The following is an excerpt from a keynote address presented by Pst. Christopher Briggs, mni, JP (Permanent Secretary Emeritus) at the Akuku-Toru Peace and Security Conference held at the Multi-Purpose Hall, Abonnema, on Saturday, August 3, 2019.
Topic: Strategic Response To Sustainable Peace and Security in Akuku-Toru LGA.
I am extremely grateful to the organizers of this conference, particularly His Royal Majesty, King Barr. Disrael Gbobo Bob-Manuel, the chairman of the AKULGA Council of Traditional Rulers and Amanyanabo of Abonnema for inviting me to present the keynote address at this first-ever Akuku-Toru Peace And Security Conference.
As providence would have it, a similar privilege was extended to me as homilist at the special church service held at the St. Paul’s Nyemoni Lutheran Church Cathedral, Abonnema on the 6th of March this year, to mark the end of the mourning period declared by His Majesty following the sad and most unfortunate events of 23rd February and 2nd March 2019. His Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State personally led a delegation of the State Executive Council and high ranking political leaders in the State to commiserate with the Akulga community at this special church service. In my reckoning, the goals and aspirations of the Akuku- Toru Local Government Council of Traditional Rulers and Chiefs which organised the special church service were, among others:
(a) to commiserate with all the bereaved families in remembrance of the numerous young men and women, including soldiers, whose precious lives were needlessly wasted in their prime;
(b) to rekindle our faith and confidence in the Almighty God who preserved Abonnema in particular, in spite of the gravity of the violence and criminalities that transpired during the days and weeks after the mayhem, and
(c) to reassure and appeal to all those (indigenes and non-indigenes) who vacated Abonnema in their numbers, out of fear of reprisals and further escalation of the crisis to return and continue to live their normal lives.
In pursuit of the same goal of restoring sustainable peace and security in the local government area, His Royal Majesty in-Council, with the full support of the Local Government and the good people of AKULGA, undertook a very successful PEACE RALLY on the 13th of July 2019 to publicly renounce all forms of violence, criminality and lawlessness.
This one-day Peace and Security Conference therefore is another laudable dimension initiated by the organisers, led by His Royal Majesty to provide a more robust interactive platform for all stakeholders in the local government to share our thoughts and experiences as a people with a view to finding lasting solution to the growing culture of violence, criminality and security.
My role today as Keynote Speaker (without claiming any superior knowledge whatsoever on the subject matter) is simply to set the tone of discussions at this conference by stimlulating our thoughts with some details of what we may already know too well, and provoke objective, sincere and mutually beneficial interactions. At the end, it is my hope that we shall collectively appreciate the urgent need for an articulated response that requires the buy-in and active involvement of all AKULGANS.
This paper, therefore, shall attempt to identify the likely immediate and remote causes of incessant conflicts and insecurity, violence and criminality in the local government area. Secondly and most essentially, we shall take reasonable time to highlight and discuss within the limits of available time, practical ways and means of dealing with this scourge, to guarantee sustainable peace and security of lives and properties in the local government.
We are here today not because there have never been unsettling, even life-threatening situations and conflicts in our history that challenged the peace and security of lives and even our continued existence as one indivisible people. We are Nigerians, Niger Deltans for that matter and Kalabaris to be exact. We are no strangers to conflicts. Conflicts have been with us from our very foundation as a people. Wars have been fought; internal rifts between families, compounds, chieftaincy or war-canoe houses as well as inter and intra community feuds have been common place with us. Nevertheless, our ancestors and founding fathers of blessed memory, to their credit, had the godly wisdom of managing conflicts with measured restraint no matter how provocative, without compromising the lives and destinies of their people.
When the need justified it, they utilized established judicial channels to seek redress, not brutal force and violence. Some were chronic litigants, using readily available traditional arbitration options or engaging the best in the legal profession for full-blown litigations even to the Supreme Courts of their days, over matters that may seem very trivial. That was the hallmark of their civility and respect for the dignity of lives without compromising the peace and security of the community.
They were ever mindful of the abominable implications and consequences of shedding the blood of a fellow Kalabari son or daughter on the soil of Nyemoni or any part of Kalabari kingdom. Remember, “Furo tubo ombie kiri la laa” and they never forgot the maxim: “ama bebe buru, ngaribo buru pakiri”. They knew that their strength was in their unity. They lived by these rules to regulate and guarantee peaceful co-existence.
Never in the history of Abonnema, which today is the headquarters of AKULGA have we witnessed, in design and magnitude, the mindless carnage, the use of sophisticated military hardware, the wanton killings and destruction of hard earned properties of fellow indigenes. In the words of His Majesty, King Disrael Bob-Manuel “it was unbelievable that in peace time the people could suffer more than they did during the civil war”, noting further that even his palace was not spared. Most surprisingly, the key actors on both sides of the divide were sons and daughters of the land. Even blood brothers pulled the trigger against one another. Some were former school or class mates, former allies and political associates; in some cases, in-laws.
Can we pause to ask: How did we get here? What brought us this low? What was at stake to justify such display of brutality in our motherland? Whose interests were being protected and at what cost?
Immediate cause(s) of violence and criminality in AKULGA.
The events of 23rd February and 2nd March 2019 may have passed with time but the ugly memories will out-live everyone here. Sadly, it is not only going to be an indelible part of our history, it shall remain a stigma that shall negatively impact Akulga and particularly Abonnema until we make concerted efforts to re-write the damnable narrative and reclaim our lost identity and glory. This peace building conference is a laudable effort in the right direction and should be sustained.
AKULGA, and particularly Abonnema, once reckoned as a land of internationally celebrated intellectuals and academics, jurists, legal luminaries, astute managers and administrators of men and resources, oil magnates, diplomats of high repute, decorated military top brass, distinguished clergymen and women etc. is now rated as the most volatile and politically corrupt community following the 2019 elections. We have been reduced to a land of violence, awash with blood thirsty, trigger-happy, vulnerable and visionless people.
Today, the major concern and challenge facing residents of Abonnema goes beyond the struggles of returning home to rebuild whatever is left of their shattered lives and dreams. It is the morbid fear of a possible future re-occurrence knowing the antecedents and the modus operandi of the key actors and their unrepentant sponsors. It is not “IF” but “WHEN”.
This concern is genuine for many reasons and must not be wished away too quickly. Akuku- Toru, like other flash points in the country, particularly the Niger Delta, is now noted globally to have a history of election violence. In a country were major elections are held every four years, with the Local Government elections sandwiched in between, this is a matter for serious concern. We all can recall the eleetions of 2015 and 2019. They were nothing short of brutal and undemocratic “show of strength” against perceived enemies, with the bare-faced support of armed security personnel. Most disturbing is the fact that the violence associated with the 2019 elections was escalated to make the 2015 edition a child’s play. It is therefore logical for the people to be apprehensive of what the future holds come 2023 which is just by the corner.
Mr. Chairman Sir, the world is waiting for the reports and follow-up actions of the various investigative panels set up by both the Federal and State Governments on the 2019 crisis in Abonnema. The questionable and high handed role of the military must not be swept under the carpet. If nothing concrete or tangible is done to appropriately deal with the sad incidents of February and March 2019, then we are only laying the foundation of the worst.
From the above narrative, we can all agree that the primary and immediate cause of the conflict, violence and insecurity and threat to the peace of the local government were ELECTIONS and misguided POLITICAL activities.
Setting The Tone: Dealing With Insecurity In AKULGA
Bearing in mind that SECURITY embodies every mechanism put in place to avoid, prevent, reduce or resolve violent conflicts as well as threats that originate from external and internal structural, socio-political and economic factors, there is need to rightly identify and situate the prevailing conditions within our local communities in Akuku – Toru that lead to insecurity.
To be Cont’d.
In this presentation, INSECURITY shall be considered to be any breach of the peace that contributes to incessant or recurring conflicts which, more often than not, results in violence, wanton destruction of lives and properties and other forms of criminality.
In setting the tone for meaningful discussions in this conference, please permit me to draw needful attention to some 18 salient points of concern:
No AKULGA son was among the contestants during the Presidential election. The two main contending candidates were from Northern Nigeria and were of Fulani extraction; bound by tribe, religion and language. No violence of any form was reported in their home towns or home States.
We in AKUKU-TORU (and Abonnema in particular) were not at war with any declared aggressors or sworn enemies.
Few days to the presidential elections, Abonnema was reported to have been virtually invaded and occupied by strangers, mostly youths who were neither indigenes nor known residents of the community. These strangers were transported into Abonnema mainly by road, meaning they had to pass through the only inlet/outlet to the community which is the Abonnema bridge, with a mounted 24-hour military check point. Also within walking distance was the Abonnema Divisional Police headquarters with the closest proximity to the only entry point into the town.
The vehicles that conveyed these “troops” could not have been too few not to be noticed. They passed through several check points from the East-West Expressway, through the Emuoha/Ogbakirijunctions and the several 24 hours militaIy and Police check points to Tema junction and the Harry’s Town military base. No one suspected, queried, intercepted or prevented these questionable movements? .
17 Oil Wells: We Hope Uzodinma’ll Accept S’Court Judgment In Good Faith -Wike
Being a text of a state broadcast by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike on Friday, May 6, 2022 following the Supreme Court judgment on the disputed 17 oil wells between Rivers State and Imo State. Excerpts.
My dear people of Rivers State, today, 6th May 2022, the Supreme Court of Nigeria has delivered its judgment on the subsisting boundary dispute between Imo State and Rivers State over the ownership of some oil wells at the Akiri and Mbede oil fields.
Let us recall that following the disputed claims to the location and ownership of some oil wells at the Akiri and Mbede oilfields between Imo and Rivers States in 1999, the Governors, Their Excellencies, Achike Udenwa and Dr. Peter Odili respectively, worked out a political settlement and mutually settled for a 50:50 percent beneficial sharing of the derivation proceeds accruing from these wells pending the proper demarcation of the boundaries between the two States by the National Boundary Commission (NBC).
While the dispute lingered, nothing was done by the NBC to demarcate the boundaries of the two States and establish the proper location and title to the disputed oil wells.
However, instead of instigating the NBC to do the right thing, Governor Emeka Ihedioha of Imo State, shortly after assuming office, repudiated the subsisting 50:50 percent sharing formula and made provocative claims to the exclusive ownership of the entire Akiri and Mbede oil wells.
In order to actualise this spurious claims, he stealthily wrote a letter dated 9th August, 2019 to President Muhammadu Buhari and requested for the refund of the sum of N15, 000,000.00 (fifteen billion naira) from Rivers State to Imo State as backlog of accrued proceeds from the 13% derivation revenue of the said oil wells.
Acting on Governor Ihedioha’s letter, Mr. President warranted a letter to be written to the Revenue Mobilisation, Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMFAC) through his late Chief of State, Mr. Abba Kyari, to alter the status quo in favour of Imo State without reference to the subsisting dispute and agreement between the two States.
Surprised by the surreptitious plots and collusive actions of the Government of Imo State and the NBC to overreach the legal interest of Rivers State in the disputed oil wells, the Rivers State Government opted to approach the Court for a just and lasting resolution.
Accordingly, we first applied to the Federal High Court, Abuja and among other reliefs, successfully challenged the powers and authority of Mr. President to give directives to the RMFAC and or interfere in any manner whatsoever with the distribution of public revenues from the distributable pool account, including the Federation Account.
Not satisfied with the positive ruling of the Federal High Court, the Imo State Government appealed to the Court of Appeal and lost. We then proceeded against the Government of Imo State at the Supreme Court in a fresh suit for a final and conclusive determination of the boundary dispute between our two States.
In approaching the Supreme Court in this matter, we believed that the dispute between the two States and the contentious issues are such that the Court can judicially, justly and expeditiously determine with the available facts and supporting evidence, including valid administrative maps, subsisting judgments, and other relevant documents.
And so, the Supreme Court has finally and conclusively resolved the dispute and granted full and exclusive ownership of all the disputed oil wells in Akiri and Mbede oilfields, to Rivers State much to everyone’s relief.
Although Governor Hope Uzodinma was not the mastermind of the impulsive trajectory that compelled us to seek the intervention and protection of the Courts, he nevertheless participated fully in the litigation process to the end without engaging the Rivers State Government for a possible political solution.
However, his reactions to the judgments of the lower courts on this matter were clearly uncalled for.
Indeed, itwas rather unfortunate that for someone who became Governor through the instrumentality of the judiciary could turnaround to castigate the very institution that made him ruler over the good, peaceful and progressive people of Imo State.
Now that the Supreme Court has spoken, we hope Governor Hope Uzodinma will accept the outcome in good faith, refrain from his usual diatribes against the judiciary and explore possible pathways to accommodation and compromise from the Rivers State Government.
This, we may readily oblige, despite the betrayals and back-stabbing by Emeka Ihedioha, who in spite of the extensive support and goodwill he received from the Government and people of Rivers State to become Governor, led the onslaught and created a wedge between two brotherly States that have been living at peace and in friendship with each other.
We also deplore the collusive actions of the NBC, which unfortunately, has become notorious as one of the most corrupt national agency, which has functioned more in causing confusion than resolving boundary disputes.
It bears repeating that the quest to defend our ownership rights through the courts over the Akiri and Mbede oil wells was not intended to claim victory over Imo or any other State.
We are therefore open to further discussions with the Government of Imo State on the best way forward without prejudice to the outcome of today’s judgment.
We appreciate the lawyers that prosecuted and secured this landmark success for Rivers State, and for their efforts, it is my pleasure to announce the conferment of State Honours on every one of them as the Distinguished Service Star of Rivers State (DSSRS).
Finally, I wish to reiterate our resolve to continue to fight for, advance and protect the best interest of Rivers State at all times and under any circumstances up to the end of our Government, and we hope our successor would likewise continue in this courageous spirit and determination to make the desired positive difference for our State and our people.
Thank you and may God bless you all!
‘We Are Working To Leave Rivers Better Than We Met It’
Being a text of a statewide broadcast by Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike on January 1, 2022 to mark the New Year.
My dear people of Rivers State
As the clock ticks down and as we look forward to
ushering-in the New Year 2022, this is the time to give thanks to the Almighty God for his blessings and the opportunity to look into the future with greater hope and optimism.
On behalf of my wife and the government, let me thank all Rivers State citizens in particular, and Nigerians in general, for your continued love and support to our administration throughout the year 2021.
Indeed, we cannot thank you enough for the trust, the solidarity, the cooperation and above all, your prayers for the success of our government and the peace and progress of our state.
We also thank the police, the Department of State Security, the armed forces and the para military services for working round the clock to make and keep our dear state peaceful, safe and secure, not only in this festive season but throughout the outgoing year.
Indeed, there is no denying the fact that crime and criminality have been at very low rates in Rivers State and citizens felt safer and more secure in 2021 than the previous years.
With the cooperation of the security agencies, we identified and destroyed most of the shanties that hitherto served as safe havens and hideouts for criminals, who have now been dislodged and dislocated from the state having lost the space and capacity from which they could operate with ease.
To consolidate on the gains of the dislodgement and dislocation exercises, and make the state even safer and more secure, we have decided to demolish all shanties and makeshift structures in identified crime hotspots in Port Harcourt Township and the Illaobuchi areas of Diobu from the second week of January, 2022.
Those rebuilding the shanties we had demolished at Eleme or attempting to resume illegal trading activities at the closed Oginigba slaughter have one week to vacate or be arrested and charged to court.
Additionally, we have discovered that most vacant plots or uncompleted buildings in the Old and New Government Reservation Areas (GRAs) and some other parts of Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas have been hijacked and are now inhabited by criminal elements who are daily constituting menace to public safety.
We have therefore decided to end this danger by taking over all such abandoned plots and uncompleted buildings and re-allocate them to citizens who are ready to develop and put them into effective occupancy.
In a similar vein, we have revoked the certificates of occupancy of several undeveloped plots of land in old GRA, Port Harcourt, for breaching the covenants attached thereto, which we would also re-allocate to interested members of the public for immediate development as part of the ongoing efforts to restore the entire old GRA to its pristine state of development, beauty and serenity.
We will also not spare those contributing to the perennial flooding challenge in parts of Port Harcourt city and Obio/Akpor Local Government Area by blocking natural water and drainage channels with illegal landfilling, reclamation of wetlands or the construction of concrete structures.
Consequently, we shall recover and restore all landfilled or reclaimed wetlands and demolish all structures erected on natural water channels spanning from the Eastern Bypass area up to Abana and Eleme streets in Old GRA, Port Harcourt. Only those with genuine government permits and allocation papers will be duly compensated.
Again, it is important to appreciate what we have done to successfully transform our capital city, Port Harcourt, to one of the most beautiful cities in Nigeria with well-paved streets, pedestrian walkways, dual carriage roads and flyovers.
However, the beauty of the city is being defaced by illegal and indiscriminate trading on our streets, under flyovers and other unauthorised open spaces as well as the challenges with the current largely inefficient refuse disposal system.
I wish to, therefore, remind citizens that the ban on street trading and commuting on motor cycles in Port Harcourt City and Obio/Akpor local government areas is still in force.
Consequently, I hereby direct the Task Force on Illegal Street Trading to arrest and prosecute all those: (i) shuttling with their motorcycles and or hawking foreign exchange along Birabi Street, Hotel Presidential, GRA Junction by Zenith Bank up to Tombia Street; and (ii) trading on, under and around the Rumuola Junction and flyover; Rumuogba Junction and flyover; as well as Rumuokoro Junction and flyover.
Security personnel abetting illegal street trading by collecting bribes and offering protection to street vendors are advised to desist forthwith or they would equally be made to face the wrath of the law.
Furthermore, we have decided to end the menace of cart-pushers who have become notorious for indiscriminate scavenging and littering of wastes on street corners and the medians of major roads and highways across the state.
These cart pushers and their unknown collaborators are also responsible for the recurring stealing of manhole covers, an act which endangers peoples’ lives and public safety on our roads.
Consequently, the state government has placed an immediate ban on the activities of cart pushers and directs law enforcement agencies to arrest and prosecute anyone who attempts to violate this ban.
In addition, a task force would be put in place to enforce this ban while we plead with the courts, in the interest of public safety and security, to impose the severest of punishment under the law on any convicted manhole vandal.
The indiscriminate and prolonged parking of trailers and other articulated vehicles along our streets is another environmental menace we must tackle to bring sanity to our cities and living environment.
Consequently, I hereby direct the chairmen of Port Harcourt City, Ikwerre, Obio/Akpor, and Oyigbo local government councils to within three weeks from today impound and or remove any trailer, trucks or articulated vehicle packed on the streets beyond 48 hours in their respective administrative jurisdictions.
As we all know, achieving effective environmental sanitation in cities and urban centres is a global challenge, and ours is not an exception.
However, we are determined to improve on our refuse disposal system by reviewing, overhauling and strengthening the legal, institutional and economic framework for a more effective delivery of sanitation services to residents.
I urge that you bear with us for a while and things will certainly change for the better in our refuse disposal system.
As an initial step towards achieving this objective, we have placed an immediate ban on the disposal of refuse on the streets or open spaces in both the old and new GRAs of Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor local government areas.
Every household in both old and new GRAs must therefore procure and keep approved refuse disposal bins in the front of their houses to facilitate the door-to-door collection of the wastes they generate by designated contractors.
We will not hesitate to revoke the certificate of occupancy of any house in these areas without a refuse disposal bin or whose occupants are caught disposing refuse on the streets or open spaces.
We have also banned the posting of advert materials of any kind, including posters, fliers, pictures, artworks, placards or inscriptions on or under our flyovers, bridges, concrete walls and the safety barricades along the roads.
We will establish environmental marshals to enforce compliance with our sanitation laws, including this ban, by arresting and prosecuting both the person who places the advert and the person and institution on whose behalf it is placed.
Fellow citizens, we also have reason to be concerned about the operations and socially harmful activities of nightclubs within residential areas of our state.
Apart from the noise and traffic nuisances suffered by innocent residents, no responsible government should continue to tolerate the open display and solicitation of sexual services, drug abuse and public intoxication that takes place along the streets and public areas abutting some of these nightclubs, lounges and bars by the youths, some, as young as under 14 years.
Consequently, the state government has placed an immediate ban on all nightclub activities, including night-time trading and street prostitution along SaniAbacha Road and surrounding streets to stop the harmful effect of these depraved activities on the moral development of our children and society at large.
Let me also reiterate that we are as overly concerned as the public over the black soot environmental disaster that has continued to envelope Port Harcourt and upsetting residents for quite some time.
As a state government, we have drawn the attention of the Federal Government to this problem and requested for its intervention to stop the activities of illegal bunkering and artisanal crude oil refiners, which have been identified as the main sources of the soot pandemic.
Unfortunately, the Federal Government has remained inexplicably silent over our request and even complicit to a large extent with the security agencies actively aiding, encouraging and protecting the artisanal refiners to continue with their harmful activities unabated.
We have equally appealed without success to our people engaging in this illegal business to consider its negative effects on our economy, environment, public safety and public health and disengage from it.
We will continue to engage and plead with the Federal Government to intervene and save our people from this serious environmental and health emergency.
However, since the federal security agencies have largely refused to stop the illegal crude oil refining activities in the state, we have no option than to take necessary measures to tackle this particular and direct challenge to our collective health and survival by ourselves.
Consequently, I have directed the chairman of Port Harcourt City Local Government Council to go after all the illegal crude oil refining sites along Creek Road and adjourning areas of the city and shut them down with immediate effect.
Furthermore, all local government chairmen are directed to work with community leaders to locate and identify those behind all illegal bunkering and crude oil refining sites in their localities and report to my office for further action.
Once again, we express our sympathies to the victims of the recent fire incidences in the state, especially those who lost loved ones and valuable property.
As a government we will continue to do our best to strengthen the State Fire Service to effectively intervene to mitigate the damage during fire incidents.
However, members of the public also have the responsibility to do the right thing to prevent or avoid some of these fire incidents from happening and those who deliberately bury fuel and gas tanks in residential areas are certainly not doing the right thing, and should therefore relocate their precarious businesses to more convenient and less risky places.
We wish to also express our concern over the poor compliance with the existing COVID-19 protocols by citizens and the effect on the transmission of the disease in the state.
Believe it or not, COVID-19 is a reality that has already taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and disrupted economic activities across the world.
Here in Rivers State the transmission of the virus continues to surge daily and we all need to act together to stop the diseases from further ravaging our state.
We, therefore, appeal to all residents to make themselves available for testing and vaccination whether it is for your first, second or booster jab in addition to observing the existing preventive protocols, including social distancing and wearing of face masks to reduce the level of transmission.
Let me also remind all government recognized traditional rulers that they are, at all times, subject to the authority and directives of the state government and not to other allegiances, culture or otherwise.
Therefore, the consistent absence of some first class traditional rulers, especially the Amanyanabo of Okrika, the Amanyanabo of Ogu, the Amanyanabo of Kalabari and the GbenemeneNyo-Khana from participating in state functions is unacceptable and will no longer be tolerated.
Should they, therefore, continue to absent themselves from state functions or in the regular meetings and activities of the Rivers State Traditional Rulers Council, we would have no option than to direct their immediate replacement.
Finally, as the New Year 2022 inevitably beckons, we wish to assure you that we will continue to do our best to meet the aspirations of our citizens for a more peaceful, safe and secure society throughout the Year 2022.
We will continue to pursue our objectives for a stronger and more sustainable economy centred on fiscal discipline, revenue growth, job creation, and improved standard of living for all residents.
We will continue to accelerate our development with the sustainable delivery of quality roads, bridges, schools, hospitals and other socio-economic infrastructure and complete all ongoing development projects across the state.
I wish to, once again, thank our leaders, traditional rulers, elder statesmen, party chieftains, our women, our youths and the press for the warmth and support we have received throughout 2021.
We wish to specially thank our religious leaders for their prayers for peace and progress as well as for their continuous support to our government in the primary task of building the Rivers State of our collective dream.
We remain grateful to God for the unprecedented peace, security and transformational strides the state is enjoying under our administration.
But we must also be vigilant because our enemies, especially, members of the opposition, are not happy with the prevailing peace, security and the unprecedented achievements we have recorded; and are therefore determined to cause crisis and disturb our peace and joy if they have the opportunity.
Let us therefore prayerfully continue to place our dear state and everyone in the safe and protective hands of God Almighty through our Lord Jesus Christ.
I wish each and every one a happy and prosperous New Year!
May God continue to bless our dear Rivers State.
2022: FG’ll Leverage ICT Platforms To Create Jobs-Buhari
Being a text of President Muhammadu Buhari’s broadcast to the nation on January 1, 2022 to mark the New Year.
We remain grateful to the Almighty God for yet an
other year attained as a country, united by a common destiny and resolute in our determination to overcome the several challenges along the path to build the great and prosperous nation of our dream.
I salute the courage and resilience of all Nigerians, which was evident in 2021 as this nation, like other countries of the world, faced significant challenges that occurred as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to restore the global economy and social order.
The persistent insecurity in certain parts of the country may have threatened to unravel the incremental gains achieved in the real sectors of the economy and in the administration’s overall objective to position the nation on the irreversible trajectory of sustainable growth and progress, but I assure you that we will remain resolute in our commitments and shall continue to press ahead with our programmes and plans.
The path to nationhood is often fraught with unpredictable difficulties and challenges, and most tried and tested nations have often prevailed through dogged determination, resilience, concerted commitment to unity, and the conviction that the whole of the nation, standing together against all odds, is by far greater and would ultimately be more prosperous and viable than the sum of its distinguishable parts.
There is no doubt that the issue of Security remains at the front burner of priority areas that this administration has given utmost attention to. As a follow up to our promise to re-energize and reorganize the security apparatus and personnel of the armed forces and the police, it is on record that this Administration has invested heavily in re-equipping our military in line with upgrading the platforms and firepower required to tackle the current challenges being faced in the country.
The net results of these efforts have been the number of insurgents and bandits who have willingly surrendered to our Security Forces and continue to do so through various channels and the Safe Corridor created for that purpose.
Government, however, realises that victory on the battlefield is just one aspect of sustainable victory. We know that to fully win this war, we must also win the peace and real security lies in winning the hearts and minds of the affected citizens. To this end, working with our international partners and neighbouring countries, we would be deploying multi-faceted solutions that will be targeted at addressing human security at the grassroots, before it leads to insecurity.
Once again I would like to take a moment to remember and honour the gallant military, police officers, and other security agents who have lost their lives in the cause of protecting the territorial integrity of this nation against both internal and external aggressors, assuring their families that their sacrifices would not be in vain.
We equally remember and commiserate with Nigerians who have lost loved ones as a result of insecurity in different parts of the country. Every life matters and every single death caused by any form of insecurity is a matter of personal concern to me both as a citizen and as the President of this great country.
We remain fully committed to upholding the constitutional provisions that protect all Nigerians from any form of internal and external aggression.
On the economy, we have shown a high level of resilience to record some significant achievements despite the turbulence that has characterised our economy and indeed the global economy. The lessons we have learned and keep learning from COVID-19 have encouraged us to intensify efforts to mitigate its socio-economic effects on our nation.
The major wins we have recorded can be clearly seen in Nigeria’s most recent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The 4.03% growth recorded in the third quarter of 2021 is indicative of the recovery being recorded in our economy and the confidence that is being shown through the policies that our administration has put in place after the outbreak of the pandemic.
We may also recall that this recent growth is closely followed by the 5.1% (year-on-year) growth in real terms recorded by Nigeria in Quarter 2 of 2021. This growth was one of the best recorded by any nation across Sub-Saharan Africa. The 5.1% growth at that time was and remains the highest growth recorded by the Nigerian economy since 2014.
Despite the challenges we have faced as a nation, the good news is that we have so far recorded four consecutive quarters of growth after the negative growth rates recorded in Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 of 2020 due to the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On August 16, 2021, I signed the landmark Petroleum Industry Act into law. The signing of this legacy legislation is a watershed moment in the history of our nation, considering the massive positive impact the new Act would have on the economy. I would like to sincerely commend the 9th Assembly for the grit they demonstrated, succeeding where others have failed, and the cooperation that led to the completion of this process after almost two decades.
Just like I stated during the investment trips and fora that I have attended recently, the legislation is expected to serve as a liberalising force in the energy industry, and we are optimistic that this law will provide the much-needed legal, governance, regulatory and fiscal framework for the development of the energy sector, the host communities, and Nigeria as a Nation. Our objective to increase liquefied natural gas exports and expand our domestic market is still very much at the forefront of some of the policies we would be pushing in the New Year.
In year 2022 and going forward, our administration would intentionally leverage ICT platforms to create jobs, while ensuring that the diversification of our economy creates more support to other emerging sectors. I am proud to announce that several foreign investors are taking advantage of our ranking as one of the leading start-up ecosystems in Africa to invest in our digital economy.
We have given the utmost priority to fighting corruption and other related offenses which have been a bane to the growth and prosperity of our dear nation. We have made major strides and breakthroughs through the innovative use of technology and forensics in the investigative and prosecutorial procedures with commendable results to show that the anti-corruption drive of our administration is succeeding.
In the meantime, the accomplishments that have been recorded so far can be traced to the dedication of the nation’s anti-corruption agencies who have received the necessary support needed to effectively prosecute their duties.
Despite our challenges in 2021, it was also a year in which the administration executed successfully, key projects, programmes, and initiatives to fulfil the promises made under the Security, Economy Anti-corruption (SEA) agenda.
As we welcome 2022, let us, with hope; envision a year of continued progress against our combined challenges arising from security and socio-economic issues.
As it is said, the past is but a story told, the future will still be written in gold. Let us be united in our fight to keep our Nation united against all odds and with gratitude, celebrate life in this new epoch.
I wish you a very happy and prosperous New Year.
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