My predecessors completed only a few projects – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has said the grand corruption that characterised past administrations denied Nigeria the opportunities of experiencing “infrastructure revolution.”
He said the grand corruption saw some people make away with billions of dollars on fraudulent oil deals and bogus military contracts.
Buhari said this in an opinion he wrote which was published by NewsWeek on Monday to coincide with his official visits to Washington DC during which he met with the United States President Donald Trump at the White House.
The President opinion read in part, “In fact, very few major infrastructure projects were completed in Nigeria in the years leading to my inauguration as President, a period during which the country enjoyed its highest crude oil prices in recent history.
“The grand corruption of our recent past, which saw tens of billions of dollars frittered away on fraudulent oil deals and bogus military contracts, put paid to all opportunities for an infrastructure revolution.
“Now we have seized the chance to do things better: We have cleaned up falsified civil service payrolls and commenced the prosecution of payroll impostors – saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
“We set up a whistle-blower policy aimed at deterring corrupt practices in government and we are committed to the Open Government Partnership. In January this year, Nigeria was elected to the Partnership’s Steering Committee.”
Buhari admitted that a lot of works still lie ahead of his administration.
He said his government needed to build on the gains it had made in fighting terrorism in the North-East and in attaining peace in the Niger-Delta region.
He identified climate change, amplified by rapidly growing population, as another challenge his administration was facing head-on.
He said the depletion of grazing land and water, arising from desertification was triggering fatal tensions between crop farming communities and nomadic cattle farmers.
He cited the example of the Lake Chad, which he described as the marine mainstay of North-East Nigeria and the landlocked countries of Chad and Niger.
He said the lake had shrunk by more than 80 per cent over the last five decades.
“We are working hard to resolve these challenges – through improved law enforcement, peace-building efforts and necessary reforms in the management of our land and water resources.
“Last December, Nigeria became the first African country to issue Sovereign Domestic Green Bond to raise financing for clean energy infrastructure.
“Our commitment to restoring Nigeria to the path of growth and development is not in doubt.
“I am enormously confident that we can continue to count on the friendship and support of the American government and people, as we work to fulfil our vision of a Nigeria – Africa’s largest economy and most populous country – that is secure, stable and prosperous,” Buhari said.
The President disclosed that in the last two years, his administration had committed over $1bn to upgrading road infrastructure, adding that a significant infrastructure initiative to modernise major national highways and complete the development of a 3,050MW hydroelectric power project had been established.
The President added that in addition to concession arrangement with an international consortium, his government had completed a $900m rail network linking Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, to one of the key agriculture hubs in the North; commenced construction of a $1.2bn standard gauge line to facilitate trade and travel between the commercial capital city of Lagos and two major cities in the south; and was set to inaugurate West Africa’s first intra-city light rail projects in Abuja.
Buhari recalled that the US was one of the first countries he visited after he was inaugurated as President in 2015.
He described the trip as a necessary one aimed at rebuilding what “was at the time a troubled relationship” between the two countries.
He added, “I am pleased to note the success of the rapprochement; nowhere has the impact of this been more visible than in the remarkable progress we have made, with American support, in the fight against Boko Haram.
“Before my administration assumed office, the terrorist group controlled an area the size of Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut combined.
“Today, they are a substantially degraded force, with a capacity limited largely to cowardly attacks on soft targets.
“The Global Terrorism Index report for 2017 indicated that the number of terrorism-related deaths in Nigeria attributed to Boko Haram dropped by 80 per cent in 2016.
“An arms sales embargo imposed on Nigeria by the US government during my predecessor’s time in office has since been lifted. When President Trump and I spoke on the telephone in February 2017, he expressed full support for the sale of US-built A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria, to boost the capacity of the Nigerian Air Force to respond decisively to the threat of terrorism and banditry.
“That deal has now been finalised; I expect that we will continue to enjoy similar levels of the US enthusiasm in our security cooperation.
“Only two weeks ago, our two armed forces collaborated to host in Abuja, Nigeria, the largest gathering of African Army chiefs to discuss cooperation aimed at improving security on the continent.”
Buhari said his administration came to office on the back of a three-pronged agenda: To secure the country, rebuild the economy and to determinedly fight corruption – “the biggest single threat to development and the prosperity of our Nigerians.”
In trade and investment, as well as in security, the President said US companies had been worthy and supportive investment partners.
However, the Coalition for Nigeria Movement, led by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, described Buhari’s write-up as “uninspiring and unsurprising.”
The spokesman for the CNM, Mr. Akin Osuntokun, said it was typical of Buhari to blame everyone but himself.
He added that many of the achievements Buhari was taking credit for were actually initiated by his predecessors but only inaugurated by him.
Osuntokun said Nigeria’s reduction in rice importation was made possible by the hard work of Akinwunmi Adesina, who was the Minister of Agriculture who later became the President of the African Development Bank.
The CNM spokesman said, “This is typical of Buhari; so we are not surprised. Most of the achievements he boasts of where 90 per cent completed under Jonathan. So, I don’t know what he means by his statement.
“Obviously, he didn’t write the article by himself and I believe the writer was not completely in touch with reality but fiction. What are the concrete things Buhari has done?”