President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he will, in a few days’ time, sign into law the ‘Not too young to run’ bill. The President made this promise in a nationwide broadcast in commemoration of the Democracy Day on Tuesday. He said:
“In a few days to come, I will be joined by many promising young Nigerians to sign into law the ‘Not too young to run’ bill.”
The bill, which is part of the process to amend the 1999 Constitution, seeks to reduce the minimum age requirement for elective positions in the country. It was first passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives in July 2017. Many state houses of assembly in the country have also passed the bill.
President Buhari also advised all and sundry to be law-abiding as the country enters into another election season. He said
“The upcoming months will usher us into another season of general elections. Let me use this opportunity to urge us all to conduct ourselves, our wards and our constituencies with the utmost sense of fairness, justice and peaceful co-existence such that we will have not only hitch-free elections but also a credible and violence-free process.
The President, who reiterated that the fight against graft remained his administration’s primary objective, vowed not to relent in killing corruption before it did an irreparable damage to the nation. He said:
“The second primary objective of this administration is to fight corruption headlong. Like I have always said, if we don’t kill corruption, corruption will destroy the country. Three years into this administration, Nigerians and the international community have begun to applaud our policies and determination to fight corruption. We are more than ever before determined to win this war, however hard the road is. I, therefore, appeal to all well-meaning Nigerians to continue to support us in this fight.
“Various policy measures already put in place to stem the tide of corrupt practices are yielding remarkable results. Some of these key reform policies include: Treasury Single Account, which has realised billions of naira being saved from the maintenance fee payable to banks. N200bn has also been saved from the elimination of ghost workers in public service.”
President Buhari noted that the whistle-blowing policy had helped the government to recover over N500bn. He added:
“The Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit, 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’s MDAs Payroll.
“The Voluntary Asset and Income Declaration Scheme 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 explained that the Sovereign Wealth Fund project portfolio had been expanded with an injection of $650m so as to strengthen its investment in local infrastructure, power, health, reconstruction of the 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 2nd Niger Bridge.”
Speaking further on the anti-graft war, Buhari noted that the fight against corruption, through the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, had resulted in the recovery of billions of naira, as well as the forfeiture of various forms of assets. He said:
“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 that there is no hiding place for fugitives.”
Buhari added that through prudent spending and blocking of leakages, the nation’s foreign reserves had improved to $47.5bn as of May, 2018, as against $29.6bn in 2015. The inflationary rate, he added, had consistently declined every month since January, 2017.
The President, who applauded women for their contributions to national development and advancement of democracy, also urged Nigerians to avoid hatred and intolerance. This, he said, would help the country to achieve its developmental objectives in an atmosphere of harmony and peaceful co-existence.
He listed his achievements in the last three years to include increase food security programme built around self-sufficiency and minimization of import dependency. Specifically, he said rice importation had been cut down by 90 per cent, which he noted had a direct impact on foreign reserves.
Others, he said, included Social Investment Programmes, Home Grown School Feeding Programme, and Conditional Cash Transfer where underprivileged Nigerians were given N5, 000 per month.
The President described the commemoration of 2018 Democracy Day, which is the third anniversary of his administration, as a celebration of freedom for Nigerians. He said the celebration was also a recommitment by his government to keep its promise to lead Nigeria into a new era of justice and prosperity.
Buhari admitted that his administration had faced challenges in the journey of three years while Nigerians stood by his government in achieving its three cardinal points. He said:
“Today marks the 19th year of our nascent democracy and the 3rd Anniversary of this administration. I am thankful to Almighty God for bringing us thus far.
“This administration came at a time that Nigerians needed change, the change we promised and the change we continue to deliver.
“We have faced a lot of challenges on this journey and Nigerians have stood by us in achieving the three cardinal points of this administration namely; security, corruption and the economy.
“The commemoration of this year’s Democracy Day is a celebration of freedom, a salute to the resilience and determination of Nigerians and a recommitment by Government to keep its promise to lead Nigeria into a new era of justice and prosperity.”