Despite the rejection of the bill mandating the inclusion of cassava in the production of all flour in Nigeria by the House of Representatives last week, the president on Tuesday announced that he is pressing on with his ambitious cassava inclusion policy.
The cassava inclusion policy is now central to his administration’s agricultural revamping efforts. In the president’s one year stocktaking, he also vowed not to yield to terrorists, but demurred on a subject many Nigerians hoped for- corruption.
In the early morning broadcast that lasted nearly an hour, two remarks seemed to stand out and define the president’s strategies on handling the devastating national security ache that has proven incurable; and the administration’s attempts at rebuilding a floppy economy which despite index growth, has failed to translate to tangible people-based derivatives.
“We must grow local, buy local and eat local,” Mr. Jonathan said, emphasizing his administration’s drive to grow the agricultural sector to the capacity of national food sufficiency, and making the sector compete with the oil and gas sector.
“We will confront those who think they can impose their ideology on others through mass murders, attacks on places of worship, media houses security agencies. We will never yield to the forces of darkness. Nigeria will never, ever disintegrate,” the president said, a tone appearing to foreclose suggested negotiations with militants, mainly the extremist group, Boko Haram.
But the resolute tone both subjects drew, seemed lacking in the president’s assertion on corruption, a topic that nearly more than any other, has opened his government to scorching criticisms lately.
The president spoke of “remaining committed” to the fight against corruption, a well-versed rhetoric his government, as well as past ones, readily adopt to assuage public thirst for firmer action against graft.
Still, while he listed relatively substantial achievements under other sectors in the past one year; on corruption, the president only spoke of abolishing fertilizer procurement and distribution fraud, ensuring ports clearance, strengthening the leadership of the anti-graft agencies and the partial deregulation of the petroleum sector.
He also spoke of the Steven Oronsaye led committee on the restructuring of government establishments to cut cost, and pension review.
On agriculture, the president said the government’s policy is hinged on producing locally made cassava and rice. But, Cassava inclusion in flour- which has been blocked by the House of Representatives- will continue, the president announced.
Henceforth, government official functions must feature foods based on local rice and cassava bread, Mr. Jonathan said.
Generally, he said, the economic outlook is promising with a positive credit rating and an equally positive foreign reserve that has rebound to US$32.02 billion, the highest in 21 months. The nation’s fiscal deficit, he said, has also gone down to 2.85 per cent of GDP from 2.9 per cent..
On power, he said the planned privatization has attracted bids from 131 companies worldwide, and a national gas emergency plan is now in place.
A redrafting of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) is underway and will be completed by June 2012 and handed back to the National Assembly, the president said.
In the self-assessment, Mr. Jonathan’s spoke about unemployment, and repeated its success on generating 1200 jobs through the Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria programme (YOUWIN).