President Muhammadu Buhari has told those militants bombing oil installations in the Niger Delta that he is ready to dialougue with them.
Mr Buhari said the dialogue would afford both the government and the militants the opportunity to decide how the nation’s resources could be managed instead of agitators picking up arms against their fatherland.
“I want you to talk to people to be patient with the government. We are always thinking about our country and we are thinking about our people.
“I assure you that the country and the people of the country are always uppermost in our minds. With our performance in the North-East, Nigerians know that this government is serious.
“For our friends in the Niger Delta area, we will persuade them that they should please sit down with us and agree to manage our resources rather than think of fighting it out,” the President told residents of the Federal Capital Territory, led by the Minister, Muhammad Bello, paid him a Christmas visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
While saying that the problems he identified during campaigns were still the nation’s fundamental problems, Buhari specifically identified power and lack of infrastructure as major challenges.
He regretted that during the oil boom, the nation’s handlers at that time failed to save for a rainy day.
Mr Buhari promised that his government would concentrate on infrastructure development, stating that jobs would be created through the process.
“It is about 18 months since we resumed here. I believe some of you followed us during our campaigns and what we identified are still fundamental problems.
“The first is security, and we kept on saying whether it is an organisation or a country, we have to first secure it before we can manage it properly. Without security, nothing can work.
“Secondly, the economy and the unemployment of able-bodied persons. From 1999 to 2014, the crude production was over 2.2m barrels per day. The average cost per barrel was $100.
“When we came, it was $37. I think it is now between $40 and $50. I asked for savings, there was no saving. I asked them what they used the money to buy, they said they bought food and oil. I do not know how long it took me to recover from the shock.
“Some of you will recall either by history or discussion that it was cocoa, palm kernel, cotton, agro allied industry that we used to build infrastructure, be it rail or school.
“We also used the proceeds to develop oil. When we got the oil, we threw everything away. We thank God this year, the harvest was quite good; otherwise, I do not know what we would have done.
“There was no money saved, no infrastructure built, and power is still our main problem. Old roads are dilapidated and they need to be repaired from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt up to Maiduguri. There are rail lines we want to develop from Lagos to Calabar, from Lagos to Kaduna and the Abuja one.
“If we can get the infrastructure done, we cannot even know the number of Nigerians that will get jobs. So, we have to get infrastructure. It will take tankers and other articulated vehicles off the road; we will save vehicles and we will save lives and we will get jobs for a lot of Nigerians.”
On their part, the Chairman of the Christians Association of Nigeria, FCT branch, Rev. Jonah Samson, said they were in the Presidential Villa to identify with Buhari and commend him for his leadership, which he said had impacted positively on Nigerians.
Samson particularly commended the President for his administration’s anti-corruption war.
“Corruption is a cankerworm. It is a terrible thing that we must kill. We urge you to ensure that the war continues. It should not end during this administration.
“We thank God for the victory over Boko Haram. It is a thing of joy worthy of celebration.”