President Muhammadu Buhari said he almost resigned as president because of the enormity of challenges facing the country due to the fall in the price of crude oil.
According to him, because of the fall in the price of crude oil which is the live wire of the economy, 27 states in the country could not pay salaries.
President Buhari spoke at the presidential parley with the senior executive course no 38 of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPPS), Kuru at the State House.
Buhari argued that he doesn’t believe Nigeria spent billions of dollars on food and fuel importation as they are no evidence on ground to point to this fact.
He said “For 16 years and consecutive government’s of the other party and you know that there was unprecedented revenue realised, the oil projection which can be verified was 2.1 million barrels per day. From 1999-2015 the average cost of each Nigerian barrel of oil was $100 per barrel.
“When we came it fell to less than $30 per barrel and is now it is between 40 and 50. Actually I felt like absconding because 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries and we know they have no other source than to depend on salaries.
“And I asked any savings? I was told there was no savings, And I asked what have you done on agriculture, power, rails, roads. Nothing. You know more than I do because you move around. I have not been moving around since after elections but you do, how many of the Trunk A roads are still good enough?
“How many power do we have although there are some elements of sabotage. I was told the money was used to import food and fuel. I didn’t believe the answer and I still don’t believe it.
“Until now substantial number of people in the East eat garri and groundnut, in the West pounded yam, cassava, vegetables, in the north tuwo which is made from any of the grains, millet, sorghum. They eat it in the night and warm it in the morning and eat it and take fura De nunu in the afternoon. How many of those people can afford foreign food?
According to him, the legislature dedicated 445,000 barrels per day and that is just 60 % of our requirements saying ” I said okay what of the 40%? The marketers that are bringing it just present documents, papers are just stamped and monies are taken away adding that “This is the type of things that the Nigerian elites are doing for our own country. When you go back look at your colleagues and encourage them to be truly Nigerians.”
Buhari noted that poverty reduction and inclusive development have become pillars of his administration and very close to his heart.
“I am very pleased that the Participants, through the able leadership of the National Institute of Management and the faculty members, have taken the task seriously, as is evident in the report presented. I congratulate you for painstakingly committing your time and energy to produce such a valuable policy-oriented report that will guide this administration.
“I have looked forward to receiving this report because it touches on one of the fundamental problems confronting our nation. The Report comes at a time when our economy is experiencing a downturn and all efforts are being made by this administration to get our country moving again, Buhari said.
The president pointed out that in the last one and half years of his administration, the economy has experienced some tough times, particularly with the decline in oil revenues, which has some harsh impacts on Nigerians at the grassroots.
He stressed that it is also important to note that the economic recession is not the making of this administration, but rather a consequence of bad management of the economy in the past couple of decades. Nor is recession limited to Nigeria – there are far, far worse cases than Nigeria.
He asserted that “Whatever the scale of the problem the important thing is how one tackles it. Accordingly, this administration is committed to finding lasting solutions to our economic structural imbalance.
“Let us have faith in our great nation that we will come out of this recession vibrant and strong. I am glad that the report presented today has given us reason to keep faith in our ability to overcome our challenges.
According to him, there is no doubt that poverty for decades has been a major challenge to Nigeria as a nation despite the country’s enormous wealth.
He lamented that several policies and programmes that have been implemented over the years, as rightly observed by the report, have not broken the cycle of poverty in Nigeria.
He further stated that from the findings of the research by the Participants, it is evident that strengthening institutions is key to reducing poverty and engendering inclusive development.
“It is impossible for this administration to ignore the poor who made great sacrifice to bring us to government. Ours more than any other government in the history of Nigeria is a people’s government. We therefore must and we will keep faith with the people.
“It is in this light that I wish to declare the commitment of this administration to the Sustainable Development Goals, most especially to ending extreme poverty in Nigeria.
“It is not going to be easy, but we are committed to dealing with the challenges in a decisive manner. Fortunately, the Report of the Participants has prescribed some concrete measures on how to reduce poverty in the country, He added.
President Buhari commended the efforts of the National Institute for keeping faith and moving Nigeria towards a better society.
“The Institute, even with the limited resources, was able to come up with such a policy-oriented research findings. I want to assure you that the Federal Executive Council will carefully study this Report and implement all the practical recommendations” He stated.
During his remarks , Acting DG of NIPSS, Jonathan Juma said a lot can be done by the national institute if more robust budgetary support is extended to it.
According to him, for the Institute to operate as an “apex institution” and be at the forefront of relevant researches for national development , it is required to recruit and retain top level academics, very senior technocrats and other experienced specialized experts.
“At the moment, I must confess to you that the national institute is operating below its conceived capacity due to its inability to attract a full complement of requisite staff who would conduct research across broad strategic areas of national life and also impact new knowledge.
“The financial situation of the national institute is precarious. The payments for utility services are in arrears and worse still, we have to live with threats of litigation from numerous creditors. Operational vehicles in the institute’s fleet have aged and are a source of constant embarrassment .
We have looked inward and appealed to the generosity of individuals and corporate Nigeria for support and we are glad that some have responded positively. However, a decisive presidential intervention for a sustainable funding of NIPSS is urgently required”, he said.