Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has thrown a jab at the Presidential candidate of the People’s Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar accusing him of copying President Muhmmadu Buhari’s administration’s blueprint as his manifesto, and turning round to deride the same administration of non-performance.
Speaking at a Press Conference in Abuja, the Minister chastised Atiku for also displaying crass ignorance of the major policies and programmes that have defined the Buhari administration and taken Nigeria to a new era of prosperity and good governance.
Alhaji Lai Muhammed said the administration was shocked that the PDP candidate was unaware of the numerous achievements it had recorded in the areas of job creation, infrastructure financing, relationship with the private sector, rejuvenation of the power sector, poverty reduction, debt management and the overall management of the economy, which have combined to boost the economy.
The minister said it was either Atiku was ignorant of what the administration has done or was deliberately denying the obvious facts for political reasons and sheer scaremongering.
He said: “Gentlemen, let me say that I am not really very surprised that His Excellency the former Vice President only reeled out, in his so-called Economic Blueprint, what we have been doing in the past seven years plus in infrastructure development, infrastructure financing, poverty reduction, power reform, job creation, relationship with the private sector, debt management and the overall management of the economy. That’s what you get from someone who leaves the country after losing an election, only to parachute into town when another election is due.
“It is a measure of how much this administration has achieved in all sectors that the best the opposition could do is to seek to copy what the administration has been doing. Yet, the opposition-in its desperation to get power-has continued to deny and derogate the administration’s achievements. For the record, there is nothing we have said today on the achievements of this administration that we haven’t said before. No amount of deceit, misrepresentation, scaremongering, distortion of facts or derogation can subtract from the visible achievements of the Buhari administration.
“An administration that engaged in massive infrastructure development despite paucity of resources, an administration that introduced the most expansive and effective poverty reduction and job creation policy in the history of this country, an administration that re-equipped the military to tackle daunting security challenges instead of resorting to the use of mercenaries, an administration that is moving the nation from darkness to light by embarking on the most-ambitious electricity project yet, an administration that is partnering with the private sector to tackle the challenges facing the nation, and an administration that borrowed to rebuild rather than for consumption should not be denigrated by an opposition that lacks originality, and an opposition that is aping a government it derides.
“But it is more shocking that an opposition that has condemned all that this administration has done would turn around to weave its so-called Economic Blueprint around the same things that are currently being done by the same administration. This press conference, therefore, is aimed at exposing the hypocrisy inherent in an opposition that condemns an Administration while also showcasing a blueprint that is nothing but a poor version of what’s on ground.
Mohammed also attacked Atiku for claiming that his administration would take tough and difficult decisions on security matters without fear or favour, saying that his party had lost confidence in Nigeria’s military and opted for mercenaries as a way of tackling insecurity and should therefore be happy with what Buhari had done to stabilize Nigeria.
The minister also boasted about the positive performance of the Buhari administration in the areas of power, infrastructure, poverty eradication and economic development, pointing out tht the government had surpassed many records in the country.
In the area of infrastructure, Mohammed said, “Even our worst critics will agree that our record on infrastructure development is next to none in the history of this country. Across the country, we have constructed 8,352.94 kilometres of roads, rehabilitated 7,936.05 kilometres of roads, constructed 299 bridges, maintained 312 bridges and created 302,039 jobs in the process. We have also delivered houses in 34 states of the Federation under the first phase of the National Housing Project. We were able to achieve these through a combination of budget increase and innovative infrastructure financing methods. Whereas we met a budget of N18.132 billion for the roads component of the Federal Ministry of Works when we assumed office in 2015, the budget for the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing increased exponentially to N260.082 billion in 2016; N274.252 billion in 2017, N356.773 billion in 2018, N223.255 billion in 2019, N227.963 billion in 2020 and N241.864 billion in 2021. Therefore, for anyone using this as a campaign stunt, without acknowledging what we have done so far, is cheap and disingenuous.
“We state, unequivocally, that the worst jinx in infrastructure financing was the PDP administration from 1999 to 2015. Indeed, the Buhari administration has long broken that jinx, leveraging on such innovative schemes as the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (which is being used to finance the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, 2nd Niger Bridge and the Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano road), Sukuk (which has delivered a total of 1,881 kilometres of roads between 2017 and 2020) and the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme (for the construction and rehabilitation of Lokoja-Obajana-Kabba-Ilorin road, reconstruction of Apapa Wharf road, construction of Apapa-Oworonsoki-Ojota road and the Bonny-Bodo road with bridge). The NNPC-funded part of the Road Infrastructure Tax Credit Scheme has also delivered nine roads in North-Central, three in North-East, two in North-West, two in South-East, three in South-South and two in South-West for a total of 1,804 kilometres of roads.
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“It is apparent that Alhaji Atiku has not heard of the Siemens partnership with the Federal Government under the Presidential Power Initiative, the most ambitious project yet in the efforts to improve the seemingly intractable power sector on which the PDP frittered over 16 billion dollars to procure nothing but darkness. The Nigeria-Siemens partnership was consummated with the signing of the Implementation Agreement on July 22nd, 2019. The three-phase project will deliver 7,000MW in the first phase, 11,000MW in the second phase and 25,000MW in the third phase.
“This will positively impact job creation, boost investor confidence, accelerate economic growth and reduce cost of doing business. For those who may be in doubt, let me say that this project is a game changer. As you may have read, electricity equipment ordered under the project have started arriving in the country. When they are installed, there will be a major improvement in the supply of electricity across the country. It is also amazing that His Excellency the former VP has not heard or read that the Senate has passed the electricity bill 2022 that would allow states to generate and distribute power as well as solve the sector’s challenges.
“Alhaji Atiku also spoke on poverty reduction, which he said would be the ‘centerpiece of our economic development agenda’. Could it be that His Excellency has not heard about our National Social Investment Programme (NSIP), the unprecedented programme that is directly and indirectly impacting the lives of poor Nigerians and creating jobs, especially for the youths, through four clusters, namely: the N-Power Programme, the Government Enterprise and Empowerment Programme (GEEP), the National Home-Grown School Feeding System (NHGSFP) and the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Programme.
“From 2016 to date, the NSIP, which has received commendation from many international agencies, has empowered 1 million youths while an additional 500,000 are undergoing various training under the N-Power programme; enrolled 1,632,480 households in the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and gave productive cash grants of N150,000 each to 4,234 people.
“The NSIP has also stimulated unprecedented enrolments in public primary schools through the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme that is feeding 9.8 million children, while there are 2,424,253 beneficiaries of the GEEP loans under TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni, in addition to a total of 1,142,783 individuals who have registered to benefit from GEEP 2.0 under the three loan products. These programmes represent a practical demonstration of the progressive achievement of the President’s target of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty by 2030.
“Shockingly, the former Vice President seems to know little or nothing about the Buhari administration’s unprecedented efforts to make fertilizer available at affordable prices to Nigerian farmers, and how global developments have negatively impacted on the price of fertilizer today, when he said, ‘farmers now pay 200% more for a bag of fertilizer – if they see it – than they did in 2020’.
The minister also defended the Buhari administration’s borrowing of money to run the economy saying that there was nothing wrong for any country to borrow for development and that the country had been running on budget deficit since 2009 and that it did not start with the APC government in 2015 as claimed by Atiku.