The grim economic situation in the country appears to be deepening by the day as 27 states in the country are finding it difficult to pay the salaries of their workers.
President Muhammadu Buhari said this in his remarks at the second National Executive Committee meeting of the All Progressives Congress in Abuja on Thursday.
Buhari said this in reference to the unfavourable economic situation in the country, which he said the administration was battling to stabilise.
Buhari added, “On the economy, the fall of oil prices after Nigeria has made itself a mono economy is a disaster. I wonder why people could not believe that in Nigeria, about 27 out of the 36 states, have difficulties in paying basic salaries of their workers.
“If from 1999 to at least 2003, oil was above $100 per barrel and an export of about two million barrels per day, how come Nigeria failed to make some arrangements to cushion the effect of a probably volatile oil market?”
To address this challenge, the President said his administration began the implementation of the Treasury Single Account, which had so far saved the nation over N3tn, an amount, he believed would have been frittered away by corrupt public officials.
He explained that he would want to be remembered for, among other things, his respect for the Nigerian voters, law enforcement agencies and the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The President expressed regret that he did not succeed in ensuring that this was enforced in the elections in Kogi, Bayelsa and Rivers states.
The President condemned the politically motivated killings in Rivers State, describing them as shameful.
Buhari added, “I think that more Nigerians are killed or killed themselves in Rivers than in any particular state. At this stage of our political development, to remain brutal is shameful and as a government, I promise we will do something by the next general elections.
“I appeal to the leadership of the military, security agents and INEC that what I want Nigerians to remember me for, even if I leave the Presidency tomorrow, is that I respect them.
“I want all Nigerians to believe and hold their PVCs as personal entitlement as Nigerians and use them the way they like, and vote for whoever they like at whichever election.
“If they voluntarily sell it, it is part of their right and so, let them sell it and remain at home and not participate in any election.’’
He said Nigeria’s over-dependence on oil revenues, mismanagement and the looting of the common patrimony were largely responsible for the state of the economy.
The President, who also doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, explained the reason behind the ongoing reforms in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation.
He said, “We have tried to make sure that NNPC is reorganised, so that we know how much of our crude is taken, how much it is sold and to which account the money is going.
“But I tell you that up to the time we came, if anybody told you that he knew how much of crude exchanged hands either on the high sea or reaching their destinations and the accounts the money was paid into, that person was not telling you the truth.
“We are getting the cooperation of countries that have received this crude.’’
On security, the President gave his administration a pass mark.
He noted that the party took a very courageous decision which the executive implemented by replacing the military hierarchy, acquiring new hardware and software and raising the morale of the military personnel.
This, he said, assisted in no small measure, to bring the Boko Haram insurgency largely under control.
“I have said it often that as far as I know, and the service chiefs, who are on the ground, they (Boko Haram) are not holding any local government, but they still have some capabilities, especially on soft targets by using technology,” the President added.
On the issue of his foreign trips, Buhari said, “As for globe-trotting, sometimes, you need to present your case on a personal basis to your economic colleagues and neighbours.
“Nothing is better than personal touch and I believe that we are learning a lot and eventually, the nation will realise so.”
The President said when he was the Head of State, those perceived to be corrupt were arrested and detained then given the chance to prove their innocence.
He noted that the reverse was the case under a multi-party democracy.
Buhari added, “We have to get credible evidence to carry out successful prosecution and get judgment from the judiciary. But effort is being made to give a list of recovery in whatever currencies so far so that Nigerians will know that it is not all about long stories.”
Commenting on the reversal of his earlier directive dissolving the boards of federal agencies and parastatals, Buhari said, “We gave a blanket order, which we had to rescind when we said all boards are suspended or dissolved.
“We had to go back and lick our vomit in terms of university boards because we found out that according to their laws, they cannot choose vice-chancellors unless the boards seat and interview prospective candidates who want to be VCs.’’
He appealed to members of the party, especially the leadership, to bear with the administration and continue to make sacrifices for the growth and development of the nation.
Buhari explained that he was aware of the pressure on them, especially with the state of the economy, assuring them that everything was being done to improve on the economy and set the nation on the path of growth.
The President attributed the reported padding of the budget to the bureaucratic bottlenecks that characterised the reduction of Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“When we came in after 16 years of the Peoples Democratic Party’s rule, the government had 42 ministries. We reduced them to 24, removed 21 permanent secretaries. We were all in the process of taking over at a time of a national budget.
“So, imagine the volume of work and with what happened in the National Assembly, the padding, it would appear that below the permanent secretaries, there are still a lot of bureaucracies that are still with them,” Buhari said.
The National Chairman of the party, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, appealed for unity among members of the party, which he said was necessary to enable the party to deliver on its promises to Nigerians.
According to him, most of the problems the APC administration is trying to solve are inherited.
Odigie-Oyegun added, “The problems we have are well-known, of course originating from two well-known factors: our squandered patrimony and of course, the unfortunate coincidence of the collapse of the price of crude.’’
Speaking to newsmen after the meeting, Odigie-Oyegun explained that it was agreed that congresses should be held to nominate replacement for party members, who, either through appointment or election, have moved on.
He said a committee had also been set up to review the party’s constitution to ratify the agreement to downsize the number of members of the BoT.