With about 68 days to hand over the reins of power to the incoming government, the United States of America (USA) has implored President Muhammadu Buhari to remove the controversial fuel subsidy before bowing out of office on May 29, 2023.
The Buhari administration had recently vowed to remove the controversial petrol subsidy before the end of the current federal government.
Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Hajiya Zainab Ahmed, who stated this, attributed the delay in removal of the subsidy, as provided for in the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) 2021, to the 2023 general election and the forthcoming national population census.
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the headquarters of VON in Abuja, she however disclosed that no conclusion had been reached on how to mitigate the effect of the proposed fuel subsidy removal on the citizens.
Speaking through its outgoing Ambassador to Nigeria, Mary Beth Leonard, charged Buhari who said he was in a hurry to leave office to complete the unfinished job of fuel subsidy removal.
In response to the president’s expression of satisfaction with the blossoming Nigeria-US relations, the ambassador in her remarks said she was happy with the progress made in Nigeria-US relations in the past three-and-half years, citing the recent institution of a five-year visa regime between the two countries, active collaboration in security and the supply of military hardware, including war planes and the soon-to-come fighter helicopters, and cooperation in the health sector to fight HIV and COVID-19 response.
She assured that the US will continue to assist in the strengthening of Nigeria’s health sector.
Leonard expressed her gratitude and that of the US government Buhari’s role in ensuring regional security and strengthening of democracy as a system of government, citing his strong response against the recent surge of coups-d’état in West Africa as worthy of commendation.
She expressed hope that even as he is preparing to leave, there are still a few more things the president could do, among which she mentioned the urgent need to remove fuel subsidy.
Earlier, Buhari had said given the chance of a free and fair election as well as non-interference as was witnessed in the February 25 and March 18 elections, Nigerians have proved to be capable of deciding who leads them without anyone telling them what to do.
Expressing satisfaction with the remarkable passion towards democracy exhibited by Nigerians through the choices they made in the presidential, National Assembly and the subsequent governorship and state assembly elections, Buhari said Nigeria’s democracy has truly matured.
He stated: “People are realising their power. Given the chance of a free and fair vote, nobody can tell them what to do. I am unhappy that some candidates lost in the election. But I am inspired by the fact that voters were able to make their own decision, to decide who won and who lost.
“With the currency change, there was no money to spread around but even then, I told voters to take the money and vote according to their consciences.”
A statement by presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, further quoted President Buhari who was speaking at a farewell meeting with the outgoing United States Ambassador at the presidential villa as saying he was completely satisfied with his own role in the election process staying above it, without meddlesomeness or any form of interference.
The president commended the outgoing Ambassador for the enormous achievements recorded in Nigeria-US relations in the three-and-half years she had been here.
He chronicled a number of challenges faced by Nigeria as the country strives to unite our diverse communities and achieve national development and expressed his appreciation of the way the United States is able to hold together as a nation.
Buhari expressed the hope that Nigeria will continue to make progress in building a nation out of our different and competitive communities.
He added that he enjoyed working with the Ambassador and wished that she had more time to serve here.
In an answer to a question posed by Ambassador Leonard, President Buhari said he planned to be a “big landlord” back at home, working his farms and tending his more than 300 animals. “I am eager to go,” the president said. President Takes Stock, Says I’ve Addressed Insecurity, Separatist Agitations, Oil Theft
President Buhari yesterday also outlined significant milestones achieved by his administration on national security, including gains in combating terrorism, armed banditry, kidnapping, separatist tendencies, crude oil theft, piracy as well as militancy in the South-South and cyber-security.
He took stock of his administration’s milestones when he inaugurated the new Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and National Counterterrorism Centre (NCTC), two state-of-the-art facilities to optimize efforts at addressing evolving security challenges in the country, especially terrorism and violent extremism.
At the inauguration of the two world-class facilities, Buhari said it would serve as a major legacy to provide the incoming administration with infrastructure to effectively coordinate national security and counterterrorism efforts.
On the threat of terrorism, which was labelled as a major security challenge facing the country when he assumed office in 2015, the President said, ”I can confidently state here today that we have achieved significant milestones in degrading the major threat and restoring normalcy to most of the hitherto securitised areas in the North East.
”These areas previously occupied by terrorists have been freed and Internally Displaced Persons are voluntarily returning to their homes.
”This was largely achieved through the valiant efforts of our armed forces and other security agencies, in collaboration with our regional and international partners but above all, the support and cooperation of the Nigerian citizens.”
Apart from the degraded threat of terrorism in the North East, Buhari also expressed delight that government has curbed the series of armed banditry and kidnapping cases in the North West and North Central zones.
He said these criminal acts had emerged as a result of the scattering of Boko Haram in the North East and the implosion of Libya in the Maghreb.
On separatist agitations, the president noted that agitators in the South East and to a much lesser extent the South West, who have been experiencing concerns of separatist tendencies, are being checked.
”Meanwhile, issues of crude oil theft, sea robbery, piracy and militancy in the South-South are equally being addressed.
”Most of these threats have transnational linkages thereby reinforcing the need for regional and international cooperation as critical enablers to enhance our national security,” a statement by presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina, quoted the president as saying.
On maritime security, President Buhari expressed delight that some key threats within Nigeria’s Maritime Environment such as piracy, sea robbery, crude oil theft as well as illegal unregulated and unreported fishing are being effectively tackled.
He said between August 2018 and March 2023, over 220 vessels involved in maritime criminality within Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone, up to the Republic of Togo, had been prosecuted.
He commended the Falcon Eye maritime domain awareness project, domiciled with the Nigerian Navy and coordinated by ONSA, for providing high-quality real-time intelligence, leading to the arrest and prosecution of economic saboteurs.
He added that over 87 oil tankers involved in various crude oil and product theft have been arrested, the theft of over 3 million barrels of crude oil was prevented and 15 million litres of petrol and diesel recovered.
”Recent commendations from the International Maritime Organization, European Union and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to Nigeria on our efforts in reducing maritime criminality in the Gulf of Guinea and successful prosecution of pirates in the region are worth mentioning,” he said.
On cyber threats, the president underscored the importance of protecting Nigeria’s cyberspace from all forms of intrusion.
To this end, he said in addition to receiving regular briefing from the Cybercrime Advisory Council, the government had established the Nigeria Computer Emergency Response Team and revised the National Cyber Security Policy and Strategy in February 2021.
”To further complement these efforts, I will soon be endorsing the Presidential Order for the Designation and Protection of Critical National Information Infrastructure. This is bearing in mind that cyberspace creates a nexus for synchronizing efforts of our security and law enforcement agencies towards addressing numerous security challenges,” he said.
In his address, the NSA, Babagana Monguno, said the dynamic nature of global and domestic security environment necessitated the modification and expansion of some of the functions of ONSA.
He noted that while ONSA’s core mandate is to assess the security concerns of the country and advise the president on all matters bordering on national security, the changing nature of the security landscape over the last three decades in the country and across the world led to the broadening of ONSA’s mandate to accommodate the needs of emerging security threats.
PMB Rejects NASS Power To Summon President, Governors.
Meanwhile, Buhari yesterday humbled the Nigerian lawmakers when he rejected a bill that sought for power to summon the president and Governors.
The lawmakers in the 35 bills forwarded to Buhari for his assent, rejected 19 bills in the Constitution amendment on power to summon the President and Governors.
Senate President Ahmad Lawan had during plenary on Tuesday, lamented the refusal of president to assent to 19 bills in the Constitution alteration bill.
Buhari had on Friday last week assented to 16 out of 35 Constitution alterations bills transmitted to him for assent by the National Assembly.
Informing the Senate in plenary on the presidential action, the Senate president said out of the 35 constitution alteration bills forwarded to the President in January for assent, only 16, were assented to.
The most striking of the assented 16 bills, according to him, was the fifth alteration bill number 6 which makes provisions for financial independence of State Houses of Assembly and Judiciary.
Others, he added, were those that dwell on power devolutions in the areas of moving Railway services, Correctional Centres and power generation and distribution, from the exclusive list to concurrent list.
He however said that the 19 bills that were not assented to by the president will still be pursued vigorously by both Chambers of the National Assembly for that purpose.
The first of such 19 bills not assented to by President Buhari is the fifth alteration bill number 24, which sought for an Act to Alter the Second Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to Empower the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly to summon the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Governors of States to answer Questions on issues on which the National and State Houses of Assembly have the Powers to make.
Also alteration bill number 7 which sought for an Act to Alter the Provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to compel persons to obey or comply with Legislative Summons, was refused assent by the President.