Today marks the 54th anniversary of our country’s independence as a sovereign nation. This is also the tenth month of our journey into a new century, having marked the centenary of our nation in January this year. The first one hundred years were marked by triumphs and tribulations, benefits and burdens, opportunities and challenges. We made some far reaching advances in building a strong, united and prosperous nation. We also overcame the forces of disunity that culminated in a debilitating civil war. We have also renewed our faith in one another, and in our country. We have proven that we are truly a resilient nation.
In my address to the nation last year, I did emphasize that we were in a sober moment in our country. We are still in that mood in spite of the many accomplishments of our administration. Our sombreness has to do with the crises of nationhood occasioned by the activities
of terrorist elements who have done the unimaginable to challenge our unity as a people.
On an occasion like this, it is important that we remember all the precious souls that have been lost in the unprecedented war of terror unleashed on some parts of our country by these individuals who want to
compel us to live our lives their way. They will not succeed!
In their mission, they have maimed and raped. They have killed men, women and children, rendering many children orphans and several women widows.
They have made violence their ideology and are bent on destroying our country. Dear countrymen and women, we will not allow them.
Night after night, day after day, our security forces continue to engage the terrorists in battle. My gratitude goes out to our armed forces whose will has been greatly challenged by this insurgency more than any other time, since the civil war.
Yet, they have remained undaunted and unwearied in the face of constant challenge and mortal danger. Driven by patriotic zeal, they are turning the tide by their prowess and determination. As Commander-in-Chief, I will continue to do all it takes to enable them to keep on inflicting devastating blows at the heart of terror. Fellow Nigerians, it is our collective duty as patriots to avail our men and women in uniform of all the support they need to fight and win this war.
This Administration is committed to making Nigeria safe for all Nigerians, irrespective of our places of birth, how we worship God and our political persuasion. To all those waging war against our country, I ask that you lay down your arms and embrace peace.
To those who have genuine grievances, I affirm that Nigeria will listen to you, if you bring your grievances to the table of dialogue. To the good people of Nigeria, let me restate that our task of building a better and greater country must not waver.
While we continue to deploy our resources in the fight against the terrorists, we do recognize the great toll the conflict is taking on our people.
This is why, to assist the afflicted, we have launched the Victims Support Fund, an independent multi-sectoral charity, which will aggressively solicit resources to augment Government’s statutory intervention, in bringing succour to the injured, the displaced and the bereaved.
In partnership with Nigerian business leaders and international partners, we have also introduced the Safe Schools Initiative which is aimed at promoting safe environments for education nationwide, starting with the North East region.
The Presidential Initiative for the North East, a comprehensive programme to fast-track the economic restoration of this region, which has been the epicentre of terrorist activity, has been set up.
Our overall objective is to do all we possibly can, to sustain in the North-East, the momentum of economic advancement, which is on-going in other parts of the country, despite the machinations of the terrorists and their sponsors.
It should now be clear to anyone who was ever in doubt that these terrorists do not mean well for anyone, of whatever religion or dispensation. Their persistent choice of the weakest and most vulnerable in society, for gruesome attack, provides an insight into their abnormal mind-set.
I urge every Nigerian to put aside political, sectional or other parochial considerations, and support whole-heartedly the efforts of the government and the military, in checking this evil.
We are grateful to the international community, and especially our neighbours who are working closely with us in confronting this challenge, for their increased partnership and solidarity. Our steady progress in weakening the insurgency has certainly justified our cooperation.
Fellow Nigerians, in my independence anniversary address last year, I informed you that we had taken cognizance of the suggestion over the years by well-meaning Nigerians on the need to focus attention on rebuilding and strengthening the ligaments of our union. It was in that regard that we announced the convening of a National Dialogue on the future of our beloved country.
We have successfully delivered on that promise as we established the 2014 National Conference headed by Justice Legbo Kutigi. After months of deliberations, which did not come without its challenges, the conference concluded its assignment and has handed its Report to me.
I have made a firm commitment that we would act on the recommendations of the conference. This, I have started by setting up the Ministerial Committee headed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to work out the modalities for implementing the Report. Every promise I make, God willing, I will see to its fulfilment. I assure you, we shall implement the report.
One major lesson which the 2014 National Conference has taught us as a country is that, a multi-ethnic country like ours, must learn to embrace painstaking dialogue until consensus is established.
To me, the National Conference is the greatest centenary gift to our country that we must cherish and sustain. Fellow Nigerians, our 54 year-journey as a nation has not been easy. There have been tough periods, but the Nigerian spirit and the unflagging resilience of our people have seen us through. We will continue to march forward to greater heights.
We have been able to sustain a big, strong and influential country with a robust economy. We are currently in our sixteenth year of uninterrupted democratic rule, daily improving on the consolidation of our democratic process.
Our Administration has made a commitment to ensure that we build and sustain a democratic infrastructure anchored on free and fair elections. International and local observers have attested to the positive evolution of electoral credibility and we cannot afford to relent.
We will continue to ensure that the will of the electorate prevails so that political leaders would be reminded at all times that there is a day of reckoning when they have to go back to the people at the polls. Election days must not be days of violence and death. We must remain vigilant to ensure that our electoral process is characterised by peace, security and transparency.
I enjoin the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all security agencies, politicians and the electorate to work conscientiously and peacefully, together, to consolidate on the gains of the recent elections. Free and fair elections have come to stay; nothing else will be acceptable to our people.
My dear countrymen and women, occasions such as this present an opportunity to thank God for our country and to report to you, on our journey so far. Our power sector reform is on course with the ultimate objective of generating enough electricity to power our homes, industries and businesses. We are making giant strides in the Agricultural Sector which we are re-positioning to diversify our economy. We will continue to upgrade our infrastructure to make life easier for all and create an enabling environment for enterprise to flourish.
Over the last four years, the implementation of the Nigerian Content Act in the Oil and Gas Sector has ensured major increase in the participation of indigenous Oil and Gas companies in the industry. Several critical infrastructure projects have been commissioned and commenced. The level of indigenous asset ownership has greatly increased and utilisation of Nigerian-owned and built assets such as marine vessels and rigs is being progressively enforced.
There has been maximised local value addition by encouraging the manufacture of equipment components and parts within the country. There has also been massive growth in indigenous participation in the provision of goods and services to the upstream sector from 10% to 60% within the last four years.
Today, following the rebasing of our economy, every international monitoring and ratings agency now acknowledges Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, with a Gross Domestic Product of five hundred and ten billion dollars ($510 billion) which also places us as the 26th largest economy in the world. This is progress.
Earlier in the year, we launched the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) with the stated objective of fast tracking inclusive growth, job creation, enterprise development and industrialisation.
The success of these policies is already evident in the increased value addition in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
In line with our objective of encouraging the production of made-in-Nigeria vehicles and making Nigeria a regional hub for the automobile industry, a number of foreign auto manufacturers have established plants in Nigeria, complementing the laudable efforts of our local vehicle manufacturers who have also demonstrated great innovation and competitiveness.
We have also launched a special support programme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises with an initial intervention fund of two hundred and twenty billion naira (N220 b). This is in addition to the Presidential Job Creation Board which I inaugurated recently with the charge to create three million jobs annually.
In demonstration of our Administration’s commitment to addressing Nigeria’s housing deficit, we have commenced the new mortgage re-finance programme with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Re-finance Company. It is expected that, in addition to creating additional housing units across the country, this initiative also represents a huge job creation opportunity.
We have recorded notable success in the social sector. Nigeria has been globally acknowledged for reducing extreme hunger by more than half, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) formally presenting the country with an award for achieving the Millennium Development Goal on Hunger three years ahead of the 2015 target date set for the Millennium Development Goals.
This progress is as a result of the deliberate policy of government to increase capacity in our agricultural sector of which the first step was to address and eliminate the graft in our fertilizer procurement system and ensure that the product gets directly to the farmer. We are expanding our irrigation infrastructure to ensure that our farmers have sufficient water supply for dry season farming.
A benefit of these combined actions is that our national food import bill has declined from 1.1 trillion naira (6.9 billion dollars) in 2009 to 684.7 billion naira (4.35 billion dollars) by December 2013, and continues to decline.
Modern hybrid schools are being provided for less privileged children across the country, resulting in significant increase in the national school enrolment figure.
In order to further enhance access to education at the tertiary level, fourteen new Federal Universities have been established; and, to encourage persons of exceptional abilities, our Administration has also introduced a Presidential Scholarship Scheme based strictly on excellence and merit.
On infrastructure, we are building roads, bridges, and new rail lines to make it easier to traverse Nigeria and increase the integration of our people and our ability to do business with each other. In this regard, we have commenced the process of building the Second Niger Bridge. The Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue in Nasarawa and Benue States, will significantly reduce travel time by road between Northern and Southern Nigeria. The on-going dredging of the River Niger up to Baro in Niger State is opening up large parts of the Nigerian hinterland to maritime activity.
The Zungeru and Mambilla Hydro-electric power projects are on course, and the Kashimbilla dam which we started a few years ago, is nearing completion. The successful privatisation of our power sector will in the long run enhance industrial growth. Policies such as this and others have raised Nigeria to the enviable status of being the number one recipient of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa in the past year.
The result of this infrastructure drive is that two and a half million jobs have been created over the past two years. This is a record, which we are committed to improve upon to continue to provide jobs for our youth.
An unprecedented number of Airports across the country, are not only being reconstructed at the same time, but being re-equipped and reassessed with emphasis on maintaining global standards
Fellow Nigerians, the goals we set to achieve for our country involve expanding the frontiers of economic freedom. Let us therefore unite with one heart and one mind. All our people must have access to the good things of life. All our people must be empowered to pursue the gift of life with happiness. This is our country; we must build it for our common posterity.
As we move into an election year, desperate moves to overheat the polity are becoming a regular occurrence. Our political leaders in particular must know that the contest for power should not translate to the destruction of the polity.The contest for the leadership of our country must yield good governance, and not ungovernable spaces. The love of country should rank higher than our individual ambitions.
We must remain committed to a united and indivisible Nigeria within democratic parameters. The protection of individual rights, liberty, equality before the law, freedom of thought, and a progressive pursuit of a sound economy must be our goal.
I cannot end this address without commenting on the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which was sadly brought into our country recently. My directives to the Federal Ministry of Health saw the ministry leading the charge in curtailing the spread of this deadly scourge and managing its impact. This is how it should be: swift, effective and comprehensive action in defence of citizens.
It must be pointed out that the Ebola battle is still raging elsewhere in our sub-region. I therefore enjoin all our citizens to continue to adhere strictly to all the guidelines that have been given by our health officials to keep Ebola out of our country.
I appreciate and welcome the spirit of collaboration, unity and partnership with which we confronted the threat of the Ebola Virus Disease. I thank all Nigerians for working together to prevent what could have become a major epidemic. I particularly thank the medical personnel, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice.
This is the spirit which we must demonstrate at all times as we face up to our challenges as a nation: one people, united by a common resolve, in the pursuit of one common national interest.
As we look forward to another year in our national life, I am more than confident that our tomorrow will be better than our yesterday and today. Nigeria has got the human and material resources to excel and we shall lead the way in that journey to our manifest destiny.
Fellow countrymen, brothers and sisters, in all our plans, and in all our words and our actions, we must stand together in love and unity, as one people under God.
We are one people from the womb of one Nigeria. We are brothers and sisters. We are one family. We are Nigerians. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.