End-of-Year World Press Conference Addressed by the Supervising Minister of Information/Minister of State II Foreign Affairs.



Gentlemen of the Press Compliments of the season. It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this end-of-year World Press Conference at which we shall take stock of our national life in the year 2014, which ends only in a matter of hours, to usher in 2015. There is no doubt that the outgoing year has been a momentous one for our dear country. We celebrated our Centenary as a united, indivisible nation; and the real size and potential of our economy was acknowledged globally. We also faced an unprecedented public health emergency, following the importation of the Ebola Virus Disease into Nigeria, by Mr. Patrick Sawyer, the late Liberian-American. But Nigeria and Nigerians triumphed over Ebola. Regrettably, terrorism and insurgency remained a challenge. But, by and large, an evaluation of the significant milestones would reveal that there were many more bright spots about 2014, that we can all look forward to an even brighter future. I will now take time, to focus on some of the milestones that should leave no one in doubt about our collective march towards progress as a united country. TERRORISM, INSURGENCY, AND CHIBOK GIRLS As I indicated at the beginning of this address, terrorism perpetrated by Boko Haram was a source of negative attention to the country in 2014.  The painful kidnap of the Chibok schoolgirls readily comes to mind. However, the Federal Government has taken a number of measures to contain and defeat terror. In this respect, •       We must salute the gallantry of members of the Nigerian Armed Forces and personnel of Security and Intelligence Agencies, who are making sacrifices, so the rest of us may be safe. Government is unrelenting in ensuring that the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls are released and reunited with their families. •       As part of the measures to defeat terror, President Goodluck Jonathan has initiated actions at both bilateral and multilateral levels, within the sub-region and beyond, to ensure concerted focus to bring the spate of violence to an end. For instance, the war on terror is now firmly on the regional and continental agenda, with ECOWAS and the African Union adopting measures to combat terrorism. The United Nations has also declared Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organisation. Furthermore, the Multinational Joint Task Force, which became operational this year, as an outcome of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) Partnership, is actively involved in the fight against the     insurgents. •       The Government wishes to reassure Nigerians that every effort towards ending the insurgency is being undertaken. There is renewed training and retraining towards enhancing the capacity of security services to combat the insurgents. •       In 2014, President Jonathan also introduced a number of specific measures to address the fallout of the insurgency in the three North-Eastern States of Adamawa, Borno, and Yobe, which are the worst-affected by Boko Haram activities. The measures include the Safe School Initiative, the Presidential Committee on Victims Support also known as “Nigeria Terrorism Victims Support Foundation,” and the Presidential Initiative for the North-East (PINE), whose responsibility is to plan, coordinate and raise funds for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of places ravaged by the insurgents. THE ECONOMY I would like to begin the review of the economy in the outgoing year, by first acknowledging the relevant issues of the moment. In the last quarter of 2014, oil prices have fallen drastically, well below the budget benchmark of $77.5 per barrel of crude. The uncertainty in the international oil market has necessitated a range of monetary policies by the Central Bank of Nigeria, and fiscal policies by the Federal Ministry of Finance. While there is concern, the country is not in panic. The managers of the economy are constantly monitoring developments that impact the economy, and kicking in contemplated measures under the various scenarios that are being plotted. However, there was a lot more positive about the Nigerian economy in 2014. The Government’s target was macro-economic stability, inclusive growth, more jobs, and an attraction for both foreign and domestic investors. Here are some of the milestones: •       Rebasing of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the first time in 24 years. So, in 2014, Nigeria became the largest economy in Africa, and 26th in the world. •       Rebasing showed that the economy is now more diversified, with the Services sector more dominant. •       Besides guiding policy-making, better tax administration, rebasing helps in the identification of, and investment in, sectors that drive job and wealth creation. •       Rebasing has made Nigeria a more attractive destination for foreign and domestic direct investments, as seen for instance in Dangote Group’s investment of US$9 Billion in Petrochemicals. •       The Sovereign Wealth Fund, which focuses on life after oil, is currently valued at US$1.55 billion. •       Inflation rate was 7.9% as at November 2014, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, compared with 12.4% in May 2011. •       Special intervention programmes are still running and creating job opportunities. YouWin! Programme has supported young Entrepreneurs and created nearly 27,000 jobs, while the Graduate Internship Scheme has engaged and deployed 9,621 interns. •       In 2013, about 1.2 million jobs were created; by the end of the second quarter of 2014, over 500,000 jobs had been created. •       As part of the special attention being paid to jobs, in September 2014, President Jonathan inaugurated the 31-Member Presidential Jobs Board of Nigeria. Headed by Vice President Namadi Sambo, the Board has Government Officials and Private Sector Members,  all charged with facilitating employment generation. •       Boost for Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs). In -06August, this year, the Central Bank of Nigeria announced the take-off of its N220 Billion Micro, Small and Medium Scale Enterprises Development Fund. •       The N220 Billion Development Fund is designed to enhance access to finance by MSMEs, which will have a knock-on effect on entrepreneurship and job creation. •       The fund will provide wholesale financing windows for participating financial institutions, and improve their capacity to meet credit needs of MSMEs, at customer-friendly interest rates. •       Significantly, 60% of the MSME fund is meant to be allocated to women entrepreneurs. •       In addition to the foregoing, the clean-up of the banking sector has been well-handled. All banks are now fully capitalized. •       Whereas Non-Performing Loans stood at 36.5% in July 2010, by July 2014, they were 3.69%, well within the 5% prudential limit. •       Successful hosting of the World Economic Forum for Africa in Abuja (in spite of the terrorist acts that were deliberately aimed at discouraging attendance at the Forum). •       Vigorously pursuing Pension Reform with the enactment of an amendment to the principal Act, 10 years after it was first passed in 2004. TRADE AND INVESTMENT •       Kicked off the National Industrial Revolution Plan to reposition Nigeria’s industries as the bedrock of sustainable economic growth and development. This is based on areas where Nigeria has comparative and competitive advantage. The plan links industries to innovation and skills development. •       In December, this year, the Federal Executive Council approved a landmark policy to reposition the Cotton, Textile, and Garment sub-sector of the economy. The policy covers the entire value chain from cotton to designing. •       The country now has the Nigerian Sugar Master Plan (NSMP), which provides the roadmap for 100% local production of sugar. Consequently, Nigeria’s raw sugar imports dropped to 800,000 tonnes from 1.4 million tonnes recorded in the first quarter of 2013.     Refined sugar imports dipped from 1.88 per cent in 2012 to 0.67 per cent in 2013. This resulted in the drop in price of sugar from N9,000 per 50kg in 2012 to N6,950 in 2013, representing a decrease of 23 per cent. •       Introduction of a new Automotive Policy to create jobs and boost the economy. Stallion Group investment in Volkswagen of Nigeria (VWON) Plant has led to the successful resuscitation of VWON vehicles. Innoson Group manufacturing of made in Nigeria cars was     facilitated through Bank of Industry (BOI) loan, Made in Nigeria Armoured Vehicles by Proforce Nigeria Limited, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State benefitted from BOI loan for expansion, and inauguration of WEMCO Steel Mill state-of-the-art 5-stand Tandem Cold Rolled Steel     Plant in Ibafo, Ogun state. •       Repositioned the Weights and Measures Department to entrench fair-trading, and give consumers value for their spending. AGRICULTURE Achievements in the agriculture sub-sector are facts that are in the public domain; so I will be brief in recapitulating them on this occasion. It suffices to restate that the Agricultural Transformation Agenda has revolutionized agriculture in the country.  From farming for subsistence, agriculture, under President Jonathan’s Administration, has been elevated to full commercial enterprise. Through the exploration of the value chain, different enterprises have sprung up in the processing, storage, packaging, and marketing sub-sector. •       The fall in the rate of inflation from double-digit to single-digit has been partly due to higher domestic food production. The nation’s food import bill has also reduced,     placing Nigeria firmly on the path to food self-sufficiency. •       The Government is still pursuing its target of self-sufficiency in rice production by 2015. In the outgoing year, one of the largest integrated rice mills owned and operated by Olams was commissioned at Doma, Nasarawa State. •       Investments are on-going in priority value chains including: aquaculture, cassava, dairy, livestock, maize, mango, orange, palm oil, pineapple, rice, rubber, sesame, tomato, wheat. •       More funds are now going to farmers in Nigeria from local and international investors, as well as financial institutions.  The Nigerian Incentive-Based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending (NIRSAL) which was introduced by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has guaranteed N25 billion of agricultural loans. This has facilitated increased lending to the Agriculture Sector to 4% of banks’ total loans from the average of 1.5% in 2009.  In 2012, the banks lent N3.5 billion to agro-dealers, first time ever.  In 2013, the banks lent N20 billion to agro-dealers. •       The major planks of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, including strengthening 10 Priority Value Chains across the country, improved quality seedlings, Staple Crop Processing Zones, among others, are on course. The e-Wallet system continues to deliver     fertilizers to farmers. HEALTH Perhaps the most obvious story about the achievements in the Health sector is how Nigeria and Nigerians responded in unison to defeat Ebola, and limit its impact on the population. The World Health Organisation (WHO) certified Nigeria Ebola-free on 20th October. But there were other significant milestones in the Health sector. •       In January 2014, WHO issued Nigeria with a certificate, declaring the country free of guinea worm. That certification was a salute to the joint efforts of the Federal Ministry of Health, the Carter Centre, WHO, UNICEF, and Yakubu Gowon Centre, which battled successfully to rid the country of guinea worm which used to record one of its     highest prevalence rates in Nigeria. •       Nigeria also recorded new gains in the eradication of polio, such that in the past five months, no new cases have been reported. •       Enactment of the National Health Act. After nearly 10 years in the making, the National Health Bill was signed into law this year by President Jonathan. It is a revolutionary piece of legislation that has been hailed by stakeholders as a game-changer in healthcare delivery service in the country. •       Launch of pneumonia vaccine. •       Commissioning of the National Trauma Centre at the National Hospital, Abuja. ENVIRONMENT •       On 25th November, 2014, President Goodluck Jonathan launched the implementation of the Nigerian component of the Great Green Wall Initiative, at Bachaka, Arewa Local Government Area of Kebbi State. •       The Great Green Wall project aims to arrest the vicious circle of environmental degradation, impoverishment, migration and conflict. •       A brain child of the African Union, the Great Green Wall is a regional afforestation programme designed to create a greenbelt of trees across the southern edge of the     Sahara desert, in order to address land degradation and desertification. •       The Nigerian component comprises a greenbelt that is 15 km wide and 1,500 km long across 11 states: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa. •       When completed, the Great Green Wall will protect water resources, and restore the habitat for biodiversity, energy resources, and agricultural production. •       As should be expected, the implementation of the Great Green Wall will generate employment for the planters; it will also provide arable land for cultivation going forward, which itself guarantees sustainable income. •       Another landmark development in the course of the outgoing year was the adoption of a policy on the development of grazing reserves, which in the long run will help to minimize conflict between herdsmen and farmers. HOUSING In 2014, the Federal Government pressed on with measures that will help reduce the housing deficit in the country. The measures include: •       Launch of the Nigerian Mortgage Refinance Company. Its purpose is to facilitate and guarantee mortgage liquidity access to qualified institutions, which will in turn on-lend to persons desirous of owning their own homes. •       Launch of the first phase of 10,000 affordable houses which will be delivered in due course. Owing to the large volume of applications, the initial phase has been extended     to 66,000 houses. •       In addition to rehabilitating and maintaining the 23 existing Federal Secretariats in the country, the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development, is currently undertaking the construction of 6 new Secretariats across the country. •       The new Secretariats are located in each geopolitical zone, namely, Awka, Anambra State (South East); Yenagoa, Bayelsa State (South-South); Oshogbo in Osun State (South West); Gombe in Gombe State (North East); Nasarawa in Nasarawa State (North Central) and Gusau in Zamfara State (North West).  Work is progressing satisfactorily in each of the project sites. •       While on the subject matter of housing, let me quickly add that the Federal Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and National Orientation also completed the construction and equipment of three brand-new Cultural industry Centres in Taraba, Ogun, and the Federal Capital Territory. WATER Before the inception of President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration, access to potable water was 58%. Access is now about 70%, while sanitation moved from 32% to 50% under the recent national assessment. This has been made possible through the efforts of the three tiers of Government, together with Development partners, in the provision of water supply for the urban, small towns and rural settlements. •       Within the last four years, the Federal Ministry of Water Resources  completed 37 dams of various sizes, rehabilitated 10 dams, while the construction works on 149 dams of various  capacities are on-going across the country. The dams are useful for hydropower, irrigation, fishery development, flood control, tourism and recreation. •       Out of the 37 completed dams, 16 are with hydropower potentials capable of generating 135.15 Megawatts of electricity. •       Some existing dams, including the Goronyo Dam emergency spillway in Sokoto, Tiga and Chalawa Gorge dams in Kano, Hadejia as well as other dams in many states have been rehabilitated for more optimal operation. •       Construction works on some strategic dams such as Otukpo Multi-purpose Dam, Kontogora Dam, Galma Dam Ilesha Dam, Adada Dam, Ivo dam, Kashimbila Dam, etc are progressing well and are at various stages of completion in line with Government’s intention to complete     such projects and put them into use to enhance food security, power generation and job     creation. The Kashimbila Dam on the Katsina–Ala River, a major tributary of the River Benue, beside other economic benefits, would help to checkmate the threat of flood from the structurally weak volcanic Lake Nyos upstream in the Cameroons. POWER Under the Roadmap for Power Sector Reform launched by Mr President, the Federal Government has: •       Fully privatized Power Holding Company Nigeria’s (PHCN’s) successor companies in generation and distribution. •       Contracted out the management of Transmission Company of  Nigeria (TCN). TCN has completed several sub-station projects, with many more on-going, all with a view to increasing the wheeling capacity of the transmission network nationwide. •       Restarted stalled multi-billion dollar National Integrated Power Projects (NIPPs). •       Expended close to N500 Billion to settle debts/payoffs, to allow progress in the power sector. •       Created an enabling environment for the injection of private sector capital in all areas of the Power Sector. •       Diversified the Energy Mix to exploit the abundance of natural resources in the country. •       Exploited, and are establishing other energy sources, like solar, wind, biomass (waste-to-power) to complement and supplement   the limited power generation and supply available in Nigeria. •       Initiated Operation Light-up Rural Nigeria (OLRN) to provide access to electricity to rural dwellers far removed from the national grid. In 2014, OLRN pilot schemes were launched in three rural communities (Durumi, Shape and Waru) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). •       Concluded plans to commission the 10MW Katsina Wind Farm Power Plant in Katsina State. •       Conducted Feasibility Studies to tap wind energy for electricity generation in the offshore locations of the country. •       Received over 53 applications through the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC), for licensing for Independent Power Producers (IPPs) in the last few months, most of which are for Renewable Energy Power Plants. •       Developed synergy between the Ministry of Power and Ministry of Petroleum Resources to bridge the gaps and volatility in gas supply, to ensure gas and energy security. •       The Federal Government through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has provided a N213 Billion power sector intervention facility, to be disbursed to generation and distribution companies, as well as gas suppliers. The funds are intended to take care of legacy debts that had hampered the operations of the new players in the power industry. The CBN, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) and deposit     money banks in the country have since signed a disbursement agreement in respect of the intervention fund. In addition, •       Action Plan for the actualisation of coal fired power plant has been developed by the Coal to Power Committee. The committee facilitated investment in coal-fired power plant by Zuma Energy Ltd and Pacific–HTG Ltd. The Federal Ministry of Power, in partnership     with the Federal Ministry of Mines & Steel Development, is currently developing bankable Project Documents for the purpose of facilitating investment in coal to power. •       In order to get stranded power unto the grid, the Federal Ministry of Power is coordinating negotiations with companies willing to generate power and export to the grid. These companies include: Ajaokuta Steel Company (85MW); ALSCON (100MW); Lafarge     Cement (40MW); and Kaduna Refinery (33.5MW). •       On 10th October, 2014, Mr President performed the ground-breaking ceremony of the Azura thermal power plant in Edo State. The Azura–Edo IPP is a 450MW open cycle gas turbine power station. It is the 1st phase of a 1,500MW Power Plant facility. The high-profile     investors in the project reflect the confidence in the Nigerian economy in general, and an endorsement of the on-going reforms in the power sector, in particular. •       For a period of almost 16 years, before the new Power Sector Reform got under way in earnest, the old NEPA or PHCN did not recruit fresh Engineers. To be successful, the new players in the power industry must have access to qualified and competent local staff. This is the philosophy behind the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN), which has now been restructured into a world class Training Institute. •       NAPTIN graduated 243 Engineers in November 2013, and admitted 330 for the 2013/2014 academic year through its National Graduate Skills Development Programme. NAPTIN trained 70 Engineers in solar, wind, hybrid renewable energy options at the Regional     Training Centre at Kainji. •       On 6th November, 2014 by Mr. President launched the National Power Sector Apprenticeship Scheme (NAPSAS), which is aimed at training industry-ready hands at a     level lower than NAPTIN. There are 7400 persons currently on the scheme. INFRASTRUCTURE: ROADS, BRIDGES, AND RAILWAYS Before I itemize some of the more obvious accomplishments of the Jonathan Administration with regard to the infrastructural sub-sector in the outgoing year, let me draw your attention to one major milestone, that is, the ratification by the Federal Executive Council of the 30-Year National Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan, which had been in the works for a couple of years. The FEC approved the Master Plan in September this year, and to give it legal backing, the processes leading to legislation are being undertaken. The Integrated Infrastructure Master Plan, which is projected to cost about US$ 3.05 trillion, is the first such blueprint for accelerated integrated infrastructure development in the country. •       It is difficult to deny these days, that our national highways are getting better. This is because the Federal Ministry of Works, under the present administration, has made significant progress in the construction, rehabilitation, reconstruction, expansion and     maintenance of key arterial roads across the six geopolitical zones of the country. This has resulted in the reduction of travel times, cost of maintenance of vehicles by transporters, among other gains. We are in the holiday season, and those who travelled by road can testify to the vast improvement in the state of the highways. So, I will not bore you with the details. •       However, it is noteworthy that in 2014, President Jonathan performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the long-delayed Second Niger Bridge. With the basket of funding in place, the delivery of the project, which is scheduled for 48 months, is assured. The Federal Government is also constructing the 2.1 kilometre Loko-Oweto Bridge, which will link Nasarawa and Benue States and is over 70% completed. RAILWAYS NARROW GAUGE RAIL-LINE •       The rehabilitation of over 90% of the entire existing narrow gauge lines throughout the country is at various stages of completion. The rehabilitation is the first segment of The 25-year Railway Strategic Vision. •       The main Western line, Lagos–Kano, 1,124km is completed and passenger services and  haulage of goods along the line were flagged off in December, 2012. •       The rehabilitation work on the Eastern line from Port Harcourt-Maiduguri 1,657km is progressing steadily. In fact, just before Christmas, Vice President Namadi Sambo took the first train ride from Port Harcourt to Imo River Station in Abia State, to mark the     commissioning of the Port Harcourt-Enugu rail-line. STANDARD GAUGE •       The second segment of the 25-year Railway Strategic Plan is the modernization programme through the introduction of the Standard Gauge. •       Lagos–Kano Line is being executed in six (6) segments on stand alone basis in order to effectively   fund the projects as follows:  Abuja (Idu)-Kaduna (187km); Lagos-Ibadan (181km); Ibadan-Ilorin (200km); Ilorin–Minna (270km); Minna–Abuja (145km), and Minna– Kano (360km). •       The standard gauge line from Itakpe–Ajaokuta-Warri (274 km) will be completed in the second quarter of 2015. •       The Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge line (187 km) will begin to function in a few months’ time. •       The Contract for the Construction of Lagos-Ibadan standard gauge line (double track) (180Km x 2) has been awarded and work has commenced. •       A Framework Agreement was signed on 5th May, 2014 between the Federal Ministry of Transport and Messrs CCECC for the construction of Coastal Railway Line, connecting ten     (10) States with the following alignment: Lagos – Shagamu – Ijebu Ode – Ore – Benin City – Sapele  – Warri – Yenagoa – PH – Aba – Uyo – Calabar with another section from Benin City – Abudu – Agbor – Ogwashi  Uku – Asaba – Onitsha including Onitsha railway     bridge. CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS AND NATIONAL CONFERENCE •       The year-long programme marking Nigeria’s Centenary was rounded off in 2014 with a series of high-profile events and activities that attracted dignitaries from within and outside the country. •       Coincidental with the Centenary celebrations, President Goodluck Jonathan convened a National Conference, to chart a path for the future of the country. •       The 492-member National Conference sat from March to August 2014, when it submitted its final Report with 600+ Recommendations with implications for policy formulation, law- making, and constitutional amendments. •       Contrary to fears in some quarters, the Conference submitted a unanimous Report, and voted for the continued oneness, unity, and progress of the country. •       I should add that an Inter-Ministerial Committee set up by the President is already synthesizing the recommendations of the National Conference, with a view to their     implementation. Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, From what I have highlighted so far, it is clear that, despite the obvious challenges we have faced, Nigeria today is not where it was in 2013, or 2011 for that matter. The Transformation Agenda is the roadmap for President Goodluck Jonathan’s Administration. The Agenda is designed to speed up the realisation of Nigeria’s Vision 20:2020, which envisions Nigeria as one of the world’s top 20 economies by Gross Domestic Product size, by year 2020. The Agenda aims to tackle unemployment, infrastructure deficits, and inconsistency in policies and programmes. The key goals of the Transformation Agenda include strong, inclusive, non-inflationary economic growth, employment generation, poverty alleviation, and sustained improvement in the well-being of all classes of Nigerians. From my presentation, there is no question that we have made progress, and the key indicators show without doubt that the progress we are making will be consolidated. But for the insurgency, the rate and quantum of growth and development would have been far more rosy. This is why all hands must be on deck for us to collectively defeat terror, and for us to reclaim and live our normal lives. In about six weeks from now, voting will begin in our country’s general elections. There are great expectations about the elections. But while politicians and their supporters are criss-crossing their constituencies, asking for votes, and this is usually accompanied with excitement and sometimes tension, I should stress that Nigerians know that the country is not going to war over the elections. The 2015 elections will be the fourth set of general elections to be conducted in the country since the return to democracy in 1999. President Goodluck Jonathan has reaffirmed his commitment to the conduct of free, fair, and credible elections. He has not, and will not interfere with the operations and activities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Rather, the President is determined to clear all obstacles that might hinder the smooth operations of INEC. President Jonathan also expects all political actors to play by the rules, in particular by abhorring violence and manipulation of the electoral process. In this regard, I am sure we are all aware of Mr President’s pet phrase, that his ambition to be elected to govern is not worth the blood of any Nigerian. Let me end this address by calling on the media to demand the highest standards of candidates during and after the period of electioneering. The media should also refrain from giving vent to misguided elements whose attitude is win-or-destroy. Nigeria is bigger than any one of us, and the people on behalf candidates seek to govern want peace and progress. I thank you for your attention. Dr. Nuruddeen Muhammad Supervising Minister of Information 31st December, 2014


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