President Muhammadu Buhari has dropped his hardline posture over the issue of renewed militancy in the Niger Delta. On Sunday, the president appealed to the militants vandalising oil installations in the Niger Delta to come to the negotiation table in order to end their arms campaign in the oil-rich Niger Delta.
Buhari said this would afford both the government and the militants the opportunity to decide how the nation’s resources could be managed instead of agitators picking up arms against their fatherland.
Regretting that the problems he identified during the campaigns that preceded the 2015 presidential election, which he won, still lingered even with him in the saddle for almost 18 months, he appealed to Nigerians to be patient with his government.
Buhari spoke when residents of the Federal Capital Territory, led by the Minister, Muhammad Bello, paid him a Christmas visit at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The president said Nigeria and its citizens were uppermost in his mind, stating that he would continue to do all within his powers to improve their living conditions.
He said: “I want you to talk to people to be patient with the government. We are always thinking about our country and we are thinking about our people.
“I assure you that the country and the people of the country are always uppermost in our minds. With our performance in the North-East, Nigerians know that this government is serious.
“For our friends in the Niger Delta area, we will persuade them that they should please sit down with us and agree to manage our resources rather than think of fighting it out.”
While saying that the problems he identified during campaigns were still the nation’s fundamental problems, Buhari specifically identified power and lack of infrastructure as major challenges.
He regretted that during the oil boom, the nation’s handlers at that time failed to save for a rainy day.
He noted that while proceeds from agriculture were used to develop oil, he lamented that agriculture was discarded immediately oil started yielding resources for the country.
The President promised that his administration would concentrate on infrastructure development, saying jobs would be created through the process.
Buhari added, “It is about 18 months since we resumed here. I believe some of you followed us during our campaigns and what we identified are still fundamental problems.
“The first is security, and we kept on saying whether it is an organisation or a country, we have to first secure it before we can manage it properly. Without security, nothing can work.
“Secondly, the economy and the unemployment of able-bodied persons. From 1999 to 2014, the crude production was over 2.2m barrels per day. The average cost per barrel was $100.
“When we came, it was $37. I think it is now between $40 and $50. I asked for savings, there was no saving. I asked them what they used the money to buy, they said they bought food and oil. I do not know how long it took me to recover from the shock.
“Some of you will recall either by history or discussion that it was cocoa, palm kernel, cotton, agro allied industry that we used to build infrastructure, be it rail or school.
“We also used the proceeds to develop oil. When we got the oil, we threw everything away. We thank God this year, the harvest was quite good; otherwise, I do not know what we would have done.
“There was no money saved, no infrastructure built, and power is still our main problem. Old roads are dilapidated and they need to be repaired from Lagos to Kano, Port Harcourt up to Maiduguri. There are rail lines we want to develop from Lagos to Calabar, from Lagos to Kaduna and the Abuja one.
“If we can get the infrastructure done, we cannot even know the number of Nigerians that will get jobs. So, we have to get infrastructure. It will take tankers and other articulated vehicles off the road; we will save vehicles and we will save lives and we will get jobs for a lot of Nigerians.”
Bello, in his opening remarks, commended Buhari for the success recorded by the nation’s troops that cleared Sambisa Forest of insurgents last week.
“We are very proud of this milestone and we prayed that Boko Haram never rears its head in any part of the country again,” the minister said.
Also, the Chairman of the Christians Association of Nigeria, FCT branch, Rev. Jonah Samson, said they were in the Presidential Villa to identify with Buhari and commend him for his leadership, which he said had impacted positively on Nigerians.
Samson particularly commended the President for his administration’s anti-corruption war.
He expressed the hope that the anti-graft war would not end with this administration.
Samson said, “Corruption is a cankerworm. It is a terrible thing that we must kill. We urge you to ensure that the war continues. It should not end during this administration.
“We thank God for the victory over Boko Haram. It is a thing of joy worthy of celebration.”
The minister and his aides later presented a giant greeting card to Buhari.
Representatives of the Aso Villa Chapel also presented a card and locally-made artworks to the President.
Speaking with State House correspondents at the end of the visit, the Senator representing FCT, Philip Aduda, urged Nigerians to support the present administration.
Aduda expressed the hope that 2017 would be better for the nation.