Review of official engagements of President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, last week

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PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari commenced his weekly activities at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Feb. 15 on a joyous mood after receiving the news of the election of former Minister of Finance and Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, as Director-General of the World Trade Organisation.

The president immediately issued a statement via his Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, felicitating with Okonjo-Iweala, saying that by the development had brought joy and honour to Nigeria.

According to Buhari, the Harvard-educated economist takes up another onerous task of service to the world.
“Her track record of integrity, diligence and passion for development will continue to yield positive results and rewards to mankind.’’

Buhari affirmed that Okonjo-Iweala, who over the years had set major records of economic reforms in Nigeria as Minister of Finance and later Minister of Foreign Affairs, would excel in her new position.

He expressed his optimism that the former minister would validate the global mandate of repositioning and strengthening the multilateral institution for the greater good of all.

The president joined family, friends and colleagues in wishing Okonjo-Iweala well in her new endeavour.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Okonjo-Iweala’s election follows months of deadlocked discussions among WTO members on who should be chosen as the next director-general of the world body.

The defunct Trump administration favoured South Korean Trade Minister Yoo Myung-hee.

However, after Joe Biden assumed the presidency, the South Korean minister decided to quit the race, paving the way for Okonjo-Iweala.

On Feb. 16, Buhari asked the Senate to confirm Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa as substantive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mr Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, confirmed the development in a statement.

In a letter to the President of the Senate, Mr Ahmad Lawan, the president said he was acting in accordance with Paragraph 2(3) of Part1, CAP E1 of EFCC Act, 2004.

Bawa, 40, is a trained EFCC investigator with vast experience in investigation and prosecution of advanced fee fraud cases, official corruption, bank fraud, money laundering and other economic crimes.

He has undergone several specialised courses in different parts of the world and was one of the pioneer EFCC cadet officers in 2005.

Bawa holds a B.Sc. degree in Economics and Master’s degree in International Affairs and Diplomacy.

The EFCC Director of Operations, Muhammad Umar, has been acting as EFCC boss since suspension and subsequent removal of Ibrahim Magu by Buhari on July 7, 2020.

Also on Feb. 16, Buhari in a video goodwill message to the Ehingbeti Lagos Economic Summit, with theme: ‘‘For a Greater Lagos: Setting the Tone for the Next Decade’’, pledged that the Federal Government would support massive investments in Lagos State to boost its economic potential as one of the world’s fastest growing megacities.

According to him, his administration recognises Lagos as central to the economic fortunes of Nigeria and has in the last few years demonstrated commitment to supporting the unleashing of the full socio-economic potential of the state.

”One of the significant ways in which our support has manifested to Lagos State is in the special federal funding that we approved in 2020 in acknowledgement of the state being an epi-centre of the coronavirus pandemic.

”The challenges of Lagos must therefore, be very clearly seen as part of the challenges of Nigeria, and the Federal Government will support Lagos to overcome its challenges and to thrive socially and economically.

”The Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) is investing in the reconstruction of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, while the Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Expressway is a flagship project of our Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme, also known as Executive Order 7 of 2019.

”It was also this administration which granted approval to the Lagos State Government to rebuild the International Airport Road, a major road that links the busiest airport in sub-Saharan Africa to the continent’s fifth largest economy.

”The Federal Government is today completing the Standard Gauge Railway Line that will link Lagos to Ibadan in the first instance and from there connect to Abuja and Kano and bring ease and efficiency to what is Nigeria’s busiest transportation corridor.

”Just last month, this new Rail Line achieved a milestone extension into the Port Complex in Apapa, setting the stage for a long overdue decongestion in that area,” he said.
On the investment plan to revamp the National Theatre, the president told the 8th Economic Summit that his

administration had granted approval for the temporary transfer of the iconic federal asset on the Lagos landscape to the Bankers Committee.

He said the committee would invest in upgrading the National Theatre and developing it into a world-class creative hub.

Later on Feb. 16, the president participated virtually in the induction /orientation for ambassadors-designate, consuls-general and charge d’ affaires entitre, held at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) auditorium in Abuja.

At the event, the Nigerian leader urged the ambassadors-designate, consuls-general, charge d’ affaires entitre to continually project the strengths of Nigeria, showcase priorities of the government and uphold standards that will bring honour to the country.

He told the diplomats to always be mindful of the policy direction of the government, particularly the nine priorities it had listed.

“You must not forget that you have been posted to your respective bilateral and multilateral missions to represent and project Nigeria as a great and indivisible nation and a very attractive investment destination.

“In our effort to achieve realistic development oriented domestic and foreign policies, the government has identified nine priority areas to guide our policy directions and thrust within the time frame of 2019-2023.

“These are: building a thriving and sustainable economy; enhancing social inclusion and reducing poverty; enlarging agricultural output for food security and export as well as to attain energy sufficiency in power and petroleum products.

He named others as: expanding transport and other infrastructural development; expanding business opportunities, entrepreneurship and industrialization; expanding access to quality education, affordable healthcare and productivity of Nigerians.

The president also noted that the priorities include building a system to fight corruption, improve governance and creating social cohesion and improving security for all.

“I, therefore, urge all of you to be guided by these identified priority goals as well as your various Station Charters, which highlight specific mandates and guidelines on government’s expectation.

”We expect you to fight hard for Nigeria and for Nigerians abroad.

“You must strive to promote trade, human capacity development, foreign direct investment and other areas of cooperation with countries at national and multilateral levels to support our national growth and development.’’

Buhari also hosted a delegation of the Borno/Yobe Elders Forum, who paid him a courtesy call at the State House, Abuja on Tuesday, reiterating that the stability of the country is of paramount interest to him and that the Federal Government will continue to work towards it despite the actions of a few people.

“We need this country. We will continue to work for its stability.

”I feel that whatever happens, we will continue to make it and will keep on praying to God so that for those who feel that they don’t need Nigeria, we will succeed over their intentions and actions.”

The president attributed the upheavals in some parts of the country to a few people with resources and influence, assuring that they would be identified and dealt with in due course.

“I am confident that we will eventually convince the small number of people with resource and influence that are a nuisance to this great country.

”God willing, we will identify them and deal with them.

”I am extremely concerned about your constituency like the rest of the country,” he added.

The president noted the request for the upgrade and development of infrastructure in the states and assured that while he would do his best in acceding to the requests, he would, however, prioritise development in education.

“We are aware of the infrastructure deficit.

”Our priorities will be education because all our citizens know that children within a certain age must receive it otherwise, if they miss it, the future is destroyed,” he stated.

On Feb. 17, the president presided over the meeting of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), where cabinet members mourned the death of a former Lagos State Governor, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, with a minute silence.

Jakande served in the Federal Executive Council between November, 1993 and March, 1995 as Minister of Works and Housing.
Those in attendance at the council meeting include the Vice-President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and the National Security Adviser, retired Maj. – Gen. Babagana Monguno.

Others who also physically attended the meeting were six ministers and some senior aides to the president.

The ministers included those of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola; Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Talen; Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu; Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Mohammed Bello; Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed as well as Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed.

The Head of Service of the Federation, Dr Folasade Yemi-Esan, and other ministers joined the meeting online from their respective offices in Abuja.

The FCT Minister, Muhammed Bello, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola and that of Water Resources, Suleiman Adamu, later told State House correspondents that the council approved N103.671Bn for Works, FCT, Works and Housing as well as Water Resources ministries.

Bello said: “The Ministry of the FCT presented five memos at today’s meeting and all have to do with infrastructure; three within the FCT itself while two are in the area councils.

“Within the city, a contract was approved for the provision of an access road to the institutions and research district in Abuja, where we have the Nigerian War College, the Legislative and Judiciary Institute, among other public and private organisations at a contract sum of N3.4 billion.

“The second contract approved was for the construction of an access road and car park for the rail station, located at Kagini, a community just by Kubwa Expressway.

“The access road is to link the community to the expressway, so that commuters can use facilities of the station and the Abuja light rail into the city; and that contract was approved for the sum of N1.8 billion with a completion period of 12 months.

“The third approval was for an augmentation of N16 billion for the existing contract of the Southern parkway currently going on.

“The road stretches from the National Christian Centre, through the NTA, FCDA facility, crossing Muhammadu Buhari Way in Garki and bursting out at the ring road in Kaura District, with a duration of 24 months.”

The minister explained further that two area councils, Bwari and Gwagwalada, also had two roads approved for them.

Fashola also told the correspondents that council had approved more than N10. 2 billion for the completion of some road projects across the country.

According to Fashola, the benefitting states include Edo, Ogun, Plateau, Nasarawa, Benue and the FCT.
Adamu on his part, revealed that his ministry presented two contracts, which were also approved.

He said: “the first one is the Fika-Gadaka Water Project in Yobe. This project which started in 2003 was abandoned in 2007 at 30 per cent completion.

“We sought council’s approval to revive the project and therefore, we had to revise the cost of the project and also change the scope of work to include things like solar power, instead of the diesel generator provided for in 2003 when diesel was quite cheap.

“We have taken a policy in the ministry that going forward, we will be using solar system to power water schemes and accordingly, this was done in the case of this project plus an extension of the pipeline to cover more areas.

“Because between 2003 and now, obviously the two towns would have expanded. So this revised estimated total cost is in the sum of N555.15 million in favour of existing contractors Messrs Atlantic Full Drilling Services Company Ltd.

“Also the second memo is the revision of the consultancy contract for the supervision of Gere Earth Dam in Katsina State. This also is an inherited ongoing project. Council in 2018 approved the revised estimated total cost for the project.

“Council approved the extension of consultancy services of Messers Emplan Group by another 36 months also with augmentation of N310 million in terms of consultancy fees.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Buhari met behind closed doors with Gov. Bello Matawalle of Zamfara, where he was briefed on the security situation in Zamfara State.

The governor, who later briefed State House correspondents after the meeting, said the president had pledged to assist the north-western state to address its lingering challenges.

He said that a presidential intervention toward addressing the challenges facing the state had become necessary “so as to sustain the peace Zamfara is now enjoying’’.

Later on Wednesday night, at his official residence, Buhari hosted Gov. Abubakar Bello of Niger, who after the meeting told State House correspondents that he updated the president on the security situation in his state, where some staff and students of Government Science Secondary School (GSSS), Kagara in the Rafi Council Area of the state were abducted by gunmen earlier Wednesday.

The president had earlier in a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, condemned the abduction and dispatched a team of top security officials to the state to coordinate the rescue operation in the state.

Buhari also expressed sadness over the killing of one of the students by the kidnappers, vowing not to relent until normalcy is restored in the security situation of the country.

Bello thanked Buhari for swiftly ordering action on the GSSS Kagara school kidnap.
The governor said he had requested for more security personnel and equipment to fast-track results in the rescue operation in the state.

“I came in this evening to thank Mr President for his quick response to the plight of Nigerlites, following two serious kidnap incidents.

“At the same time we rubbed minds on what we think should be done so that we find an everlasting solution to the situation and Mr President has confirmed to me that this matter will be given proper attention.

“We’ll continue engaging the service chiefs so that we can guide and advise them on what we think should be done. So I think it was a wonderful meeting.’’

He also expressed support for the call by the nation’s Upper Chamber for the declaration of a state of emergency on security in the country.

On Feb. 18, Buhari received in audience the ECOWAS Head of Mission on the elections in Niger Republic and former Nigerian Vice-President, Alhaji Namadi Sambo.

The Nigerian leader at the meeting, said the out-going President Mahamadou Issoufou of Republic of Niger and his government deserved accolades for keeping scrupulously to their country’s Constitution with respect to run-off polls, scheduled for Feb. 21, 2021.

Buhari congratulated Sambo on the first round of the elections, which produced no clear winner, thus compelling a run-off set for Feb. 21, as prescribed by the Constitution of the country.
While noting that Niger was Nigeria’s close neighbour, the president said the peace of the country must matter to Nigeria.

“Neigbourliness, whether national or individual, is very important as the peace of your neighbour or lack of it, may also affect your own well-being,” he added.

He wished Republic of Niger, Sambo and his team best of luck as the run-off polls hold on Sunday.

Also on Thursday, Feb. 18, the Yemi Osinbajo, presided over the first physical meeting of the National Economic Council (NEC), since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The meeting, attended by 36 governors (or their representatives) deliberated on national issues, including current security challenges in some parts of the country.

The meeting resolved that henceforth, concerted efforts would be made towards immediate investigation, arrest and prosecution of all perpetrators of crimes in the country, while both the states and the Federal Government should ensure full protection of all Nigerians wherever they reside, without regard to ethnic, religious or regional status.

According to the resolution of the council, both the Federal and State Governments should re-commit to “the protection of all residents of all states, including non-indigenous communities, religious and ethnic minorities within states’ jurisdictions.”

Similarly, it was resolved that in collaboration with federal authorities, there should be the commencement of “the reconstruction of destroyed homes and payment of compensation where appropriate by state authorities for damages to property and livelihoods sustained during targeted attacks on communities within their jurisdictions.”

Buhari concluded the week’s official engagements with closed-door meetings with Gov. Dapo Abiodun and the Executive Director/CEO of the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), Mr. Segun Awolowo, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Abiodun, who briefed State House correspondents after the meeting with the president, disclosed that he updated Buhari on the security as well as socio-economic developments before and after the recent crisis in Ogun State.

Crisis broke out in Ogun State recently, following ethnic profiling of a section of the society, occasioned by social discontent.

The governor blamed foreign elements as those responsible for the reported attacks on herdsmen in the state.
The governor, who briefed State House correspondents after his closed-door meeting with the President, blamed foreign elements as those responsible for the reported attacks on herdsmen in the State.

“I came to see Mr President to give him first-hand detailed account of the circumstances surrounding the crisis you all have read about that we witnessed in Ogun State in the past few weeks.

“I thought it was important, as the president and commander-in-chief, that he should hear from me, his governor on what exactly is the true account of what happened in Ogun State.

“I can share that with you, although, I’m sure most of you are aware of what happened.”

The governor, who narrated how intruders came in from Cameroun and other locations to cause problems in his state, said he immediately summoned a stakeholders meeting to address the problems.

Awolowo on his part, after the meeting with Buhari on Friday, assured that given the steps being taken to improve non-oil exports, Nigeria would exit its dependence on crude oil revenue in 10 years.

He expressed optimism that in the next decade, Nigeria could get 30 billion from non-oil export notwithstanding the effect of the current COVID-19 pandemic on the nation’s economy.

The NEPC boss noted with delight Nigeria’s swift recovery from recession in the fourth quarter of 2020 and congratulated the president for his efforts.

“In a now less predictable, less reliable and less generous world, he has definitely demonstrated with his leadership that we are able to build a resilient economy that can absorb all global shocks, whatever they may be, known and unknown,” Awolowo stated. (NAN)

-Feb, 21, 2021 @ 18:26 pm

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