President Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigeria’s problems have to do more with process than structure.
Buhari made his position known in his New Year nationwide broadcast to Nigerians early on Monday.
He noted that while the nation had tried the parliamentary system of government and jettisoned it, there was ongoing clamour to return to the same system.
He urged Nigerians to learn to give a long period of trial and improvement for the adopted system to get better.
Buhari said, “In respect of political developments, I have kept a close watch on the ongoing debate about ‘restructuring.’
“No human law or edifice is perfect. Whatever structure we develop must periodically be perfected according to changing circumstances and the country’s socio-economic developments.
“We Nigerians can be very impatient and want to improve our conditions faster than may be possible considering our resources and capabilities.
“When all the aggregates of nationwide opinions are considered, my firm view is that our problems are more to do with process than structure.
“We tried the parliamentary system: we jettisoned it. Now there are shrill cries for a return to the parliamentary structure.
“In older democracies these systems took centuries to evolve so we cannot expect a copied system to fit neatly our purposes.
“We must give a long period of trial and improvement before the system we have adopted is anywhere near fit for purpose.”
This notwithstanding, the President said there was a strong case for a closer look at the cost of government and for the public services long used to extravagance, waste and corruption to change for the better.
He assured Nigerians that his government was receptive to ideas which would improve governance and contribute to the country’s peace and stability.
As the country approaches electioneering season, Buhari urged politicians to avoid exploiting ethnicity and religion by linking ethnicity with religion and religion with politics.
Such, he said, must be avoided at all costs if Nigerians must live in harmony.
He urged the rest of the country to learn from the south-western states.
“In this respect, the rest of Nigeria could learn from the south-western states who have successfully internalised religion, ethnicity and politics.
“Political discourse should be conducted with civility, decorum and in a constitutional manner. We all have a collective responsibility to strengthen our democracy and entrench the rule of law.
“We should draw encouragement from a series of by-elections conducted by INEC last year which were generally violence-free and their outcomes adjudged to be free and fair,” he said.
Buhari also assured Nigerians that security of life and properties still topped his government’s agenda.
He added, “We have since beaten Boko Haram. Isolated attacks still occur, but even the best-policed countries cannot prevent determined criminals from committing terrible acts of terror as we have seen during the past years in Europe, Asia, Middle East, elsewhere in Africa and in America.
“Our government remains determined to protect all Nigerians in line with our election pledge and promises. On behalf of all Nigerians let me offer our thanks to the Armed forces, the Police, other para-military forces and traditional authorities who are working round the clock to ensure that you and I go about our normal business in reasonable safety. ”
On the situation in the Niger Delta, Buhari said the Federal Government was still engaging responsible leadership of the communities to help in identifying and addressing genuine grievances of the region.
He added that government’s clean-up of Ogoni in collaboration with the United Nations was making satisfactory progress.
He thanked all the state governors and other political and community leaders of the Niger Delta States for their part in bringing relative peace to the areas.
Buhari said he was sad that the Christmas and New Year holidays had been anything but merry and happy.
Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, the President regretted that some Nigerians chose the period to inflict severe hardship on others by creating “unnecessary fuel scarcity” across the country.
The consequence of this, he noted, was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares.
“This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots.
“I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.
“Such unpatriotic act will not divert the administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government’s watchword and policy thrust is change.
“We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity,” the President said.
In the New Year, Buhari said his administration would continue with his efforts aimed at addressing the country’s huge infrastructural deficit.
He said the government would make significant in-roads in advancing road, rail and power projects across the country.
With regards to railways, Buhari said the government had set ambitious targets for itself.
While describing the Lagos-Kano Standard Gauge Railway as being in construction stage, he said the line should reach Ibadan from Lagos by the end of 2019.
He added, “At the same time, I have approved and negotiations will be concluded in the first part of this year for the Port Harcourt to Maiduguri line covering Aba, Owerri, Umuahia, Enugu, Awka, Abakaliki, Makurdi, Lafia, Jos, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and Damaturu.
Buhari said the management of the Federal Road Maintenance Agency had been reconstituted and had been charged with a 12-week rapid intervention in road repairs to cover all the geo-political zones.
He said the government was undertaking repairs and maintenance of 44 roads within the six geo-political zones.
He added that 25 major highways would be funded under the N100bn SUKUK facility with each geo-political zone benefiting an equal amount of N16.67bn
The President admitted that power remained a concern to his government because too many people still did not have regular and reliable supply.
He noted that the Payment Assurance Guarantee Scheme which started in January 2016 had enabled the Nigerian Bulk Electricity Trader to raise so far N701bn to assure generation companies of at least 80 per cent payment for any power delivered to the national grid.
Consequently, he said generation has now reached 7,000MW.
Buhari said he was gratified that agriculture had picked up, contributing to the government’s effort to re-structure the economy.
He said rice imports would stop this year while local rice which is fresher and more nutritious would be on dishes henceforth.