By Brendan Umoren
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, admitted that unemployment in the country was now very severe, promising to focus squarely on the economy in his second term in office.
The President stated this while hosting members of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) that came to congratulate him on his re-election, at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa.
On the same day, the United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May, and Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, separately congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari, on his re-election.
Buhari said while receiving the FEC members: “On the economy, unemployment is a problem of this country as a whole. More than 60 per cent of the youths, they need to be kept busy. I realised that God heard our prayers. It had been two good rainy seasons and we had the foresight to get the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Central Bank to try and give soft loans to farmers so that everybody that is educated and looking for white collar jobs and cannot get it, can go back to the land.”
He said the next four years would be tough: “My last lap of four years, I think it is going to be tough because people are being forgetful. That was why wherever I went, I reminded them of the campaign promise of our party, particularly security, as I kept on saying that you have to secure the country well and institutions. If you don’t secure the country, you can’t achieve anything no matter how many programmes you put in place.”
The President also stated that he deliberately campaigned in all the 36 states of the country, taking two at a time, to prove to the opposition groups that he was fit, and not to let any state feel left out.
He also expressed gratitude to God that the agriculture sector had helped a lot in strengthening the economy through what he described as soft loans to farmers, pointing out that agricultural output has consequently been rewarding because of the steady rainy seasons.
The President, who thanked God for the steady rainfall, submitted that investment in agriculture would have been a futile effort if there had been no good and promising rainy seasons.
He praised states such as Lagos, Ogun, Kebbi, Jigawa, and Ebonyi, which he said had played notable roles in stopping rice importation through large scale rice cultivation especially with the unpredictable state of the oil sector.
He further added: “We are lucky the rainy season had been good. I think we are also lucky that through the governors in some states like Lagos, Ogun, Kebbi, Jigawa, Ebonyi, in particular, we don’t import rice but we have savings from rice in terms of foreign exchange which we put in the budget and use for infrastructure.
“That is a very good thing because the oil sector is becoming very difficult to predict. It is becoming unpredictable and depending on it makes us materially insecure but thank goodness, agriculture has come to save it and people are appreciating it.”
Earlier, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, while speaking on behalf of the cabinet members, said Buhari’s victory at the poll was well deserved, describing it as a referendum on integrity, uprightness and sincerity.
According to the SGF, the president had through the tripod of his campaign promises on security, economy and the fight against corruption, laid a firm foundation for purposeful leadership, which he said would take Nigeria to the next level.
He said: “Your Excellency, the change you promised four years ago to put the Nigerian economy on a sustainable development path; restore security of lives and property; and to fight corruption has laid the firm foundation for growth. Your commitment, dedication and purposeful leadership have indeed become the springboard that has taken us to the next level.
“Your Excellency, members of the Federal Executive Council are particularly delighted because Nigerians have validated and rewarded the long rigorous hours we spent in this Council Chamber to deliberate on matters of national importance.
“You led us with assured calmness, understanding and ensured that we gave account of our stewardship openly,” the SGF said.
He listed such reforms to include treasury savings account (TSA), bank verification number (BVN), open government partnership, whistle blower policy and federal civil service reform and implementation plan, among others, saying all the reforms have helped to make the public service more effective.”
Mustapha added: “Similarly, the leadership of the public service is happy because this re-election will deepen the on-going reforms aimed at strengthening its capacity for the delivery of good governance.
Meanwhile, the United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, the United Kingdom Prime Minister, Theresa May and Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, yesterday separately congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari, on his re-election at the February 23, 2019 presidential poll.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, in a statement, said Pompeo congratulated the people of Nigeria on a successful presidential election.
According to Adesina, the US Secretary of State also commended all Nigerians who participated peacefully in the February 23 Presidential and National Assembly elections and condemned those whose acts of violence, he said, were harmful to Nigerians and the electoral process.
He quoted Pompeo as saying, “We note the assessments of international and domestic observer missions affirming the overall credibility of the election, despite localized violence and irregularities.
‘‘We also congratulate all the other candidates for their peaceful participation in the electoral process. We call on all Nigerians to ensure successful state elections next week. Going forward, the United States remains committed to working together with Nigeria to achieve greater peace and prosperity for both our nations.”
Adesina also said Buhari received separate telephone calls from UK Prime Minister May and Turkish President Erdogan, congratulating him on his re-election and wishing the Nigerian people progress and prosperity.
He added that Buhari thanked the two leaders for their unflinching support to Nigeria and her people and pledged his commitment to continue to work with them to advance various areas of cooperation.