Full Text Of Acting President Yemi Osinbajo’s Democracy Day Speech

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Dear
Nigerians, I bring you good wishes from President Muhammadu Buhari,
GCFR, who as we all know is away from the country on medical vacation.
  1. Today
    marks the second anniversary of our assumption of office. We must thank
    the Almighty God not only for preserving our lives to celebrate this
    second anniversary, but for giving us hope, strength and confidence as
    we faced the challenges of the past two years.
  2. Our
    administration outlined three specific areas for our immediate
    intervention on assumption of office: these were Security, Corruption
    and the Economy.
  3. In
    the Northeast of our country, the terrorist group Boko Haram openly
    challenged the sovereignty and continued existence of the state,
    killing, maiming,and abducting, causing the displacement of the largest
    number of our citizens in recent history. Beyond the North East they
    extended their mindless killings, as far away as Abuja, Kano And Kaduna.
  4. But
    with new leadership and renewed confidence our gallant military
    immediately began to put Boko Haram on the back foot. We have restored
    broken-down relations with our neighbours, Chad, Cameroon and
    Niger — allies without whom the war against terror would have been
    extremely difficult to win. We have re-organized and equipped our Armed
    Forces, and inspired them to heroic feats; we have also revitalized the
    regional Multinational Joint Task Force, by providing the required
    funding and leadership.
  5. The
    positive results are clear for all to see. In the last two years close
    to one million displaced persons have returned home. 106 of our
    daughters from Chibok have regained their freedom, after more than two
    years in captivity, in addition to the thousands of other captives who
    have since tasted freedom.
  6. Schools,
    hospitals and businesses are springing back to life across the
    Northeast, especially in Borno State, the epicentre of the crisis.
    Farmers are returning to the farms from which they fled in the wake of
    Boko Haram. Finally, our people are getting a chance to begin the urgent
    task of rebuilding their lives.
  7. Across
    the country, in the Niger Delta, and in parts of the North Central
    region, we are engaging with local communities, to understand their
    grievances, and to create solutions that respond to these grievances
    adequately and enduringly.
  8. President
    Buhari’s New Vision for the Niger Delta is a comprehensive peace,
    security and development plan that will ensure that the people benefit
    fully from the wealth of the region, and we have seen to it that it is
    the product of deep and extensive consultations, and that it has now
    moved from idea to execution. Included in that New Vision is the
    long-overdue environmental clean-up of the Niger Delta beginning with
    Ogoni-land, which we launched last year.
  9. More
    recent threats to security such as the herdsmen clashes with farmers in
    many parts of the country sometimes leading to fatalities and loss of
    livelihoods and property have also preoccupied our security structures.
    We are working with State governments, and tasking our security agencies
    with designing effective strategies and interventions that will bring
    this menace to an end. We are determined to ensure that anyone who uses
    violence, or carries arms without legal authority is apprehended and
    sanctioned.
  10. In
    the fight against corruption, we have focused on bringing persons
    accused of corruption to justice. We believe that the looting of public
    resources that took place in the past few years has to be accounted for.
    Funds appropriated to build roads, railway lines, and power plants, and
    to equip the military, that had been stolen or diverted into private
    pockets, must be retrieved and the culprits brought to justice. Many
    have said that the process is slow, and that is true, corruption has
    fought back with tremendous resources and our system of administration
    of justice has been quite slow. But the good news for justice is that
    our law does not recognize a time bar for the prosecution of corruption
    and other crimes, and we will not relent in our efforts to apprehend and
    bring corruption suspects to justice. We are also re-equipping our
    prosecution teams, and part of the expected judicial reforms is to
    dedicate some specific courts to the trial of corruption cases.
  11. We
    are also institutionalizing safeguards and deterrents. We have expanded
    the coverage of the Treasury Single Account (TSA). We have introduced
    more efficient accounting and budgeting systems across the Federal
    Government. We have also launched an extremely successful Whistleblower
    Policy.
  12. The
    Efficiency Unit of the Federal Ministry of Finance has succeeded in
    plugging leakages amounting to billions of naira, over the last two
    years. We have ended expensive and much-abused fertilizer and petrol
    subsidy regimes.
  13. We
    have taken very seriously our promise to save and invest for the
    future, even against the backdrop of our revenue challenges, and we have
    in the last two years added US$500m to our Sovereign Wealth Fund and
    US$87m to the Excess Crude Account. This is the very opposite of the
    situation before now, when rising oil prices failed to translate to
    rising levels of savings and investment.
  14. Admittedly,
    the economy has proven to be the biggest challenge of all. Let me first
    express just how concerned we have been, since this administration took
    office, about the impact of the economic difficulties on our citizens.
  15. Through
    no fault of theirs, some companies shut down their operations, others
    downsized; people lost jobs, had to endure rising food prices. In some
    States civil servants worked months on end without the guarantee of a
    salary, even as rents and school fees and other expenses continued to
    show up like clockwork.
  16. We
    have been extremely mindful of the many sacrifices that you have had to
    make over the last few years. And for this reason this administration’s
    work on the economic front has been targeted at a combination of
    short-term interventions to cushion the pain, as well as medium to long
    term efforts aimed at rebuilding an economy that is no longer helplessly
    dependent on the price of crude oil.
  17. Those
    short-term interventions include putting together a series of bailout
    packages for our State Governments, to enable them bridge their salary
    shortfalls — an issue the President has consistently expressed his
    concerns about. We also began the hard work of laying out a framework
    for our Social Intervention Programme, the most ambitious in the history
    of the country.
  18. One
    of the first tasks of the Cabinet and the Economic Management Team was
    to put together a Strategic Implementation Plan for the 2016 budget,
    targeting initiatives that would create speedy yet lasting impact on the
    lives of Nigerians.
  19. Indeed,
    much of 2016 was spent clearing the mess we inherited and putting the
    building blocks together for the future of our dreams; laying a solid
    foundation for the kind of future that you deserve as citizens of
    Nigeria.
  20. In
    his Budget Presentation Speech to the National Assembly last December,
    President Buhari outlined our Economic Agenda in detail, and assured
    that 2017 -would be the year in which you would begin to see tangible
    benefits of all the planning and preparation work. It is my pleasure to
    note that in the five months since he delivered that speech, we have
    seen tremendous progress, as promised.
  21. Take
    the example of our Social Investment Programme, which kicked off at the
    end of 2016. Its Home Grown School Feeding component is now feeding
    more than 1 million primary school children across seven states and
    would be feeding three million by the end of the year. N-Power, another
    component has engaged 200,000 unemployed graduates — none of whom needed
    any ‘connections’ to be selected. Beneficiaries are already telling the
    stories of how these initiatives have given them a fresh start in their
    lives.
  22. Micro
    credit to a million artisans, traders and market men and women has
    begun. While conditional cash transfers to eventually reach a million of
    the poorest and most vulnerable households has also begun.
  23. Road
    and power projects are ongoing in every part of the country. In rail,
    we are making progress with our plans to attract hundreds of millions of
    dollars in investment to upgrade the existing 3,500km narrow-gauge
    network. We have also in 2017 flagged-off construction work on the
    Lagos-Ibadan leg of our standard-gauge network, and are close to
    completing the first phase of Abuja’s Mass Transit Rail System.
  24. In
    that Budget speech in December, the President announced the take-off of
    the Presidential Fertilizer Initiative. Today, five months on, that
    Initiative — the product of an unprecedented bilateral cooperation with
    the Government of Morocco — has resulted in the revitalisation of 11
    blending plants across the country, the creation of 50,000 direct and
    indirect jobs so far, and in the production of 300,000 metric tonnes of
    NPK fertilizer, which is being sold to farmers at prices significantly
    lower than what they paid last year. By the end of 2017, that Fertilizer
    Initiative would have led to foreign exchange savings of US$200
    million; and subsidy savings of 60 billion naira.
  25. The
    Initiative is building on the solid gains of the Anchor Borrowers
    Programme, launched in 2015 to support our rice and wheat farmers, as
    part of our move towards guaranteeing food security for Nigeria.
  26. All
    of this is evidence that we are taking very seriously our ambition of
    agricultural self-sufficiency. I am delighted to note that since 2015
    our imports of rice have dropped by 90 percent, while domestic
    production has almost tripled. Our goal is to produce enough rice to
    meet local demand by 2019. In April, the President launched our Economic
    Recovery and Growth Plan which built on the foundations laid by the
    Strategic implementation Plan of 2016. The plan has set forth a clear
    vision for the economic development of Nigeria. I will come back to this
    point presently.
  27. Another
    highlight of the President’s Budget Speech was our work around the Ease
    of Doing Business reforms. As promised we have since followed up with
    implementation and execution. I am pleased to note that we are now
    seeing verifiable progress across several areas, ranging from new Visa
    on Arrival scheme, to reforms at our ports and regulatory agencies.
  28. The
    President also promised that 2017 would see the rollout of Executive
    Orders to facilitate government approvals, support procurement of
    locally made goods, and improve fiscal responsibility. We have kept that
    promise. This month we issued three Executive Orders to make it easier
    for citizens to get the permits and licenses they require for their
    businesses, to mandate Government agencies to spend more of their
    budgets on locally produced goods, and to promote budget transparency
    and efficiency. The overarching idea is to make Government Agencies and
    Government budgets work more efficiently for the people.
  29. The
    impact of our Ease of Doing Business work is gradually being felt by
    businesses small and large; its successful take-off has allowed us to
    follow up with the MSME Clinics -our Small Business support programme,
    which has taken us so far to Aba, Sokoto, Jos, Katsina, and we expect to
    be in all other states in due course.
  30. Let
    me note, at this point, that several of our Initiatives are targeted at
    our young people, who make up most of our population. From N-Power, to
    the Technology Hubs being developed nationwide, to innovation
    competitions such as the Aso Villa Demo Day, and our various MSME
    support schemes, we will do everything to nurture the immense innovative
    and entrepreneurial potential of our young people. We are a nation of
    young people, and we will ensure that our policies and programmes
    reflect this.
  31. One
    of the highlights of our Power Sector Recovery Programme, which we
    launched in March, is a N701 billion Naira Payment Assurance Scheme that
    will resolve the financing bottlenecks that have until now constrained
    the operations of our gas suppliers and generation companies. Let me
    assure that you will soon begin to see the positive impact of these
    steps.
  32. Our
    Solid Minerals Development Fund has also now taken off, in line with
    our commitment to developing the sector. Because of our unerring focus
    on Solid Minerals development over the last two years, the sector has,
    alongside Agriculture, seen impressive levels of growth — in spite of
    the recession.
  33. On
    the whole, just as the President promised in the Budget Speech, these
    early months of 2017 have seen the flowering of the early fruit of all
    the hard work of our first eighteen months.
  34. We
    opened the year with an overwhelmingly successful Eurobond
    Offer — evidence of continuing investor interest in Nigeria. We have
    also launched the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017–2020, to
    build on the gains of last year’s Strategic Implementation Plan. And
    the implementation of our 2017 Budget, which will soon be signed into
    law, will bring added impetus to our ongoing economic recovery. In the
    2016 Budget we spent 1.2 Trillion Naira on infrastructure projects,
    another milestone in the history of this country. Our 2017 Budget will
    double that investment.
  35. That
    budget also provides for substantial investment to implement the
    rollout of Industrial Parks and Special Economic Zones (SEZs), as well
    as our Social Housing Programme. The Industrial Parks and Economic Zones
    will fulfill our ambition of making Nigeria a manufacturing hub, while
    the Family Home Fund of our Social Housing Programme will provide
    inexpensive mortgages for low-income individuals and families across the
    country.
  36. These
    plans offer yet more evidence that we are ramping up the pace of work;
    the work of fulfilling all that we promised. In the next two years we
    will build on the successes of the last two. We have demonstrated a
    willingness to learn from our mistakes and to improve on our successes.
    The critical points that we must address fully in the next two years
    are : Agriculture and food security, Energy, (power and Petroleum,)
    Industrialization and Transport infrastructure. Every step of the way we
    will be working with the private sector, giving them the necessary
    incentives and creating an environment to invest and do business.
  37. Our
    vision is for a country that grows what it eats and produces what it
    consumes. It is for a country that no longer has to import petroleum
    products, and develops a lucrative petrochemical industry. Very
    importantly it is for a country whose fortunes are no longer tied to the
    price of a barrel of crude, but instead to the boundless talent and
    energy of its people, young and old, male and female as they invest in
    diverse areas of the economy.
  38. And
    that vision is also for a country where the wealth of the many will no
    longer be stolen by or reserved for a few; and where the impunity of
    corruption — whether in the public or private sectors — will no longer
    be standard operating practice; a land rid of bandits and terrorists.
  39. As
    citizens you all deserve a country that works, not merely for the rich
    or connected, but for everyone. And our promise to you is that we will,
    with your support and cooperation, take every step needed to create that
    country of our dreams.
  40. We
    also know that this journey will of necessity take time. But we will
    not succumb to the temptation to take short-cuts that ultimately
    complicate the journey. We did not find ourselves in crises overnight,
    and we simply do not expect overnight solutions to our challenges.
  41. The
    most important thing is that we are on the right path, and we will not
    deviate from it, even in the face of strong temptation to choose
    temporary gain over long-term benefit. As the President has summed it
    up: “The old Nigeria is slowly but surely disappearing, and a new era is
    rising.”
  42. And
    so we commemorate this second anniversary of our administration with
    confidence and optimism. I firmly believe that we have put the most
    difficult phase behind us; and we are witnesses to the ever-increasing
    intensity of the light at the end of the tunnel. We ask for your
    continued cooperation and support, to enable us realise all our best
    intentions and ambitions for Nigeria. On our part We will continue to
    carry you along on this journey, speak to you, explain the challenges,
    and share our Vision.
  43. And
    while we all daily pre-occupy ourselves with pursuing the Nigerian
    Dream — which is the desire to better our lives and circumstances
    vigorously and honestly — it is inevitable that grievances and
    frustrations will arise from time to time.
  44. This
    is normal. What is not normal, or acceptable, is employing these
    frustrations as justification for indulging in discrimination or hate
    speech or hateful conduct of any kind, or for seeking to undermine by
    violent or other illegal means the very existence of the sovereign
    entity that has brought us all together as brothers and sisters and
    citizens.
  45. Nigeria
    belongs to all of us. No one person or group of persons is more
    important or more entitled than the other in this space that we all call
    home. And we have a responsibility to live in peace and harmony with
    one another, to seek peaceful and constitutional means of expressing our
    wishes and desires, and to resist all who might seek to sow confusion
    and hatred for their own selfish interests.
  46. Before
    I end this speech, let me ask for your continued prayers for the
    restoration to full health and strength and the safe return of our
    President.
  47. I
    congratulate all of you on today’s commemoration of this important day
    in the democratic calendar our country. Nigeria is on a journey of
    greatness, and together we shall arrive at the destination of our
    dreams.
  48. May God bless you all, and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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