to 0.45 percent in the second quarter of this year. This was primarily driven by our ongoing financial, capacity building and infrastructure development programs.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, working with development partners and the private sector, has embarked on numerous capacity building projects. We have also completed over 33,000 Hectares of Irrigation Projects that have increased water availability in key food producing states. We shall continue to intensify our interventions through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme and the Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to ensure that this momentum is sustained. We have also made provisions in the 2018 Budget to complete ongoing Irrigation Projects at Ada, in Enugu State; Lower Anambra, in Anambra State; and Gari, in Jigawa State. In 2017, many factories and projects in the food and agricultural sectors were commissioned in Kebbi, Nasarawa, Kaduna, Anambra, Edo, Jigawa, Rivers, Niger, Ogun and Ebonyi States, to mention a few. This is a clear statement that our economic diversification and inclusive growth ambitions are coming to fruition.
Significant progress has also been made in the Solid Minerals development sector. In Ondo State, for instance, work is ongoing to fully exploit the bitumen resources to meet the 600,000 MTs of asphalt imported per annum for roads and other construction projects. To consolidate on these efforts, we have also established a 30 billion Naira Solid Minerals Development Fund to support other minerals exploration activities across the country.
In the oil and gas sector, the relatively higher crude oil prices supported our economic recovery. Our mutually beneficial engagement with oil producing communities in the Niger Delta contributed immensely to the recovery in oil production experienced in recent months. We would like to thank the leadership and communities in the Niger-Delta for their continued support and to also reiterate our assurances that this Administration will continue to honour our commitments to them. We cannot afford to go back to those dark days of insecurity and vandalism. We all want a country that is safe, stable and secure for our families and communities. This means we must all come together to address any grievances through dialogue and peaceful engagement. Threats, intimidation or violence are never the answer.
We are working hard on the Ogoni Clean-up Project. During the year, we engaged 8 international and local companies proposing different technologies for the mandate. To enable us select the best and most suitable technology for the remediation work, we asked each company to conduct Demonstration Clean-up Exercises in the 4 Local Government Areas of Ogoni Land. These Demonstrations were recently concluded and the results are being studied by the Governing Council of the Ogoni Clean-up Project. Although the Project will be funded by the International Oil Companies, we have made provisions in the 2018 Budget for the costs of oversight and governance, to ensure effective implementation.
On the international front, I would like to thank our friends and partners in the Joint OPEC / Non-OPEC Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) who graciously granted Nigeria an exemption from the output cuts imposed on OPEC Member Countries in January 2017. This exemption, which was extended in September 2017, significantly helped during our most challenging time. We shall continue our positive engagement with other oil producing nations to ensure that the momentum generated is sustained.
Permit me, Mr Senate President and Right Honourable Speaker, to state that despite the downturn in oil prices and our challenging economic circumstances, this Administration was able to invest an unprecedented sum of over 1.2 trillion Naira in capital projects through the 2016 Budget. This is the highest ever in the history of this country. This is a clear demonstration of our commitment to consolidate on our economic diversification reforms and lay a stronger foundation for future growth and development.
Our Sovereign Wealth Fund, which was established in 2011 with US$1 billion, did not receive additional investment for 4 years when oil prices were as high as US$120 per barrel. However, despite record low oil prices, this Administration was able to invest an additional US$500 million into the Fund. This further demonstrates that in our struggle to have a stable and secure nation today, we have not, and will not, lose sight of the need to lay a solid foundation for the future prosperity of successive generations.
We have asked the Sovereign Wealth Fund to look inward and invest locally. Some of the successes we are seeing today in the agricultural sector are driven by this new investment approach by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA). The NSIA also has a very strong pipeline of local investments that will support our inclusive and diversified economic growth plan.
Stability has been restored to the foreign exchange market due to the interventions by the Central Bank of Nigeria to improve access to liquidity, discourage currency speculation and increase net foreign exchange inflows. As at the 30th of October, 2017, our external reserves had increased to US$34bn. This stability has supported our efforts to provide the enabling environment and interventions needed to empower Micro, Small and Medium-Sized enterprises, investors, manufacturers and exporters, to sustain and in some cases, grow their operations. Indeed, by the second quarter of 2017, exports significantly outpaced imports, resulting in a trade surplus of 506.5 billion Naira.
Ease of Doing Business Reforms
One of the targets we set for gauging our progress in creating an enabling environment for business was to achieve a positive movement in the World Ease of Doing Business Index. You would recall Nigeria experienced a decade-long decline in this ranking. In 2008, Nigeria was ranked 120th. By 2015, our situation had deteriorated to 169th of the 189 countries surveyed. Our very simple, logical and user-friendly reforms are reversing this trend. A recently released World Bank business ranking report announced that Nigeria had moved 24 places to 145th position in 2017. I am delighted that we have met and even surpassed our target of moving at least 20 paces up this global ranking. The same World Bank report also stated that Nigeria is among the top 10 reforming countries in the world.
To ensure these reforms are institutionalised, Executive Order Number 1 on the Promotion of Transparency and Efficiency in the Business Environment was issued in May 2017. The Order contained measures that ease the process of business registration, approval of permits, granting visas and streamlining port operations. We are committed to continuing and accelerating the Ease of Doing Business reforms, which are critical to attracting new investments, growing the economy and creating jobs for our people.
Improved Tax Administration
Although the economy is diversified with non-oil Sector accounting for over 90 percent of total Nominal GDP, the Government’s revenues are not as diversified yet. Our Tax-to-GDP ratio of about 6% is one of the lowest in the world. This situation is not consistent with our goal of having a diversified, sustainable and inclusive economy. Accordingly, we are stepping up efforts to ensure all taxable Nigerians comply with the legal requirement to declare income from all sources and remit taxes due to the appropriate authorities.
Already, we have introduced the Voluntary Assets and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) on the 1st of July, 2017. The Scheme provides non-compliant taxpayers with a nine-month window to regularise their tax status relating to historical periods. In return, overdue interest and penalties will be forgiven. In addition, no investigations or criminal charges will be brought against participating taxpayers. We expect that this Scheme will widen the tax net for both the Federal and State Governments. I am therefore, asking all Nigerians to seize this opportunity and do the right thing. Let us not shy away from our duty to build a better Nigeria.
Optimising Efficiency in Expenditure
In 2016, this administration adopted a policy of allocating at least 30 percent of our annual budget to capital expenditure. This was entrenched in the ERGP to unlock further growth in the economy. This tradition was maintained in the 2017 Budget and has been reflected in the proposal for 2018, in which 30.8 percent of total expenditure has been set aside for the capital vote.
To support these efforts, you would recall that an Efficiency Unit was set up under the Federal Ministry of Finance to reduce wastage, plug leakages and foster greater fiscal transparency. We have intensified the implementation of the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) across government MDAs to automate personnel records and salaries’ payment process, with the goal of eliminating ghost workers. 461 Federal MDAs have been captured on the system, so far. Our target is to enroll all MDAs. I have directed the military and other security agencies to ensure total compliance without further delay.
Increased Investment in Infrastructure
Mr Senate President, and the Right Honourable Speaker, we shall continue to develop our infrastructure across the country. Although a lot of progress has been made, the huge contractor liabilities we inherited have adversely impacted our infrastructure development timetable. Indeed, contractors were owed trillions of Naira when this Administration came into office. In some areas, we have made payments so projects may be completed; while in others, we are reconciling the liabilities to identify and settle legitimate claims. As a responsible and accountable Administration, we decided that clearing this backlog was an important priority.
For instance, at the outset of this Administration in 2015, the Abuja Metro-Rail Project, which began in 2007 was only 50 percent completed, after 8 years. Today, in just 18 months, we have pushed the project to 98 percent completion. This was achieved as the Nigerian Government was diligently able to meet its counterpart funding obligations for the Chinese loans.
We have also continued work on key strategic Roads. Over 766 kilometres of roads were constructed or rehabilitated across the country in 2017. For instance, work is at various stages of completion on these strategic roads with immense socio-economic benefits:
a.  Rehabilitation of Ilorin-Jebba-Mokwa-Birnin-Gwari-Kaduna Road;
b. Dualisation of Oyo-Ogbomosho-Ilorin Road;
c.  Rehabilitation of Gombe-Numan-Yola Road;
d. Dualisation of Kano-Maiduguri Road;
e.   Rehabilitation of Sokoto-Tambuwal-Jega Road and Kotangora-Makera Road that transverse Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger States;
f.   Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Enugu-Port-Harcourt Road;
g. Rehabilitation of Enugu-Onitsha Dual Carriageway Road;
h.  Rehabilitation of Aleshi-Ugep Road and the Iyamoyun-Ugep Section in Cross River State;
i.  Rehabilitation, Reconstruction and Expansion of Lagos-Ibadan Dual Carriageway Road;
j.   Construction of Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue in Nasarawa and Benue States; and
k.  Construction Gokanni Bridge along Tegina-Mokwa-Jebba Road in Niger State.
Under the Federal Roads Development Programme, we recently completed a Data Collection Exercise on the 7,000km Federal Road Network which was funded by the World Bank. This information is enabling us to make informed decisions regarding the planning, budgeting and management of the Federal Road Network. Going forward, we will be working based on facts rather than subjectivity.
Furthermore, we have also invested a lot of time and effort in identifying alternative means of funding new projects. For example, the recent 100 billion Naira Sukuk Financing will cater specifically for the development of 25 roads across the country. We also developed different structures that empower private investors to contribute to the development of roads of significant national importance. Already, we are seeing results. For example:
a.    The Bonny-Bodo Road is being jointly funded by the Federal Government and Nigeria LNG Limited. This project was conceived decades ago but it was abandoned. This Administration restarted the project and when completed, it will enable road transportation access for key communities in the Niger- Delta region; and
b.    The Apapa Wharf-Toll Gate Road in Lagos State is also being constructed by private sector investors in exchange for tax credits.
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly, our Power Sector Reforms still remain a work in progress. Although we have increased generation capacity significantly, we still have challenges with the Transmission and Distribution Networks. That said, I am pleased to announce that since 2015, the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN) and Niger-Delta Power Holding Company (NDPHC) have added 1,950 MVA of 330-132kV transformer capacity at 10 Transmission stations, as well as 2,930 MVA of 132-33kV transformer capacity to 42 substations nationwide. With these additions, the Transmission Network today can handle up to 7,000 Mega Watts (MW).
The key bottleneck now is the Distribution Network where the substations cannot take more than 5,000 MW. This is constraining power delivery to consumers. We are working with the privatized Distribution Companies to see how to overcome this challenge. Nigerians should be rest assured that this Administration is doing all it can to alleviate the embarrassing power situation in this country.
Furthermore, to sustain the continued expansion of generation capacity and enhance evacuation, we approved a Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader (NBET) to raise 701 billion Naira. This assures the Generation Companies of up to 80% payment on their invoices. This intervention has brought confidence back into the sector and we expect additional investment to flow through, particularly in the gas production sector.
Distinguished Members of the National Assembly, this Administration is committed to the development of Green Alternative Energy Sources. To date, we have signed Power Purchase Agreements (PPA) with 14 solar companies. We also approved:
a.    The completion of the 10 MW Wind Farm in Katsina State, a project that was abandoned since 2012; and
b.    The concession of 6 small hydro-electric power plants with a total capacity of 50 MW.
To enable the successful take-off of these, and future Green Projects, I am pleased to inform this Distinguished Assembly that the Federal Government will be launching the first African Sovereign Green Bond in December 2017. The bond will be used to finance renewable energy projects. We are very excited about this development as it will go a long way in solving many of our energy challenges, especially in the hinterland.
On Rail, we recently received 2 additional locomotives and 10 standard gauge coaches for the Abuja-Kaduna Rail Line. These will be deployed for the new non-stop express service between the two cities that will only take one hour and fifteen minutes. This new service will complement the existing service currently in place. We plan to commission this by December 2017.
We have also kick-started the abandoned Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri Rail Line. This project has been on for over 17 years. We had to take some drastic measures but I am pleased to announce that work is ongoing and we expect to commission this service by September 2018. This service will start with 7 standard gauge coaches.
The situation at the Apapa port complex is a top priority for this Administration. The delays due to congestion and their adverse impact on business operations and costs is a key concern to our Government. As I mentioned earlier, we are partnering with the private sector to fix the road. We shall do the right thing considering. We will not cut corners.
In addition to the road, we have also commenced the extension of the Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail Line to connect Apapa and Tin Can Port Complexes. This project will significantly ease the congestion at the ports and enhance both export and import operations. This project shall be completed by December 2018. Already, working with the private sector, we have repaired the Apapa Port Narrow Gauge Line which is currently being used to evacuate goods from the port, thereby easing congestion.
As we all know, sometimes doing the right thing takes time and requires sacrifices. I am therefore appealing to all stakeholders to work with us in ensuring we deliver a solution that we will all be proud of.
Certainly, the infrastructure requirement to reposition Nigeria for the future is huge and our resources are limited. Government, therefore, will pursue private partnerships to maximise available capital and developmental impact. In the next fiscal year, we will also establish 7 tertiary health institutions across the country through partnership with our Sovereign Wealth Fund and other private sector investors.
Agricultural Development
The agricultural sector played a crucial role in Nigeria’s exit from recession. Today, it remains the largest employer of labour and holds significant potential to realise our vision of repositioning Nigeria as a food secured nation.
We will consolidate on existing policies and develop new ones to ensure the numerous value chain challenges in the agricultural sector are addressed. As I mentioned earlier, several investors have deployed significant capital in the production and processing of rice, sugar, maize, soya, cassava, yams, tomato, oil palm, rubber and poultry, to mention a few. We are also seeing increased investment in the agro-inputs manufacturing sector such as fertilisers.
We are determined to protect these investments and encourage more. Food Security is an important aspect of this Administration’s National Security agenda. Any person involved in smuggling of food items is a threat to our National Security and will therefore be dealt with accordingly. A Committee chaired by the Vice President is working on this matter. A key part of their work will be the reactivation of the Badagry Agreement signed between Nigeria and the Republic of Benin in 2003. This agreement, which was abandoned by previous Administrations, established a mutually beneficial framework for the two neighbours and allies to partner in tackling smuggling and other cross border crimes. I would like to assure investors in the agricultural value chain that the menace of smuggling will be handled decisively.
To further support investors and State Governments, we will accelerate the establishment of at least 6 Staple Crop Processing Zones, in the first phase. This initiative will develop infrastructure for the production, processing and storage of strategic commodities. The focus is on backward integration for grains, horticulture, livestock, fisheries and sugar; as well as exportable commodities such as cocoa, cassava and oil palms.
Health Sector Developments
During 2017, the country had a number of disease outbreaks such as Meningitis, Yellow Fever, Monkey Pox and Lassa Fever. I would like to commend the Federal and State Ministries of Health for their selfless service and timely responses to contain these outbreaks. I would also like to thank the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund and UNICEF, for their continued support during these trying times. This collaboration was a key factor in the low mortality rates experienced. To further improve our response to such outbreaks, we are working to upgrade our Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System. This will further enhance the efficiency of our diagnostic and clinical management processes.
In this respect, I urge this Distinguished House to expedite the passage of the Bill for the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control to enable us consolidate on the successes recorded to date.
Implementing the Social Investment Program
I am pleased to inform you that we have recorded tremendous success in the implementation of the Federal Government’s Social Investment Programme. Specifically,
a.    Over 4.5 million Primary 1 to Primary 3 pupils in public schools are being fed under the School Feeding programme;
b.    Over 200,000 unemployed graduates have been employed under the N-Power Scheme in education, health and agricultural sectors;
c.    Over 250,000 enterprises have benefitted from the sum of 12.5 billion Naira, which has been disbursed to entrepreneurs to expand their businesses; and
d.    Over 110,000 households are currently benefitting from the Conditional Cash Transfer programme across the country.
Performance Of The 2017 Budget
The 2017 Budget of Recovery and Growth was based on a benchmark oil price of US$44.5 per barrel, oil production of 2.2 million barrels per day, and a Naira-to-US Dollar Exchange Rate of 305. Based on these assumptions, total revenue of 5.084 trillionNaira was projected to fund aggregate expenditure of 7.441 trillion Naira. A projected fiscal deficit of 2.356 trillion Naira was to be financed mainly by domestic and external borrowing.
On revenue performance, collections were 14 percent below target as of September 2017, mainly due to the shortfall in non-oil revenues.
A key revenue shortfall was from Independent Revenues; only 155.14 billion Naira was remitted by September 2017 as against the projected pro-rated sum of 605.87 billion Naira. This represents a 74 percent shortfall, which is very disappointing.
This recurring issue of under-remittance of operating surpluses by State Owned Entities is absolutely unacceptable. You will all recall that in September 2017, the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) announced that they were ready to remit 7.8 billion Naira back to the Government. The shocking discovery was that in the last decades, JAMB only remitted an aggregate of 51 million Naira. This clearly illustrates the abuses that occur in State Owned Entities as well as their potential for increased Independent Revenues, if only people would do the right thing. We all need to play our role to ensure the right thing is done. I would also like to remind Nigerians that the Whistle Blower lines are still open.
Accordingly, I have directed the Economic Management Team (EMT) to review the fiscal profiles of these agencies, to ensure strict compliance with the applicable Executive Orders and Financial Regulations. There may be a need to consider a review of the Fiscal Responsibility Act and the Executive will be approaching the National Assembly on this issue in due course.
On the expenditure side, a total of 450 billion Naira of the capital vote had been released as at the end of October 2017. With your support for our funding plan, our target is to release up to 50% of the capital vote for MDAs by the year’s end.  We have prioritised payments of our counterpart obligations on our concessionary loans, as well as funding of critical infrastructure and other projects with socio-economic benefits. Furthermore, MDAs have made provisions to carry over to the 2018 Budget, capital projects that are not likely to be fully funded by year-end 2017, to ensure project continuity.
Regrettably, the late passage of the 2017 Budget has significantly constrained budget implementation. As you are aware, the 1999 Constitution authorized necessary Federal Government expenditures prior to the 12th of June, 2017 when the 2017 Appropriation Act was signed into law. This year, we have worked very hard to achieve an earlier submission of the Medium-term Expenditure Framework and Fiscal Strategy Paper (MTEF/FSP), and the 2018 Appropriation Bill. Our efforts were to avail the National Assembly with sufficient time to perform its important duty of passing the Appropriation Bill into law, hopefully by the 1st of January, 2018. It is in this spirit that I solicit the cooperation of the Legislature in our efforts to return to a more predictable budget cycle that runs from January to December.
Priorities For The 2018 Budget Of Consolidation
The 2018 Budget Proposals are for a Budget of Consolidation. Our principal objective will be to reinforce and build on our recent accomplishments. Specifically, we will sustain the reflationary policies of our past two budgets. In this regard, the key parameters and assumptions for the 2018 Budget are as set out in the 2018-2020 Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) and Fiscal Strategy Paper (FSP). These include:
a.    Benchmark oil price benchmark of US$45 per barrel;
b.    Oil production estimate of 2.3 million barrels per day, including condensates;
c.    Exchange rate of N305/US$ for 2018;
d.    Real GDP growth of 3.5 percent; and
e.    Inflation Rate of 12.4 percent.
Federally-Collectible Revenue Estimates
Based on the above fiscal assumptions and parameters, total federally-collectible revenue is estimated at 11.983 trillion Naira in 2018. Thus, the three tiers of Government shall receive about 12 percent more revenues in 2018 than the 2017 estimate. Of the amount, the sum of 6.387 trillion Naira is expected to be realised from oil and gas sources. Total receipts from the non-oil sector are projected at 5.597 trillion Naira.
Federal Government Revenue Estimates
The Federal Government’s estimated total revenue is 6.607 trillion Naira in 2018, which is about 30 percent more than the 2017 target. As we pursue our goal of revenue diversification, non-oil revenues will become a larger share of total revenues. In 2018, we project oil revenues of 2.442 trillion Naira, and non-oil as well as other revenues of 4.165 trillion Naira.
Non-oil and other revenue sources of 4.165 trillion Naira, include several items including: Share of Companies Income Tax (CIT) of 794.7 billion Naira, share of Value Added Tax (VAT) of 207.9 billion Naira, Customs & Excise Receipts of 324.9 billion Naira, FGN Independently Generated Revenues (IGR) of 847.9 billion Naira, FGN’s Share of Tax Amnesty Income of 87.8 billion Naira, and various recoveries of 512.4 billion Naira, 710 billion Naira as proceeds from the restructuring of government’s equity in Joint Ventures and other sundry incomes of 678.4 billion Naira.
Proposed Expenditure for 2018
A total expenditure of 8.612 trillion Naira is proposed for 2018. This is a nominal increase of 16 percent above the 2017 Budget estimate. In keeping with our policy, 30.8 percent (or 2.652 trillion Naira) of aggregate expenditure (inclusive of capital in Statutory Transfers) has been allocated to the capital budget.
We expect our fiscal operations to result in a deficit of 2.005 trillion Naira or 1.77 percent of GDP. This reduction is in line with our plans under the ERGP to progressively reduce deficit and borrowings.
We plan to finance the deficit partly by new borrowings estimated at 1.699 trillion Naira. Fifty percent of this borrowing will be sourced externally, whilst the balance will be sourced domestically. The balance of the deficit of 306 billion Naira is to be financed from proceeds of privatisation of some non-oil assets by the Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE).
61.         The proposed 8.612 trillion Naira of 2018 Aggregate Expenditure comprises:
a.    Recurrent Costs of N3.494 trillion;
b.    Debt Service of N2.014 trillion;
c.    Statutory Transfers of about N456 billion;
d.    Sinking Fund of N220 billion (to retire maturing bond to Local Contractors);
e.    Capital Expenditure of N2.428 trillion (excluding the capital component of Statutory Transfers).
Statutory Transfers
62.         456.46 billion Naira was provided in the 2018 Budget for Statutory Transfers. The 5 percent increase over last year’s provision is mainly due to increases in transfer to Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), which are related directly to the size of oil revenue.

Debt Restructuring
63.         We are closely monitoring our debt service to revenue ratio. We shall address this ratio through our non-oil revenue-generation drive and restructuring of the existing debt portfolio. Presently, domestic debt accounts for about 79 percent of the total debt. Our medium-term strategy is to reduce the proportion of our domestic debt to 60% by the end of 2019 and increase external debt to 40 percent. It is noteworthy that rebalancing our debt portfolio will enhance private sector access to domestic credit.  In addition, annual debt service costs will reduce as external debts are serviced at lower rates and repaid over a longer period than domestic debt.
Recurrent Expenditure
64.         A substantial part of the recurrent cost proposal for 2018 is for the payment of salaries and overheads in key Ministries providing critical public services such as:
a.    N510.87 billion for Interior;
b.    N435.01 billion for Education;
c.    N422.43 billion for Defence; and
d.    N269.34 billion for Health.
The allocation to these Ministries represent significant increases over votes in previous budgets.
Personnel Costs
65.         Personnel costs is projected to rise by 12 percent in 2018. Although we have made substantial savings by registering MDAs on the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) platform, the increase is mainly due to provision for staff promotion arrears, and recruitments by the Military, Police Force and para-military agencies. Furthermore, I have directed agencies are not to embark on any fresh recruitment unless they have obtained all the requisite approvals. Any breach of this directive will be severely sanctioned.
Overhead Costs
66.         Overhead costs is projected to rise by 26 billion Naira in 2018, a modest increase of about 12 percent reflecting inflationary adjustments. MDAs are required to adhere to government regulations regarding cost control.
Capital Expenditure
67.              To consolidate on the momentum of the 2017 Budget’s implementation, many ongoing capital projects have been provided for in the 2018 Budget. This is in line with our commitment to appropriately fund ongoing capital projects to completion. By allocating 30.8 percent of the 2018 Budget to capital expenditure, the Federal Government is also demonstrating its strong commitment to investing in critical infrastructure capable of spurring growth and creating jobs in the Nigerian economy.
68.         Key capital spending allocations in the 2018 Budget include:
a.    Power, Works and Housing: N555.88 billion;
b.    Transportation: N263.10 billion;
c.    Special Intervention Programmes: N150.00 billion;
d.    Defence: N145.00 billion;
e.    Agriculture and Rural Development N118.98 billion;
f.     Water Resources: N95.11 billion;
g.    Industry, Trade and Investment: N82.92 billion;
h.    Interior: N63.26 billion;
i.     Education N61.73 billion;
j.     Universal Basic Education Commission: N109.06 billion;
k.    Health: N71.11 billion;
l.     Federal Capital Territory: N40.30 billion;
m.  Zonal Intervention Projects N100.00 billion;
n.    North East Intervention Fund N45.00 billion;
o.    Niger Delta Ministry: N53.89 billion; and
p.    Niger Delta Development Commission: N71.20 billion.
69.         As I had previously indicated, we aim to consolidate on our achievements in 2017. We shall meet our counterpart funding obligations. We shall complete all ongoing projects. And we shall carry forward all strategic projects that were budgeted for but which we were unable to kick start due to liquidity challenges, late passage of the budget, prolonged contractual negotiations, and other matters.
70.         Specifically, I would like to bring your attention to the following key projects and programmes that we are determined to implement in 2018:
a.    N9.8 billion for the Mambilla hydro power project, including N8.5 billion as counterpart funding;
b.    N12 billion counterpart funding for earmarked transmission lines and substations;
c.    N35.41 billion for the National Housing Programme;
d.    N10.00 billion for the 2nd Niger Bridge; and
e.    About  N300 billion for the construction and rehabilitation of the strategic roads mentioned earlier.
Consolidating on the Social Intervention Programme
71.         This Administration remains committed to pursuing a gender-sensitive, pro-poor and inclusive growth. We are keenly interested in catering for the most vulnerable. Accordingly, we have retained the 500 billion Naira allocation to the Social Intervention Programme. Under the programme, 100 billion Naira has been set aside for the Social Housing Programme.
72.         Government will also continue to implement the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme, as well as the National Home-Grown School Feeding programme in 2018. These initiatives are already creating jobs and economic opportunity for local farmers and cooks, providing funding to artisans, traders and youths, as well as supporting small businesses with business education and mentoring.

Regional Spending Priorities for Peace, Security and Development
73.         To maintain peace and security in the Niger Delta for economic and social activities to thrive, the provision of 65 billion Naira for the Presidential Amnesty Programme has been retained in the 2018 Budget. In addition, the capital provision for the Ministry of Niger Delta has been increased to 53.89 billion Naira from the 34.20 billion Naira provided in 2017. This is to further support the development in the region. We will complete all critical projects, including the East-West Road, which has a provision of about 17.32 billion Naira in 2018.
74.         Across the nation, and particularly in the North East region, our commitment to the security of life and property remains absolute. We will ensure that our gallant men and women in arms are properly equipped and well-motivated. The result of our efforts is evident in the gradual return to normalcy in the North East. It is in this spirit that I recently assented to the North-East Development Commission Bill that was passed by this Distinguished House. We expect that this development will consolidate on our ongoing efforts to combat insurgency, reintegrate Internally Displaced Persons and rebuild communities in the North East Region, which have been adversely affected by the insurgency.
75.         Similar attention is being given to efforts to reduce violent crime across the country. The Nigerian Army was recently deployed to combat the growing scourges of cattle rustling and banditry that have plagued our communities in Kaduna, Niger, Kebbi, Katsina and Zamfara States. We will also continue to arrest the incidence of Armed Robbery, Kidnapping and other Violent Crimes across our nation.
76.         We have also increased our focus on cyber-crimes and the abuse of technology through hate speech and other divisive material that is being propagated on social media. Whilst we uphold the Constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the liberties of other citizens or threatens to undermine our National Security, we will take firm and decisive action.
77.         In this regard, I reiterate my call for Nigerians to exercise restraint, tolerance and mutual respect in airing any grievances and frustrations. Whilst the ongoing national discourse on various political issues is healthy and welcome, we must not forget the lessons of our past. I trust that the vast majority of our people would rather tread the path of peace and prosperity, as we continue to uphold and cherish our Unity in Diversity.

CONCLUSION
78.              Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, you will recall that in my 2017 Budget Speech, I promised a new era for Nigeria and an end to the old ways of overdependence on oil revenues. The statistics and initiatives I mentioned clearly show that this new era has come and the old Nigeria is surely disappearing. We must, therefore, all work together to protect and sustain this CHANGE to create a new Nigeria:
a.      A Nigeria that feeds itself;
b.      A Nigeria that optimally utilizes its resources;
c.       A Nigeria with a diversified, sustainable and inclusive economy.
79.         Mr. Senate President, Mr. Speaker, Distinguished and Honourable Members of the National Assembly, this speech would be incomplete without commending the immense, patriotic and collaborative support of the National Assembly in the effort to move our great nation forward. I wish to assure you of the strong commitment of the Executive branch to deepen the relationship with the Legislature.
80.         Nigeria is currently emerging from a very difficult economic period. If we all cooperate, and support one another, we can consolidate on our exit from the recession and firmly position Nigeria for economic prosperity. All the projects presented within this Budget have been carefully selected and subjected to extensive consultations and stakeholder engagements. As a Government, we are determined to bring succour to our people, improve their lives, and deliver on our promises to them. 2018 is a crucial year as we strive to ensure that we consolidate our successes and institutionalize the policies and practices that drove this turnaround.
81.         I appeal to you to swiftly consider and pass the 2018 Appropriation Bill.
82.         It is therefore with great pleasure and a deep sense of responsibility, that I lay before this Distinguished Joint Session of the National Assembly, the 2018 Budget Proposals of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
83.         I thank you most sincerely for your attention.
84.         May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Focus

Rivers SEEFOR: The Journey So Far

Published

on

The need for youth employment and access to socio-economic services formed the bases for the formation of the State Employment and Expenditure for Results (SEEFOR) Project, to consolidate the gains from the amnesty programme of the Federal Government and ensure that youths do not fall back to social vices.
The Project which is financed with credit from the World Bank, grant from European Union and counterpart fund from the State Government, commenced implementation on July 31, 2013. The objective is to enhance opportunities for employment and access to socio-economic services whilst improving the Public Financial Management Systems in the four Niger Delta participating States of Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Rivers.
SEEFOR has two main components: Component A: Youth employment and access to socio-economic services and Component B: Public Financial Management (PFM) Reforms.
Since implementation commenced in Rivers State, the project has traversed the nooks and crannies of the state and transformed lives of several youths, women and communities at large.
Reviewing the activities of the multifaceted project across its sub-components: Public Works, Technical, Vocational and Agricultural Training (TVAT), Community Driven Development-Economic and Community Driven Development-Social as well as its Public Financial Management Component, beneficiaries bared their minds on the activities of the Project.
Under the Public Works Sub-Component, which entails executing small road maintenance and waste management projects, the State Project Coordinator, Mr Kelcious Amos said it has surpassed its target of executing 224 projects and engaging 10,845 beneficiaries to executing 497 projects and engaging 21,770 beneficiaries.
Some beneficiaries and resident of communities visited expressed their gratitude: At Okwutake Community in Degema LGA where Utie-Iwula Road was maintained; a resident, Mrs Elizabeth Brown said “the road was very bad that people could not even use it during rainy season, people could not go through the road to the Waterside, but after SEEFOR’s intervention, the road is now very assessable.”
At Apostolic Church Road, in Eleme one of the beneficiaries, Miss Christy Ogbaji said the project has given her engineering knowledge that she can apply anywhere.
At Lawson’s Compound/Health Centre Road where a mini bridge was constructed to replace a worn-out wooden bridge that was there, the community members thanked the project for the bridge that has eased transportation of sick people and pregnant women in and out of the Health Centre. They also said the bridge is connecting them to nearby communities and called for more projects in the community.
Speaking on the TVAT sub-component, the State Project Coordinator said the project had a target of training 5,436 youths but 6,134 youths have benefited from this sub-component and some have received starter packs. He explained further that SEEFOR has intervened in four technical schools that include Government Technical College (GTC) Ahoada, Ele-Ogu, Port Harcourt and Tombia. Others are Government Craft Development Centre, Port Harcourt, School-to Land Authority, Rumudomaya, Women Development Centre Taabaa, Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori and Capt. Elechi Amadi Polytechnics, Rumuola.
He explained further that under Ken Saro-Wiwa and Elechi Amadi Polytechnics youths were trained in the following short-term skills; air-conditioning and refrigeration maintenance, carpentry/wood work, computer and phone repair/maintenance, electrical installation, block laying, concreting and iron mongery, automobile technology, electronics installation/maintenance, plumbing/tiling, and welding and fabrication.
SEEFOR in collaborated with some non-state actors also trained youths in Fashion Designing, welding and fabrication, Carpentry/wood work, livestock farming, catering and hotel management.
In addition to the above, the project engaged volunteer teachers to augment the effort of the State government in technical schools.
The Community Driven Development (CDD) sub-component has provided both economic and social succour to rural dwellers. A review of the Community Driven Development-Social (CDD-S) that was designed to provide access to social infrastructure in rural communities based on needs assessment and project selection, reveal that the project has intervened in 448 communities and implemented 94 micro projects across 17 LGAs
Assessing the impact of the project in communities showed a visibly elated people who applauded SEEFOR for infrastructural development through micro project provided for them.
At Ewika in Eleme where a Civic Centre and Borehole was constructed, the traditional ruler, Chief Jacob Mpka said the project was the first of its kind in the history of the Community. He explained that since the inception of the community they have being without potable water, that the construction of borehole by SEEFOR Project was a big relief to the entire Egbere Ewika Community and its environs. The Chief further said the Civic Centre is now a source of social gathering for the people.
Similarly, in Igwuruta where 240 km walk way was constructed; Hon Ken Amaewhule who spoke on behalf of the community thanked SEEFOR for the road, that has boosted both their individual and commercial activities.
At Kalaibiama Community in Bonny LGA, members of the community thanked the project for the electrification of the community which had hitherto being in darkness.
The CDD-E sub-component is created to provide grant for the implementation of agricultural micro project in rural communities thereby increasing their income base. SEEFOR Project is collaborating with FADAMA III to implement this sub-component. So far, 712 cooperatives have benefitted from this sub-component across 49 communities.
Members of some communities who spoke on behalf of their communities were unanimous in their accolade for the project.
At Somiari-Ama, Tere-Ama Community in Port Harcourt LGA where a poultry and lives stock cluster farm was implemented as well as public convenience;
Mrs Dorathy Somiari thanked the project for given the community opportunity to raise their income base as some youths in the community where employed to work on the farm in addition to the proceeds from the farm which is sold periodically. A representative of the community Mr Emmanuel Somiari said by siting the public convenience there, several causalities have been averted, noting that before SEEFOR’s intervention, aged people usually fall down while trying to climb the wooden bridge to toilet.
At Umuagwu in Omuma LGA where market stalls, public convenience and water micro projects were sited, members of the community thanked SEEFOR/FADAMA, adding that it has improved their businesses, social and individual lives as people now have markets stalls to sell their goods without fear of rain and sun, while the search for portable water has been eliminated.
Speaking on behalf of Ido SEEFOR/FADAMA Community Association in Asari-Toru, Mr Sagbe Endure thanked the project for the Cluster farm sited in the community and the borehole water project that has replaced the well water that was the only source of drinking water in the community.
The State Project Coordinator, speaking on Component B of the project said; the Public Financial Management Component is designed to deepen the on-going financial management reform effort of the State Government to ensure judicious utilization of public fund. It is also to improve and modernise the PFM systems, practices, processes and institutions with the aim of improving efficiency and effectiveness in managing public resources to achieve value for money.
Enumerating on the achievements of the component, Mr Amos listed the following:
• Draft Bills for the PFM Legislation and Audit has been passed by the RSHoA and await executive assent.
• Fiscal strategy paper and budget manual developed
• Socio-Economic survey of the State completed
• 10 year State Development Plan (2017 – 2027) completed
• Procured ICT Equipment to the Min. of Budget & Economic Planning
• IPSAS based Chart of Account developed
• Production of IPSAS based Annual budget since 2015
• Procedure Manual for financial reporting developed
• IPSAS cash based financial Report produced since 2017
• Capacity building within and outside the country across all sub-component of the PFM Reform
• SIFMIS infrastructure all in place
• Training of 300 SIFMIS End-Users in basic ICT skills completed
• Standard bidding document developed for BoPP
• Public Asset register developed for BoPP
• Development of document management system completed
• Establishment of procurement Data Base for BoPP completed
• Rivers State BoPP website upgrade completed
Giving an over view of the assessment of the performance of SEEFOR Project in the State, the National Project Coordinator, Dr Greg Onu said “Rivers SEEFOR has surpassed its targets in most indicators, some by 200%, some by 250%”. He applauded Rivers Project Team for the success recorded and ensuring that the project objective is achieved.
The National Project Coordination Team was in the State on a Media Tour of some project sites to access the success of the project in preparation for the project closure in September 2020.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Focus

Coronavirus: FG’s Deadly Double Standard In Rivers

Published

on

The politicisation of the fight against the spread of Coronavirus has brought to the fore the deadly application of exclusive list by officials of the Federal Government when it comes to issues that relate to Rivers State and the safety of its people.
This morning (April 12, 2020) as I perused through the newspapers, one report published by Punch Newspaper caught my attention. This report exposed the deadly double standards against Rivers State and her people. It also exposes the underlying deliberate plot to undermine the health security system of the state.
The report: “Chinese doctors’ flight:  How three airline crew members ‘disappeared’ from Lagos quarantine centre” highlighted how the Federal Government is collaborating with the Lagos State Government to quarantine pilots and crew members of Air Peace who flew in  Chinese doctors into the country. These pilots and crew members will be isolated from the rest of the Lagos community for 14 days to ascertain their Coronavirus status.
Please click this link to read the full report: https://punchng.com/chinese-doctors-flight-how-three-airline-crew-members-disappeared-from-lagos-quarantine-centre/
From the report, the Lagos State Government has quarantined 17 personnel of Air Peace who went on that national assignment on behalf of the Federal Government, operators of the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST. Amongst these 17 personnel are pilots and flight attendants.
Reading through the report, it is clear that the quarantine procedure is mandatory, especially when such crew members have entered a Coronavirus impacted territory. In the case of Nigeria, Lagos State is a Coronavirus-impacted territory.
The Commissioner for Health, Lagos State, declared that community transmission of Coronavirus is in full swing in the state. With this public declaration, it is necessary that precautionary measures be taken as long as the persons are coming from that location.
Please read this report for the confirmation of community transmission of Coronavirus in Lagos: https://businessday.ng/exclusives/article/rising-community-transmission-of-covid-19-strengthens-case-for-social-distancing/
Recall that the Federal Government has quarantined the Chinese doctors that are in the country to carry out medical outreach on behalf of the Federal Government.
This brings me to the main point that I have set out to make. The Federal Government that has emphasised EXCLUSIVE LIST every step of the way in relation to interactions with pilots and AVIATION, has willingly allowed the LAGOS STATE GOVERNMENT to quarantine 17 Air Peace pilots and crew to stem the spread of Coronavirus.
In fact, three crew members that escaped from quarantine were located by the joint team of the Federal and Lagos State Governments to apprehend them for the overall safety of Lagos State.
Air Peace did not raise alarm. The Federal Government did not raise alarm to warn the Lagos State Government that it has touched the ALMIGHTY EXCLUSIVE LIST.
The quarantine of the 17 Air Peace personnel who were on National Service was never programmed to be an issue during the daily press conferences at Abuja. Therefore, the Minister of Aviation, Alhaji Hadi Sirika, the chief advocate of EXCLUSIVE LIST had no reason to insult the Lagos State Governor the way he insulted Governor Wike for defending the people of Rivers State and the health security system of the state.
If you read through the report of Punch on the issue, it was programmed to present Lagos State Government as caring for her people. Several Pro-APC Media will replicate this report. Pro-Lagos Editorials will be written about the proactive isolation of these Air Peace personnel on National Service.
I will also throw up another point highlighted in the Pro-APC Report on the quarantine of the Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. There is a standing order of the Federal Ministry of Health that persons flying from Coronavirus-impacted territories be quarantined to check the virus.
Let me quote a paragraph from the said Sunday Punch report of April 12, 2020 that underlines the preferential treatment accorded Lagos State and the unfortunate politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus by the agencies of the Federal Government, operators of the EXCLUSIVE LIST.
“The 17 pilots and flight attendants later on Wednesday proceeded to Lagos to be quarantined by the Lagos State Government in line with an agreement the Ministry of Health reached with the carrier’s management. The Chinese medical personnel were quarantined in Abuja,” Sunday Punch wrote.
The above paragraph indicates that each time a flight leaves and returns, necessary precautionary measures must be taken to check the spread of Coronavirus and the general transmission of the virus. In Lagos State and Abuja, the Federal Government is ever ready to observe the established health protocols to check the spread of Coronavirus.
But when it comes to Rivers State, the operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST are willing to risk the lives of over six million Rivers people and Nigerians just to drill barrels of oil. They are willing to insult the Rivers State Governor everyday on National Television and Mainstream Media for insisting on the implementation of an agreement for the observation of basic health protocols to protect the lives of Nigerians, wherever they may be.
This is what the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said about the observation of the health protocols on flights.
He said, “They knew that before they came and have undergone tests before they left their country. Nevertheless, they will be in quarantine for 14 days. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control has gone to see where they will be quarantined.”
To think that two leading national newspapers allowed themselves to be used to lampoon the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, for insisting on the operation of the health protocols underscores the rot in the country. The hatred for the truth is nauseating, embarrassing and unfortunate.
If 17 personnel of a leading airline who flew 14 hours nonstop to China to ferry essential health equipment to tackle Coronavirus for the overall safety of Nigeria could be quarantined for 14 days in line with established health protocols, why would anyone justify the reckless flights into Port Harcourt by Caverton Helicopters, who consistently refused to observe health protocols?
If the Federal authorities allowed the Lagos State Health Authorities to freely operate at the Murtala Mohammed Airport, where they apprehend pilots on essential services and quarantine them for the safety of Lagos people, why embolden CAVERTON HELICOPTERS to disregard health protocols when they fly into Rivers State?
The entire world is singing from one hymn page to ensure the safety of everyone. But in Nigeria, the situation is different. The Federal Government has instituted measures that frustrate the fight against Coronavirus in major opposition states. Aside encouraging private businesses to compromise the health security system of Rivers State at this critical time, there is no federal support for Governor Wike to carry out this herculean task.
With the 17 Air Peace personnel on compulsory quarantine, nobody has heard of threats from the Airline Operators of Nigeria threatening fire and brimstone. But they issued deadlines on Rivers State Government because they were primed to do so, even though they know of the health protocols operational at this time.
It is sad that the Federal Government will engage in this needless game of double standards. Introducing politics into the fight against the spread of Coronavirus is counterproductive.  It makes the entire country vulnerable and weakens the health defence mechanism of all the 36 states.
The objective of the fight against Coronavirus is to stop the virus from decimating the Nigerian population. In this fight, all established health protocols must be respected whether in Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt or Enugu. Undermining health protocols in Port Harcourt because Rivers State is on another political path, is dangerous and would undermine the national struggle.
This double standard is deadly. It is unnecessary and it is unfortunate. Nobody should fuel the spread of the virus in one part of the country because of the irregular application of EXCLUSIVE LIST.  God has exposed this aspect with the quarantine of Air Peace personnel by the Lagos State Government. All Nigerians should begin to reason along the safety of the population and not the falsehood of operators of EXCLUSIVE LIST.
It is in our national interest for the Federal Government to discard the politicisation of the fight against Coronavirus and enthrone national respect for the operation of the established health protocols agreed by all tiers of government. What is EXCLUSIVE LIST in the face of national ill-health?
I conclude with Governor Wike’s advice to the Federal Government on the dangers of politicising the fight against Coronavirus.
He said: “It is quite unfortunate that the containment of Coronavirus has been politicized by the Federal Government. Every state is important in the fight against the spread of Coronavirus. Therefore, no state should be singled out for special treatment. The Federal Government should prevail or its agencies that connive with Aero Contractors and Caverton Helicopters to fly in workers on essential services to the state to ensure that the health status of these individuals as it relates to COVID-19 is ascertained.”
Nwakaudu is Special Assistant to Rivers State Governor on Electronic Media

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Focus

COVID-19 Is Not A Joke -Buhari

Published

on

Fellow Nigerians In my address on Sunday, 29th March, 2020, I asked the
residents of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory to stay at home for an initial period of fourteen days starting from Monday, 30th March 2020.
Many State Governments also introduced similar restrictions.
As your democratically elected leaders, we made this very difficult decision knowing fully well it will severely disrupt your livelihoods and bring undue hardship to you, your loved ones and your communities.
However, such sacrifices are needed to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our country. They were necessary to save lives.
Our objective was, and still remains, to contain the spread of the Coronavirus and to provide space, time and resources for an aggressive and collective action.
The level of compliance to the COVID-19 guidelines issued has been generally good across the country. I wish to thank you all most sincerely for the great sacrifice you are making for each other at this critical time.
I will take this opportunity to recognise the massive support from our traditional rulers, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) during this pandemic.
I also acknowledge the support and contributions received from public spirited individuals, the business community and our international partners and friends.
I must also thank the media houses, celebrities and other public figures for the great work they are doing in sensitizing our citizens on hygienic practices, social distancing and issues associated with social gatherings.
As a result of the overwhelming support and cooperation received, we were able to achieve a lot during these 14 days of initial lockdown.
We implemented comprehensive public health measures that intensified our case identification, testing, isolation and contact tracing capabilities.
To date, we have identified 92% of all identified contacts while doubling the number of
testing laboratories in the country and raising our testing capacity to 1,500 tests per day.
We also trained over 7,000 Healthcare workers on infection prevention and control while deploying NCDC teams to 19 states of the federation.
Lagos and Abuja today have the capacity to admit some 1,000 patients each across several treatment centres.
Many State Governments have also made provisions for isolation wards and treatment centres. We will also build similar centers near our airports and land borders.
Using our resources and those provided through donations, we will adequately equip and man these centres in the coming weeks. Already, health care workers across all the treatment centers have been provided with the personal protective equipment that they need to safely carry out the care they provide.
Our hope and prayers are that we do not have to use all these centres. But we will be ready for all eventualities.
At this point, I must recognise the incredible work being done by our healthcare workers and volunteers across the country especially in frontline areas of Lagos and Ogun States as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
You are our heroes and as a nation, we will forever remain grateful for your sacrifice during this very difficult time. More measures to motivate our health care workers are being introduced which we will announce in the coming weeks.
As a nation, we are on the right track to win the fight against COVID-19.
However, I remain concerned about the increase in number of confirmed cases and deaths being reported across the world and in Nigeria specifically.
On 30th March 2020, when we started our lockdown in conforming with medical and scientific advice, the total number of confirmed cases across the world was over 780,000.
Yesterday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases globally was over one million, eight hundred and fifty thousand. This figure is more than double in two weeks!
In the last fourteen days alone, over 70,000 people have died due to this disease.
In the same period, we have seen the health system of even the most developed nations being overwhelmed by this virus.
Here in Nigeria, we had 131 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 12 States on 30th March 2020. We had two fatalities then.
This morning, Nigeria had 323 confirmed cases in twenty States. Unfortunately we now have ten fatalities. Lagos State remains the center and accounts for 54% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria. When combined with the FCT, the two locations represent over 71% of the confirmed cases in Nigeria.
Most of our efforts will continue to focus in these two locations.
Majority of the confirmed cases in Lagos and the FCT are individuals with recent international travel history or those that came into contact with returnees from international trips.
By closing our airports and land borders and putting strict conditions for seaport activities, we have reduced the impact of external factors on our country. However, the increase in the number of States with positive cases is alarming.
The National Centre for Disease Control has informed me that, a large proportion of new infections are now occurring in our communities, through person-to-person contacts. So we must pay attention to the danger of close contact between person to person.
At this point, I will remind all Nigerians to continue to take responsibility for the recommended measures to prevent transmission, including maintaining physical distancing, good personal hygiene and staying at home.
In addition, I have signed the Quarantine Order in this regard and additional regulations to provide clarity in respect of the control measures for the COVID-19 pandemic which will be released soon.
The public health response to COVID-19 is built on our ability to detect, test and admit cases as well as trace all their contacts. While I note some appreciable progress, we can achieve a lot more.
Today, the cessation of movement, physical distancing measures and the prohibition of mass gatherings remain the most efficient and effective way of reducing the transmission of the virus. By sustaining these measures, combined with extensive testing and contact tracing, we can take control and limit the spread of the disease.
Our approach to the virus remains in 2 steps – First, to protect the lives of our fellow Nigerians and residents living here and second, to preserve the livelihoods of workers and business owners.
With this in mind and having carefully considered the briefings and Report from the Presidential Task Force and the various options offered, it has become necessary to extend the current restriction of movement in Lagos and Ogun States as well as the FCT for another 14 days effective from 11:59 pm on Monday, 13th of April, 2020. I am therefore once again asking you all to work with Government in this fight.
This is not a joke. It is a matter of life and death. Mosques in Makkah and Madina have been closed. The Pope celebrated Mass on an empty St. Peter’s Square. The famous Notre Dame cathedral in Paris held Easter Mass with less than 10 people. India, Italy and France are in complete lockdown. Other countries are in the process of following suit. We cannot be lax.
The previously issued guidelines on exempted services shall remain.
This is a difficult decision to take, but I am convinced that this is the right decision. The evidence is clear.
The repercussions of any premature end to the lockdown action are unimaginable. 43. We must not lose the gains achieved thus far. We must not allow a rapid increase in community transmission. We must endure a little longer.
I will therefore take this opportunity to urge you all to notify the relevant authorities if you or your loved ones develop any symptoms. I will also ask our health care professionals to redouble their efforts to identify all suspected cases, bring them into care and prevent transmission to others.
No country can afford the full impact of a sustained restriction of movement on its economy. I am fully aware of the great difficulties experienced especially by those who earn a daily wage such as traders, day-workers, artisans and manual workers.
For this group, their sustenance depends on their ability to go out. Their livelihoods depend on them mingling with others and about seeking work. But despite these realities we must not change the restrictions.
In the past two weeks, we announced palliative measures such as food distribution, cash transfers and loans repayment waivers to ease the pains of our restrictive policies during this difficult time. These palliatives will be sustained.
I have also directed that the current social register be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million households in the next two weeks. This means we will support an additional one million homes with our social investment programs. A technical committee is working on this and will submit a report to me by the end of this week.
The Security Agencies have risen to the challenges posed by this unprecedented situation with gallantry and I commend them. I urge them to continue to maintain utmost vigilance, firmness as well as restraint in enforcing the restriction orders while not neglecting statutory security responsibilities.
Fellow Nigerians, follow the instructions on social distancing. The irresponsibility of the few can lead to the death of the many. Your freedom ends where other people’s rights begin.
The response of our State Governors has been particularly impressive, especially in aligning their policies and actions to those of the Federal Government.
In the coming weeks, I want to assure you that the Federal Government, through the Presidential Task Force, will do whatever it takes to support you in this very difficult period. I have no doubt that, by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic.
I must also thank the Legislative arm of Government for all its support and donations in this very difficult period. This collaboration is critical to the short and long-term success of all the measures that we have instituted in response to the pandemic.
As a result of this pandemic, the world as we know it has changed. The way we interact with each other, conduct our businesses and trade, travel, educate our children and earn our livelihoods will be different.
To ensure our economy adapts to this new reality, I am directing the Ministers of Industry, Trade and Investment, Communication and Digital Economy, Science and Technology, Transportation, Aviation, Interior, Health, Works and Housing, Labour and Employment and Education to jointly develop a comprehensive policy for a “Nigerian economy functioning with COVID-19”.
The Ministers will be supported by the Presidential Economic Advisory Council and Economic Sustainability Committee in executing this mandate.
I am also directing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, the National Security Adviser, the Vice Chairman, National Food Security Council and the Chairman, Presidential Fertiliser Initiative to work with the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 to ensure the impact of this pandemic on our 2020 farming season is minimized.
Finally, I want to thank the members of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 for all their hard work so far. Indeed, the patriotism shown in your work is exemplary and highly commendable.
Fellow Nigerians, I have no doubt that by working together and carefully following the rules, we shall get over this pandemic and emerge stronger in the end.
I thank you all for listening and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Continue Reading

Trending