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We Will Overcome Nigeria’s Democratic Challenges- Buhari

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Bellow is the text of President Muhammadu Buhari’s address to Nigerians on the occasion of the 2021 democracy Day for the records:
Fellow Nigerians,
 I join you all today to commemorate and celebrate our Democracy Day.  It is a celebration of freedom and a victory for one people, one country and one Nigeria.
2.    As with all democracies we will always be going through improvement processes in our desire to reach the goal of a mature democracy, a strong, evolved and integrated nation state to be reckoned with globally.
3.    In the last two years we have witnessed and overcome a good number of testy challenges that would have destroyed other nations especially relating to our collective security.
4.    The indefatigable CAN DO Spirit of the Nigerian has sustained us and would keep pushing us to put these challenges behind us.
5.    Unfortunately some of these challenges came in the shape of violent outrages leading to the loss of lives of many of our dear compatriots and the destruction of some of our infrastructure, including those devoted to improving our democratic processes.
6.    Once again, I want to render my sincere and heart-felt condolences to the families and friends of our gallant service men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty and as a sacrifice to keep Nigeria safe.
7.    I extend the same condolence to the families and friends of our country men, women and children who were unfortunate victims of such senseless arsons, kidnappings and murders.
8.    I also share the pains of families and direct victims of ransom-seeking, kidnaped victims who went through unimaginable trauma in the course of their forced imprisonment.
9.    Let me assure my fellow citizens that every incident, however minor gives me great worry and concern and I immediately order security agencies to swiftly but safely rescue victims and bring perpetrators to justice.
Fellow Nigerians,
10.  When you elected me as your President in 2015, you did so knowing that I will put an end to the growing insecurity, especially the insurgency in the North East, but the unintended consequences of our scattering them in the North East pushed them further in-country which is what we are now facing and dealing with.
11.  We will, by the Grace of God put an end to these challenges too.
12.  Unfortunately, like in most conflict situations, some Nigerian criminals are taking undue advantage of a difficult situation and profiteering therefrom with the misguided belief that adherence to the democratic norms handicaps this Administration from frontally and decisively tackling them.
13.  We are already addressing these obstacles and we will soon bring some of these culprits to justice.
14.  We are, at the same time addressing the twin underlying drivers of insecurity namely poverty and youth unemployment.
15. Interventions led by Government and the Central Bank of Nigeria driving economic growth over the past 6 years are targeted mostly to the agricultural, services, infrastructure, power and health care sectors of the economy.
16.  In the Agricultural sector, for instance, the Anchor Borrowers Programme resulted in sharp decline in the nation’s major food import bill from $2.23billion in 2014 to US$0.59billion by the end of 2018.
 17.  Rice import bill alone dropped from $1 billion to $18.5 million annually.
18.  This initiative supported local production of rice, maize, cotton and cassava. Government financed 2.5 million small-holder farmers cultivating about 3.2 million hectares of farmland all over the country and created 10 million direct and indirect jobs.
19.  Several other initiatives, namely AgriBusiness/Small and Medium Enterprise Investment Scheme, the Non-oil Export stimulation Facility, the Targeted Credit Facilities operated across the 774 Local Governments.
20.  In the manufacturing sector the CBN – BOI N200 billion facility financed the establishment and operations of 60 new industrial hubs across the country, creating an estimated 890,000 direct and indirect jobs.
21.  The CBN’s N50 billion Textile Sector intervention Facility increased capacity utilization of ginneries from 30% to nearly 90%.
22.  The Economic Sustainability Plan – our rebound plan for the COVID-19 pandemic developed in 2020 is currently being executed. The plan is primarily focused on the non-oil sector, which has recorded phenomenal growth contributing over 90% to the GDP growth in Q1 2021.
23.  Though marginal we have recorded GDP growth over two quarters; Q2 2020 and Q1 2021.  This is evidence of a successful execution of the ESP by the Federal Government.
24.  My vision of pulling 100 million poor Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years has been put into action and can be seen in the National Social Investment Programme, a first in Africa and one of the largest in the world where over 32.6m beneficiaries are taking part. We now have a National Social register of poor and vulnerable households, identified across 708 local government areas, 8,723 wards and 86,610 communities in the 36 States and the FCT.
 25.  Our conditional cash transfer program has benefited over 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households comprising more than 8 million individuals. This provides a monthly stipend of N10,000 per household.
 26.  I have also recently approved the National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy Plan that augments existing plans to further reduce poverty in Nigeria.
27.  As at the end of 2020, the Development Bank of Nigeria had disbursed 324 billion Naira in loans to more than 136,000 MSMEs, through 40 participating Financial Institutions. I am to note that 57% of these beneficiaries are women while 27% are the youth.
28.  We are able to do all these and still accelerate our infrastructure development through sensible and transparent borrowing, improved capital inflow, improving and increasing revenue through capturing more tax bases and prudent management of investment proceeds in the Sovereign Wealth Fund.
Fellow Nigerians,
29.  Our infrastructure revolution continues with key projects attaining critical milestones under the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund; The Second Niger Bridge, The Lagos- Ibadan Expressway and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway.
30.  I have also approved the establishment of Infraco Plc, a world-class infrastructure development vehicle wholly focused on Nigeria with a capital structure of N15 trillion.
31.  The rail system is not left out as the Itakpe-Warri standard gauge rail was completed and commissioned 33 years after construction began. The Lagos-Ibadan double track railway line which I have just commissioned has commenced operations.
32.  We are focused on ensuring that our infrastructure drive is key to economic growth and one that can be felt by every Nigerian. Building critical infrastructure in our ports is also opening up opportunities for the Nigerian economy.
33.  My approval for 4 new seaports using a Public-Private-Partnership approach is hinged on growing the Nigerian economy. These four sea ports; Lekki Deep Sea Port, Bonny Deep Sea Port, Ibom Deep Sea Port and Warri Deep Sea port will create massive job opportunities and foreign investment inflows.
34.  We have worked at deepening our Eastern ports leading to success like having three container ships berth at Calabar port, a first in 11 years.  Similarly, on October 30 2019, an LPG tanker operated by NLNG berthed in Port Harcourt, the first time an LPG ship is berthing at any of the Eastern Ports.
35.  As we invest in these new assets, we have also made strides in ensuring that they are secured and protected. In this regard I am also pleased to note the launch of the NIMASA Deep Blue project – which is an Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure that I recently commissioned. This initiative is designed to add to the layer of security we have to safeguard our maritime sector.
Dear Nigerians,
36.  I will be the first to admit that in spite of our efforts and achievements which are there for all to see, there is still much more to be done and we are doing our best in the face of scarce resources and galloping population growth rate that consistently outstrips our capacity to provide jobs for our populace. Our over-all economic target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years is our goal notwithstanding COVID-19.
37.  In the last two years we lifted 10.5 million people out of poverty – farmers, small-scale traders, artisans, market women and the like.
38.  I am very convinced that this 100 million target can be met and this informed the development of a National Poverty Reduction with Growth Strategy. The specific details of this accelerated strategy will be unveiled shortly.
39.  In the last one year, Nigeria and the whole world faced COVID-19 for which no one was fully prepared.
40.  Our response to the pandemic involved making hard choices in balancing livelihoods and public health concerns.  You are all living witnesses to how successful this has been due to a number of pro-active measures put in place.  Our response to COVID-19 is globally acclaimed.
41.  We were able to ensure that the various lockdown measures did not impact too negatively on the ability of ordinary Nigerians to continue sustaining their livelihoods.
42.  During the pandemic, we disbursed N5,000 to 1 million Nigerians using a Rapid Response Register and advanced N20,000 to 750,000 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Progamme and provided 1.37 million Nigerians with palliatives from CACOVID.
43.  At the same time the Federal Government released 109,000 metric tonnes of food reserve stocks and 70,000 metric tonnes of grains to the poor and vulnerable in all 36 states of the federation.
44.  In addition, Government reduced interest rates from 9% to 5% for struggling businesses and extended credit facilities to 548,345 beneficiaries.
Fellow Nigerians,
45.  When this administration decided to change our Democracy Day from 29th May to June 12th in my first tenure, it was not only to honour the sacrifices of the men and women of our country who fought for the return to democracy but also to demonstrate our commitment to satisfy the aspirations of the people and creating an environment for democracy to be an accepted way of life.
46.  As your President, I remain committed to providing an enabling environment for a free, fair and credible electoral system under my tenure.
47.  However, you need to play your part by getting involved at any level you can supporting a democratic system that works for all and not for a section or a select few and demand accountability from your elected leaders.
48.  My commitment to bequeathing a sustainable democratic culture remains resolute, my pursuit of a fair society remains unshaken and my desire to see that Nigeria remains a country for each and every one of us has never been stronger.
49.  In responding to the challenges that this period imposes on us, Government also recognises the need to acknowledge notions of marginalisation and agitations for constitutional amendments among various segments of our population.
50.  While this government is not averse to constitutional reform as part of our nation building process, everyone must understand that the primary responsibility for constitutional amendments lies with the National Assembly.
51.  This body which, as I said, is the arm of government responsible for constitutional changes has concluded the preliminary stages of amending and improving our constitution in a way that the majority of Nigerians will be happy with.
52.  Government is, however, willing to play a critical role in the constitutional amendment process without usurping the powers of the National Assembly in this regard.
53.  As a nation we have come very far from where we started and we are getting incrementally closer to where we ought to be.
54.  Overcoming the present challenges is but one of a necessary process that we have to undergo as a nation so that we can come out stronger.  The day I joined the Nigerian Army I was prepared to lay down my life for Nigeria.
55.  As your President I remain ever committed to upholding and defending Nigeria’s corporate existence.
56.  In adhering to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy notably section 14(2)(b) I shall do all within my power to ensure that the Security and welfare of the people remain the primary purpose of government.
57.  I have, throughout my tenure, provided the security agencies with all they require relative to available resources and will be providing more as the dynamics unfold to put an end to our security problems.
58.  My strong belief in the Nigerian spirit gives me comfort that we are facing these challenges with renewed commitment to keep our country one.
59.  I thank you for your patience and attention and more importantly your resolve to join hands in making Nigeria the country of our dream.
Happy Democracy Day! God Bless us All, God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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Senate Wades Into CJN, S’Court Justices’ Feud

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The Senate has waded into the disagreement between the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, and justices of the Supreme Court.
Fourteen aggrieved justices of the apex court had, in a widely circulated letter to the CJN, accused him of neglecting their welfare, not carrying them along in managing the affairs of the court, the deteriorating condition of services generally, and the state of the litigation department.
Speaking at plenary on Wednesday, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said the legislature must be interested in what is happening in the judiciary with a view to finding solution to any of its issues.
He therefore mandated the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters led by Senator Opeyemi Bamidele (APC, Ekiti) to wade into the issue.
He said: “We must have interest in what is happening in the judicial arm of government with a view to bringing solution to the issue.
“Our Standing Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters should get involved and find out what the real issue is so that the National Assembly can help out.”

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Voter Registration: INEC Insists On June 30 Deadline, Denies Extension

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has denied extending the deadline of the ongoing Continuous Voter Registration (CVR), describing the report that it has agreed to extend the deadline by 60 days as false.
Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Electoral Matters, Aishatu Jibril Dukku, had while briefing lawmakers told members during a plenary session on Wednesday that the Commission had agreed to extend the CVR by 60 days.
“The Committee held a meeting with INEC yesterday (Tuesday) and they agreed to extend the CVR, all our resolutions were approved,” she said.
But responding, Chief Press Secretary to the INEC chairman, Rotimi Oyekanmi, clarified that the Commission has not announced an extension of the CVR deadline.
The exercise, which was meant to end on June 30, has been greeted by calls for an extension. Also, a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja had stopped INEC from ending the exercise until all eligible voters had been registered.
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has faulted media reports associating it with the extension of the ongoing CVR.
The House spokesperson, Benjamin Kalu, said it was untrue that the shift of the INEC voter registration was announced on the floor of the House on Wednesday.
Flanked by the chairman of the House Committee on INEC, Hajia Aisha Dukku, he said the decision on the shift is left to Prof Mahmoud Yakubu-led INEC to take.
Kalu acknowledged that INEC may not be able to adhere to the recently adopted motion of the House, which demanded an extension of the exercise by two additional months in view of the extant provision of the electoral amendment Act and the 1999 Constitution as amended.
He reiterated the resolve of the House to ensure that eligible voters are not disenfranchised in the 2023 poll.
Dukku expressed optimism that INEC would heed the call for an extension.

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Fear Grips APC Over Gale Of Defections, Adamu Runs To NASS

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Following the primary elections conducted in different parts of the country by political parties, a gale of defections has hit the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC), causing the party serious concern.
APC national chairman, Sen Abdullahi Adamu, on Wednesday described the mass defection of members of the party to other political parties as unfortunate and worrisome.
Adamu made this comment to newsmen after he met with the APC Senate Caucus at the National Assembly Complex, Abuja.
He said: “It is an unfortunate development when it happens, but this is the season for all manner of behaviour in the political space. And Nigeria is not an exception.
“In every election year, this kind of thing gives cause for stakeholders to sneeze. This is what we are experiencing. Nigeria is no exception and the APC is no exception.
“I don’t give a damn what is happening in other parties. I care about what is happening in our party, but you and I know that it’s not just in the APC that is having this experience; because we are the ruling party, yes our problems are more prominent in the public glare.”
He stated that every responsible leader will be concerned worry about losing one member, not to talk of two. At the moment, we are faced with the stark reality of that problem and we are committed with my colleagues in the National Working Committee (NWC) to face the problems squarely and see the problems are solvable, and we will solve them,” he said.
But despite the defection the party has been suffering  in recent weeks, yesterday  three senators belonging to the APC resigned their membership.
The lawmakers are Senators Ahmad Babba Kaita (Katsina North), Lawal Yahaya Gumau (Bauchi South), and Francis Alimikhena (Edo North).
Whilst Babba Kaita and Alimikhena defected to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Gumau, on the other hand, defected to the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
Two senators from Bauchi and Imo States have resigned their membership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) respectively.
The lawmakers are Senator Dauda Jika – representing Bauchi Central and elected on the platform of the APC, and Senator Ezenwa Francis Onyewuchi – representing Imo East Senatorial District, who was elected on the platform of the PDP.
Both senators, in separate letters addressed to Senate President Ahmad Lawan, conveyed their decision to resign their membership of the APC and PDP,  and to join the Labour Party (LP) and New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), respectively.
The APC lawmaker, Dauda Jika, said he was moving to the NNPP whose ideals are in line with his political aspirations.
Onyewuchi, on his part, said defecting to Labour Party would nable him to participate fully in the “movement for a new Nigeria.”
Wednesday’s defections bring the number of APC Senators to 66, with members of the minority parties standing at 43.
The minority parties in the Senate at present are five in number as of Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022.
They are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Young People’s Party (YPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and Labour Party (LP).
Meanwhile, A former Minister of Aviation and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, has raised the alarm that 22 Senators of the ruling party were at the verge of leaving the party for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over their inability to secure re-election tickets in the just-concluded APC primaries.
The Tide source reports that the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, had at separate sittings of the Houses lamented the inability of many lawmakers to secure their return tickets for the 2023 elections.
Chief Fani-Kayode, however, on Wednesday took to his verified social  media handles, saying the threat by the aggrieved Senators was a serious matter and something must be done to avert the mass defection.
He added that many party members have expressed concerns over the development even as he called on the national chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and national secretary, Senator Iyiola Omisore, to quickly wade in by reaching out to the affected lawmakers.
The former Minister wrote: “22 APC Senators are threatening to decamp to PDP because they have been denied the tickets to return to the Senate.
“This is serious and something must be done to prevent it.
“Many are concerned and we urge our able National Chairman and National Secretary to reach them. We cannot afford to lose them.”

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