President Goodluck Jonathan gave yesterday an insight into his focus this year.
Consolidation on peace, unity and democratic governance, special focus on job creation and an inclusive growth in the economy, will take the centre stage, he said.
Dr. Jonathan said his administration was working to make Nigerians enjoy a minimum of 18 hours electricity supply daily.
The President unfolded his agenda in his New Year’s message to Nigerians.
According to him, his administration is boosting power transmission with $1.5 billion.
More measures are being put in place to fight corruption, he said, adding that the government saved N126 billion from leaked funds. He did not, however, state the measures. The government has been under pressure to curb corruption, which many critics insist the administration is, in fact, encouraging.
“I assure you that our administration remains fully committed to the progressive development of our country and the consolidation of peace, unity and democratic governance in our fatherland. Despite several continuing domestic and global challenges, for us in Nigeria, the year 2013 witnessed many positive developments, which we will strive to build upon in 2014,” he said.
“We have diligently carried forward the purposeful and focused implementation of our agenda for national transformation in priority areas, such as power, the rehabilitation and expansion of national infrastructure, agricultural development, education and employment generation.
“Our national budget for 2014, which is now before the National Assembly, is specifically targeted at job creation and inclusive growth. We are keenly aware that in spite of the estimated 1.6 million new jobs created across the country in the past 12 months as a result of our actions and policies, more jobs are still needed to support our growing population. Our economic priorities will be stability and equitable growth, building on the diverse sectors of our economy.”
On the economy, the President said the country had moved from a country that produced two million metric tonnes of cement in 2002, to a country that now has a capacity of 28.5 million metric tonnes.
“For the first time in our history, we have moved from being a net importer of cement to a net exporter. Foreign direct investment into Nigeria has also been strong,” Jonathan said, adding:
“We are witnessing a revolution in the agricultural sector and the results are evident. We have tackled corruption in the input distribution system as many farmers now obtain their fertilisers and seeds directly through an e-wallet system. In 2013, 4.2 million farmers received subsidised inputs via this programme. This scheme has restored dignity to our farmers.
“Last year, we produced over 8 million metric tonnes of additional food; and this year, inflation fell to its lowest level since 2008, partly due to higher domestic food production. Our food import bill has also reduced from N1.1 trillion in 2011, to N648 billion in 2012, placing Nigeria firmly on the path to food self-sufficiency.”
“In 2014, we will continue to prioritise investments in key sectors, such as infrastructure development, power, roads, rail transportation and aviation. In the past year, the Federal Government completed the privatisation of four power generation companies and 10 power distribution companies. We are also in the process of privatising 10 power plants under the National Integrated Power Projects (NIPP).”
On power, the President said: “We shall boost investments in transmission to ensure power generated is properly evacuated and distributed. In this regard, we have already mobilised an additional $1.5 billion for the upgrade of the transmission network in 2014 and beyond. Government will also strengthen regulation of the sector, and closely monitor electricity delivery to increase this beyond 18 hours per day.”
Jonathan reassured Nigerians that his administration would do its all to ensure the success of the planned national conference, which he hoped will enhance national unity, peace and cohesion ahead of the 2015 general elections.
“The report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the conference is undergoing urgent review and the approved structure, guidelines and modalities for the conference will soon be published as a prelude to its commencement and expeditious conclusion,” he said.
To boost the operations of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) towards the 2015 election, the President said the agency would be well supported.
Universities have just reopened after a five-month teachers’ strike over poor funding of the system. But, Jonathan, identifying education as a key priority for the government, said: “We take this responsibility very seriously and I urge all other stakeholders in the sector to recognise the national importance of their work, and to help advance the cause of education in our nation.”
Besides, he defended his administration’s investment in education.
He said: “Between 2007 and 2013, we have almost tripled the allocation for education from N224 billion to N634 billion – and we will continue to vigorously support the sector. We have improved access to education in the country with the construction of 125 Almajiri schools, and the establishment of three additional federal universities in the North, bringing to 12 the number of universities established by this administration.”
Jonathan spoke on security – a major challenge for Nigeria, considering the activities of Boko Haram, kidnapping and armed robbery, among others.
He promised a more secured country, saying: “As peace and security remain prerequisite conditions for the full realisation of our objectives, we will also do more in 2014 to further empower our security agencies who are working in collaborative partnerships with our friends in the international community to stem the scourge of terrorism in our country and enhance the security of lives and property in all parts of Nigeria. The allocation of over N600 billion to Defence and Policing in the 2014 Budget attests to this commitment.
“As I noted, a few days ago, the amalgamation of 1914 was certainly not a mistake but a blessing. As we celebrate 100 years of nationhood, we must resolve to continue to work together as one, united people, to make our country even greater.”