INDEPENDENCE DAY ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA ON THE OCCASION OF NIGERIA’S SIXTIETH INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY, THURSDAY 1ST OCTOBER 2020
I speak to you today as your President and fellow citizen on this epoch occasion of our country’s 60th independence Anniversary. As President, I wish to renew my appreciation to Nigerians for entrusting me with your hopes and aspirations for a better and greater Nigeria.
2. Today, it is my unique privilege to re-commit myself to the service of this great country of great people with profound diversities and opportunities. We are bound by destiny to be the largest and greatest black nation on earth.
3. At this stage in our nationhood it is important that we reflect how we got here to enable us work TOGETHER to get to where we aspire to be as a strong indivisible nation, united in hope and equal in opportunity.
4. On October 1st 1960 when Prime Minister Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa received the constitutional instruments symbolizing Nigeria’s independence, he expressed his wish that having acquired our rightful status as an independent sovereign nation, history would record that the building of our nation proceeded at the wisest pace.
5. This optimism was anchored on the peaceful planning, full and open consultation and harmonious cooperation with the different groups which culminated in Nigeria emerging as a country without bitterness and bloodshed.
6. Our founding fathers understood the imperative of structuring a National identity using the power of the state and worked towards unification of Nigerians in a politically stable and viable entity.
7. That philosophy guided the foundation that was laid for our young nation of 45 million people with an urban population of approximately 7million occupying an area of 910,768 square kilometers. These demographics led to development challenges for which major efforts were made to overcome.
8. Today, we grapple with multiple challenges with a population exceeding 200million occupying the same land mass but 52% residing in urban areas.
9. Sixty years of nationhood provides an opportunity to ask ourselves questions on the extent to which we have sustained the aspirations of our founding fathers. Where did we do the right things? Are we on course? If not where did we stray and how can we remedy and retrace our steps?
10. Upon attaining independence, Nigeria’s growth trajectory was anchored on policies and programmes that positively impacted on all sectors of the economy. However, this journey was cut short by the 30-months of civil war.
11. We came out of the civil war with a focus on reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation that enabled the country to put in place world class development structures and a strengthened public service that well served the government. This positive trajectory continued with a return to democratic government which was truncated by another round of military rule.
12. For a cumulative 29 of our 60 years existence as a nation, we have been under military rule.
13. My summary of our journey so far as a nation is necessary to appropriately chart where we need to go and how to get there TOGETHER.
14. Today, I am aware that our economy along with every single economy in the world is in crisis. We still face security challenges in parts of the country, while our society suffers from a high loss of moral rectitude which is driven by unbridled craving for political control.
15. An underlying cause of most of the problems we have faced as a nation is our consistent harping on artificially contrived fault-lines that we have harboured and allowed unnecessarily to fester.
16. In addition, institutions such as civil service, police, the judiciary, the military all suffered from a general decline.
17. We need to begin a sincere process of national healing and this anniversary presents a genuine opportunity to eliminate old and outworn perceptions that are always put to test in the lie they always are.
18. The stereotype of thinking of ourselves as coming from one part of the country before seeing ourselves as Nigerians is a key starting point to project us on the road to our deserved nation’s evolution and integration.
19. To start this healing process, we are already blessed with the most important asset any nation requires for such – OUR PEOPLE – and this has manifested globally in the exploits of Nigerians in many fields.
20. It has been demonstrated time and time again that Nigerians in the diaspora frequently excel in science, technology, medicine, sports, arts and many other fields.
21. Similarly, the creativity, ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Nigerian at home have resulted in globally recognized endeavours.
22. I am convinced that if we pursue our aspirations TOGETHER we would be able to achieve whatever we desire. That informed our adopting the theme TOGETHER to mark this epochal event.
23. Together we can change our condition for the better and more importantly, together we can do much more for ourselves and for our country.
24. I chose the path of self-reflection because this is what I do on a daily basis and I must confess that at most times, I always felt the need for a collective reflection as I know that the foundation for a solid future which this administration is laying can only be sustainable if there is a collective commitment by Nigerians.
25. Nigeria is not a country for Mr. President, any ruling or opposition party but a country for all of us and we must play our part, irrespective of challenges we face, to make this country what we desire.
26. To achieve this, we must focus our minds, TOGETHER as a people, on ways of resolving the identified critical challenges that underlie our present state. These include:
a. Evolving and sustaining a democratic culture that leaves power in the hands of the people;
b. Supporting the enthronement of the rule of law, demanding accountability of elected representatives and contributing to good governance;
c. Increasing our commitment to peaceful co-existence in a peaceful, secure and united Nigeria;
d. Harnessing and Optimizing our tremendous human and natural resources to attain our goal of being in the top twenty economies of the world and in the process;
e. Lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years;
f. Strengthening institutions to make them stronger in protecting National Interests; and
g. Imbibing tolerance in diversity.
27. I am a firm believer in transparent, free, fair and credible elections as has been demonstrated during my period as a democratically elected President.
28. The recent build-up and eventual outcome of the Edo State elections should encourage Nigerians that it is my commitment to bequeath to this country processes and procedures that would guarantee that the people’s votes count.
29. The problems with our electoral process are mainly human induced as desperate desire for power leads to desperate attempts to gain power and office.
30. Democracy, the world over and as I am pursuing in Nigeria, recognizes the power of the people. However, if some constituencies choose to bargain off their power, they should be prepared for denial of their rights.
31. This call is made more urgent if we realise that even after a transparent, free, fair and credible election, desperation leads to compromising the judiciary to upturn legitimate decisions of the people.
32. It is necessary to, therefore support the enthronement of the rule of law by avoiding actions which compromise the judiciary.
33. Fellow Nigerians, our history has shown that we are a people that have the capacity to live peacefully with one another.
34. As a government, we remain committed to our constitutional oath of securing the lives and properties of the citizenry. I, however, call on the citizenry to also support government by providing the necessary community level intelligence in addressing these challenges.
35. In moving forward together, it is important to strengthen our economy to provide sustainable means of livelihood for as many Nigerians as possible so as to eradicate absolute poverty from our midst.
36. I want to re-emphasize my dedication and commitment, a dedication and commitment that propelled my public service career and informed my quest to continually seek for an opportunity to improve the lives of Nigerians, set the country on the path of prosperity and lead the country to a better future.
37. This administration has been focused on rebuilding and laying the foundations for a sustainable Nigeria. Of course, we have met and are still meeting the challenges inherent in any rebuilding initiative – more so that of a nation like Nigeria that has undergone avoidable levels of deprivation – but can be surmounted if we all work together.
38. I wish to re-iterate that our people and our spirit of excellence remains our most important asset.
39. In this wise, the need to return to our age-old ethical and high moral values would be necessary and this informed my launching of the National Ethics and Integrity Policy on Monday 28th September, 2020.
40. The policy would not implement itself and the first contact of the visibility of its implementation is the Public Service whose on-going reforms would be expected to be sustainable and give a radical re-direction in providing services to all Nigerians.
41. Fellow Nigerians, in addition to public health challenges of working to contain the spread of the Coronavirus, we have suffered a significant drop in our foreign exchange earnings and internal revenues due to 40 per cent drop in oil prices and steep drop in economic activities, leading to a 60 per cent drop in government revenue.
42. Our government is grappling with the dual challenge of saving lives and livelihoods in face of drastically reduced resources.
43. In this regard, sustaining the level of petroleum prices is no longer possible. The government, since coming into office has recognized the economic argument for adjusting the price of petroleum. But the social argument about the knock-on effect of any adjustment weighed heavily with the government.
44. Accordingly, in the last three years, we have introduced unprecedented measures in support of the economy and to the weakest members of our society in the shape of:
c. School Feeding Programme
d. Job creation efforts
e. Agricultural intervention programmes
45. No government in the past did what we are doing with such scarce resources. We have managed to keep things going in spite of the disproportionate spending on security. Those in the previous Governments from 1999 – 2015 who presided over the near destruction of the country have now the impudence to attempt to criticize our efforts.
46. In the circumstances, a responsible government must face realities and take tough decisions.
47. Petroleum prices in Nigeria are to be adjusted. We sell now at N161 per litre. A comparison with our neighbours will illustrate the point;
a. Chad which is an oil producing country charges N362 per litre
b. Niger, also an oil producing country sells 1 litre at N346.
c. In Ghana, another oil producing country, petroleum pump price is N326 per litre.
48. Further afield, Egypt charges N211 per litre. Saudi Arabia charges N168 per litre. It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia.
49. Fellow Nigerians, to achieve the great country we desire, we need to solidify our strength, increase our commitment and encourage ourselves to do that which is right and proper even when no one is watching.
50. Fellow Nigerians, let us collectively resolve to continue our journey beyond the sixty years on the clear understanding that as a nation we are greater together than being smaller units of nationalities. By the special grace of God we shall come through any transient challenges.
51. It is my sincere hope that by the end of this anniversary on September 30th 2021, we will all be proud of taking this individual and collective self-assessment for the progress of our great Nation.
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
God Bless us all. Thank you.
Call for Sack of Service Chiefs is ‘Out of Place’ – Presidency
Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari says the clamour for the sacking of service chiefs is ‘out of place’.
According to Shehu, the president has the prerogative to appoint or sack any of the country’s service chiefs, adding that the president keeps the service chiefs as long as he is satisfied with their performance.
The horrific killing of at least 43 rice farmers at Zabarmari in the Jere Local Government Area of Borno State last Saturday sparked fresh call for the sacking of the country’s service chiefs.
Reacting to the call by several Nigerians who also want the president to rejig the country’s security architecture, Shehu said the decision to sack or retain any of the service chiefs is entirely the president’s.
He spoke on Monday night in an interview with Arise TV monitored by The PUNCH.
The presidential spokesman said, “I am not aware that the tenure of service chiefs is subjected to any law of regulation that is clearly stated. They serve at the pleasure of the president and (if) the president is satisfied with their performance, he keeps them. The buck stops at his table —with due respect to the feelings of Nigerians.
“The clamour for the sack is out of place considering that the president is not subject to the opinion of opposition political party which has clamoured for this all the time. It is entirely his own determination; he decides who he keeps as his service chiefs and for how long.”
Boko Haram were reported to have first tied up the farmers, who were working in rice fields, before slitting their throats.
Shehu had said the farmers had no military clearance to be on the rice farms when the attack happened.
His reaction was greeted by outrage on social media as many Nigerians lambasted him for blaming the dead.
Explaining further last night, Shehu said, “My suggestion in the earlier news report is that the military had not certified those areas as being free of landmines and terrorists’ intrusions. Whether there are processes for getting licences or commissions, it is not for me, the military is in a better position to describe those processes.”
F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton Contracts COVID-19
World champion Lewis Hamilton has tested positive for coronavirus and will miss this weekend’s Sakhir Grand Prix in Bahrain, Formula One’s governing body FIA announced Tuesday.
“In accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain he (Hamilton) is now isolating,” said an FIA statement.
“The procedures set out by the FIA and Formula 1 will ensure no wider impact on this weekend’s event.”
Hamilton who on Sunday won the Bahrain Grand Prix, the first of back-to-back races in the Gulf state, has already secured a record-equalling seventh world championship this season.
“He woke up on Monday morning with mild symptoms and was informed at the same time that a contact prior to arrival in Bahrain had subsequently tested positive,” a statement from Hamilton’s Mercedes team said.
“Lewis therefore took a further test and returned a positive result. This has since been confirmed by a retest.
“Lewis is now isolating in accordance with COVID-19 protocols and public health authority guidelines in Bahrain.
“Apart from mild symptoms, he is otherwise fit and well, and the entire team sends him its very best wishes for a swift recovery.”
The team added that Hamilton had been tested three times last week and returned a negative result each time as part of the sport’s strict anti-virus protocols, the last of which was on Sunday afternoon at the Bahrain circuit.
Beware of Festivities, Christmas Carol, FG Warns
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 has urged Nigerians to be weary of festivities such as Christmas carols as the year winds down.
It also warned against non-essential travels just as it asked Nigerians abroad to remain wherever they are or stand the risk of being stranded in the country in the event that the government takes a decision on international travels.
The call formed the theme of the speeches of the Chairman of the PTF, Boss Mustapha; the national coordinator, Sani Aliyu; the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire; and the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, at the weekly briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday.
Mustapaha, who is also the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, said the PTF was escalating its surveillance and testing drive to ensure that the spread of the virus was effectively contained as the nation approaches the festive season.
“We shall continue to remind Nigerians that all non-essential trips should be put off this December. This is for your safety and good health,” he said.
Speaking on vaccines, the PTF chairman said while it was a significant achievement, it was however, important for the citizens to continue to comply with the non-pharmaceutical interventions before the vaccines would become available.
“The PTF is already working on the strategy for gaining access to the vaccine as soon as they are available,” he added.
The SGF also said over the past weeks, discussions have been held about the safety issues pertaining to the National Sports Festival scheduled to hold in Benin, Edo State.
He said new dates have been agreed upon early in 2021, before which, measures would be put in place to minimize infections.
‘Don’t come home for Christmas’
Aliyu advised Nigerians in the Diaspora not to consider coming home, urging them to celebrate Christmas and New Year wherever they are.
He said, “Nigerians outside the country, hopefully they will stay where they are. And for Nigerians in-country, we will also stay where we are.
The national coordinator disclosed that for every 1,000 passengers coming into the country, the nation records 10 positive cases of COVID-19.
He added, “Please, for this period, if your travel is not essential, stay where you are. We are actively discouraging Nigerians abroad from coming home this Christmas because of COVID-19 and the number of infections we have outside the country.
“So, the message is; if you do not want to get stranded, if you do not want to bring COVID-19 to your elderly relatives in Nigeria, please stay where you are. There will be other holidays.”
Christmas carols, travels ‘supper spreaders’ of virus
At the press briefing, Ihekweazu said Christmas carols, travels and other gatherings during festivities were capable of turning out to be “super spreaders” of the virus, hence the need for Nigerians to avoid them as much as possible.
He said, “This is really to re-emphasise the call by the PTF that many of the traditional meetings that we engage in at this time of the year, whether they are Christmas carols or festivals, trips, family gatherings, each of those could end up being a super spreader event. So, we must take this into consideration as we make our choices.”
Ihekweazu said a travel advisory has been issued detailing why both local and international travels must be avoided unless they are absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, the SGF said the national response to COVID-19 pandemic and security must be prioritised as security could not be relaxed even while tackling the virus in the country.
Mustapha also noted that the global number of COVID-19 infections crossed 63 million on Sunday, 29th November, 2020.
According to him, in Africa, Nigeria ranked 5th for both the highest cumulative cases and deaths.