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President Muhammadu Buhari said, yesterday, in the United States that he would not sign the 2016 Appropriation Bill, passed into law by the National Assembly, last week, unless he critically reviewed it.
The President, who spoke at a meeting with the United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, in Washington DC, said in view of the controversial alteration and padding of the budget proposals, he needed to review the document to be certain that its contents tallied with the authentic budget proposal presented to the National Assembly.
He said: “Some bureaucrats removed what we put in the proposal and replaced it with what they wanted. “I have to look at the bill that has been passed by the National Assembly, ministry by ministry, to be sure that what has been brought back for me to sign is in line with our original submission.” Declaring that his administration would continue to vigorously prosecute its war against corruption, President Buhari sought and received an assurance from Mr. Kerry that the United States government would facilitate the repatriation of all stolen Nigerian funds found within the American banking system.
“It will greatly help our country if you assist us to recover all our stolen funds which we can establish to be within your financial system,” the President said. Acknowledging that the United States had been of great help to his administration in the retraining and re-equipping of the Nigerian Armed Forces which had resulted in the significant success already achieved against Boko Haram, President Buhari said the Federal Government was now working very hard to restore full normalcy in the North Eastern states.
“Boko Haram no longer holds any local government area. We are reconstructing damaged facilities and preparing the police to take over and reassert civilian control over areas affected by the insurgency,” the President told Mr. Kerry. Responding, John Kerry said he had been told that the stolen Nigerian funds were in “billions of dollars”. He said: “It’s not easy to hide that amount of money and we are pretty good in tracing them,” Mr Kerry assured President Buhari, adding that relevant United States government officials would meet with the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to discuss further cooperation in that regard.
Kerry applauded the Buhari administration’s success in rolling back the Boko Haram insurgency, saying the United States would continue to give Nigeria all possible support to ensure that the terrorist sect was finally eliminated.
The U.S. Secretary of State also praised President Buhari’s clear order that Nigeria’s Armed Forces must show greater regard for the human rights of persons in the theatre of operations against Boko Haram. US to render $600m ‘development assistance’ to Nigeria— Kerry In a separate meeting with the Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Geoffery Onyema, Kerry said the US would invest, at least, $600 million in Nigeria in 2016.
Kerry, who disclosed this during the opening session of the US-Nigeria Bi-national Commission meeting, reiterated the commitment of the US government to Nigeria’s growth. He said his country had been encouraged by President Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to an economy that was more diversified, and would, therefore, do its best to ensure that the present administration succeeded.
He said: “We want Nigeria to succeed. And I don’t say that with any element of patronising or arrogance or any kind of view other than the fact that we know there are challenges. “Nigeria is an extraordinary country. It has huge potentialities, a very rich culture. And it is finding very vibrant expression in every branch of the arts. Like the United States, it is a diverse country with a very large and assertive civil society; and like America, Nigeria is looked to for leadership in confronting some of the starkest challenges of our times. “Now, Nigeria’s future is in Nigerians’ hands. We respect that.
The United States is here to help to meet your needs, to listen to you carefully, to understand what it is that you believe is necessary, and to work with you where we can to implement. “Our development assistance this year will top $600 million, and we are working closely with your leaders – the leaders of your health ministry – to halt the misery that is spread by HIV/AIDS, by malaria, and by TB.
“Our Power Africa Initiative is aimed at strengthening the energy sector, where shortage in electricity has frustrated the population and impeded growth. And our long-term food security programme, Feed the Future, is helping to create more efficient agriculture and to raise rural incomes in doing that. “Our Young African Leaders Programme, in which many Nigerians participate, is preparing the next generation to take the reins of responsibility… and in education, we are working together to try to fight illiteracy, especially in the country’s north, where the lack of opportunity has been holding people back, and where the terrorist organisation, Boko Haram, has murdered thousands and disrupted the lives of millions.”
In his response, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyema, who led the Nigerian delegation, thanked his host for the warm reception, and expressed Nigeria’s indebtedness to the US for the role it had been playing in its stability. “We cannot underestimate the impact that your visit and the support of your country has had in shaping the future for Nigeria. “Of course, we’ve had respect for the United States for a very long time. Your system of government is one that we’ve adopted. We had a Westminster model once upon a time, but we threw that aside and embraced the United States model – an expensive model it is too, but we’re struggling as best we can.
“We share the same values and we respect very much what this great country has achieved, and this country has really become a model for all countries in the world. We aspire to going some ways to emulate this model,”Oyema said. No rift between executive, legislature on 2016 Budget — Minister However, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said yesterday, that there was no disagreement between the Executive and Legislative arms of government on the budget.
“There is absolutely no rift, no issue of budget being sent back. Things are just taking their due course,” the Minister said when he visited the corporate headquarters of the Leadership Newspaper, as part of his continuous engagement with stakeholders in the media industry.
He said it was not true that the President has refused to sign the Appropriation Bill passed by the National Assembly. “It takes a few days (after the passage) for the National Assembly to clean up the document in readiness for the President’s assent,” he said. Speaking further on the budget, Alhaji Mohammed said when it was eventually passed into law, it would lift millions of Nigerians out of poverty.
The minister said: “The first is the employment of 500,000 unemployed university graduates who we are going to train as teachers. Two, we are also employing 370,000 unemployed non-graduates, people with National Diploma and Technical Certificate.
The third tranche is the social intervention targeted at 1 million people, made up of market women, traders and artisans to be trained and given loans through their cooperatives. “The fourth one is the home-grown One-Meal-A-Day Programme. Here we are targeting several millions of pupils in primary schools all over Nigeria. The exponential effect of this one meal a day is huge.
Even if we are targeting five million pupils and we are giving each of them one egg a day, you are talking about five million eggs that will be provided by our poultry farmers. This will also help to increase the demand for maize and then you are going to employ people all around.”
The Minister further disclosed that the Federal Government would also commence Conditional Cash Transfer to the most vulnerable Nigerians, in collaboration with some development partners, to bring succour to such people.
He said a special bursary scheme would also come on stream to grant scholarships to students of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics in a deliberate effort to support the students financially, while also bolstering the nation’s drive for industrialization. Alhaji Mohammed also disclosed that the sum of N350 billion would soon be injected into the economy to enable contractors resume work on abandoned infrastructure projects, with timeline and target on project delivery and job creation.
He thanked Nigerians for their patience and the understanding of the challenges facing the government, saying rather than give excuses, the government was working round the clock to alleviate the pains of Nigerians.