The Federal Government on Wednesday gave the assurance that in spite of the present hardships in the country, the citizenry would soon get a new lease of life.
The Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the assurance while addressing State House Correspondents in reaction to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s recent criticisms of the Buhari administration.
The minister rolled out the achievements of the Muhammadu Buhari administration in economic revamp but said that such positive indices might not have immediately impacted positively on Nigerians.
“Nigerians will definitely get a new lease of life a short while from now.
“This is because the good news from the agricultural sector, which is recording a bumper harvest, will bring down the cost of foodstuffs, especially such staple as rice.
“And our massive Social Investment Programme will ease the pain of the most vulnerable in the society,’’ he said.
The minister stated that when the administration assumed office in 2015, some six million farmers were involved in rice production.
He said that through its Anchor Borrowers’ programme “we have grown that number to over 12 million farmers.
“The result is that our rice import from Thailand alone has dropped from 644 metric tonnes to 22,000 MT in just two years. This is phenomenal.
“Apart from rice, Nigeria is also doing well in other grains, especially Millet, Sorghum and Maize.
“We are now the second largest producer of sorghum after the U.S., the third in millet after India and our breweries are now enjoying local sourcing of those commodities.
“For maize, we are producing 10 million tons while we need about 13 million tons for both human and animal nutrition.
“Nigeria leads the world in the yam and cassava production; we account for 70% of the world’s yam production; in two years, we hope to be the world’s largest exporter of yam,’’ he added.
Mohammed stated that the overall ambition was that agriculture should rise from 25 per cent to 40 per cent of GDP, so that we could banish poverty and overcome our economic anxiety.
He said that the administration’s Social Investment Programme was Nigeria’s most ambitious social welfare programme ever.
“Currently, 5.2 million primary school children in 28,249 schools in 19 states are being fed daily; 200,000 unemployed graduates have enlisted into the N-power Job Scheme, and a quarter of a million loans already distributed to artisans, traders, and farmers.’’
He described the government’s investment in infrastructure as simply unprecedented, explaining that “infrastructure is key to faster economic growth and development’’.
According to him, Power Generation is at an all-time high of 7,000mw and all can be transmitted; RAIL: Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge is on. Lagos-Ibadan sector ready in 2019, Kano-Kaduna ready 2019; the entire stretch ready is 2021.
He noted that negotiations were on for Coastal Rail covering 15 cities from Lagos to Calabar while on roads, 25 major highways were being funded with the N100 billion Sukuk Bond, for equal benefit of all geo-political zones.
The minister stated that as at today (Wednesday), most of the indices by which an economy was measured had gone up.
He noted that Nigeria would not have exited recession through a mere order or if the administration had not made use of ”good Nigerians” who could help.
He reiterated that the administration was making steady progress in its determined effort to revamp the economy, and the results were showing.
He said that Foreign Reserves had peaked at 40 billion dollars, the highest level in about four years, and up from 24 billion dollars just a year ago.
“Even though when we came in, the price of oil had crashed woefully.’’
Quoting from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), he said headline inflation had fallen for 11 consecutive months, standing at 15.37% as at December 2017.
Mohammed described it as the lowest inflation rate since January 2017, and had met and surpassed the target set for inflation in the administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
“Our determined implementation of the Treasury Single Account (TSA) has stopped the hemorrhaging of the treasury.
“Some N108 billion has been saved from removal of maintenance fees payable to banks, pre-TSA.
“The nation is being saved N24.7 billion monthly with the full implementation of the TSA,’’ he explained.
Mohammed added that the elimination of ghost workers had saved the nation N120 billion, while at about 1.8 billion dollars, the capital inflows in the second quarter of 2017 were almost double the 908 million dollars in the first quarter.
The minister hinted that in the wake of a stable Naira and increased investment inflows, Nigeria’s stock market emerged one of the best-performing in the world, delivering returns in excess of 40 per cent.
He said that Nigeria rose 24 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking, and earned a place on the List of Top 10 Reformers in the world.
“According to Q3 2017 figures, agriculture export is up year-on-year by 25per cent, solid minerals exports are up year-on-year by 78 per cent, raw materials exports are up 70 per cent year-on-year and manufactured goods exports are up 22 per cent year-on-year.
“Government agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service are reporting highest-ever revenue collection, while JAMB, under the new management appointed by President Buhari in 2016, remitted N7.8 billion to the coffers of the Federal Government.
“The total amount remitted by JAMB between 2010 and 2016 was a paltry N51 million,’’ he explained
Mohammed described Obasanjo as a patriot, which he had “proven this time and time again.
“We appreciate what he said concerning the administration’s performance in two out of the three key issues that formed the plank of its campaign: Fighting corruption and tackling insurgency.
“Specifically, the former President said President Buhari must be given credit for his achievement so far in these two areas. We thank him for this.
“Apparently, the former President believes that the administration does not deserve a pass mark in the area of the economy, which is the third of our three-pronged campaign promises.
“We have no doubt that in the face of massive challenges in this area, this administration has availed itself creditably,’’ he said.
The minister said that the administration believed that Obasanjo, “because of his very busy schedule, may not have been fully availed of developments in the government’s efforts to revamp the economy.’’
According to him, the economy is battered by the consequences of over-dependence on a commodity as well as unprecedented pillaging of the treasury.