The past years have witnessed huge flows of oil
revenues. From 2010 average oil prices were $100
per barrel. But economic and security conditions
were deteriorating. We campaigned and won the
election on the platform of restoring security, tackling
corruption and restructuring the economy. On our
arrival, the oil price had collapsed to as low as $30 per
barrel and we found nothing had been kept for the
rainy day. Oil prices have been declining since 2014
but due to the neglect of the past, the country was
not equipped to halt the economy from declining.
The infrastructure, notably rail, power, roads were
in a decrepit state. All the four refineries were in a
state of disrepair, the pipelines and depots neglected.
Huge debts owed to contractors and suppliers
had accumulated. Twenty-seven states could
not pay salaries for months. In the north-east,
Boko Haram had captured 14 local governments,
driven the local authorities out, hoisted their
flags. Elsewhere, insecurity was palpable;
corruption and impunity were the order of the
day. In short, we inherited a state near collapse.
On the economic front, all oil dependent
countries, Nigeria included, have been struggling
since the drop in prices. Many oil rich states have
had to take tough decisions similar to what we
are doing. The world, Nigeria included has been
dealing with the effects of three significant and
simultaneous global shocks starting in 2014:
1. A 70% drop in oil prices.
2. Global growth slowdown.
3. Normalization of monetary policy
by the United States federal reserve.
Our problems as a government are like that of
a farmer who in a good season harvests ten bags
of produce. The proceeds enable him to get by
for rest of the year. However, this year he could
only manage 3 bags from his farm. He must
now think of other ways to make ends meet.
From day one, we purposely set out to correct
our condition, to change Nigeria. We reinforced and
galvanized our armed forces with new leadership
and resources. We marshaled our neighbours in a
joint task force to tackle and defeat Boko Haram.
By the end of December 2015, all but pockets and
remnants had been routed by our gallant armed
forces. Our immediate focus is for a gradual
and safe return of internally displaced persons
in safety and dignity and for the resumption of
normalcy in the lives of people living in these areas.
EFCC was given the freedom to pursue
corrupt officials and the judiciary was alerted
on what Nigerians expect of them in the fight
against corruption. On the economy, in particular
foreign exchange and fuel shortages, our plan is
to save foreign exchange by fast tracking repair
of the refineries and producing most of our fuel
requirements at home. And by growing more
food in Nigeria, mainly rice, wheat and sugar we
will save billions of dollars in foreign exchange
and drastically reduce our food import bill.
We resolved to keep the Naira steady, as in the
past, devaluation had done dreadful harm to the
Nigerian economy. Furthermore, I supported the
monetary authority’s decision to ensure alignment
between monetary policy and fiscal policy. We shall
keep a close look on how the recent measures affect
the Naira and the economy. But we cannot get away
from the fact that a strong currency is predicated
on a strong economy. And a strong economy presupposes
an industrial productive base and a steady
export market. The measures we must take, may
lead to hardships. The problems Nigerians have
faced over the last year have been many and varied.
But the real challenge for this government has been
reconstructing the spine of the Nigerian state. The last
twelve months have been spent collaborating with
all arms of government to revive our institutions
so that they are more efficient and fit for purpose:
· That means a bureaucracy better
able to develop and deliver policy
· That means an independent judiciary,
above suspicion and able to defend citizen’s
rights and dispense justice equitably.
· That means a legislature that
actually legislates effectively and
· Above all; that means political parties
and politicians committed to serving the
Nigerian people rather than themselves.
These are the pillars of the state on which
democracy can take root and thrive. But only if
they are strong and incorruptible. Accordingly,
we are working very hard to introduce some
vital structural reforms in the way we conduct
government business and lay a solid foundation
on which we can build enduring change.
An important first step has been to get our
housekeeping right. So we have reduced the
extravagant spending of the past. We started
boldly with the treasury single account,
stopping the leakages in public expenditure.
We then identified forty-three thousand ghost
workers through the Integrated Payroll and Personnel
Information system. That represents pay packets
totalling N4.2 billion stolen every month. In addition,
we will save Twenty-Three Billion Naira per annum
from official travelling and sitting allowances alone.
Furthermore, the efficiency unit will cut costs and
eliminate duplications in ministries and departments.
Every little saving helps. The reduction in the
number of ministries and work on restructuring and
rationalization of the MDAs is well underway. When
this work is complete we will have a leaner, more
efficient public service that is fit for the purpose
of changing Nigeria for the good and for good.
As well as making savings, we have changed
the way public money is spent. In all my years as a
public servant, I have never come across the practice
of padding budgets. I am glad to tell you now we not
only have a budget, but more importantly, we have a
budget process that is more transparent, more inclusive
and more closely tied to our development priorities
than in the recent past. 30% of the expenditure in this
budget is devoted to capital items. Furthermore, we
are projecting non-oil revenues to surpass proceeds
from oil. Some critics have described the budget
exercise as clumsy. Perhaps. But it was an example of
consensus building, which is integral to democratic
government. In the end we resolved our differences.
We have, therefore, delivered significant milestones
on security, corruption and the economy. In respect
of the economy, I would like to directly address you
on the very painful but inevitable decisions we had
to make in the last few weeks specifically on the
pump price of fuel and the more flexible exchange
rate policy announced by the central bank. It is even
more painful for me that a major producer of crude
oil with four refineries that once exported refined
products is today having to import all of its domestic
needs. This is what corruption and mismanagement
has done to us and that is why we must fight these ills.
As part of the foundation of the new economy
we have had to reform how fuel prices had
traditionally been fixed. This step was taken only
after protracted consideration of its pros and cons.
After comprehensive investigation my advisers and
I concluded that the mechanism was unsustainable.
We are also engaged in making recoveries of stolen
assets some of which are in different jurisdictions.
The processes of recovery can be tedious and time
consuming, but today I can confirm that thus far:
significant amount of assets have been recovered. A
considerable portion of these are at different stages
of recovery. Full details of the status and categories
of the assets will now be published by the Ministry
of Information and updated periodically. When
forfeiture formalities are completed these monies
will be credited to the treasury and be openly and
transparently used in funding developmental
projects and the public will be informed.
On the Niger Delta, we are committed to
implementing the United Nations Environment
Programme report and are advancing clean-up
operations. I believe the way forward is to take a
sustainable approach to address the issues that affect
the delta communities. Re-engineering the amnesty
programmes is an example of this. The recent spate
of attacks by militants disrupting oil and power
installations will not distract us from engaging leaders
in the region in addressing Niger Delta problems. If the
militants and vandals are testing our resolve, they are
much mistaken. We shall apprehend the perpetrators
and their sponsors and bring them to justice.
The policy measures and actions taken so far are
not to be seen as some experiment in governance.
We are fully aware that those vested interests who
have held Nigeria back for so long will not give up
without a fight. They will sow divisions, sponsor
vile press criticisms at home and abroad, incite
the public in an effort to create chaos rather than
relinquish the vice-like grip they have held on Nigeria.
The economic misfortune we are experiencing
in the shape of very low oil prices has provided us
with an opportunity to restructure our economy
and diversify. We are in the process of promoting
agriculture, livestock, exploiting our solid mineral
resources and expanding our industrial and
manufacturing base. That way, we will import
less and make the social investments necessary to
allow us to produce a large and skilled workforce.
Central Bank of Nigeria will offer more fiscal
incentives for business that prove capable of
manufacturing products that are internationally
competitive. We remain committed to reforming
the regulatory framework, for investors by
improving the ease of doing business in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the first steps along the path of selfsufficiency
in rice, wheat and sugar – big users of
our scarce foreign exchange – have been taken. The
Labour Intensive Farming Enterprise will boost
the economy and ensure inclusive growth in long
neglected communities. Special intervention funds
through the Bank of Agriculture will provide targeted
support. Concerns remain about rising cost of foods
such as maize, rice, millet, beans and gari. Farmers tell
me that they are worried about the cost of fertilizers,
pesticides and the absence of extension services. The
federal and state governments are on the same page
in tackling these hurdles in our efforts at increased
food production and ultimately food security.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my
appreciation for the increasing role that our women
are playing in revitalizing the agricultural sector.
Modern farming is still hard and heavy work and I
salute our Nigerian women in sharing this burden.
In this respect I am very pleased to announce that the
government will shortly be launching the national
women’s empowerment fund, which I have approved
to provide N1.6 billion in micro-finance loans to
women across the nation to assist in rehabilitating
the economies of rural communities, particularly
those impacted by the insurgency and conflict.
With respect to solid minerals, the minister has
produced a roadmap where we will work closely
with the world bank and major international
investors to ensure through best practices and
due diligence that we choose the right partners.
Illegal mining remains a problem and we
have set up a special security team to protect
our assets. Special measures will be in place
to protect miners in their work environment.
For too long, ours has been a society that neglects
the poor and victimizes the weak. A society that
promotes profit and growth over development and
freedom. A society that fails to recognize that, to quote
the distinguished economist Amartya Sen “poverty
is not just lack of money. It is not having the capability
to realize one’s full potential as a human being.”
So, today, I am happy to formally launch, by far
the most ambitious social protection programme
in our history. A programme that both seeks to
start the process of lifting many from poverty,
while at the same time creating the opportunity for
people to fend for themselves. In this regard, Five
Hundred Billion Naira has been appropriated in
the 2016 budget for social intervention programmes
in five key areas. We are committed to providing
job creation opportunities for five hundred
thousand teachers and one hundred thousand
artisans across the nation. 5.5 million children are
to be provided with nutritious meals through our
school feeding programme to improve learning
outcomes, as well as enrolment and completion
rates. The conditional cash transfer scheme will
provide financial support for up to one million
vulnerable beneficiaries, and complement the
enterprise programme – which will target up
to one million market women; four hundred
and sixty thousand artisans; and two hundred
thousand agricultural workers, nationwide. Finally,
through the education grant scheme, we will
encourage students studying sciences, technology,
engineering and maths, and lay a foundation for
human capital development for the next generation
I would like to pay a special tribute to our gallant
men and women of the armed forces who are in
harm’s way so that the rest of us can live and go
about our business in safety. Their work is almost
done. The nation owes them a debt of gratitude.
Abroad, we want to assure our neighbours,
friends and development partners that Nigeria
is firmly committed to democratic principles. We
are ready partners in combating terrorism, cyber
crimes, control of communicable diseases and
protection of the environment. Following on the
Paris Agreement, COP 21, we are fully committed
to halting and reversing desertification. Elsewhere,
we will intensify efforts to tackle erosion, ocean
surge, flooding and oil spillage which I referred
to earlier by implementing the United Nations
Environment Programme (UNEP) report.
We are grateful to the international community
notably France, the US, UK and China for their
quick response in helping to tackle the recent Ebola
outbreak in our sub-region. We also acknowledge
the humanity shown by the Italian and German
governments in the treatment of boat people,
many fleeing from our sub-region because of
lack of economic opportunity. We thank all our
partners especially several countries in the EU.
We appreciate the valuable work that the
UN agencies, particularly UNICEF, ICRC,
the World Food Program have been doing.
We must also appreciate the World Bank,
the Gates Foundation, the Global Fund and
Educate A Child of Qatar for the excellent work
in our health, education and other sectors.
Fellow citizens let me end on a happy note. To
the delight of all, two of the abducted Chibok girls
have regained their freedom. During the last one
year, not a single day passed without my agonizing
about these girls. Our efforts have centred around
negotiations to free them safely from their mindless
captors. We are still pursuing that course. Their
safety is of paramount concern to me and I am sure
to most Nigerians. I am very worried about the
conditions those still captured might be in. Today I
re-affirm our commitment to rescuing our girls. We
will never stop until we bring them home safely.
As I said before, no girl should be put through the
brutality of forced marriage and every Nigerian
girl has the right to an education and a life choice.
. Being excerpts from national broadcast by
President Muhammadu Buhari on yesterday’s
Democracy Day celebration

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