President Muhammadu Buhari’s activities for the week was scheduled to start with a trip to Kigali, Rwanda, on Sunday March 18 for the African Union Extra-Ordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), but it was later cancelled.
According to a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry of Nigeria, the President pulled out of the launch of the AfCFTA in Rwanda because he needed more time for consultations at home on the issue.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on the other hand chaired the 7th session of the Presidential Quarterly Business Forum held at the State House Banquet Hall on Monday March 19 where the council spoke about progress made in the economic reforms being implemented by the present administration.
In his remarks, Osinbajo said grand corruption remains Nigeria’s economy’s biggest problem and spoke about how $3billion was stolen in NNPC/NPDC strategic alliance contracts in past administration, amongst other actions that has adversely affected the economy.
According to him, “the so called strategic alliance contracts with the NNPC and NPDC, the promoters of the companies made away with close to 3billion US dollars, almost a tenth of our reserves at one point!
“There is no way if someone made away with that amount, a tenth of your reserves, that there won’t be a major economic shock! If we don’t deal with it and talk about it, how do we really discuss our economy in any real honest way with a view to ensuring that these things do not happen again?”.
He added that “In one single transaction, a few weeks to the elections in 2015, the sum of N100billion and $289million in cash were embezzled by a few.
“When you consider that in 2014, when oil prices were an average of $110 per barrel, only N99billion was spent on Power, Works and Housing, and in one day, N100billion was issued and people essentially shared it and N99billion was spent on Power, Works and Housing.
“When we talk about our economy, we talk about it like it is normal but it is abnormal by every standard, completely abnormal.”
On Tuesday March 20, President Buhari received in audience former Vice President Namadi Sambo in his office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. No official release was issued by the Presidency at the end of the meeting.
The President was later quoted in a statement issued by the Presidency, congratulating President Vladimir Putin of Russia and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel on their recent re-elections.
President Buhari said Putin’s success for the fourth time in the election is a clear testimony of the confidence Russians had in his leadership, urging him to “see this victory as a base to continue to promote international peace and stability.”
On the German Chancellor, the Nigerian leader said her victory “is a testimony of your hard-work, competence and trust of the German people, qualities which are much admired in many parts of the world especially here in Africa” adding that “we greatly value your humanity and concern for refugees,” and “a successful new term of office.”
Also on Tuesday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo spoke at the 2018 Ogun State Investors’ Forum. At the event, the Vice President noted that the embezzled $3 billion could have built 7 major roads across Nigeria and the 2nd Niger Bridge.
He however noted that the Buhari administration was working on major roads despite the huge setback on account of corruption.
According to him, “Today, with less revenue but no leakage, we have increased funding capital in Power, Works and Housing, Defence, Transportation and Agriculture by as much as 400%.
“We cannot talk of the Nigerian economy without talking about the blight that was caused years ago by people stealing the resources of this country. Here is a list of possible roads 3 billion dollars could have built: Abuja-Kaduna-Kano road, 2nd Niger Bridge, Enugu-PH road, East-West road, Sagamu-Ore-Benin road, Kano-Maiduguri road, Abuja-Lafia-Akwanga-Keffi road, Plus Lagos-Abeokuta (old road).”
He added that “We are two quarters out of the recession and firmly on the path of recovery. Our external reserves are at their highest levels in five years. Inflation has dropped for 13 consecutive months, manufacturing confidence is on the rise and in 2017, Nigeria moved ahead 24 places on the World Bank’s annual Doing Business Index. And the World Bank reported that Nigeria is among top ten reforming economies in the world.”
On Wednesday, March 21, President Buhari ordered four ministers to proceed to Dapchi in Yobe for an update on the release of the female students abducted in February.
The Ministers include Mansur Dan-Ali, Defence; Abdulrahman Dambazau, Interior; Lai Mohammed, Information; and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mrs Khadijat Abba-Ibrahim.
The four ministers left the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting for the trip to Dapchi.
At the end of the weekly FEC meeting, the Special Adviser to the President, Media and Publicity Mr Femi Adesina, told State House Correspondents that the President took time to explain to cabinet members his decision to cancel his trip to Kigali, Rwanda, for the signing of the agreement framework for the African Union Continental Free Trade Area.
According to Adesina, Buhari said the AfCTA agreement had the capacity to hinder local entrepreneurship and encourage the dumping of finished goods in Nigeria, adding that Nigeria was yet to fully understand the economic and security implications of the agreement.
The President constituted a committee comprising the Ministers of Finance, Budget, Labour, Foreign Affairs, Science and Technology as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Nigerian Customs Service and the Nigerian Immigration Service to review the content of the AfCFTA proposals and look at its security implications and report to the council in two weeks.
Also, at the FEC briefing, the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, announced that the Federal government had released N1.248 trillion for the execution of capital projects from the 2017 budget with the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing getting the lion share of N301.89 billion.
The Minister also said the Federal government has recovered N9.2bn through the implementation of its Whistle-blowing policy.
On his part, the Minister of State-Aviation, Mr Hadi Sirika, said the meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari approved the sum of N1.1 billion for the purchase of high-frequency radio equipment in 14 airports across the country.
The Minister of FCT, Mohammed Bello, who also briefed journalists said approval was made for the release of N6.972billion for the provision of additional security infrastructure at the United Nations (UN) building in Abuja.
It would be recalled that the Boko Haram terrorists on Friday, August 26, 2011, attacked the UN building, killing 21 people and injuring 60 others.
Later on Wednesday night, the President held a private dinner with Microsoft founder and billionaire, Bill Gates and Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote at the Presidential Villa.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo joined the President and other cabinet ministers for the Weekly FEC meeting, which held at the State House Council chambers on Wednesday, March 21.
On Thursday, March 22, President Muhammadu Buhari continued his tour of troubled areas across the country with a visit to Zamfara State where he attended a meeting with traditional rulers and other stakeholders.
At the meeting, the President directed security agencies to improve their strategies of intelligence gathering, surveillance and accuracy in deployments, and ensure that criminal activities are brought to an end across Nigeria.
A statement issued later on Thursday by the Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, said President Buhari assured that the Federal Government will not abandon the only girl from Government Girls’ Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State still in custody of the Boko Haram sect.
The President vowed that his government will ensure that no one group in the country imposes its religious beliefs on others in Nigeria.
On Thursday night, the President held a private dinner with President of the Republic of Niger, Mahamadou Issoufou at the Presidential Villa.
Elsewhere, Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo chaired a special session of the National Economic Council meeting which focused on Human Capital Development and had in attendance, philanthropists and businessmen, Bill Gates and Aliko Dangote, amongst other top business executives.
At the event, Prof. Osinbajo remarked that the successes recorded by its social investment programmes are clear indications that the Buhari administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) is making progress.
While describing Gates and Dangote as committed and valued philanthropic and development partners, the Vice President thanked them for “uniquely deploying huge resources and innovation through social enterprise to solving some of the most challenging issues of human development that we face today.”
The Vice President further said the social investment programmes, which are key component of the administration’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, have made significant strides nationwide because of the administration’s political will and vision to make the needed investments, for today and the future.
Friday, March 23, saw the President Buhari receive the released 107 Dapchi students at the Press Gallery in the Presidential Villa.
In his remarks, President Buhari warned that he would not hesitate to punish security chiefs if any case of abduction is recorded in any part of the country, adding that he has directed them to beef up security around all schools.
Also on Friday, March 23, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo attended the wedding reception for Alhaji Aliko Dangote’s daughter and her husband, Fatima Dangote and Jamil Abubakar, in Lagos.
Read also: Presidential Villa roundup for March 11 to March 17, 2018