Nseobong Okon-Ekong, Gboyega Akinsanmi and Segun James
President Muhammadu Buhari Saturday declared that the economic policies of his government were having the right effect, saying this is evident in the steady growth the economy has witnessed in the last three years. Buhari stated this in Lagos during a town hall meeting with the business community. It was part of his presidential campaign visit to the state to drum support for his re-election bid on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC).
He later told a huge crowd of party faithful and supporters during the campaign rally at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere, that his administration was determined to bring to justice persons with proven cases of corrupt enrichment, vowing that he has a sacred duty to send them to prison.
This was as Lagos State Governor Akinwuumi Ambode promised to deliver votes in huge numbers for APC in the state, and the party’s national leader and former governor of the state, Senator Bola Tinubu, called former President Olusegun Obasanjo a terrible poll rigger in their remarks at the rally.
Buhari, who also visited the palace of the Oba of Lagos, arrived the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Surulere venue of the campaign about 3pm. After thanking the people for defying the hot weather to receive him, he said he did not have much to add to the achievements of the administration that had been enumerated by Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, and co-chairman of the APC Presidential Campaign, Tinubu.
“We have made tremendous progress on the promises that we made to you in 2015. We will maintain the focus. We will continue to fight corruption, prosecute anyone found guilty and get them imprisoned. It is our duty and responsibility. I urge you to vote APC from top to bottom in the elections,” the president told the rally.
Buhari, who only spoke for about two minutes, scored himself high on efforts to bring a turnaround in the economy, secure the country, and provide jobs. He promised that Lagos would continue to receive great attention in terms of infrastructural renewal and all round economic growth.
The president told members of the business community during the town hall meeting that he had kept his promise to boost the economy, block leakages in government finances, increase capital expenditure and inflows, and implement the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), among others. The meeting, which was held shortly before the president proceeded to the Teslim Balogun Stadium for the rally, included representatives of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.
Adesina quoted Buhari as saying, “I firmly believe that our economic policies are beginning to make the desired impact. Economic growth has resumed and is continuing to improve.
“Growth was higher in 2017 than in 2016, data even from external sources shows that it will be higher in 2018 than in 2017. I am confident that as we stay the course, it will be better still at the end of 2019.
“Inflation is coming down steadily, there is stability in the exchange rate and foreign exchange is readily available for genuine business. Foreign reserves are adequate and growing; capital inflows have increased and the trade balance is positive.
“We are paying off debts that were not even publicly acknowledged before now, including those owed to states, the electricity sector, oil marketers, exporters, backlog of salaries of workers and pensioners, amongst others.”
Buhari told the business community that he was a strong believer in infrastructural investment to promote development.
He stated, “I am happy that the results of the priority we have placed on this sector are beginning to show. Our commitment is reflected in the resources that we are providing for infrastructure. In 2016 and 2017, capital expenditure was up to N2.7 trillion while over N800 million has been released under the current budget.
“This has been complemented by the inception of the $650 million Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund, which will focus initially on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, the Second Niger Bridge, the Abuja-Kano expressway, and the Mambilla hydropower plant.”
The statement also said the president highlighted completed and ongoing projects in the transport and aviation sector and expressed delight that the rail projects were generating excitement across the country because it would help local businesses to grow.
According to him, “The Abuja-Kaduna railway is up and running. The Itakpe-Warri line is being test-run before going commercial. The completed portion of the Abuja light rail project is facilitating movement to the airport.
“The Lagos-Ibadan railway is nearing completion with people already taking test rides on the completed portions. We are determined to work at the same pace on the Coastal Railway Line and the line from Port Harcourt to Maiduguri.
“We completed the repairs to the runway in Abuja in record time, and just a few weeks ago, I commissioned the Baro Inland Port. All these achievements will help Nigerian businesses to grow.”
Adesina said the president also spoke on future plans to sustain the positive economic outlook, saying the federal government would raise more revenue to boost the economic fundamentals and increase the level and quality of government services in support of the private sector.
He quoted Buhari as saying, “I recently inaugurated a Technical Advisory Committee to identify new sources of revenue in this regard. This is also to ensure that government at all levels have the resources to pay the new national wage, which we are indeed committed to paying.
“Our economic fundamentals are strong and, in the next four years, by the grace of God, we are determined to stay the course in terms of partnerships with the private sector; support to the real sector; helping small businesses, providing infrastructure and an enabling business environment.”
Fashola had earlier explained that the party’s campaign slogan, “Next Level”, held enormous promise for jobs and prosperity for all. Citing the example of the Mambilla Power Project, he said the project will create millions of jobs. He also hinted at approval to renovate all federal government-owned buildings, saying the president has already approved the maintenance, which will create jobs for various categories of artisans, including plumbers, carpenters, electricians and painters.
The Minister of Transportation and Director General of the APC Presidential Campaign, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, in his speech said the 2019 general election was a fight between the rich and the poor. He said the Buhari administration was on the side of the poor. Amaechi announced that the massive investment in rail transportation will not only provide jobs, but also revolutionise the economy.
“We recently launched the Iju (Lagos) to Abeokuta. We are taking that one all the way to Ibadan and it must be ready by April. I have told them to carry people free for three months before they start charging fares. Itakpe to Warri is running. We are to have Lagos to Maiduguri and Lagos to Calabar. This government is working seriously for the people of this country,” Amaechi stated.
Speaking at the rally, National Chairman of APC, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, reassured the international community that the federal government was committed to a free and credible election. Oshiomhole said APC had no history of election rigging.
He said, “We do not believe in violence. On February 16, it will be a time for the people of Nigeria to show again that they have faith in President Buhari. The odds are in our favour. Contrary to the widely held notion, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been absolutely unfair to the APC. In Zamfara, we have been told we cannot contest the election because we did not hold a primary. There was primary in Zamfara and the court has said so, but INEC prefers to obey another court. We will not join issues with INEC. We are products of struggle. If it is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), they would have been shouting blue murder. The court has said we did elections, INEC prefers to believe the one that said we did not.”
We’ll Deliver Lagos – Ambode
Ambode reiterated the commitment of the state to Buhari’s victory.
The governor said, “We appreciate the President in the last three and half years. The 2019 election is not about tribe and religion, but it’s all about job, economy and infrastructure.
“In Lagos, airport road is making life comfortable for every Lagosians. PMB has refunded some of the money we used for projects in Lagos.
“We need to continue in that direction. The president has created the ground work for growth in the country.”
He assured the president that residents of Lagos would come out en masse on February 16 to deliver the state to Buhari and other National Assembly candidates of APC.
Ambode commended Buhari for supporting infrastructural growth in the state, saying he would do more if given another mandate of four years.
According to him, “In and outside of the stadium, you can see the crowd that has turned out here and we are very grateful that Lagos has been signed, sealed and delivered to APC already. The message is very clear.
“We appreciate Mr. President for his support to our state in the last three and a half years. The achievements that we have recorded in Lagos were possible because of his support. This election is not about tribe or religion, it’s about infrastructure, jobs and the economy and the right path to go is to go to the APC.
“If you see what we are doing in Lagos already, you will see that the airport road is not for the Yorubas or the Igbos or the Hausas, it’s about making life comfortable for Nigerians and that is why Mr. President has continually supported all our projects by even refunding some of the funds we used for capital projects so that we can complete more projects.”
The governor alleged that the return of PDP to power would only retard the country’s growth.
He told the crowd, “If you remember, the first two years of this administration we were in recession caused by the PDP, but in the last two years, we have stabilized, we have created the groundwork for growth and that is where APC is different from the PDP. They will tell you that they want to make Nigeria work again, but ask them who destroyed Nigeria in the first place?
“Therefore, this election is about moving the economy forward and for this to be possible, we need to continue on the foundation that we have already made in the last four years. APC remains one party, we remain one nation and one family.”
The presidential entourage landed at the Presidential Wing of the Murtala Mohammed Airport, Lagos, about 10.13am aboard a Nigerian Air Force Boeing aircraft with registration number 5N-FGT, amid tight security. He was received by APC chieftains and supporters, including Ambode, Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosu, Oyo State Governor Abiola Ajimobi, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State, and Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu. Others were the Minister of Labour and Productivity, Dr. Chris Ngige, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, and Lagos State APC governorship candidate, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
Buhari left the airport for the palace of the Oba of Lagos before making a brief stop at the Lagos House, the official residence of the Governor of Lagos State, at Marina.
At the palace of the Oba of Lagos, Oba Riliwanu Akiolu, the Oba described Buhari as a man of his words, and noted that the body of traditional rulers in the state was happy to receive the president.
Akiolu said, “Give Buhari another chance and you will see how Nigeria will move forward.”
The Oba also commended a son of the soil, Fashola, whom he said had been doing a fantastic job as the Minister of Works, Power and Housing, adding that there has been improvement in the electricity.
The huge crowd of APC supporters, who had thronged the Teslim Balogun Stadium from all corners of the state since the early hours of the morning, were entertained by Fuji music superstar, Wasiu Ayinde Anifowoshe, better as K1.