As the nation celebrates its 100 years of existence today, President Goodluck Jonathan has vowed to curb corruption, reduce cost of governance and curtail foreign travels by government personnel.
The president made the vow in his New Year and Centenary message to the nation.
In the message, the president recalled that “exactly 100 years ago, on January 1, 1914, the British colonial authorities amalgamated what was then the separate Protectorates of Southern Nigeria and Northern Nigeria, giving birth to the single geopolitical entity known as Nigeria.
According to him, Nigerians must therefore see today as not just the beginning of a new year, but the end of a century of national existence and the beginning of another, adding that it is a moment for sober reflection and for pride in all that is great about Nigeria.
“Whatever challenges we may have faced, whatever storms we may have confronted and survived, Nigeria remains a truly blessed country, a country of gifted men and women who continue to distinguish themselves in all spheres of life, a country whose diversity remains a source of strength,” he said.
He paid tribute to the country’s founding fathers and mothers, and all the heroes and heroines whose toil and sweat over the century made this country what it is today.
“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,” assuring Nigerians that his administration remained fully committed to the progressive development of the country and the consolidation of peace, unity and democratic governance.
He also promised that his administration would work extremely hard, with a view to ensuring the success of the impending National Conference, stating that the report of the Presidential Advisory Committee on the Conference was undergoing urgent review and the approved structure, adding that the guidelines and modalities for the conference would soon be published as a prelude to its commencement and expeditious conclusion.
“It remains our sincere hope and expectation that the success of the national conference will further enhance national unity, peace and cohesion as we move ahead to the 2015 general election,” he said.
Commenting on the electoral process, the president observed that the government would also progressively enhance the credibility of Nigeria’s electoral process by consistently upholding the principle of one man, one vote, noting that the “administration will also ensure that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) receives all required support to ensure that it is adequately prepared for the next general election.”
In order to improve on peace and security nationwide, the president pledged to improve on the capacity of security agencies to be responsive by empowering them in 2014.
He added that the allocation of over N600 billion to defence and policing in the 2014 budget was a pointer to the commitment.
On other areas of the economy, Jonathan said: “In 2014, we will continue to prioritize 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 (NIPPs).
“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.
“We will complete the privatisation of the NIPP projects, accelerate work on our gas pipeline infrastructure and also continue to invest in hydro-electric power and clean energy as we monitor the effects of climate change on our economy.”
He added that his administration had worked hard to curb fraud in the administration of the pension system and the implementation of the petroleum subsidy scheme.
“We have introduced a Pensions Transition Arrangement Department under a new director-general. This department will now ensure that those of our pensioners still under the old scheme receive their pensions and gratuities, and are not subjected to fraud.
“Prosecution of all those involved in robbing our retired people will continue. The Petroleum Subsidy Scheme is also now being operated under new strict guidelines to tackle previous leakages in the scheme and prevent fraud,” he said.
On curtailing foreign travels by government personnel, he said the directive shall apply to all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) of the federal government.
Jonathan further noted that the strategy to curb leakages would increasingly rely on introducing the right technologies such as biometrics and digitising government payments.
“I am therefore pleased to inform you that we shall complete the deployment of the three electronic platforms in 2014 – namely, the Treasury Single Account (TSA), the Government Integrated Financial Management Information System (GIFMIS) and the Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) – which are all geared towards improving efficiency and transparency in our public finances.
“Through these reforms, we have already saved about N126 billion in leaked funds and intend to save more.
“To sustain Nigeria’s ongoing agricultural transformation, we have planned further investments in the sector. We will provide input subsidies to five million farmers nationwide using the e-wallet system.
“This administration recently launched a self-employment initiative under the Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme (YEAP), called the Nagropreneur programme. This scheme would encourage our youths to go into commercial agriculture as entrepreneurs and we plan to develop over 750,000 young Nagropreneurs by 2015,” he said.
He equally promised new agro-industrial clusters to complement the staple crop processing zones being developed across the country.
The president stressed that in 2014, his administration would continue to work with the private sector to improve financing in the agricultural sector.
In this wise, he disclosed that Fund for Agricultural Finance in Nigeria (FAFIN) which would serve as a private equity fund to invest in agri-businesses across the country would be launched.
“Our Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) will be the bedrock of Nigeria’s industrialisation. We have about 17 million registered SMEs, and they employ over 32 million Nigerians. When our SMEs grow, more jobs will be created for our youth.
Therefore, in 2014, this administration will focus strongly on implementing the Nigeria Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) to address the needs of small businesses.
“Our interventions will include helping SMEs with access to affordable finance, business development services, and youth training. In addition, our new CET policies will enable us to support our emerging industries.
“We will also intensify our investment promotion efforts abroad, to ensure we bring the biggest and best companies from around the world to invest in Nigeria,” he said.
On the housing and construction industry, Jonathan acknowledged that the sector is critical in most developed economies, adding, “When the housing sector booms, it creates additional jobs for architects and masons, for electricians and plumbers, for painters and interior decorators, and for those in the cement and furniture industries.
“Today, I am pleased to inform you that this administration is reinvigorating our housing and construction sector. We have established the Nigeria Mortgage Refinance Company (NMRC), which will increase liquidity in the housing sector, provide a secondary market for mortgages, and thereby increase the number of people able to purchase or build homes at an affordable price in the country.
“In 2014, we will work in a number of pilot states where the state governors have agreed to provide fast-track land titles, foreclosure arrangements, and serviced plots.
“This new institution will enable us to create over 200,000 mortgages over the next five years at affordable interest rates. In addition, those at the lower end of the economic ladder will not be left behind as this new initiative will expand mass housing schemes through a re-structured Federal Mortgage Bank and other institutions to provide rent-to-own and lease-to-own options.
“I am confident that very soon, many more hardworking Nigerian families will be able to realise their dream of owning a home.”
In the area of health care, the president said the federal government would continue its efforts, through the Saving One Million Lives initiative, to strengthen primary health care services.
“We will scale up interventions in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, nutrition, routine immunisation, HIV/AIDS, malaria elimination, tuberculosis, neglected tropical diseases, and non-communicable diseases.
“We will pay greater attention to the provision of universal health coverage. Besides the implementation of new initiatives such as my comprehensive response plan for HIV/AIDS, we shall continue to collaborate with global health partners to deliver our health sector transformation agenda,” he said.
He also spoke on the long-drawn strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), stating: “I am glad that the issues responsible for the long-drawn ASUU strike have been resolved and our children are returning to their campuses. We are committed to making our tertiary institutions true centres of learning for our young people.
“We will therefore focus on upgrading hostels, laboratories, classrooms, and halls. As the 2015 deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaches, we will continue to expand access to basic education for all Nigerian children.
“Working with state governments, we shall decisively tackle the problem of the large numbers of out-of-school children in this country. We will also invest in technical and vocational education to promote skills development for our youth across the country.”
He stressed that the task of making Nigeria a much better place for present and future generations must not be left to government alone, urging Nigerians to be ready and willing to do more this year to support the implementation of the federal government’s Agenda for National Transformation in every possible way.
“Let us all therefore resolve as we celebrate the New Year, and Nigeria’s Centenary, to place the higher interests of national unity, peace, stability and progress above all other considerations and work harder in our particular fields of human endeavour to contribute more significantly to the attainment of our collective aspirations.
“I urge all Nigerians, no matter their stations in life, to rededicate themselves to contributing meaningfully to further enrich our national heritage. The time for that re-dedication is now, not tomorrow,” Jonathan said.