President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday disclosed that 264,269 loans have been disbursed to 4,822 Cooperative societies in 36 states and the FCT under the Government Enterprise Empowerment Programme (GEEP).

The President, who made the disclosure Tuesday morning in a broadcast to mark the 2018 Democracy Day and his administration’s third anniversary, added that another 370,635 beneficiaries were awaiting release of funds.

Buhari also spoke about N-Power, another scheme targeted at providing jobs for unemployed young graduates and disclosed that 200,000 youths have so far been recruited while the next batch of 300,000 have already been selected, verified and are being prepared for deployment to the 36 states and the FCT.

“Furthermore, 20,000 non-graduate volunteers have also been selected to kick off the N-Build programme in collaboration with the National Automotive Design and Development Council and the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria.

On the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), the President said the project portfolio has been expanded with an injection of $650 million to strengthen its investment in local infrastructure, power, health, re-construction of Abuja-Kano Road, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, East West Road (Section V) and the Mambilla Hydro-electric Power project as well as the construction of the second Niger Bridge.

He further listed some of the key reform policies of his administration to include the Treasury Single Account (TSA) that has realised billions of naira that has been saved from maintenance fee payable to banks. “N200 billion has also been saved from elimination of ghost workers in public service.

“The whistle-blowing policy has helped to recover over N500 billion; the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA) set up with a mandate to validate controls, assess risks, prune personnel costs and ensure compliance with Public Financial Management reforms, has helped to identify and remove over 52,000 ghost workers from the Federal Government MDAs’ payroll;

“The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme (VAIDS) aimed at expanding tax education and awareness has offered the opportunity for tax defaulters to regularise their status in order to enjoy the amnesty of forgiveness on overdue interest, penalties and the assurance of non-prosecution or subject to tax investigations,” he stated.
The President, while commenting on the nation’s foreign reserve, said it has improved significantly to $47.5 billion as of May 2018 as against $29.6 billion in 2015. He also said it was soothing that the inflationary rate has consistently declined every month since January 2017.

On the fight against corruption championed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), President Buhari disclosed that relentless efforts in that regard have resulted in recoveries of billions of naira, as well as forfeiture of various forms of assets.

“This, alongside other efforts, has improved Nigeria’s international image and regional cooperation. We have retained the services of one of the world’s leading assets tracing firms to investigate and trace assets globally. This is in addition to the exploitation of provisions of existing treaties, conventions as well as bilateral agreements with multilateral bodies and nations.

“Nigeria has also signed mutual legal assistance agreements to ensure there is no hiding place for fugitives. This administration has, therefore, focused on revamping the ailing economy it inherited in 2015. In 2016, government executed an expansionary budget and developed the Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP). For the first time, 30 per cent of the budget was earmarked for capital expenditure, which represents an upward review when compared with the 2015 budget.

“The SIP was followed by the development of a comprehensive medium term plan – the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) 2017 – 2020. The broad strategic objectives of ERGP include to restore and sustain economic growth; build a globally competitive economy; and invest in our people. The implementation of ERGP has started yielding results. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that the economy grew by 1.95 per cent in 1st quarter 2018, which is a good performance when viewed against -0.91 in 1st quarter 2017 and -0.67 per cent in 1st quarter 2016 respectively,” he added.

The President said his administration recently conducted Focus Labs in three key sectors of the economy namely, agriculture and transport, manufacturing and processing as well as power and gas.

“These have yielded significant prospects for investments and job creation to the tune of $ 22.5 billion with a potential for creating more than 500,000 jobs by 2020. These investment generation initiatives are expected to increase capital inflows in the form of foreign direct investment. There is a high prospect that the cumulative investments from this first phase of the Labs will hit $39.2 billion by 2025.

“Under agriculture, Nigeria continues to pursue a strategic food security programme built around self-sufficiency and minimisation of import dependency. As a result, rice importation from other countries has been cut down by 90 per cent, which has a direct impact on foreign reserves,” he stated.
On power generation, he said Nigerians from all parts of the country have continued to report better power supply and less use of generators.

“This underscores the effectiveness of the methodical plan to deliver incremental and uninterrupted power supply to our homes, markets, offices and factories. The country achieved 5,222.3MW representing the highest peak of power generated onto the national grid and delivered to customers in December 2017. With new facilities, repairs and rehabilitations by government and private investors, generation capability now exceeds 7,500MW.

This administration is committed to lawful interventions to ensure the operators of the distribution business live up to expectations especially in the areas of distribution capacity, service delivery, collection efficiency, and metering to eliminate contentious estimated billing.