• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Independence Day: Jonathan says Boko Haram won’t succeed in Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday said the intentions of the Boko Haram sect for Nigeria will not succeed. This is even as he stated that government is ready to dialogue with any group that has grievances against the state, urging the Islamist militants to lay down their arms and embrace peace as everything will be done to check the onslaught of the terrorists in the country. Jonathan, in his ‎nationwide 2014 Independence Day broadcast to the nation aired on national television, said though the activities of terrorists have left the nation in sober mood, it is encouraging that the war on terror has recorded great success and there have been giant strides in various sectors of the economy despite the threat. Speaking on the 2015 elections, the president used the occasion to appeal to politicians in the country to put the love of the country first in all they do, adding that credible poll is here to stay. On the readiness of government to dialogue with the sect, he said, “This administration is committed to making Nigeria safe for all Nigerians, irrespective of our places of birth, how we worship God and our political persuasion. To all those waging war against our country, I ask that you lay down your arms and embrace peace.”

“To those who have genuine grievances, I affirm that Nigeria will listen to you, if you bring your grievances to the table of dialogue. To the good people of Nigeria, let me restate that our task of building a better and greater country must not waver. “While we continue to deploy our resources in the fight against the terrorists, we do recognise the great toll the conflict is taking on our people”, he said. He added, “In my address to the nation last year, I did emphasise that we were in a sober moment in our country. We are still in that mood in spite of the many accomplishments of our administration. Our somberness has to do with the crises of nationhood occasioned by the activities of terrorist elements that have done the unimaginable to challenge our unity as a people.

“On an occasion like this, it is important that we remember all the precious souls that have been lost in the unprecedented war of terror unleashed on some parts of our country by these individuals who want to compel us to live our lives their way. They will not succeed! “In their mission, they have maimed and raped. They have killed men, women and children, rendering many children orphans and several women widows. They have made violence their ideology and are bent on destroying our country. Dear countrymen and women, we will not allow them. “Night after night, day after day, our security forces continue to engage the terrorists in battle. My gratitude goes out to our armed forces whose will has been greatly challenged by this insurgency more than any other time, since the civil war. “Yet, they have remained undaunted and unwearied in the face of constant challenge and mortal danger. Driven by patriotic zeal, they are turning the tide by their prowess and determination. As commander-in-chief, I will continue to do all it takes to enable them to keep on inflicting devastating blows at the heart of terror. Fellow Nigerians, it is our collective duty as patriots to avail our men and women in uniform of all the support they need to fight and win this war.

“This administration is committed to making Nigeria safe for all Nigerians, irrespective of our places of birth, how we worship God and our political persuasion. To all those waging war against our country, I ask that you lay down your arms and embrace peace”, he said. On the dialogue with the terrorists, he said, “To the good people of Nigeria, let me restate that our task of building a better and greater country must not waver. While we continue to deploy our resources in the fight against the terrorists, we do recognise the great toll the conflict is taking on our people.” He listed some of the things his administration has done to take care of the victims of terror which include the launch of the Victims Support Fund, and in partnership with Nigerian business leaders and international partners, the Safe Schools Initiative was also launched to promote safe environments for education nationwide, starting with the North East region. “The Presidential Initiative for the North East, a comprehensive programme to fast-track the economic restoration of this region, which has been the epicentre of terrorist activity, has been set up.” “It should now be clear to anyone who was ever in doubt that these terrorists do not mean well for anyone, of whatever religion or dispensation.

Their persistent choice of the weakest and most vulnerable in society, for gruesome attack, provides an insight into their abnormal mind-set”, he said. He further urged Nigerians to put aside political, sectional or other parochial considerations, and support whole-heartedly the efforts of the government and the military, in checking the evil. He expressed gratitude to the international community that has been working with Nigeria to confront the challenge. Appealing to politicians, he said: “As we move into an election year, desperate moves to overheat the polity are becoming a regular occurrence. Our political leaders in particular must know that the contest for power should not translate to the destruction of the polity. “The contest for the leadership of our country must yield good governance, and not ungovernable spaces. The love of country should rank higher than our individual ambitions. “We must remain committed to a united and indivisible Nigeria within democratic parameters. The protection of individual rights, liberty, equality before the law, freedom of thought, and a progressive pursuit of a sound economy must be our goal”, Jonathan stated. On the National Conference, he said: “We have successfully delivered on that promise as we established the 2014 National Conference headed by Justice Legbo Kutigi. After months of deliberations, which did not come without its challenges, the conference concluded its assignment and has handed its report to me.

“I have made a firm commitment that we would act on the recommendations of the conference. This, I have started by setting up the Ministerial Committee headed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to work out the modalities for implementing the report. Every promise I make, God willing, I will see to its fulfillment. I assure you, we shall implement the report”, he said. Stressing that the National Conference is the greatest centenary gift to Nigeria, he pointed out that one of the major lessons of the 2014 National Conference is the teachings to Nigeria, as a multi-ethnic country like, to embrace painstaking dialogue until consensus is established. Speaking on the economic, infrastructure and Nigeria’s democratic process, he said: “Our 54-year journey as a nation has not been easy.

There have been tough periods, but the Nigerian spirit and the unflagging resilience of our people have seen us through. We will continue to march forward to greater heights. “We have been able to sustain a big, strong and influential country with a robust economy. We are currently in our sixteenth year of uninterrupted democratic rule, daily improving on the consolidation of our democratic process. “Our administration has made a commitment to ensure that we build and sustain a democratic infrastructure anchored on free and fair elections. International and local observers have attested to the positive evolution of electoral credibility and we cannot afford to relent. “We will continue to ensure that the will of the electorate prevails so that political leaders would be reminded at all times that there is a day of reckoning when they have to go back to the people at the polls. Election days must not be days of violence and death. We must remain vigilant to ensure that our electoral process is characterised by peace, security and transparency.

“I enjoin the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all security agencies, politicians and the electorate to work conscientiously and peacefully, together, to consolidate on the gains of the recent elections. Free and fair elections have come to stay; nothing else will be acceptable to our people. “My dear countrymen and women, occasions such as this present an opportunity to thank God for our country and to report to you, on our journey so far. “Our power sector reform is on course with the ultimate objective of generating enough electricity to power our homes, industries and businesses. We are making giant strides in the agricultural sector which we are re-positioning to diversify our economy. We will continue to upgrade our infrastructure to make life easier for all and create an enabling environment for enterprise to flourish. “Over the last four years, the implementation of the Nigerian Content Act in the oil and gas sector has ensured major increase in the participation of indigenous oil and gas companies in the industry. Several critical infrastructure projects have been commissioned and commenced. The level of indigenous asset ownership has greatly increased and utilisation of Nigerian-owned and built assets such as marine vessels and rigs is being progressively enforced.

“There has been maximised local value addition by encouraging the manufacture of equipment components and parts within the country. There has also been massive growth in indigenous participation in the provision of goods and services to the upstream sector from 10% to 60% within the last four years. “Today, following the rebasing of our economy, every international monitoring and ratings agency now acknowledges Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, with a Gross Domestic Product of five hundred and ten billion dollars ($510 billion) which also places us as the 26th largest economy in the world. This is progress. “Earlier in the year, we launched the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) with the stated objective of fast-tracking inclusive growth, job creation, enterprise development and industrialisation. “The success of these policies is already evident in the increased value addition in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors. “In line with our objective of encouraging the production of made-in-Nigeria vehicles and making Nigeria a regional hub for the automobile industry, a number of foreign auto manufacturers have established plants in Nigeria, complementing the laudable efforts of our local vehicle manufacturers who have also demonstrated great innovation and competitiveness. “We have also launched a special support programme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises with an initial intervention fund of N220 billion.

This is in addition to the Presidential Job Creation Board which I inaugurated recently with the charge to create three million jobs annually. ‘In demonstration of our administration’s commitment to addressing Nigeria’s housing deficit, we have commenced the new mortgage re-finance programme with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Re-finance Company. It is expected that, in addition to creating additional housing units across the country, this initiative also represents a huge job creation opportunity. “We have recorded notable success in the social sector. Nigeria has been globally acknowledged for reducing extreme hunger by more than half, with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) formally presenting the country with an award for achieving the Millennium Development Goal on Hunger three years ahead of the 2015 target date set for the Millennium Development Goals. “This progress is as a result of the deliberate policy of government to increase capacity in our agricultural sector of which the first step was to address and eliminate the graft in our fertiliser procurement system and ensure that the product gets directly to the farmer. We are expanding our irrigation infrastructure to ensure that our farmers have sufficient water supply for dry season farming. “A benefit of these combined actions is that our national food import bill has declined from N1.1 trillion ($6.9 billion) in 2009 to N684.7 billion ($4.35 billion) by December 2013, and continues to decline. “Modern hybrid schools are being provided for less privileged children across the country, resulting in significant increase in the national school enrolment figure. “In order to further enhance access to education at the tertiary level, fourteen new federal universities have been established; and, to encourage persons of exceptional abilities, our administration has also introduced a Presidential Scholarship Scheme based strictly on excellence and merit.

“On infrastructure, we are building roads, bridges, and new rail lines to make it easier to traverse Nigeria and increase the integration of our people and our ability to do business with each other. In this regard, we have commenced the process of building the second Niger Bridge. The Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue in Nasarawa and Benue states will significantly reduce travel time by road between Northern and Southern Nigeria. The on-going dredging of the River Niger up to Baro in Niger State is opening up large parts of the Nigerian hinterland to maritime activity. ‘The Zungeru and Mambilla Hydro-electric power projects are on course, and the Kashimbilla dam which we started a few years ago, is nearing completion. The successful privatisation of our power sector will in the long run enhance industrial growth. Policies such as these and others have raised Nigeria to the enviable status of being the number one recipient of foreign direct investment in Africa in the past year. “The result of this infrastructure drive is that two and a half million jobs have been created over the past two years. This is a record, which we are committed to improve upon to continue to provide jobs for our youth. “An unprecedented number of airports across the country are not only being reconstructed at the same time, but being re-equipped and reassessed with emphasis on maintaining global standards. “Fellow Nigerians, the goals we set to achieve for our country involve expanding the frontiers of economic freedom. Let us therefore unite with one heart and one mind. All our people must have access to the good things of life. All our people must be empowered to pursue the gift of life with happiness.

This is our country; we must build it for our common posterity”, he added. Commending the spirit of collaboration, unity and partnership with which the Ebola virus disease was confronted in Nigeria, the president also thanked Nigerians for working together to prevent what could have become a major epidemic. Meanwhile, governors on Wednesday urged Nigerians to demonstrate greater commitment to the development of the country and be irrevocably committed to its peace and unity. They made the appeal at rallies held in their states and goodwill messages to mark Nigeria’s 54th independence anniversary. Ikeja: In Lagos, Governor Babatunde Fashola at the Police College, Ikeja, said that the various challenges confronting the nation would be easily surmounted if its citizens would resolve to work for the country’s progress. The governor also advised Nigerians to rekindle the spirit of national service and pride that were symbolic of the good old days of the nation’s history. Fashola noted that the excitement that characterised past National Day celebrations had waned into mere ritual, saying that the good old days could be restored if Nigerians would change their attitudes. “In the past, National Days were celebrated with great excitement. It was the day political baton changed from one hand to the other. Everybody looked forward to such a celebration. In recent years, however, the celebration has waned to a mere ritual”, the governor said. “It is just another work-free or school-free day with little celebration or importance attached to it. This should not be so. In some countries, national days are celebrated with fanfare. “We should begin to celebrate the nation`s independence with the passion of the past.

We should revive the old patriotic zeal,” he urged. Fashola called on Nigerians to believe in the Nigerian project. On the successful containment of the Ebola virus disease in the country, Fashola said that it proved that the country was not all about negativity. Fashola commended health workers and all those who made sacrifices to contain the virus, saying that they exhibited commitment to national development. Yenagoa: Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa on Wednesday applauded Nigerians for their support, prayers and encouragement towards tackling insecurity and other developmental challenges confronting the country. Dickson made the commendation in his goodwill message on the 54th independence of Nigeria and 18th anniversary of the creation of the state. The governor said that the Federal Government, under the leadership of President Goodluck Jonathan, had enjoyed enormous support and goodwill of the citizenry which accounted for the successes recorded. According to him, no government will succeed in delivering its mandate, especially in the execution of people oriented policies and programmes without the support of the citizenry. Dickson said, like any other country, Nigeria has had its fair share of obstacles right from independence to date. The governor stressed that challenges bedevilling the nation were neither the making nor peculiar to the present administration. He appreciated the support of all well-meaning Nigerians, particularly the efforts of the security agencies in the fight against terrorism.

The governor also expressed gratitude to the people of Bayelsa for their unflinching support, understanding and cooperation with the restoration government. Jos: Governor Jonah Jang of Plateau called on Nigerians to pray fervently for peace, unity and stability of the country and her leaders as the nation. Jang made the appeal in his independence goodwill message signed by his director of press and public affairs, James Mannok, on Wednesday in Jos. The governor said that there was need for prayers in view of the challenges facing the country. He said the anniversary was a thing of celebration in spite of the economic, political and security challenges facing the nation. According to the governor, the Independence Day should be a celebration of Nigerians’ resilience in its journey to nationhood. Jang explained that Nigerians stood strong in forging ahead as one indivisible entity, in spite of all challenges. He urged Nigerians to love, tolerate, forgive and respect the country’s diverse cultural values in a bid to strengthen this bound of fraternity. Katsina: Governor Ibrahim Shema promised to complete all on-going projects in the state before handing over to the next administration in 2015. The governor said that his administration had taken into consideration time frame and availability of funds before he awarded the contracts. “We pay the 40 percent mobilisation fees for every contract awarded before commencement in accordance with the provisions of the law.

“So, all our projects will be completed by the end of our tenure,” Shema assured. The governor said that the state had achieved many development strides with many projects on ground since the creation of the state 25 years ago. He noted that democracy had succeeded in transforming the lives of people of the state since its return in 1999. Shema, therefore, called on the people of the state to continue to live in peace with one another. He urged politicians, electorate and other stakeholders to shun violence and politics of bitterness to sustain democracy in the country. Abeokuta: Governor Ibikunle Amosun prayed and sued for peace and stability in order to achieve the lofty ideas of Nigeria’s founding fathers who advocated a united, peaceful and prosperous nation, saying that “the celebration of independence is akin to life more abundant to the people hence all hands must be on deck to join forces together for a greater Ogun State irrespective of religion, ethnic and political inclination.” He, however, was miffed by alleged Federal Government’s shoddy handling of 229 Chibok girls’ issue abducted since April 14 this year by the Boko haram insurgents in Borno State. The governor faulted President Goodluck Jonathan-led presidency, saying missing girls signify “the future of our country were actually abducted”. He noted that this year’s National Day celebration evoked mixed feelings in many Nigerians due to prevailing socio-economic and political upheavals which, according to him, show the leadership’s deficiency, especially at the federal level, to properly navigate the nation’s ship, adding that it was time Nigeria reverted to regionalism as against federalism for robust socio-economic and political growth.

“Fellow Nigerians, this year’s National Day celebration has evoked mixed feelings in many Nigerians. The reason for this is not far-fetched. It can be readily found in the prevailing socio-economic and political upheavals that have bedevilled our dear nation. While some see today as a moment for celebration, some others see it as a moment for sober reflection. Both schools of thought appear right.” Asaba: As Nigerians celebrate 54 years of independence, the governor of Delta State, Emmanuel Uduaghan, has granted total pardon to three prisoners sentenced to death and commuted the death sentence of nine others to various terms of imprisonment. Speaking on Wednesday at a colourful celebration to mark the Independence Day in Asaba, the state capital, Governor Uduaghan said the pardon of the prisoners was based on recommendations from the State Advisory Council on the Prerogative of Mercy. According to him, “As part of the independence Day celebration, through the power conferred on me under section 212 of the Nigerian constitution and based on the recommendation from the State Advisory Council of the Prerogative of Mercy, I have granted total pardon to three prisoners sentenced to death and granted amnesty to nine other prisoners on death row whose sentences have now been commuted to various terms of imprisonment.” Governor Uduaghan disclosed that a case of a 24 years old boy, who when he was 16 years was accused of stealing a phone and was sentenced to death, was being looked into by him, explaining that but for an appeal already filed by the family he would have granted him pardon.

He, therefore, pleaded with the family to withdraw the appeal from the court to enable him exercise the relevant powers and grant the accused pardon, adding that any action taken would be subjudice. Decrying the activities of the terrorists group, he said: “I want to call on sponsors of Boko Haram that enough is enough, they should have a rethink, they have killed, maimed, kidnapped and today, we are saying, enough is enough,” calling on the sponsors of Boko Haram to use the occasion of the nation’s 54th independence anniversary “to reflect on their actions, enough is enough.” Uduaghan urged Nigerians to always support President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration and pray for those who were staking their lives for Nigeria to remain an indivisible entity, emphasising that prayers should also be offered for the families of those who lost their lives while protecting the interest of the country. Owerri: For the first time in 10 years in Imo State, governor of the state, Rochas Okorocha, granted pardon to 16 convicts serving different jail terms in exercise of his constitutional power on prerogative of mercy. Governor Okorocha had acted on the recommendations of the Advisory Council on Prerogative of Mercy, which he had earlier set up with the attorney general and commissioner of justice in the state, Chukwuma–Machukwu Umeh (SAN) as chairman. Eleven of the pardoned convicts were imprisoned for non-capital offences and had almost finished serving their prison terms, and had less than 6 months to serve out their terms. Meanwhile, Canice Egbunanne, a 94-year-old prisoner was pardoned on ground of his age, while Chidi Nwosu also pardoned due to age, is almost 70 years old. In an Independence Day speech, Okorocha said at 54, it was the time the country should address the vexed issues of insecurity, youths unemployment, selfishness and corruption, among leaders, lack of patriotism, emphasis on ethnicity, insurgency and other challenges facing Nigeria as a nation. “As a nation, no better time to act and achieve the desired goals than now. We must admit that things are not working out the way they should in Nigeria. That will help us to wake up as a nation,” said Okorocha. He said, “Democracy has not functioned well in Nigeria. We have to strengthen our democracy because it is not being practised the way it should. When that is done, then development is guaranteed.

Nigerians should see themselves as members of one family, and shun leaders who preach tribalism, religious dichotomy and division among the political class.” Umuahia: Governor Theodore Orji of Abia State sued for peace and unity among Nigerians despite their religious, political or ethnic differences. Orji in a statement issued in Umuahia by Charles Ajunwa, his chief press secretary, stated that the current security and other challenges confronting the country would be a thing of the past, if all citizens and ethnic nationalities, political parties and religious bodies see Nigeria as one and indivisible entity. The governor noted that the result achieved in the fight against Ebola virus disease was a foretaste of greater feats that would be recorded in the various sectors of our national life, if we remain united and tackle our challenges as one people. Governor Orji commended the military and other security agencies for the recent victories gained in the war against insurgency and expressed strong belief in one and indissoluble Nigeria. “Insecurity shall soon fizzle out, if we rediscover ourselves as one people and harness the strength in our diversity,” he affirmed.

The governor also appealed to members of the Boko Haram sect to lay down their weapons and embrace peace as a mark of respect for the sacrifices of Nigeria’s nationalists, who fought for independence and unity of Nigeria. He commended President Goodluck Jonathan for entrenching democracy in the country through his laudable transformation agenda, which, he observed, has raised the bar of governance in the country. Governor Orji, therefore, urged Nigerians to close ranks with the president in his bid to take Nigeria to its manifest destiny of growth, progress and development. Maiduguri: The Borno government said on Wednesday that it had granted pardon to 22 prison inmates in Maiduguri as part of the celebration of Nigeria’s 54th independence. Governor Kashim Shettima made the announcement during an unscheduled visit to the Maiduguri Maximum Security Prison. Shettima said that the action followed the recommendation of the State Advisory Committee on the Prerogative of Mercy. He presented new sets of clothing and N50,000 cash to each of the prisoners to enable them travel home and reunite with their families. Shettima also announced approval for the release of N5 million to the prison authorities to enable them carry out general renovation of decaying facilities. He also donated a 27 KVA power generating set to the prison to help pump water from a new borehole provided by the government. Shettima, similarly, presented assorted food items, two bulls and 10 rams to the inmates to enable them celebrate the forthcoming Sallah. He advised them to take their conditions as a trial from God and change their ways for the better.

 

JOSHUA BASSEY, Lagos; IGNATIUS CHUKWU, Port Harcourt; ELIZABETH ARCHIBONG, Abuja; BEN EGUZOZIE, Owerri; RAZAQ AYINLA, Abeokuta, & GODFREY OFURUM, Aba