Buhari to Ministers-designate: We have responsibility to improve welfare of Nigerians

By Chijioke Okoronkwo

President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday told ministers-designate and other presidential appointees that there is a collective responsibility to improve the welfare of majority of Nigerians.

Buhari gave this charge at the closing ceremony of the Presidential Retreat for Ministers-Designate, Presidential Aides and other top government functionaries at the State House Banquet Hall, Abuja.

The president told the appointees that their work had just begun as  their concerted effort was needed to take Nigerians out of poverty.

“These last two days have been very instructive for me personally because I have had the opportunity to know many of you new Ministers-Designate better.

“I was also pleased to see that you have all equally enjoyed debating and deliberating on the various challenges before us over the next four years.

“Ladies and gentlemen, majority of our people are poor and are anxiously hoping for a better life; a Nigeria in which they do not have to worry about what they will eat, where they will live or if they can afford to pay for their children’s education or healthcare.

“Our responsibility as leaders of this great country is to meet these basic needs for our people.’’

Buhari said that his administration inherited many challenges from its  predecessors among which was that 18 local governments in the Northeast were under the control of Boko Haram.

He also listed decayed infrastructure in which  rail lines and roads which   deteriorated severely as well as a rent seeking economy that depended largely on oil revenues and imports.

More so, Buhari mentioned  significant unpaid pensions, subsidy debts, legacy contractor debts among others.

According to him, his administration, in its first term, has laid the foundation to rebuild the country.

“ We recaptured those 18 Local Governments previously held by Boko Haram, whose activities are now limited to sporadic attacks against soft targets.

“ Our investments in road and rail infrastructure are without precedent, and many of you can attest to this. We also focused on diversifying the economy from oil towards agriculture and industrialisation.

“ Despite reduced revenues from oil and gas compared to past governments, we have broadly addressed many of the legacy debts they left behind.

“Whilst we have obvious successes to celebrate, the challenges ahead are significant as you would have observed in detail over these two days.

“Nevertheless, from the quality of the deliberations, it is clear that solutions to our problems are well researched and have been well articulated.

“ We have discussed solutions relating to addressing Insecurity; Macroeconomic Stability; Agriculture and Food Security; Energy Security for Petroleum products and Electricity; Transportation and Critical Infrastructure; Industrialisation and SMEs Development; Human Capital Development; Social Inclusion; Anti-Corruption; Housing Financing and Consumer Credit,’’ he said,

The president reminded the appointees that public service was not easy work, and at times it could be thankless.

He urged them to see the opportunity to serve as an honour;  to give  their  best to deliver on the mandate for a more prosperous Nigeria.

Earlier in his closing remark, Mr Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation, presented a summary of the two-day retreat.

He said that they had spent the past two days agreeing to and prioritising the key strategic initiatives required to drive accelerated economic growth in our country as well as the critical enablers required for seamless execution.

Mustapha said the participants  also agreed on the appropriate Key Performance Indicators(KPls) and measures of success for each initiative.

“Some of the agreements from our deliberations include: Consolidate and accelerate on the agricultural agenda to achieve full food sufficiency Increase revenue, implement measures to reduce leakages and drive cost optimisation Ensure effective coordination between monetary and fiscal policy .

“Invest in human capital development with strong focus on early education and health insurance Facilitate investment in oil and gas sector by ensuring speedy passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill and Deep Offshore Oil and Exploration and Production Bill Resolve the liquidity challenge in power sector and facilitate private sector investment.

“Furthermore, it was emphasised that we need to work effectively with all other arms of government such as state government, national assembly etc. for major high impact initiatives such as provision of large scale land for agriculture and food security, passage of critical legislations, among others,’’ he said.

President Buhari will perform the inauguration of the Ministers-designate on Aug. 21 at the Presidential Villa.(NAN)