President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday pledged to keep his oath of office and serve all Nigerians equally at all times, while assuring that Nigerians would not regret entrusting the responsibility of leading the country to him.
In his inaugural speech shortly after taking the oath of office as the sixth democratically-elected president of Nigeria, Mr. Buhari allayed fears that he was returning to power nearly 30 years after his military rule, to settle old scores.
“I belong to everybody, and I belong to nobody,” he declared. “These fears (about going after perceived enemies) are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores,” he added.
The new president, who took time to review the problems that the country was facing as he assumes office, identified insecurity, pervasive corruption, unemployment, seemingly unending fuel and power shortages as the immediate concerns, and promised to tackle them head on.
He said the challenge of resolving Boko Haram’s insurgency would be given the most immediate attention, adding that despite the progress made in recent weeks by the security forces, the approach would have to change for better results.
Part of the changes, he said, would be the immediate relocation of the military Command and Control Centre in Abuja to Maiduguri until Boko Haram is completely subdued.
Describing Boko Haram as “a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of,” Mr. Buhari said they were a typical example of small fires, which, if not properly handled, could cause large fires.
He blamed official bungling, negligence, complacency and collusion for the continued growth of the insurgent group into a terrifying force that has taken tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages within the Nigerian territory.
After the insurgent group has been subdued, he said a sociological study would be commissioned to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the evil movement, its sponsors and the international connections to avoid a recurrence.
He said his government would also take steps to redress the other security issues the country was facing, including kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes and cattle rustlings.
On the Niger Delta amnesty programme, he assured that although it was due to end in December, government intends to invest further in the projects and programmes currently in place to make it more effective.
On the economy, the president blamed the country’s poor economic performance over the years on the poor power situation, describing it as a national shame that an economy of 180 million people could generate only 4,000 MW of electricity, and distributing even less.
Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution for which about $20bn was spent since 1999, he said, have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians.
“We will not allow this to go on,” he said. “Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.”
He said the country’s economy was in deep trouble, in the face of depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and huge debts, pointing out that government would require careful management to bring a turnaround.
To tackle unemployment, he said, his administration would revive agriculture, solid minerals mining as well as credits to small and medium size businesses to kick-start small and medium-scale enterprises.
“We shall quickly examine the best way to revive major industries and accelerate the revival and development of our railways, roads and general infrastructure,” he said.
To achieve these objectives, the president said his administration would consciously work the democratic system by ensuring that the three tiers of government focused on their constitutional roles to enable them serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion currently bedevilling governance.
“The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government,” he said. “The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution.
“We shall rebuild and reform the public service to become more effective and more serviceable. We shall charge them to apply themselves with integrity to stabilize the system, while the legislative arm must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously.”
The judicial system, he said, needs to reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past, while the judiciary must act with dispatch on all cases, especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office.