The Federal Government has commenced the employment of 774,000 youths in the country to cushion the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
President Muhammadu Buhari who stated this in his 2020 celebration of Democracy Day address said “As part of the strategy to create jobs in reducing the effect of COVID-19 on our youths, I directed the employment of 774,000 Nigerians. These youths will be engaged in Special Public Works Programme aimed at cushioning the effects of economic downturn.
“Each of the 774 local government areas in the country will be allotted 1,000 slots. I am pleased to report that this programme has commenced.
Buhari also said “We have witnessed eleven quarters of consecutive GDP growth since exiting recession. The GDP grew from 1.91% in 2018 to 2.27% in 2019 but declined to 1.87% in the first quarter of 2020 as a result of the decline in global economic activities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Every single economy in the world has suffered a decline. Ours has been relatively moderate. In order to stabilize the economy, the Monetary Authority took steps to build the external reserves which resulted in improved liquidity in the foreign exchange market. The external reserves grew from $33.42 billion on April 29th 2020 to about $36.00 billion in May, 2020 which is enough to finance seven months of import commitments.
He announced “We have deployed 5,000 Agro-Rangers and employed 30,289 in our para-military agencies through the CBN Anchor Borrowers Programme and similar schemes. We are also integrating rural communities to the formal economy by extending access to credit and inputs to rural farmers and building feeder roads.
“Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from Cocoa and Sesame Seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million. Africa presents a huge opportunity for our export base diversification and we are developing our strategy to grow intra-Africa trade through the Africa Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. 20.
“Nigeria has risen by 25 places on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking from 146th to 131st and is now rated as one of the top 10 reforming countries. This development is due to the Visa on Arrival policy, consistent promotion of initiatives that expand facilities available to Micro Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, robust electronic registration and payment system, seamless processing of business registration and reduction of cost of registering business by 50%…We would also be launching a fully digitized mineral rights management platform for quick processing of mineral rights application, digitization of records and plugging revenue leakages.”
According to him, “Our agreement with Siemens will transmit and distribute a total of 11,000 Megawatts by 2023, to serve our electricity needs. On transportation, another critical sector to improving our economic competitiveness, we are growing the stock and quality of our road, rail, air and water transport infrastructure. Through the SUKUK-Funded Road Projects, a total of 412km of the targeted 643km road projects have been completed, representing 64%.
In the area of security, he noted, “We remain unshaken in our resolve to protect our national infrastructure including on-shore and off-shore oil installations, secure our territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. Ending insurgency, banditry and other forms of criminality across the nation is being accorded appropriate priorities and the men and women of the Armed Forces of Nigeria have considerably downgraded such threats across all geo-political zones. All the local governments that were taken over by the Boko Haram insurgents in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa have long been recovered and are now occupied by indigenes of these areas who were hitherto forced to seek a living in areas far from their ancestral homes.
“The total collapse of the economies of these areas, which constituted a threat to our food security, has also been reversed with the gradual recovery of farming and other economic activities. I regret recent sporadic incidents with tragic loss of lives in Katsina and Borno States as a result of criminals taking advantage of COVID-19 restrictions. Security Agencies will pursue the perpetrators and bring them to swift justice. I must implore state and local governments to revamp their intelligence assets so that the Security Agencies can nip in the bud any planned attacks in remote rural areas.
Commenting internal security architecture, the President said “the government has expanded the National Command and Control Centre to nineteen states of the federation, resuscitated the National Public Security Communication System and commenced the implementation of the Community Policing Strategy. Government has similarly established a Nigerian Police Trust Fund as a public-private sector vehicle for alternative sources of funding security activities.
“To reduce security challenges through our external borders especially smuggling of oil products out of the country, inflow of small arms and drugs into the country and equally protect our local manufacturers, we introduced operation “Ex-Swift Response” closing our borders from August 20th 2019, and have considerably succeeded in meeting its objectives as well as improving our national revenue.”
To reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programmes, education, technology and improved information, he said “Our Social Investment Programme has continued to be a model to other nations and has engaged 549,500 N-Power beneficiaries, 408,682 beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer Programme and 2,238,334 beneficiaries of the Growth Enhancement and Empowerment Programme. This is being done in collaboration with the States.”
“Similarly, ‘Marketmoni’ and ‘Tradermoni’ Programmes have provided affordable loans to small and micro scale enterprises to grow their businesses. Under the National Home-Grown School Feeding Programme, over 9,963,729 children are being fed to keep them in school and improve their nutritional status,” Buhari pointed out.
The President announced that Anti-Corruption Agencies have secured more than 1,400 convictions and also recovered funds in excess of N800 billion. These monies are being ploughed into development and infrastructure projects.
On the rising number of rapes, he said “I am particularly upset at recent incidents of rape especially of very young girls. The Police are pursuing these cases with a view to bringing perpetrators of these heinous crimes to swift justice. 86. Government continues to recognize and harness the power of the media for positive development.”
He thanked members of the press for their doggedness in the struggle for attainment of democracy since the beginning of hte nationhood, saying the relationship between the media and successive governments has not always been perfect.
“But there is no denying the fact that you have been an effective watchdog for the society especially in holding public officers to account. It is sad that in the course of securing our democracy, some of your colleagues have had to pay a heavy price. We will continue to guarantee freedom of the Press as we place high premium on responsible journalism that is devoid of hate speech, fake news and other unethical professional conduct,” the President observed.