President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday morning addressed Nigerians in a nationwide broadcast to celebrate the 61st Independence Anniversary.
The 101-point address outlined several key areas the government has scored high points according to him despite the various challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic. He also offered insights into his inner thinking and policy direction for the next two years.
Here are major takeaways from the speech:
1. October first is worth celebrating
President Buhari stated that despite the enormous challenges, Nigerians have put up a collective attitude to remain as one indivisible nation.
According to him: “For 1st of October 1960 to happen, all hands were on deck. East, West, North all came together to celebrate freedom.
“Today should not only serve as a reminder of the day the British handed over the reins of power to Nigerians, but also unified Nigerians from all ethnic groups, religions and regions.
“Today, despite the challenges we face, most Nigerians still maintain the spirit of 1st October.
“That positive outlook and determination to make Nigeria a peaceful and prosperous nation. It is due to this collective attitude that Nigeria doggedly continues to remain a united and indivisible nation.”
2. The need for unity/clampdown on secessionists, agitators
The President harped on the essence and importance of a unified Nigeria.
He stated that his administration is working tirelessly to address legitimate grievances but won’t allow secessionists and agitators threaten the unity of the country.
He described the past 18 months as the most difficult in the history of Nigeria since the civil war.
In his words: “Nigeria is for all of us. Its unity is not negotiable. And its ultimate success can only be achieved if we all come together with a common goal of having peace and prosperity for our nation.
“We shall continue to work on dialogue-based solutions to address legitimate grievances. But we remain ready to take decisive actions against secessionist agitators and their sponsors who threaten our national security.
“The recent arrests of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Adeyemo, and the ongoing investigations being conducted have revealed certain high-profile financiers behind these individuals. We are vigorously pursuing these financiers including one identified as a serving member of the national assembly.
“As we begin to celebrate our sixty-one years as a Nation, we need to be conscious that Nigeria does not start and end with the Federal Government. This country is a great collective where Government at all arms and levels as well as the private sector, and more importantly individuals, have a role to play.”
3. Devastating impact of COVID-19
He stated the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic caused his administration to re-strategise from stabilising the economy to ensuring the country was safe in terms of ‘public health’.
He said: “Our original priorities for 2020 were to continue stabilising our economy following the deep recession while restoring peace in areas confronted with security challenges. But the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating impact on all nations meant we needed to shift gears and re-strategise.
“Nigerians came together as one to fight against COVID-19. It is this attitude and by the special grace of God, we continue to survive the pandemic as a nation and indeed, provide leadership and example at regional and international levels.”
Insecurity has been a major challenge to the administration, with the country facing a plethora of security challenges ranging from violent extremism, to farmer-herder conflict, banditry, mass kidnappings by armed bandits, a revived secessionist movement, and attacks on infrastructure and government facilities, among others.
President Buhari reassured that his administration was ready to arrest and prosecute those inciting violence across the country.
He said his administration has concluded plans to recruit 10,000 policemen annually for the next six years.
He said: “As our economy continues to open after the COVID-19 related lockdowns, we have also seen the resurgence of insecurity in certain parts of the country.
“In the last four months, the gallant men and women of the Military and Security Agencies have made tremendous progress in addressing these new security challenges. We are taking the fight to our enemies from all angles and we are winning.
“Therefore, as a government, we are ready to arrest and prosecute all persons inciting violence through words or action. Our resolve for a peaceful, united and one Nigeria remains resolute and unwavering.
“That said, our hope is not to fight for peace. We can always settle our grievances peacefully without spilling any blood.”
5. Enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act
The Petroleum Industry Act 2021 was signed into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari on August 16.
According to Buhari, “This Act not only overhauls the Institutional, regulatory and fiscal framework of the Petroleum Industry but also reduces the previous opacity associated with this sector.
“This is the first step to the reforms as the process is a continuous one. Already, to further improve the governance framework, I have sought for an amendment of sections 11(2)(b) and 34(2)(b). We will also continue to review and amend as appropriate.”
Agriculture, to the President, remains the key to his administration’s economic diversification strategy.
Buhari while acknowledging that the nation’s food capacity had increased, Buhari lamented the high prices of food, which he claimed was caused by middlemen who ‘buy and hoard these essential commodities for profiteering.’
He rehashed his government’s pledge to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.
According to him: “As we continue to optimise and enhance our oil and gas sector, I am also proud and delighted to state that our economic diversification strategy remains on course with the persistent increase in Non-Oil Sector contribution to GDP.
“We recovered from economic recession in quarter four of 2020 with a GDP growth rate of 0.11%, and grew by 0.51% and 5.01% in real terms in the first and second quarters of 2021.
“The Agricultural sector remains key to our economic diversification efforts as the sector has been a consistent driver of the non-oil sector contributing 22.35% and 23.78% to the overall GDP in the first and second quarter of 2021.
“We have seen significant private sector investments in almost all areas of the agricultural value chain. And these have continued even during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
7. Operations of Twitter in Nigeria
Buhari said Twitter must meet the government’s five conditions for suspension of it’s operation in Nigeria to be lifted.
The government suspended Twitter’s operations on June 5 after the social media network deleted a controversial tweet by President Buhari.
He listed the conditions to include the fact that Twitter must pay attention to national security and cohesion; registration, physical presence and representation in Nigeria; fair taxation; dispute resolution and local content.
“As a country, we are committed to ensuring that digital companies use their platform to enhance the lives of our citizens, respect Nigeria’s sovereignty, cultural values and promote online safety,” he said.
“Following the extensive engagements, the issues are being addressed and I have directed that the suspension be lifted but only if the conditions are met to allow our citizens continue the use of the platform for business and positive engagements.”