"> 2020 In Review By Lai Mohammed - Sahel Standard
March 2, 2021
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2020 In Review By Lai Mohammed

Good morning gentlemen, and welcome to this press conference, our
first this year. In fact, it was meant to be the last for 2020, but
it has now become the first for 2021. As you are aware, this press
conference was scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 29th 2020.

However, we had to postpone it in order for me not to breach the Covid-19 protocols. Many of you may not be aware that I represented Mr. President at the
inauguration of His Excellency, President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré
of Burkina Faso, in Ouagadougou on Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. I returned
to Nigeria the same day, but had to observe the mandatory 7-day
quarantine, which expired yesterday, Sunday Jan. 3rd 2021. My sincere
apologies to you, gentlemen, for the postponement, especially coming
at such a short notice.

  1. Now that we are here, let me wish you all a Happy New Year. The
    year 2020 was a very challenging one for our country. Covid-19 and
    EndSars – with their impact on the nation’s economy – and of course
    heightened security challenges combined to make the year such a tough
    one. But I make bold to say that the federal government rose stoutly –
    with courage and determination – to tackle the challenges, and has
    continued to do so.

COVID-19

  1. The Federal Government immediately kickstarted a massive
    onslaught against the novel coronavirus, Covid-19, as soon as it was
    imported into the country in February 2020, mobilizing all sectors and
    segments of the country for a multi-sectoral approach to interrupt the
    transmission of the virus, curtail mortality, expand health
    infrastructure, build the capacity of health workers and mount an
    aggressive public sensitization and community mobilization against the
    spread of the virus. To achieve these targets, President Muhammadu
    Buhari inaugurated a Presidential
    Task Force on Covid-19 under the chairmanship of the Secretary to the
    Government of the Federation to drive the multi-sectoral approach to
    contain the virus. Nigeria has so far availed itself creditably in the
    fight against Covid-19 through the deployment of resources,
    mobilization and training of manpower and expansion of health
    infrastructure, particularly our testing capacity for Covid-19. From
    just two National Reference Laboratory for the testing of Covid-19, we
    now have over 100 laboratories, public and private, across all the
    states of the federation.
  2. Treatment centres were also built, in collaboration with the
    states and the private sector (CACOVID), across the country to isolate
    and treat cases of Covid-19, while the federal government, through the
    Sustainable Production Pillar of the PTF, has been encouraging local
    manufacturing companies to embark on the production of consumables
    such as face masks, ventilators, hand sanitizers and face shields. To
    mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on the economy across all levels, the
    federal government unveiled the Economic Sustainability Plan to
    support families, small and medium enterprises and the manufacturing
    sector, among others. A major highlight of the Economic Sustainability
    Plan is the provision of solar power to 5 million Nigerian households
    in the next 12 months. This alone will produce 250,000 jobs and impact
    up to 25 million beneficiaries through the installation. Various other
    interventions were made through the Government Enterprise and
    Empowerment Program, as well as the Trader and Market Moni loans. For
    the very vulnerable, significant steps taken include the expansion of
    the National Social Register to 3.6 million beneficiaries across the
    36 states; support provided to 8,827,129 households through the 70,000
    Metric Tons food grains released from the Strategic Reserve; and
    support to 1,289,405 vulnerable households that benefited from the
    Conditional Cash Transfers across 34 States. The Central Bank of
    Nigeria also announced a number of measures to cushion the impact of
    the pandemic. These include:
  • A 1-year extension of a moratorium on principal repayments for CBN
    intervention facilities;
  • The reduction of the interest rate on intervention loans from 9
    percent to 5 percent
  • Strengthening of the Loan to Deposit ratio policy (i.e. stepped up
    enforcement of directive to extend more credit to the private sector)
  • Creation of N50 billion target credit facility for affected
    households and small and medium enterprises
  • Granting of regulatory forbearance to banks to restructure terms of
    facilities in affected sectors
  • Additional N100 billion intervention fund in healthcare loans to
    pharmaceutical companies and healthcare practitioners intending to
    expand/build capacity
  • Identification of few key local pharmaceutical companies that will
    be granted funding facilities to support the procurement of raw
    materials and equipment required to boost local drug production.
  • N1 trillion in loans to boost local manufacturing and production
    across critical sectors.
  • Provision of credit assistance for the health industry to meet the
    potential increase in demand for health services and products “by
    facilitating borrowing conditions for pharmaceutical companies,
    hospitals and practitioners”.
  • The Central Bank pledged to pump N1.1 trillion into critical sectors
    of the economy.
  • Commencement of a three-month repayment moratorium for all
    TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans
  • Similar moratorium to be given to all Federal Government-funded
    loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the
    Nigeria Export-Import Bank.

Of course, we also have the 774,000 Special Public Works (SPW) jobs
(1,000 jobs per each Local Government) which is now scheduled to
commence this January. The programme is designed for artisans to do
public works for three months at N20,000 per person per month. There
is also the N75 Billion Nigeria Youth Investment Fund (NYIF), which is
targeted at interested young Nigerians between the ages of 18 and 35
years. The aim of the scheme is to financially empower Nigeria youth
to generate at least 500,000 jobs between 2020 and 2023. Please note
that all these programmes, with the youth as major beneficiaries, were
put in place long before Endsars.

  1. With the resurgence of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr. President has
    extended the mandate of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Covid-19
    until the end of March 2021, bearing in mind the new surge in the
    number of cases and the bid for vaccines. This is further evidence of
    the Administration’s untiring efforts to tame the pandemic and protect
    Nigerians.

ENDSARS

  1. Just as the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic was rounding off, the
    country witnessed the EndSARS protest by
    the youth, who were calling for an end to police brutality and the
    disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protest
    started peacefully but soon degenerated into violence after it was
    hijacked by hoodlums. The five demands of the EndSars protesters were:
    i) Immediate release of all arrested protesters.
    ii) Justice for all deceased victims of police brutality and
    appropriate compensation for their families.
    iii) Setting up an independent body to oversee the investigation and
    prosecution of all reports of police misconduct within 10 days.
    iv) In line with the new Police Act, psychological evaluation and
    retraining (to be confirmed by an independent body) of all disbanded
    SARS officers before they can be redeployed.
    v) Increase police salary so that they are adequately compensated
    for protecting the lives and property of citizens.

The government responded comprehensively to the demands thus:

On 11 Oct: The Inspector-General of Police announced the immediate
disbandment of SARS across the 36 State Police Commands and the
Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

On Oct. 12th: President Muhamadu Buhari addressed the nation, stating:
”The disbanding of SARS is only the first step in our commitment to
extensive police reforms in order to ensure that the primary duty of
the police and other law enforcement agencies remains the protection
of lives and livelihood of our people. We will also ensure that all
those responsible for misconduct or wrongful acts are brought to
justice.

On Oct. 13th: The IGP ordered all defunct SARS personnel to report at
the Force Headquarters, Abuja, for debriefing as well as psychological
and medical examination. The officers were to undergo this process as
a prelude to further training and reorientation before being
redeployed into mainstream policing duties. The medical examination
was carried out by the new Police Counselling and Support Unit (PCSU).

On the same day, Oct. 13th: The presidential panel on the reform of
SARS formally accepted the five-point demand of the EndSARS
protesters.

On Oct. 15th: The National Economic Council (NEC) directed the
immediate establishment of State-based Judicial Panels of Inquiry
across the country to receive and investigate complaints of police
brutality or related extra-judicial killings, with a view to
delivering justice for all victims of the dissolved SARS and other
police units. The panel will include representatives of Youths,
Students, Civil Society Organizations and would be chaired by a
respected retired State High Court Judge. The panels have six months
to complete its assignment.

Other decisions by NEC on the Demands:

  • State Governors and the FCT Minister should take charge of interface
    and contact with the protesters in their respective domains.
  • State Governors should immediately establish State-based Special
    Security and Human Rights Committees to be chaired by the Governors in
    their States, and to supervise the newly-formed police tactical units
    and all other security agencies located in the States. This will
    ensure the protection of citizens’ human rights. Members will also
    include Representatives of Youths and Civil Society, as well as the
    head of police tactical units in each of the States.
  • Establishment, by the Special Committee on Security and Human
    Rights, of a Human Rights Public Complaints Team of between 2 to 3
    persons to receive complaints on an ongoing basis. That team would be
    established by the Special Committee on Security and Human Rights.
  • State Governors to immediately establish a Victims Fund to enable
    the payment of monetary compensation to deserving victims.

Finally, on the Federal Government’s response, the National Salaries,
Income and Wages Commission was directed to expedite action on the
finalization of the new salary structure of members of the Nigeria
Police Force.

  1. Despite meeting the demands, the protest continued and the
    demands kept expanding, until the protest was hijacked, leading to
    unprecedented violence characterized by killings, maiming, arson,
    looting etc. For the record, six soldiers and 37 policemen were killed
    all over the country during the crisis. Also, 196 policemen were
    injured; 164 police vehicles were destroyed and 134 police stations
    burnt down. Also, the violence left 57 civilians dead, 269
    private/corporate facilities burnt/looted/vandalized, 243 government
    facilities burnt/vandalized and 81 government warehouses looted. The
    violence was unprecedented in scale and scope, and the impact has been
    damaging to the economy.

ECONOMY

  1. Nigeria recorded positive economic developments in 2020, but
    these seem to have been overshadowed by the country’s economic
    recession. As you are all aware, Nigeria officially entered recession
    at the end of the third quarter (Q3), after the country’s Gross
    Domestic Product declined for the second consecutive quarter in 2020
    (Q2 and Q3). That’s in line with the traditional definition of
    recession. The main reason for this is the Covid-19 pandemic. Nigeria
    is not alone. Dozens of countries, including economic giants like the
    US, UK and Canada, have entered recession, of course due to the global
    pandemic. Others include Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
    Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, Netherlands,
    Norway, Romania, Russia and Spain.
  2. But, like I said earlier, Nigeria’s economic recession has masked
    a lot of positive economic developments: According to the National
    Bureau of Statistics, the decline of -3.62% in Q3 is much smaller than
    the -6.10% recorded in Q2. The economic conditions are actually
    improving, with 17 activities recording positive real growth in the
    third quarter, compared to 13 in Q2. Also, 36 of 46 economic
    activities did better in the third quarter of 2020 than in the second
    quarter of the same year. The -3.62% contraction recorded in the third
    quarter of 2020 was better than the -6.01% earlier forecast by the
    National Bureau of Statistics, and outperformed several domestic and
    international forecasts. Please note that before COVID-19, the
    Nigerian economy had been experiencing sustained growth, which was
    improving every quarter, until the second quarter of 2020, when the
    impact of COVID-19 started to be felt. Just as the year 2020 was
    rounding off, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) was named the
    best-performing stock market among the 93 equity indexes being tracked
    by Bloomberg across the world. The all-share index, which opened at
    38,800.01, moved up by 310.16 points to close at 39,110.17 – crossing
    the 39,000 mark, while the market capitalization rose by N167 billion
    to close at N20.446 trillion. Returns are currently at 45.7 percent;
    the best annual return since 2013.

OIL SECTOR WORST HIT

  1. The oil sector was largely responsible for the slowdown in
    economic activity in the third quarter of 2020, as it recorded a sharp
    contraction of -13.89% in the third quarter of 2020 year-on-year, the
    largest decline in that sector in 14 quarters. The reason is not
    far-fetched. The slowdown in global economic growth and oil demand due
    to Covid-19 pandemic, as well as Nigeria’s obligations to meet OPEC
    cuts, were principally responsible for the slowdown in the performance
    of the oil sector.

NON-OIL SECTOR

  1. Though the non-oil sector also contracted in the third quarter
    of 2020, the decline in the sector by -2.51% year-on-year in the third
    quarter of 2020 was significantly better when compared to the
    contraction of -6.05% year-on-year recorded in the second quarter of
    2020.
  2. Overall, there is good news: The latest recession in Nigeria
    will be short-lived, and Nigeria will return to positive growth soon,
    unlike the 2016 recession which lasted five quarters. This is because
    of several complementary fiscal, real sector and monetary
    interventions proactively introduced by the government to forestall a
    far worse decline of the economy and alleviate the negative
    consequences of the pandemic.

SECURITY

  1. Gentlemen, let me say straight away that Nigeria is fending off
    attacks on many fronts, not just from terrorists and bandits, but also
    from some human rights organizations and the International Criminal
    Court (ICC) which seem to have colluded to exacerbate the challenges
    facing the country in the area of security. While our security
    agencies continue to battle these bandits and terrorists, the ICC and
    some international human rights organizations, especially Amnesty
    International, have constituted themselves to another ‘fighting force’
    against Nigeria, constantly harassing our security forces and
    threatening them with investigation and possible prosecution over
    alleged crimes against humanity and war crimes. Unfortunately, a
    section of the local media has been parroting these organizations
    without weighing the impact of their constant threats on the security
    of the nation.
  2. The federal government frowns at this unbridled attempt to
    demoralize our security men and women as they confront the onslaught
    from bandits and terrorists. Nigeria did not join the ICC so it can
    become a pawn on the court’s chessboard. It beggars belief to see that
    a nation that is fighting an existential war against bandits and
    terrorists is
    constantly being held down by an international body which it willingly
    joined. Nigeria is a sovereign state and will not surrender its
    sovereignty to any organization. ICC, Amnesty International and their
    cohorts should desist from threatening our troops and putting the
    security of our country in jeopardy. Enough is enough. It is sad that
    these organizations mostly rely on fake news and disinformation to
    reach their conclusions, as witnessed during the Endsars protest when
    CNN – an otherwise respected global news network – went to town with
    fake news of a massacre. As it turned out, it was a massacre without
    bodies. As you are aware, we called CNN out and also petitioned the
    network. Though they acknowledged receipt of our petition, we have yet
    to hear from them on what actions they intend to take to prevent a
    recurrence of the fake news they peddled about Nigeria. I can assure
    you, gentlemen, that the matter is far from over.
  3. Gentlemen, despite the antics of those who have constituted
    themselves to another ‘fighting force’ against our country, we have
    indeed made tremendous progress in tackling bandits and the terrorists
    of Boko Haram. Recently, some jaundiced analysts and their lapdogs
    have sought to portray Nigeria as a failing state, on the strength of
    its security challenges. But these analysts are dead wrong. Nigeria is
    not and cannot be a failing or failed state. Of course, you would
    remember that for the past two decades or so, some pseudo-analysts
    have been predicting the country’s implosion. That has not happened,
    hence they have found a new tag line: failing or failed state! It’s
    all a ruse aimed at depicting Nigeria as being in a constant state of
    anarchy, just so they can achieve their nefarious objectives for the
    country.
  4. If Nigeria was not a ‘failing’ state when a large slice of its
    territory equivalent to the size of Belgium was under the occupation
    of Boko Haram, which collected taxes, installed and deposed emirs, is
    it now that no territory is under the terrorists that Nigeria will be
    a failing state? If Nigeria was not a failed state when bombs were
    raining on towns and cities in Kano, Kaduna, Plateau, Borno, Yobe, FCT
    and other states, is it now that such bombings have stopped that
    Nigeria will be described as a ‘failing’ state? If Nigeria was not a
    ‘failing’ state in those years that Christian and Muslim worshippers
    had to be screened to even enter their places of worship, is it now
    that the siege on places of worship has ceased that Nigeria will be
    described as a ‘failing’ state?
  5. It is sad that we have forgotten where we were in terms of the
    state of insecurity just a few years back. Let me mention some
    instances that will put things in a better perspective. Thanks to our
    security agencies, we have just celebrated another Christmas and New
    Year without a rain of bombs. Few would remember that in 2010, 2011
    and 2012, Christmas eve or Christmas Day attacks left hundreds dead or
    injured. What about the attack on the UN Complex in Abuja in August
    2011; the bombing of media houses in Abuja and Kaduna in April 2012
    and the
    killing of about 40 students in Mubi, Adamawa State, in October 2012?
    Have we forgotten that over 80 towns and villages were attacked and
    razed, with casualties, by Boko Haram in Borno State alone? Have we
    forgotten the constant attacks on military and security formations
    like Giwa Barracks (Maiduguri), Mohammed Kur Barracks (Bama), Monguno
    Barracks (Monguno), Airforce Base (Maiduguri), New Prison (Maiduguri)
    and numerous police stations? The fact that these attacks and bombings
    have stopped is a testimony to the progress we have made in tackling
    terrorism which, by the way, is not like conventional warfare. The
    stoppage of the attacks didn’t happen by accident. It is therefore
    mischievous for anyone to discountenance the progress we have made in
    tackling insecurity, in building and upgrading infrastructure and in
    diversifying the economy, among others. The federal government rejects
    this characterization of Nigeria as a ‘failing’ state, which is a
    combination of the wishful thinking of naysayers and the evil
    machinations of those who don’t wish Nigeria well.
  6. Gentlemen, the federal government has sustained the fight
    against terrorists, bandits, kidnappers and other criminal elements
    across the country especially in the North East and the North West
    Regions. The recent swift response and rescue of the 344 kidnapped
    Kankara schools boys in Katsina State from bandits attest to this. The
    President has continued to provide all the necessary platforms on
    land, air and sea to support the fight against criminals and
    terrorists in the country.

AGRICULTURE, INFRASTRUCTURE AND POWER

  1. Amid the challenges of insecurity, which the Administration is
    tackling headlong, Nigeria has continued to make steady progress in
    many areas, including infrastructural development, agriculture and
    power. In agriculture, the federal government, within the period under
    review, inaugurated “The Green Imperative,’’ which is a 10-year
    agricultural programme amounting to $1.2 billion targeting the
    creation of five million jobs and injection of $10 billion into the
    economy. The Green Imperative is a Nigeria-Brazil bilateral
    agriculture development that will be implemented over a period of five
    to 10 years and the funding will come from the Development Bank of
    Brazil (BNDES) and Deutsche Bank, The Initiative will lead to the
    reactivation of six motor assembly plants in the six geopolitical
    zones of the country for assembling tractors and other implements,
    with importation of the Completely Knocked Down (CKD) parts of about
    5,000 tractors and numerous implements for local assembly annually for
    a period of 10 years. Also, through the Anchor Borrowers programme,
    more than N200 billion has been made available since the inception of
    the scheme in 2015 to support over 1.5 million farmers in the
    production of rice, wheat, cassava, poultry, soya beans, groundnut,
    maize, cotton and fish. Thanks to this scheme, Nigeria is now on the
    verge of attaining self-sufficiency in rice production. In the area of
    power, following an agreement with German company Siemens in July 2019
    to boost power supply in Nigeria, the stage is set for the perennial
    power problem to become a thing of the past. Under the three-phase
    agreement, Nigerians will enjoy 7,000 megawatts of reliable power
    supply by the end of 2021 (phase 1), 11,000 megawatts by the end of
    2023 (phase 2) and 25,000 megawatts in the third phase.
  2. In the area of infrastructure, the President this year virtually
    inaugurated the 326-kilometre Itakpe-Ajaokuta-Warri rail line, which
    has suffered a setback in the last 30 years. It is expected that close
    to one million passengers and 3.5 million tons of freight will be
    conveyed along the rail line annually. Passenger service has also
    commenced on the Lagos-Ibadan railway, ahead of the project’s
    inauguration in January 2021. The Lagos-Ibadan rail line is a
    double-track standard gauge rail, the first of its kind in West
    Africa, and the first leg of the Lagos to Kano rail line. Block by
    block, President Buhari is reviving and modernizing the country’s rail
    sector for a better conveyance of passengers and goods and in order to
    give the nation’s economy a shot in the arm. The Loko-Oweto Bridge
    over River Benue is now 97% completed. The 1.8-kilometre bridge links
    the northern and southern part of the country across the River Benue,
    achieving a drastic cut in travel time. And the federal government is
    constructing or renovating 37 bridges across the country, including
    the Third Mainland Bridge in Lagos, the Second Niger Bridge, the Ikom
    Bridge in Cross River, the Murtala Mohammed Bridge in Koton Karfe,
    Kogi State, the Tatabu Bridge linking Niger and Kwara States, the
    Isaac Boro Bridge in Port Harcourt and the Tamburawa Bridge in Kano
    State. The federal government also completed and inaugurated the Akanu
    Ibiam International Airport in Enugu for scheduled flights. The
    rehabilitation of the runway and other associated work were executed
    in line with ICAO standard.

BORDER DRILL

  1. As you are all aware, gentlemen, four land borders have now been
    reopened on the directive of Mr. President. The borders are those in
    Seme, Illela, Maigatari, and Mfun. The opening is the culmination of a
    border drill, code-named ”EXERCISE SWIFT RESPONSE”, that was
    launched on August 20th 2019 as part of efforts to secure the land and
    maritime borders in the South South, South West, North Central and
    North West zones from smuggling and irregular migration, as well as
    boost national economy and strengthen border security The Exercise is
    being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser
    (ONSA), and comprises the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), the Nigerian
    Immigration Service (NIS), the Armed Forces of Nigeria as well as the
    Nigeria Police force (NPF) and other security and intelligence
    agencies. I can report to you, gentlemen, that over a year into the
    Exercise, it is a huge success, having saved resources and enhanced
    national security. The importation of drugs and
    proliferation of small arms, which usually fuel violent extremism and
    terrorism in the country, have been significantly curtailed. For
    instance, 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons that are being used
    for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in the country comes in through
    our porous borders. However, since the border drill started, this
    importation has been drastically reduced. The agricultural sector has
    also received a boost from the drill, with rice production now nearing
    the level of self sufficiency for the country and poultry production
    at a high level. As at 17 December 2020, 1,375 irregular migrants have
    been arrested while seizures so far include; 157,511-50kg bags of
    parboiled foreign rice; 10,447 bags of NPK fertilizer used for making
    explosives and 18,630 Jerrycans of vegetable oil. The total monetary
    value of the seized items is about ₦12,362,574,090.50. I commend our
    security operatives for displaying a high level of professionalism and
    unflinching commitment to this national assignment.

CONCLUSION

  1. Gentlemen, the year 2020 has been a challenging year,
    undoubtedly one of the most challenging years for the country. A
    global pandemic that triggered an economic recession, a heightened
    security challenge and an unnecessary violence that stemmed from what
    started as a peaceful protest are just some of the challenges. It is
    to the credit of the Buhari Administration that it tackled these
    challenges headlong. Thanks to the several complementary fiscal, real
    sector and monetary interventions proactively introduced by the
    government to forestall a far worse decline of the economy and
    alleviate the negative consequences of the pandemic, the current
    recession will not last long, and Nigeria will soon return to positive
    growth. Nigeria will witness an improved security in 2021, as Mr.
    President has continued to provide the armed forces and other security
    agencies with whatever they require to function better, both in terms
    of platforms, logistics and capacity development. And, as Mr.
    President said in his new year broadcast, the security apparatus and
    personnel of the armed forces and the police are to be re-energized
    and reorganized, with a view to enhancing their capacity to engage,
    push back and dismantle the operations of both internal and external
    extremist and criminal groups waging war against our communities in
    some parts of the country.
    The good news is that a number of the platforms we have been expecting
    to pep up the battle against terrorists and bandits are due to arrive
    in the new year. While at this, please permit me to salute all our
    security personnel for their sacrifice, dedication to duty and
    patriotism. The nation is in their debt for their service. Let me also
    take this opportunity to condemn the constant infantile
    press releases by the unserious, unimaginative and drab opposition,
    which misconstrues opposition as constantly shooting down anything the
    government of the day does or bad mouthing whatever Mr. President does
    or says. There is more to opposition than predictable and
    bring-it-down-at-all-cost media interventions. They messed up in
    government, and they are messing up even more in opposition. No
    lessons learnt either way.
  2. Finally, let me say this: Doomsday predictions about Nigeria
    will not come to pass. Nigeria will not become a failed state, but
    will rise to become a more respected member of the comity of nations.
    We thank all Nigerians for their support and wish them a happy new
    year. And to you here, thank you for honoring our invitation and,
    once again, best wishes for a better year in 2021
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