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Our nation secure, democracy stable, future bright, says outgoing President

By From Mohammed Abubakar (Abuja) and Willie Etim (Yenagoa)
29 May 2015   |   1:34 am
IN a brief ceremony witnessed by top government functionaries and political bigwigs, President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday in Abuja formally handed over the reins of government to President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari.

Outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan (left) and incoming President Muhammadu Buhari, at State House in Abuja … yesterday

• Hands over confab document, lists achievement
• Buhari praises Jonathan for peaceful transition  

The former Head of State will be officially sworn in today as the President. Meanwhile, ahead of Jonathan’s return to his Otuoke community in Bayelsa State today after a tenure as the president of Nigeria, an air of excitement has become visible in Yenagoa, the state capital and its environs.

Before the hand-over, Jonathan had received Buhari who arrived at the Presidential Villa at 10.58 a.m. before both leaders went straight into the President’s office. The President-elect, wearing a green kaftan and a Zanna cap to match, arrived in Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) with registration number MKA 644 BC.

He was accompanied by the Vice President-elect, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, former Petroleum Minister, Prof. Tam David West, chieftain of the APC, Chief Audu Ogbeh, members of his transition committee and other party stalwarts.

Others included the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, former Abia State Governor, Dr Ogbonnaya Onu. In a 15-page speech he delivered, Jonathan listed some of the achievements by his administration, the challenges and the way forward.

The handover document comprised two reports, the main handover notes and the reports of the recommendations of the National Conference, which he said would be useful in addressing some of the problems that have confronted the nation since independence.

He said the handover note would give Buhari a mission statement of his government’s commitment for the past five years and the directions they took to ensure positive result.

Some of the key areas touched by the President included agriculture, education, security, health as well as the petroleum and economic sectors.

For instance, Jonathan spoke on the financial reforms embarked upon by his administration that unified the structure of government accounts for all the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) and brought sanity to cash flow management.

Besides, he said the integrated payroll and personnel information system identified 60,450 ghost workers in 359 out of 425 MDAs, yielding N185.4 billion. In addition, he said enhanced revenue mobilisation was achieved through improvements in the laws and compliance measures.

He added: “In 2013 alone, those measures resulted in 69 per cent rise in federal tax revenues from N2.8 trillion to N4.8 trillion.

Also waiver policy and trade facilitation were reformed to create a more rational regime. Our emphasis shifted to granting waivers to specific sectors instead of individual companies.

Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) was established to provide stabilisation from external shocks, provide funding for critical infrastructure and savings for future generations.”

He said his administration had emphasised giving a free hand to the anti-graft agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), adding: “We preferred that they mature into strong institutions instead of being the images, the hammer and the anvil of a strong man.

“We must encourage them to abide by the rule of law and due process instead of resorting to dramatic or illegal actions orchestrated for cheap applause.

But beyond the very impressive records of enhanced convictions by the statutory anti-corruption agencies like the EFCC and ICPC, our other strategy has been to fashion economic policies that deliver higher deterrence and frustrate concealment.

In this regard, the Bureau of Public Procurement has played a central role and impacted strongly on the fight against corruption.

“As we hand over the reins of government, I believe that our nation is secure, our democracy is stable, our future is bright. Let us all work together, along with greater resolve, continue to build a strong and more prosperous nation.

Nigeria is blessed with citizens that will remain faithful, firmly committed to national unity, accelerated political, social and economic development.

“So is my pleasure on behalf of the Vice President, members of the executive council and other senior functionaries to formally hand over these hand over notes to Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the President- elect who will assume office tomorrow(today). Congratulations.

“There is another document that I will hand over to you. To me this is more important than the hand-over notes.

The hand-over notes are the activities of an administration, they show where we started, where we are going, in some of the cases you’ll follow, in other cases you may take other angles.

“But this is a document that was compiled by Nigerians, the report of the National Conference 2014.

We gathered almost 500 Nigerians from other walks of life, they were not influenced by government in any way. And most of the recommendations here, if they are followed, most of the grey areas even in our politics will be smoothened out.

Most of the areas where people complain bitterly about, like corruption, this document deal‎s with them. Some people here were members of that great body of about 500 eggheads.

“We were unable to implement because of the shortness of time, we have sent a copy to the National Assembly but is a document that we are very hopeful that your government will look into it and give it the attention it requires.

“It is also my pleasure on behalf of the Vice President, members of the executive council and other senior functionaries and especially the conference members that developed this report, the baby of the nation, to hand it over to you.”

But the President-elect, who declined to give an elaborate response, said until he reads and digests the notes from the president, he would not be in a position to make any strong contribution.

In his remarks, Buhari said: “What I will say is that since the famous telephone call you made, you have changed the course of Nigeria’s political history.

For that you have earned yourself a place in our history, for stabilising this system of multi party democracy system and you have earned the respect of not only Nigerians but world leaders.

“All the leaders that spoke to me and congratulated us on arriving at the point we arrived, mentioned this and I could understand, a lot of relief in their voices that Nigeria has made it after all and this is largely owed to a situation.

“If you had attempted to make things difficult, you could have made things difficult and that would have been at the expense of lives of poor Nigerians, but you chose the path of honour and may God help all of us. Thank you very much your excellency.”

At Otuoke town and the entire Ogbia Local Council Area, the people have set out an elaborate programme to celebrate their illustrious son, who according to them, has made them proud as he exhibited true leadership during his tenure as President.

The Bayelsa State Government on Wednesday also unveiled a programme for a civic reception today in honour of Jonathan.

The State Commissioner for Information, Mr. Dan Kikile, who announced the programme, said that Jonathan will be received at Government House Helipad, Yenagoa by Governor Seriake Dickson and top government officials.